This past quarter, I’ve gotten several questions regarding authorship. The questions in this first group can be boiled down to the following: How many authors can one book have? And can royalties be paid to more than one person?
This type of question is something that comes from authors who want to self-publish their book. (Traditional publishers handle royalty payments themselves—the authors are not involved.) Often, the example given is of an anthology type of work—a publication where several authors have contributed. There are many examples of this. Just think of the Chicken Soup for the Soul publications: one book and many contributors or authors. Additionally, it is quite common for authors to contribute to a “box set,” or bundle of books. Many writing groups create multi-author anthologies as well. In fact, the Federation of BC Writers is looking forward to publishing an anthology of its annual literary contest winners this fall. These examples let you know that one book can have many stated authors.
Let’s move on to the idea of being paid. This subject is treated differently by various retailers and distributors. Amazon and IngramSpark allow royalties to be paid to only one person whom they consider the “publisher” of the book. Draft2Digital and PublishDrive have mechanisms for multiple authors to be paid independently. Each author will have to provide tax and banking information so that payments can be transferred directly to them, and tax documents must be produced.
The second subject that we are going to address in this issue is that of reviews. Whether we use the term literary review, reader review, or social proof—a marketing term for the trust we place in mimicked behaviour, such as reviewing—there is a lot of misinformation swirling around about this subject.
If we go back quite a few years, publishers often sought out “blurbs” for books before they were published. This activity ranged from full-on literary reviews from noted experts or well-known authors to short, snappy sentences of praise. I'm sure you’ve seen examples of these displayed on the front covers of books. “A delightful romp through Regency ballrooms” is on the cover of my latest read. I'm sure you can spot something similar on the paperback covers in your collection.
This seeking of reviews or blurbs still exists but has expanded in format. Publishers and authors still seek out what I would call “literary reviews.” An example for fiction would be a review from The New York Times. An example for non-fiction might be a leading subject matter expert reviewing a book for a niche publication. These reviews are still sought out. With the millions of books published each year, the ability to score this type of review is becoming more and more difficult, according to many sources.
Authors and publishers may turn to writing contests with the hope of winning a prestigious award. There are a ton of contests available. As you would suspect they run the gamut of professionalism and validity. Most have an entry fee, and most will offer you a shiny sticker to put on the cover of your book if you win. Many come with some sort of review or critique.
Reader reviews are often seen as a great starting point for beginner authors. It seems that we are all encouraged to share our thoughts about anything we purchase these days—books are no different. Whether the reader’s review is posted to a site like Amazon or Barnes & Noble or to a blog, there is a reason for them all. In a future issue we’ll talk more about the subject of reader reviews and the rules that must be followed. We will also talk about the power these types of reviews can have.
To end this column, think about what you do when you finish a really good book. I suspect you want to share that book with a friend. I know I do! There is no greater feeling than someone telling you they loved the book you recommended to them. Readers will seek out a trusted source when making buying decisions. A reader may also choose to only trust books featured on major publications, or they may read their way through books featured by BC and Yukon Book Prizes or something similar. They may pay attention to Amazon reviews or they may have a favorite blogger they trust. See what varieties of social proof you can collect for your book.
Barb Drozdowich is the FBCW's resident expert on publishing, promotion, and technology for authors. Do you have a question for Barb? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and your question could be featured in a future Ask Barb column.
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