Thursday, February 11, 2016

Work for Hire: Friend or Foe

A question I'm often asked at writing workshops: What are the pros and cons of work for hire versus waiting to try to land a royalty contract?

A good question indeed.

In Writing World, work for hire simply means you're paid up front for a project and agree to receive no further payment in the form of royalties after the work releases. And they retain the copyright.

In effect, you don't legally own the resulting book. The company that came up with the idea and paid you to write it does.

Conversely, if you sign a royalty contract, you may or may not receive an advance (these days you're usually talking about several thousand dollars for a first book) - which is not free money, but rather an advance payment of the royalties for book sales it is assumed you'll earn. Your publisher generously gives it to you early so you can continue eating during the months (sometimes years) until your book comes out.

It is then (after your book releases) presumed that your little hotcakes will earn out the advance already paid you within a few months, after which you'll begin receiving the 10, 12, or 14% royalty (maybe even higher) your publisher promised to pay in your contract for ongoing book sales. And the copyright is in your name.

Herein is the conundrum.

The author must weigh the consequences before they happen and decide if it's too risky to depend on future royalties (which may not happen with dismal book sales), or accept a chunk of cash up front and miss out on the windfall if the book's a blockbuster.

For many starving authors, it's a moot point. They need the money NOW so work for hire it is.

But for aspiring authors just starting out, there may be other points to consider.

Take me, for example. Back in 2009 when I was just starting out, I was offered a work for hire project by a publisher with whom I was hoping to eventually land a royalty contract. At the time I had three books out that had been published by a small press, and was itching to add another book with my name on it to my resume. However, I didn't want to use up all my best material in a book that wasn't really mine - meaning I wouldn't hold copyright (and could therefore re-use the material later).

It wasn't so much the up front payment that finally enticed me (which was, by the way, more than I'd ever received for any of my work up to that point), but more the burning desire to have another quality book out there with which to impress publishers into offering me a royalty contract.

So I did it. And the result was Everyday Hope, a gorgeous little devo that sold a whopping 30k copies.

Eeek. Had I chosen poorly? (Echoes of Indiana Jones there.)

I received not a dime of all that juicy money the publisher raked in. However, that lovely little book not only got my name into the hands of 30k new readers, it also served me well in doing the very thing I had hoped to do - bring in a royalty contract, which turned out to be Mom NEEDS Chocolate. Then another, which became my award-winning bestseller, Too Blessed to be Stressed. 

Seven years later, I have a tidy stable of royalty books with traditional presses. Mission accomplished.

But would they have happened without the book for hire? Was it worth it?

I asked myself that again this past December, when I went online at Books-A-Million to look for my Too Blessed to be Stressed Wall Calendar (an unexpected but DELIGHTFUL side effect of success has been my line of Too Blessed to be Stressed products like planners, calendars, and now, even an adult coloring book).

To my utter flabbergastation, up popped a newly released book I'd never seen before ... with my name on it. Published by the same company that put out the lovely little work for hire devo.

A frantic call to my agent revealed nothing. He hadn't a clue either. But he quickly discovered that the publisher had - completely within their rights as copyright owners - repackaged the devo and put it back on the market, hoping to capitalize on my now more recognizable name.

Completely above board. Actually pretty savvy marketing.

So now there's a book out there by Debora M. Coty that I had no idea existed.

Not a bad thing, when you consider that it's free advertising for my other (royalty) books and serves to keep my name before the public. But it's something over which I have no control and that does give one pause.

To their credit, the publisher was extremely kind about the whole surprise BAM thing and graciously offered me a teensy percentage of the new book's sales and a hefty box of free copies. They certainly weren't obliged to do anything, so I am grateful and commensurately passified.

So as you can see, with just about anything in this life, there are several sides to consider when deciding whether to accept work for hire, and at what point in your career you do it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with work for hire.



Friday, January 29, 2016


Deb's Famous Chicken Salad
Whoa doggies. I can't believe so much time has passed since I last posted here. My deepest apologies.

As you know if you follow my my other blog (I consider this my writer's blog but I also have an active personal blog: - and I certainly hope you DO subscribe - I've been hotly and heavily promoting my new Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, which debuted in November.

I thought I'd sprinkle a few popular Cookbook dishes on this post for your drooling pleasure.

Eclair Cake
It's been fun ... but difficult. With Christmas falling smack dab in the middle of my peak 3-month marketing campaign, my momentum screeched to a halt in mid-December. My publicist had warned me this would happen, and it most certainly did.

The literary world shuts down for the holidays.

Hearty 4-Bean Salad
Of course we've tried to pump it up again in January, but I can already tell we've lost ground. It has reinforced my belief that the best time for a book release is Sept or Oct - you have just enough time to get in 2-3 months of uninterrupted focused promo and you still benefit from holiday (gift) sales.

But I'm pleased to report that my Eating Stress Free & Healthy in 2016 Contest is going strong. It was my publicist's idea to capitalize on most folks' resolutions to shed a few pounds after Christmas and restart our campaign in January with an emphasis on healthy recipes from the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook. 

Sweet Potato Home Fries
So I posted a number of new PINS (Pinterest) depicting low-fat, heart-healthy, and fiber-rich dishes from the Cookbook and issued the Weight Loss Challenge: 3 pounds in 3 weeks. Got quite a few takers for the Challenge and will give away 5 copies of the Cookbook in a drawing of participants in early Feb.

Hey, speaking of which, it's the perfect time for YOU to get in on the second leg of the Weight Loss Challenge (lose 3 pounds in 3 weeks in Feb!). Hop over to my website httl:// and click on the Contest dropbox. You can't miss the "Eating Stress-Free & Healthy in 2016" contest at the top of the list.

C'mon and join us in starting the year out by slimming up and eating healthier.

And you might win a copy of the award-winning Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook to boot!

Okay, writer buddy, let me close with something interesting that was shared at my writing group this week. (And by the way, if you aren't already involved in a writing group, I highly recommend that joining one is #1 on your New Year's resolutions.)

We were discussing the importance of word placement in sentences and our instructor for the evening, author Kat Heckenbach (my fave inspirational speculative fiction writer) suggested to rearrange the word "only" in every free space of this sentence to completely change the meaning:

Best Bean Soup Ever
"She told him that she loved him."

Only she told him that she loved him.
She only told him that she loved him.
She told only him that she loved him.
She told him only that she loved him.
She told him that only she loved him.
She told him that she only loved him.
She told him that she loved only him.

Wow! What a difference one word can make. Goes to show how wars can get started, right?

Stay resolute, my writer friend, and keep your nose to the keyboard. I wish you many happy writing hours in 2016!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Marketing 201

As you already know, if you've been marketing your books recently, brief videos are now considered the way to go. 

In our crazy-busy society, rushed people only have precious few minutes to devote to your marketing efforts, and 1-3 minute videos fit the bill. 

YouTube, of course is the preferred distribution outlet, so if you don't already have a YouTube account, you should definitely consider it. 

With my Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook slated for release Nov 1, I've been turning out quite a few brief videos lately (kudos to my husband, videographer extraordinaire), like the introduction to my cookbook above. (By the way, it may appear a bit off center on your computer, but it's centered in the YouTube clip.)

Also on YouTube (and the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook page on my website, are three video clips showing how to make some of the super-simple, delicious foods from the cookbook. I've titled them all "Stress-Free Cooking" so they're easy to find online and all in one place.

Another hot marketing tool these days is Pinterest, one of the most popular social media sites. I've developed dozens of Pinterest pins depicting dishes from the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, under the heading, of course, Stress-Free Cooking. I staged and photographed each dish myself, after studying professional cookbook photos. My assistant designed each pin so that if you click on the food photo to get a better look, it automatically shoots you right to the Amazon ordering page for the cookbook.

Cool idea, huh?

So far, so good. Lots of great feedback from readers and FB friends. I'll let you know how it goes.

Do you have some great marketing tips you can share? 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Winner Dinner!

We're all Too Blessed to be Stressed! 
One of the best - and certainly the most fun - book promotions I've ever done was to host an adoption fundraising dinner for my daughter's family.

What in the world does that have to do with promoting a book, you're probably wondering.

Well, everything!

Three months before my daughter's baby boy was due and simultaneously two months before the baby girl she was adopting was due, she and I spent two solid days in her kitchen preparing meals that kind-hearted folks traded for donations to help raise the thousands of dollars needed for steep adoption fees.

Chocolate Eclair Cake for dessert
The literary connection? All meal recipes came from my upcoming Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook. We got rave reviews for the Baked Spaghetti, Parmesan Nuggets, and Mudbar Ecstasy. Some excited folks even called the next day begging for more.

Hey, what better way to tease palates and evoke passionate interest than to provide samples of delicious food?

Everyone who bought a meal was included in a drawing; five lucky winners received vouchers for autographed copies of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook when it debuts Nov 1, and the grand prize winner received a homemade dinner with the author (moi).

Chili Dip for a zesty starter
So last night was the big Winner Dinner and we had an absolute blast! (See photo of winner Donna and her husband Ish above on far left holding Baby Boy, I'm in the middle, my daughter and son-in-law on right holding Baby Girl.)

Once again, the menu consisted of ... can you guess??? ... recipes from the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook!  We feasted on Teriyaki Pork, scalloped potatoes, Spinach-Broccoli Surprise, mixed fruit, and for dessert, none other than my ooey, gooey Chocolate Eclair Cake. Oh, mustn't forget the delicious Chili Dip with Frito Scoops we scarfed as an appetizer.

All recipes require <20 minutes="" prep="" td="">
It was hardly any trouble at all, because every recipe in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook takes less than 20 minutes of hands-on prep time. The hardest part was deciding which delicious dishes to serve.  

Yummmm! At the end of the evening, in one accord, we all said, "Let's do it again!"

So not only did we help a family, we had a fun evening with some great folks, and made solid inroads into getting word of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook out throughout our area (the local newspaper even did an article on the fundraising dinner).

As a result, we now have salivating people standing in line for their copies two months before it comes out.

It pays to think outside the bookstore. What creative book promo's have worked for you?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hangin' in Papa's Waiting Room

Stay busy in Papa God's waiting room
I recently read a blog post by an author celebrating her breakthrough into a national magazine review column that's sure to bring her wide exposure. She's hit the big time:

  • Magazine editors approach her for articles
  • # of guest blog post requests increased
  • Reviews from major media venues
  • Speaking gigs easier to find

And it only took her seven books to get there.

Seven books? you wheeze. But I'm only just now finishing my first book and it's taken me a whole year!

Yep. I feel your pain, writer buddy.

My first book, The Distant Shore, took two years to write and another year to find a publisher (a small press in South Carolina). I thought it was the crowning glory of my writerly life, but in reality, it hardly made a ripple in the publishing pond.

So I wrote another. And another. And then with three good quality small press books under my belt, I was able to find an agent to represent my fourth book, this time a different genre, women's inspirational humor.

But alas, that poor, wonderful, overlooked book - Mom NEEDS Chocolate - was destined to release during the direst time in publishing history, 2009, just after The Crash (recession) hit and before Publishing World figured out where it was going with the digital era. Newspapers were folding everywhere, respected publishing companies were going belly up, and no one was buying print books because the media proclaimed that e-books were the wave of the future and print would soon be obsolete. Since very few people owned e-readers yet (they were still a brand new concept), nobody bought any type of book, print or electronic for a period of about two years.

Just long enough to maim the success of Mom NEEDS Chocolate. In fact, not long after that, the publisher (Regal Books) was sold to another publisher who somehow had managed to stay afloat in the turbulent waters.  

While I was languishing (or so it felt) in Papa God's waiting room, I kept writing - magazine articles, a newspaper column, essays, blog posts, new manuscripts that I kept sending out. And one of them caught the eye of a traditional publishing house editor named Kelly.

It turns out Barbour Books was interested in publishing more women's humor nonfiction, and wha-da-ya know? They were willing to take a chance on my book, Too Blessed to be Stressed.  It had a slow start with only modest sales at first (readers were rediscovering books again) but after it had been out a year, sales took off.

To the surprise of the publisher and myself, it spawned a very successful Too Blessed to be Stressed line of books and book products (14 at last count) and has become my personal brand. My writing bank account is finally seeing a ray of sunshine after a decade of cloudy days.

You read that right - it took ten years. Ten years. 

So you see, I have to agree with the seven-book author and the celebrated children's book award-winning author who said, "Want to be a successful author? Give it at least six years to get off the ground."

After you pick yourself off the floor and wipe your eyes, hear me out: There's some good news hiding here. You'll be able to hone your skills and build a very sturdy platform during your time in Papa God's waiting room. As long as you don't drape yourself over the plaid settee and vegetate.

Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep growing.

Because the writer's creed is not good things come to those who wait, but good things come to those who work while waiting.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Word Power

I love Christian bookstores, don't you? 
How important are words?

There are one million words in the English language.

75% of these words are technical and not used in common speech.

25% of these one million words are in a dictionary.

20,000 words make up an average vocabulary.

20,000 words are used by an average woman daily; 7,000 words are used by the average man daily. Plus the grunt factor.

10,000 words we use on a regular basis.

12,000 words are included in the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

21 words make up John 3:16.

What if we use our relatively few words to heal and uplift each other, rather than wound and tear down?

Let's change the world word by word.

*The above comments were part of an awesome address by literary agent Steve Laube (of The Steve Lauby Agency) to the AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) members at our 2015 conference.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Contest Winners!!!!

Lots of Winners!!!

Hey, hey - we've got some winners here! Ten to be exact.

Congrats to the fine folks below whose names were drawn in my "Them Babies Just Keep on Bouncing" contest.

Each will receive the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessing of their choice. To find out more about each Baby Blessing, hop on my website and click on the "Books" dropbox, then Too Blessed Babies.

Some products aren't available just yet (such as the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner, the 3-Minute Devo for Women, and the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook, but as soon as they are released, I promise I'll get your prize to you).

Please don't fret if your name's not on the list this time; stay tuned for another great giveaway coming up in conjunction with the fall release of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (and I'm talking prizes including not only free autographed books but also GROCERY STORE GIFT CARDS for buying the ingredients to try out the Cookbook's 110 terrific recipes requiring less than 20 minutes prep time ... plus a few ultra cool surprises!)

So without further ado, here are the winners of a free Baby Blessing!

Angela Holland                           Kathy Newborn
Rick Jackson                              Paulette Smallwood
Adriana Fuentes                          Kathy James
Kristen Schuettenberg                 Pamela Black
Tina Rae Collins                          Ana Raquel

Congrats!! Just e-mail or FB message me with your choice and mailing address and your prize will soon be on its way!

And here are your prize options:

Too Blessed to be Stressed (original book)
Muy Bendecida Para Estar Estrasada (Spanish version of original book)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal
The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition
Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook (releasing Nov 1)
Too Blessed to be Stressed Wall Calendar
Too Blessed to be Stressed: 3-Minute Devotions for Women (releasing this winter)
Too Blessed to be Stressed 2016 Planner (releasing Sept 1)

A whopping THANK YOU to all my BBFF (Best Blog Friends Forever) for entering - you're always a winner with me!