Dart board target with text: Marketing Strategies to Find Target Audiences

We’re probably all familiar with the idea that the “author world” isn’t just about writing anymore. We need to engage with readers on social media, think about branding, come up with marketing plans, etc.

Even if we’re traditionally published, we often have to “fill in the blanks” for promoting our work, as publishers don’t do nearly as much as they used to—or as much as they say they will.

Whether we want to push our publishers to live up to their promises, hire a marketing team to help us, or do all of our promotion on our own, the best way to make sure things work out the way we want is to be informed.

I’ve often said that we have a better chance of picking a good editor (for example) if we know a decent amount about writing craft ourselves. Without a base amount of information, we might not recognize when a sample edit from an editor is filled with errors.

This is just one of many reasons that my focus here on my blog has been on education in all areas of writing. So today I want to talk about an aspect of writing that I’m clueless about: marketing. *smile*

To help educate us, Jennifer Fusco, author and marketing expert, is here today to give us a rundown on the basic marketing strategies and more importantly, fill us in on why some marketing strategies might work better for our books than others. Please welcome Jennifer Fusco…

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What’s Your Strategy?

When I teach marketing strategy to writers, I prefer to teach it in person rather than on line or via a blog post because strategy can get complicated, even frustrating. However, when I was asked to submit an article on strategy, I had to admit, I worried. Hopefully, I do the concept justice. So, please, please leave your comments and questions at the end of the post. I welcome them.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention to marketing, you’re aware of how an author should find their target audience, craft a positioning statement, build a brand, etc. But, did you know there are four types of marketing strategies that should be considered prior to developing your target audience(s)? No?

In order to find the select group who will deem your book worth buying, you must decide upon which marketing strategy you will use to uncover them. The four most basic types of marketing strategies are: Mass Marketing, Differentiated Marketing, Concentrated Marketing, and Niche Marketing.

You may want to incorporate one or more of these into your next book release. But first, let’s learn the definitions and usages of each.

Mass Marketing

In Mass marketing, it is assumed the book will appeal to everyone. Mass marketing targets the buying public as a whole. It makes no distinctions between who will want the product and who will not. For Mass marketing to be successful, the author must have a recognizable brand and wide, plentiful distribution.

Mass marketing is a passive form of marketing. It is similar to the cliché “throw spaghetti to the wall and see what sticks.” Examples of authors who have a recognizable brand large enough to be successful with mass marketing are: Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Stephenie Meyer, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child and George R.R. Martin.

Tip: The Mass Marketing Strategy Works Best When…

Mass marketing works best when the author needs nothing more to rely on for sales than the author’s name and the book itself. Mass marketing is used to sell both fiction and non fiction.

Differentiated Marketing

Differentiated Marketing is a marketing concept where the same product is marketed differently based on different (assumed) needs for each audience. For example, if you were marketing a car, you would use different arguments to find a target audience of women than you would to men. Marketers may appeal to women’s concern for safety, reliability, and comfort, where they may entice their target audience of men with the same car’s gas mileage, horsepower, and low maintenance costs.

One example of how an author may choose to use a differentiated strategy is by looking at the buying market as four separate buying groups. They are:

  • Libraries
  • Book Sellers
  • Readers
  • Authors

In a differentiated strategy, the author would find their target audience using a different “positioning statement” for each group. A positioning statement is a series of sentences which conveys the unique value of the book to each buying group.  Craft a positioning statement for each group by defining what makes your book stand out and makes the particular buying group care.

Again, in differentiated marketing, to find a target audience among each group, communications will be unique. For example, below are the positioning statements for Market or Die for the following buying groups:

  • Libraries: Market or Die is a useful reference book filled with timely instructions on book publicity, based on fact and research, which will not age.
  • Book Sellers: Nonfiction books continue to sell strongly in today’s changing publishing world. Publisher’s Weekly reported in 2012, “(a) less severe decline in nonfiction sales was due in part to a drop of less than 1% in units, and while e-book sales rose 136.4%, to $468.2 million, the declines in the major print formats were much smaller compared to fiction.” Milliot, Jim. “Industry Sales Pegged at $27.2 Billion” Publisher’s Weekly July 2012. Web.
  • Readers: While Market or Die is a marketing book specifically written for authors, any reader looking to learn more about marketing can benefit.
  • Authors: Market or Die is designed to instruct the author how to marketing their book and themselves by starting with a blank page and ending with a complete, measurable marketing plan.

For Fiction, a differentiated strategy may look like this:

  • Libraries: The book has received special recognition in Kirkus, Library Journal, or Romantic Times.
  • Book Sellers: The book or author has received an award or an achievement in part of this book. (i.e. Amazon Top 100 Author ranking). The author’s previous books sold over X copies.
  • Readers: The book’s blurb
  • Authors: This book is an excellent example of (POV, Setting, Character, World building) and should be read by fellow authors as a learning tool.

Tip: The Differentiated Marketing Strategy Works Best When…

A differentiated marketing plan works best when the author can “argue” the multiple benefits of their book to find their target audience(s). A differentiated marketing plan can be used to market nonfiction and fiction.

Concentrated Marketing

Concentrated Marketing is a form of marketing where all of your marketing efforts are focused on a select group of people. Concentrated marketing is usually geared for smaller groups of people because the product is designed to appeal to a particular segment.

For example, a romance author marketing to romance readers is a form of concentrated marketing. As authors are taking more control over their marketing, most are starting by executing a concentrated marketing plan. A downside to concentrated marketing is that it can quickly lead to market saturation.

Tip: The Concentrated Marketing Strategy Works Best When…

Concentrated marketing works best when the author is focused solely on attracting one specific type of reader.

Niche Marketing

Niche marketing is a form of marketing where the product is solely designed to market to one specific group. Persons outside this group would have no interest in the product. Books of specificity are niche marketed.

For example, most cookbooks are mass marketed, but Paleo cookbooks are marketed specifically to those interested in healthy, whole foods, Paleo lifestyle. My book, Market or Die, is marketed using a niche strategy because it appeals only to authors. It is doubtful anyone outside the writing community would have a need for a book about book marketing.

Tip: The Niche Marketing Strategy Works Best When…

Niche marketing works best when persons outside one specific group would have no interest in the book.

Now that you are aware of the different types of marketing strategies used to find your target audience, do you think you can incorporate one (or more) in your next release?  If so, which one would you choose and how would you use it? If you’re unsure, I’d love to help you figure it out. Just comment below.

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Jennifer FuscoJennifer Fusco is the author of Market or Die, a marketing book for writers, and the owner of a publicity services company.

A three-time winner of the Advertising Excellence Award, Jennifer has launched successful print and digital ad campaigns. She has served as a member of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) and believes that brand building is a key to professional success.

Ms. Fusco also writes contemporary romance. Her debut novel, Fighting for It, a sports romance, will debut September 15, 2015 from Penguin Intermix.

Market or Die coverAbout Market or Die:

Find your readers.
Make your brand memorable.
Sell more books.

Market or Die is designed to instruct the author how to marketing their book and themselves by starting with a blank page and ending with a complete, measurable marketing plan.

“Brand is one of those terms that we hear a lot these days; understanding what it truly means in the marketplace, creating and maintaining a brand, and how brand affects an author’s career is much more complex. Jennifer’s vast experience in marketing, public relations, advertising and brand innovation make her an expert in the field.” — Kristan Higgins, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

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Thank you, Jennifer! When many of us think of marketing, we probably think of mass marketing because that’s the form we’re most familiar with through TV advertising, etc. But as you point out, that type of marketing works best when we’re already a household name.

As I’ve already admitted that I don’t know much about marketing, I’ll hit you up with the first questions to start the conversation. *smile*

  1. In practice (where or how we spread the word about our book), what’s the difference between Concentrated Marketing and Niche Marketing?
  2. Do you have a recommendation for which strategy would work best for most fiction books?

Now it’s your turn…

Do you find marketing intimidating and/or confusing? Did you know about the different marketing strategies that would work best for different books? Do you have any questions about these strategies? Which strategy do you think would make the most sense for you and your book? How would you use it? Do you have any questions for Jennifer?

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One truism in writing that’s often repeated is “write what you know.” The idea behind the advice is that our writing will be easier, more authentic, more knowledgeable, etc. if we’re intimately familiar with what we’re talking about.

And that’s a good point. But from another point of view, the advice can be downright harmful—at least for fiction writing.

That advice can make students or young writers freeze when writing fiction. They might look at their life, with their limited experiences, and assume they must not have anything to say.

Writers who have lived their whole lives in rural areas might not think themselves qualified to write stories set in cities (or vice versa). Writers might not want to tackle historical or futuristic stories. Writers might not write outside their racial, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability, religious, social class, etc. background, which would greatly limit diversity in stories.

In short, that advice can be taken to an extreme and severely limit the role of creativity, imagination, and research. We’ve discussed before the role research plays in writing about settings we’re not familiar with or characters different from ourselves, so there’s no reason to avoid writing about things we don’t know—yet. *smile*

That’s why I much prefer the advice:

Write what you want to learn about…

Today, my friend Susan Sipal (writing as S.P. Sipal) is here to share a story about being open to learning new things for our writing. I loved this story because her experience demonstrates how that openness can not only enrich our lives, but can also be fun.

She embodies the spirit of “writing what you want to learn about,” so please welcome S.P. Sipal! *smile*

*****

The Journey of Discovery Through Writing

As authors, the stories we write are often crafted to take our reader on a journey. Perhaps we send our hero, and thus our reader, on an inward voyage of personal renewal or growth. Or, our heroine’s conflict may propel her on an outward trip of mythic adventure.

Either way, one of the best parts about writing, for me, is taking this journey along with my characters. I always learn and discover new things about my world and what I believe through the challenge of writing.

“Sometimes I know what I believe because of what I’ve written.”

— J.K. Rowling

Spiritual exploration has always fascinated me, and thus I probe at it in almost every story I write. I was a Religious Studies major in college and then did a semester at Duke Divinity School before going to work for Habitat for Humanity. Since school, I’ve delved deeply into ancient spiritual concepts, especially those involving the goddess. So, I know quite a bit about a wide variety of religious beliefs.

When it came to writing Southern Fried Wiccan, however, I faced new territory to explore. Which I loved. While I’d read several books on witchcraft, especially green and solitary magick, and performed a few rituals myself, I’d not yet met any practicing Wiccans. If I wanted my story to be authentic, I had to probe deeper.

I live in a small town. As in really small. As in, don’t go out to the PO or grocery store if you’re having a bad hair day…or bad clothes day…as you will always run into someone you know…who wants to talk. You would think that in a small, Southern town, it would be impossible to find any practicing Wiccans.

But I was wrong. I not only found Wiccans, I unearthed a coven.

Attending my first coven meeting was a bit nerve-wracking for me. First, I’m an introvert, so going anywhere new is always a challenge. Second, even though I’d read loads of books written by Wiccans, I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I guess I felt as if I might enter a situation that would make me uncomfortable. And while I wasn’t exactly worried, I was nervous.

But as I drove down the gravely road through the woods, much like the road I live on, I assured myself that Witch Ellie had sounded perfectly lovely through the emails we exchanged. Then, as I parked in the field in front of her house where the coven was being held, and noted the chickens scurrying to the henhouse to roost just like at home and a cat sitting on an overturned garden bucket grooming, just like my cats, I breathed even easier.

When I rapped on the screen door, I was greeted with a chorus of “come on in, door’s open.” I stepped into a rustic and comfortable (just like at home) living room opening into a kitchen with about eight women sitting around a plank-wood table working some sort of craft. They all smiled and welcomed me in. And like anywhere else I went in town, I even knew a couple of the ladies…one even helped out with the soup kitchen at my church.

Aside from the discussion of the Wheel of the Year and the Goddess as Crone, this small, rural coven was like any other women’s circle I’d attended through bookclubs, at Mary Kay parties, even church. It was potluck, of course.

The food reflected a variety of cultures of the ladies present, and the tea was served in Mason jars. The craft was a Samhain decoration for home altars. We talked and told stories and laughed. And the evening ended with personal sharing and singing outside by a bonfire under a glistening night sky as we released our magical energy into the world. I won’t say that there was not a moment of discomfort for me that evening, but discomfort is often a door opening to growth.

My visit with the coven, and the numerous conversations I had with other Wiccans following, greatly informed not only my story but me as a person. I wanted to make sure that Southern Fried Wiccan portrayed an honest reflection of Wiccan beliefs, while still giving my character Mother Faith and the coven she leads its own particular tone based on her unique outlook.

As authors, opening ourselves up fully to where our stories take us, to me, is the mark of writing authentically. If we write only of what we already fully know, how can we bring the joy of discovery fresh to the page? So long as we remember to approach the unknown with a sense of respect and a desire to expand the boundaries of our minds.

When I choose my next story, it will always be with an eye as to what I don’t know and what journey I wish to explore now.

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Susan SipalBorn and raised in North Carolina, Susan Sipal had to travel halfway across the world and return home to embrace her father and grandfather’s penchant for telling a tall tale. After having lived with her husband in his homeland of Turkey for many years, she suddenly saw the world with new eyes and had to write about it.

Perhaps it was the emptiness of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus that cried out to be refilled, or the myths surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis, but she’s been writing stories filled with myth and mystery ever since. She can’t wait to share Southern Fried Wiccan with readers.

*****

Southern Fried Wiccan coverAbout Southern Fried Wiccan:

Cilla Swaney is thrilled to return stateside, where she can hang up her military-brat boots for good. Finally, she’ll be free to explore her own interests—magick and Wicca. But when she arrives at her grandma’s farm, Cilla discovers that life in the South isn’t quite what she expected. At least while country hopping, she never had to drink G-ma’s crazy fermented concoctions, attend church youth group, make co-op deliveries…or share her locker with a snake-loving, fire-lighting, grimoire-stealing Goth girl…

…Who later invites her to a coven that Cilla’s not sure she has the guts to attend. But then Emilio, the dark-haired hottie from her charter school, shows up and awakens her inner goddess. Finally, Cilla starts believing in her ability to conjure magick. Until…

…All Hades breaks loose. A prank goes wrong during their high school production of Macbeth, and although it seems Emilio is to blame, Cilla and Goth may pay the price. Will Cilla be able to keep the boy, her coven, and the trust of her family? Or will this Southern Wiccan get battered and fried?

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Thank you, Susan! Your experience exemplifies the idea that we relate to others by how we are alike. We are all human—with quirks, desires, flaws, habits, fears, etc. And that’s what makes us able to relate to all kinds of characters and situations.

Writing fiction requires us to sink into other characters’ perspectives, and sometimes those characters will be very different from us. (I’m not a serial killer, or male, or a unicorn shapeshifter, and I don’t want to be any of those things (okay, the unicorn one might be cool *grin*).) Yet our job as writers means that we have to bring these characters to life.

Likewise, readers often enjoy the “mental vacation” of going somewhere new and different in their minds, so we might write about settings and time periods different from our own. Rather than bemoan that fact and dread the thinking and research the story will require, we can embrace the challenge and enjoy learning new things. *smile*

Is writing about something you don’t know intimidating or a challenge to embrace? Have you heard the “write what you know” advice before? Do you think that’s good or bad advice? Why? Where has your research led you in your writing?

P.S. Today is also Susan’s birthday and the release day for Southern Fried Wiccan! Yay! Congrats and happy birthday, Susan!

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Graphic of a figure holding a briefcase in front of arrows with text: How to Start a Business

Last summer, one of the workshops I attended at the RWA National Conference was So Your Books Have Taken Off…Now What? presented by Marie Force. While it might seem silly to go to a workshop about managing publishing success before I’d even published, Marie’s tips covered every aspect of our publishing journey.

Marie Force has sold over 3 million books, so she has a team of employees helping her manage her success. However, much of her advice was focused on getting authors to think of themselves as entrepreneurs or business people, no matter what stage we’re at in the publishing process.

For example, she recommended establishing a business bank account (even before we publish our first book) and using a business-expense-only credit card. Those are both good points that will help us stay organized down the road. One no-brainer tip she shared was getting a professional email address so we’re not sending queries from HotForLoki27@cheesyemail.com. *smile*

Another interesting point she made was the various “milestones” for when we should take the business aspect of our writing more seriously. According to Marie:

  • Once we reach $10K a year, we should get a CPA tax professional who can help us with accounting and ensure we properly handle all expenses and deductions. Staying out of jail for messing up taxes is always a good goal.
  • Once we reach a sustainable $100K a year, we should look into the benefits of incorporating. In the U.S., an S-Corp is better for FICA taxes, but an LLC is potentially helpful as well. (She’s currently an S-Corp but might switch to LLC due to her employee situation.)

Despite the fact that I write by the seat of my pants, in my normal life, I’m very much a planner. So I filed Marie’s tips away in my head and knew that when it was time for me to publish, I’d keep her business advice in mind.

Because of all this thinking and preparation, when I finally clicked publish on my stories last month, I had a plan. And that plan included starting a publishing company to handle the business aspects of my writing.

Today, I’m excited to have Kathryn Goldman here to share with us the legal aspects of starting our own company. Whether we indie publish or traditionally publish, we may want to start a company at some point in our writing career. (For example, Marie Force started an ebook formatting company, but this could also be a cover design, editing, blog tour/marketing, or any other company.)

Even if we publish traditionally, we still might want establish our pen name as a business. If we self-publish, we might want to start a publishing imprint or another type of company. And if we’re successful like Marie, we may want to turn our writing itself into a company.

(Note: Some of this post might apply to international authors, but the specifics are focused on U.S. company structures and tax rules. Please consult local experts for more information on rules in other countries.)

Some of this information would have been helpful to me months ago, but luckily, I don’t think I screwed it up too much. *smile* Please welcome Kathryn Goldman!

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How to Start a Publishing Company
(or Any Company)

When I learned that Jami had started her own publishing company, Blue Phoenix Press, and had published her first two books, I was thrilled for her.  I love it when folks, especially creative folks, get that entrepreneurial spirit and then do something about it – make it happen.  It’s fun to get wrapped up in a new project, to work with focus toward launch, and to see something become real before your eyes.

Starting a new enterprise can be frightening, as well as exhilarating.  Not only is the feeling of “What if I fail?” all pervasive, there is also the ever present thought of “What if I’m not doing it right?” Entrepreneurs question themselves every step of the way about whether they’re “doing it right.” Writers and artists whose expertise is in the act of creation but perhaps not in the creation of a business are particularly prone to second guessing themselves on business issues.

As an intellectual property attorney, I have been counseling clients including creative professionals in their startup businesses for many years. Jami has graciously allowed me this space on her blog to explore how creative professionals can think about business start-up issues.

Choosing the Best Type of Business Structure

Once a creative professional decides the time is right to start a business, in this example a publishing company, the first question asked (after “Am I nuts?”) is usually, “What type of business should I form?” We are going to take a look at the different options available to help answer that question.

When it comes to answering the question, “What if I’m doing it wrong?” it’s important to know that there isn’t any one right way of starting a business. In fact, there is a whole spectrum of choices. The business structure that works for you could fall anywhere along a continuum from a simple and easy to implement solution all the way up the continuum to a more sophisticated and complex solution or anywhere in between.

Deciding what is best for you begins and ends with your specific needs and goals. My aim is to provide you with guidelines to help you decide when to choose one type of entity over another as you build your publishing empire.

***Here it comes: the disclaimer – because I’m a lawyer, I have to say there are always individual considerations and this is not legal or tax advice for your specific situation. ***

The Business Entity Continuum

This list describing the various business organization choices should give you a basic understanding of business formation to help you be thoughtful about your decision.

Sole Proprietorship

The easiest option for starting a publishing company (or any company) is to operate it as a sole proprietorship.  This is a common form of business organization.  In many states, you can invent a business name and use it without going through any legal formalities.  If I wanted to start a publishing company called SpyderByte Publishing in Maryland, for example, all I need to do is print a business card. I can buy the domain (if it is available), set up a web site and I’m in business.

I can setup my KDP account using the name of my new publishing company. When I receive a check from Amazon and want to deposit it in the bank, I need to have a bank account called “SpyderByte Publishing.”

Before I can do that, however, the bank may require me to have what is known as a DBA registration.  DBA stands for “doing business as.” DBA registrations can be obtained from your state’s corporate registration or charter office. The purpose of a state DBA registration is to create a public record of the operating entity behind SpyderByte Publishing. In this case, that entity would be me.

Once you start earning income from your publishing company, the IRS requires you to report it.  Income from a sole proprietorship is reported on your individual 1040 using a Schedule C.  Schedule C reflects business expenses in addition to income so you would only be taxed on your net earnings. Using my example, a Schedule C would be created for SpyderByte Publishing and attached to my tax return. You can file as many Schedule Cs as you need – one for each sole proprietorship, if you operate more than one.

From a liability perspective, as a sole proprietor you are personally liable for all the contracts you enter and any of your intentional or negligent actions done in the name of your company.  You have no protection from lawsuits by third parties.  But that may not matter to you.  If your genre is steampunk romance, your risk of being sued for invading someone’s privacy or defamation is probably pretty low.

If you work in non-fiction or write memoirs (if you use celebrities and other real people in your fiction), you may have reason to be more concerned about potential liability.  In that case you might be better served by creating a limited liability company (an LLC) or an S-Corp.

Using Pen Names as a Sole Proprietor

You can set yourself up as a sole proprietorship for administrative ease, choose a nifty name for your publishing company and publish under a pen name.  Again, your state may not require you to register for a DBA (although the bank might). In fact, you can use pen names with relative ease in any of the business entity choices discussed in this post.

Helen Sedwick, another attorney, has written a useful post on whether you should be using a pen name with some pointers on how to do it.

Sole Proprietor with an EIN

The next step up the ladder of business entity complexity is one in which you choose to be a sole proprietor that has its own EIN. (Sorry about all the initials, but really this is just a half step.)  An EIN is an employer’s identification number.  It is assigned by the IRS after completing a short online application.  You need an EIN when you begin to hire employees.  Until that time, you can manage your sole proprietorship reporting to the IRS with your own Social Security number.

Some banks may require you to have an EIN to set up an account in the name of your sole proprietorship. To me, that’s not a good enough reason for an EIN and instead, I’d look for a different bank. It’s not unreasonable for a bank to require some kind of government documentation before they allow you to begin depositing checks that are not in your name. I prefer the state DBA registration option over an IRS employer identification number because I like to keep my relationship with the IRS as simple as possible for as long as possible.

The two arguments in favor of getting an EIN at this stage are: (1) an additional layer of protection for your social security number; and (2) clarifying your independent contractor status if you are working as a freelancer.

Single Member LLC

If you do go the route of getting an EIN, the next step in business organization complexity is to setup an LLC.  An LLC is a limited liability company. It is a business entity recognized in most states (maybe all by now, I haven’t checked recently).

An LLC offers the benefit of limited personal liability and doubles down on that benefit with relative ease of set-up and operation.  You can choose any name that suits you and which is available in your state’s corporate registration or charter office where you would file Articles of Organization and pay a filing fee.

Purple Vegetable Farms LLC is a perfectly acceptable name for an LLC, for example.  If you write about growing purple vegetables and it turns out that one of the vegetables you recommend happens to be poisonous when it is mixed with orange pekoe tea (or whatever), then because you’ve chosen an LLC as your business entity you will have some measure of protection from lawsuits by anyone who might have gotten sick by eating purple vegetables and drinking orange pekoe tea.

A single member LLC means that you’re in business alone, you are the only member of the company.  An LLC is what is known as a pass-through entity. That means that the profits and losses pass straight through to your tax return. Any income that passes through to you is taxed at your personal income tax rate, plus you pay self-employment taxes on that income up to a certain level.

Multiple Member LLC

A multiple member LLC means you are in business with other individuals or business entities, like other LLCs.  If you are in business with someone else you should always have a written agreement between you as to what you expect of them and what you are obliged to do.

The written agreement for a multi-member LLC is called an Operating Agreement. An Operating Agreement sets out the deal between the members of the company – who makes the decisions, how the decisions are made, whether you can sell your stake in the company, and many other issues. Think of an Operating Agreement as a pre-nup – sign one while everybody still likes each other.

At this point on the continuum of business structure complexity you start to incur attorney’s fees.  You will also incur accountants fees at tax time because a K-1 must be prepared for each member of the company to report the pass through profits or losses on her own tax return.

With a multi-member LLC, you have business partners, limited liability, pass-through income and possibly employees. Once you start paying professional fees, you know you have achieved a certain level of sophistication.  How sophisticated you want to be is up to you.  *smile* (I learned online smiling from Jami.)

S-Corp

An S-Corp, or an S-Corporation, is a corporation that is created first by filing Articles of Incorporation with your state. Instead of being a member of an LLC, you are a shareholder of a corporation.  An S-election is then made with the IRS. Like LLCs, S-Corps are pass-through tax entities so there is no double taxation.

An S-Corp is similar to an LLC in terms of the liability protection benefits it offers you. Your personal assets will have some measure of protection from third party lawsuits.

There can be tax benefits in choosing an S-Corp structure over the LLC. With an S-Corp, you pay yourself as an employee, so you must set a reasonable salary for yourself. If the corporation generates income above that salary, you can pay yourself the difference as a shareholder distribution which is not subject to self-employment tax and is taxed at the generally lower capital gains rate.

S-Corps are more complex than LLCs. The math of the income benefit needs to be discussed with an accountant. Gaining this income benefit may be worthwhile if you have already established a payroll system.  So, there are some savings to be had with an S-Corp, but they need to be weighed against filing fees, payroll costs, and the accountants and attorneys fees it will take to realize those savings.

If you are going into business with other shareholders, the document that controls the decision making in the corporation is called a Shareholders (or Stockholders) Agreement.

Moving Up and Down Along the Continuum

If you are just starting out, keep it as simple as possible. Move up the continuum as your business needs call for it.

You can start as a sole proprietorship, then if you find that you need protection from personal liability, you can transition to an LLC. If your business grows to the point where increased income calls for a more aggressive tax structure, you can transition into an S-Corp. Or you can change to multi-member LLC if you want to add another member, etc.

Transitioning into a different business structure is not as easy as choosing the most workable structure from the beginning, but with understanding and planning it can be done. Understanding the structure that you choose, how it works and how it fits with your overall goals will reassure you that “You’re doing it right.”

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Kathryn Goldman headshotKathryn Goldman is a lawyer who protects creative professionals, writers, artists, and businesses from having their work and art ripped off. She regularly lectures to writers and artists on copyright, trademark and business basics. Soon, she expects to launch an online class that teaches writers how to copyright and enforce the rights in their work.

Since she’s a lawyer, she has to mention that she’s not your lawyer (so this article isn’t technically legal advice), but you’re still invited to download her free Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report.

Digital Artists Rip-Off Protection Report

*****

 Thank you, Kathryn! From cover design and workshop presenting to “author assistant” services and managing blog tours, many writers will set up companies during their career, and it’s good for us to be aware of our options so we can make the best choices for our situation.

Remember how I’ve mentioned that we should have a business plan? Thinking about our goals in advance will help us choose the best path for us. *smile*

Do you have (or do you plan to have) a writing-related business? What type of business (publishing imprint, author services, etc.) is part of your plan? Have you thought about how to set it up? Have you taken any of Marie or Kathryn’s first steps yet (bank account, credit card, EIN, DBA registration)? Do you have any questions for Kathryn?

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Using Examples to Learn Beat Sheets

by Jami Gold on March 17, 2015

in Writing Stuff

Chalkboard with text: Learning Beat Sheets by Example

Many writers struggle with knowing how to make their plot tight and their story flow. One technique for drafting or editing our stories into shape is using story beats.

Story beats (or turning points) are events or points in the story that direct the narrative to a new direction. They give our story a structure that can make it easier to outline in advance, to use as guidelines when writing by the seat of our pants, or to revise and edit a finished draft.

I have a whole collection of beat sheets to help us no matter whether we need more direction for plots or for characters. But it can be tricky to understand how to use beat sheets.

Let’s do a round-up of the many beat sheet and story structure resources here on my blog, and then I’ll introduce you to other resources around the web that might help us understand beat sheets.

Resources: Understanding Story Structure

Resources: Understanding Beats and Turning Points

Resources: How to Use Beat Sheets

Sometimes We Need to See Before We Understand

But even with all that information, we still might struggle to understand what beats look like in “real” stories or how to recognize beats in the books we read or the movies we watch. In my workshops, I’ve often had people ask me to give examples of beats from XYZ movie or book.

I understand. Sometimes seeing examples can help, and luckily for us, several blogs run “beat sheet breakdown” posts and series.

I’ve found it interesting to read through many of these examples and see how beats fit (or don’t) the story. Some of the beat sheets under the Save the Cat site admit that the movie beats don’t fit the “ideal” beat sheet.

For the Save the Cat beat sheet, that’s not surprising because StC has so many beats that some of them need to be fudged with occasionally. (Personally, I don’t use the StC beat sheet for this reason. It has too many beats and could drive us crazy if we tried to follow them all exactly. I prefer to stick with my Basic Beat Sheet.)

Resources: Beat Sheet and Story Structure Examples

Storyfix has several “deconstruction” series, including:

The Save the Cat site has many beat sheet examples, including recent movies like:

And a new resource just opened this past weekend with several more story structure breakdowns—and allows for submissions to add your own examples. Many of the examples listed fit with the same beats as on my Basic Beat Sheet.

K.M. Weiland created a Story Structure Database on her site, and she features both books and movies, including:

Between all of those resources, I hope we’ll be able to see what beats look like and how they fit with each other to create a story. However, as I mentioned with the Save the Cat beat sheet examples above, it’s good to recognize that beat sheets are just a guideline.

We should treat them as a tool and not a rule. We don’t want to create formulaic stories, and if we pay more attention to getting the beats on the exact right page than to the overall story flow, we’ll create stories with fluff or uneven pacing.

The most important beats to get close to the recommended page numbers are the 4 Major Beats:

  • Near 25%, a starting point for the main conflict:
    • an event that drags the protagonist into the situation —or—
    • an event that forces a choice to get involved.
  • Near 50%:
    • an event that changes the protagonist’s goals/choices —or—
    • an event that adds new stakes to the situation.
  • Near 75%:
    • an event that steals the protagonist’s hope for a solution.
  • From about 80-95%, an ending point for the main conflict:
    • an event that forces the protagonist to face the antagonist.

However, even with those major beats, “close” might mean within 5% of the recommended page number for a novel. The other beats are even more flexible. As long as the pacing and development work, we don’t need to worry about readers counting pages to see how close we got. Luckily, novelists don’t have to be nearly as exact as screenwriters.

Above all, remember that beat sheets are a tool to help us tell good stories, not just a fill-in-the-blank form. So while we want to pay attention to the page numbers and ensure that our pace isn’t too slow or that we’re not underdeveloping an idea, good storytelling always comes first. *smile*

Are you able to analyze story structure in movies and books? Have you struggled to recognize story beats and turning points in real stories? Do examples help you understand tricky concepts? Were you familiar with these example resources before? Do you know of any other resources for story structure or beat sheet examples?

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A raccoon looking stuck in a tree with text: Feeling Uncomfortable?

I’m a perfectionist. That’s not news to any of you who have been reading my blog for a while. *smile* But that meant I had to get over a lot of my own issues to be able to publish my stories.

Those of us on the traditional publishing path have (or will have) an agent, an editor (maybe several editors), and a publisher acquisitions team all chiming in about when our story is ready. Those authors also don’t have to learn retailer accounts or the millions of other little things that authors on the indie path need to do themselves.

Those of us on the indie path have to find other ways to reach the “it’s ready” stage and have to do a lot of jobs we feel unqualified for. For indie authors who are also over-thinking perfectionists? Well, it can be a struggle. *smile*

Many steps along our writing path can make us uncomfortable: querying, sending out to beta readers, drafting a story that isn’t quite as good as it seemed in our head, revising a story that we know isn’t right, pushing publish on our stories, etc.

I’ve struggled with feeling uncomfortable many times, but nothing was as difficult for me as taking the step of publishing. In fact, I never would have been able to publish if I hadn’t pushed myself to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Truth #1: It’s Uncomfortable to Be Less-than-Perfect

I was lucky. As a romance author, I had access to contests galore to get outsider input on when I was in the right ballpark quality-wise to think of publishing.

Even so, it was easy to think one contest win or final was a fluke, or that the competition must not have been as fierce for that contest. Note that it took me 9 contest wins and finals to get over my “it’s a fluke” stage. That’s a perfectionist for you.

But I still wanted to make my stories better. Three editors later (developmental editor, line editor, and copy editor—just like the big publishers), I have to accept that I’ve made each story the best I can make it…at this point in time.

“At this point in time.” That’s a killer to a perfectionist because that admits our story would be better if we waited a month, a year, ten years. But if we listened to that voice, we’d never publish.

Everything we do in life is “the best we can do at that point in time.” From our schoolwork to redecorating a house to raising a child—everything is simply “the best we can do.” Never perfect. We have to be comfortable enough with our imperfection that we move forward anyway.

Truth #2: It’s Uncomfortable to Not Know Everything

My over-thinking style also didn’t want me to “jump” until I knew enough about indie publishing to be comfortable with all aspects of it. *cough splutter weeze* Yeah, after reading everything I could on the subject for a year, sometimes there’s nothing quite like actually doing it to force a feeling a comfort.

My writing buddies reached the point of asking me every couple of days if I’d picked a release date yet. One of them, the wonderful Angela Quarles, finally stepped in to do my formatting—I suspect so I couldn’t use needing to learn that skill as my next excuse.

While my short story was being formatted (i.e., the last stage in the publishing process), I still found myself asking oodles of questions and saying, “What? How could I not know that?” on a regular basis. We can study a subject for eternity and still not know as much as actually taking action on said subject.

Now, I’ve published on multiple platforms, including GooglePlay, which many self-publishers avoid because it has a reputation for being tricky and intimidating. I managed this feat mostly because I tried.

You know that saying about how you can’t succeed unless you try? Totally true. *smile*

Truth #3: It’s Uncomfortable to Have to Rely on Others

As soon as we start sharing our work with others, we run into the issue of having to trust others. We hope our beta readers or critique partners do a good job and don’t miss telling us about the huge plot hole that would embarrass us if others saw it.

We might have to trust our agent to do the right thing for our story. We have to trust our editors to push us further than we think we can grow and our designers to provide quality cover art.

Unless those of us on the indie path do our own editing and cover art (which isn’t recommended), we need to trust our team no matter our publishing path. Those on the indie path have the power to hire and fire, but we often don’t know enough to judge quality until it’s too late.

Whatever path we’re on, we often have to blindly trust that people will do their jobs at the best level they can do. That can be uncomfortable, and yet we have to do it anyway if we ever hope to make progress with our writing, publishing, and career.

Truth #4: It’s Uncomfortable to Not Be 100% Ready

Even with all my reading, studying, and preparing, I didn’t feel ready to push Publish on my stories. I felt like I was drowning in a confusing mess of information. In fact, each day I felt less qualified and ready to take the step than I did the previous day.

Any of us who have been through a big life experience—from moving away from home or buying a house to getting married or having a baby—know that we’re never going to feel 100% ready for what’s to come. We’ll always have lingering questions or concerns.

Yet many of those experiences come with deadlines that force us to go forward—ready or not. Our publishing career is often the same way.

Many steps involve questions and concerns that we won’t even know to ask until we’re in the thick of it. And we often need a deadline to force us to take the next step.

It’s uncomfortable to feel like we’re not ready for what’s to come. But that feeling will never go away, no matter how much we prepare—we know that from our other life experiences.

Sometimes we have to force ourselves to jump and trust that we’ll be okay. And as with many things in our life, after we jump, we might turn around and think, “Gee, that wasn’t so bad. What was I worrying about anyway?” *smile*

Do you have any additions to these “truths”? What makes you most uncomfortable about your writing or publishing path? Are you able to force yourself to move forward anyway? Do you have any tips for how to take that step? Or do you simply make yourself comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable?

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Should We Change Our Blogging Style?

March 10, 2015 Random Musings
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Many authors continue to blog writing or publishing advice after publication. But just as many authors stop blogging about anything other than release news tidbits for readers once they’re published. Let’s explore how and why we might decide to change our blogging style.

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How to Punch Up a Blurb or Query — Guest: Julie Glover

March 5, 2015 Writing Stuff
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No matter how we publish, we have to come up with a great book description. Queries and blurbs have always been my weak point, so I asked my editors at each stage of the editing process for help. Julie Glover’s here today with tips for how to go from good to great.

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The Perils of a “Dead” Genre

March 3, 2015 Writing Stuff
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It’s been almost a week since my release of Unintended Guardian, and I’ve been getting lots of questions about how I made my decisions for what to do with my books. Let’s start at the beginning: How did I decide on my publishing path? For that, we have to go back to when I first started on my writing career path.

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Boom! Publishing Like Beyoncé

February 26, 2015 News
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A bit over a year ago, Beyoncé surprised the music world by secretly dropping a new album with zero promotion in advance. Can we apply this strategy to the publishing world? If we run a lot of promo pre-release, by the time we have buy links, will people think our book is old news?

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What Scares You about Writing or Publishing?

February 24, 2015 Writing Stuff
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Many large, life-changing events can scare us—even terrify us. We might think, “It’s a good thing I didn’t know how hard it would be, or I might not have done it.” Sometimes writing or publishing can be terrifying, yet we have to move past our fears.

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