Pushing Up Tulips – By Harry Hollander

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Here’s a new book I worked on that just came out. It’s a true story! I wanted to tell you about it (With my client’s permission!) Pushing Up Tulips by Harry Hollander. See the trailer:     https://youtu.be/9pc8OqPAsLg

Here’s the back cover:

The life of a simple flower bulb salesman from Holland—really, how exciting could it be? See for yourself as Harry Hollander takes you on an exhilarating, laugh-out-loud rollercoaster ride through the flower bulb industry—the shenanigans, the backstabbing, the police chases, and, of course, the money! It all starts at the incredibly beautiful tulip fields of Holland and the fascinating flower auctions at Aalsmeer. Then, fly with Harry to the States, the Middle East and Far East, Central and South America, Europe, and finally, the caladium fields in central Florida. Ride along with our hero as he desperately tries to outsmart his boss, fight off competitors, and run from the law, all while making a fortune!

So go on, grab Pushing up Tulips and get your hands dirty! You’ll never look at a flower bulb the same.

Why Do I Need an ISBN?

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

An ISBN—or International Standard Book Number—has been used on books for years and years. Most of my clients ask me three questions: (1) Why do I need one? (2) What does it do? and, (3) Where do I get one? There’s a lot information I could give you about ISBNs—their history and changes—but really, it’s irrelevant to you. So let’s just answer your questions and move on.

(1) Why do I need an ISBN? Because every publishing company demands one. If you want to publish your book, you’re going to need one. If you want your book on bookshelves, you’re going to need one. And if you want to receive all the royalties you’re entitled to, you’re going to need one.

(2) What does an ISBN do? The 13-digit number on the back of every book—the black and white bar code—tracks each edition for sales, marketing, bestseller lists, shipping, and so on. It’s like a social security number for your book.

(3) Where do I get an ISBN? You have several options for getting your own ISBN. If your book is being published by a large New York publisher, they will assign one of their own to your book. If you’re going with an independent book publisher or self-publishing, there are two ways you can go. First, most publishers will sell you an ISBN for a low cost, some as low as $10. If not, you can buy them from over-the-counter companies that sell ISBNs. They will charge more than $10 and some will make you purchase multiple ISBNs even though you don’t need them. So, shop around.

 More stuff you need to know. Bookstores will not sell your book without an ISBN. eBooks don’t require an ISBN if you are selling it through your own website. But trust me, you want an ISBN for your eBook. Why? If you sell it through Kindle Direct Publishing, they don’t require it. But they can sell it through other channels and those channels require an ISBN. Without an ISBN, you can’t sell through these resellers. Since Kindle/Amazon charges $10 for one, don’t chintz. Just spend the money for an ISBN for your eBook. You want to eliminate all barriers to your book being sold. Having an ISBN for both your eBook and paperback is the smart thing to do.

Next, you cannot reuse your paperback’s ISBN for your eBook’s ISBN. Forget it!

Finally, if you have a hardback and a paperback, you will need to two ISBNs—three, if you have an eBook. So, buck up and get all the ISBNs you need and start selling your books everywhere. (And don’t worry about the technical stuff for ISBNs. You don’t need to know anymore than this!)

Happy publishing!

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Five

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Years ago, when I first started distributing some of my clients’ books through Amazon, they had computer programs which kicked in when a book sold so many units in a week or month (they never disclosed what this formula was). Then they would display your book all their ad placement services. Why? Because they understand that they are your partner in the book selling business. And guess what? They want the 20%, 30% or 40% royalty they have coming their way. When your book sells, they make money too. If they see your book selling well, they want to throw some lighter fluid on and make the fire burn!

Another thing I love about distributing books through Amazon is that for eBooks, they force the writer to give away for free the first fifteen to twenty pages, enough to get the reader hooked. The Kindle user can order a sample which ends at that fifteen- to twenty-page cutoff. Then, the Kindle prompts them to buy the book. Let’s face it, if you can’t get someone interested in your book by then, you don’t deserve to sell it! Thus, readers no longer have to buy your book and hope for the best. They can sample it first, then buy it. Brilliant!!

There is still a lot more to talk about. Stay tuned for the next installments.

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Four

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

With Amazon single-handedly killing the publishing industry as we writers knew it, the bloodshed wasn’t done. Believe me, these folks at Amazon are real serial killers. The two largest weapons were incentive-based. First, they turned the royalty structure on its head. Instead of a writer receiving a 2-5% royalty per book (if that!), Amazon offered 60% on paperbacks and 70% on eBooks. In some cases, I can show my clients how to get an 80% royalty. When writers realized they had struck the mother lode, they switched their books to Amazon’s distribution channels. At first the mid-level and top authors didn’t, but over time, the mid-level folks came on board and a small sliver of top authors joined them too. Once the remaining large publishers go under, then they will all be there. Yet Amazon wasn’t satisfied with this haul of authors. They had another trick up their sleeve.

The publishing consultant assigned to me began explaining how many authors were making a small fortune with a unique pricing structure. These authors sold their paperbacks at $10.99 to $12.99, which was fairly normal. The twist had to do with eBooks. Remember, from previous segments, I told you how an eBook can only be read on one Kindle. You can’t pass it around like a paperback. To capitalize on this feature, these smart authors were selling their eBooks not at $10.99 to $12.99 price structure, but at $3.99 to $5.99. Over time, this has been lowered to $1.99 to $3.99. My Amazon consultant said their clients were selling ten eBooks for every paperback. When I tried it, I discovered he was right. Some of my clients sell 40 to 50-1, depending on the genre and target audience. If they sold 200 eBooks a week at a $2.99 price, they pocketed $400 just on eBooks. For first time authors, that was fantastic, not to mention the exposure they received. After all, someone who’s read your first book is likely to buy your second book.

Still, Amazon had other tricks up their sleeve. See the next installments for more information!

A Breach of Trust

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

Recently, I worked on a project with Susan Hodges to tell her true story. It’s entitled A Breach of Trust. With her permission, I can share the back cover:

You have a wonderful life. You’re running a business, have money in the bank and get to visit with all your friends and family whenever you like. Then one day you wake up to find someone shoving a pill down your throat in some lowdown nursing home situated in a dangerous part of the city. Without your permission, they’re liquidating your business and making all of your money disappear. You do whatever you can to try to get out of this nightmare, but discover the people who did this to you are simply too powerful. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again.

This is the true story of a newly licensed nursing facility administrator (LNFA) and the people she meets. The stories they tell her are both hard to believe and impossible to ignore. She begins investigating and the more layers she peels away, the worse it gets. Eventually, this leads to catastrophic consequences for three special people under her care. Can she repair the damage and stop the madness before it’s too late? Or are the forces against her too powerful?

A Breach of Trust exposes the weakest link in the freedoms we all hold dear. Cross the wrong line, say the wrong thing, and at any moment you too could be stripped naked and taken captive. It is for these three special friends and all the future victims that Susan Hodges offers this advice: whatever you do, don’t cross these people because soon, you might discover your life belongs to them now!

You can buy the Kindle version or a paperback on Amazon right now! Please leave a great review if you liked it. Thanks! Here is the link:


How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Three

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

This is part three of how the publishing industry really works. In this posting, I want to cover the second game changer that came along, the one that crumbled the publishing industry as we writers used to know it. The first game changer was the POD machine. However, that alone didn’t make a dent in the traditional publishing houses. The one that delivered the actual death blow was the Kindle. And it was a real killer!

When I first heard of the Kindle in 2007, I didn’t think much of it. Then I saw one and loved it! The reason I misjudged the Kindle was because I assumed it was like reading a book from my computer monitor, which is backlit and causes eyestrain. But the Kindle uses E-Ink. In order to read a Kindle, you need natural light, just like with a physical book. When I got one, I appreciated the lack of eyestrain. It was truly easy to use.

The Kindle wasn’t just easy to read, it provided several other innovations that made this device a publishing industry nuclear bomb. The first Kindle version could store up 200 different books, allowing a reader to switch between books without losing your place. When I took a cruise, I fell deeper in love with the Kindle because I had plenty of reading material while I lounged on a deck chair. No longer did I have to schlep around three or four books.

Another nice feature was the font size changer. It allowed the print size to be increased for readers who needed help.

The next feature I quickly appreciated was the sampling. I could order a sample and read the first 30 to 50 pages of a book before buying it. That was a big money saver. Yet another feature was the ability to download newspapers and magazine all over the same waveband that cell phones used. In fact, it was basically a cell phone. If you could get cell phone service, you could download material. Each time you purchase something it was a one-touch system since your credit card was already on file. Believe me, this first Kindle was one fantastic machine.

Over time, the Kindle folks put the pedal to the metal. They allowed the Kindle to sync up with my smart phone. If I was reading a book and waiting on a doctor’s apportionment, I didn’t have to have my Kindle with me to continue reading my book. All I had to do was open the app on my phone and read. When I next picked up my Kindle, it was on the last page I had read on my phone. This not only increased the reading for me but millions of others too.

In no time, authors were putting their electronic files on the Kindle and selling their books for half price. Some even sold them for 99 cents. Why? Because of the sharing feature. This was yet another aspect of Kindle I failed to fully understand. Here’s a real life example.

My wife was reading Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand and really loving it. When she told me I had to read it, I had two options: borrow her Kindle or buy it myself. The reason I couldn’t borrow her Kindle was because she was always using it. She carried it everywhere. How was I going to read the book? The answer: I wasn’t. So I had to purchase the book a second time. This aspect is really profound. Think about this. When you buy a new paperback for $12.99, you read it and hand it off to your spouse or friend or relative or all three. And any one of them might pass it on too. By the time the circle is complete, ten people may have read it. Then what happens to the book? It goes to Half-Price Books who sells it to someone else. The circle begins all over again until the book is no longer readable. One book may be read by twenty people. Yet, the author/publishing company made only one profit. They missed out on nineteen other buyers. Not with Kindle. Laura Hillenbrand made two profits in my household. That’s why the prices for Kindle books quickly dropped. If Laura priced her Kindle book at $3.99, the twenty people who bought it would put $80 towards her book instead of the $12.99 that she got for selling one book that was read by twenty people. With Kindle, unless you physically borrow someone’s Kindle, if you want to read the book you have to buy it.

Today, Amazon has added sharing features and library reading on the Kindle so you don’t have to buy the book but simply rent it, making a book even cheaper to read. But then the folks at Amazon really brought the hammer down on the publishing industry by doing a few more things. That will be covered in the next installment.

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part Two

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

This is the second installment covering all you need to know about the publishing industry and publishing a book. I apologize for taking so long to continue posting on this subject but October and November are always crazy because many of my clients want their books out in time for Christmas. So, please know I’ve received all of your emails and appreciate you politely urging me on.

Part One covered the way the publishing industry used to work. The keys points in that post are this: the publisher decided if you got published; they spent all the money; and they made all of the money. If you couldn’t find a publishing company to take a chance on your book, your only other option was a vanity press where you’d have to spend thousands of dollars to have thousands of books printed and then sell each one yourself. It was a brutal way to go—one only rich folks could afford. But then the first of two book publishing game changers came along. And they were both huge game changers. So huge that the publishing industry would never be the same. What was the first business wrecker? Print-on-demand technology.

From the 1950s, printing technology steadily improved. The printers got smaller and faster. When they added double-sided printing, everyone thought that was it. Until they added color printing. Then, the printers just kept on getting better.

In the 1990s, printing technology took another huge step forward. A large machine was developed that could literally print out one book at a time. It had one size of paper and, combined with new software, could print out a 300-page book in under a minute. This isn’t easy because each page has to be printed on both sides with the correct page number. Then it has to be automatically assembled. If you don’t believe me as to how hard this is, try it yourself with a regular printer and see if you can get past the first four pages.

But having 300 pages of printed material doesn’t make a book. You still needed to print out a soft cover (for paperbacks) and wrap it around the 300-page stack of material. Guess what? This machine could do it. The first print-on-demand (POD) machines would glue a cover onto the stack of pages, roll the spine and heat treat it so it was a real live paperback. It was truly amazing to everyone in the publishing industry.

With each subsequent year, the machines developed more, adding different sizes of paper and card stock so publishing four or five trim sizes became possible. That was a wonderful step forward because having different sizes allowed a book’s thickness to be adjusted for large or small word counts. When the machines added the ability to make hardbacks, it was heaven for all of us writers.

At the time, what these POD machines did for writers was lower the upfront costs in self-publishing a book. No longer did we have to go to a vanity press and spend thousands of dollars to print thousands of copies. All we had to do was pay a onetime cost of $150 and then print out 50 books at $5 each. When the 50 copies arrived, we could use the internet to sell them through the mail (at special postal rates) or sell them in person. Once we sold all 50 copies, we could order 25 more. Or 50 more. Or really any number between 1 and 1,000—all at $5 a copy. Our risk of losing money from printing up 3,000 copies was completely eliminated. POD machines allowed us to print as demand required. If we were good at marketing on the internet, we could sell a lot of books. In the early 2000s, I had one client who sold a ton of science fiction books right out of his house. He ended up with several bestsellers.

Yet even though POD machines gave writers self-publishing options, the traditional publishing industry was not fazed at all. Why? Because most of the writers using the POD machines were the ones who’d been rejected by the traditional publishing houses and would’ve used the vanity presses—or done nothing at all. The vanity presses were the ones who started hurting. The publishing industry wouldn’t be hurting until the next game changer came along, one I will cover in part three. So, stay tuned.

How Publishing Your Book Really Works – Part One

by Michael Gray   http://www.TexasGhostWriter.com  214-377-1125

I’m going to spend several blogs going over the ins and outs of publishing your book. These are the questions my clients most frequently ask. So I want to cover all you need to know about publishing. This first blog will go over how the publishing industry used to work. This is vital you know this because vestiges of it still remain and will affect your publishing decisions. Let’s get started.

In 1971, you’re a struggling writer trying to get your first novel published. It’s tough coming up with great ideas much less getting someone interested in your work. For most first time writers of this era, they would have to draft a one page query letter and mail it to hundreds of publishers hoping to interest them. However, you just happen to have a literary agent. This agent has contacts at publishing houses and they rely on him to send in good material, not junk. You tell your agent you have two ideas: one about pirates and another about a man-eating shark terrorizing a community. He encourages you to pursue the shark story. You draft a novel and your agent finds a publisher to pay you a $1,000 advance. However, after reading the whole novel, the publisher isn’t happy and makes you rewrite much of it. You do the work and resubmit it. On their staff is an editor who rips through it making lots of changes. When he’s done they have another person who professionally proofreads it. When the publisher is completely happy with the manuscript, they send it to their marketing department. These folks design a cover and create some advertising content. Two years after you wrote it they finally print the book and Jaws eventually hits the bestseller list for 44 straight weeks.

Here’s the takeaways from this story and process. First, the publishers were the gatekeepers. If they didn’t like you or your work, you didn’t get published. Second, the publishers loved agents because they brought them prescreened material. This saved them time from sorting through an inbox of unsolicited manuscripts and letters called the slush pile. Third, certain agents soon became valued to the publishers since they only brought them killer stuff. They established relationships which allowed a writer’s material to get placed in the right hands fast thus speeding up the process. Fourth, the publisher had full authority to demand changes or make their own, the writer be damned. Fifth, the publishers decided how it would be marketed and had final say on the title. Sixth, the process usually took two years. Seventh, the publishers took almost all the financial risk. They printed up the books and took all of the loss if the books didn’t sell. Sure, the writer was out his time and labor but the publisher was writing real checks. Lastly, the publisher made all of the money. The writer would get an advance but received nothing else until the earned royalties equaled the advance. And believe me, the royalties were miniscule.

So why did writers participate in this scheme? Two reasons: one, they had no choice. The publishers were the master puppeteers. Two, if they had a bestseller, suddenly the dollar amounts changed. The publisher would pay a larger advance for the second book and there was a chance of selling the movie rights to the first book. That’s where the big money lay. Think of all the motion pictures, TV series, and made-for-TV movies that have been produced from books. It’s staggering.

Just know this: the publisher (a) decided if you got published; (b) took all the risk; (c) and made all of the money. Oh and one more thing: the publisher kept all of the records. They told you how many books were sold each month and how much you were owed. “Sorry Mr. Writer but you haven’t earned out your advance retainer yet. We’ll let you know when we need to send you some money.” That’s how it used to be. It was their game, their toys and their rules. Stay tuned for Part Two and the changing publishing landscape.