Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let's Get Real: Pseudonyms Have Their Uses.

Sometimes: At one of my workshops, a would-be author asked me what I thought about pen names. Knowing that he was thinking about writing an exposé and wanted to hide in the bushes, I said, "Not much." Of course, I sympathized with a whistle blower who just wanted to protect himself. It's just that books don't sell themselves. If you (as author) don't do it, no one else will. At least not in the real world.

Still, I was jumping to conclusions, not so much about this guy but in general. Just because you choose to write under a pseudonym doesn't mean you are anonymous. For example, the banker who puts on an orange wig, whiteface, and a red rubber nose in order to entertain at children's parties is wise to do so as "Chuckles" rather than as "Mr. Charles Morgan," even if parents know who he is outside of his get-up. He's not anonymous, but the pseudonym separates his clown persona from his banker's persona. In the same way, you can build your brand with a pen name.

Moreover, just because you remain anonymous doesn't mean you can't represent your book. It's trickier. though, because you have to find ways to be "visible" without being "identified." You might find yourself interviewed in the shadows or with your natural voice changed electronically.

What you can't do, at least in my world, is write a book and put it out there, thinking somebody else is going to sell it for you.--The Publishing Pro.

Do It Yourself Typography: Justified vs. Ragged

It's a conspiracy: Justified paragraphs are still more common in books than ragged-right paragraphs, but you almost never used to see ragged-right paragraphs anywhere except in ads.

Today ragged-right paragraphs are something you should consider for your book, especially if readability is your top priority. Ragged right paragraphs are easier to read because the spacing between the words is the same on every line. If the ragged-right paragraphs are not hyphenated, an option not usually entertained for justified paragraphs, they are even easier to read.

Even so, most books today seem to be done with the traditional justified paragraphs.

Here's a secret of sorts. The reason justified text became the standard is that it made journeymen printers (who had served four-year apprenticeships) indispensable. Linotype operators (and before that, manual compositors) needed years of training in order to quickly determine the proper amount of space between words for every single line. It was quite a skill. If the standard had been ragged right, the space between each word would have been the same for each line and anybody who could type could have done the job. To raise the skill level a notch, linotype operators (cleverly, some would say) didn't use the QWERTY keyboard that everybody else in the English world was, and still is, used to. Instead, they used a keyboard unique to linotype machines, which increased the need for specialized training. Anyway, people got used to seeing justified paragraphs and so today most authors still think justified paragraphs are “the way” you have to do a book.

Fair disclosure. My grandfather was a journeyman compositor (typographer) and linotype operator, and my father was a journeyman compositor. My father had to change careers because computers made it much easier to create justified paragraphs. With a click of a mouse, any fool can do it now, but that doesn't make justified paragraphs any easier to read.--The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What Kind of Agreement Do You Make with Your Illustrator?

Put it in writing: If you commission artwork for your book, you should: 1) do so on a "work for hire" basis and 2) put in writing. In response to a question from a customer, I did some research and have decided that this advice is a little too general.

A work-for-hire arrangement, where your intent is to buy the artwork outright and upfront, is simpler in the long run than royalty, shared proceeds, or partnership deals. This is why I recommend it in most cases. Because of its simplicity--the artist does the work and gets paid--I haven't heard any stories about authors and illustrators or photographers coming to blows over the work-for-hire results. However, because copyright law favors the creator of a work, you are at some risk if you don't dot your i's and cross your t's. Apparently, to be safe, you should agree in writing with the artist that you will own all rights to the commissioned artwork once you pay for it. Moreover, you should make this agreement before the artist actually begins the work.

Although I have favored an informal memorandum of agreement, you would be safer with a more formal agreement with, sigh, the requisite legal language. I did find a Work for Hire Agreement template--it's only one-page, which qualifies in the legal world as a simple form--on the website of Lloyd J. Jassin, a New York attorney specializing in publishing law.

Note that this form would set you up to own all of the rights of the artwork. In my world, I want to be friendly with my vendors. Thus, I wouldn't want to restrict the artist from using the work in a way that might benefit me or at least do me no harm. For example, I certainly would allow the artist to show off the work as a sample in a portfolio, brochure, or website. I might even allow the artist to make prints of the work for sale, perhaps for no more than credit on the back of the print. However, it appears that those secondary arrangements are best made after you've safely acquired all the rights to the artwork. The Publishing Pro.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Should You Self-Publish?

... even if you "don't have to": Let's face it. Many authors self-publish because they can't find anyone else to publish their book. This is especially true of fiction authors. That's okay. It's reality. However, it does put you in a negative frame of mind. Let's look for positive reasons for self-publishing. In fact, let's say you have a book--or an idea--that you know will interest a traditional publisher. Why should you self-publish?
  • You're in a hurry. One of the problems with traditional publishing is that it takes a long time. Good publishers work from a three-year (or even five-year) plan. If they like your book, they'll plug you into the plan--and you may find yourself scheduled for two or three years down the road. You might get lucky and be published within a year, but it's unlikely. In a good scenario, with a finished manuscript, you can expect to wait eighteen months for your book to be published. When you self-publish, you can set your own timetable. If your ducks are in a row, you might get into print within 90 days.
  • You want control. When you sell your rights to a publisher--this is what you do in a publishing contract--you lose control. Of everything. The cover. The editing. The look. The dimensions and size. When I was an acquisition editor, my job was to tell a prospective author how to write the book we needed. Some authors are fine with that. Some are not. The better fit your book is for your business, the more you have to lose by ceding control. This is not to say that publishers don't care whether their authors are happy or not. They do. They will try to please you--within limits. The limits are usually worked out ahead of time. Just remember: When they crunch comes, it's their project. Not yours. When you self-publish, you can do the book your way.
  • You want the financial benefits. When you self publish, you take all the risks and reap all the gain. In the old days (twenty years ago), self-publishing was all risk and very little gain. You had to sink a considerable amount of money just into printing your book, to the point where there was little chance you'd recoup your investment. Not so today, not because your chances of selling hundreds of copies are any better but because you have to invest almost nothing into inventory. Twenty years ago, you might have to sell out of your initial printing of 2,000 copies in order to break even. Today, my customers break even (that is, cash out of pocket) when they sell between 100 and 200 copies. With those numbers, you don't need the traditional publisher to get you into the game. In fact, the traditional publisher would be taking the money that you would be making as a self-publisher once you pass that 100-200 copy threshhold.
  • You know you're going to have to promote your book anyway. First-time authors almost always think the traditional publisher will market their books. This may be the primary reason why writers seek out publishers. Unfortunately, traditional publishers do not market individual titles. Instead, they use their economy of scale to market their list of books to their coherent customer base. This happens to work, at least for the publisher. The bad news is that the traditional publisher can't do much to market an individual title. Except for the predictable best seller, a book cannot generate enough revenue to justify anything more than its temporary position on the front list (in catalogs and the website) and a press release mailing. That's about it. Publishers expect their authors to make most of the noise about their individual books. So ... if you are going to have to promote your own book, you might as well self-publish--or at least come up with a better reason for finding a publisher than your unwillingness to promote your own book. The Publishing Pro.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Plan Your Revisions.

I'll help: Technology--specifically publishing software like Quark or Adobe InDesign and POD (print-on-demand) technology--makes it easy and relatively inexpensive to revise your book once it's published. In fact, it's so easy, you can get carried away doing revisions and become distracted from the business of authoring, which is to say, marketing. However, I do think it is wise to plan your revisions, and I've devised a mechanism for doing that.

If you are a full-service customer, I will waive my normal fees for changing up to 20 pages (regularly $1.50 per page) and for uploading files to your online printer (regularly $25.00 per upload) for a revision uploaded at least 90 days after your initial printing and again for a revision at least one year after your initial printing. (You will still need to pay any fees charged by your printer.)

Here's my thinking. If you wait 90 days after your first printing, you might want to make minor changes based on feedback from your readers and you might have gotten some juicy testimonials that you didn't have when you first printed your book Then, again, after a year, you might need to update some basic information: your contact info, website addresses, promotional material at the back of the book, or your back cover. If you don't need to make any changes, that's great. If you do, this seems like a reasonable schedule to me. And if you need to do it more often and are willing to pay the regular prices, that's okay too. The Publishing Pro.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Consider These Three POD Companies.

They each have different advantages: And disadvantages. I see no reason for the average self-publisher to take anything but the POD (print-on-demand) route. You can print books as you need them, reducing your inventory risk, and the prices are surprisingly low. Here are three POD companies (websites) worth looking at. I've put several books up on LightningSource. They're quality is good; they even promise archive quality paper that meets library standards. Their base prices for black-ink-only interiors are not as good as those of CreateSpace, but they offer quantity discounts that reduce your costs whenever you're printing more than 50 copies at a time. If you print 250 copies at a time, the discounts get really serious. Sometimes, they even offer sales. Their prices for color books are surprisingly low. Their service is good, with customer-service reps that you can talk to, and excellent turnaround times for printed books (a week). I also like that they don't pretend to be anything but a printer, even though they are owned by Ingram, a major distributor. LightningSource is a good choice if you value quality and plan to sell most of your books yourself. (You can open a "wholesale account" with LightningSource, but I haven't recommended that any more than I recommend that my customers sign up with any other distributor.) CreateSpace gets my attention mainly because they are owned by Amazon and offer a seamless way for your book to be distributed by Amazon, with the result that you get a better deal than if you signed up separately for an Amazon Advantage account. They also offer an "eStore" option that lets you use your website to send book orders to CreateSpace to be fulfilled. Obviously, you don't make as much if you fulfilled the orders yourself, but it's a decent deal and a great one for author-publishers who don't want to be bothered with running to the post office all the time. Their base prices for black-ink interiors are less than those of LightningSource, but they don't seem to offer quantity discounts. And their color prices are higher. Also on the downside, they don't promise to use archival paper and their printing may be done by different vendors, with varying quality the result. We're not sure about their service yet, but that Amazon and eStore option is quite attractive. (They too offer an option for getting into bookstores, but the return hardly seems worth it.) I'm looking at this one for one reason. If you need to run a few pages of color in an otherwise black-ink book, InstantPublisher is worth looking at. They charge color prices only per color page used. LightningSource and CreateSpace will normally beat their prices, but in this instance InstantPublisher might be the solution.--The Publishing Pro

Friday, August 20, 2010

Copy Editing: So You Think You Can Do It?

Don't try this at home: Some authors know they need a good copy editor. However, too many don't know what a copy editor does, or don't value the work, or think a friend can do it for them. In my world, copyediting is the most difficult aspect of putting a book together. As an aside, I don't consider it the most important: I'd put the planning (determining the audience, the message, and the structure) ahead of it. However, it is the most difficult, at least for me, by a long shot.

Let's get some terms straight. When you say you need an "editor," what do you mean?

If you're looking for someone to help you shape your manuscript into publishable form--by advising you about your readership, your content, and your structure--you might be looking for someone calling himself or herself an agent, a writing coach (or consultant), an editing coach (or consultant), an acquisition editor, a substance editor, or a plain old "editor." When I ran the editorial department at an independent publishing house, my title was "editorial director." However, my job could have been defined as "acquisition editor." I helped find, develop, and shape books into publishable form.

If you already have a publishable manuscript--and don't need someone monkeying with the substance--you almost certainly need a copy editor. This is a professional who cleans up the grammar, removes redundancies and writing tics, checks spelling and punctuation, establishes consistent capitalization, and so on.

Many authors tell me they don't need a copy editor because they've had someone, or several someones, "look at it." If you really don't care, go for it. However, you probably will care when your readers and friends begin pointing out boo-boos, tics, characters whose names are spelled different ways or whose names change altogether, and so on. (For some reason, the same friends who won't read an early draft for you seem to be the ones who take particular delight in reporting problems after the book is published.)

Copyediting is not for amateurs--a category that can include fellow writers, English professors, journalists, bloggers, tech writers, the severely anal member of your book club, and others who think (with good reason) that they know their way around the English language.

While some aspects of self-publishing lend themselves to the do-it-yourselfer, copyediting is not one of them. For one thing, you shouldn't copyedit your own work. You've been through the manuscript too many times; you're jaded; and you're not objective. For another, it's just, well, hard.

  • It's hard emotionally, at least is is for me. It's a rather intimate exercise, forcing you to spend hours inside the brain of someone else. I can only do it for about an hour at a time.
  • It's hard technically. You have to be familiar with myriad grammatical rules and their variants, spelling (and when to look up a word), and style issues. Much of copyediting is about consistency, which requires relating all the details to the whole. Whereas good page-making software forces consistency with style tags, there is no such tool for copyediting. The copy editor is on her own.
  • It's hard artistically. For me, copyediting is akin to sculpting. You use your technical expertise to carve away what doesn't belong and expose what is good. The result should in some ways (at least in the best sense) look more like the author than the original manuscript.
Below are my practices. Your copy editor doesn't need to do what I do, but he or she should follow some sort of professional protocol and be able to explain what it is.

  • I follow a master style guide.The Chicago Manual of Style is incredibly complex, but it is the gold standard for the book publishing industry.
  • I follow a master dictionary. My current one, Webster's Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, Ninth Edition needs to be updated.
  • I create a supplemental style sheet. Publishers typically create an in-house supplement to their master guide (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style), but I've found I need to create one for each book. The supplement itemizes any style variations from the master; lists peculiar spellings; lists proper names of people, places, and organization (to enforce spelling consistency); capitalization peculiarities; abbreviation issues; and so on.
  • I do a sample edit before proceeding. I use this to get feedback from the author. This helps me determine how aggressive or lenient to be with my copyedit and identifies any issues that need to be noted on the supplemental style sheet.
  • I give my edited copy to the author for their amendments and approval. Eight years ago, when I bought the book-production business that evolved to The Publishing Pro, LLC, copyediting was done in pencil, with author amendments written over the top. The approved changes then had to be transferred to the electronic file. Today I do my copyediting in Microsoft Word, with the "tracking on" so that authors can see my edits. I then produce a clean version--with the changes accepted, the tracking turned off, and the clean file checked against the "tracking" file. This catches more mistakes and nits, with help from Word's grammar and spellchecker. I give both the clean file and the "tracking on" file to the author, encouraging him or her to use the clean file for author alterations or corrections, which should be highlighted in color.
  • I review the author alterations. The idea is to make sure they conform to the established style and that no errors have been added. At this stage, I go with the author's wishes unless there are obvious problems.
  • I read the page proofs on hard copy before sending them to the author. This is the place where I choose to read the book on hard copy, which is the best way to catch small errors. However, I consider this more of a continuation of the copyediting phase than a proofreading. The copy editor shouldn't be a designated proofreader (a different function), for the same reason the author shouldn't.
Proofreading: Copyediting needs to be distinguished from proofreading. The former is done on Microsoft Word; the latter is done on page proofs (hard copy, preferably). Proofreaders are not reviewers and should not critique the book; they are not copy editors and should not try to tweek the writing. Doing either tends to do more harm than good. Every alteration introduces the possibility of an error, either a major one or a minor one that undoes the consistency established by the copy editor. Ideally, proofreaders should have a copy of the same style manual and dictionary as that used by the copy editor. This is not always possible, but they should definitely have a copy of the style supplement. They should mark typos, outright errors, punctuation problems, and capitalization that seems to violate the established style. They should also mark apparent typographical errors, text-flow problems, and inconsistencies with the established design .The Publishing Pro, LLC

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Don't Sell Yourself Short.

Price your book fairly: Most new authors instinctively charge too little for their book. Why? Several reasons come to mind.
  • Competing with bookstores: New authors automatically compare their book to what's in the bookstores. This is understandable, but it's a bad idea. The books in the bookstores are published mainly by the major New York publishers and niche publishers big enough to work the bookstores. Their press runs, and therefore their costs per book, are much lower than yours. You're not in that league. Don't pretend you are. If you do, you'll lose.
  • Bad math: Some authors--more than I would like to think about--don't seem to know that if your book costs $6.00 to print and you set a retail price of $8.95 (because your book compares to one in a bookstore), you can't give bookstores a 40% discount and make money.
  • Chasing volume: New authors seem to think that reducing the price will sell more books. Maybe, but maybe not (surprisingly.) If you put a low value on your book, your prospective customer will as well and may not bother. For argument's sake, let's say this is true. Is it worth losing money to sell more books (see "Bad Math")? Is the customers who buys your book at $8.95 as valuable as the customer who buys your book at $19.95. (The answer is "no." The customer who buys your book at $19.95 is more committed and more likely, for example, to attend a workshop of buy your next book)
  • Low book-esteem: New authors tend not to put a high enough value on their books. If your instinct is to charge $8.95, that tells you're potential reader that you think the book is not worth $19.95. If you stick with $8.95, they'll believe you.
  • Failure of nerve: Finally, authors may want to charge more, but they are just afraid. I get it. There is a psychological barrier to overcome. However, I suggest you overcome the barrier before--not after--you write the book.
Before you publish--or even write--your book, plan it out. Decide on its trim size, number of pages, binding, and color requirements. Know how much it will cost to prepare and print. Then decide on the price. If you are going to a Print-on-Demand outfit like Lightning Source, figure to charge at least five times the unit cost for one book. If a book will cost you $4.00, be prepared to charge at least $20.00. If you aren't comfortable doing that, don't do the book--or be prepared to explain to yourself why it's worth doing even though you will lose money.--The Publishing Pro.

Friday, June 18, 2010

File-Sharing Sites Are Stealing E-books!

But you can fight back: I knew there was a danger of people stealing your E-book--customers talk about it all of the time--but I thought the phenomenon was limited to people passing a PDF to their friends. However, it turns out that people are posting books on file-sharing sites, including books lifted from Kindle. Meredith Greene, a book reviewer and self-published author, details the problem and suggests both a legal and a marketing response in the Sacramento Book Review. Check it out. The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

How Do You Define Publishing Success ...

... in a changing world? I'm in a funny place. On one hand, I am optimistic about what you can accomplish as an author, precisely because of changes in technology. On the other hand, I often find myself struggling not to rain on a customer's expectations. Having been in the business for thirty-plus years, I am amazed at how many authors assume they will sell thousands of their books. Possibly, I think, but not bloody likely.

Only a small percentage of the books published in a year--we're talking one percent or less--have sales of 5,000 or more. The rest, well, the average a few years ago was 500 copies sold. It's less today. And that's just counting traditional publishers, not the self-published folks that are my bread and butter. The POD (print on demand) outfits report that their customers sell on the average fewer than a 100 copies of their books. My customers get very depressed when they hear this, and they are certainly not alone. If you read almost any commentary, you'd swear we were in the dark ages of publishing.

So why am I excited? Because the changes in the world of publishing make it easier--not more difficult--for you to succeed with your book. You just need to know how to think about success. Here are the questions I recommend that you ask yourself.

  • Did you get your book into publication? It is much easier today to get your book published than it was twenty years ago. Much easier and much faster. Sure, you have to publish it yourself--but it's not that expensive, it's fun, and you control everything about it.
  • Did you make a profit? Some authors don't expect--or even want to--make a profit. If they are honest about it, more power to them. They can certainly succeed in losing money. Other authors expect to make a living on their first book. I tell them that it is good to have a lofty goal, but "don't quit your day job." The odds of being able to live on the proceeds of your first book are minuscule. (However, your odds of being able to live on the proceeds of your writing increase with every book you publish, especially if they are related.) I prefer to take the practical road and am more or less insistent that my customers expect to--and work at--making a profit. If customers follow my coaching, they should be able recover their expenses somewhere between 100 and 200 books sold. After that, it's all gravy. Nothing wrong with gravy. Nothing wrong with a lot of gravy.
  • Did you further your work? A book supports your work; it is not the work. If you do it right, a book is just one way of carrying your message to your customer. If you do it right, you'll make a little money outright, you'll gain credibility, you'll create customers for new products (perhaps but not necessarily books) and services.
  • Did you expand your world? Did you make new customers, new friends, new contacts? Did you get new ideas, learn new skills, gain new information? A book ought to do those things for you.
  • Did you have fun? Book publishing ought to be fun. Truth be told, some aspects of publishing are, let's just say, less pleasant than others. However, publishing is hard for would-be authors mainly because they don't know the ropes. Once they become familiar with how it works, they rather like playing on the ropes. The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Do You Handle Returns? You Have 3 Choices.

They're all bad: With my favorite on-demand printer, Lightning Source, you can open a "wholesale account," which makes your book available to distributors, bookstores, and other resellers through the Lightning Source system. It's tempting because Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, a major book distributor, which makes you think they know something about book distribution.

None of my customers has yet tried the wholesale account, perhaps because I discourage it. Book distribution is not for the faint of heart. It's expensive, risky, and ineffective, Other than that, it's fine. With this post, I want to talk mainly about risk, which has to do with "returns."

When you open a wholesale account with Lightning Source (or most other distributors), you will be asked how you want to handle returns. You have three options:

  1. No returns: This is the least risky option. Bookstores can't return your books, to you or the distributor. That's good for you. On the other hand, bookstores hate this option. If you choose this, count on them to not order any books from you unless someone walks into the store and asks for your book. In that case, they might order one. One.
  2. Returns okay--deliver. If you approve of returns, you'll get more orders. And returns. If you choose this option, you will pay a significant extra handling charge to have the books returned. And ... you may get them back damaged. Too bad.
  3. Returns okay--destroy. If you approve of returns, you have another option. You can tell your distributor to destroy the returned books. This seems silly, except that experience has taught many publishers that so many of the books come back damaged that it's smarter to destroy the books and save the extra shipping and handling costs. In this case, the distributor may send you the covers to prove that the books have been destroyed. The fact that this option even exists should tell you something about how risky the business is.
If you must play the distribution game, we recommend Option #1.

However, there is some potentially good news in play. The Book Espresso Machine, which can be installed in bookstores and libraries, allows booksellers to print a copy of a book "on demand." This means the bookstore doesn't have to keep your book in inventory but can still sell it through its on-demand channel--and you get bookstore sales without worrying about returns. It's a win-win. That hasn't happened in the bookselling world for a while. The Publishing Pro.

Turn Your Permissions Problem into Opportunity.

It's networking: I love almost everything about book publishing, but I have to acknowledge to my customers that the permissions game--that is, covering yourself by asking permission to use any material you want to quote--is a pain in the p'toot. It's mostly time-consuming paperwork, combined with the dread that you might not get permission to use an important quote--or, worse, be asked to pay for it. The person on the other end--the one who will give you permission--probably isn't having any fun either. (I speak from experience.) The only reason you go through this process is because it's the ethical thing to do (or, if the ethics aren't driving you, because it could keep you out of some big-time legal trouble).

Unfortunately, this sort of honesty isn't particularly motivating to authors. Quite the opposite. I was working through this dilemma with a would-be author when she pointed out that many of the people she was quoting were potential allies that she wanted to meet. In other words, they were "key contacts." It dawned on me that all of us could be looking at the permissions-gathering effort more as an opportunity for networking than as a strategy for staying out of legal trouble.

Think about it. When you quote somebody and give them credit, you're plugging their book and their work. Usually, they are going to be glad you're doing so. Moreover, chances are better than average that they will have a natural interest in what you're writing about. Asking permission to use their material is a great excuse for making contact. Of course, they may turn you over to the publisher to complete the paperwork, but by then you've accomplished two things: 1) talking to an important contact and 2) finding out where to go for written permission. The Publishing Pro.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When Should You Publish Your Book in Print?

It's a different world: Thanks to Kindle, iPad, and other E-readers, micro-publishers are asking themselves when, if ever, they should publish printed editions of their books. Here is our take.

1) Publish your book as a printed edition when your book has legacy value. If you're doing a memoir, a scrapbook, or any kind of history, print it. One of the values of "hard copy" is that it survives in a way that other media does not. Think of all the important material you stored away and can no longer retrieve easily or at all on such things as ...
  • reel-to-reel tape
  • vinyl
  • 16 mm film
  • 8 mm film
  • super 8 film
  • 8-track tape
  • 8-inch floppies
  • 5-inch floppies
  • 3 1/2-inch "floppies"
  • cassette tapes
  • zip drives
2) Publish your book as a printed edition if it is a "literary" (word-based) work. If you've written a novel, print it. The genre won't survive except in print. Devices like the Kindle won't survive as pure book readers. They will all evolve into multi-media devices, which will no longer be "books."

3) Publish your book as a printed edition if you need something physical to sell at your presentations. Giving presentations--and selling your book afterward--is your single most effective bookselling strategy. If you expect people to walk away from your presentation and download an electronic copy of your book from Amazon or Apple, keep dreaming.

There are good reasons for publishing your book as an E-book. By doing so, you can reach an international market more easily (because you don't have to ship physical copies); you can take advantage of the ability (in some formats, for now) to hyperlink; and you can reach those who simply choose to read books on electronic devices. However, even if you publish your content as an E-book, consider publishing a print edition as well for the above reasons. The Publishing Pro, LLC

Charging Sales Tax for Your Book

Yes, it's a pain: Depending on your state, you maybe required to charge sales tax on (some, perhaps in-state only) sales of your book and forward said revenue to your state. First, you'll need get a sales-tax license. Then you collect the required tax. Then you fill out a form, on some schedule, and forward taxes to your state and/or local government. It's an annoying but a mostly minor inconvenience--and you may then be exempt from paying sales taxes on your printing. That's the way it is in Colorado, according to our CPA, and that's what we do. Check with your own accountant. The Publishing Pro, LLC

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Take These Ten Marketing Steps ...

... before you finish writing your book: Rookie authors--and some veterans, I'm afraid--think that book marketing begins after the book comes off the presses. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In fact, book marketing is front-loaded. What you do after the book is printed is continue all the good stuff you began much earlier. Herewith are some ideas:

  1. Plan the project. Before you begin to write, define your reader, determine how you will change his or her life, settle on a working title and subtitle that capsulize what your book is about and who it is for, and write out a Table of Contents that will make your reader want to buy your book.
  2. Compile your key contacts. Throughout the process, you should be compiling a database of "key contacts." Divide these into four categories: contacts who will get a complimentary copy of your book automatically (keep this list small); contacts who will be sent a press release and a review copy request form (if these contacts ask for a copy, then and only then will you send them a copy); contacts who will be sent a press release without a review copy request form (you won't be offering these contacts a complimentary copy); and, finally, contacts who will be notified that your book is published and how they can purchase a copy.
  3. Create and use a blog. Do this anytime, the earlier the better. You can create and use a blog for free and even make money, potentially, by opening it up to Google ads or the like. Use the blog to show samples from your book, to talk about writing problems you're trying to solve, to publish related opinions or articles. Try to attract people to your blog and give them the opportunity to comment. In this way, you're building your audience. To create a blog, check out Blogspot or Wordpress.
  4. Create and use a website. Websites are not free. You'll have to pay for a domain name and a website host. However, you do not need an expensive website designer. Some website hosts offer templates, similar to the blogs, that enable you to set up a website without much or any programming experience. In addition, if you do this, you'll be free to add your own material to the website without going through a "web administrator." Your websites and blogs should all link to each other.
  5. Write about content related to your book. Notice, I didn't say "write about your book." You can, but it is more effective (and far less annoying) to present yourself as an expert in your subject and note that you are the author of a forthcoming book more subtly, like in a bio.
  6. Give presentations.The best way to sell your book is at presentations. However, you should not wait until your book is published to begin. You need the practice. You need to build your reputation as a speaker, workshop presenter, and expert in your field. When you speak, you can work in the news that you're working on a book. Again, be subtle. For example, distribute a handout relevant to the presentation that happens to be a chapter of your forthcoming book--and says so.
  7. Use your cover. Get your cover designed early and use it on your blog, your website, and your promotions.
  8. Create your publicity package. This should include a one page press release about your book, a simple "review copy request form," and a list of 20 questions to give prospective interviewers. The materials should include an image of your book and yourself.
  9. Gather testimonials. Once you have a working manuscript, begin to invite likely candidates to read your book and give you a testimonial. You can use some of these on the back cover of your book--testimonials make the best back-cover copy. You can add additional testimonials to the website, promotional material, even the back of the book.
  10. Offer discounts to pre-publication buyers. Two months or so before you get your book printed, tell your prospective customers they can get a signed copy of your book at a discount if they order it early. Ask for checks. I recommend that you don't cash them until you know for sure when you will have books in hand.
You can do much more than this. The point is to begin now. Don't wait until your book is printed to begin marketing. The Publishing Pro, LLC.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Do You Name Your 'Publishing House'?

Two considerations: Someone in a discussion group asked how to name her "publishing house, given that she was self-publishing. Here's how I answered:

Usually, I advise authors to invent a name for their publishing house, less to mask the fact that the book is being self-published (it's not the stigma it used to be) than to give the impression that the book is not a hobby but a business, which it ought to be, after all. Occasionally, authors are so well known that they are better off naming the publishing house after themselves (e.g. Joe Blow Enterprises), but this is an exception. Here are two considerations for coming up with what is sometimes called a fictitious name, a trade name, or a book imprint.

First, don't use "books" in your publishing name unless you want to restrict yourself to publishing books. I coach people to think of themselves as a "brand" that communicates content via various media, not just books.

Second, consider the degree to which you want this name to define your content. You can go either way with this, depending on your objective. For example, "Health Communications" suggests a certain subject matter. On the other hand, "JCR Publishing" offers much more wiggle room.

The Publishing Pro

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Do You Talk about Others in Your Memoir?

It's ticklish: I'm writing my memoir, and I realized early on that I was going to have to decide how to talk about other people (and institutions) in my life. Here's how I made my decisions.

  • First, I clarified my purpose. If my memoir was to be a tell-all book (an exposé) or vehicle for settling scores, I was going to need a team of lawyers in my corner. Fortunately, my purpose was to explain my long transition from one of the world's great religions to another. The memoir essentially was to be about me, not about others.
  • Second, I had to address the memory problem. Unlike some memoir writers, I have no lifetime of diaries or journals to work from. I have to go by my memory, which is flawed at best. I didn't know how flawed until I got a package of photos from my sister. Until then, I had the "memory" that my parents never threw me a birthday party. In the package of photos was photo after photo of me, at various ages, in front of friends and a birthday cake, blowing out candles. It was my sister, a year younger than I, who didn't get much in the way of birthday celebrations. Memory is about the present--one's resentments, one's values, one's vision of oneself--as it is about the past. I would need to be very careful about what I said about others and I would need a disclaimer about this memory thing. .
  • Third, I looked at my values. One set of my values had to do with a 12-step program that puts considerable emphasis on protecting the anonymity of others, focusing on one's own issues instead of others', and behaving in such a way that you don't injure them, even out of good will. This intensified my conviction that I had to focus on my own behavior, that I should not identify others by their real names, and that I needed to be careful about what I said about anyone. While these rules applied to most people and institutions, I made some exceptions. One was to name the institutions or organizations that appeared on my resume. This seemed reasonable. Another was to name my family, which also seemed reasonable (as long as applied the other principles). Finally, the other exception was to name the leader of the religious community that I belong to now. This had to do with the values of this particular community, which insists on honesty and disclosure of our affiliation.
Having made those decisions, I find that the process of writing this memoir is easier, more enjoyable, and more rewarding than I expected it to be. You might think that the decision to pull back on what is said about others would neuter the book. Not so. Because I am focusing on myself--the good, the bad, and the ugly--the memoir is forcing me to confront my life in a deeper way and is more disclosing than it might have been otherwise.

You will come to your own decisions about how to talk about others in your memoir, but I hope this review of how I went about making my decisions is useful. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Send Press Releases Online

Worth a try: One of my Linked-In colleagues suggested having a look at PRLog, a free online service that will upload your press releases and make them available to search engines. I haven't tried it and can't vouch for it, but my tipster says it's easy to use, effective, and the price is right. The Publishing Pro.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Design Your Own Novel With Microsoft Word.

A new one-on-one class: We don't recommend that authors do their own production work unless they meet several criteria. Novelists are more likely than others to fit a couple of those criteria. For example, their interior design is almost always simpler than that of non-fiction authors. Also, their projects tend to be more financially challenged, needing more pages than non-fiction works (which makes professional preparation and printing more expensive) and having a more elusive buying point (which makes revenue less predictable at best).

Even so, not all novelists should take this on--you need some computer savvy and a genuine interest in doing it. However, if you want to try it, we've come up with a one-on-one course that will give you a good start on designing your own novel with Microsoft Word. The text, that is. The cover is another story. The class has the following elements.
  • Achieving Balance: Style, Readability, and Space
  • Preparing Your Manuscript: Dashes, Spacing Mistakes, Ellipses and More
  • Defining Your Page: Margins, Headers, and Footers
  • Defining Your Basic Fonts: Font Styles and Uses, Font Sizes
  • Defining Your Paragraphs: Line Length, Line Spacing, and Justification or Not
  • Defining Other Elements: Chapter Headings, Indents.
  • Getting the Bugs Out: Widows, Orphans, and Other Bad Breaks
  • Getting to the Printer: The Trouble with Word.
The class takes place in my studio at Cottonwood Center for Arts, costs $100, and takes about three hours. If you're interested, call 719-630-0783 for an appointment.

The Publishing Pro

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Use a "First Edition" to Sell Advance Copies.

A publishing technique borrowed from printmakers: Thanks to novelist and artist Anne Flint for asking me how to go about creating a first edition in this world of on-demand printing. I hadn't thought about it, but the following made immediate sense.
  • Before you print any books, decide the number of books in your "first edition." Let's say 50.
  • Begin promoting your "first edition" to your most likely customers. Ask them to pre-pay, in which case you will give them a discount and, once the books are printed, send them an autographed and numbered "first edition" copy. Specify the number of copies in your first edition.
  • When the time comes to print your first books, go ahead and print whatever you need. It must be at least 50, if that's what you promoted, but it could be more. No need to add any printed indicator on the copyright page that this is a first edition.
  • When the books arrive, sign 50 copies (if that's what you promoted) and number them adding an FE after the number (e.g., 1/50 FE, 2/50 FE, etc.). The numbering system is the same one used by artists to sell numbered prints. The FE is one way to indicate that the copy is a "first edition." This way, you can do another run of signed and numbered copies, but you won't add the first-edition indicator after the number.
  • You may want to reinforce that your customer is getting a "signed and numbered first edition" with a little insert when you send him or her your book.
Offering a discount and an autographed copy to those willing to send you money before you even print your books is a well known technique for getting early orders and funding a first printing. You're just leveraging this technique by numbering the copies and specifying that a certain number of books are the first ones off the press. I like it.
The Publishing Pro