Lit Lingo

What is ghostwriting, how does one become a ghostwriter, and is ghostwriting “cheating?” Today, on the blog we’re sitting down with Mallory Burgey, a professional fiction ghostwriter who is giving us a peak behind the curtain at this mysterious and often misunderstood job. What exactly does it mean to be a freelance fiction ghostwriter? What does your job entail? I’m sure this answer is different for everyone who answers it, but for me, I work with small, independent publishing companies. I am hired to turn a provided 10,000-word outline into a full-length book. In my case, I ghostwrite under a pen name. There is no “real author” publishing the books, but rather a team of people who create the outlines, edit, and do the marketing to publish and promote the books. I am just another member of that team! I receive an outline and have the opportunity to read through it and provide notes and feedback. I’m lucky that I have a lot of creative freedom to change things to better suit the story. Then I write! I work in chronological order, starting with chapter one and writing ~5,000 words per day until the book is complete. Occasionally I will do edits when I’ve written something that isn’t quite how the client imagined, but that is rare. How many books have you ghostwritten? I don’t have an exact number to offer, but it is definitely over 100 books at this point. It could be as high as 150, but it would take me a long time to go back and count! In the five years I’ve been a ghostwriter, I’ve written everything from short stories to 18,000-word novellas to 125,000-word novels. Early on, I was working on three projects per month to make a decent wage. At this point, I work on one project at a time and exclusively write novels. How does someone get “into” ghostwriting? Again, I’m sure this answer is different for everyone. For me, I went...

Audiobooks are booming like never before. According to Deloitte, the U.S. audiobook market in 2020 was valued at an estimated $1.5 billion. Yes, that’s billion with a “b.” When 2020’s pandemic shuttered libraries and bookstores, and delayed postal deliveries, stuck-at-home readers browsed digital shelves instead, and audiobook sales kept growing. In the UK alone, the pandemic increased audiobook sales by 42% in the first half of the year according to The Guardian, while print sales plummeted. Audiobook listeners are readers. And the takeaway is this: There’s never been a better time to release an audiobook. Here are three reasons authors should jump on the audiobook bandwagon (as soon as possible): 1). Expose your work to more readers. By releasing an audiobook, you will reach an audience who have, by preference or necessity, transitioned away from print media. If you’re releasing a nonfiction book, you’ll be able to reach the growing market of 18-34 year old urban men who prefer audiobooks (particularly nonfiction), and who have traditionally not been known as a strong book-buying market according to Good E-Reader. If you’re releasing fiction, you’ll be able to reach the vast majority of busy stay-at-home moms who juggle kid-centric commutes with an endless list of household errands–but who still want to find time to read a book. You’ll be able to reach elderly readers who can no longer easily see the printed page, or readers who are homebound for a variety of reasons in 2021. Why wouldn’t you want to expose your work to the widest audience possible? Audiobooks substantially broaden your reach. 2). Bring your book to life in new ways. Gone are the days of clunky audio cassettes, scratched CDs, and uninspired narrators. Today’s technology can broadcast your story in vibrant color on the theater screen inside people’s minds. Audiobooks (such as the ones we produce through our sister company Books Fluent) are dynamic and engaging. Talented voice actors, multi-voice casts, sound effects, musical interludes, and other interactive and engaging elements can be integrated into audiobook recordings more easily than...

A book’s front cover should be eye-catching and inviting enough to compel a reader to pick up your book. But, that’s only half the battle! Without enticing back cover copy, your book — with its beautifully designed front cover — may go right back on the bookseller shelves. The back cover, though less glamorous than the front cover, does most of the work when it comes to convincing readers to pull out their wallet. So, it’s important to give it the attention it deserves. In this article, we’ll share a few tips for nailing your back cover copy. Research what other authors in your genre have done. After seeing what’s been working for your competition, you’ll have a better idea of the structure and style you should use in your own copy. This will vary depending on your genre. For example, fantasy and romance authors may rely more heavily on taglines to get their message across, whereas nonfiction writers may use bullet points for the same purpose. Remember that researching does not mean copying. Even if you find inspiration from what other authors have done, you have to put your own spin on things! Consider your target audience.  What are your readers looking for? What keywords will draw them in — and which ones will push them away? For nonfiction authors, readers are typically looking to learn something new. Often, they are searching for an answer to a problem. Your copy should acknowledge the problem/question they have, and then promise to provide an answer. Tell your reader exactly what they will take away from the book. For fiction authors, especially genre fiction, your copy might take inspiration from a movie trailer. You’ll want to showcase the suspense, drama, excitement and romance contained in your book’s pages. Readers should get a feeling for the emotional content of the book in addition to a basic understanding of the plot. Start drafting. As you begin drafting options for your copy, try to fit everything into...

If you value the booksellers and librarians in your community (and you should!) you’ve probably wondered how to earn their support. A meet and greet is an opportunity for you to make a positive personal connection with booksellers and librarians who have the ability to promote your book to customers and patrons long after you meet them. After connecting personally with these industry “tastemakers,” they will often consider your book for events, official staff recommendations, and special displays (like a local author’s table). They may even nominate your book for awards in the future! The first step for connecting with a bookseller or librarian is to call ahead. Be respectful of their time, and ask to arrange a brief 10-15 minute meeting. You should bring: a copy of your book a printed copy of your press kit or one sheet (your ISBN should be displayed here for quick reference) (optional) swag, bookmarks or treats to help you stand out A meet and greet is all about creating a personal relationship with the bookseller or librarian. You can’t show up once and expect the world. As an author, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort, especially if you want their help in return! A few tips for your meeting: Emphasize that you just want to introduce yourself and not take up a lot of their time. Thank the staff for all they do to support the literary community in your area. Give them a copy of your book and press kit. Share a quick summary of the book and explain why you wrote it (this is your elevator pitch!) Mention that you hope they’ll consider ordering a few copies, or ask about the possibility of scheduling an event/stock signing. If planning an event, be sure to mention what you expect to see in the way of attendance and/or book sales. Be considerate and flexible. If you’d be open to a dual-author or panel event,...

In terms of printing and distribution, Ingram and IngramSpark are the best and the biggest. They are well respected in the industry and have great reach to online retails, bookstores and libraries. If you publish your book via IngramSpark, it will populate to Amazon; however Amazon offers publishing directly through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and with the difference in royalty and print costs, it really can be worth pairing them together for your independently published book.  IngramSpark Ingram is an avenue that traditionally published authors have for distribution, and IngramSpark is a branch which lets independent authors access that same market but in a Print On Demand (POD) structure.  Part of what makes them the best is that bookstores love them and find them easy to work with—they can order every book they want from Ingram/IngramSpark in one order form versus when books are sold on consignment or through smaller less well known distributors.  In effect, bookstores want to make their buyers' jobs easier, so less forms is better, which is why they like it when books are available via Ingram.  KDP  KDP is a separate distribution account directly attached to Amazon that distributes solely to Amazon. They have IngramSpark beat a bit in terms of printing costs but their royalties are really the benefit.  IngramSpark allows you to set the distribution discount percentage from 30-55%, but KDP automatically sets that at 40%. So if you have your IngramSpark percentage set at the 55% that bookstores expect and the lower percentage with KDP can help pad the lower royalties through IngramSpark.  There is the option to distribute exclusively through KDP, and either do distribution to just Amazon or apply for their expanded distribution, which gives a bit more reach. It does offer up some benefits, such as the higher royalty rates and access to Kindle Select.  However, you’d be essentially closing the door to any bookstore or library opportunities—not only because Amazon is their direct competitor but also because it is...

For many authors, writing a book that becomes a bestseller is their dream goal. But what does it really take to become a bestselling author? In the most broad strokes, you’ll want to sell at least 5,000-10,000 books in a single week in order to be considered by any of the major bestseller lists. Unfortunately, there’s no magic number of sales that will guarantee you a spot on a list. And when you focus on the New York Times bestseller list in particular — which is perhaps the most well-known and considered by many to be the most prestigious — things get even more hazy. The NYT bestseller list isn’t representative of pure sales data alone. After all, recording every sale of every book within the U.S. in a single week is an impossible task. So, there’s some wiggle room as far as accuracy goes. But, there are also other factors that appear to work for or against certain books. Right away in the against category, we have certain genres that are excluded from the list. At the time of writing this article, NYT states that “the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, e-books available exclusively from a single vendor, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, periodicals and crossword puzzles.” If not all genres are created equal in the eyes of The New York Times, the same can be said about retailers. NYT has said it receives sales reports from some, but not all, independent bookstores, along with (we assume) major retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Since not all stores report to The New York Times, some sales may go unrecorded. It’s also been rumored that diversity in sales will work in a book’s favor. The idea is that if sales are coming in from retailers in different regions across the country, and if the retailers vary from indie stores to big-box chains, this will increase an author’s chance...

Ask An Expert: Interview with Book Cover Designer Eric Labacz on Great Book Cover Design Trends in 2021 and Beyond What design elements contribute to a great book cover design? And what book cover design trends are popular in 2021 and beyond? Today on our Ask an Expert series, we’re sitting down with book cover designer Eric Labacz, who has created some of our most eye-catching and popular cover designs for our sister publishing company Books Fluent. Eric shares what key elements make for timeless, great book cover design, how genre should influence cover design, and some of the biggest cover trends we’re seeing right now. What do you enjoy most about designing book covers? Hands down the creative process that is involved in communicating certain details about a book in a unique way that urges readers to explore it further. How long have you been a book cover designer? How did you get involved in this industry? I have been designing covers for four years now. Prior to that, I worked for an agency and worked as a Senior Designer and Art Director in the toy, video and food packaging industries. In 2016, I decided to create a home-based studio and I was fortunate to connect with a local publisher a year into it. She started giving me cover projects and I instantly fell in love with cover design. I decided to put all my efforts into connecting with other publisher and author clients and, four years later, here we are. In your opinion, what are the key elements of great book cover design? Well, of course, you need the title, the subtitle if it pertains, and the author’s name, but the difference between a so-so cover and a great cover are how those elements are creatively arranged along with imagery and color. An interesting and engaging composition, a focal point that intrigues the reader and eye-catching colors are some elements of great covers. Should a book’s genre influence a book’s...

I, for one, hate change. I’m a planner and a list-maker, and switching gears makes me dizzy. Checklists, deadlines and color-coded markers are the backbone of our society, sure, but when plans change, it’s better to adapt than to fight it out. Why do publication dates change? Publication dates can shift for a variety of reasons. However, it’s important to keep in mind that in every case, your team may suggest a date change because they believe your release would be more successful on a different day. Your team knows that publishing a book is more often a marathon than a sprint. While detours may add a mile or two to the journey, they can also better prepare you for crossing the finish line. Here are a few common reasons for moving a book’s release date: Production Delays: From editing and designing to printing and shipping ARCs, a lot of work goes into production, and there are often several eyes and hands working on a book all at once. A thorough publishing process opens up the possibility for delays. Editors often factor time into their schedule for a few things to go wrong. Even so, if a snag is hit in one department, it may cause others to fall behind too. Unforeseen Circumstances: The pandemic is one of the most monumental unforeseen circumstances we’ve encountered in a while. Due to its impact on travel, many books that had planned in-person book tours had to adjust their schedules. To see some of the hundreds of altered publication dates, check out this spreadsheet from Publishers Weekly. Competition for Media Attention: Say the planned publication date for your book was set for Election Day, or a similarly newsworthy date. As the day approaches, and you realize the impending media frenzy, your team may decide to move your release date out in order to give it a better shot at securing publicity. Catching the Trend Wave: Book releases can also shift to earlier dates on the calendar!...

The pandemic has changed everything, including the publishing industry. In our new “State of the Industry” blog series, we’ll be breaking down exactly how the pandemic has changed the game for publishers, booksellers, authors, and readers. By understanding how the publishing industry has rapidly transformed in 2020 and 2021, writers and authors will be better prepared to navigate the new state of the industry in 2022. Let’s start with a question: How did the pandemic in 2020 change the game for publishers? Answer: They started out rough and finished strong. According to a December 2020 article in The New York Times, (“Surprise Ending for Publishers: In 2020, Business Was Good”) book sales dropped sharply in March and April 2020 as panic and closures disrupted daily life. But demand increased beyond pre-pandemic level in June 2020 as buying habits and stores transitioned. 2020 concluded with: Print sales up by 8% (NPD Bookscan) Audiobooks up 17% over the same period in 2019 (Association of American Publishers) Ebooks up more than 16% after a several year decline (NYT) So, how did the events of 2020 influence book-buying habits and genre trends? The short answer is that books on race and antiracism, politics, home DIY projects, and escapist literature like YA fantasy had a VERY good year. Sales were UP in the following categories: Books on race/antiracism: The Black Lives Matter movement (which began at the end of May with the killing of George Floyd) inspired a surge of sales on books about race and antiracism. Titles like “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi and “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo became bestsellers, and booksellers had trouble keeping them in stock. Political books: In a charged and divisive election year, political books like those released about the Trump family and Barack Obama were major sellers. Home and Gardening books: With more people spending time at home, gardening and home DIY books saw a sales increase of 20%, as people took on new projects both to keep themselves occupied and due...

In terms of printing and distribution, Ingram and IngramSpark are the best and the biggest. They are well respected in the industry and have great reach to online retails, bookstores and libraries. If you publish your book via IngramSpark, it will populate to Amazon; however Amazon offers publishing directly through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and with the difference in royalty and print costs, it really can be worth pairing them together for your independently published book.  IngramSpark Ingram is an avenue that traditionally published authors have for distribution, and IngramSpark is a branch which lets independent authors access that same market but in a Print On Demand (POD) structure.  Part of what makes them the best is that bookstores love them and find them easy to work with—they can order every book they want from Ingram/IngramSpark in one order form versus when books are sold on consignment or through smaller less well known distributors.  In effect, bookstores want to make their buyers' jobs easier, so less forms is better, which is why they like it when books are available via Ingram.  KDP  KDP is a separate distribution account directly attached to Amazon that distributes solely to Amazon. They have IngramSpark beat a bit in terms of printing costs but their royalties are really the benefit.  IngramSpark allows you to set the distribution discount percentage from 30-55%, but KDP automatically sets that at 40%. So if you have your IngramSpark percentage set at the 55% that bookstores expect and the lower percentage with KDP can help pad the lower royalties through IngramSpark.  There is the option to distribute exclusively through KDP, and either do distribution to just Amazon or apply for their expanded distribution, which gives a bit more reach. It does offer up some benefits, such as the higher royalty rates and access to Kindle Select.  However, you’d be essentially closing the door to any bookstore or library opportunities—not only because Amazon is their direct competitor but also because it is...