Archive for the ‘Nonfiction Book PR & Sales’ Category

Tweak with Caution: Editing true stories from others for your books or articles

Do you enjoy compiling and editing true stories from others, for use in your own books or articles? Here’s a word of caution.

caution sign used to illustrate caution when editing true storiesToday I grabbed a neat book off my shelf to re-read – then realized I’d never read it to begin with. Nor promoted it, as I’d originally intended.

Then I remembered why.

Before the book was published, I was pleased to be asked by the author to contribute a mother-daughter story to it. The author and publisher were highly respectable, and I believed our story would glorify God and hopefully encourage parents.  So I’d emailed a brief version of the story to the author. I fully expected it to be edited to fit the context and style of the author’s book. As a writer for magazines for many years I am used to being edited, so have no problem with that.

However, I also assumed that if the author had any questions related to the story, or had any major additions she wanted to make to it, she would email me.

The day our gift copy arrived in the mail, I was all set to buy a bunch of copies to give to family, friends, and my daughter’s friends. They all knew about or had been part of that story of answered prayer and were excited to see it in print. It was a completely positive story with no bad-guy scenarios, so all involved would have been proud to share it via their social networks. My daughter and her friends loved any excuse to spread the word about how God can work in everyday circumstances. (And who doesn’t like to say they are mentioned in a book?)

Sadly, it didn’t play out that way. Instead, the resulting story made us both feel just awkward enough that we didn’t feel compelled to widely share it. Not upset, nor angry, just  . . . awkward. So it sat on our shelf until now — nearly seven years later.

In retrospect, as I now spend a lot of time in the marketing arena, I simply see this as an unnecessarily  lost marketing opportunity for the author.


The actual result of answered prayer in the story was accurate. My own quotes and thoughts were portrayed accurately. But here’s where the author missed the boat:

1) To make the story more readable and creative, she inserted dialogue and thoughts as if from my daughter, but not provided by her nor me.  The resulting dialogue flowed well and enhanced the story, but didn’t actually reflect what my daughter would have said or felt. It just didn’t quite ring true with her personality. And since it felt awkward to both of us and would have seemed odd to her friends too, it made the resulting story feel less true, so less of a ministry opportunity. Had the author emailed us her additional quotes, it would have been about a ten minute fix to make sure those quotes were closer to the conversation my daughter and I actually had.

2) Not knowing the name of one key person in the story, she made one up. This would have been fine had all our names been made up, but with only one fake name, it was awkward because my daughter’s friends knew she had no friend by that name. On Facebook, she would have had to explain that the story was mostly true, especially the answer to prayer, even if some things were changed. However, it would have taken the author less than a minute to ask me via email the name of the friend in the story. Such a tiny detail, but so important to the person whose name had been changed, and to her friends, and to show the story as fully true.

The book still turned out great, and I’m actually enjoying reading it now. It’s neat to be reminded of God’s love and the way He encouraged us as a family. So truly, no harm, no foul. It just turned into a marketing blunder for the author way back then — and could for another well-meaning author now.

As an author myself, I nearly experienced a much worse-case scenario with an embarrassing misuse of words.

I had briefly offended a story contributor (for one of my own books) by the way I’d phrased a few sentences relating to her child. I thought I was being encouraging but the way I had phrased it came out wrong. I had made an assumption related to special needs that wasn’t accurate, and you know about that word ASSUME: it can make an (first three letters of that word) out of U and ME. In this case it was just ME.

To my great relief I learned this BEFORE I send in my manuscript, so had time to correct it. Thankfully, too, I learned this as soon as I sent my changes to my contributor to ask if there was anything at all I hadn’t gotten right, saying I’m always open to changes. Hopefully that kept the contributor from needlessly agonizing over how to contact me to tell me she was unhappy, and she seemed pleased with my revision.

Sometimes a word or two in the wrong place carries a nuance with it that is unintended and easily corrected.

Giving contributors a chance to review their edited stories or comments is not what’s typically done in the journalism field. Newspaper writers are discouraged from doing this. Time for corrections can push back deadlines or may cause unnecessary challenges, especially when someone quoted accurately doesn’t like the way that appeared in print. (I think this happens most when a quote is taken out of context.)

However, I’ve never quite had the stomach for hard-hitting investigative journalism. I prefer to get my contributors to share their thoughts and have me reflect them as accurately as possible, even if they need extra time to clarify that a bit more. And at least in the book industry, and even with magazine articles with deadlines months out, we have the luxury of a bit more time for fact-checking than something going in tomorrow’s newspaper. However, those of you under tight book deadlines I hope will build in enough time to be able to email edits to your contributors.

None of this may be necessary if you’ve only edited for grammar, clarity, or to condense a story — although condensing may leave out crucial elements, subtly changing a story.  But if you want to add elements to a story to bring it more to life, it would be a great courtesy to your contributors –and a good marketing strategy too — to make sure you got things right. It also goes a long way in building long-term relationships with your contributors, friends, and even family if you dare to quote them!

Your contributor will not only thank you profusely, but is more likely to eagerly and enthusiastically Tweet, Pin, Facebook and email shout-outs about your book that they are so pleased to be a part of!

Your thoughts?


“How does buying used books online hurt authors?”

By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

Most readers don’t realize how buying used books online can hurt authors.  Conversely, even a .99 Kindle copy can encourage your favorite author to keep on writing.  Near the end of this post, see 3 ways to help authors AND find reasonably priced books.



As a reader, I’m like anyone else. I want the best bargain I can find for the best books. Hey, I’m human.

Some books can be difficult to afford otherwise. I confess to buying hundred-dollar college textbooks used, then reselling them on Amazon Marketplace to replace our broken appliances, including my fridge that recently died.

If only I could find a used fridge selling for $0.00 for only one week, like those great Amazon Kindle deals.  I confess to jumping at those opportunities too. At least I try to review or Tweet about those $0.00 books at @LaurieSargent (if I truly like those books) to give the authors a little promo.

But I know my author friends would love to earn their own fridge money from actual book sales. And the honest truth is that you can often buy a new book directly from an author (often autographed, too)  for only a few dollars more than you would through an online marketplace and bless that author at the same time.

Here’s a little info on how book sales can hurt authors, which you may not know about:

Not one penny of a used book sale goes to the author or publisher. Usually they will never even know the book sold.

Most authors earn income from books in two ways:

a) Advances: An advance against royalties is usually just enough to cover marketing expenses and/or possibly help feed the family while the author writes then markets the book. Advances do not have to be paid back to the publisher, BUT

b) Royalties (a percent of the sale from each book) from each book sale are first deducted from the advance the author has already spent to help support her family. (An advance is an ‘advance against royalties’. )  A typical royaltyon a $17.00 book sold new through Wal-Mart nets the author around  thirty-nine cents. (Barnes and Noble, about $1.00) An author has to earn .39 from a LOT of books to reimburse the publisher for the advance.

So what happens to the author, when a book is purchased used, online?

  • It prevents authors from earning anything on that sale AND competes directly against the sale of a new book.
  •  It takes money away from those who own rights to the books (publisher or author) because they pay hefty fees every month to warehouse new copies and keep them ready for distribution.

NOW I understand why many publishers often put books OOP (out of print) even after only a few years, returning rights to the authors.

Lately I had three different acquaintances tell me how much they loved my books. I was thrilled to hear that, but a bit disheartened to learn they bought the books online used. I would never have known, had they not told me. And frankly, I would rather have GIVEN them the books.

Also, when my friends are done with my books, I desperately hope they will give my books away as gifts, instead of selling them online, because every additional used book online competes directly 1:1 against a corresponding new copy.

3 Ways To Help Authors AND Find Reasonably Priced Books


1)   Consider buying the book new. Sometimes on sale (but still new) is only a few dollars more than a used copy. Or you can get an autographed copy directly from the author’s website. Not only will the author get a few cents, you may prevent that book from going prematurely out of print.  Sales numbers from bookstores influence whether or not an agent or publisher will be willing to take on the author’s next book. Enough readers buying new copies can influence the author’s career!

2)   If you want a book desperately and truly cannot afford one, try asking the author to give you a review copy. Then be willing to Tweet or Facebook about it if you like it.

3) Keep in mind that YES those .99-9.99  Kindle sales DO count as NEW! The author gets a tiny bit of income, knows about and can get excited about the sale, and the publisher is happy too and will want the author to write more books. (Do you know Kindle books can also be downloaded to computers, as Kindle for PC?)

By the way, if ONLY used copies for the book you want are offered on Amazon, the book may be out of print. BUT the author may still have new copies at her website. If so, she bought the copies from her publisher for resale, and getting the money back for those might make her day!

Remember–even the best-written books can go out of print when enough used books make it impossible for publishers to keep new copies in stock.

Now, if only college textbooks didn’t cost a hundred dollars apiece. Sigh. We’ll see how my conviction for helping fellow authors holds up when child #3 needs more textbooks. Hopefully there will by .99 versions by then. But if I can buy a $10 copy, when a $6 used book is available? I consider that a $4 gift to a hard-working author.

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