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Best of the Blogs: 4 February 2017

The best blowww.christianediting.co.nzg posts on writing, publishing, and marketing I’ve read in the week to 4 February 2017 (and can you believe January is already over?):

 

 

 

What is Christian Fiction?

Can we define it? It’s a question with as many answers as authors. Or perhaps as many answers as readers. E Stephen Burnett shares his thoughts in How to Fix Christian Fiction: More Christianity. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he raises interesting points:

http://www.speculativefaith.com/fix-christian-fiction-christianity/

I’ve previously shared my definitions of Christian fiction on my author website:

Writing Life

Balancing life and writing is often a challenge. In this encouraging post, Tricia Goyer visits The Steve Laube Agency blog and says the key to doing it all is to not do it all, and to batch tasks: How to Balance a Busy Writing Schedule and a Busy Life.

We’ve all read the advice: write every day. We’ve (probably) all felt bad that we don’t reach that standard. I found this post encouraging because it reminded me I do write every day (well, almost every day). What do you think?

Publishing

Over the last month, I’ve revised and reposted several of my own posts warning against vanity presses. These posts appeared at Australasian Christian Writers:

I also spent a good part of yesterday adding another nineteen (!) publishers to Christian Publishing: A Guide to Publishers Specializing in Christian Fiction. I’ll include those in the next edition of my newsletter—use the box on the right to subscribe if you don’t already.

Marketing

The eternal challenge … I’ve spend the last two weeks immersed in marketing books and blog posts as I prepare for my first-ever March marketing challenge: Kick Start Your Platform (if you’re interested in participating, click here to sign up).

I’ll be sharing a heap of marketing resources during March, but I have two I want to share with you today. This post from Nina Amir takes you through the big questions of how to create a social media marketing plan, then ends with helpful tips from other writers.


And I’ve just finished reading Sell More Books with Less Social Media by Chris Syme, and was gratified to find my planned curriculum for March exactly matches up with her recommendations. If you’d like to find out what they are, you can buy the book on Kindle. She also has a free online course to go with the book.

Okay, so that’s not a blog post. But it will be once I’ve written and published my review!

 

What was the best or most useful blog post you read this week? Share in the comments.

Print is Not Dead. Really.

“Print is Back!”

Print is not dead. At least, that’s what the headlines say as they report a 3.3% increase in US print sales in 2016.

But are the headlines telling the whole story?

Graphic: Amazon eats the little guysNot according to Author Earnings, who say the reason print sales increased in 2016 was mostly because of aggressive discounting from Amazon … which leads to print books from major trade publishers costing about the same as the ebook versions (which a lawsuit says Amazon are not allowed to discount).

I prefer ebooks for novels, but I’m still reluctant to pay USD 9.99 for a computer file.  I’m happy to pay that or a little more for a paperback which I can easily loan to friends, and can donate to the church library or charity booksale if I no longer want it. But not for an ebook.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Sales of adult fiction from traditional publishers are nearly half digital (either audiobooks or ebooks), almost all of which are online sales.
  • Print sales actually decreased in large book chains. The only increases were for independent bookstores (a 5% increase), and Amazon (a 15% increase). Another win for online.
  • Ebook sales aren’t shrinking. Ebook sales from traditional publishers are shrinking, because Amazon started discounting print instead.
  • Sales of ebooks from independent publishers and Amazon imprints remain high.
  • The publishing industry typically tracks sales using ISBNs, but many indie publishers choose not to use ISBNs (which are free in Canada and New Zealand, but not in countries like Australia or the US).

On Amazon, 43% of ebooks sold don’t have ISBNs, so aren’t being tracked (well, except by Amazon. And Author Earnings. And individual indie authors).

Overall, the picture is of rising online sales in adult fiction and non-fiction: 69% of US book sales were online. Of those:

  • 91% were digital purchases
  • 52% were from non-traditional publishers

So the question isn’t paperback or ebook. It’s online or in store. And online is winning.

Adult titles are more likely to sell online than young adult and children’s titles. And fiction is more likely to sell online than non-fiction.

An exception:

It won’t surprise any Christian to know that religious non-fiction and Bibles are one of the biggest areas where we still buy from traditional publishers. This makes sense. I don’t know about you, but while I’m happy to try a novel or devotional from an indie published author, I want my Bible translation to have the backing of a major publisher.

The other genres where traditional publishers have retained online market share include reference books, biography/memoir, self-help, textbooks, and thriller/suspense novels. None of those surprise me: most are genres I’d expect people to prefer to buy in paper.

Data Guy says:

I don’t think Christian fiction is underserved by traditional publishers. But I do think traditional publishers have a skew towards conservative titles, and a growing number of titles which are “clean” rather than Christian. Agree or not, Christian agent Chip MacGregor sees the CBA moving further in this direction.

Please try not to laugh at “declining indie sales” in #8, and focus on #10, where Chip says:

CBA fiction is going to morph into “clean romance” and “values fiction” and “apocalyptic biblical thrillers” aimed specifically at a shrinking group of hard-core conservative evangelical readers in their 50’s. There are only a handful of houses still acquiring Christian fiction these days, and some of them are shifting to doing high-quality literary or women’s stories for a broader people of faith, or a slim list of suspense novels, rather than clearly religious stories aimed only at the faithful.

I don’t know whether to agree or disagree, whether to laugh or cry. What do you think?

Best of the Blogs: 23 September 2016

www.christianediting.co.nzThe best posts I’ve read this week on reading, writing, editing and marketing:

Reading

I don’t understand the popularity of Amish fiction, perhaps because I’m not American. But as this article from Debbi Gusti at Seekerville shows, not even the authors can explain why Amish fiction is so successful: Amish Fiction? What’s the draw?

Can you enlighten me?

Writing

Dave King is one of the best when it comes to offering writing advice (If you haven’t read and memorised Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, you should). This week at Writer Unboxed, he talks about where our characters come from and how that affects their world view: Give Your Characters Roots

Editing

Margie Lawson always offers great advice. This week she’s visiting Writers in the Storm to talk about a better way to add character backstory: by using rhetorical devices (anyone who knows Margie knows how much she loves her rhetorical devices): Margie’s Rule #17: Finessing Backstory

Marketing

MailChimp (the email provider I use) have recently introduced segments, which allow users to email only a select portion of their mailing list. All is explained in this blog post: Pre-Built Segmentation: Target Your Customers with One Click

Fun

And finally, for a bit of fun, I have one of my own posts. If you’re a Kiwi, you’ll have heard of L&P. If not, let me introduce you to L&P: World Famous in New Zealand.

 

What’s the best blog post you’ve read this week? Share in the comments.

Is My Novel Publishable?

I recently completed a manuscript assessment for a new client. After I’d given her my feedback (a lot of feedback), she emailed back with a number of questions. Two stood out—while it’s the first time I’ve been asked these questions, I’m sure many of my other editing clients have had similar queries:

  1. Is my manuscript publishable?
  2. What do I do next?

I’m visiting Australasian Christian Writers today, attempting to answer the first question.

Click here to join the discussion.

Grapic: Is my novel publishable?

 

 

 

 

Why I’m Against Vanity Publishing

I’m against vanity publishing.

Why?Why I'm Against Vanity Publishing

There are many reasons. Most of them are illustrated in this story.

A few months ago, I received an email that made me want to cry.

It looked innocent enough—a request from a debut author for me to review her book. My website said I wasn’t currently accepting review requests, but that’s only kind of true. I still look at each request I receive and consider it, as I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to read and review a great book.

So I read her email instead of just sending my standard “I’m not currently accepting books for review” response.

She says:

I chose to publish [book title] independently to retain control over my book.

That’s fine. I have no issue with whether a book is traditionally published or independently published, as long as it’s good, and in a genre I like.

My book is considered to be Christian Romance.

Christian romance? Excellent—it’s one of my favourite genres. She continues:

There is love in the book … but I don’t feel it overwhelms with Romance. I would rather it be called Historical Fiction …

Well, I like historical fiction as well, so that’s not a sticking point. But what she said next got me worried:

but alas … I don’t have that much control over it.

That’s a red flag.

You, the self-published author, don’t have control over your book’s genre? And this seems to contradict her choosing to publish “independently to retain control over my book”.

This made me curious about the book, probably for all the wrong reasons. I then read the book description from the back of the book, which was rather meh. It didn’t really describe anything—certainly nothing to grab my attention as a reader. However, she’d also included her own synopsis of the book, which definitely described a historical fiction novel, not a romance (hint: in a romance, the couple get together at the end of the book. It’s not about their marriage).

At this point, I wasn’t sure what to think, so I clicked on the link to the Amazon book page.

The first thing I saw was a cover that is best described as average. A stock photo featuring purple flowers on a nondescript green background, with the book title and author name written in an ubiquitous and boring script font. There was nothing about the cover to show the reader what kind of book they were reading, and it smacked of the worst kind of amateur self-publishing.

Then I checked the book description. Sure enough, it’s the completely unengaging one. Next I checked the publisher, where I wasn’t surprised to find the book was from a notorious vanity press (which explained why the author didn’t have control over the book’s genre even though she’d supposedly published “independently”).

Then I looked at the reviews.

Six, all five stars, and one of them from a reviewer with the same last name as the author. While it’s not an uncommon last name (like, say, Goulton), it’s not Jones either. The review is almost certainly from a family member, which suggests the other reviews are from personal friends: hardly reliable. Two of the reviewers have only ever reviewed this book (one reviewed this book twice, so that’s two of the six reviews). One has reviewed three other items, but this is the only book.

None of the reviewers have the Amazon Verified Purchase tag (which can be faked, so having the AVP tag doesn’t really prove anything), yet none of them acknowledged they’d received a free book in exchange for review (as required by Amazon Reviewing Guidelines and the FTC).

I clicked on “Look Inside”.

A quick read of the first page of the prologue showed the book either hadn’t been edited, or had been edited by someone who doesn’t know anything about modern fiction. There was dialect. There were adverbs. There were creative dialogue tags. The proofreading was also substandard, with apostrophes that faced the wrong way, missing punctuation, and commas where there should have been full stops (or periods, for American readers). There was also a language glitch that distracted me: if she’s going into town with her brother, surely the reference should be to “their father”, not “his father”. And this is me reading with reader brain: editor brain would be far more harsh.

I feel sorry for this author, because she’s poured her heart and soul into this book (that much was obvious from her email), but she’s been shortchanged by a publisher who has given her a dirt-cheap cover that tells the reader nothing about the book. They’ve offered little or no editing, then slapped the book up on Amazon where it’s not categorised properly. To use my daughter’s current pet phrase, it’s nasty.

And she’s paid for this.

That’s what almost made me cry. This book is her dream, and the publisher she has trusted to nurture it and bring it to fruition has sacrificed her dream at the altar of the almighty dollar. Their website claims they have “editorial standards”. This book proves they don’t.

I don’t know how much she paid for her publishing package: it could be as little as $999 to as much as $6,499 (neither of which includes editing). I suspect this author paid for one of the mid-level packages, but didn’t opt for the additional editing (although the book sorely needs it). I guess after paying an estimated $2,999 for the publishing package, she didn’t have another $2,450 for their line editing.

I didn’t review the book.

I don’t want to give anyone the idea that this is a valid path to publishing, and I don’t want to be the person who breaks her author heart by telling her book isn’t good, and her publisher has wasted her money. Put simply, I don’t want to be the person who makes her cry.

But I’m upset. I’m upset that her publishing dream isn’t going to have the happy ending she’s hoped and prayed for. But most of all, I’m upset that a Christian author with good intentions and a story to tell has been financially and emotionally ripped off by a “Christian publisher”.

And this is why I don’t support vanity publishing.

No matter how “Christian” they claim to be.

This article previously appeared at Australasian Christian Writers.