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HOT TOPIC Fiction Publishing

kimberland

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Jul 25, 2007
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With my first novel coming out in May,
I'll be sharing my learning
from idea stage to finding a publisher to marketing the books.
Although this thread will be about
launching a product in the publishing industry,
many of the processes can be applied to other industries.

Some background...

I'm developing a new sub-genre
(Business Romance - Romance heavy on the Business)
within the very lucrative romance genre.

How lucrative is romance?
It is the number one genre for both sales and number of books.
How much can a romance writer earn?
Nora Roberts made a cool $28 million in 2005
and her novels already written will earn her millions every year for decades.

: )
 

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MJ DeMarco

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Kim,

In my own book, I touch on that Publishing is Fastlane. There are countless best selling authors that are very wealthy, including some "gurus" who sell the slowlane, while get rich in the fastlane.

For my own journey, I've trolled Amazon for self-publishing books and found a great many from which I can learn.

Dan Poynter - Self Publishing Manual
Steve Weber - Plug Your Book

are 2 that I found very helpful.

Since your book is fiction, I suggest hitting Amazon for books about fiction/romance. I'd also, search for auto-biographies of great writers: Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, Paterson; et al -- see how they did it.
 

M-M

New Contributor
Aug 27, 2007
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Interesting post, as I am currently writing as well. Could be described as inspirational true-life romance. Plus I have a couple more ideas for fiction.
 

MJ DeMarco

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M-M

New Contributor
Aug 27, 2007
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Interesting reads. It certainly is very involved. But how does an ordinary schmuck like me go about getting in with an established author?
And what about eBook? I agree that having a physical copy is favorable, but it seems like a good way to spark word-of-mouth and get things going.
 

WheelsRCool

Contributor
Aug 12, 2007
447
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What about starting your own publishing company? I've seen a couple of types of books and magazines come out, and I've been thinking (as a future planned business idea) of starting a publishing company for books and magazines. I would initially try to get a successful magazine going that hadn't been done before, or publish a book by some author in a type of particular area (say science, engineering, type of fiction, etc...who knows), and grow from there.

Two recent magazines that have come out that are thus far successful are Robot magazine and R/C Heli magazine for example.

kimberland, good luck with your novel!
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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Great suggestions for resources!
There is a lot of information out there
(loved Ferriss' insights on publishing,
Seth Godin has some great lists also).

Luckily for romance writers,
one of our best resources is
the Romance Writers Of America organization.
I haven't decided if romance is such a successful genre
because the writers are highly organized or vice versa.
RWA is like a giant mentoring program for writers.
Forget reading about Nora Roberts,
how about asking Nora Roberts questions directly
(she is a very nice person,
frequenting many of the blogs I haunt and post at)?

Mystery, sci fi, and other genres have their own organizations
but I know unrelated writers who belong to RWA
because of the framework it provides.

There are reasons why I've started with
the established publisher route,
rather than self publishing.
I'll explain that in the next post
(right now, gotta go to the bank,
yes, the big place where they keep all the money).

: )
 

M-M

New Contributor
Aug 27, 2007
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Thanks Kimber, I'll take my time reading through those.
 

Jason_MI

New Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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I think you probabaly want to make a distinction among what kind of writing you're doing, to begin with. For non-fiction writing, even in an industry rife with unintelligence such as construction, I've noticed over the years that several people, some of whom I know, have gone from being hammer-swingers to authors.

Most followed a fairly simple path:
1. They took part in online forums and organizations, which is where they started their reputations. Posters on The Journal of Light Construction and Fine Homebuilding, for instance; the two most professional sites, really became well-known and networked.
2. They began publishing small articles in one of those magazines, or in dozens of the offshoots. Some even got involved in the big educational/trade shows where they put on classes, demonstrations, etc.
3. Once they began with these small items, many of them moved totally into a secondary tier of construction; consulting, business owners, authors. Yes, they were still working, but their work went from physical to management. From there, some even began controlling the businesses as an outside entity. Think it doesn't work? Think of Pulte Homes; one of the largest homebuilders in the country. He's sitting on an island somewhere sipping a beer, not swinging a hammer in the Las Vegas sun.

And to me, one of the most important aspects they appear to never have lost:
They always kept networking, and much of it free or tax-deductible. Forums, mag articles, opinion letters, trade fairs.
They always controlled their online personas towards their goals; no rantings, no attacks, no wandering off into mindless surfing.

Authorship, no matter how small, really can lead to something, as long as it's focused.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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Jason,

I think networking and self promotion is key for all writing.
Even Nora Roberts with her half dozen books a year
(seriously the lady has written over 300 novels)
is an active part of the romance community.
She goes to conventions and posts on blogs and...

And more and more fiction publishers want some proof
that an author is willing to self promote
before signing them up.
For me, my blogs were a big selling point.

I'll be talking about fiction publishing specifically on this thread.
MJ mentioned that he will start a thread later on
about non fiction.
However, many of the same concepts apply.

: )
 

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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Jason has a good point about the money in writing
not specifically being about writing.

Before putting pen to paper,
think about what methods you're interested in
because how you frame up the stories
and what you write
will be different.

Lets look at a few of the routes that
fiction writers took to fame and fortune...

- Pure volume... And Doing The Writing Yourself
I make around 30% (royalties)
on the purchase price of an eBook.
An eBook sells for about $6
so that's $1.80 on each book.
Sell enough books (either many of one book or a little of many books)
and I'm making half decent money.
Nora Roberts with her 300 books is in this league
(yes, she has sold some rights for movies but not many)

- Pure volume... And Outsourcing
This is very similar to the above
except that the author outsources most of his/her writing.
Authors have been doing this for a long, long time
but James Patterson is perhaps the most vivid recent example
(he is very upfront about his "writing" process).
He hires writers not only to do his research
but also to write most of his books.
Then he comes along and puts his James Patterson touch on them.
The benefit of this vs poor Nora's efforts
is that it frees up time
plus depending on the quality of the writers hired,
you could end up with a higher quality book.

- Write for print... And sell to screen
The bulk of JK Rowling's wealth came from selling the rights to movies
and not the actual books itself.
(Though nothing will sell books like
the movie with the same name
being advertised all over tv, radio, and print).
Writing lending itself to a screen adaptation
requires a very special type of novel writing.
Basically the action has to be external
(no long thoughts or internal emotional struggles).
Sci Fi and mysteries lend themselves well to movie adaptations.
Romance... not so much (okay, usually not at all).

How do I plan to make money?
Once I get my book sales up there,
I'll be selling advertising inside the novel
so instead of the hero wearing a random expensive watch,
I'll have him wearing a rado or whatever other sponsor I snag.
Harlequin recently did this with their Nascar series.

: )
 

nomadjanet

Contributor
Aug 28, 2007
310
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TX
I am interested in the process of writing & publishing & will be sure to follow your thread. I have write children’s stores for years first for my children and now for my grandchildren. My kids are young adults & they all still remember vividly stories that I made up for them. My grandkids were shocked the other day when they visited at a cousin’s house and they did not get a brand new personalized story at bedtime. They have come to expect to be a story where they are the heroes of some wild adventure or mysterious experience. So maybe you will be a writting guru & be one of those that gets rich on the self improvement circut not just the romance circut?
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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I know this is out of order
(got sucked into a very exciting project)
but since I'm doing this right now...

When looking at promotional devices
(the standard author schwag, business cards, bookmarks, pens, etc),
always ask yourself "how do I keep this out of the trash?"

Unfortunately the majority of marketing materials
go from you to the prospect directly into the trash.

But with a little creativity and a tiny bit of money,
you can keep your materials in circulation.
And once its still in circulation,
you still have a chance at a return.

How to do that?

Its the little things
like if you're a real estate investor,
putting a purchase checklist on the back of the business card
or
putting a motivational quote with a classy graphic on postcards.

: )
 

yveskleinsky

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Jul 26, 2007
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How do I plan to make money?
Once I get my book sales up there,
I'll be selling advertising inside the novel
so instead of the hero wearing a random expensive watch,
I'll have him wearing a rado or whatever other sponsor I snag.
Harlequin recently did this with their Nascar series.

: )
Holy crap, that's friggin genius! ...I've been loosely working on a romance novel for the past year- for the same reasons! I know there is big money in the industry- and I have a dirty mind and a good vocabulary- seems like a natural fit!:smxB:
...Can't wait to read you book! Go Kimberland go!:smxG:
 

Diane Kennedy

Bronze Contributor
Aug 31, 2007
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To all the writers reading this....don't give up your dream.

I have a dream of writing a book based on my experience living in Juarez and my son's experience spending the first 13 years there. I just can't seem to make my mind up on which way to go (go non-fiction, which I know and can do, do it "based on" and make it more marketable, or just go straight to screenplay - which I already have an offer to help me on) Maybe I need a writing mastermind group!

Thots anybody?

Thank you Kimberland for sharing your story and plan. The only book remotely similar to what you're doing (I think) is "The Goal" which the author used to promote his innovative manufacturing process and ended up creating a foundation with because the book sales took off.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Diane,

If you're looking at it from a pure ROI point of view,
I'd go screenplay first.
It takes a few years to make a movie.
While that is happening, you could easily write your book,
and then get great distribution with bookstores
because there's a movie coming out
(not to mention promotional help).

: )
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
120
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I've been loosely working on a romance novel for the past year- for the same reasons! I know there is big money in the industry- and I have a dirty mind and a good vocabulary- seems like a natural fit!:smxB:
I highly reco membership in Romance Writers Of America
and also your local chapter.
Not only will that help you with the craft
but also the connections needed to sell your book.

As for a dirty mind, that's not a requirement for writing romance.
Many inspirational and "clean" romances out there
(the Christian market is healthy).
... Course I don't write THOSE... LOL
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Publisher Vs Self Publishing

I've been asked why I don't self publish instead
of sharing profits with a publisher.

One of the first things I did
was look at how romance readers choose their books.

There are thousands of romances published every year.
That's a lot of choice
so some ways they whittle down that choice are...
- established authors
- word of mouth from friends, blogs, review sites, etc.
- pick up at random at bookstore, library, etc

Talking to blog, review site owners (for romance),
I found out that
unless they knew the author's name,
they never reviewed self published novels.

Talking to bookstores and libraries,
they also were hesitant on buying self published romance novels
(unless they knew the author).
The bigger chains go through distributers
and distribution fees are very, very pricey.

So these gatekeepers basically block entry for self published romances.
(Which is why you don't see many of them).

Does that mean I'll never self publish?
Nope.
Simply that I'll start my career with an established publisher.
And while I'm working with a publisher,
I'm learning from them.

: )
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Large Press Vs Small Press

Another common question that I get asked
is why I went small press vs large press.

The short answer is because I had to.
Large press have large print runs
and have to have large sales to match.
As a result, they won't usually take a chance
on anything new or slightly risky.

They wait for these concepts to prove themselves
with small press or self publishing.
They monitor these sales
and once the sales grow large enough,
they capture these authors/books
(buying them out from the small press).

That's why you hear common stories like those of
Eragon author Christopher Paolini.
His family first self published his book
and then when the sales grew large enough,
a big house signed him.

When I shopped my concept of Business Romances
around with agents,
I was told that there was no market for them.
Not that there wouldn't be a market for them.
Simply that a market hadn't been established yet.
(Which is where I prefer to be anyway).
I was told (by about a dozen agents)
to look at small press
(agents prefer not to work with small press,
no money there for them).

: )
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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eBook vs Print

The small press publisher I'm with
first publishes in eBook and then if the sales are large enough
(a measly 350 books),
they leverage those earnings into a print run.

I thought this was extremely clever of them
and a good tactic for self published authors to use.

Personally as a blogger,
and someone feeling that eBooks are the future of publishing,
I was looking for a publisher that did both.

I like the idea of letting my early adopter eBook readers
also get the early read
(being first is important for the early adopter).

: )
 

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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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What My Small Press Publisher Considers Good Sales

My last post talked about the 350 book threshold
my publisher has in place
before they publish in print format.

What do they consider "good" sales?
300 books in launch month.
50 books after that.
At about $1 a book royalties (average),
that's $850 a year for a "good" return.

Yeah... I know... unacceptable.

So there are a few courses of action to take,
achieve great sales with promotion,
get the backlist established quickly,
have a revenue stream other than book sales...

: )
 
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M-M

New Contributor
Aug 27, 2007
107
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Thanks Kimber! Great info there, and please keep it coming. I've got several things going as far as writing goes. One short-story with, at least in my humble opinion, great movie potential; the story of how my wife and I met and all the things we had to go through (trust me, you've never heard anything like it); another idea for a novel; and lastly a self-help book. So, lots to do.

Before I started doing research on publishing I was thinking myself that I could eBook myself, see how things go, and when the numbers are good enough get signed for print. We'll see.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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Match Your Marketing To Your Format

There are a lot of ways to market your book.
As I haven't launched the book yet,
I don't have any of my own research
so I'll hold off on the specific ways for now
(I'll come back with real facts and figures).

I will advise, however, that you match marketing to format.

My novel is first launching in eBook.
I'm concentrating 100% of my launch efforts to the internet
(blogs, eNewsletters, ePress Releases, etc)
because I know that is where eBook readers are.
Anyone not on the 'net won't be buying my eBook.

Once my novel moves into print,
I'll concentrate on newspapers, magazines, print newsletters.

If my novel was launching in audio book
(an option, downloadable to iPods, etc),
I'd do a lot of radio.

Sure, I'd take advantage of opps outside my preferred marketing medium but I'd concentrate on the preferred first.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
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Contest Entries

There are many, many contests for unpublished writers.
It is easy to make entering them a full time job
(one of my buddies has fallen into that trap).

Sure, contests CAN bring you to the attention
of a publisher or agent
but there are faster and more efficient ways to do that
(like submitting to them directly).

What I use contests for
is to test concepts.

When I first started writing,
I didn't really know what a good concept was.
I had weak motivations for my characters.
The basic plots were not compelling enough.

So I entered contests
that offered feedback on every entry.
I'd usually enter my synopsis (book summary) and first three chapters.

For $30, I would get insight on my plot and characters
from someone impartial.
Now that I am about to be published,
I pay far more for insights from an editorial service
(though the insights are deeper).

Contest judges are educated (in the business) test readers.
The issues they bring up
will likely be the same issues your readers bring up.
Addressing them early on in the process is best.

And by early on...
what I used to do was submit 2 or 3 story ideas.
All I would write is the first 3 chapters and synopsis
(works best for someone who plots - a plotter
vs
someone who writes by the seat of her pants - a pantser).
Then I'd usually develop and tweak the strongest.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Test Readers, Critique Groups And Editorial Services

Being published is a long, long road
so its reco'd that you ensure you're driving the right car.

I wanted to know that I had a potential readership
and a book meeting the needs of that potential readership
before looking for agents and publishers
(for fiction, the book should be finished before being pitched,
this is different for non-fiction).

I used test readers and an editorial service
(I still use both for my 3rd and 4th novels).

Why didn't I use a critique group instead of an editorial service?
Time restrictions.
Critique groups are a free way of pre-editing.
You trade manuscripts with other aspiring authors.
You then edit their manuscripts and they edit yours.
Note:
Your edits are only as good as the talent of your critique group members.

Since I charge more per hour
than my editorial service charges,
it made financial sense for me to pay with money,
rather than time.

For test readers,
you'll want to align their attributes with those of your target market.
When people ask to be my test readers,
the first thing I ask is "do you read romance?"
If they don't, it is unlikely that they will appreciate the novel.

Of course, feedback is not the same as "must change".
You ARE the author.
But it does signal areas that readers find confusing
and that you might wish to work on.

Feedback is also how you will grow as a writer.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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My Initial Marketing Spend

For the first wave of marketing spending
(my small press publisher won't be spending any
except for sending some books to be reviews),
I'm concentrating on promoting the eBook
(as it will be published in that format first)
and will be advertising online.

There's a benefit to this
because online advertising is still cost effective.

Does it drive readers?
I don't know.
The number one reason I'm spending $ on advertising
is to increase my chances of getting a review
(reviews on sites are forever
and those, good or bad, DO drive readers).

To cover the top 11 romance sites,
my costs are $1,576
(this includes two shared print ads
in both the Romantic Times and Affair De Coeur,
the top romance reader mags).
Pretty darn inexpensive.

On top of that,
I expect to give away at least 200 eBooks
to bloggers, etc.
That cost is about $1,200.

So I'm looking at less than $3,000 for the two.

Other costs coming down the pipe...
I got pens with my website on it
(a buddy is running a major romance conference
and has agreed to give my pen out to all attendees).
I will be printing address labels with my cover
and publishers address
(can't be too safe).
I will also be printing larger labels with my cover
and business cards.

All promo will be flowed through
http://www.businessromance.com/
where I have a free read every week.
My goal is to capture readers for life
so I have to give them something between books.

I'll be updating this post
with new information as I get it.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Marketing Spend Benchmark

I forgot to mention that my budget for the book launch
(both eBook and print)
is $5,000.

How did I get this number?

I was told time and time again
by established authors
to expect to spend the entire advance
for the first 3 books on marketing
(that is, if I wanted a long and prosperous career).

The average advance for a new Harlequin author
is $5,000.

BTW... it is not that I won't continue
to spend $5,000 a book
after book 3,
merely that this is when royalties start to pay off
and advances increase.

Marketing is a forever spend.
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
120
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Vanity Presses

Vanity presses are that middle step
between small press and self publishing.
The author gives up her rights to the novel,
and then helps to pay for it
to be published.

As far as I can see,
since there are legit companies
who will walk an author through self publishing
without asking for the rights to the novel,
there is no upside to this arrangement
and there are many, many scammer vanity presses
(they'll take your money
and you'll never see a single book).

The rule of thumb in the publishing industry
is that if you have to pay for your book to be published
with a publisher (i.e. not self publishing),
then run, don't walk, far, far away.

No legit small press will ever ask an author for funds
(not even for marketing,
authors should be arranging that on their own).

No legit printing house will ask an author
for the rights to their book
(even with Lulu, the author maintains the rights).
 
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kimberland

Bronze Contributor
Jul 25, 2007
825
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Contract Negotiations

There are a few things to look out for
in contract negotiations.

The first is the perpetuity clause.
Many publishers will try to sneak that one in.
Basically that is the author giving up the rights to their novel
FOREVER.
You do NOT want that.
The typical contract is for 3 years
and that gives the author the option to shop the novel around elsewhere
after those three years are up
or
the publisher may want to renew the contract.

Why don't you want a perpetuity clause?
What if you write Romance
and the publisher decides to stop producing Romance novels?
What if you go small press
and a large press wants to publish your book
(offering more dollars)?
What if you switch publishers
and want your new publisher to support your backlist
(they won't support novels outside of their publisher house)?
What if the publisher goes bankrupt...

Which leads to the next point.
You need a bankruptcy clause.
What that is,
in case of bankruptcy,
all rights revert back to the author.
This is especially needed with small press
as small presses fail all the time.

If you have significant assets,
I suggest that your writing business
be held within a limited liability entity
(since I'm in Canada,
mine operates within a corporation).
That means that the contract will be held
between the publisher and the corporation
with a clause in that that you (the author) will make the edits, etc.

This might not be the best tax structure
(in Canada, royalties are considered passive income
and are taxed at a higher rate,
though as discussed,
royalty income should be icing on the income cake)
but
being a published author ups your chances of getting sued.

Another issue is exactly what rights the author is granting.
Is it print, electronic, film, audiobooks,
national, international?
Be very wary of giving up any rights
that the publisher is not likely to exercise.
Doing that will prevent you from exploring those income streams.

The contract should also clearly outline compensation
and who is responsible for what.
It will have information on
the support the publisher will give the author.

Don't get so excited over that first publishing contract
that you make contract mistakes
that will haunt you for years,
maybe a lifetime.
 

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