Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nowadays Books Are Not Written in Stone.

They are works in progress: When most books were printed thousands at a time, books had a quality of permanence about them. In truth, you'd probably only get one shot at getting your book right. With today's technology, books are much different. You can change a book at the drop of a hat, at least if your changes are not major, and it won't cost you much.

This means a couple of things: First, you don't have to be perfect, something you would have tried (and failed) to achieve in the old days. Second, you can look at your first printing as a starting point instead of an end point. You can get your book out there, knowing that doing so is precisely what helps you make it better down the road.

I don't think you should go crazy with the concept and change your book every week, but I do suggest you make simple changes to your book every year. Here are some small (though not necessary minor) changes to make once a year for a simple update.
  • Publisher's info: If your address, phone number, or website have changed, make it current. This is the single most important update.
  • Typos: Your readers probably found a boo-boo or two after printing. Even the best proofreaders miss about 50% of the errors in a book. A standard practice is to have two proofreaders go over a book at two proof stages. This should catch about 95% of the errors. In your second printing, assuming you don't make many additions, your fixes will bring you even closer to perfect.
  • Website addresses: Websites are terrific resources, and authors like to list them in books. Unfortunately, they are quite fluid. Check them all if you're doing an update. Ditto for any physical addresses on your resource page or elsewhere.
  • Cover copy: If your book has been out for a year, you might have acquired some new testimonials to add or use as replacements on the back of the book. You may also wish to update your biography or photo. If you've acquired a blockbuster testimonial from a big name, you might even want to excerpt it and put it on the front cover.
  • Coulda said it better: You may have identified sentences or paragraphs that you'd like to change. Here's where you need to be careful. The more changes you make, the more new errors you add. Also, the more changes you make, the more work you create for your designer and the greater expense for yourself. My advice is to be conservative with these changes--unless you've decided to pop for a "new edition," a marketing phrase that promises many changes and a new reason to buy the book. Think in terms of doing a simple update every year and, if your project warrants it, a new edition every two or three years. Where the simple update might cost $200 in fees from your designer and printer, the new addition might cost three or more times that.
The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Will Apple's "Tablet" Kill Amazon's "Kindle"?

Maybe: I wouldn't bet against Amazon, but Apple's decision to take a 30% discount for its Tablet sales instead of the 50% that Amazon gets for Kindle sales will change the game. Amazon was being greedy, taking a wholesale discount instead of a retailer's discount. Publishers didn't like Amazon's approach, with good reason. Amazon will either need to go along with the smaller discount or live without the books from the smarter and more disciplined publishers. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Are Printed Books Going Away?

Some Thoughts on Kindle and Other E-Readers: New technologies usually do not destroy old technologies, though they may force them to reinvent themselves. Until television came along, radio was the main source of scripted entertainment. When television came along and stole that role, radio became a source of musical and unscripted entertainment. Kindle--and its competitors--won't destroy the printed book, but it will change things. Other thoughts.
  • Each medium has its own advantages and disadvantages. E-Books promise greater portability (especially for porting around many books at a time), the ability to skip from part to part through hyperlinks (a huge potential advantage), and quick access for both locating, buying, and retrieving a book. Printed books have familiarity, physical presence on a bookshelf or coffee table, an archival advantage ("recorded" files have tended to get lost in technology transitions), and they don't require batteries. If you lose a printed book, you lose a book. If you lose an E-Reader, you lose a library. Printed books are an object that you can pick up and hold. You can pick up and hold the E-Reader, but the E-Book left unprinted is an idea rather than an object.
  • Look for E-Readers to become the way textbooks are delivered and read. They solve the "backpack problem" and may reduce student expenditures on school books.
  • Look for E-Readers to become popular with travelers. However, vacationers may prefer their "beach reads" to be in cheap paperbacks.
  • Look for E-Readers to be popular with those who hyperlink and for books that need to be hyperlinked.
  • Look for reading habits to change. Fewer will read the entire book. More people will scan books and jump from hyperlink to hyperlink, the "new book" equivalent of channel surfing. Short stories--or "books" that don't need to be read in their entirety--might became more popular than novels. The classic text-only novel needs to be printed. In any case, reading won't disappear. However, grammar and careful writing is in big trouble.
  • Look for E-Books to become multi-media rather than a single (text) medium. E-Books will evolve--or "devolve," depending on your point of view--to movies and interactive games.
  • Look for standalone E-Readers to disappear, instead becoming integrated as a feature in other devices (e.g., cell phones and notebook computers). For this reason, I would expect Adobe Reader and other cross-platform readers to outlive single-purpose and proprietary E-Readers. The Kindles of the world might have to evolve into mult-media and/or cross-platform devices.
  • Look for the velocity of publishing to increase. More books will be published. Fewer will be read in their entirety. And most of them will be lost as formats come in and out of existence. (Printed books will have a survivability advantage.)
  • Look for a technology solution that will help publishers and authors avoid going through wholesalers, instead selling E-Books directly to customers by transferring an E-Book from the publisher's device to the customer's device (and collecting payment in the bargain.)
  • Don't look for E-Readers to solve your "marketing problem." You will still need to persuade potential readers to buy your book, whether they do so from you directly, from a bookstore, or from an E-Book vendor. That part of the equation won't change.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Who Taught Me What I Know ...

... about publishing? Most of what I teach about publishing came from three different human resources.
  • William J. Burns: He is the publisher of Resource Publications, Inc. and was my boss when I worked there from 1984 to 2002. He understood that writing is a creative, introverted process. Authoring, on the other hand, is a creative, extroverted process. The "writer" who can't make the mental and emotional transition to "author" is of no use to a publisher. She won't be able to get out of her mental attic, interact with potential customers, and enjoy the process of selling her book. I resisted this idea for years, but I eventually "got it" and began looking for natural authors and writers who could make the transition from writer to author. Today, it is the centerpiece of what I teach my customers. In fact, I try to train them to begin thinking like authors before they even write their book.
  • John Huenefeld: After many years working for publishers, mostly in the marketing area, John built a business teaching independent niche publishers how to succeed. He was particularly good at defining how the "publisher" orchestrated each of the four key functions (or departments) of a publishing house: editorial acquisition, marketing/sales, production, and business. Because we implemented many of his suggested best practices at Resource Publications, Inc., I credit John with teaching me much about how publishing is supposed to operate. Today, I teach my self-publishing clients to think like real publishers, even if the four key departments are only in their heads.
  • Peter Drucker: I never met Peter Drucker, but I realized only recently that one of my best ideas came from him. He taught both for-profit and non-profit businesses to identify their "primary customer," which is not as easy as it sounds. For example, is the primary customer of a school district the student, the parent, the community at large, or someone else? It makes a difference. Moreover, if members of the board, the administration, and employees have different ideas about who the customer is, the district will be dysfunctional (which may explain a lot about the average school district). To help people decide who their primary customer is, Drucker would ask: "Whose life do you most intend to change with your business?" It's a powerful concept that I have embedded in my practice. I now start my publishing workshops by having authors define who their primary customer is and to clarify how they intend to change this person's life. The Publishing Pro

Friday, September 11, 2009

Anthologies Can Be a Good Way to Go ...

... but they are a complication: I have a couple of clients who are thinking seriously about putting together an anthology. This can be an exciting approach because instead of one author you have 10, 15, 20 or however many contributors you've enticed into the project. These contributors can wind up being both author-promoters of the work and buyers of (multiple copies of) the book.

That's the good news. The bad news is that working with multiple contributors increases the administrative complexity of the project, and that complexity will fall on your shoulders. You've gone from "self-publisher" to "publisher" and "editor." You've graduated into the world of herding cats.

You'll save yourself a world of hurt if you make your contributors sign a simple contract, specifying the following:
  • The nature of the book: Provide the working title, a description of the reader, what you are trying to do for the reader and how you are changing your reader's life.
  • Their task: Tell them how many words you want, when you want it, and in what format. You might give them questions to address in their work, a working title for their chapter, or other suggestions. You might ask for a bio and photo to be used in the book.
  • The editing process: Tell them if and when they will be able to see copyedited copies of their work. It is reasonable to show them a copyedited manuscript, though you may not want to give them the absolute right to approve changes. Generally, you should not promise to show contributors a copy of the page proofs.
  • Your rights, their rights: Tell them what rights you are buying. It's simplest to buy all rights, but it's friendlier to buy limited rights. This may mean just the right to use their contribution in the book, or on your website, or your blog. In any case, you need to be clear. Your contributors must also warrant that what they write belongs to them and has not come from any other source without permission.
  • Their compensation: Spell out whether they are doing the work gratis or being paid in some fashion. Compensation could include money, books, or something else. For small publishing operations, it is reasonable to ask contributors to do the work gratis (especially for limited rights) and perhaps to offer them a copy of the book.
  • Their discount: You want your contributors to order books from you, so give them an incentive. For example, the right to buy books from you at 50% off.
This will help keep you out of trouble, especially with your friends. The Publishing Pro, LLC

Consider Selling Ads in Your Book.

Sometimes it makes cents: Scott Mares, author of The Complete Book of Cyclocross, sold ads in his first edition and sold more for his second edition (just now available). The ads make sense in his book. They add credibility, a sense of participation by cycling vendors, and value to the book for readers. Oh, and they helped fund some of his upfront costs.

You don't see this as a rule because sometimes ads aren't appropriate or just aren't available. However, if ads make sense for your project, be sure you do the following. Have your advertisers sign a simple contract, specifying the following:
  • Ad specs: size; color; bleeds available or not; position. you promised any.
  • Artwork specs: file format and size and deadline
  • Cost: free, or specific $$s, or barter for goods, services, or other concessions. Specify the limits (e.g., for the life of the edition, for so many books sold, etc.), when payment is due, and any extra charges that apply (e.g., design charges if you have to create the ad for them)
You may be tempted to make these arrangements on a handshake, but getting everything in writing will clarify expectations and help keep you out of trouble. The Publishing Pro, LLC

How Do You Protect Your Copyright ...

... when you are using a pen name? A would-be author emailed this question to me. The answer is fairly simple: You register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, in which case you identify both your pen name and your real name. However, using a pseudonym makes it exponentially harder for you to market your book, so you'd better have a good reason for going that route. Click here for some discussion on reasons why you might--or might not--want to use a pen name. The Publishing Pro, LLC

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When Should You Design Your Own Book?

Or at least consider it: You should consider designing your own book when some or all of the following are in play:

  • When you have nothing better to do. Maybe you don’t have an important golf game to get to, but you do have a book to represent. You can find any number of people to professionally design your book for you. But you can’t—no matter what certain vendors will tell you—find someone to sell your book as well as you can. That’s where you should put your energy. On the other hand, if you’re doing that and still have tons of time on your hands …
  • When you don’t care what your book looks like. I’m assuming that you’re not a professional book designer, in which case your design and page makeup won’t look as good as a professional's. This sounds self-serving—because I do book design—and it is. I can spot a DIY job from a hundred yards—even it's a good one. However, you should know that, as a general rule, I place professional book design lower on the priority list than other factors, such as identifying the right readership, having a strong message, planning your book's shape and size correctly, writing your book clearly, and getting it edited well. On the other hand, having done all those things well, do you still care if your book doesn’t “look” completely professional?
  • If your design requirements are simple. Actually, this mitigates the second point. If your book requires a simple design—let’s say you’re writing a novel—you will have a much easier time coming up with a professional design and professional-looking pages than if your book is complex.
  • If you will enjoy it. If you’re the type of person who will enjoy the book design process, then it’s worth considering. If you know it’s going to be a pain …
  • If you have the talent for it. If book design appears to be up your alley—you need to be something of an artist with a love for words and an eye for detail—then it’s worth considering, especially if you think you might do this again.
  • If you have no money to outsource the job. Now that printing can be done in small quantities or even on-demand, you can get your book printed for almost no investment. However, you still have to prepare your book for printing—and that can cost a few dollars. If you don’t have it, you might consider doing your own design and page makeup, especially if some of the above factors are in play. Check first, though. A good design, especially if your book is simple, might not cost as much as you think.
  • If you can get good advice or coaching. If you take on your own book design or page makeup, you can increase the quality of your work by learning how to do it, either by investigating the rules of the road or getting yourself a coach. You can also get someone to help you come up with a design that you implement. The Publishing Pro.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Does It Mean to Be a Self-Publisher?

Just the basics: If you're a self-publisher, it means that you're the publisher. All that means--and it's a lot--is that you own all the publishing rights to your book and you're in charge of everything.

If you're a self-publisher, it doesn't mean you are a vain, ego-driven crummy writer. It doesn't mean your book isn't good enough to be published by a "real publisher." It doesn't mean you are supposed to do your own editing, book design, page makeup, and printing. It doesn't mean you would be any good at those things if you tried. You just have to do them yourself--or find somebody to do them for you. At your direction.

Being a self-publisher is a little like building your own house. You could do everything yourself, but you'd have to be able to do your own architectural design, materials buying, excavation, masonry, framing, roofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and finish carpentry. And you'd need tons of time. On the other hand, you could farm out some of the jobs. You might even hire a general contractor to do most of the coordinating work yourself. But you're still in charge. You should be overseeing what the house looks like, what kind of materials its made of, and how good the workmanship is. Because you're paying the bills, and it's your house.

That's what it means to be a self-publisher. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Next Workshop: March 4

How to Publish Your Own Book: Next workshop is scheduled for April 1, 7 to 9 pm, at Black Cat Books, 720 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829. The Publishing Pro.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Have You Heard of Twitter?

The latest in social networking: Twitter is designed to help people stay in touch with each other. It's limited to very short text messages--much like what you would send on cell phone (one way to use twitter)--and a little weird. Who has time to tell people you just enjoyed a cup of tea? And what good does that do? However, Joseph Liberti, one of our customers, thinks it's the bees knees for authors. I'm trying it out. Click here to follow my twitter. The Publishing Pro.