What is it like to work with the
Paper Raven Books Team?
I've pulled together some interviews with our authors to answer some common questions and give you their insights into working with our team and their insights from the author journey, so far.
"What if I don't really think of myself as a 'writer?' Can your team help me with the writing process?"
Julie Carrick is a singer/songwriter who wanted to write her stories into a memoir that would help other people along their journey. She'd been trying to write her book for YEARS, and with the help of our team, she not only wrote the book in a matter of months, she published and launched the book in less than a year. She now takes that book "on-the-road" with her to concerts, events, and conferences where she performs.
"What if I already have recorded content from speeches, workshops, and presentations? How could the editorial team help me turn it into a book?"
Licia Rester and Kirk Souder, co-authors of The Soul Purpose Method, Licia Rester and Kirk Souder are co-designers of The Soul Purpose Method and co-facilitators of Soul Purpose online courseware, workshops, business trainings, and leadership coaching.
"How do you work with a writing coach and editor to bring the ideas out of my head and onto the page so it can become a book?"
Mercedes Samudio is a parent coach who supports parents and children to communicate with each other, manage emotional trauma, navigate social media and technology together, and develop healthy parent-child relationships. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private parent coaching practice, Mercedes has worked with adoptive families, foster families, teen parents, parents navigating the child protective services system, and children living with mental illness. Mercedes seeks to empower parents to believe that they are already great guides for raising healthy and happy children.
"What if my editor and I disagree on something? Are they going to 'hijack' my book and turn it into something that doesn't sound like ME?"
As a Registered Corporate Coach and a Certified Professional in Training and Development, Crystal Neubauer is a speaker for corporate conferences, churches, women's retreats, training workshops, leadership events, and webinars. Her message and her book helps individuals, churches, and businesses get "unstuck" so they can fulfill their God-given potential.
"How will I know when my book is truly ready to publish? Will I be 'rushed' through the process before I'm really ready?"
Michael C. Oster, author of Level Up, helps high achievers and those with high potential become more successful and live more meaningful lives. Utilizing his 20+ years of experience as a CEO and Board of Directors leader to profit and nonprofit organizations, he lives his Level Up Method as the Principal of Level Up Advisors.
"What kinds of results have people gotten after publishing their books?"
Joey Wilkes, author of The Rise of the Millennial Entrepreneur, is an entrepreneur and military veteran who coaches business owners through the startup phase and into sustainable profitability. He and his wife, Rachel, also own and operate their own fitness gyms where they live in Augusta, Georgia.
"Do I really need a whole team to publish my book? What's the 'value add' of editors, designers, publicists, etc?"
Helena Kim, author of Soft Skills for Hard People, is a Harvard-trained coaching psychologist and executive coach. She specializes in advanced personal and leadership development and team dynamics. Helena coaches her clients to "do" emotional intelligence and healthy conflict in leadership and work relationships. Her clients include leaders from Amazon, Google, UBS, JP Morgan, Fujitsu, Baxter, London Stock Exchange Group, Royal Mail, Hays, NHS, Undo and the U.S. Air Force. Her latest project is the intensive personal and professional success coaching service for MBA students and alums at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School.
"How many authors do you work with at once?"
(Sub-text: "Am I really getting the best of you and your team?"
Chantel Plautz is the Founder and President of Hope for the Soul Ministries (H4tS). She is an Abolitionist missionary, a Christian counselor and an advocate for victims of human sex trafficking, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse. Her book, My Joy Comes in the Morning, is part of her larger movement and mission to advocate for those who do not have their own voices.
"What does the conversation sound like when the stage lights are off, and you're really talking?"
Duncan Brannan is the author of The Soldier Code, and his intense research of publishing options lead him to the Paper Raven Books team. His book had very demanding design and citation challenges, and we worked through several iterations to get it right—because that's what we do at Paper Raven Books. You're not just another number in our business. You're a person with a vision for your book, and we do our very darndest, every step of the way, to bring your vision into reality with you.
If you don't already have a call coming up with us, make sure you click here to schedule a call with us to talk about your book:
What types of books have you published?
At a high level, our goal is to help you publish and launch a book to grow your readership—the number of people who know about your book, who read and review your book, and who ultimately join your list to continue buying directly from you. Whether you release more books, start a podcast or YouTube channel, host a live event, offer an online course, set up a membership, or put out a call for new clients, the larger your readership, the more success you'll have in all of your future ventures.
Our strategies for growing your readership work across book genres, topics, and types.
You can see our recent releases here: paperravenbooks.com/ourbooks
Here are some examples of book genres, topics, and types that we've already successfully worked with:
We Are Alpha Dogs: How Seven Dogs Become Business Legends
by Douglas A. Bowers
Parenting and Family
Homeschool: Six Secrets to Your Success!
by Rebeca Cruz
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, YA Series
The Taur Tums Trilogy by Phil Asmundson
Power of Four Trilogy by Seven Borup
Action-Packed Romance Series
The Heathen Brotherhood Trilogy by Christine Roberts
Mystery, Thriller, Suspense Series
Driven to Kill Trilogy by Kathy Simon
The Ivy League Chronicles by E.K. Prescott
Children's Chapter Book Series
Halley Harper; Science Girl Extraordinaire by Tracy Borgmeyer
Standalone Fiction Books
Our Journey Is Our Own by Heather Preis
God Doesn't Make Mistakes: Confessions of a Transgender Christian
by Laurie Suzanne Scott
How can you think about the "return on investment"
of your book?
When we start talking with people about publishing their books, one of their big questions is around "How am I going to make money from this book?"
Whichever type of publishing you decide is best for your book (traditional, hybrid, self-publishing, or working with a company like ours to self-publish your book for you), you're going to invest in your book, in one way or another.
You've already invested a lot of time in writing the book! There'll be more time in editing and revising, if you haven't done that already.
You may invest money in actually getting the book produced (so that you can keep more of the book sales), or you may decide to partner with a traditional publishing company (in which case you'll keep much less of the book sales).
You may invest money in marketing the book, maybe in help getting interviews or media mentions or book signing tours.
What's the best way to think about the "ROI" of your book?
I like to think of this in three ways.
#1: For client-centered authors:
A book is one of the best ways to get in front of clients. The people who read your book will become your best clients. If you’re wanting to get speaking engagements, grow your audience, a book is the absolute best way to do that. Launching a book is a great reason to get new exposure, to get out in front of an audience that you otherwise wouldn’t be in front of. As an author who is launching a new book, you so much more easily get interviews and speaking opportunities in front of people who would be perfect-fit clients for you.
When we think of client-centered authors, we think of Dr. Stefani Reinold one of our authors. When she was writing her book, she had a small private practice, serving as a psychiatrist with an MD, and seeing patients in person. She was looking for a way to pivot her business online.
After she released her book, she realized she had all the content she needed to create her online course, her online membership, and her podcast. The online part of her business took off, and not a moment too soon. She and her husband had to move their family across the country, they had another baby, and then the pandemic shut down offices across the country.
Dr. Reinold's business has survived because her book has continued to market her business for her, bringing new clients and students into her online business.
So, think about this: how could launching this book unlock NEW revenue streams or increase existing revenues?
#2: For mission-centered authors:
If your current day-job is separate from what your book is about, think about the heart of the message that your book offers to the reader.
Think about your reader... how unsupported and confused your reader might be right now... especially now...
Think about making a difference in the lives of your readers.
Think about releasing this book actually allows them to find a new sense of peace and understanding.
And when we think of mission-centered authors, we think of one of our authors, Laurie Scott. Her day-job was in IT, but her book was about being a transgendered Christian.
Laurie had a topic that she was deeply passionate about, and even though she really didn’t think she was going to become a millionaire from selling books, she knew that she wanted her message out there. So, she saved up money from her day job, she asked friends and family and organizations for money to support her book, and she made it happen.
Honestly, she didn’t become a millionaire from her book sales, but even with no platform or connections, her book has had a massive impact on people’s lives. Her book has 70 reviews on Amazon, and she gets emails and messages from people every week—pastors, parents, transgendered young people—readers whose lives have been changed by her book. For her, it was worth it to spend money on her book because the message in her book was something that she knew she was called to share.
So, really, the question is whether getting this message out to the world, your life’s legacy, what is that worth to you?
#3: For rapid release authors:
What if you know you want to write more than one book in your career? What if you have three, four, five, or more books, all lined up in your head already?
In the independently-published world, we’re seeing massive success with what’s called a “rapid release” technique, and it works especially well for fiction and memoir authors.
You can write slightly shorter books (maybe 40,000 words instead of 90,000 words) and stack three storylines together, so that when the three books are read, all in a row, the reader is experiencing a 120,000-word book. It’s like bingeing a BBC mini-series. And readers LOVE this experience. They jump onto book launch teams, they leave reviews, they share with friends.
And instead of a glacially slow jumpstart into a career as an author, we see debut indie authors gathering readerships of thousands of fans, with the release of their very first series.
Tracy Borgmeyer, author of the Halley Harper: Science Girl Extraordinaire series, began with just the spark of an idea. She’d never tried to write a novel before, so she sought out tried-and-true methods, from the very beginning.
After she learned these methods by working with our team, Tracy now has FIVE books out in this same series, over 115 Amazon reviews, and a fan-base who is in love with her characters and the science-exploring world she’s creating.
And every author is different. This is a good time to think for you, what would a return on investment truly look like? What could publishing this book make possible?
How much do authors REALLY make in book sales?
We honestly can’t tell you how much you’ll make in book sales, but we can tell you what a successful author in a traditional publishing company makes. When someone publishes with a traditional publisher, as an author, they make between $1 and $2 per book.
And this is usually extremely disappointing for the author because they’ve just spent years writing and publishing and marketing their book, and even if their book launch is “successful” and sells 20,000 copies, they make maybe $30,000.
(But, honestly, most traditionally-published books sell 2,000 to 3,000 copies... total. Lifetime.)
When you think about a book, it’s a low-priced product with a small profit margin, so, really, nobody gets rich off of a single book launch.
And you may be wondering, “Well, then how do traditional publishers make money?”
That’s a great question, and the real secret is that traditional publishing companies make money because they’re launching new books constantly. The big publishers launch hundreds of books a year. And if even ONE of their books takes off, they make enough money to recoup their costs. But the reality is that most of their hundreds of authors don’t make any meaningful amount of money from book sales.
So we would encourage you to think about what a “successful” book launch could look like for you.
Generally, our authors are either selling:
ONE book to a certain type of reader and then serving that same type of person with additional products and services (coaching, consulting, workshops, retreats).
SEVERAL books to a certain type of reader so that when a reader finds their first book, that same person goes on to buy multiple books in the same series or genre.
Now, I will say that our authors do typically make more money on book sales, since they receive royalties directly from retails (eg, Amazon). They tend to make closer to $5 per book, on average.
Most of our authors sell 5,000 copies or more within a couple of years (on average) after publishing their book or books with us.
Should I wait until I'm already successful and/or famous before I publish a book?
Whenever we talk to a first-time author about writing a book, we often get this question, “Should I wait until I'm already successful before I publish a book?"
We have in the back of our minds that we should wait until we’re 50, 60, or 70, filled with wisdom and wit, and preferably with a large following, before we publish a book. That is exactly what the traditional publishing houses would have recommended. But we’re not in a traditional publishing world, anymore, and Amazon has completely changed the game. There are some amazing ways to grow a business and a movement by writing a book.
You can start by thinking through what "back-end" you already have in place or could put into place fairly quickly.
A back-end is simply what exists in your business besides the book. You don’t have to have much planned, here. You could offer one-on-one coaching or consulting. You could have an online course or membership site. You could plan to be a speaker or lead in-person workshops. You could plan to publish more books.
Then, we'd recommend that you get very specific about who your perfect reader is.
This is classic writing advice, but for some reason, when we start writing a book, we lose sight of who it is that we’re helping and why. Don’t get too wrapped up in your story or who will be interested in it or who “needs” your story the most. You’re the creator, here. You get to choose who you’re helping and why.
You can play this out a couple of different ways, typically.
If you're growing a business:
Keep your eye on the clients you want to be working with in the next three to five years. Write the book that will speak directly to those clients. Here are some examples about how one topic could be positioned to help completely different audiences.
Bad idea: This book will help everyone manage their finances better.
Good idea: Breaking it down into a niche topic.
- This book will help young, professional women pay off consumer debt and set their finances in order.
- This book will help families plan how to save money for their big goals: home, college, retirement, home.
- This book will help entrepreneurs create an investment portfolio so they can continue growing their business and their profits.
- This book will help parents teach kids how to earn and use money responsibly.
Topic: Overcoming a difficult life
Bad idea: This book will help everyone see that they can overcome struggles in their life.
Good idea: Breaking it down into a niche topic.
- This book will help parents who have a child living with an illness to ask for support and plan for the future.
- This book will help teenagers who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD to find work that’s fulfilling for them.
- This book will help women who have experienced depression to find joy and peace in their lives.
- This book will help people who have suffered emotional heartache to become vulnerable in relationships again.
Which do you think will sell better? The topic that applies to ”everyone”, or the topic that when the identified person picks it up, s/he says, “Wow, this is exactly the book I need!” Yep, we'd say the latter.
Then, here's where the magic happens...
When you have a back-end, you don’t need to sell a million copies. Selling even 1,000 copies could completely change your business and life. It’s true that only a percentage of the people who read your book will look you up for your back-end services, but here’s what you could reasonably expect from selling 1,000 copies of your book.
- Sign up five new clients for three months of one-on-one coaching or consulting at $3,000 each.
- Sign up 20 to 30 students into your online course at $497 each.
- Sign up 50 people to your membership site at $29 per month.
- Fill a workshop with 15 to 25 people at $200 each.
- Land four speaking gigs at $500 to $1,000 each (and that gives you visibility to bring in more people to your back-end).
And that’s only selling 1,000 books. It would extremely reasonable to set a goal of selling 1,000 books every year.
It's all about the "Snowball Effect."
When you first pack together a snowball, it’s hard to get all the snow to stick together. It keeps coming apart on you. Sometimes you accidentally smash it and have to start over. But once you can get a small little snowball together, then you can start rolling it in the snow and growing it more efficiently.
When it comes to the question of how to grow anything, the trajectory is similar. It’s hard to get your marketing and offerings to stick together, and sometimes you accidentally smash it all to pieces and have to start over. But putting out a book is actually a great way to solidify who you’re helping and how you’re helping them (that’s your offering), and the book, itself, is a marketing tool that will help you fill up your business’ back-end offerings.
If you're growing an author career:
Most people focus so much on selling ONE book that they forget that avid readers tend to buy MANY books, and they buy many books every single year.
If you’re writing FICTION or MEMOIR, the Snowball Effect is even more powerful! Imagine that everyone who finds one of your books might buy ALL of your books. And what if you have not just ONE book, but two or three books? And a “digital boxed set?” And more books that you’re eager to write?
Every book that you publish becomes a new income stream, with readers ready and waiting to buy!
We hope this offers another perspective to think about as you're gathering your information for publishing your book!
How does working with Paper Raven Books compare to the other publishing options I might be looking at?
Traditional publishing companies are held up as the gold standard of the publishing world. In our culture, we still grant publishing companies a bias, believing that if Penguin or Harper-Collins produced a book, then it is the best book possible, beautifully written, edited, designed, and launched to the New York Times Bestsellers list. And, when all the stars align, that is true. Traditional publishing companies have contributed amazing printed work to our culture, and I do think we owe them a great debt of gratitude.
And we wonder if we give traditional publishing companies a little bit too much credit. They’re just people, after all. They’re teams of editors, designers, and publicists who produce and ship a product, which just happens to be a book. As with all teams that produce products, some products turn out better than others, and only a few really rise to the top. How many times have you read a traditionally published bestseller book and thought, “Eh, that could’ve been better”?
We think that’s pretty darn exciting, to think that there’s room for improvement on a product put out by these huge, famous publishing companies. That means there’s room for innovation, for something new, for someone who’s not afraid of a little risk. That gets our entrepreneurial hearts racing. We can find a way to do better.
Let’s talk about some truths you may not know about working with publishing companies and how I believe we can iterate and improve working with (new) publishing companies.
Keeping your creative vision.
When you sign on the dotted line of that contract with a publishing company, you give away so many of your rights, but the first you’ll really feel is your creative vision. You’ll want to keep a chapter, and your editor will insist it gets cut. You’ll feel the book is finished at 40,000 words, and your editor will insist on writing 15,000 more words (and you worry they’ll be “fluff”). You’ll want a fresh, modern cover design, and your designer will insist on a retro, vintage design to grab the attention of your market. You’ll want to launch your book heavily to an online marketplace, and your publicist will draw up plans for dozens of live events.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, we may never know. Maybe the publishing companies are right every time, but most authors will say that it’s an extremely frustrating experience to spend over a year, butting heads with their publishing companies and losing battle after battle because, in the end, you’ve given up your creative input rights.
Keeping your legal rights.
So many authors don’t realize the full extent to what they’re signing away in those contracts with publishing companies. You could very well be signing away rights to any books that would come next in the series, any products that would be based on this book’s content, any movies or TV shows that would be inspired by this book’s content, and who knows what else, depending on how aggressively the publishing company has written the contract.
And, from the publishing company’s perspective, this just makes sense. They’re funding your project. They’re providing all of the money needed for editing, designing, and launching your book. They believe in your book, and they’re showing up with their wallets out. So, if your book does well, they’d expect to get a share of that success.
You, as the author, though, had better think very carefully about who you bring on as a partner in any venture. Just as you would be hesitant to sign on a business partner, you should be just as cautious about signing on a publishing company.
Keeping your profits.
In most cases, authors who work with publishing companies receive 10% of book sales. Of the retail price on your book, 90% of the price gets split between the book store, the distributor, the publishing house, and your agent. You get 10% for the lifetime of your book sales.
Again, yes, everyone is “betting” on the success of your book and providing you, essentially, the start-up capital to get your book published and into bookstores, but they’re going to be taking a cut of your book’s success for the rest of your life. They didn’t write the book, they just made it into a packaged product and put it in bookstores, but they’ll receive profits from it forever.
The shift in the publishing industry has already started to happen.
Now, we don’t think the big publishing companies will go away anytime soon (and they, arguably, put out the best books, anyway), but we’re seeing the introduction of new models.
Hybrid publishers run a much tighter business model. They tend to use small teams and rely on online tools to operate more efficiently, so they can share more of the profit with the author. Some of them will even share 50/50, which is great.
But does it always make sense for the author to give up 50% to 90% of the money made from their book?
Are there some authors who are looking for a different way to produce their books?
Many of the authors we talk to all day every day are business savvy. They understand how to make money with products, services, and speaking. They know how to raise money or set aside money in order to fund a big business goal. They invest in a website, advertising, product creation and make money from products and services later. They understand the model of saving up revenue, investing it into one large project, and then reaping the profits later.
So, why would an author who has such business savvy want to give 50% to 90% of their product sales to a “business partner” publishing company, who really doesn’t know anything about their industry?
Good question. We don’t think this new entrepreneurial author would want to work with publishing companies, at least not in the way publishing companies have traditionally worked.
The ideal way for an entrepreneurial author to publish a book would be to hire a team of publishing experts to create and launch the book, pay them upfront, and then maintain all the creative vision, legal rights, and profits for the lifetime of the book’s sales.
And, truly, our company believes strongly that this publishing team model is the next big "seismic" shift in the publishing industry.
Our founder (Morgan Gist MacDonald) and many of our team members have worked in traditional publishing and have worked with authors who’ve chosen hybrid publishers.
And we're fully convinced that the publishing industry needs team publishing. There are entrepreneurial authors out there who simply want to outsource their book creation and launch to a team of experts, and that’s exactly what Paper Raven Books is—a team of editors, designers, publicists, and project managers, who help you to create your beautiful book and then hand you all of your files, at the end.
We upload all files to your account, using your ISBN, and we give you every single file you would ever need to publish your book anywhere you want. We believe that it’s your book and you should keep the creative vision, the legal rights, and the profits.
Whichever publishing model you choose, please make sure that you are negotiating for your own best interest, especially when it comes to your creative vision, your legal rights, and your profits. This is your book, after all!
And the Paper Raven Books team would be honored to a part of your author journey with you.
One more thought for you...
With the publishing world changing so quickly, it’s difficult to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s true and what’s no longer true when you’re trying to publish a book.
In our conversations with authors, we have found that there are 5 false beliefs authors have about landing a publishing deal. No one is willing to tell them the truth, but we're here for YOU, not for anyone else.
The first belief is that most authors believe that landing a publishing deal means that they don’t have to do any work. They believe once the book is written— the publisher will take it from there and the book will automatically be a success.
The reality is that the publisher is going to ask you to do a LOT in the production and marketing of your book. They may bring the strategy, but you’ll be the one implementing most of the decision-making and marketing.
The second belief is that by landing a publishing deal, the publisher loves the book as-is.
The reality is that the publisher might like the market that your book speaks to and might ask you to do anything from re-write the entire book to come up with an entirely new title for the book. When you partner with a publisher who is paying for the book, everything becomes a negotiation.
The third belief that most authors have about landing a publishing deal is that they’re a shoe-in for every other book they’ll want to publish in the future.
The reality is that a publisher might accept an author’s first book and reject every book the author pitches to them in the future.
Even multiple-time bestselling author, Michael Hyatt, who was both formerly a CEO AND a New York Times bestselling author pitched his sixth book, Living Forward, to dozens of publishers before finding a publisher that would take the project on.
The fourth belief that most authors have about landing a publishing deal is that the book is bound to be a best-seller.
The reality is that the publisher is guessing, just as much as you are. The publisher might be releasing 100 books that year and hoping 1 or 2 of those become bestsellers. Is yours going to be one of the top? No one knows, not even the publisher.
The fifth and most dearly held-belief that most authors have about landing a publishing deal is that they’re going to make a lot of money from book sales.
The reality is that most published books sell fewer than 10,000 copies in the lifetime of the book. And a typical first-time author receives only 10% of the retail price of the book as their royalty. That’s basically between one and two dollars per book. Even if your royalty is a generous $2, that’s less than $20,000 in the lifetime of the book.
This is exactly why we at Paper Raven Books are so intentional about being honest with every author we talk with.
If we can help you see how you can position your book differently or grow your audience or be strategic in your marketing, we’ll tell you upfront, whether you ever work with us or not.
We’re here to help you become a published, successful author — your way.