Managing inventory and demand

Empty_supermarket_shelves_before_Hurricane_Sandy_Montgomery_NYI’ve always thought that it would be a nice thing not to sell out of books. I’ve had it happen a couple times at festivals. It happens near the end of the festival usually. It’s flattering at first because there’s such a demand for the books.

In the case of festivals, I usually wind up taking orders and offering free shipping for delivery during the following week. Not everyone takes up the offer, though, and I undoubtedly lose some sales.

Those lost sales have slapped me on the head this month.

My book, Secrets of Garrett County, came out near the beginning of the year. It sold well, but sales had leveled off. I thought I had enough to meet the demand for the holiday season. Then in the middle of November, a big order came in for the title. I was able to fill that order, but it pretty much wiped out my inventory.

I ordered some more, but once we’re into the holiday season, it takes much longer to get a shipment. Usually, I can have a book ordered delivered within a week after placing it. Currently, I have an order that I placed 12 days ago and it still hasn’t shipped yet.

Meanwhile, in the past week and a half, I’ve had three stores and two individuals contact me trying to get copies of the book. I sold out of my last copies this past Saturday at a book signing at a store. The store owner wanted me to leave behind 10 more copies, but I couldn’t.

So how many sales won’t I get because a customer doesn’t want to wait until after Christmas to get their book? It’s a unique book, but it’s not an iPhone. People will just pick out another gift or another book, and I’ll lose the sale.

So it’s flattering that the book is in demand, but I need to do a better job of keeping books in stock. Even my 15-year-old son gets this. When I was preparing for a show that I had run out some titles before, he told me, “It’s better to have one book left at the end, than no books.” What he was telling me was that with one book left, at least I know I had met all the demand. With no books left, you’re not sure how many sales you lost.

I wonder how Santa keeps up with demand?

Usually, I do a better job managing my inventory. As an idie author, you have to otherwise, bookstores won’t want to work with you if you can’t get them copies of your titles.

I looked at the problems that I ran into this year and have made some adjustments for next year.

My problem this year has been that I’ve done a lot more fall festivals than usual. It has hindered my efforts to build up holiday inventory.

Next year, I plan on increasing the minimum number of copies that I have on hand before I reorder, to increase the size of my orders, and to place my holiday inventory orders at the beginning of November rather than the middle.

My hope is that these changes will keep me with a supply of all my titles. If I’m lucky, I will still run into supply problems, which will mean that demand continues to increase.

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Having realistic pay expectations

When the members of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade talk about markets where we can publish our work. Around the Gettysburg area, the local magazines pay 10 cents to 50 cents a word.

I also write for magazines all over the country and have worked with some that pay $1 a word. Those markets are highly competitive.

I often look at the annual Writer’s Market to hunt for new markets and to also look at their writing pay rates chart. Writer’s Market is a great annual and a great place to start looking for markets, but I have two problems with it.

No. 1 – Writer’s Market has thousands of potential markets, but it’s not comprehensive. I realize that now, but when I was first starting out, I did not. It was only after having been published in dozens of magazines that I started realizing most of them weren’t listed in Writer’s Market, and some of them were very good paying markets.

No. 2 – I’m not sure how they compile their pay rate charts, but they seem too high from my experience. For instance, who pays $600 for a local newspaper column and what is the column about? How often does it run? How about $1,040 for a newspaper feature article? Maybe those are New York market area rates. Even if you look at the markets listed in Writer’s Market, you would be hard-pressed to reach the levels in the rate chart. For more realistic pay rates, check out this post by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen. She had put together an excellent selection of different types of writing and realistic pay expectations.

As you start to consider markets where you might want to submit a query, take a look at Laurie’s chart to see whether you’re getting offered a good paycheck. You might not be able to negotiate a higher rate, but you will discover that your writing might be worth more than you think.




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Getting the author look right

I don’t really like having my picture taken, mainly because I don’t like the way I look in pictures. However, as I continue to develop my author brand and do more events, I find that I need one more often. Here’s the one that I am currently using. ProfilePic

It works well enough, and I was happy enough with it. However, a couple years ago, I started writing under a pen name, J. R. Rada, for horror, fantasy, and young adult novels I write. I have been using the same picture, but I ask you, does that picture really work for a horror novel author photo?

That is when I started thinking about having professional author pictures made. I put it off because the last thing I wanted to do was to go to a studio and pose.

I even thought about not using an author pic. That idea quickly went out the window because I continued to get request from hosts where I was speaking to submit a picture. I also started publishing hardback books where the author’s photo often takes up the entire back cover. I resisted that trend, but I still needed a smaller picture for the back cover flap.

Luckily, I know a talented photographer who is also an author. Will Hutchison talked me into letting him take some author head shots of me. He promised me that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

I still wasn’t comfortable going into a studio, but that wasn’t his fault. He worked to put me at ease and explained what he was doing. I just didn’t like trying to smile or not smile on cue. It’s something I don’t think about, and when I did think about it, it always felt forced.

Will turned a sow’s ear into a silk purse, though. Thank heavens for the after-shoot editing.

Here are the two that I will be using in the future. The white background will be used on my James Rada, Jr. books (history, historical fiction) and the black background will be used on my J. R. Rada books (horror, fantasy, young adult).

Even I can see the improvement over my old head shot. They look like author head shots. They make me look professional (which can be a challenge). I definitely think they will look better on book covers, too.

So, if you’re using a snapshot for your headshot. Think about making the change.

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Working As An Editor/Writer Can Be A Horror

thomas-f-monteleoneI was going through my files today and I came across this article from 1996. It ran in a magazine called The Nightmare Express. Not only does it have some good information in it, it seems appropriate for the season. It also saw how my writing has improved from 19 years ago. I cleaned up the worst problems. I didn’t want to change it too much.

Not all writers can edit and not all editors can write. Finding someone who successfully wears both hats is an oddity. Thomas F. Monteleone is just such a person.

Monteleone’s best-selling novel, The Blood of the Lamb, the story of a man cloned from the genetic material found on the Shroud of Turin, sold nearly 10,000 copies in hardcover and more than 175,000 paperback copies. The novel won him the 1993 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel from the Horror Writers Association. His novel, The Resurrectionist, came out in October 1996 with a first hardcover printing of 50,000 copies. In the novel, Monteleone again looks at the darker side of religion with a U.S. Senator who discovers he has the power to raise people from the dead.

In between his first short story and The Resurrectionist, Monteleone has written 20 novels, more than 100 stories, and more than 70 articles. He’s managed that great amount of material by sticking with his writing schedule.

“I try to make sure I do three or four hours of dedicated writing a day. That’s about all I can deal with. Any more than 10-12 pages a day and it’s garbage. I usually write five to six pages so three to four hours is all the time I need to write at a good level,” he said.

On the editing side of the business, Monteleone edits the critically acclaimed Borderlands anthologies, now in its fifth year. The other day when I was talking with him, Monteleone took a phone call from White Wolf Press, the publisher of the paperback editions of Borderlands. He had just been told that Borderlands 2 and Borderlands 3 were among White Wolf’s top five bestselling books.

Monteleone admits that editing Borderlands has been more work than he imagined. With a successful writing career, he certainly doesn’t need the headaches editing an anthology causes. So why does he do it?

“I didn’t like the direction of horror fiction in the late 1980’s. The boom was playing to serial killers with steaming organs. I was getting tired of it. The sub-genre of vampire fiction was getting stale. I wanted to do an original anthology to explore new directions in the field,” Monteleone said.

Borderlands the anthology was so successful (15 of the stories in Borderlands received nominations for Bram Stoker Awards, two stories won, and the anthology itself won rave reviews) that it allowed Monteleone to create Borderlands Press, a small press that continues the direction of its namesake. After a rocky start (Monteleone’s partner mismanaged the company, not paying royalties and spending too much), Borderlands Press found its pace.

“We were on a treadmill the first three years and wound up in debt,” admitted Monteleone. “However, we’ve spent the last years getting out of debt. I like the company where it’s at now. It’s a small company that can’t get much bigger. We average about four titles a year.”

As with many small-press publishers, Monteleone feels the small press fills a need that large commercial publishers aren’t interested in filling. “When the small press is good, it’s very good. It’s a good venue for people who otherwise wouldn’t get much exposure. It has a small audience. The publishers have scaled down budgets, publications numbers, and expectations of acceptable profit. It’s a specialized market.”

Monteleone estimates that he reads about 500-600 short stories a year, of which, 80 percent are for Borderlands. He also said that of that amount 50-60 are publishable and only 20 go into Borderlands.

“I want to see stories that examine the genre in a new way that hasn’t been done before. I want a unique take. I don’t want to see the traditional horror elements. I want to go beyond that. I have no interest in reading my 85th vampire story,” he explained.

Other than lacking an original idea, why does he reject a story as unpublishable?

Monteleone said, “A lot of people don’t understand the basic story structure and how to unfold it dramatically. They speechify and lecture without letting the story carry. They don’t have a natural ear for dialogue. At least 50 percent of the stories I reject are because the dialogue is so tinny that a sardine factory wouldn’t use it to make cans. The writers can’t recreate how people talk. They don’t even realize it unless they are made aware and work at it. They need to talk out their dialogue. I can’t see any other way around it.”

Monteleone lists his should read horror as TED Klein (especially The Ceremonies), basic Stephen King (The Shining, The Dead Zone, Salem’s Lot), H.P. Lovecraft (not for style, but his uniqueness), Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Kutner, John Collier, Ray Bradbury, Peter Straub, and Joe Lansdale. In addition, according to Monteleone, some of horror’s most underrated authors who are definitely worth reading are Chet Williamson, David Silva, Bradley Denton, Nancy Holder, and Kim Antieau.

Monteleone’s advice to new writers: Keep writing and keep submitting your stories.

“Editor’s start to recognize your name. It means something to them. It means that you’re dedicated, prolific, and you’ll be around. They start feeling they’ll know who you are. It’s almost as important as what you say,” he said.

Which hat does Monteleone prefer wearing: Writer or editor?

Writer definitely.

“If you can write a good short story, you can write anything. It makes you a better writer by learning how to write a good story. It doesn’t make a lot of money, though. Novels allow you to develop characters, which is important. You can invest time and emotion in a character and make him live,” he said.

To see what Monteleone has been doing since this article, check out this page.

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Getting your long-term marketing going



The link to my C-SPAN appearance filmed in July.

During the last meeting of the Gettysburg Writer’s Brigade, we talked about marketing for the independent author. While marketing for the mainstream author and indie author overlap, some differences exist. This is mainly because an indie author can develop longer-term marketing.


While your short-term marketing will generally be focused on promoting your most-recent book, your long-term marketing will focus on your author platform or brand.

The basic elements of your author platform will be your author website and a Facebook fan page. These are the first two places that readers will search for information about you as an author. They should find an active, up-to-date page that lets them know about you, your books, and what you are up to. A webpage can be developed easily with sites like WordPress or Wix, and the cost is inexpensive. The Facebook page can be created for free.

From this basic platform, you can begin to add in additional pieces. This include:

  • Twitter – Visit it regularly to follow authors and readers. Tweet about your activities as well as your books. Readers want to feel like they know you and casual tweets are a way to do that.
  • Blog – If you have more to say than can be said in 140 characters, a blog could be a good way to do that. It also allows you to delve deeper into a topic of interest.
  • Podcasting – If you want to try a different medium to attract readers, try a podcast and fulfill your childhood dream of becoming a radio DJ.
  • E-mail List – This is something that I wish I had started building years ago. Collect names of and e-mail addresses of your readers. That way, you can communicate directly with them with news and book deals. If you post on Facebook or even your blog, you never know whether your readers will see it, but an e-mail has a greater chance of being read.

The key for your long-term marketing to last long-term is to provide information of interest to your readers. While you can mention special pricing or promotions within your author platform elements, most of the information should be non-sales. You are trying to build name recognition and goodwill. Continually trying to sell your books through your blog, Twitter account, etc., will only cause people to tune you out and unfollow you.

As the name suggests, long-term marketing is long-term. Don’t expect immediate sales. Your goal is to get your name out there and at the top of people’s minds when they think about your genre.

You want everything to become an interconnected web where you start to do something in one area and causes something to happen elsewhere.

Here’s a recent example. I do a particular festival every year where I sell my books (short-term marketing). A couple years ago, I met an author and we talked during the show. These events are good places to network (long-term marketing). This author later reviewed one of my books on Amazon (long-term marketing) and gave it four stars. More recently, he saw me do a presentation on C-SPAN (short-term marketing) and decided to review the book I walk talking about (long-term marketing). Also, the C-SPAN presentation came from doing a book signing (short-term marketing).

Can you see how everything is connecting? In some cases, it took a couple years for something to happen, but it did. Hopefully, the review will spur some sales, just as the C-SPAN presentation did.

It may sound like a lot to do, but you have time. As an indie author, you can keep your book in print as long as you want. You don’t have to make a quick impact like mainstream authors do (although if you can, so much the better). Do a little bit every day. Write yourself a marketing “to-do” list. Once you work your way through the list, evaluate the results and create a new list based on those results.

Go for it!

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How much should you charge for your writing?

I’m often asked by new writers what they should charge for an article. My answer is that it is often not up to the writer. The publication will make an offer, and you can decide whether to accept it or not. You can find some guidelines for what rates you should expect if you want to make a particular annual income.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen wrote a useful blog about this topic that you can find here. Also, Writer’s Digest annual publication Writer’s Market contains an extensive list of the going rates for various types of writing. My problem with that list is that it doesn’t adjust for different regions of the country.

However, the book does suggest a rough formula for deciding what your hourly rate should be.

  1. Choose your annual income.
  2. Add fixed expenses (Social Security, office supplies, travel expenses)
  3. Add in health insurance premiums.
  4. Add in retirement savings. The total is your gross annual income.
  5. Divide it by the number of billable hours you think you will have in a year. Writer’s Market suggests 1,000 hours or roughly 21 hours a week. The result is the hourly rate that you should shoot for.

Suggested Rates for Magazine and Trade Journals

My per word rate for magazines ranges anywhere from 10 cents a word to $1 a word. Obviously, I try to get more assignments from the latter, but I don’t turn down most assignments if I can squeeze them into my schedule.

  • Article feature writing: $40-$122 per hour, or 20-30 cents per word
  • Reprint articles: $20-$1,500 per project, or 10 cents-$1.50 per word
  • Magazine column: $75-$2,500 per project, or 37 cents-$2.50 per word
  • Ghostwriting articles: $30-$200 per hour, or 10 cents-60 cents per word
  • Book reviews: $25-$900 per project, or 15 cents-$1.50 per word
  • Content editing: $25-125 per hour, or 6 cents-16 cents per word

Notice how wide the range is for most of these assignments. It all depends on the magazine, where it is located, and the size of the article.

Suggested Rates for Newspapers

Newspapers are notorious for not paying much, and they like to keep their work in-house as much as possible to avoid extra expenses.

  • Article feature writing: $40-$79 per hour, or 10 cents-$1.60 per word
  • Local column: 38 cents-$1 per word; $25-$600 per column
  • Self-syndicated column: $4-$35 per column
  • Investigative Reporting: $2,250-$10,000 per project
  • Proofreading: $15-$45 per hour
  • Book reviews: $45-$69 per hour, or 25 cents-60 cents per word


Your income will more than likely come from a combination of sources, which for me, at least, makes it difficult to use the billable hours method. It’s a good starting pointing point.

Keep good records so that you know whether you’re truly making a profit or not.

Good luck and get writing.




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Developing your book marketing plan

thRosemary Hutchison talked to the Gettysburg Writers Brigade about the book marketing plans she has put together for her husband, Will. The one thing I noted about her talk is that she said a marketing plan forces an author to focus the book and study it in an almost scientific way. An author putting together a marketing plan takes off his or her creative hat and begins looking at the book in an analytical, business way.

Roesemary begins her plans with an Executive Summary. This is the author’s first chance to catch a publisher’s attention. This paragraph should not only tell what the book is about, but it should also describe why the book is unique and why a reader would want to buy it.

As part of the Executive Summary, you should include the top three selling points or unique features that should be used when discussing the book. These are the how and why points of why the book will sell and what will help the reader decide to read further.

Next, what are your Goals in writing the book. Why did you write the book?

Then come the Objectives. You want to establish yourself as an authority on the topic of your book. You want to prove your book is sustainable and you’re in it for the long haul. What are the Keys to Success in reaching your objectives? Show that you understand what it takes to put a book before the public.

Now, you begin looking at the Marketing and Promotion Campaign Summary. First, you identify the challenges that your book will face on the market and how you will meet them. Include a paragraph About the Author. This will include a paragraph about your experience and what makes you the person to write the book. If you have prior publications, list them in a list of Other Books or Publications.

The next section of the marketing plan is Competitive Comparisons. Research the books that are the closest to the book you want to write. Who wrote them and how is your book going to be different from them. This will show that you have started to do some research to discover how to make your book stand out.

Now begin your Market Analysis. Who are the people that will want to read the book? Why will those target readers love the book? How do those unique things about your book appeal to potential readers?

Start listing where you can find those readers. Where do they live? Who are the Target Audiences? What do they do? How old are they? What is their education level, their hobbies, their age, etc.? This is your Target Reader Profile.

Up to this point, you’ve been showing your understanding of the book and who you are trying to reach. Now you start laying out the Actionable Items to reach that audience. How are you going to find these readers? Besides what you will do to reach them, list organizations, societies, and groups along with contact information. This section can be developed into a checklist that you can refer to keep your marketing efforts on track.

Marketing your book is going to be hard work, but the end result is worth it as you start to see your sales and exposure increase.

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