What Goes Into Making a Book

Books are not easy to create.

There seems to be a myth out there that runs something like this: it takes absolutely no effort to create a book. I think this myth came about because reading is a passive experience. Reading is also quick. Depending on how long the book is and your reading pace, you can finish a book within an hour to a few days. So if something seems easy on one end, we’re apt to believe it was easy on the other end, too.

Therefore, some people conclude that books aren’t worth paying for. I’ve been publishing romances since 2009, and the most common feedback I get is about price. I get stuff like, “You’re breaking my bank”, “I’m on a limited income and can’t afford to buy books”, “Unless you’re a New York Times Bestselling author, you aren’t worth paying for”, “I love your free books and wish there were more of them”, “This book has been out for a year. Isn’t it time to make it free?”, and “Why aren’t you in KU? I can’t get your books unless you’re in KU”.

Some (not all) of these people have the audacity to turn around and post pictures on social media about their new car, their vacation, their Starbucks drink for the day, the new movie they just saw at the theater, etc. These particular people have the money. I’m not the only author this happens to. Other authors go through the same thing. For some reason, other stuff is worth buying, but an author’s book isn’t.

It doesn’t help that there are videos and posts out there teaching people how to read any book they want for “free”. Essentially, these videos and posts promote a read-and-return scam. So instead of using an online library, which is totally legitimate, these people opt to use a retailer as a library. When someone reads a book from an online library, the author has been paid for the book by the library. When someone reads and returns a book from a retailer, the author gets paid nothing. The same is true for audiobooks on Audible. I stopped putting audiobooks on Audible for this reason. (Though I still claimed my books on there to prevent thieves from getting their hands on my content.)

Yes, KU is legitimate. Authors get paid per pages read, but to be in KU, an author can only be on Amazon. (At least this is true for us indie authors.) Kobo Plus and Scribd are legitimate places to read books under a subscription model, and best of all, they don’t require authors to only be on Kobo or Scribd. Authors are free to be on other retailers. The exclusivity clause in KU is why I am not in KU. KU has shut me out from using their program. But I am on Kobo Plus and Scribd. I’m also at online libraries. I have a way for people to legitimately get my books without buying them. And these places exist outside the US.

I don’t know if people don’t realize this or if they are just trying to get a free book, but when people complain that I put a price tag on my books, all it tells me is that these people don’t value the time and money that went into creating my books. I didn’t just snap my fingers and the books magically created themselves. Every book took work and money to create.

Today, I’m going to share what it takes to create a book.

You need to write the thing in order for it to exist.

I don’t use ghostwriters. I don’t use AI. Every book I write is from scratch. This means I have to sit and think about what I’m going to write before anything gets on the page. I have good writing days and bad writing days. A good writing day is when I wake up ready to write, and the words just flow naturally from the mind and onto the page. This is a no-effort day. I only have these days about 20% of the time. Most of the time, I know what I want to write, but I have to struggle for 30 minutes before the words start to flow. If someone interrupts me during these 30 minutes, I won’t get anything written that day, and a lot of people don’t see writing as “work” so they will interrupt me a lot.

I consider myself to be a fast writer. I have published 6-8 books a year since 2009. This doesn’t count the other genres I’ve dabbled in. I have just over 100 books total now. But that doesn’t mean writing those books was easy. There’s rewriting. There’s stopping the story to figure out what comes next. Then there’s times when I had to swap scenes around and then revise those to make them fit in the story. I might not have put in an 8-hour shift of doing physical labor, but it’s still tiring to write for 3-5 hours a day (five days a week) and then turn around to do the non-writing part of this business. If you totaled up all of the time I put into this writing business between writing and non-writing tasks, I work about 50 hours a week.

Some authors are faster than me. Some authors are slower than me. But we all put in time in order to create the book. The reason some authors use ghostwriters and AI is because creating a story from scratch is harder than it looks. There’s a lot of work the brain has to go through in order to connect the dots from the beginning of the book to the ending of the book. And these dots need to be connected in a way that entertains people.

After the writing comes the polishing process.

I go through every book one time before I send it out to an editor. It takes me about 2-3 weeks to go through this. Sometimes it takes me a full month. I like my work, but I can only handle a chapter or two a day because editing is tedious. I have to look at everything that’s wrong with the book. Also, sometimes I have to listen to any previous books that led up to this particular one. I’ve learned long ago to go through any connecting books to make sure I’m not running into consistency issues. This is all why it takes me so long to go through the initial edits.

Then I send the book off to an editor, and I give the editor a month to work on it. For people who wonder if I use an editor, yes, I do. I am not the only person who goes over my book. I try to make every book free of errors, but something always seems to fall through. I have read plenty of traditionally published books (and even watched enough movies and TV shows) where errors slipped into them. Errors happen. All an author can do is their best. All an editor can do is their best. I’ve been “cold called” by a couple of editors in the past, and even THEY missed something. No one is perfect, and quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of people acting like authors never take the time to have their books edited. Most of us do take the time. It’s just that no one ever finds every single thing. Ironically, those complaining about the error they found often write their comment with an error in it. /rant

The cover is either made by the author or made by a cover artist.

Hands down, the cover artist will do the best job unless the author happens to be familiar with making covers already. If the author creates the cover, that will take time. The author will need to find the pictures, get the right fonts, and then put these all together. This can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. If the author needs to keep tweaking the cover, it can take weeks. (I’ve done this, and it is exhausting.)

I prefer to either hire a cover artist or buy a pre-made cover. This takes the time off of my back, but it does put the time onto someone else. When working with a cover artist, the author has to describe the book, mention what they want on the cover, and clarify the genre. Sometimes the author will submit pictures they already found to the cover artist, but sometimes the cover artist will search for the pictures. Then the cover artist will come back with some mock-ups. This is where the author will either pick one they like or suggest something else. This whole thing can take up to a month. Usually, it’s a week or two, but cover artists have lives of their own, so you have to work with their schedule. This is why I get the cover before I even write the book. If you go the pre-made route, you can eliminate the mock-ups and the “describe your book” process, but even then, you will have to make some touches to the cover or tell the cover artist your title and name. So there’s still some time, but this time is not very much.

Formatting comes next.

Now comes the part where you format for the ebook. If you do paperbacks, you need to format for that, too. I format for paperback while writing the book to save on time. The only reason I do paperbacks these days is to send the book to the US Copyright Office because of the non-ending harassment from Amazon to constantly prove my copyright to them. I create the ebook next. (I think most authors create the ebook first.) To create the ebook, it takes about an hour to format. This is, by far, the easiest part of the process, but I’ve been doing this since 2009 and I format in the simplest style possible to best fit all e-readers. Some authors like to get fancy in their formatting. The fancier you want to get, the longer the formatting will take.

Making the book costs money.

You need money if you hire a ghostwriter, buy an AI software writing program, hire an editor, hire a cover artist, buy pictures and/or fonts for your cover, buy a pre-made cover, and hire someone to do the formatting (whether it’s for the ebook, paperback, or both). If you don’t want to upload the book yourself, you’ll need to pay for that, too.

On average, I spend $300-$500 to create a book. This is why those emails from people who complain about the price of my books is so irksome. I paid a lot more than $0.99-$3.99 to even MAKE the book. Most authors pay way more than their asking price to produce their books, too. The truth is, authors need to make money with their books in order to keep writing more books. Most of us aren’t independently wealthy. Most of us are on a budget. Most of us are struggling to make ends meet. We need people to buy our books so we can pay for food, keep a roof over our heads, and keep our lights on. My internet alone is $85 a month. I need the internet in order to upload my books to the retailers, to communicate with editors and cover artists, and to maintain a blog and website.

Also, authors don’t keep the total price of their book. When you buy a book for $2.99, the author doesn’t get all of that. The retailer gets their cut from that price. Essentially, the author pays the retailer for having their book on the retailer’s storefront. Typically, the retailer’s cut will be about 30-40%, but it can be more depending on the country, the retailer, and the price of the book. If authors sell direct from their website, the cut will be a lot less, but most people want to buy from a retailer. If someone buys a paperback, the cost of printing the paper and cover will be combined with the retailer’s cut. Some might balk at a $14.99 paperback price for a romance book, but I only see about $2-$3 of that amount for the US and less if it goes overseas.

Then after the retailer takes their cut, the taxes come in. Authors are self-employed. Retailers don’t take taxes out for authors. Authors need to figure out their tax burden and pay the federal and state government (at least in the US) themselves. I hire an accountant for this. That accountant costs me money, too. Some authors figure out taxes themselves, but I am not a numbers person, so I hire out. Some authors don’t make enough to even pay taxes, which means they can’t cover their bills and groceries from their book income. They need another source of income to make ends meet. Contrary to popular belief, most authors aren’t making a ton of money. By the time most authors pay to make the books, the retailer takes their cut, and the taxes are removed, they are doing good to stay afloat. (And I didn’t even discuss ads or other promotional opportunities authors pay for in order to get people to even realize their book exists.)

Support the authors you enjoy.

The bottom line is that it costs authors plenty of time and money to get these books out there. If you have an author you appreciate, the best way you can thank them is by buying their books. Words of praise are nice, and we certainly love hearing them, but we also need the money if we are going to be able to keep writing more books. I know some authors who quit writing because they had to use their time to make money by getting another job. If I ever get a “traditional” job, I’m not writing anything because I won’t have time for it. (I barely have time to write as it is.) I understand why these authors dropped out of writing. Authors need financial support in addition to the emotional support.

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Haven’t Been Writing Lately

I put all writing on hold after I finished the first draft of Daisy’s book. That was close to the end of May. I’ve been having to clean up a lot of non-writing related stuff.

This is what I’ve been up to:

Making a family friend’s life story into a book.

I have been working on a paperback for a family friend. This is a book about his life, and he has a ton of pictures. All I can say is that formatting a paperback with a lot of pictures is a nightmare. Typing the text in from the pages of the binder and scanning the pictures into the computer were easier. I broke down and hired out for the formatting, and she had trouble, too. We went through about three rounds of “does this work?” before we came up with something that passes for a proof paperback copy. The cover artist I usually work with has been gone, so I’ve had to deal with this cover myself, and I’m currently on the third round. This morning, I got another “rejected” email. (I’ve been messing with making this cover on and off for two months.) This time it was the text being too close to the ISBN thing on the bottom right of the back cover. I hate making paperback wraparound covers. I’d rather just do the ebook cover on the front and the generic back cover, but since this book is uniquely special, I’m hoping to make this work. I think I finally have it. If not, I guess we’re stuck with a generic back cover.

I have no intention of being the publisher of this book. This is just to give this family friend a physical copy of the book so he can see it and point out anything else he wants to add or delete from it. My plan is to help him create his own D2D account where I will upload the files for him. From there, he can go directly into his dashboard to order any author copies and handle the copyright and tax stuff himself. There is no way I want to be a publisher for other people. I have enough problems managing my own work. I don’t want to take on someone else’s.

Teaching my deaf kid to drive.

I’m in Montana, and you need 50 total hours in the car before you can go to the DMV for a license. Now, I don’t know if this is only for those under 18, but all of my kids were under 18 when then got their licenses, and I had to tally up those hours for all of them. Fifty hours doesn’t sound like a lot, but by the time you’re done, you feel like you’ve been in sitting in that car forever. This is the last kid I’ve had to do this with, thankfully. Since he’s deaf, it’s been more of a challenge. I can’t just scream out if something goes wrong. I have to rely on hand signals or taking control of the wheel. Some things happen within seconds. Even with a hearing kid, this part of parenting is stressful. I held off on doing the bulk of the driving with him until school was out so I could put in some 2-3 hour chunks of time for the drives. He did take the class at the deaf school, but nothing really prepares you for driving like doing lots of driving. My goal is to get him a driver’s license by the time school starts.

One thing I did successfully accomplish getting done was the Google AI audiobooks.

I finished getting the AI audiobooks put up on Google, but it’s going to be SLOW going on Kobo. I have almost 100 romances, so this is not something that takes a day or two. Kobo requires a chapter to be uploaded at a time, and this looks like it’ll take about 2 or 3 hours per book. I’m waiting until I get back to writing so I can upload them while I’m typing away. Google took the epub file, let you edit the text, and converted the whole book pretty much right away. I could get a book done in 15-20 minutes. I got to say, I’m very impressed with Google Play’s system for making AI audiobooks. I was unable to get Eye of the Beholder or the Virginia Series up on Google Play because I signed contracts with a narrator at ACX back in 2020. Those books are locked in over there, meaning they can only be on Audible and iTunes. All of the other books are on Google Play and will (eventually) be on Kobo.

Radish is going to take forever.

I was working on getting my backlist up on Radish (again with almost 100 romances in my catalogue), but that is also time consuming because I have to break the book up into 1500-2500 word episodes. I had fun with it, but it takes up so much time that I had to cut back on it. Plus, something about the site bugs my eyes. I don’t know if it’s switching from the internet screen to my Word document screen, but when I finish uploading the episodes that make up the entire book (typically 20-30 episodes), my eyes get worn out.

Working on Daisy’s book.

The editor got it done, and it’s back to me. I haven’t had time to format it yet. I have no idea when this will be ready.

Making the most of the time with the kiddos.

I’ve been taking time out to walk with my kids since it’s summer and we can take advantage of the parks. I have a treadmill, but I prefer to be outside. I like the change in scenery. My oldest will be 20 in August, but he’s going to the local community college and working at a fast food place. My second is 18, has graduated high school, and has a full-time welding job. His goal is to save up the money to get his teaching degree in high school history. To cut on expenses for these kids, my husband and I agreed to let them stay here so they don’t have to rent. The third (that’s my deaf kid) will be a senior next year, and the fourth will be a junior. Anyway, I’ve been putting some of the “writing time” on hold to spend time with the kids because once they do move out, I don’t want to look back and say, “I wish I had spent that time with them when they were still here.” I heard that a lot from my father-in-law when he mentioned his own kids. I might not get everything right in this life, but this is one area I want to get right. I also spend time with my husband, but he doesn’t like to go for walks as much as the rest of us do. Plus, a lot of his time is spent helping his mom out now that his dad is gone.

Which brings me to another topic. I think each spouse needs to know how to manage and run a home in the event the other spouse dies. In my case, I pretty much run things. My husband was in South Korea for two years, and I’ve had to do everything myself. That was good training grounds. I know I’ll be okay if he dies. I think he’ll be okay if I go before him. But his mom is at a total loss. Her dad used to make all the decisions for her. Then her husband came along and did the same thing. This has been to her detriment. She panics over a lot of things that shouldn’t be major issues. As a result, her health has gone down, and it’s looking like she won’t be able to live on her own for long. I’m just the in-law, so I can’t intervene. All I can do is watch while her two sons pick up the slack. Anyway, it’s been eye opening on how important it is for both the husband and wife to know how to manage life if you have to be on your own.

When will I get back to writing again?

I wish I knew. I thought I’d be able to get back to things this week since I am officially done from my “writing break”, but there’s more stuff that keeps popping up. Then there’s the question of if it’s even worth it to write anything with inflation skyrocketing the way it is. Will people even want to buy books when they are struggling to buy groceries and gas? I can’t make all of my books free. I have bills to pay, too, and I need to put a price tag on my books to do that. Plus, I pay for edits and covers. It’s not even free for me to make books. I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem like there’s much of a reason to get back to it. I might just finish up Heiress of Misfortune and be done with it. That way I will have completed all of the series that I started. Everything will be wrapped up. There will be no loose ends. I hate loose ends.

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Be Careful If You’re Going to Hire a Ghostwriter

In my opinion, you’re much better off writing your own stuff because you know YOU 100% own your story. This becomes important when copyright issues pop up. But, I understand that some people want to use ghostwriters, so I am going to share a cautionary tale about an author and ghostwriters. Then I’ll follow this real life story up with some advice to best protect yourself.

In my last post, I made a reference to not wanting to put pre-orders up anymore on Amazon because I believed the new scam of the day was for scammers to arbitrarily pick authors’ pre-orders, claim infringement on them, and get Amazon to remove the pre-orders. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Amazon allowed scammers to do this because of all the things Amazon has put authors through in the past. I’m not saying other retailers don’t have their share of junk, but Amazon takes the cake when it comes to “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” in an indie’s career. But in this case, I was wrong about what I thought was going on. As long as you have written your book, it should be safe to put it on Amazon as a pre-order. And believe me, that is a huge relief.

But what if you hired a ghostwriter? Can you be confident that Amazon will not remove the pre-order? No, you can’t. Below, I’ll share why.

The incident below that really happened:

Author A made a plot for a story and sent it to Ghostwriter 1 to write out. Ghostwriter 1 sent that plot to Ghostwriter 2. Ghostwriter 2 wrote the story and sent the story to Ghostwriter 1. Ghostwriter 1 never paid Ghostwriter 2. Author A paid Ghostwriter 1. Ghostwriter 2 noticed the book on pre-order on Amazon and filed a copyright infringement complaint. In this case, Ghostwriter 2 has a legitimate case. Ghostwriter 2 was never paid. If Author A had just written the story, there wouldn’t be a problem. But here we are, and there is a problem. Author A is out the money paid to Ghostwriter 1, and Author A cannot publish the story. The most Author A could do against Ghostwriter 1 was to have Ghostwriter 1 removed from the site where Ghostwriter 1 was offering their services. (This won’t stop Ghostwriter 1 from assuming another name and continuing to work.) But that is outside Author A’s control.

Author A has the option of paying Ghostwriter 2 for the story. Yes, it sucks to double pay, but it’s also not Ghostwriter 2’s fault this happened. Ghostwriter 2 was just as scammed as Author A was. If Ghostwriter 2 doesn’t want to take payment, that is Ghostwriter 2’s right. Ghostwriter 2 never made an agreement with Author A. If Ghostwriter 2 refuses to sell the book to Author A, the only option Author A has is to come up with a brand new story. Yes, that also sucks, but I don’t see what else Author A can do at this point.

A side issue with the dangers of ghostwriting:

There are some ghostwriters out there who will take books currently out, copy the content, and sell that content to unsuspecting authors. A couple of years ago, one ghostwriter got caught doing this. Anyone can put a profile on a site and offer their “services” to authors. You need to vet them out before going with them.

Let’s talk about protecting yourself:

The big thing I’d recommend is asking the writing community or your author friends for trustworthy ghostwriters. I know some people are not a fan of Facebook. (I’m not a fan of it, either). But when it comes to the writing communities, Facebook is the best place to be. (Yes, you still want to research outside of Facebook, but Facebook is a great starting place.) I hate to say it, but MeWe isn’t that great for indie authors. Most writers there want a publisher. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a publisher, but if you are an indie author, Facebook still has the best writing groups geared specifically to you. I highly recommend the Wide for the Win group over there. That one is my personal favorite. There is a wealth of information there, and authors are more than happy to pass on recommendations for editors, cover artists, ghostwriters, etc that they have personally used.

Another tip is to do your own outline and give that to the ghostwriter. That way you know the story is your idea. Then be sure to read through the story when it comes back to you. To be safe, I would even go a step further and rewrite the story so that it’s in your voice. The more authentic this story is to you (the author), the better your chances are of buffering yourself from future problems.

If there is a specific ghostwriter you’re thinking about hiring, you could ask for a list of clients they worked for. I understand that some authors don’t want a ghostwriter to disclose this information, but maybe this ghostwriter has worked with some authors who are okay with sharing their names. Maybe this ghostwriter has a list of authors on their site. Check out the authors’ books, and if you feel up to it, contact the authors and ask about their experience. If you want to go a step further, ask the writing community about this particular ghostwriter. Chances are, the community might recognize him/her.

Get a contract if you want to be better protected. I have signed contracts in the past when the other party wanted our agreement in writing. I’ve done this for covers, edits, and for co-authoring books. I see nothing wrong with contracts as long as they protect both parties. This is up to your comfort level.

If you have successfully worked with a ghostwriter and have some ideas I didn’t think of, please share. While I have no intention of hiring a ghostwriter, it’s possible someone reading this post might want to.

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