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Jakedfw

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Hi all,

I publish a small press that covers a number of genres. You can find out more about it here: www.shirtsleevepress.com. Among the things we have published are the recent Event Horizon Campbell Award anthology featured on The Verge, award-winning playwright and Hollywood screenwriter Del Shores' monologue books, and Nebula and Hugo Award nominee Tom Crosshill's contemporary fiction.

While our best-selling genre is fantasy, close behind is erotic romance and romance. Hence this note.

Black Velvet and Sunset Bay (our romance imprints) publish individual authors, but we have a unique opportunity to hand two pen names off to someone if they are interested. Here are the basics:

What we need:


  • Someone to write sweet romance and/or erotic romance under two different pen names. This can be two different people so if you are only interested in one, by all means contact us.
  • Productivity is important. If you can't deliver 30K words minimum per month and preferably much more then that, we aren't interested.
  • For the erotic romance pen name you should be comfortable writing extremely explicit sex scenes.
  • You should have an understanding of the genres and the ability to write marketable fiction. If you want to experiment with meta-narratives and transcending the genre, submit directly. That is not what we need for these pen names.
  • For both pen names, an appreciation and understanding of the importance of writing series more than single novels is important. You can write single novels, but ongoing work on one or more series is a must.
  • Good writing ability is assumed.

What you get:


  • A significant head start, as both pen names have email subscription lists of over 2,000 and some back list.
  • 60% of revenues. For example, if Amazon pays us $1,000. You get $600. This is 10% lower than you would get if you signed with us directly, and if you would like to earn the 70% then by all means submit a novel. The extra 10% for us in this instance is due to us having already built equity in the pen names.
  • 100% ownership of the copyright of your work. The pen name will be a DBA, but you will own your work.
  • The marketing support of Black Velvet and Sunset Bay. Our standard deliverables are in effect, including us paying for editing, covers, and promotional things like Bookbub. You write. We take care of everything else. Details here: https://www.shirtsleevepress.com/guidelines

The catch


  • You do not own the pen name. We do. However, We are willing to sell the pen name to you via a direct payment or via a royalty split change over a certain time period. Contact us if you are interested in this option. You have every opportunity to see if you enjoy how things are going and then jumping ship or buying in.
  • We are very interested in a win-win, so we will work with you.
  • You will not get an advance. We are a high royalty/no advance publisher. You will earn money immediately upon publication, but there will be no advances. The good news is that we won't deduct any expenses from your advance so you won't need to "earn out." You are 100% earned out on day one.
  • These pen names have a real footprint, including mailing lists, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. You are expected to treat them as if you they were your own. In short, they are your own. We "own them," but you are the caretaker. Being active on social media is not required at all, but responding to posts and emails is.

What to expect


  • The freedom to write what you like, as long as it hits erotic Romance and/or regular romance tropes in the broad sense.
  • A supportive publisher who is open to creative feedback.
  • Transparent and open royalty reports delivered monthly, and royalties that are paid monthly.

One important note

If you are interested in building your own name or pen name and just haven't known what to do, by all means submit directly to us. We love working with new authors, and the above is an extremely rare exception.

If you are at all interested in the above, drop me a note at [email protected].

Jake
 

jennontheisland

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This thread needs to be ported to the BRBC or Paying Markets forum so it can be properly discussed.
 

tsharpe

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While I interact on this board under my YA/Adult Thriller pen name, I'm also a Romance Ghostwriter (both for packagers and the Big 5) and I also self-publish Romance as well. I have some questions, because this is throwing up all sorts of red flags for me as a Romance writer and as someone who works as a ghost:

Are you providing outlines for these books? Or are you expecting the writers to come up with the concepts and outlines themselves? If so, the writer should be paid for the concept development and outline as well. What Romance sub-genres are these pen names in? Romantic Suspense is a lot different than Contemporary Romance and Sweet Romance is a whole other world than Dark Romance. All require very different writers. It seems very strange to me that you say the writers can write "anything" as long as it's erotic romance or follows romantic tropes. Romance is a very trope and brand-driven genre in my experience. If these are established pen names with fanbases, they have a "brand" and their fans expect them to deliver on that brand with each book. The easiest way to drive away your loyal fans is to deviate from that brand too much. Romance readers like what they like and when they find a writer who hits all their sweet spots, they'll be very loyal. But if that writer deviates from those sweet spots, they'll move on. Fast!

You say the ghosts will own the copyright. What about subsidiary rights? Audio? Translation? Film?

I'm not sure why you say "You're 100% earned out from day one." when you don't pay advances. A writer can't be "earned out" when there as been no advance on the table in the first place, unless you think it's standard for publishers to charge their ghosts for things?

From a ghosting perspective: In my experience, when working for a publisher or packager in a ghostwriting capacity, you are provided a detailed outline from the packager or publisher (my last one for a 110K novel was 16,000 words, complete with character profiles) and you write from that outline. If the ghost comes up with the concept and outline themselves FOR the publisher or packager, they are paid extra for these services. While royalty shares can be negotiated in a ghosting situation, there is almost always a lump sum in addition (or instead) of a royalty share. I would be immediately cautious of a ghosting job that is all royalty promises (with no actual sales figures for the pen name) and no outright payment for the job. Ghosting is difficult, often very harried work under a time constraint. Getting paid half upfront has been standard in every ghosting contract I've ever personally signed.

I'm confused by your offer to to sell the pen names to the ghost. Do you mean the backlists as well? What kind of contracts do you have with the authors who wrote those books? Do you have all the rights to them? What kind of pricing would you put on this, especially considering many of your erotica author's backlist on your site's books rank in the millions? Is this a reflection of the pen names you're planning on selling rankings? Because that kind of backlist would be more of a hinderance than an asset.

I'm also deeply concerned by your desire to have your ghosts run all the social media accounts of the pen names for you. This is NOT standard in my experience. Even on the pen names I have originated for packagers or publishers, I have no dealings with the social media of those pen names. My job is to write the books, edit them with my editor and answer little technical questions for the cover designer, etc. My job is not to do unpaid social media work for the packager or publisher or promote a book I ghosted.

From the self published Romance author perspective: Look, I don't mean to be rude, but I have to be realistic here: a 2,000+ subscriber newsletter is not a big selling point. When I launched a new pen name, I had that within 6 weeks, without releasing a book yet. Many Romance writers in the self-pub world have 30-40,000 subscribers on their list. And unless those twitter and facebook accounts have tens of thousands of followers, it's not going to make a huge difference. Paid ads, like Facebook Ads or AMS ads or newsletter promos, are what is currently driving the self-pub Romance world and are the affective devices that lead to visibility and loyal fanbases. While backlist can be helpful when you lock in that loyal reader who will read your entire backlist after discovering your new release, it's not like the ghost will be earning money off those titles, the publisher will if there's sell through but in the self-pub Romance world, releasing on a 4-6 week cycle is more important to visibility and steady sales than backlist. Remember: backlist sales only help you, the writer, if you OWN the backlist. AND if the backlist actually sells.

So, I realize that some of your titles, especially if they're ghost pen names, might not be on your site. But looking at your site, there seems to be only 2 books by the same author under your erotic imprint and only 1 in your Romance. I see on Amazon there are a few more by your Erotica writer. Looking at them, some of your erotica covers are off-market, especially the billionaire title and they look, as a whole, a little cheap. Beautiful covers are a must in Romantic Erotica. Your Roxy Callahan books are all in the six or seven figures, rank-wise (with the exception of the free book) which means very few (or no) sales in a given day. They also have very few reviews and quite a low star rating. It's not that difficult to build a small but loyal fanbase with Romance if you release consistently and utilize ARC's, a review team and Romance-centric newsletter promos, but it doesn't seem like this author has done that. Is this one of the pen names you plan on selling to your ghostwriters? The Romance title, meanwhile, has a better cover, but the blurb is not formatted correctly on Amazon and it's only available as a paperback and it's 12.99 and in the 4 million range, ranking-wise, which means it is not selling.

So I guess my question is: what exactly are you offering to these ghosts that they can't do themselves? Unless I'm misunderstanding, you want to the ghosts to:

1) Come up with the concepts for the books
2) Write the books on a speedy schedule
3) Apparently edit the books, because your site says you don't do developmental editing, just copy-editing
4) Do all the social media for the pen names
5) Do all this work for several months without ANY payment since KDP releases royalties every 60 days. And do all this work for only 60% of the royalties (does the ghost get to set the price, or is that you? What about the choice to go wide vs enrolling in KU?)
6) Do all this work with no actual promise of true compensation, because who knows how many books will actually sell.
7) Pay you either a lump sum or out of their royalties to obtain the pen name that they will have put all the work in to develop

So essentially, you're asking them to do everything that a self-pubbed Romance writer does, but they don't own the pen name and they have to buy it from you if they want it or make it a success, and they don't get an advance and they don't have as much control.

Look, this does not follow any kind of methods of legitimate ghostwriting work I've ever done or heard of. This seems like a TERRIBLE deal for the writer, unless the pen names are incredibly successful already (and if they were, why would the publisher sell them?).

Realistically, writers: if you want to pursue the Romance world via self-publishing, I would highly recommend doing it yourself. This is being presented as an "easy" way to jump in, but it's full of red flags and seems like a ton of work for not as much pay-off as you could have doing it yourself (or pursuing trade publication if that's your goal). You can get a lovely cover for a decent price, find a good editor, format a beautiful book through Vellum if you have a Mac, and join some self-publishing groups to figure out tips and tricks. Or you can whip that query letter into shape, take the plunge, and look for an awesome agent instead! But as a ghostwriter, know that you should be paid well for your time, your ability to write fast and well and clean (not everyone can do this!) and if you're doing concept development, you should be paid for that as well.
 

Jakedfw

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While I interact on this board under my YA/Adult Thriller pen name, I'm also a Romance Ghostwriter (both for packagers and the Big 5) and I also self-publish Romance as well. I have some questions, because this is throwing up all sorts of red flags for me as a Romance writer and as someone who works as a ghost:

Are you providing outlines for these books? Or are you expecting the writers to come up with the concepts and outlines themselves? If so, the writer should be paid for the concept development and outline as well.

They are indeed paid for this. The ghost writer is paid 60% of gross revenue. Very curious what the standard royalty rate is for the work you do. To put it in perspective, selling $20K/month would generate you $12,000 in take-home royalties. There are no expenses recovered from that amount. It is coming from gross revenues.

What Romance sub-genres are these pen names in? Romantic Suspense is a lot different than Contemporary Romance and Sweet Romance is a whole other world than Dark Romance. All require very different writers.

Yes. This is true. The erotic romance pen name is contemporary new adult erotic romance. There are no paranormal elements. Pure contemporary. I apologize for not being more specific. It is broadly defined, by the way. You could conceivably move in a biker gang or billionaire romance direction, and the romance genre certainly has examples of authors who navigate that way.

You say the ghosts will own the copyright. What about subsidiary rights? Audio? Translation? Film?

Yes, the writer retains all rights. To be clearer, this is more like a traditional publishing contract than a ghost-writing contract. The thing you don't own is the name, and the associated support things that go with it: Facebook page, mailing list, etc. Of course, we can discuss ownership of before/after. For example, if the mailing list sits at 2,500, then every person that joins after could be "owned" by the writer. My goal here is win-win.

I'm not sure why you say "You're 100% earned out from day one." when you don't pay advances. A writer can't be "earned out" when there as been no advance on the table in the first place, unless you think it's standard for publishers to charge their ghosts for things?

You can perhaps educate me here. As a ghostwriter, when do you start earning royalties? In month 1? If not, how long is the delay and what triggers you getting royalties? Part of the disconnect here is that this isn't really a ghost writing contract. This is a straight high royalty/no advance contract with a kicker that the pen name does not belong to the writer. To put it in perspective, if at contract end the writer wanted to take the work and publish it under a separate pen name, they could 100% do that.

From a ghosting perspective: In my experience, when working for a publisher or packager in a ghostwriting capacity, you are provided a detailed outline from the packager or publisher (my last one for a 110K novel was 16,000 words, complete with character profiles) and you write from that outline. If the ghost comes up with the concept and outline themselves FOR the publisher or packager, they are paid extra for these services. While royalty shares can be negotiated in a ghosting situation, there is almost always a lump sum in addition (or instead) of a royalty share.

Most ghost-writing situations have minuscule (or no) royalties, no? So the trade-off is this: You get a lump sum, but if the book is a huge success you don't share any of that upside. This is more like a publishing contract than a ghost-writing contract. If you are paid $20,000 for a a 50K book, and it earns $20K/month, you would do WAY better with me after two months. So it's a risk-reward for the writer. That doesn't make it bad. It just makes it different.


I would be immediately cautious of a ghosting job that is all royalty promises (with no actual sales figures for the pen name) and no outright payment for the job. Ghosting is difficult, often very harried work under a time constraint. Getting paid half upfront has been standard in every ghosting contract I've ever personally signed.

Happy to share data with those interested. In fact one of the pen names has a release on Monday. Interested parties can track its Amazon rank to their heart's content.

I'm confused by your offer to to sell the pen names to the ghost. Do you mean the backlists as well? What kind of contracts do you have with the authors who wrote those books? Do you have all the rights to them? What kind of pricing would you put on this, especially considering many of your erotica author's backlist on your site's books rank in the millions? Is this a reflection of the pen names you're planning on selling rankings? Because that kind of backlist would be more of a hinderance than an asset.

The backlist grows in value (to a lesser extent in romance, but it still grows) as new books are released. This is simply an offer to the new writer that if they want to own the pen name 100%, I'd be happy to sell them everything. The current backlist is in flux, as within the past two weeks, I've unpublished all of them and moved them to Pronoun for wide distribution. This was a strategic decision, and it is what it is. Happy to share all the sales figures with interested parties.

To be clear, there is no requirement or even need for someone to buy that stuff. I just thought it would be nice to include it because let's look at the best case scenario:

New ghost writer is committed to the pen name, and it explodes, making $30K/month in revenue. The writer loves the money but is nervous over this important part of their now substantial income being under the control of someone else. Now he or she can say, "Well, I have rights to that if I use the contracted terms to do it." Of course he or she would have negotiated that in advance of doing any work, so they know that they are protected.

I'm also deeply concerned by your desire to have your ghosts run all the social media accounts of the pen names for you. This is NOT standard in my experience. Even on the pen names I have originated for packagers or publishers, I have no dealings with the social media of those pen names. My job is to write the books, edit them with my editor and answer little technical questions for the cover designer, etc. My job is not to do unpaid social media work for the packager or publisher or promote a book I ghosted.

It's very clear to me now that "ghost writer" is the wrong term to use. I'm simply looking to sign a regular publishing contract with someone who is interested in using an established pen name that can give them a small but significant head start. The upside is orders of magnitude more than you would get via ghost writing, and the risk/work is higher. As I noted in the post above, if someone doesn't want to ghost write but would rather use their own name, I'd be happy to sign them. The difference is a 70% royalty instead of a 60%, and they obviously use their own name.

From the self published Romance author perspective: Look, I don't mean to be rude, but I have to be realistic here: a 2,000+ subscriber newsletter is not a big selling point. When I launched a new pen name, I had that within 6 weeks, without releasing a book yet. Many Romance writers in the self-pub world have 30-40,000 subscribers on their list.

Well, you can get large lists fast via Instafreebie and Facebook ads and shared giveaways of Kindle Fires. Yeah. I get it. You can do that without even having a book released. Then you're welcome to 15% click through rates. I mean I've done the research. Instafreebie lists with "free" in the subject line have 60% or higher open rates. That plummets when you are doing a new release email. Anyway, this list is primarily from backmatter and a joint venture with Written Word Media.

But all of that doesn't really matter. This isn't an opportunity for someone who has the knowledge, resources, and drive to self-publish. I recommend people self-publish. I don't want to publish people, really. I'd prefer they do it on their own. But there are many writers who just want to write and that's it. They'll answer reader email and comment on Facebook posts, but that's it. Paying for cover art, or organizing a newsletter swap or figuring out whether to use Bookfunnel or Instafreebie just isn't what they want. All I want to do is give them an opportunity to fulfill their dream.

And unless those twitter and facebook accounts have tens of thousands of followers, it's not going to make a huge difference.

Twitter and Facebook even with tens of thousands of followers don't make a difference. I'd be just as happy if the prospective writer said, "I don't have time for that, can we chuck it?" I'd be like. Sure! I have them available if you want them.

Paid ads, like Facebook Ads or AMS ads or newsletter promos, are what is currently driving the self-pub Romance world and are the affective devices that lead to visibility and loyal fanbases.

AMS ads are becoming more difficult for a number of reasons (dammit, Amazon, why'd you open them up to non-Select books?) since I beta-tested them a year ago, but they still have a nice ROI if you know what you're doing. Facebook ads are better if you have a series or a bundle, which is one of the reasons I'm looking for a writer... that's currently lacking.

While backlist can be helpful when you lock in that loyal reader who will read your entire backlist after discovering your new release, it's not like the ghost will be earning money off those titles, the publisher will if there's sell through but in the self-pub Romance world, releasing on a 4-6 week cycle is more important to visibility and steady sales than backlist. Remember: backlist sales only help you, the writer, if you OWN the backlist. AND if the backlist actually sells.

Of course.

So, I realize that some of your titles, especially if they're ghost pen names, might not be on your site. But looking at your site, there seems to be only 2 books by the same author under your erotic imprint and only 1 in your Romance. I see on Amazon there are a few more by your Erotica writer. Looking at them, some of your erotica covers are off-market, especially the billionaire title and they look, as a whole, a little cheap. Beautiful covers are a must in Romantic Erotica. Your Roxy Callahan books are all in the six or seven figures, rank-wise (with the exception of the free book) which means very few (or no) sales in a given day. They also have very few reviews and quite a low star rating. It's not that difficult to build a small but loyal fanbase with Romance if you release consistently and utilize ARC's, a review team and Romance-centric newsletter promos, but it doesn't seem like this author has done that. Is this one of the pen names you plan on selling to your ghostwriters? The Romance title, meanwhile, has a better cover, but the blurb is not formatted correctly on Amazon and it's only available as a paperback and it's 12.99 and in the 4 million range, ranking-wise, which means it is not selling.

As note above, this past week I moved all of the books to Pronoun rather than direct. (Well, I'm not done yet, but you get the idea). There are reasons for that which I'm happy to share with prospective authors, but suffice to say that it was done for very good reasons. Of course, the downside of moving distribution is that you lose your ASIN and the accompanying sales rank. I'll be contacting Amazon about getting the reviews moved over this week, but, effectively, they are all starting from scratch. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forward, as is the case here.

So I guess my question is: what exactly are you offering to these ghosts that they can't do themselves? Unless I'm misunderstanding, you want to the ghosts to:

1) Come up with the concepts for the books
2) Write the books on a speedy schedule
3) Apparently edit the books, because your site says you don't do developmental editing, just copy-editing
4) Do all the social media for the pen names
5) Do all this work for several months without ANY payment since KDP releases royalties every 60 days. And do all this work for only 60% of the royalties (does the ghost get to set the price, or is that you? What about the choice to go wide vs enrolling in KU?)
6) Do all this work with no actual promise of true compensation, because who knows how many books will actually sell.
7) Pay you either a lump sum or out of their royalties to obtain the pen name that they will have put all the work in to develop

So essentially, you're asking them to do everything that a self-pubbed Romance writer does, but they don't own the pen name and they have to buy it from you if they want it or make it a success, and they don't get an advance and they don't have as much control.

This is exactly right, and if you stop using the term ghost-writing it suddenly makes sense. Let me paraphrase:

So essentially, you're asking them to do everything that a self-pubbed Romance writer does, but they don't have to pay for the cover, Bookbubs, editing, ebook, and print layout, and they don't have to pay for AMS or Facebook ads or other marketing? You would normally do this as an indie publisher for 70% royalties, but if the author prefers to have a small head start, they can use the pen name you already have for 60% royalties?

Yes. That is exactly right. The author has to determine whether the existing fan base and mailing list is worth 10% of gross revenues. If not, then no harm no foul, they can have me publish them directly or they can self-publish themselves and pay for the covers, editing, etc.

Hell, I'd even consider just giving the writer the pen name, but I'd probably want some kind of longer term deal. Say 7 years or something. I'm really really not trying to do anything here other than provide a small head start for a young author without the resources to do it themselves. If there are none that fit the bill, then that would actually make me happy.

As I tell everyone: I recommend you self-publish. It's the bigger win, but it requires work and investment. If you don't have the money and simply don't want to learn Adobe Indesign or Photoshop, then I'm a resource for you.

Realistically, writers: if you want to pursue the Romance world via self-publishing, I would highly recommend doing it yourself. This is being presented as an "easy" way to jump in, but it's full of red flags and seems like a ton of work for not as much pay-off as you could have doing it yourself (or pursuing trade publication if that's your goal). You can get a lovely cover for a decent price, find a good editor, format a beautiful book through Vellum if you have a Mac, and join some self-publishing groups to figure out tips and tricks. Or you can whip that query letter into shape, take the plunge, and look for an awesome agent instead! But as a ghostwriter, know that you should be paid well for your time, your ability to write fast and well and clean (not everyone can do this!) and if you're doing concept development, you should be paid for that as well.

See, this is the kind of advice that sends writers into depression. You are saying all the things that I say, but you are positioning it as kind of easy. "Just get Vellum, and you're good to go." Well, Vellum is $200. Did you ever consider that some writers can't afford that? Getting a decent pre-made cover will still cost you $50 or so. You then need to sit down and learn all that stuff. "And oh my god, Facebook ads are costing me $20/day and I can't afford that!" What you don't seem to get is that there are not two categories of writers: Those that send query letters and those that self-publish. There is a large third group: Those that are too afraid or unable to self-publish and have exhausted every agent and publishing house that they can think of.

I'm here to give them a place to publish if they want it. My royalty rates are very generous, and the writer doesn't ever pay a dime.

As noted above, I clearly confused things by calling this ghost-writing. It's a publishing contract with a pen name attached. It has some value, I do know that, and part of negotiation is assessing that value. I pegged it at $1 out of every $10 earned. If that's too much, then I'll figure something else out. It's about win-win.
 

tsharpe

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They are indeed paid for this. The ghost writer is paid 60% of gross revenue. Very curious what the standard royalty rate is for the work you do. To put it in perspective, selling $20K/month would generate you $12,000 in take-home royalties. There are no expenses recovered from that amount. It is coming from gross revenues.

Are your titles pulling in 20K a month individually? You keep using this number, but are these pen names that successful?

As a ghostwriter, I cannot share my specific contract terms, as I've signed NDA's. Suffice to say, the method you're employing is unlike any ghosting or work-for-hire situation I've been in. While I have heard of royalty-based work-for-hire situations with bigger houses, in my experience, the writer is given a choice between an advance and slightly lower royalties or higher royalties and no advance.


You can perhaps educate me here. As a ghostwriter, when do you start earning royalties? In month 1? If not, how long is the delay and what triggers you getting royalties? Part of the disconnect here is that this isn't really a ghost writing contract. This is a straight high royalty/no advance contract with a kicker that the pen name does not belong to the writer. To put it in perspective, if at contract end the writer wanted to take the work and publish it under a separate pen name, they could 100% do that.

Like I said, I can't share the details of my contracts, but yes, incorrectly using the term ghostwriting is definitely confusing things. This isn't ghostwriting or work-for-hire. At least in my opinion.



Most ghost-writing situations have minuscule (or no) royalties, no? So the trade-off is this: You get a lump sum, but if the book is a huge success you don't share any of that upside. This is more like a publishing contract than a ghost-writing contract. If you are paid $20,000 for a a 50K book, and it earns $20K/month, you would do WAY better with me after two months. So it's a risk-reward for the writer. That doesn't make it bad. It just makes it different.

I'm not saying it's bad, but your post was quite confusing since you claimed it was ghostwriting and then went onto describe a situation that wasn't ghostwriting and involved a lot more work for the writer without an idea of the compensation other than a royalty-only based model, which can often be bad for an author in a situation where the press in question doesn't have the ability to effectively market the books. And without even a basic idea of sales figures, it comes off as kind off as a red-flag.

Again, you keep using 20,000 dollars a month as an example. Are the pen name titles making that much each? Is that 20,000 after the advertising budget?



Well, you can get large lists fast via Instafreebie and Facebook ads and shared giveaways of Kindle Fires. Yeah. I get it. You can do that without even having a book released. Then you're welcome to 15% click through rates. I mean I've done the research. Instafreebie lists with "free" in the subject line have 60% or higher open rates. That plummets when you are doing a new release email. Anyway, this list is primarily from backmatter and a joint venture with Written Word Media.

It's nice that you've done research. I've actually put what you've read about into practice. I have lists of organic subscribers and I have lists grown through IF and FB and giveaways. My click-through rates are nowhere near as low as 15% on any of them.

But all of that doesn't really matter. This isn't an opportunity for someone who has the knowledge, resources, and drive to self-publish. I recommend people self-publish. I don't want to publish people, really. I'd prefer they do it on their own. But there are many writers who just want to write and that's it. They'll answer reader email and comment on Facebook posts, but that's it. Paying for cover art, or organizing a newsletter swap or figuring out whether to use Bookfunnel or Instafreebie just isn't what they want. All I want to do is give them an opportunity to fulfill their dream.

Honestly, I'm kind of baffled at a publisher who says they don't want to publish people. Do you have experience publishing outside of your press? It seems very strange to say you want a writer who doesn't have drive or knowledge about the very self-publishing practices that you might employ for their titles. How will they know if what you are doing is right for their book, then? How will they know what's a standard ROI or sales for a title in that genre? How to read royalty statements (heck, it took me a few tries to totally figure out Draft2Digital's dashboard!) How will they know you aren't screwing them over somehow? If you don't actually want to run a publisher, but you want to help people fulfill their writing dreams, why not teach classes on how to self publish? Mark Dawson seems to do very well doing his podcast and his classes for authors.



AMS ads are becoming more difficult for a number of reasons (dammit, Amazon, why'd you open them up to non-Select books?) since I beta-tested them a year ago, but they still have a nice ROI if you know what you're doing. Facebook ads are better if you have a series or a bundle, which is one of the reasons I'm looking for a writer... that's currently lacking.

Again, not been my experience, but I'm sorry you're having trouble. I am constantly updating and monitoring my keywords, though, and I know not everyone has the time for that.


This is exactly right, and if you stop using the term ghost-writing it suddenly makes sense. Let me paraphrase:

So essentially, you're asking them to do everything that a self-pubbed Romance writer does, but they don't have to pay for the cover, Bookbubs, editing, ebook, and print layout, and they don't have to pay for AMS or Facebook ads or other marketing? You would normally do this as an indie publisher for 70% royalties, but if the author prefers to have a small head start, they can use the pen name you already have for 60% royalties?

You say on your site that you don't do developmental editing. Is that still true?

So they don't have to pay for marketing, but they also have no say in how much spent and where. And they're at the mercy of your cash flow, not their own. So the writer might have a book that's hit it hot and want to increase the ad spend, but for whatever reason, you don't have the funds, so you say "Sorry, no can do."? And that momentum is lost. That's the downside of someone else controlling your ad budget.


How many of your books have gotten bookbubs in the last year? How often are you submitting titles? Who do you advertise with outside of BookBub, AMS or Facebook? What is your expected monthly ad spend for one of these pen name titles? Will the ad budget be written into the contract? Essentially I'm asking: are you really investing enough for someone to hand over a percentage their royalties over to you? And are you investing enough to actually make five figures off these titles? You keep talking about the possibility of earning 20, 30,000 dollars a month. In my experience, to make that much money in a given month, self-publishing, you're spending a decent amount of money in ads. Are there some authors who are golden with their large fanbase? Sure, what I wouldn't give to sell like Bella Andre! And some titles just take off, unexpectedly. But to consistently earn 5 figures a month writing Romance, you generally are spending a decent amount of money on ad space.


Yes. That is exactly right. The author has to determine whether the existing fan base and mailing list is worth 10% of gross revenues. If not, then no harm no foul, they can have me publish them directly or they can self-publish t

See, this is the kind of advice that sends writers into depression. You are saying all the things that I say, but you are positioning it as kind of easy. "Just get Vellum, and you're good to go." Well, Vellum is $200. Did you ever consider that some writers can't afford that? Getting a decent pre-made cover will still cost you $50 or so. You then need to sit down and learn all that stuff. "And oh my god, Facebook ads are costing me $20/day and I can't afford that!" What you don't seem to get is that there are not two categories of writers: Those that send query letters and those that self-publish. There is a large third group: Those that are too afraid or unable to self-publish and have exhausted every agent and publishing house that they can think of.

Actually, I said that a writer could format a beautiful book in Vellum, if they had a Mac. Yes, for unlimited books, Vellum is a 200 dollar investment. You can pay per-title or for a 10 book bundle as well. You can also find people who have Vellum who will format the book for you for a nominal price. I am indeed aware that some people can't afford that. But I'm also aware that being published badly is worse than not being published at all. And having your rights tied up if a small press folds is a nightmare. Some of your statements about publishing and who you look for in writers are frankly, kind of odd and don't inspire confidence. You seem to want writers who are overwhelmed or afraid of all the information and choices of the ever evolving publishing industry or who have been beaten down by rejection. Now you could be super noble and nice and just want to help people publish, I hope so! But even small presses with the best intentions fold all the time for many reasons, leaving authors with rights tied up and very little recourse.

Self Publishing isn't easy.
Writing is a passion, but publishing is a business. If someone is sent into a depression by some practical advice that breaks down multiple options for them, I don't know what to tell you. I'd be more depressed to be locked into a bad publishing contract, personally. I merely outlined the steps a writer can take to self-publish (the very ones I took!) to demonstrate that I don't think what you're providing is worth someone forking over a percentage of their royalties for any given amount of time or forever, since it seems you want the writer to do a majority of the work and you kept incorrectly calling it ghostwriting.

Self publishing indeed requires a degree of monetary investment. But self-publishing is essentially running a small business, so it makes sense that some investment must be made. It's definitely not for everyone--heck, it's not even exclusively for me, I trade publish just as much--but it can be a great option, especially for Romance writers.

I'm here to give them a place to publish if they want it. My royalty rates are very generous, and the writer doesn't ever pay a dime.

As noted above, I clearly confused things by calling this ghost-writing. It's a publishing contract with a pen name attached. It has some value, I do know that, and part of negotiation is assessing that value. I pegged it at $1 out of every $10 earned. If that's too much, then I'll figure something else out. It's about win-win.
 

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Basically you are asking authors to invest heavily into a pen name that you could repossess from them at any moment. I think that to assess the opportunity they would need to know the actual sales levels of the existing books, and their exact niche/tone/fan base. Not every "romance" or "sexy romance" author is going to fill the shoes you are providing, assuming they are worth filling. The former can of course be done after initial contact, but the latter needs to be up front so a lot of people don't waste their time.

IMHO the general strategy is one giant leap backwards for author-kind. And your post does not focus on what an author would consider the most salient points. We can get 60% any day of the week from an existing publisher where we have secure control over the pen name and its social media accounts.
 
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Jakedfw

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Thanks for the typo update in my signature. Updated.

Books published badly are indeed worse than books not published at all. Thankfully, writers can contact my existing writers for references, and they can see the releases themselves.

How many Bookbubs have I received in the past 24 months: 2.
How is my marketing: Books featured (not mentioned--featured) on io9, The Verge, Scalzi's Big Idea (2x).
AMS ads: I was an very early beta tester. I've put thousands of dollars into the ads. It's not like I read some KU books on the subject. Things have changed with Amazon opening it up to non-Select advertisers and offering $100 credits to new users. Fiddling with keywords and upping bids and understanding keyword mining are all certainly critical today, as they were before, but the days of a 15% ACoS at scale are long gone.
My Facebook ad bill for this past month was a bit over $900. I need to do way better with Facebook, but my campaigns have been focused on ROI on individual books and not sell-through to series. So more to learn, but--again--it's not like I sit back and just read books.
I'm closing in on 750 paperbacks sold of one of my books. To quote Sean Wallace: That's a spectacular success for an indie.
I have a long-standing arrangement with Ricci, the CEO at Written Word Media, and I'm an early beta tester of pretty much all their initiatives (Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy), including a recent test to link a series across Bargain- and Freebooksy on a same day email. (It didn't work, but was a valuable test).

Point being: Publishing is a dynamic space, but it's not like I'm sitting on my hands waiting of others to tell me what to do.

At the end of the day, I'm perfectly fine if you are to say: "Not owning a pen name is a major risk. I'd recommend against it for everyone." I'm starting to think that way myself, and will probably give it away to someone. But, as noted, there is at least some value there, so I thought it made sense to offer it for a 10% return on royalties. It's possible the risk is way higher than the small return, so thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Everything I'm doing is 100% transparent. The contract is available online. My books are in stores. You can check their ranks. If you think my covers are lousy, then that's fine. We can agree to disagree. I really do think that 70% gross (and not net) for royalties is pretty generous for a small press. Yog's law is preserved to an absurd degree. Happy to adjust that if I'm wrong. I looked at some contracts from places like Wordfire, and they offer 50% and the author has to pay for their own Bookbub. Other places were better than that, but not as generous as 70% gross with all expenses paid. Lots use that really nasty word "net of expenses" in their contracts.

Finally, I'm deeply sorry for the confusion over "ghost writing" and pen name assumption. Those are indeed two different things.
 

Jakedfw

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We can get 60% any day of the week from an existing publisher where we have secure control over the pen name and its social media accounts.

Can you give me an example of a publishing house that offers 60% of gross receipts as a royalty payout? I offer 70%, but even 60% of receipts was unheard of from my research. So I'm curious about your "any day of the week" as it makes it sound like it's a standard or common, but I haven't seen it.
 

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If by gross receipts you mean cover minus distributor's cut (usually, correctly or not, referred to as net)--off the top of my head Belgrave, Writers Exchange, Blushing, Big World... I haven't run through the lot recently.

My own choices have been publishers whose % is lower, but volume and longevity is higher. I have seen 70% offered before but those publishers are no longer with us. By "any day of the week" I mean more than one publisher offers it and several of them would accept a competent example of a book in their genre as a matter of routine. So a person qualified to fill your position could submit a book to them right now and expect to be accepted.

Transparency is great. But you could cut to the chase by addressing exactly what kind of books your pen name wrote, and how a pen name under the umbrella a year-old imprint has the momentum to be worth an author investing their efforts into given the associated uncertainty. The easiest method being approximate (number of zeros) sales volume, e.g. title average over first year after release. Of course this can be done via email after contact from an author that could seamlessly pick up the exact tone/tropes/topics of the pseud and so expect roughly 100% carry over of readership.
 
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tsharpe

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Thanks for the typo update in my signature. Updated.

Books published badly are indeed worse than books not published at all. Thankfully, writers can contact my existing writers for references, and they can see the releases themselves.

How many Bookbubs have I received in the past 24 months: 2

Okay, that's not enough to incentivize most authors to give you ten percent of their royalties. Touting it as an asset is fairly strange if you've only gotten 1 bookbub a year for the past two years. Were these for your own books or for other authors your press has published? I realize the BB has gotten harder to get as the Trades have gotten wind of the effectiveness. You also have to factor in that BB considers: cover copy, the cover (this is where professional, polished covers are a must), length and reviews/ranking. Which, an author who isn't as educated about BB (which seems to be the kind of author you want), might not know.

How is my marketing: Books featured (not mentioned--featured) on io9, The Verge, Scalzi's Big Idea (2x)

These are all sci-fi and science/tech centric web sites. You're promoting Erotic New Adult Romance and Sweet Romance on these sites? Or are these just marketing you've used for your own books? Let's keep it to the pen names in question, since these are what you are trying to sell/gain writers for.

AMS ads: I was an very early beta tester. I've put thousands of dollars into the ads. It's not like I read some KU books on the subject. Things have changed with Amazon opening it up to non-Select advertisers and offering $100 credits to new users. Fiddling with keywords and upping bids and understanding keyword mining are all certainly critical today, as they were before, but the days of a 15% ACoS at scale are long gone.

I'm sorry it's not working for you. I'm having very different experiences as a Romance author and my ACoS percentages are excellent in terms of ROI, without even factoring in page-reads for my titles in KU.

My Facebook ad bill for this past month was a bit over $900. I need to do way better with Facebook, but my campaigns have been focused on ROI on individual books and not sell-through to series. So more to learn, but--again--it's not like I sit back and just read books.

I agree, FB is an uphill climb right now, since the market is flooded. Is this 900 spend for your entire press and catalogue of books, most of which seem to be your own? I'm asking specifically of how much money you plan on investing in each pen name, and each title for said romantic pen names.

I'm closing in on 750 paperbacks sold of one of my books. To quote Sean Wallace: That's a spectacular success for an indie.

Is this your first Tommy Black title? The one published in 2014? Is this your highest seller?
What about digital copies? Digital sales is what drives non-trade Romance. Paperbacks are generally bought by mega-fans or at conferences. And why are you citing your books instead of the pen name books you're trying to sell/get people to write for you? Unless you ARE referring to the Romance? Did you write them and now are looking for someone to take them over because you want to concentrate on other things?

I truly don't mean to downplay your accomplishment, selling any books is an accomplishment, it's hard out there. And MG and YA are even HARDER to sell in the digital sphere. I do terribly digitally in YA and it's not just because I trade publish my YA and they're bad at ebook pricing. My YA books are horribly annoying to read in ebook form because of their structures.

But Romance has a voracious readership and selling 750 copies of a book in its entire life cycle would not earn someone even near the 20-30K a month number you kept throwing around previously. It wouldn't even make them 1K a month. It would barely make them 1K a year.
At a 2.99 price point and a 60% royalty would make them 1,345 dollars (if my math is wrong, I apologize, everyone, I'm a writer for a reason!). So that's 112 dollars a month if you sell 750 copies in a year. If you're expecting them to write 30,000 words (or more!) a month, that's .003 per word for clean, quality copy that only needs to be copy-edited before being published. Or another way to put it: I write an average of 1K an hour. A 60K book takes me around 60 hours and about four weeks. If I wrote a book for you at this rate, you'd be paying me 1.86 cents an hour.

Since your average full-length romance starts at around 40-45K and people prefer longer and you're expecting this writer to develop series for you, I expect that you'll be wanting more than 30K a month. More like 60K. You're essentially wanting someone to develop and crash a book every month. At that rate, with no actual promise to even make THAT much, I'm sorry, but that's a ridiculous thing to ask a writer.

They would have to sell around 15,000 copies in a 31 day time period to even make it to the middle of the 20-30K a month range. Now are there Romance authors who are pulling in those types of sales? Yep! But also it's good to keep in mind that the Romance authors who hit the USA Today Bestseller list generally have to sell around 5-7K in a week to hit the list (it's not exact since it changes each week, but roughly), and there's a certain sales number for each store that they have to meet. Most of the writers who aren't the mega big names plan these campaigns to hit the list strategically and it often consumes their life as they make all their plans and strategies and there's a large ad-spend to get these kinds of numbers. If your pen name was selling 15K copies to earn this 20-30K a month at 60% royalty, you'd be hitting the list twice a month, maybe more, and likely spending at least 5K in ads, probably more. You probably would have lowered the price to .99 or 1.99 in order to get maximum exposure, too, so your royalty might actually be lower. How likely do you think this is, given you're the only one who knows the pen names sales figures?

I have a long-standing arrangement with Ricci, the CEO at Written Word Media, and I'm an early beta tester of pretty much all their initiatives (Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy), including a recent test to link a series across Bargain- and Freebooksy on a same day email. (It didn't work, but was a valuable test).

That's great. I've yet to try Written Word's services, but I know several writers who get a good ROI on their newsletter promos.

Point being: Publishing is a dynamic space, but it's not like I'm sitting on my hands waiting of others to tell me what to do.

At the end of the day, I'm perfectly fine if you are to say: "Not owning a pen name is a major risk. I'd recommend against it for everyone." I'm starting to think that way myself, and will probably give it away to someone. But, as noted, there is at least some value there, so I thought it made sense to offer it for a 10% return on royalties. It's possible the risk is way higher than the small return, so thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Not owning the pen name complicates things hugely. The contract that you would have to draw up for something like this would be complicated. I would recommend anyone considering this (and frankly, I wouldn't consider this without some proof of really solid sales numbers) to go over the contract carefully with a literary attorney to protect themselves.

But the real problem here is that you're taking 10% of someone's royalties for not a whole lot of benefit to the writer. You talk about paying for bookbubs, but you can only pay for them if you get them, is the thing. You give paperback numbers for your own book, instead of digital numbers for the pen names you're trying to gain writers for. You give sites that have nothing to do with Romance as examples of your marketing. You have ignored my question about whether or not you do developmental editing. You seem to want to find writers who can not only develop concepts, write fast, to-market, and write very well and clean and you don't want to pay them upfront for this valuable, skilled work, nor can you promise them any actual decent compensation. And you don't seem to edit books other than copy-edits. That's troubling to me. This is not a good deal for a writer.


Everything I'm doing is 100% transparent. The contract is available online.

Something like this
would not be your standard publishing contract since the pen name is already a known entity and you're essentially contracting someone for a work-for-hire situation where you aren't actually paying them. So it's a work-for-free-until-the-royalties-come-in situation. You would also probably need clauses in the contract that detail how and when and under what circumstances the author could buy the pen name and the back catalogue, among other things. Obviously, I'm not a lawyer or agent. I've just signed a lot of different contracts through the years. But I would recommend anyone to go through a contract like this with a literary attorney.

My books are in stores. You can check their ranks.

Your books are not Romance, though. I believe they are MG historical fantasy? Or maybe young YA? You posted here looking for Romance authors, offering to possibly sell romance novel pen names and back catalogue and throwing around 20-30K a month numbers. So your book ranks aren't as important. The pen name's ranks and sales are.

If you think my covers are lousy, then that's fine.

I think your erotica covers are off-market, yes. Look at Maya Banks or others of her ilk, and you'll understand why I think so. However, your own book's covers, especially the Tommy Black series, are gorgeous. The difference in quality is so great it makes me wonder if you invest more money in your own work that the rest of your titles. Or if you just don't know the Romance market very well. I think the erotica titles would be okay if it was straight up erotica as some of them have a bit of a porny feel. But with Erotic Romance, they tend to be classier. The covers are usually of beautifully photographed objects that often are representative of, well, you know. That's what Erotic Romance readers expect, that's what tells them "This is the kind of book you like! Try me!"

We can agree to disagree. I really do think that 70% gross (and not net) for royalties is pretty generous for a small press.

It's only generous if the books actually sell and if you actually do things that benefit the author and the book. It's harmful to the author if they put in all the work and then put out a less-than-great version because you don't provide developmental editing or end up putting most of your press's ad budget towards other books or spend your ad budget on non-romance venues like i09 to advertise instead of Romance centric places. It might not sell well if the cover is off-market and you state on your web site you have final say over covers. And then their rights are tied up for however long the contract says. And if the press folds suddenly and you disappear, then what the heck do they do? Or what happens if one of their books is a tremendous success and they hit a list and suddenly, that pen-name is a bestseller. Now you don't want to sell it to them because it's a valuable asset, or you don't want to sell it to them for the original price you agreed on. And they probably don't have bestseller bonuses written into their contract, since you don't even issue advances, so they don't even get rewarded for hitting the list. There are just so many instances where this could turn into a giant mess, and the writer would be the one to likely suffer.

If the author is shouldering most of the burden already, I don't see how this is a good deal for them, or as you put it "win/win"

Yog's
law is preserved to an absurd degree. Happy to adjust that if I'm wrong. I looked at some contracts from places like Wordfire, and they offer 50% and the author has to pay for their own Bookbub. Other places were better than that, but not as generous as 70% gross with all expenses paid. Lots use that really nasty word "net of expenses" in their contracts.

Finally, I'm deeply sorry for the confusion over "ghost writing" and pen name assumption. Those are indeed two different things.

They are, indeed. And it doesn't exactly inspire confidence that you didn't know what a ghostwriter does or that you declared you, a publisher, don't actually want to publish people. I'm sorry, but this is just still full of red-flags to me. Seems like a ton of trouble for not a lot of benefit on the writer's part.
 
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Jakedfw

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If by gross receipts you mean cover minus distributor's cut (usually, correctly or not, referred to as net)--off the top of my head Belgrave, Writers Exchange, Blushing, Big World... I haven't run through the lot recently.

Belgrave seems to offer 60% of gross receipts (lower than my 70%), but it's a bit unclear on their website ("they are discounted 30-50% plus specials")

Writers Exchange offers 50% of gross revenues. 20% less than me.

I stopped there, but I'm guessing the others are similar. So I'm relieved to see that my terms compare positively from what you've seen. Thank you for providing examples. They confirmed my belief that representing my terms as generous is not inaccurate.
 

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There are publishers that have offered or currently offer 60% or more. That is not unique. But more importantly, it's just not a very significant issue. Profit is cover - costs x volume. Of the three, volume is probably the most important. Romance is a squeezed market. The general rule to avoid any press under two years old still stands because more the majority of presses in this genre fold before they reach that milestone. Giving up ownership of the pen name is just an extra problem. Top sellers under 1000 units is not doing much to help. The days of reliably selling 1000 in the first month are over for many romance midlisters but still very achievable for a go-getter.
 

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I was curious so I poked around the website a bit. I find it odd that the publisher has so many imprints, some of which do not even have any titles listed (I think it was 10 imprints, 4 of which had no books). Unless I'm missing some link where all the books are in one place the site was a challenge to navigate. I find it even odder that the majority of the books on the site are listed at Amazon with CreateSpace as the publisher for their paperback editions. Exceptions include Jake's fantasy series which is listed on the Shirtsleeve site as NightLight (kid's imprint), and as Currents & Tangents (Contemporary imprint) on Amazon.

tsharpe's comment above also made me wonder:
However, your own book's covers, especially the Tommy Black series, are gorgeous. The difference in quality is so great it makes me wonder if you invest more money in your own work that the rest of your titles.

So I poked around some more to see if he is listing the books on Ingram consistently because this can indicate a sort of tiered system within the publishing house. Some of their titles are listed but not all. Of those that are listed, some are labeled "Not available from Ingram". Those that are available have a variety of different short discounts and returnability status. There are 2 books by the same author (not Jake Kerr), one of which is available on Ingram (short discount/nonreturnable/CreateSpace for publisher) and the other is not even listed there. The only book listed on Ingram as available with standard terms and returnability is Jake's own most recent title.

I realize that the publisher seems to be geared to online sales, and probably mostly ebooks, so the details of the Ingram listings may not seem important. But the inconsistency is strange, and the fact that the only title listed at standard terms is Jake's doesn't do much to quell the concern raised by tsharpe. At the very least, the actual publisher or imprint names should be on every listing. I can't even imagine the logic behind inventing these imprint names and not using them across the board.

I also have a problem with a statement on the FAQ page:
Will I find my books in bookstores?


This is unlikely but possible. Most bookstores still only stock major publishing house titles. That said, it is possible...

The reason it is unlikely is because they don't have distribution, and they don't even do wholesale properly with Ingram. The next line is just plain false and it drives me batty to see it repeated again and again. Look, if a publisher isn't geared toward bricks-and-mortar stores, that's just fine. But don't blame it on bookstores with falsehoods - just be straightforward about it. Most stores carry tons of books from small, high-quality independent presses that make their books available through normal distribution or wholesale channels.

Sorry if this is off-topic from the OPs announcement, but this thread is in BR & BC... I don't think I really shed much light here, but I tried. (And managed to kill quite a bit of time, heh)
 

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A year later ... no sign of romance imprints, or books by same. For the others, all books by owner ('cept the anthos).
 

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