Monday, January 21, 2013

So You Want to Write a BBQ Book?

Let me start with a qualifier that I have not actually published a book at this point, but I have been writing one seriously for a while now. It's a work of fiction and has nothing to do with bbq. It's in the vein of David Baldacci's mystery/thriller work meets Ron Rash's southern character/setting/region influences.

Some of what I write in this blog article might not transfer perfectly to someone writing a non-fiction book about bbq. It is based on my research of the process. I am sure there are multiple ways of doing it, but I will outline one way that many have pursued. Please forgive me if I leave out some vital detail. My goal is to provide further information for your own research if you choose to use it.

I attended a workshop on publishing recently and learned that there are more than 500,000 written works published annually. Based on those numbers, the odds of each newly written book selling more than a few hundred copies to family, friends, and neighbors are against you. Based on the staggering odds against success, it's even more difficult for an unpublished author to obtain a traditional book contract from on of the major New York publishers.

If you're lucky a book contract may be worth a $5,000 - $10,000 advance on future sales and then 8% - 9% of whatever the publishing company may earn from sales of your book. And since books sales decline each year it's in print, your revenue stream will be in decline shortly after your book hits the traditional book store shelves. 

You will work on the book for 2 or 3 years, wait at least 1 1/2 years to see it published, and then you hope and pray that enough people buy it to earn you more than a few small royalty checks before your book goes out of print.

Well, don't give up yet. There's another way. It's called self-publishing. Many reading this may be saying to themselves, "but I don't want to self-publish". The cold hard facts of the matter are that you may have no other choice, if you want to see your book in your reader's hands. 

Before you dismiss what I'm saying about self-publishing you may be interested to know that 2012's best-selling written work 50 Shades of Grey started out as a self-published book. You may not agree with it being a book worth reading and you may not agree with the book's subject matter, but like it or not that book changed publishing and how it will be done in the future.

Those of you who wish to participate in writing books and getting them into the hands of those readers who will pay for the privilege of reading it will want to do more research in this area because if it's done well, it can be more lucrative than traditional publishing. Just ask Amanda Hocking or Dan Poynter.

Steps to Self Publishing
  • You've got to actually finish the book first
  • Treat the endeavor as a business
  • Learn how to obtain an ISBN for your book
  • Get a website
  • Get business cards
  • You need a brand
  • Start marketing the book 6 months in advance of publication
  • Sell your book
You can choose from several approaches to self-publish you book.
  • Do-It-Yourself:  Cost $4 per book and profit $3 per book sale
  • Indie Print:  Cost $5 - $6 per book and profit $3 per book sale
  • Literary Services:  Cost $8 - $10 per book and profit $1.50 per book sale
  • Electronic Publishing: Cost $75 - $100 flat fee to design the e-book format
Traditional book publishers are upset with the growing popularity of electronic publishing. After you understand how some authors are bypassing the New York publishing houses completely and earning more money, it's easy to understand why.

Amanda Hocking turned traditional book publishing on its' ear.  She cracked the code, so to speak, to earning millions from her books without any assistance from traditional publishing companies. In 2010 she earned $20,000 in a few short months selling her paranormal romance books on She had no prior experience in publishing. She was a complete novice.

Amanda sold her books in electronic format for $.99, $1.99, and $2.99 as serials (i.e. each new book built on the one before it). This kept readers coming back for more, but the lower price point was key. She knew that readers would buy more books for $3 or less than they would for $15 or more. Within a few months, she earned a million dollars from her work.

A certain amount of luck was involved, but in my opinion the odds of Amanda's success in self-publishing was much greater than if she'd chosen to follow the traditional path. She had control of almost everything and she kept more of the proceeds. Win, win.

This article is getting on the longish side, so I'll close with a few resources that you may wish to research further.

You will also probably want to research the pro's and con's of the following electronic book publishing formats:

.RTF (not recommended)
.TXT (not recommended)

If you choose to write a barbecue book and publish it in e-reader format (i.e. Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc.), it's probably best if you read a few books on an actual e-reader so that you understand the in's and out's that your readers will experience if they choose to purchase your book.

It's not absolutely required, but you will likely find the services of an editor valuable. A good editor will help polish your novel to ensure there are no glaringly obvious grammatical errors, duplicate paragraphs, etc. to help you avoid embarrassment and look-out for your readers happiness on your behalf. If you choose to hire an editor expect to pay roughly $3 a page. Look for an editor that has experience editing in the genre you're writing in. Don't ask an editor who specializes in teenage vampire books to edit your dutch oven cookbook.

Armed with this new information, resources, and knowledge gained for free on the bbq blog, you now have a leg up on almost any unpublished bbq-author-wannabe who day dreams about publishing a book about bbq so they have enough money (and time) to actually cook some bbq.  All you need to do is write 50.3 Shades of BBQ Cookbook or The Barbecue Hunger Games trilogy and you'll be well on way to bbq author prosperity (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).  :-)

And if you find yourself struggling with a lack of motivation to keep-on-keeping-on with your writing project may I suggest reading some of Jim Butcher's thoughts about writing on his blog about writing.

Special thanks to the Bellville Michigan District Library for sponsoring the workshop this past weekend.  And thanks to Beverly Jenkins and Sylvia Hubbard for taking the time to answer so many questions from those who attended.

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