This is one of those questions that always blindsides me. I’ll be sitting somewhere trying to sell books when someone in charge of a library or similar place asks me if I’d be interested in speaking some time. I rarely expect it, but the question comes, “how much do you charge to come and speak.” It may not happen to you early on as a writer, but you should have an idea in mind for a few reasons.
- If you charge nothing (as you might intend) people will assume you are worthless. I can attest to this personally from many experiences across the arts. We used to run youth concerts all the time and attendance always suffered when the show was “free” because the inherent, subconscious value placed on the event was nothing. If there’s no investment, there’s no commitment and there’s no value.
- Your time is worth something. Even if you want to donate it or do a service for someone else or an organization there are travel fees (even just fuel) which can sometimes be significant. You can do an event for free, but you should invoice the event with a figure to retain your “value.” If you would normally charge $X but do it an event for free, ask for a gift in kind letter if they are a nonprofit like most libraries. You can write that amount off on your taxes.
How much should you charge? It will vary widely depending on your area, but a good ballpark is about $200, from what I’ve heard from other authors. I ask for $200 from libraries and ask library workers to also identify one student reader who they think one of my books is perfect for but may not be able to afford purchasing—that student will receive a free, autographed copy. If significant travel is involved I would ask for additional monies to cover expenses.
There are a few articles below that might help you to further think through things like speaking engagement fees, etc. In addition to being a writer I am a musician and regularly speak/preach at churches. As is often the case in religious work people tend to say, “oh, just pay me whatever you can afford/think it’s worth.” That’s a pretty loaded position to put someone in. I recently booked music and speaking gig and gave the church director a price. She was very relieved; over the past three years they’d used a different music team who incurred significant travel each year and she never knew if what they paid even covered expenses and so they always assumed they were imposing. Setting a fee and clearly stating what you will provide puts everyone at ease.
Have an idea what you want to charge. You don’t need to be rigid, however. I tell libraries and organizations that I don’t want cost to be an issue if it means the difference between doing an event or not and that we can negotiate something if necessary.
Okay. You’re going to have to stick with this review of Prison Made of Mirrors, which I really do think is a little hidden diamond on the bookshelf—but it might not sound like it at first.
I was kind of eager to read it because I really did like the cover (even though it’s not much more than an obvious stock photo with some runes overlaid with light transparency—but it works because of the sense of story it conjures.) I was a little surprised when it arrived in such a small package; it’s actually a novella . That’s neither here nor there, just something I hadn’t really recognized… that means it’s a faster read: like a long lunch break if you read fast.
What I didn’t like:
The story doesn’t really start until chapter three. I was a little discouraged immediately when the opening paragraph was an obvious info dump to establishing the setting. There were also some grammar errors that should’ve been caught (like an unfinished sentence which started and then a new one with capitalized word began—like the author might’ve accidentally deleted a section during reedit but didn’t have a proofreader to catch the error,) and some inconsistencies with terms that didn’t really get explained. In fact, I almost gave up since Ch2 was still talking about irrelevant people and not the main character. But I’m glad I didn’t give up and the beginning makes more sense when read below (and it gets easier when the 1st two chapters worth of “narrator voice” goes away and the story really begins).
What I liked:
The first moment I really started to like the book was when Queen Aithne’s personality began to come out (not her traits—it’s easy to write about someone, less easy to make them alive)—she suddenly began to feel like Game of Throne’s Cerci, or Vikings’ Aslog. I guess I’d figured the book would be mostly passive and, knowing the Viking content, thought maybe the author was going for a story as if told by a skald at a bonfire. …but Aithne isn’t likeable and so it didn’t hook me yet. Then there was a werewolf. I’m in. Vikings + werewolves basically guarantees I’m going to read it through.
While the main character isn’t a werewolf, I was starting to enjoy the story more and really liked the Dvergar whom Brenna (the MC) met at the mid-point. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it until then, but I recognized that this is a retelling of Snow White set in a Scandinavian/Viking backdrop. The waxing passivity of the first two chapters made sense when I realized the author was writing as if this were a dark Disney movie set in a parallel kingdom to Ragnar Lothbrook—the first two chapters are that little snippet of film thrown out to lay a framework right before the main Title Screen flashes across the screen. I think it would’ve worked better as a prologue, in that sense, but it’s not my book. Maybe I figured it out later than most people… I dunno, but it made the issues I had initially with the book uncomfortable rather than unforgiveable.
Another thing I liked was the Loring, once the stage was set, maintained consistency in the world (outside of those few inconsistencies early on) and things like names and terms or an obviously Nordic origin (even alternate/archaic spellings such as dvergar versus duregar) really gave the story a well-crafted atmosphere; she did not break the setting by trying to force it either (like annunciating accents into the speech—I hate that so much, and she avoided that trap).
It’s worth picking up, especially if you liked the Vikings series or Snow White and the Huntsman movie(s). You can get the book by clicking here!
So this guy named J.R.R. Tolkien said “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Sounds like my upcoming week. Luckily I’m taking a day off on tuesday (well, mostly taking the day off). that should help me get my weekly chapter written.
I got my chapter done last week–plus I got the final draft of John in the John to the publishers, scored a whole bunch of Robert Jordan books at a library sale, picked up tickets to comicon, designed and ordered a bunch of new promo supplies, setup two future bookstore signings, and maybe bought another house. Plus there was that big fundraiser. This coming week might be busier: book signing/library event on the weekend, TV and podcast interviews later in the week, plus prep for Wizard World comicon the following week.
So many authors don’t realize the impact of going smaller. In an effort to try and reach everyone under the sun we often try and make a generic pitch that will have broad appeal. Our initial instinct is that everyone will love our newest book and so it ought to be pitched so that everyone will find it accessible.
That’s the wrong mindset. We are naturally led to do it because our books are our babies and no parent can imagine that their child might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve met a lot of kids. Many of them are little crapheads who I’d love to see suffer a few days at military academy. Just like there’s a lot of little dicks running around whose parents praise them, there are a lot of bad books. But there are also kids who are just different. Some adults would love to coach little league—others would rather tutor kids who focus on band or theater. Kids aren’t one size fits all and neither are books. When we try to make kids uniform we strip them of what makes them unique. The same goes for books—if you water down things like genre distinctions in order to give it a broader audience you will only succeed in turning off a larger audience with a book that no longer fits anywhere.
I see it all the time as a book reviewer. People know I like sci-fi and so I get many authors trying to squish a literary fiction tale into a sci-fi mold (yes… SF is broad, but a modern romance tale about two lovers texting their feelings to each other via iphone would’ve been sci-fi fifty years ago by the same metric.) Don’t make your book into something it’s not. Two gushing five star reviews will get you better results than fifty three star reviews that cumulatively say “meh…it’s okay, I guess.”
I heard a promotion idea a while back I’m trying to embrace. I can’t remember where I heard it… probably overheard at some writer’s workshop I attended. “It’s better to have one or two people who absolutely love your book and will tell everyone that they’ve got to read it than having a hundred people who thought it was merely okay. Find those two people.”
There’s a good article over at the MCB Blog about the power of Word of Mouth that sums this up, so go check it out. Stop watering down your book. Let it stand for what it is—even if it means there’s a seemingly smaller readership.
Don’t advertise broader—advertise better. People cross genre boundaries for a personal recommendation.
Busy day, busy weekend. I did finish my chapter while on the road this weekend. I also have a new page in the comic done which makes me glad. Looking at upcoming weeks and I’m pretty slammed. I’m hoping to get chapter 11 written in WotT2: Through the Darque Gates of Koth and maybe get my newly contracted manuscript its final facelift before it gets sent off to the publisher. Other than that, I am still taking submissions for Tuesday book reviews, but you may have noticed I didn’t post one last week and won’t again this week—just too little time for reading over this couple week busy period.
One last thing, Wolf of the Tesseract is currently on sale through a special promo service. Go check it out and pick it up for 99 cents! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01JGOEKK6
If you are fortunate enough to get some good activity on your social media ads, there are a few things you want to keep an eye on. I get a lot of traffic on the ad for my nonfiction book and thought I’d remind you that an advertisement has one purpose: to sell product.
My popular ad appropriately represents my book, Why Your Pastor Left, which addresses a very niche topic and helps people work through a difficult topic that is often fraught with pain and fresh struggle. It specifically targets certain keywords and an audience who has shown interest in most major pastors, authors, and ministers—I know that the statistics of the problem mean that almost anyone with an active faith-walk who attends church will encounter this or has already. Not everybody is friendly to faith, however. If you’ve followed my blog or delve into the archives you will see that a certain segment of the population feels entitled to troll faith-writers and villainize people who believe differently—I’ll come out and say it: usually atheists who can’t handle opposing viewpoints or logic that doesn’t coincide with their emotions.
That probably sounded like a digression… but it’s not. Whatever side of the aisle you sit on or whether you attend a church, mosque, or none you will discover that most of the world is very small-minded and violently reactive. You can post a photo to social media of yourself with a giant tomato you grew in your garden and find snarky comments in short order from people asking if your secretly working with Monsanto or have injected GMOs into the fruit (as if that’s really a thing). Most people don’t really know what a GMO is, but that doesn’t stop them from vomiting on your happiness. It’s what people do—and we do it well… we do it frequently because we think that sitting on this side of the keyboard somehow protects us and makes our ideas bigger and better than they are.
Back to my ad—something you need to do is keep a handle on responses and comments. It is nice to have a high comment count. My ad had about 150 comments the first time I ran it and is well north of 50 again as people ask questions and leave thoughts on the topic. Most of them haven’t yet read the book. Those belligerent social justice warriors I mentioned above? I’ve deleted dozens of comments such as “your pastor left because he was probably caught diddling children” and “he left because he realized god is a figment of stupid people’s imagination.”
When you run an ad for your book remember that it is not a public forum! You do not have to leave nasty comments up. You are in complete control and you can AND SHOULD exercise nuclear authority to delete and ban antagonists and trolls. Your ad’s goal is to sell product, anything that doesn’t somehow contribute to that goal should be removed.
Don’t mind trolls—they flock to anything that generates an audience for them to fling poo at. It’s what trolls do, so don’t let their opinions bother you. Advertisements are meant to help you and are paid for by you—so don’t let anyone hijack your promo vehicle.
I hit all my marks—despite a very busy couple of weeks at work. I think I barely hit my goals, though. I’m trying to get another chapter in this week; I was able to complete one last week plus wrote a new entry into my next devo book. I figure that with John in the John coming out soon I ought to be working on Gospels in the John—plus I needed to write an article of a similar nature for a newspaper column I write a few times a year and so I wrote two versions.
Last week saw the release of a new comic book page for the Wolf of the Tesseract prequel—I’m hoping that in 7-10 days I’ll have the last few pieces I want to launch a kickstarter campaign in order to get the comic fully off the ground and into peoples’ hands.
I was recently conversing with Pamela Jane, an author of several children’s books and read an article she wrote about a personal experience with a major publisher. She is an author with books out through a few little companies like Random House, HarperCollins, and others.
Her article, titled You Think it Can’t Happen? How My Two Picture Books Were Stolen by a Major Publisher, was published in Huffpo. It’s worth a read, if nothing else as a cautionary tale. It might also demonstrate the protections that a literary agent provide to authors and also serves as a reminder to document everything.
Writing is more than communication and entertainment. It’s also a business and it’s important to remember that individuals can be easily crushed beneath the wheels of industry. Don’t be so afraid that you never take your ideas out for a test-drive… but don’t be so foolish that you fail to wear your seat-belt, either.
I recently read through Pamela Jane’s An Incredible Talent for Existing. Not my type of book, but something grabbed me when she approached me for a review, and then that led to another thing, etc. Life is like that, and ironically so is this book. (That initial thing was that my son used to have one of her children’s books and I recalled the cover when I looked her up.)
Much of the book is interlaced with what inspires and motivates her. Frank Baum’s Oz seems to weave through most of Jane’s life as she describes her life with an effortless narration that sounds so much like my own inner voice that I had to laugh at some of her tongue in cheek gaffes that were so relatable and also so vivid that I might have actually been there. I suspect that most readers will feel the same and that it’s a byproduct of talented writing.
The writing is excellent in form and function and I’d recommend it especially for people who like memoirs or autobiographies as it reads as something of an autobiography of an everyman (or everywoman) from the 1960s and beyond.
I write this just coming off a meeting with a half dozen fiction writers who ran a panel discussion on inspiration. That might be why Jane’s affection for Oz seemed so prominent to me; we all have things that inspire us, lead us, and guide us to a better world (one of our own making, for fiction authors). Pamela Jane’s book really demonstrates what inspiration and hope in a better tomorrow looks like as lived out in her own life—all the blemishes, blunders, and self doubt included.
(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review)
You can check it out by clicking here.
It was a good week for writing. Rainy and overcast for the later half it helped set the tone, I suppose. The first part of the week, however, was super nice which made it difficult for a variety of reasons.
I think I wrote 3 1/2 chapters this week on WotT2. They were full of intense action and so it came easy. I also signed a publishing contract on my Christian nonfiction devo/humor book. The submissions editors loved my cartoons which I added as filler and so I spent much time over the weekend rescanning and tweaking a dozen of them so they could be included in the final product.
Late last night I also got an email with pencil work on page 4 of my comic book, so I’m also excited about that. I’m hoping for early summer!