How Much Does It Cost To Trade Publish

For most unpublished authors, obtaining a contract with a trade (a.k.a. traditional, royalty paying) publisher is the dream, the goal, the end of a lengthy and frustrating pursuit. Many chase that dream for years. I did. For eight years to be exact. Some days I still think that I’d like that, have a book trade published.

Then I wake up, and realize chasing that dream didn’t make much sense. I still follow a couple of agent blogs, which keeps me up on the news and mindset of that industry.  On one of those blogs, I had the following exchange earlier this week.

[The Agent] …Quotes from a significant endorser or a phrase from a fabulous review will appear on the cover of the print version, but they wouldn’t be visible digitally.  Quotes or a “burst” that announces the book has won has award, must be handled differently online. Ask the marketing staff at your publishing house to have that cover quote start out the book’s online description. Having that quote in bold or a larger font and separated from the rest of the description will help to convey its importance….

[Me] “Ask the marketing staff at your publishing house to have that cover quote start out the book’s online description.” You mean a publisher’s professional and experienced marketing staff won’t know enough to do this on their own?

[Another commenter; call her "Jane"] Not a lot of publishers like that. I know a couple I work with that won’t even put quotes or tagline on the front cover. Every PH has their own style and preferences. Besides, they have a lot more going on to get a single book out that to worry about marketing details. Most marketing is up to the author, these days to cut expenses.

[The Agent] “Jane” is correct, David, in that the publisher’s marketing department is working on providing marketing for so many titles at one time that taking an endorsement or mention of an award from the cover and highlighting it in the book’s online description isn’t a thought that is likely to occur to them. Authors will probably have to offer the marketer a prompt.

A trade publisher pays royalties in the range of 8 to 15 percent of the book price.  Maybe that’s of the net the publisher receives, which would make it about half that amount, but let’s just leave those as the range. A bestselling author might get the 15, a debut author will probably get the 8, with close to no advance. So essentially the author is paying the publisher 85 to 92 percent of the revenue of each book for services the publisher is providing, and for providing these services the publisher retains a portion of that 85 to 92 percent as profit.

But what does the author receive for paying this? One thing they don’t seem to get is marketing or promotion. “Jane” said what I suggested should be done by the marketing staff would be unusual, not the norm. So it seems the author is not getting any work done by an experienced, professional marketing staff, other than an entry in a catalog, and a very deficient entry at that.

More and more I’m glad I made the decision to self-publish. Sure, I don’t get many sales. But if I had continued to pursue trade publishing I’d probably still be out in the cold, chasing a dream, never waking up.


No Writing Tasks Yesterday

I’m in the midst of the Time Crunch (which I may re-label the Great Time Crunch), as I reported before.  My time is being consumed with normal gotta-do-it-to-live activities, as well as this new stock trading education program we’re in. That especially is taking up a lot of time, more even than I expected when we started.

Saturday I did nothing at all on writing, except maybe look at a writing blog or two. Well, thinking back and trying to remember, I may have found time to look at a few a Thomas Carlyle’s letters, researching for a future book. So maybe I can’t say I didn’t get to do anything that day.

Sunday I know for sure that my only writing tasks was research into those letters. I did that while watching Sunday night football, and think I may have gone through almost two dozen of them. But as far as putting words on paper, words of my own, nothing.

Yesterday was a null day as far as writing was concerned. I checked in on a couple of writing blogs, and was able to hurry a post on to my other blog, but as far as preparing new works, nothing. No research. No writing. Nothing. That may be the first weekday in a long, long time where I haven’t done something to further my writing career. Since blogging doesn’t seem to be doing anything for that, I don’t think I can count it.

Today doesn’t look any better. Lynda will be coming home with Elise, our granddaughter, who we’ll watch for a few days. The stock trading educational activities continue, including a webinar tonight, as well as homework assignments.

I don’t know when writing will resume. Right now it’s not in the foreseeable future.

Adjusting to the Time Crunch

So, as I said in my last post, the Time Crunch is here. Finding time to write will be difficult. Therefore, it’s time to make adjustments.

What I find so far in my new schedule is that I have snippets of time—a half hour here, forty-five minutes there—in which I can do something. That includes minor time at work, before and after being “on the clock,” but also some time in the evenings. I may have 30 minutes before we watch a webinar, or a similar amount of time after a conference call with our mentor. How do I fill that time?

To work on the formatting of Father Daughter Day I would have to go to The Dungeon and work on the computer there. That would be the same for the formatting of my next Thomas Carlyle book (which I’ve never posted about in detail; must put it on the schedule to do so). If I want to sit upstairs next to Lynda rather than abandon her, I need to find something to do with my Nook tablet, or even with paper books.

For the moment, I’ve found the solution. For my Carlyle book on his book Chartism, my intention is to add excerpts from some of his letters. In pursuit of that I’ve skimmed/half read his letters from 1838-1839 and a little into 1840, looking for those references. I could finish 1840. I’m writing notes on paper, and someday, after the Time Crunch, will be able to use those notes to go back to the right letters, pull the excerpts, and dump them into the Word document on the computer in The Dungeon. Or maybe, by that time, we’ll have a second laptop and I’ll be able to work upstairs.

But, I’m using Carlyle’s letters for a second project, a chronological bibliography of his works based on date of writing rather than date of publication. I can’t remember if I’ve ever written about this before on this blog. Two older bibliographies of his works are arrange based on publication date. Another partial bibliography of his early works is by date. It was published as a short magazine article, and doesn’t give much information as to why the writer places certain things where he does. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great partial bibliography, and I’ll certainly incorporate his findings and conclusions in mine, but it’s somewhat short compared to what I’d like to see. And, of course, it’s only a partial.

I’d like to do a full one, with plenty of references. I’d like to include a list of Carlyle’s letters interspersed with the other works, to show researchers/scholars what exactly he was working on at different times. I started on this some years ago, long before I found the published bibliographies. This past spring I went back to it. I decided on a format, and spent some time placing Carlyle’s works in an order, starting at the beginning, coordinating the four published bibliographies (including the very incomplete earliest and the partial), and making some good progress.

It was a bigger job than I realized, but I was actually pleased with it when, sometime around March or April, I laid it aside in favor of other writing tasks. But during the Time Crunch, I realized I could easily access the Carlyle Letters Online in the snippets of time I had, skim them for references to his works, and write paper notes about what I find. Having a printout of the bibliography as it currently stands, I can handwrite edits. At work, where the electronic file resides at present, when not on the clock I can type the edits.

So, the last three or four evenings I’ve been doing just that. Actually, I started it last week. I’m making progress. I have several pages of notes about the letters and references therein to Carlyle’s writings, nicely organized to be savable, retrievable, and searchable. Right now I’m in 1822. Since he lived till 1881 I still have a long ways to go, but that’s okay. My immediate goal is to get through 1825, at the time when Carlyle began publishing book-length translations with commentary.  I’d like to settle on an order of writings, complete with all references, correct any formatting problems I may have, and come to a resting point.

The next segment after that will be 1826-1833, about the time Carlyle finished what may be his best-known work, Sartor Resartus. After that, we’ll see. Perhaps I’ll tire of this and be ready for other snippets of work. Perhaps the Time Crunch will be over by then, and I can resume a more normal mix of activities, a mix that includes more writing time.  That’s what I’m hoping for.

A Time Crunch is Here

Time has always been a factor in how much writing I can accomplish. The day job sure gets in the way of writing production! Still, I’ve been able to manage, and think I’ve published quite a lot the last (almost) four years.

But, I think I’m heading into a very dry six-month period right now. Lynda and I have signed up for some intensive training in stock trading, in an attempt to figure out what we’ve been doing wrong and, as a result, get to the point where we will be more consistently profitable. We are paying for this training, of course. Upon starting it we learned it is much more intense and time consuming than expected. It consumed parts of the last two evenings, enough of them that I had no time for anything else; or at least the time chunks left over were not long enough to entice me to pick up my pen, or read for research.

This will last for the next six months, possibly longer. I don’t foresee being able to give more than a couple of hours a week to writing before that’s over, i.e. before April 2015. That means I probably won’t have any new items published much before June-July 2015.  That’s an unfortunate side effect, one I’m not real happy with, but, as they say now a days, it is what it is.

I’ll still try to post here twice a week, but for sure a minimum of once a week. I don’t know what I’ll have to report, but I’ll figure something out.

Work on my two Carlyle Projects

Saturday I woke up with my knee hurting more than it has been lately. Friday evening it felt good, and I wanted to walk to the highway and back, a 1.3 mile round trip. However, I was barely out of the driveway when the pain told me I wasn’t going that far. I walked a total of 15 minutes, more or less hobbling back.

Yet, Saturday morning I was determined to work in the yard rather than baby my knee. So I went outside early and began sawing logs, along with bringing a large tree cutting up from halfway down the yard. I cut for over an hour, adding about 25 logs to the pile. I didn’t finish the big one, but I made a start on it, cutting two or three logs off of it. After that I raked for a while, then went up to the front of the house and swept and did other minor work. I had hoped to go for two hours, but after an hour and forty-five minutes I was done, heading back inside for some rest. In fact, I laid on the couch and slept for an hour or two. My knee hurt, but probably no worse than Friday evening.

Later in the day I vacuumed the basement, including The Dungeon portion of it; changed batteries in a couple of key technology pieces; washed out the furnace screens; put the recyclables into the van for delivery on Sunday; and made the weekly Wal-Mart grocery run. All in all, it was a busy and active day. I didn’t try walking in the evening.

What does that have to do with writing, you ask, which is, after all, the supposed subject of this blog? The activity, the busyness of the day, left my brain in no condition to work on my writing. I had two chapters to read to prepare to teach Life Group on Sunday, and barely had the brainpower to read them and prepare. In an unheard of event for a weekend night, we were in bed by 10:30 p.m.

Sunday afternoon found me ready for a nap, but I think I only slept 30 minutes at most, and was at my computer. Logic told me I should work on my Civil War book, still standing at 40 or so percent complete. Instead, still being somewhat below par in brainpower, I decided to format my book on Carlyle’s Chartism. I haven’t worked on this since March or April, when I downloaded most of the source documents into it and planned the purpose, contents, and order of the book. I decided to work on the formatting. I had pulled in things from at least 15 different websites, and had over 50 different text styles, all of which needed to be regularized.

I worked on this for about an hour and a half (after writing and posting at my other blog). I’m a long, long way from finishing the formatting, but it’s certainly in much better shape. I need to do some more searching for related out-of-copyright documents: contemporaneous reviews, historical reviews, and even some predecessor documents. I’ve also identified three copyrighted reviews from 1990 onwards that I’d like to include in it. I contacted one copyright holder about a different matter, so know where and how to reach them. I need to determine the other two copyright holders and contact all three to see if I can get permission to republish their articles.

So, I made progress on Sunday. It’s nothing that I can say, “Oh, three more hours and I’ll be done with that.” I don’t know how long the formatting will take me. If I were forced to guess, I’d say two more days like Sunday and the formatting of what I have in hand would be done. I need to find other documents and include them. And I need to write my own essay, or perhaps a couple, about Carlyle’s Chartism, but those are down the line. I think, if I concentrated on this only, I’d be a year or so away from having it done.

In my next post, possibly I’ll explain exactly what this book is, and its purpose.

Going with Where Inspiration Leads Me

Last night I went home after two days of intense training (as facilitator, not trainer or trainee) and urgent work. I was bushed. Yet, my mind remained somewhat active. Right after eating supper I couldn’t get on the Internet on my Nook. So I went to look for something printed on paper to read, and pulled out a literary magazine special issue about Thomas Carlyle.

Now, except for occasionally reading a little in the Carlyle Letters Online, I haven’t thought much about him since some time in April. But reading this caused me to think about my two unfinished Carlyle projects: the book about his book Chartism; and the composition bibliography. I spent a little time in both last evening.

Now, today, my mind won’t leave the composition biography. I’ve been fixated on it all day, to the detriment of it getting in the way of thinking about my day job. Oh, I’ve done my work, but with half my mind elsewhere. Fortunately I didn’t have any tasks requiring major concentration laid on for today.

How long will this sojourn with the sage of Chelsea last? I don’t know. I don’t want to leave my Civil War book for long, nor abandon Father Daughter Day. But, for a day or too, or even a weekend, this is a good, intellectual pursuit that should stimulate some atrophying gray cells.

A Different Kind of Writing

Last week at work I found myself in a position I’d waited for for a long time: All major tasks caught up, all training planned and in motion for the next few weeks, and the ability to look for things I’d left hanging or set aside but could not pick up again.

The last of my major tasks was a project audit. I finished that early last week, and shot off e-mails to the Dept. Head, requesting a meeting to discuss the results. I knew his key man on the project was out last week, so the meeting about the audit results would be delayed. With that done (on Tuesday, I think), and with me not having to teach a class all week, I sat back and said, “What to do next?” Almost immediately I answered, “Work on the spec for stormwater underground detention.”

One of my jobs at CEI is “keeper of the standards”. It’s up to me, working with our corporate CADD trainer, to make sure whatever standards we have for engineering work are up to date and being followed. The project audits are to see how well the standards were followed on a project. Construction specifications are part of that. I maintain our database of guide specification sections. Construction specs has been a passion of mine through the years. I enjoy that part of a project more than any other.

I guess I enjoy them because it’s word-smithing. You try, in a few pages, to tell the contractor in words what you can’t easily show in pictures. When lines on a drawing fail you, you use words. But the language is different. You are terse. You don’t worry about complete sentences. You use lists when you can. You leave out many definite and indefinite articles. You talk directly to the contractor, so can leave off a lot of unnecessary words. I love it. So different from creative writing, but I love it. When I teach classes on spec writing, I always say “You aren’t writing literature.”

An example of best practice in specifications language can be seen in the following three ways to say a thing.

  • The Contractor shall construct a underground detention basin.
  • An underground detention basin shall be construction.
  • Construct an underground detention basin.

Eight words, seven word, and five words in those three examples. The third one is considered best practice, and the way I do it.

In this particular spec section, I had set it aside almost a year ago because I couldn’t pull it all together. We have a choice between many available systems: plastic, metal, concrete, manufactured, built-in-place, half concrete half earthen, arch structures, pipe structures, etc. Each one has advantages. Our office tends to use one specific type more than others, though others can be considered. I started out writing a spec section that would include all types of systems, but found it impossible to do so in less than 10 to 14 pages. A spec section that size is too long. So I decided to break it into two of three sections, and concentrate first on the plastic structures. Once I did that, it started to come together quickly.

But, when I laid it aside, it still wasn’t quite done. I had taken out all the extraneous language on concrete and metal systems, but hadn’t really described the different plastic systems available. It was Wednesday last week, I think, that time became available. I picked up the spec section and began properly describing the different plastic systems available. I had to name a couple of categories of systems. I had to research ASTM standards (mostly done before). I had to fit everything into the pigeonholes established by the construction specifications standard-setting organization.

One big thing I had to do was write a section on the actual construction. This was difficult because the differing systems available require different construction sequences. We generally don’t like to give the contractor a lot of restrictions on the “how” part of construction, or the sequence. But we do have to say a few things. I managed to put something together, and I had a completed spec. That was mid-day on Friday.

The next thing I did was e-mail it to each of the manufacturers mentioned, to make sure I have it right for their system. I did so on Friday, with one straggler going out yesterday. Slowly, responses are coming in. Today I’ll start taking a look at those, and tweaking the spec based on the comments.

Spec writing is as far away from creative writing as you can get. Except for making every word count. And using active voice as much as possible. And making sure you are communicating to your intended audience in a way that will be understood. I hope the next few months provide me with much more time to work on specs. It will make me a better writer.

Do I Write? Do I Publish? Do I Market?

For the last week I’ve done no writing. Not a word. For more than a week, actually. Nor have I done anything about marketing my writing. Instead, I’ve read; I’ve rested; I’ve watched television; I’ve worked a little on genealogy. Oh, and this past weekend I spent a few hours filing and culling my writing papers.

So when do I start writing again? I’m not sure I’m ready yet. I’m still reeling from the lack of sales. Sales looked so promising in April through July. After months of selling two or three copies a month, I was up to 10 to 12 copies per month. Then Amazon started the Kindle Unlimited book borrowing service in July. None of my books are in that. Coincidentally, about that time, my book sales dried up to nothing. I went from July 30 to August 28 selling not one book on Kindle. On August 28 I dropped the price of my first baseball/Mafia novel to $0.99, and sold seven copies in two days. I hoped this would spur sales of the sequel, but unfortunately it did not. I sold one copy of that.

In the face of those sales results, it’s difficult to carry on. I don’t know that Kindle Unlimited caused people to quit buying my books because they can borrow books less expensively elsewhere. I don’t particularly want to pull my books from all other sales channels so that they can be exclusive to Amazon and thus in KU. But the timing of my sales drop and the launch of KU are, if not effect and cause, quite coincidental. This past weekend I had my first two sales in September, on back-to-back days. It’s a welcome development, which I hope will continue. Alas, my pessimistic side says it won’t.

So, I need to decide what to do. Do I write? Do I promote and see what happens? Do I publish what I have ready? Do I finish what’s in the pipeline and publish those? All of those things require work and sacrifice. Publishing means creating covers, the thought of which makes me ill. I either need to buck up and do it or hire it done with money I don’t have. I could also opt for ugly, generic covers that don’t attract readers. Since my fancier covers aren’t attracting readers, maybe it won’t make a difference.

The book that’s closest to being done and ready to publish is my poetry book, Father Daughter Day. It’s done, just needing e-book and print book formatting and a cover. I say it’s done. I had hoped to add one more poem to it. I’ve worked on that poem, but nothing has come to me that seems good. The book could go out without it. Maybe this week I’ll take the drafts of the poem and work on it, see if I can finish it. Then next week I could do the formatting. As for a cover, I have an idea of exactly what I want, but I can’t produce it. It would take an artist, or at least a graphic artist to combine elements into an attractive cover.

I’m mainly thinking out loud here. Possibly finishing FDD is the way I’ll go, though maybe not. Stay tuned.


The problem with not writing is my mind fills the hours with dreaming instead. Dreaming about completing books that I’ve set aside for the moment. Dreaming about sales that never come. Dreaming about future books in the queue.

Dreaming is not a good practice, IMHO, because dreams tend to grow out of proportion to what reality can deliver. I don’t discount how big God is, and that He can certainly work results that can exceed even our wildest dreams. But my experience is we have to make our best efforts and work out our dreams.

So this is going to be a rough period. Dreaming but not doing. I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I suppose this weekend I’ll at least do some research in the Civil War book. Although, with all the filing I have to do, maybe not.


Book sales in April through August are significantly better than they were in January through March. So why am I so depressed about book sales?

Because, except for a couple of special circumstances, I’ve had close to zero sales of late. Last month I put In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People on sale for $0.99; the regular price is $3.99. I did this, intending for it to last a week, because the sequel, Headshots, was to be released August 28, and I hoped a sale on the first might spark sales on the second. That’s what the conventional wisdom is, at least.

Well, the sale resulted in 7 sales of FTSP and exactly 1 sale of Headshots. I had two pre-orders of Headshots, but when I asked Amazon why only one sale they said the other pre-order was never paid, so they never shipped the book.  One sale of a novel that included a pre-order time and some notifications on Facebook is pathetic, to say the least.

The other special circumstance was the release of the paperback copy of The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 1 in June. I sold 23 copies of that in the office and to a couple of clients. Since then none. Except for these two circumstances, I’ve sold 47 books this year. That’s for 17 items published. It’s true, I don’t do a lot of promotion. I’m sure my FB friends get tired of what promotional posts I do make. My two blogs have almost no readers, so the promotion I do on them probably results in no sales. So, any sales I have are the occasional drive-by sale. I don’t know that I have any/many from relatives, acquaintances, or on-line friends. I know that a couple of co-workers bought electronic copies of The Gutter Chronicles earlier in the year.

I have several works-in-progress. I’ll probably finish and publish them, but beyond that I have no vision and no plan. I’ll write more about this on Friday.

Author | Engineer