Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Face-Lift 646

Guess the Plot

Don't Forget the Death Ray

1. A team of astronauts arrive in a new world, only to discover the atmosphere is full of poppy-gas that adversely affects their cognition and makes them vulnerable to kidnap by flying monkeys, green women, and singing midgets.

2. The ultimate reference work on how to write comic books. Includes invaluable advice like: Don't put an alien's third eye on the back of his head; Never make a spandex costume pink; and of course . . . Don't Forget the Death Ray.

3. All mad scientist Lysander Schultz wants to do is take over one, maybe two continents so his mother will finally stop complaining he's never accomplished anything. But then Mama Schultz gets wind of the plot and decides her baby boy can't possibly do it without her assistance...

4. What happens to megalomaniacal arch-villains whose powers fade as they proceed into their golden years and find they can no longer remember exactly what they were going to do with the world once they dominated it? This is the story of a most unusual assisted-care facility where, more often than not, weapons of mass destruction are found in the refrigerator rather than in that tray on the dresser where they belong.

5. Ironic hipster Lance McAllister's blog, "Don't Forget The Death-Ray," is a send-up of science fiction cliches and alien abductions. It's all fun and games, until the Reticulons show up and the anal probes start.

6. Zorpha Qv'naul has had to deal with one too many creeps who think, just because they paid for immersion in the nutrient vats, she should drop her carapace and become brood-host to their natal swarm. So she's written a handbook of practical advice for the single female tentaculoid playing the dating game on Eta Horologii IV.

Original Version

I'd like to sell a fun and informative book about how to write superhero novels and comic books. Don't Forget the Death-Ray! would be aimed at readers aged 13-18.

My main writing credential is that I run Superhero Nation, a writing advice website that has had 150,000 readers in the past two years. My superhero writing advice is credible and effective. [Evil Editor is a good name for a superhero who gives writing advice (though my advice is incredible and ineffective). And thanks to my laser vision I can also battle super villains. Here are my arch-enemies:]

In addition, I have three years of experience writing for college newspapers.

I am better-suited to reach teen readers than most of the authors currently writing in this field. Most of them are 40-something or 50-something comic book writers. They have experience that would be absolutely critical to older readers, but teen readers also value relatability. [Better to say you are well-suited because teens relate to you, than to say you are better-suited and then put down the forty-somethings. You may be sending this to someone who's not so young.] I believe that the success of my website is evidence of that. [Actually, it's evidence that the same twelve people visit your site 20 times every day. And I should know.] As a college senior myself, I relate to teens very easily. Additionally, the experience I have-- winning a grant to write a superhero novel manuscript-- is more relevant to young readers. I'm very familiar with the ground-level of the industry and how to succeed as a newcomer. [Did you succeed as a newcomer?] In contrast, most competing authors broke into the industry twenty or thirty years ago. [As shown in the following chart, old people are behind the times when it comes to superhero powers:

Old Superheroes (low relatability)

Superhero..................... Talent

Green Arrow ................. Good at archery
Aquaman .......................Can hold breath a long time
Batman ..........................None
Superman..................... Everything
Spiderman ....................Senses danger
Mr. Fantastic ............... Can stretch really far
Silver Surfer .................Can surf without water

New Superheroes (high relatability)


Mall Babe ....................Expert shopper
The Controller..............Really fast thumbs
Guitar Hero .................Really fast fingers
The Idol .......................Karaoke Master
Rapper .........................None
Tweeter ........................Conciseness
Textgirl ........................Cryptography

Please let me know if you would like me to send a proposal. I can be reached at [e-mail address] or [phone number.] [Asking if they want a proposal is inviting them to say no. A proposal is not so long that you shouldn't just send it. What is it, two or three chapters to give them an idea what your book is like? It's the least you can send, as your query letter tells them nothing about what your book is like.]

Thanks for your time and consideration.



There's nothing about your book in the letter. The entire thing is your credentials. And you don't have any.

If you don't have the credentials of others in your field, your strategy should not be to send a query that mainly states why your lack of credentials is actually a plus; your strategy should be to show that your book is so creative and original it shines above other works in the field. Give an example or two of your book relating to teens in a way that will make teens prefer your book to others.

A nonfiction book doesn't need to be finished, but unless you have credentials, you need to finish some of it and send it on to demonstrate that you've got the goods.

The number of thirteen-year-olds who can (and want to) write a decent novel, with or without your advice, is limited. Maybe you should just do comic books.


Anonymous said...

1) Where's the book? What will the book be about? Why should I read this book?

2) The more you say you're qualified, the less I believe you. It gets to a point in this letter, actually, when I just want to write you off as 14 and clueless. Repetitiveness is very rarely your friend.

3) Would an adult reading this also get anything out of it? Because you make it sound like only kids will like it. Just because that's your target audience, realistically, most teens are more interested in the How to Draw books than they are the How to Write Comic books. My credentials: I work in a library putting the books back. I know. So if the book can be read by older audiences also, without offending them, mention that at least in passing.

Matt said...

Analman, Flashback, Infodump

Best of 2009!

Whirlochre said...

This is a very queer query.

I feel like I've been bitten by a radioactive plot vacuum.

Anonymous said...

Those GTPs were brilliant and I loved the superheros, esp. Pencilhead.

writtenwyrdd said...

Seriously, EE, you rocked this one. I almost peed myself.

Author, this is a bad query letter. Those whom you don't insult, you imply they are gullible. If you can't see that, you need to set this query aside for a while, take a chill pill, and go back and visit it again. As a past master of doing this, I can tell you, what you said isn't what you think you said.

Now you show a great facility with language in this letter. Obviously your writing ability is there; but you need to consider the subtext of what you are saying just a teensy bit when you read what you wrote.

And focus on telling us about your book.

Stacy said...

Yikes. You may not have meant it this way, but you managed to insult professional writers while talking down to teens. You may have written a book about how to WRITE, but no agent or editor is going to bother with this unless you've had some works published. If your main credential is a website, I'm guessing that hasn't happened yet. Put this aside and focus on getting hired a as a comic book writer.

In my experience, teens are turned off by people who try to 'relate' to them. It will smell like bullshit to them every time.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, and I'd totally want to see the movie of GTP 3!

Stacy said...

Yes, you've outdone yourself here, EE. Loved the superheroes. "Infodump" had me laughing out loud.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Oh boy. What they said in spades. Maybe you're just a really nice person trying to sound confident and sell her/himself, but you came out sounding pompous, and worse yet, you tell us no details about your proposed project. Do a bit of research and find out how to write a non-fiction book proposal. Yeah, and write some comics. Like The Tick. Whatever happened to The Tick? I loved The Tick.

Adam Heine said...

Crap, I was hoping this would be fiction. I'm tempted to write GTP #4 myself.

EE joked about your readership stat, but he's right. "150,000 readers in the past two years" is not worth mentioning. Most likely this is page hits, which does not translate directly to readers.

Even if it is readers, it means you have an average readership of 200 people (i.e. that's how many people visit your site each day), which is bigger than any website I've run, but not big enough to sell your book to a publisher.

The only statistic worth citing is your readership - the number of actual people that visit your site regularly. And that's only worth mentioning if it's 5+ digits (probably).

Dave Fragments said...

I will say one thing, you come off as cheery and fun, bright and breezy in your style. That's good.

mb said...

I want to read GTP 3!!

Steve Wright said...

The problme with advice books, I think, is that if they're going to be credible, they've got to come from someone with credentials to give advice. Which, in practice, usually means someone with a track record of success in their field - the longer the track record, the more credibility. And it takes time to develop that track record.

If you've not got the track record, you're going to have to show us what you do have; putting other people down isn't an acceptable substitute. As things stand, I'd take Stephen King's or Neil Gaiman's advice over yours any day of the week, fogeys though they may be.

So: what have you got that gives you credibility as a source of advice? Tell us about that.

Anonymous said...

It's not unknown for a successful blog to be sufficient platform to become a book. It has happened. Maybe the mistake here is assuming the recipient of the query is going to go check out the blog and see figure it out for themselves. Truth is, if they were going to do that, they probably already would have.

Eric P. said...

We have early frontrunners for best response of the year! Huzzah! The query could get an award too, but maybe a different kind...

Author... how do I put this tactfully? If I wanted a book on how to write comic books, I'd look for one by a writer whose "main writing credential" was that, oh maybe, they had actually written some successful comic books. And not just on a website that they ran themselves. Sorry.

If it's any consolation, I've been there-- somewhere in my files is an unfinished manuscript of writing advice that I wrote as a teenager. Yeah. Harsh reality is, 1) My advice is almost certainly not nearly as valuable as I thought it was when I was young and green, and 2) in any event, nobody's going to pay me to read it unless they know I'm a good writer-- of other books.

If you do have good ideas on how to write comic books, why not put them into use and write some comic books and graphic novels of your own? Then get them published. Once you do that, make a few hits, and get your name out there as a good and/or successful comic book writer, then maybe you'll find a receptive audience for your sage advice on comic book writing. Until then, keep on blogging!

Dave Fragments said...

Since this is a non-fiction book and you won't have it written, it would make sense for you to have a chapter outline and one of the chapters. That way, someone reading the query and thinking it was a good idea, could request the outline and chapter to get an idea of what the book would contain and it's tone.

Your Blog is a platform for advertising and marketing the book.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I'm confused. If you're lucky enough to have a grant to write a novel, why not write the novel first and then write the how-to book? It seems like that would give you a much stronger platform.

150 said...

When I googled "winning a grant to write a superhero novel" -- because I'd never heard of such a thing and frankly I gotta get in on that -- it came up with the Xeric Foundation, which provides grants to help underwrite the cost of self-publishing comic books. If that's what you got, I don't think anyone will consider it a legitimate cred. If someone bought your superhero novel with intent to publish, that's different. Please clarify, I'm really curious.

_*rachel*_ said...

Greetings from Grammar Girl (because I will never admit to being Infodump).

I would read 3 or 4 in a heartbeat. Why don't you write those instead? Or draw them!

Your credentials don't really impress me, especially because they feel redundant. I'd rather hear some of your advice, which will give me a better idea of whether this thing is worthwhile.

If you wrote your own comic books and those did well, you could use illustrations and examples in an advice book and you'd already have a fan base waiting to buy it.

I wrote and illustrated "The Third Grade Mystery" and "Terry the Termite." "The Third Grade Mystery" was my first book ever--can you guess when I wrote it?

EE, this is one of the best yet. And I average about 10 reloads a day, not 20.

Anonymous said...

I am not going to belabor the point that this query letter is bad. I was actually interested, however, when I thought it was spoof on how to write a comic book. That could be funny.

However, if I had received this letter, I would debating whether or not to call child protective services. A college senior has no business relating so well with teenagers. By the way 40-50 year old crowd you just assulted are providing free room and board and buying the books for those minions you relate to so well.

I think I may having a better grasp on what teenagers like - because I'm the one buying the crap.

In other words - you may relate good to teenagers but not so much to me. You need a better pitch.


Wes said...

Infodump is a classic!!!!

Dave Fragments said...

Unlike fiction, you are selling a concept of a book. Your query has to demonstrate that you understand how to teach teenagers and older folk what it takes to draw successful comic books or graphic novels.

That's why I said earlier that you should develop an outline and a chapter. You don't necessarily have to have written a comic or a graphic novel but you have to understand what the basics are so you present them or teach them.

For a time I was the lead auditor for a quality control system and I had to teach others how to audit their coworkers. Now I wasn't the best auditor but I was a good manager. I was able to see when someone did something right and guide them to do better. Many of the auditors did the job faster and better than I did.

Likewise, you have to demonstrate that you can prepare a book to guide the wannabe author along the right road. Your query has to reflect the ability to explain what it takes to write a comic book. Tou can't assert that and have people believe it. I guided "not-so-willing" auditors to do a good job. You have to guide eager teens and older folk through what not to do and what it takes to prepare a story in graphic form.

Unknown said...

While you might be right that you are the perfect person to write this book, you're alienating your reader. Think of it this way, most of the people who read your proposal are going to be 40 and 50-somethings. As a soon to be 40, I'd put the query down once you called me an old idiot with nothing to teach the "younger" generation.

The title is fantastic. The idea is also pretty solid if you can also reach those 40+ people who want to write comic books too.

Tell me what your book will address and how you are the right person. But not why everyone else is bad.

EE - so classic.

Anonymous said...

Loved, loved, loved Evil's comments and advice. I experienced the big "O" upon perusal of the superhero picts. (Anal man is my fave!!) As I'm still experiencing after-glow, I'll have to cut short my comments.


150 said...

Aaaaaaand Meri is the new champion for comment-thread TMI. I really thought nobody could top EE's cruise missile tattoo.

Any challengers?

Anonymous said...

A college senior has no business relating so well with teenagers.


Robin B. said...

I have absoluetly nothing useful to say to the author, but I had to stop in here and say I loved these super heroes a lot. Especially Pencil Man. (What a hottie!)

And looking at lists makes me happy as hell I know more about list 1 than list 2.

Thanks for making my day at work today, EE.

Anonymous said...

Thanks 150. Let's get together, later??!


Anonymous said...

I'm very familiar with the ground-level of the industry and how to succeed as a newcomer.

Weren't the Newcomers the aliens in Alien Nation? Maybe this guy does know his stuff!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Alien Nation - Ha! (*pause for a moment of nostalgia*)

Uh, Meri, 150, you do realize you're not alone here, don't you? Sounds like you two may need a little privacy... ;o)

Ah, EE, lists AND graphics. A real treat!

I do think some agents ask for the full proposal for NF the way a partial for fiction is requested. The full proposal usually includes target audience demographics, marketing comparisons, table of contents, synopsis, credentials, and a sample chapter or two. Around 30 pages total. Depending on guidelines, you either send a simple query letter, an abbreviated proposal of 4-5 pages, or the full, expanded proposal.

Author, because you were getting plenty of advice on the relevancy-to-teens issue already, I went away and mulled this over a bit. Now, I happen to be in one of those category ages you are so distanced from, so make of it what you will. But I hung a bit with some fairly well-known comic book writers and pencilers and illustrators back in the hey-day right before the Crash of the early 90s.

So my Q is this: How is writing advice for the teen set different from advice for the not-so-teen set? I could maybe see if you were pitching a career book, but it sounds like you may be pitching a nuts-and-bolts how-to book. (Hard to tell when you don't really let us in on just what you're pitching.) Is the difference in the way you present the content? Is it done in text-ese? Twitter-ese? What makes the content relevant? And if teens are going to be competing with the older generation for shelf space, why should the content be different? That's your hook. That's what you need to lead with. IMO.

B. Mac said...

Hello! Thanks for reviewing my query, Evil Editor. I also appreciated the comments, which were very helpful. Confidence does not come naturally to me, and I fear that I overcompensated in my query. Fortunately, I think that the comments offered a lot of solid advice about how to sell the concept without coming off pompous and obnoxious.

If I could clarify one thing, when I said 150,000 visitors, I meant "absolute unique visitors." That's what Google Analytics calls them, anyway. In a typical nonsummer week, I'd say I get hits from around 2500 separate people.

I considered including the full proposal as well, but it's around 25 pages. (Good God, the annotated table of contents alone is 4 pages).

Thanks again for your help!

--B. Mac

Author said...

Dear [Agent's Name],

I'd like to sell a fun and informative book about how to write superhero novels and comic books. Don't Forget the Death-Ray! would be aimed at readers aged 13-18.

My main writing credential is that I run Superhero Nation, a writing advice website that has had 175,000 readers in the past two years. My audience includes a sizable cohort of dedicated readers. 18,000 readers have been to my website more than 25 times, including 9000 that have visited more than 100 times. These dedicated readers probably represent a substantial amount of sales. According to a reader-survey, 56% of respondents said that they would definitely or probably buy my book. Only 14% said that they were definitely not or probably not interested.

I attribute this success to a writing style that is very teen-friendly.

* Like my website, the book consists of a series of articles that are generally 250-500 words long. I’ve found that these articles are long enough to be informative but not so long that the reader gets bored.

* Teens are skeptical readers. As a result, my writing style focuses more on facts than values judgments. I don’t want to get bogged down in a frightfully heated debate, like whether capes are stylish. I’d rather focus on objective questions: do caped heroes sell? No. Only one caped superhero (Batman) has had any comics reach the top 20 slots on the bestsellers list in the last three months. Additionally, very few of the major superheroes introduced in the past thirty years wear capes. Using these uncontroversial facts, I’d conclude that a comic book author will probably increase his publishability and sales potential by avoiding capes. By avoiding a values judgment like “capes are unstylish,” I can inform my audience without angering readers that are inclined to disagree with me.

* I am well-qualified to analyze the superhero writing genre in an informative and fun way. In addition to my online writing, I have three years of experience as a college news reporter. As of next May, I will have a BA in Political Science from Notre Dame with a strong background in data analysis and statistics. Although teens are very receptive to uncredentialed advice like Wikipedia, I think that many readers will value my analytical background. I have what it takes to analyze trends within a $300 million market and conclude what is likeliest to succeed.

I’ve completed a manuscript 50,000 words long. I’ve included a copy of my table of contents. Please let me know if you would like me to send the complete proposal. I can be reached at [email address] or [phone number]. Thank you for your time and consideration.


[The query goes on to include the entire table of contents, but blogger won't publish a comment that long, so I'll post it in the next comment--EE]

Evil Editor said...

Table of Contents

1. Are You Writing a Comic Book or a Novel?
2. Heroes.
1. Character Creation Questionnaire.
2. Screw You, Adjective-Man! How to Make a Catchy Superhero Name.
3. Picking Superpowers That Work For Your Story.
4. Giving Your Superhero a Day Job.
5. The Fine Line Between Superpowered and Overpowered.
3. Villains, Thugs, Politicians and Other Lowlifes.
1. Satisfying Villains: A Checklist.
2. How Evil is Too Evil?
3. Villainous Plots that Fit Your Story.
4. Motivating Evil.
5. Henchmen and Side-Villains.
6. How to Make Your Villains Stylish.
7. How to Write a Story With a Villain as the Main Character.
4. “It’s Time For You To Die,” He Explained: A Guide to Superpowered Dialogue.
1. Five Guidelines of Good Dialogue.
2. Common Dialogue Mistakes.
3. No Chatting!
4. Keep It Clear!
5. Will Your Story Survive to Page 2? Most Don’t.
1. How to Launch Your Story.
2. When to Start the Story.
3. What’s Your Hook?
4. Where’s the Drama?
6. Plotting and Pacing.
1. Give Your Characters Urgent Goals.
2. Don’t Let Your Heroes Walk Away.
3. Teams Vs. Individual Heroes: Pros and Cons
4. How Large Should Your Cast Be?
5. Make Your Story Intriguing, Not Cryptic.
6. How to Beat Writer’s Block.
7. Is Your Story Contrived? Fix It!
7. Brawls, Heists and Other Superpowered Action.
1. How to Do Fight Scenes.
2. Common Mistakes With Fight Scenes.
3. You Don’t Need a Fight to Kick Your Reader in the Face.
8. How to Strike a Chord With Your Readers.
1. Managing the Mood.
2. Make Your World Interactive.
3. Get Visceral!
9. How to Write Titles That Will Turn Heads and Blow Minds.
1. Six Tips to a Winning Title.
2. Identify Your Niche!
3. Ten Words That Will Probably Kill Your Title.
10. Common Stumbling Blocks for New Writers.
1. Cause of Manuscript Death: Mechanical Error.
2. You Don’t Need a Crowbar, But It Helps: How to Break Into Publishing.
3. Keep Moving! Perfectionism Doesn’t Pay.
11. Novel-Specific Advice.
1. How to Use Chapter Breaks to Intrigue Readers.
2. Should Chapters Be Titled?
3. Structuring a Novel that Sells.
4. First Person vs. Third Person Narration: Which Fits Your Novel Better?
5. How to Handle Multiple Narrators.
6. The Medium of Novels.
12. Comic Book-Specific Advice.
1. What a Writer Needs to Know About Art.
2. How to Lay Out Panels.
3. Common Paneling Problems.
4. How to Format a Script.
5. The Medium of Comic Books.
13. Finishing the Job: Getting Published.
1. Publishing Requirements.
2. Writing a Proposal/Query.
3. How to Write the “Comparable Works” Section for a Superhero Novel.
4. Steps of the Publishing Process.
5. Improve Your Odds of Getting Published.

Evil Editor said...

You're still not talking about your book. Most of this is about your blog, and the paragraph about capes is comical. If I started a blog titled It IS Brain Surgery! and it was entertaining enough to get people to visit it despite my lack of knowledge about brain surgery, no publisher would buy my book about performing brain surgery. Your only hope is to submit sample essays from your book and hope a publisher finds them highly entertaining and educational. Your blog isn't worth a mention. I still don't see 13-18 year old kids caring about writing novels, so I'd stick with comic books.

If you are confident you have 4000 sales in the bag, you ought to self-publish. You have the buyers, you have access to them, why give most of the money to a publisher and booksellers?

Adam Heine said...

The paragraph on capes assumes correlation proves causation. In other words, just because the top sellers have no capes does not imply that capes don't sell.

Wikipedia is not "uncredentialed advice." It is an encyclopedia based mostly on verifiable, external sources. This sentence simultaneously insults teens, Wikipedia, and anyone who uses it.

I like EE's points as well, esp. his point on self-publishing. Unless you're exaggerating the numbers, that sounds like a really good way to go.

Anonymous said...

Oh my -

I don't even know where to begin. I love Batman - I don't care that he wears a cape. I never even considered he was the only one. I don't care if he is. But I want to know - how come it worked for him?

I read a book called the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. He talked about writing an article for an encyclopedia and commented he is not that concern that wickipedia is not that "researched" because neither was the encyclopedia article he wrote for (the publishers didn't check his work at all - he could have written anything) - but there are millions of critics for wikipedia, most willing to point out a mistake. Anyway, I thought that was interesting. I suggest everyone should read his book.

It looks like to me that you are writing your book from the internet site you ran for so long. I suggest this: Self-publish your book and sale it to your loyal following. I know someone who thought about doing this and I wish now he would have because the site is gone and so are his loyal members. The opportunity was lost. I would have bought a copy and treasured it. I loved the site.

I think this book would be great if it was a spoof. The table of contents alone was funny. I think everyone would find it funny. Your readership could be hundreds of thousands then. I think your missing the mark here with 13-18 years old as your market.

Can you name one comic book author who submitted his/her work before the age of 18, which was published?

You should know this right off the top of your head - this is your expertise.

I am going to give you credit for having good self-esteem and for going to Notre Dame.

(One of the many fighting irish in the world)


P.S. I did see a lot of improvement. I think your writing credentials were far more interesting that your site.

B. Mac said...

Hmm. Towards the end, EE, Adam Heine and the anonymous Domer recommended that I consider self-publishing if the audience is large enough. I feel that I have a good deal of dedicated readers ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/25968797@N06/4063877197/sizes/o/ ), but I'm not sure how many of them I can convert into paying customers.

Survey-respondents indicated they were very interested (56% said they were likely or very likely to buy a copy). But there’s a self-selection problem because the people that are dedicated enough to take a survey are probably more enthusiastic than most other readers. Possibly drastically more enthusiastic—we’re talking about ~200 survey respondents out of around 23,000 readers that have come 25+ times. (Also, the margin of error is an uncomfortably high 6.9%).

Guessing conservatively, I think it would be reasonable to hope that…
--4% of the readers that have come to my website 25-50 times will buy a copy.
--8% of the readers that have come 50-100 times will buy a copy.
--12% of the readers that have come 100-200 times will buy a copy.
--16% of the readers that have come 200+ times will buy a copy.
(Just to clarify—having never tried anything like this before, I’m guessing on these projections. I have no idea what’s typical. If you have any data, please fill me in).

Going by these guesses, I feel that I can reasonably expect to sell 188 copies to the first group, 416 to the second, 564 to the third and 1232 to the fourth. That makes for a baseline of roughly 2250 copies. Based on the extreme sketchiness of these projections, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual figure fell between 1125-4500 copies. (I’d be very pleased if the 7700 readers that have come 200+ times resemble the 56% of survey-respondents that said they were very likely or likely to buy the book).

Do these projections seem reasonable? If so, how would you recommend I go about self-publishing this book? I’m confident that my comic book artist can do an excellent cover and that I can edit myself well enough to avoid the horrific typos and other mistakes common to self-published books.

But, if I wait 12-18 months, I think I’ll be published as a comic book writer. My script and sample pages go out in February and, although it’s frightfully difficult to get published (let alone predict that you’re going to get published), I suspect that a preexisting audience would probably be more significant for a comic book. In the relatively specialized world of comic books, 5000 sales would beat more than a few minor Marvel and DC titles and place a comic in the top 200 bestsellers for that month.

Getting published would obviously make this how-to book substantially more publishable. However, as EE suggested, “You have the buyers, you have access to them, why give most of the money to a publisher and booksellers?” Gaming this out, if I wait 12-18 months and do get a CB series published in the interim, would it be worthwhile to seek professional publication? In most cases, I wouldn’t recommend that a first-time author even consider self-publishing cases, because we generally do not yet have a professional grasp on marketing and writing, let alone printing and cover design. However, with a comic book published and the experience of having run a fairly successful promotional website for three years, I think I could pull it off. Could I plausibly expect to make more money self-publishing than publishing professionally?

Evil Editor said...

Regarding your projections, I have nothing to go on except my own self-published Evil Editor books. This blog gets a thousand visitors a day. I suspect most are repeat visitors, and I doubt 10% have purchased any of my books, though many have purchased all five. The fact that what's in the books is available here for free means those without plenty of spending money won't buy.

If the price of your book is $10.00, and it's professionally published you'll probably see about 0.60 per book. If you self publish you'll get $10.00 minus what you spent creating the book. Maybe you'll end up with $6.00 per book selling off your website. Minus what you pay some company to process credit card orders. You can also get the book on Amazon.com, but they'll take 55% and you'll have to ship to them at your expense.

A real publisher can get the book into bookstores. If it'll sell well in bookstores, it's worth going for that. If it won't, it depends on how long you're willing to wait to find a publisher, because the money is probably similar either way when you have a niche audience.

A big advantage of a pro publisher is that if it doesn't sell well, the expenses aren't out of your pocket. But you can always start with a small print run if you self-publish, to see how it's selling. If no one's buying you aren't out much, and these days they can print a new batch quickly if they sell like hotcakes.