Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Social Media: Separate Business from Personal.

Harder than you think: One of the difficulties with social media is separating your business posts from your personal ones. This is worth working on. If you look around, you'll see that those who have a handle on how to use social media in their businesses are precisely those who can keep the personal out of it.

This is a bit counter-intuitive in my world, in that I often can be heard telling my customers, "You are the brand." It's my mantra. But now I can hear the same customer saying, "If I'm the brand, how can my use of social media not be personal?"

Good question.

When I say, "You are the brand," I mean that you are the face of your business. You are its personality. You are its voice. In the book world, it almost has to work this way. The author must be the brand. 

However, I do not mean that you are only your book. Or that you are only your business. I do not mean that everything about you must become part of the business. Your religion, your politics, your hobbies, your family, your friends, your guilty pleasures, your eating habits, your workout regimen, your views about your neighbors or in-laws, your pet peeves, your children's successes or failures, and so on ... may not be appropriate fodder for your business. Depending on your business, some of these areas may be fair game. Even so, some of them surely won't be. (If someone on your Facebook page has just announced that she's finished clipping her toenails, you know what I'm talking about here.)

You are, in short, more than your brand (even if your brand is you). Understanding this will be good for you and your business.

This may not be easy, and it certainly is a different kettle of fish for each of us.

For example, The Publishing Pro, LLC, is what I would call a "secular business." By this I mean that I want my customers to be authors or wanna-be authors, but I don't want to otherwise restrict them to a particular religion, political persuasion, philosophy, subject, point of view, and so on.  For this reason, I need to be careful about what and how I express myself.

Not all business owners feel this way. Some businesses are clearly sectarian. If you start a business selling crucifixes, you're going to have the most success marketing to Catholics. If you write a book about being born again, you might want to target your book to evangelical Christians. Some businesses seem sectarian—that is, they aren't about a product or service limited to a particular group—but the owners are comfortable making their religious or political views part of the business. If you make it known publicly that you will never hire a Smurf to work in your Gerbil Burgers Restaurant, you may lose the business of all the Smurfs in your area. However, that may be a price you're willing to pay, especially if the people in your area love Gerbil Burgers and are known to be uncomfortable around small blue beings.

My problem is that I'm a "scanner," which is a term I borrowed from Barbara Sher, a career professional who used to appear regularly on PBS. A scanner is a person who can't focus long on any one subject because he is interested in nearly everything. As a scanner, I have a little bit of ADHD in me, maybe more than a little bit. I'm a bumblebee, hopping from flower to flower, looking for the latest innovation in nectar. My opposite is a "diver," who becomes obsessed with a particular subject and dives into it, ultimately becoming an expert in the field. I'm not a diver. 

My business is perfect for a scanner. People of different interests come to me, and I get to work on their book projects. The trouble comes with social media. Because I'm interested in so many things, I'm inclined to write about them. Social media gives me all kinds of opportunities to sound off. About anything. And doing so is usually not good for my business.

Discipline is called for. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Should Authors Use Social Media?

Back to basics: All of the students from my first six-session "Writing and Publishing Your Memoir" course have signed up for a six-session extension. One of the areas we'll be looking at is how to use social media effectively when you're an author.

This will be something of a challenge for me. A good one. I'm not an unabashed fan of social media. On one hand, I don't dare ignore it. On the other hand, umm, does anyone really know what they are doing? Emails. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn, Pinterest. Tumblr. Blogs. When I look around, I know that some people have no idea. It's entertainment. It's a time-waster. It's a reputation-damager. But some people do know what they're doing. I'd like to be one of those, and I'd like my customers to join the in-crowd.

I'm looking forward to the next weeks as a way to work with authors to come up with some strategies and tactics that makes sense for them. But where do we start? It occurs to me that social media is, well, media. Interactive media, to be exact, which is a powerful concept when you think about it. As book authors and publishers, we should have a leg up on this. We're authors. We're dealing with media, specifically printed books and digitally distributed books. However, books are--or were, anyway--information delivered in one direction. Social media is information (and other things, like emotion) delivered in two (or many more) directions. How can we take advantage of that?

Let's begin with the same principles I teach my book authors.

Principle #1: Identify your core customer (reader or audience). Rookie authors often set out to write a book "for everyone," thinking this is the way to generate a best seller. If your book is for everyone, it's unfocused. You won't have any idea how to write your book, let alone how to market it. Instead, the more specific you are, the better off you'll be. When you identify your core customer, be specific. The more specific the better. Not people. Not women. Not thirty-something women. Maybe something like, "a 35-year African American woman going through a career change."

Principle #2: Define your subject area. Again, be specific. If your core customer is the above, your subject area might be careers.

Principle #3: Define how you will change your core customer's life. The whole idea of your book, or ultimately your business, is to change your customer's life for the better. If you can promise to do so with some justification, your customers will be looking for you as much as you're looking for them. So ... with the above example, you're mission might be to help your thirty-something African-American woman find the job of her dreams (or get to the next level or make more money).

Once you do that, you can begin to look at each of your social media accounts and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this account aimed at my core customer?
  • Is this account about my basic subject area?
  • Will this account help me change my core customer's life?

If you can look at one of your social media accounts and answer yes to those three questions, you're on your way (at least with that account). If you can't answer yes to all three questions, you have some work to do. Stay tuned. The Publishing Pro. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Copyright May Not Work the Way You Think.

When to sweat it, when not to: Rookie authors worry about copyright issues, as they should, but more often than not they have it backwards. The danger may not be where they think it is.
  • Registering Copyright of Your Book: Don't Sweat It.
    Authors, like inventors, instinctively worry about someone stealing their words, their ideas, their work. The solution seems obvious: Register the work with the government. Get a patent, get a trademark, get a copyright. In general, this defensive posture is, well defensive, when the smarter play is to go on the offensive. When I was a young journalist, thinking about starting a magazine, my editor advised me not to worry about anyone stealing my idea. "If you think you're a genius because you've had a great idea, then you're smart enough to have another idea. And another. And another." A marketing director told me something similar, that it was smarter to put my efforts into getting my project to market than focusing on hiring lawyers to protect something I hadn't proven even had a market. Copyright differs from a patent (and to a lesser extent a trademark) in that it is protection you get the second you create a work. You don't need to register it. You don't even need to add a copyright notice (though you would be wise to do so). You can register it with the U.S. Copyright Office for $35.00 (if you do it online), which gives you some leverage if you wind up in court. (Legal experts say you're more likely to be awarded court fees if you win, though you may not be more likely to win.) The U.S. Copyright Office requires an actual copy of the book, which creates a problem for today's self-publishing printing-on-demand author. Every time, you revise you book, you need to register again. So ... it doesn't hurt to register your book with the U.S. Copyright Office, but it's down on my list of priorities.
  • Violating Someone Else's Copyright: Sweat It.
    On the other hand, authors tend to pay too little attention to the possibility that they may be violating the copyright protection of others. To a great extent, I'm guessing, this comes from our college experience where we're taught to write papers filled with quotes and references. Plagiarism is a concern, so the emphasis is on quoting and attributing accurately, but there is no emphasis on getting permission to use said material. Indeed, in the copyright world, the U.S. Copyright Office has a long and complicated explanation of "fair use," which includes the lifting of images and quotation of material for purposes of education, research, and scholarship. There are also "fair use" guidelines that list consideration of the percentage of material taken from the copyrighted work, the percentage of copyrighted material that makes up the new work, the purpose of the new work (commercial or nonprofit), and so forth. For example, one might be able to fairly quote 500 words from a 100,000 word commercial work but get in trouble for quoting the entire 50 words of a poem or song in a 60,000 piece of non-fiction published by a nonprofit. In the end, "fair use" is really determined by the copyright holder and the U.S. Copyright Office says the following: "The safest course is to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission." You can use material from the "public domain," which refers to material that is decades old but is also subject to a complicated definition. Nowadays, authors assume that words and images found on the internet are in the public domain, being in front of people in a very public way, but this is definitely not true, especially for images but also for words. Keep in mind that you don't always need to quote. You can carefully paraphrase, direct people to books and websites for more information, and always give credit. I have worked with several authors capable of doing their own bible translations from Hebrew and Greek. Authors can make informed decisions about how much risk they are willing to take, but I always advise them to do so in the context of the highlighted words from the U.S. Copyright Office above.
  • Protecting Your Copyright from Contributors: Sweat It. Finally, you need to pay attention to your own copyright when you assign someone else to produce some "work" in the form of words, graphics, or images for you. The cleanest way to do this is to assign it as a "work for hire." However, you must specify the copyright and ownership implications in writing. This is because copyright law protects the "creator" of a work. Thus, if you hire someone to produce illustrations for a children's book that you wrote, you need to clarify your relationship and ownership of those illustrations in writing. This can go any number of ways. You can own the illustrations completely, or own them for the limited purpose of using them in this book (including subsequent editions), or own them for use in the book or in an electronic edition, or own them for use in the book and promotional purposes and so on. You can be generous in the way that you allow your illustrator or writer such work product (in their portfolios, for showing in galleries, or for creating and selling prints, for example), but you need to protect the use of those illustrations or work product for your original and intended purposes. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Two More Tools You Can Use

Pinterest and Everything: A pair of my customers, Nancy Diehl and Kathi Kemper (authors of Art-Based Curriculum) turned me on to Pinterest. Okay, I'm still a little short of turned on, but I'm looking at it with, uh, interest. Some publishing consultants and a ton of small-business consultants are saying, "You gotta be there." Pinterest is another one of those social-networking sites that seem to spring up overnight. This one allows you to "pin" items into various self-determined groups (categories) that entangle with other folks pins and groups and supposedly do you good. I have barely stuck my toe in the water, and I'm still trying to figure out how to keep my business interests separate from my personal interests, which would seem to muddy the waters. On that score, I found this post by Social Media blogger Betsy Kent, who seems to enjoy the game and have it figured out. Still, the whole concept seems a little chaotic, like the rush of consumers into Walmart on Black Friday. Still, it pays to pay attention.

My second find came about because I was working on a project with hundreds of images and no file or folder naming conventions. Much of my time was spent on searching for the customer's photos. And then the search mechanism on my Windows Explorer broke. Great. I went online looking for clues on how to fix it. When I got nowhere with that, I looked for an alternative. I found a free program called Everything. Well, that about covers it. I don't expect much from freeware, but Everything is a beauty. It's fast. Really fast. Like instant. It makes Microsoft's search look like a dinosaur. It's a little cumbersome to adjust your search parameters, but I'm finding little need to do that. I downloaded mine at CNet. Saved my bacon. The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Book Trailers: Are They Worth It?

Maybe if they're free: Book trailers—similar to movie trailers—have become de rigueur in some quarters, mainly in the quarters of those in the business of making them. The argument is that you need this medium in an age where attention spans are getting shorter. I buy part of the argument. Attention spans are getting shorter. I'm a reader, and I can't watch a book trailer for more than a minute. I can hardly wait out the fifteen second ad that precedes the minute-long video I might be willing to look at. As it turns out, many experts suggest a minute as the upper limit for a book trailer. Some even suggest thirty seconds, but I'm seeing many trailers that are two or three minutes. You must be kidding. If a book trailer is that tiresome, think about the book. The trouble with trailers—and why do they call them "trailers" if they precede the movie or book—is that they take time and they crawl. If I'm looking for information, plain words—I can read 700 words a minute—are better. If you let me hyperlink, I can absorb an encyclopedia by the time the average trailer is done.

On the other hand, book trailers are a thing. If you google "book trailers," you'll get a list of websites where you can post your book trailer. Many of the websites—YouTube.com is an exception—seem to be devoted exclusively to book trailers. I'm not sure how this works. I have trouble imagining that people go to websites expecting to browse book trailers. I can imagine having a book trailer on my website or sending people a link to the trailer and inviting people to view it. 

In any case, I'm not at a point where I'll pay someone to create a book trailer for me. On the other hand, it appears to be relatively easy to create one myself using free tools like Microsoft Movie Maker combined with Apache OpenOffice Presentation (a free competitor to Microsoft Powerpoint). Such a book trailer would be simple: a combination of text, images, and music. A good writer should be able to put together a decent trailer. I can see that once I get past the learning curve, I'll  spend most of my time searching for images and music, especially ones I can use at little or no cost. I figure: If I can make my book trailer for nothing, it could be worth every cent I put into it. I'll give it a try.—The Publishing Pro, LLC

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Authors Have the Best Ideas.

A motherlode: I've been staying in touch with previous customers in hopes of mining the ideas and practices that have been working for them. Here are three recent contacts. 

Five years ago, Lisa Schwartz completed a novel called The Paper Shack about a family drafted for service in a coke-producing (the sooty fuel, not the fizzy drink) town in Utah during World War II. The story was loosely based on some family history and was both interesting from a historical point of view and entertaining. (Visualize a prim 1940s neatnik in frilly house dress trying to keep her tar paper shack free of ever-present coke dust.) However, Lisa's own story was even more compelling. She was raising a child with serious developmental disabilities (plural and then some). At the time, I encouraged Lisa to share this story with others, via a memoir or other non-fiction work. Recently, Lisa began doing so in a form I hadn't imagined. She's doing an online comic that manages to be heartbreaking, sarcastic, and funny all at once. I encourage you to check out Our Special World Comic. Click on the comic thumbnails to view four or five different comics. Then forward the link to anyone you know raising an autistic or special needs child. They'll be glad you did. 

Mark Horner, author of Consistently Persistent: Living with the Tourette Trifecta, is having as much success as any of my authors with his blog. He started with a regular column in the Dallas Morning News and has segued into regular blog posts that consistently attract multiple comments and new followers. He attributes his success to his use of labels or keywords for his posts. Well, that and his fondness for ripping the educational establishment and contemporary parenting practices. When I last looked, I noted that he is highlighting "recent comments," a smart practice. Check out his blog, also called Consistently Persistent.

Nancy Diehl and Kathi Kemper are enjoying some success with their first book, Art-Based Curriculum: Discovering the Alphabet with Imagination and Art. The book, aimed at teachers of young children, has several art projects associated with each letter of the alphabet. Nancy and Kathi have been surprised by their early success with "grandmas." No surprise here. Grandmas usually are a good market for children's books or, as in this case, books for adults who are looking for ways to engage imaginatively with children. Check out their blog, also called Art-Based Curriculum.They also seem to be having some success publicizing their book with Pinterest. I'm still trying to work up my nerve to try that. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Try These Tools.

Or not: Below are three tools that I either use or have run across recently:

Tracfone: I've had a Tracfone for several years because it's pay-as-you-go, doesn't require a contract, and is cheap, cheap, cheap. I use it as my office phone, and it's strictly for talking with customers (and auto emergencies). I'm required to buy some minutes every 90 days, which so far has cost me between $7.00 and $10.00 a month. For that, I'm happily not joining the ranks of smart phone users. Actually, my new phone is app-capable, at least with the addition of more memory, but it's still just a phone and will stay that way for a while. Oh,yes, it can text. I don't have much use for that either. One caveat. Because Tracfone is pay-as-you-go and requires almost no information, it's popular with drug sellers, criminals, and other ne'er-do-wells--and their short-term phone numbers are recycled. My last phone number was used by a serious deadbeat, and I began getting collection calls for him. When the calls got up to three-times-a-day, I let the minutes run out and bought a new phone--with a new number. So far, so good.

Square: Speaking of smart phones, you can now use your smart phone to take credit-card payments, which is handy for those of you selling books direct to your customers after presentations and the like. Square is just one of the devices I've heard about. It's getting raves about its ease of use and its cost, but there are concerns about its customer service. I haven't used it myself--hey, no smart phone--but I know people who have and like it. Our Toastmasters club is contemplating using it to make it easier for new members and existing members to pay their dues. Competing services include GoPayment from Intuit and ProPay, which is more robust. I expect PayPal, which I use for taking credit card payments online, will get into the mobile credit-card processing game sooner rather than later.

MagCloud: This is an HP business that is combining POD technology, social media, and magazine distribution. I wondered why I hadn't seen POD technology applied to magazines before, but printing hard copies of magazines (unlike books) is a challenge. While their 20-cent per-page price compares favorably to prices at local copy printers, it does not make printing hard copies of a magazine attractive. It is no surprise, then, that the emphasis seems to be on creating PDF magazines, which makes me wonder why we need HP. It's interesting, but I haven't figured it out yet. The Publishing Pro

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Need a Website? Get a Blog!

Why Not? For several years, I've been advising my self-publishing customers to start a blog. And ever since Wordpress.com and Blogspot.com began offering the capacity to create "pages," I've been advising those same customers to use their blogs as their websites. Indeed, why not?

Some people still think they need to have a website, which is fine, and that they need to pay a "web designer" several hundred dollars or more to build a website for them, which is not fine. Too many self-described web designers build sites with bells and whistles that you don't need and that actually inhibit navigation. Too many of them build sites that require you to go through them to upload your own content. Unless you're a big outfit--or admittedly helpless around the internet--you probably don't need a web designer. Today, your web hosting service is likely to have templates that enable you to design your own website, maintain it by yourself, and upload your own content as needed. Trust me. You do not want to have to go through your web designer every time you want to add a news item, change a paragraph, or delete a comma.

I have even better news. You can skip the web hosting service altogether--you know, the one that requires you to pay $7.99 or $12.99 a month to host your site. Instead, you can start a blog for free, via either Wordpress.com or Blogspot.com (among others), add a few "pages" and, presto, you've got a blog and website--with no monthly bite into your credit card. If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a domain name for an annual fee and point it to your blog name, in which case your fans will find your blog/website by typing in mydomain.com instead of myblogname.blogspot.com or myblogname.wordpress.com.

What do you do with this blog/website?

First, you need to decide whether to make your blog all about your book or all about a subject, to which your book may be related. I prefer the second approach, even though I have a book blog myself (www.to-jerusalem.com). However, that happened because I started the blog as a way to upload drafts of my book and get some early feedback. Now that the book is out, I'm trying to figure out what to do with it. I like the "subject" approach because it gives you more leeway to talk about your broader work, while still offering you the opportunity to sell your book but in a more subtle way. For an example of this second approach, see www.consistentlypersistent.com.

Second, design your blog. This is the fun part, and it is reasonably easy. If you need help, it won't take long or several hundred dollars for someone like me to show you the ropes. 

The blog part is the collection of "posts" that appear in reverse chronological order. Some bloggers do very short posts or random comments. My posts, like this one, tend to be more like small articles.

However, to turn your blog into more of a website, you need to create pages. Here are some suggestions, which have to do with marketing both yourself and your book:
  • Book Contents: List the Table of Contents from your book, hyperlinking to sample chapters if you wish. 
  • Buy the Book: You can put a link to Amazon or a button that will take buyers to a shopping cart almost anywhere. Howver, I like a "Buy the Book" page because it makes it easy for those who come to your website explicitly to buy the book. I don't want to force them to hunt around.  
  • Testimonials: Got too many testimonials? You should have such problems. This is one place you can use them. Put reviews here as well--or perhaps on their own page.
  • News: Notify your readers about your book signings, presentations, and appearances--or any developments that affect your work.  
  • Presentations: As an author, you should be making yourself available to do presentations, workshops, or seminars. List and summarize those here. These presentations can be ones you already do or ones you would like to do. 
  • FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. This may or may not apply to you and/or your book. 
  • Article Index: If your posts are really articles, why not list them on a page and hyperlink to the original post. Blogs archive posts by month and subject, but I find that a little cumbersome. You can make it easier on your readers.
  • New Activities (or Stories, Recipes, Projects or Whatevers): If your book is a collection of Whatevers, you can add more Whatevers on this page--and you've got the makings of another book. 

These are just a few ideas. Remember, you're an author, and authors don't just write books. Now I've got to get back to work and implement some of these ideas for myself. The Publishing Pro.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Free Software Puts the Fun Back in Writing.

At least it did for me: Last month, a novelist friend and customer told me about discovering OneNote, which is a little known addition to recent versions of Microsoft Office. By most accounts, OneNote is a fine little notetaking program. However, it does cost something--$80.00 if you buy it separately from Microsoft Office 10--and that sent me checking out cheaper alternatives. It did not take me long to find Ywriter, which has been getting good reviews and is, of all things, free.

While Ywriter5 (the latest version) is an alternative to OneNote, it is not a note-taking program. Rather, it is a writing program, designed more or less specifically for novelists. It solves the novelist's problem: keeping track of characters, locations, bios, notes, ideas, timelines, and the myriad details that are all the more complicated because they come from the ever-changing figment of the writer's imagination. With Ywriter5, you can stop in mid-chapter to add new details that won't be lost. You can create a list of major and minor characters as you go, adding the relevant characters to each chapter.

The software counts the words in each chapter and keeps a cumulative total, which supports my insistence that all authors--novelists included--set a target word count and not simply write until they drop. I keep finding little tools, including some real jewels, designed to help the writer not only finish but finish well. For example, it counts specific word usage, useful for identifying those overused words that writers ignore but that become a thousand sore thumbs in a poorly finished product.

To be fair, the program is not perfect. It has a learning curve, which could be a deal-breaker for the impatient or the electronically challenged. While the program looks good and makes visual sense, it is not functionally intuitive. I repeatedly found myself stuck somewhere, thinking I could add or edit information, only to find I had not found the key. Worse, there is little useful help within the system. I did get some help from YouTube files, of all places. In addition, I could not install Ywriter5 in Windows 7 XP Mode, which is my production machine, and had to settle for installing Ywriter4. On a hunch, I tried installing Ywriter5 directly onto Windows 7, and that worked. Now, I'm actually using Windows 7 for some real work. 

The flaws are aggravating, but they are relatively small and temporary. Each time I broke through a roadblock, my  satisfaction with this software grew--and so did my interest in writing my mystery. The Publishing Pro.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Add Value: Add an Index to Your Book

... But Don't Overdo: It's well known that an index adds value to your book. However, an index can be expensive. Or difficult. Or both.

In the olden days (maybe ten years ago), indexing required the indexer to create a list of indexed entries (words or items) and then, once the final page proofs were done, to undertake the painstaking process of reading every page and identifying which entries appeared on each page. Indexers charged $1.50 to $3.00 a page, partly for the expertise it took to create a good list and partly for the time it took to walk through the book page by page. If a book were to have an index, usually a professional indexer did the job.

With the advent of publishing software like Quark and Adobe InDesign, indexing is easier. Somewhat. While someone still needs to create the list of indexed entries, the computer can keep track of which indexed entries are referenced on which pages.

However, there are three problems with the new system. First, the temptation is there to skip the professional indexer in favor of a DIY index compiled by the author or editor, which can mean that the list of indexed items is not very good. Second, the computer tracks actual words more easily than concepts, which is more limiting than the old human-reliant system. Third, the new system still relies on brute force, though the procedure is opposite to what was followed ten years ago. Instead of going page by page and identifying which indexed entries are referenced on each page, the new indexer (who is more apt to be a graphics or production person than an editor) goes indexed entry by indexed entry through the entire book with the "find" tool, clicking "add" every time a suitable use of the entry appears and skipping any uses of the entry that shouldn't appear in the final index. In the old system, the size of the job was determined mainly by the number of book pages--and so indexers charged per book page. In the new system, the size of the job is determined mainly by the size of the indexed list--and so I charge per each entry indexed.

What does this mean to you? 
  • Refine your list of entries. Sometimes, a focused list makes sense. For example, some books benefit from an index of names. Or an index of locations. Keep your list shorter rather than longer. Remember, you'll probably be charged for each entry on your list.
  • Wait until all your other pages are done before you build your index. That much hasn't changed. Under the new system, you don't want your indexer to have to cycle through your entire list of entries more than once. Or expect to pay for it.
The Publishing Pro

Friday, March 30, 2012

Writing and Publishing Your Memoir

A Six-Week Course: I've been approved to teach a course on memoir writing and publishing on consecutive Wednesdays, beginning May 16, 1 to 3 PM, at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 E. Colorado Ave., Colorado Springs. The course is being advertised to seniors, but I doubt if they'll be checking IDs at the door. Still, if you're under 55, you might email me first.

My minimum objective is to get students to plan their memoir, complete with working title and subtitle, table of contents, and a vision of what the finished book will look like, how long it will be, who the readers will be and how they will reach them. In addition, with six sessions, some students ought to be able to road test a chapter or two or three.

Fee is $110.00 for members of Cottonwood and $135.00 for non-members.

I've been looking for a way to help would-be authors, especially seniors, to get their memoirs written and published a suitable form.--The Publishing Pro.

Marketing Tip: How to Leverage Family and Friends

A Little Help:The email below caught my attention for two reasons: First, it comes from a family member. Second, even though it plays the charity card ("Help my strugging son-in-law artist..."), it includes some practical advice to recipients about how they can help the author sell books on Amazon (even with a bad review). 
My son-in-law, Aaron Michael Ritchey, has his debut novel coming out! THE NEVER PRAYER will be published by Crescent Moon Press on Thursday, March 29th.
Aaron has spent the past few years working on it, but he's been writing all of his life. This is a dream come true!

His novel is a young adult, paranormal romance that explores the age old battle between good and evil. This time things take an interesting turn when an atheist angel has to battle a faithful demon for the soul of a girl. She must discover who is the angel and who is the demon in time to save herself and her small town. It's similar to Twilight, but with more grit and heart.

Here’s how you can help. We are doing a special Amazon event on the night of Friday, March 30, 2012. So if you plan on buying the book and supporting his dream, please do so after 7 PM Eastern on March 30, 2012. The more people who buy it during that time, the better chance he has of breaking into the Amazon bestsellers list. It’s $14.99 for a paperback, less for the electronic version. Just go to [Amazon] ...

Also, if you read it, please leave a review! These days, the more reviews you have, good or bad, means the difference between success and failure for a book! We appreciate your support. Help us make the world a better place. Support my struggling son-in-law artist!

Also of note: See what the author does on his website on the page entitled "The 12 Steps." And ... his book signing is at a bar and grill. I'm seeing more of this as bookstores disappear. The Publishing Pro

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Color Is Wonderful ...

... Except for the Cost: Color printing is not as expensive as it used to be, but it is still up there. CreateSpace, my current favorite print-on-demand company, charges $2.77 for a 160-page trade paperback, small format, color cover with bw interior. If you want the same book in color, you will pay $12.07, more than four times as much. The black and white version needs a retail price of $15 to $20 to be economically viable. The color version needs a retail price of $60 to $80 to work. That's not going to work in most situations.

What do you do if your book needs color? Two of my customers are in this situation and have chosen two different approaches. 
  • Author #1 wrote a how-to book for art teachers. She wanted the book to be in color, mainly to show off the projects. However, at CreateSpace, the black and white version was going to cost $2.55 while the color version was going to cost $10.79. She figured she could easily sell the black and white book for $20.00, a price that was more than workable in my opinion. However, she did not think she could sell the color book for more than $30.00, which is well below the retail price she would need in order to sell the book on Amazon or in stores. However, the $30 price would work okay if she sold the book directly to teachers at her workshops. Because some prospective customers told her they would buy the color book for $30.00 rather than the black and white book for $20.00, she decided to try a color version as a test. Two things made the test reasonable. First, it was a relatively simple matter (and therefore inexpensive) for me to create a color version by replacing the grayscale images with color ones. Second, CreateSpace charges a tiny setup fee for a new book. The book is not ready yet, so we do not know if her prospects will really spend the extra $10 for the color version. We also do not know if it will be worth it for her to take a smaller profit on the color version in order to satisfy her customers. In this case, the test is inexpensive and therefore low-risk.
  • Author #2 wrote a business book that requires color charts. She believes she can sell many books through her speaking engagements and therefore is willing to risk an offset printing of 2,000 books, which brings the unit cost of her book below $5.00 and makes a $20.00 retail price reasonable. The only question, which remains to be answered, is whether she can sell those 2,000 books. The inventory risk is high, but the author's speaking credentials reduce the risk. This is a publishing model that works.  The Publishing Pro, LLC

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Self-Publishers: Manage Your Editorial Team.

Rules for the road: You're publishing your first book. Of course, you are nervous. Of course, you want your book to be the best it can be. You can use this energy to improve your product. You can also use it to make things worse. Here are three editing stages to be aware of and some tips that might make your journey easier.

Content Editing

In a traditional publishing house, content editing happens between the acquisition editor (or a designate) and the author. This happens before the book goes to a copy editor. You should follow this pattern. If you think you're manuscript needs work on the substance, I have these suggestions:
  • Ask yourself these fundamental questions: Who is my core reader? (Identify a specific individual, couple, or family.) What is my fundamental message to my core reader? How will my book change his or her life? If you cannot answer these questions, you might indeed have a problem. If you can answer these questions. write them down. 
  • If you feel the need, give your manuscript to one or more content readers--but make sure they have your written answers to the above questions.
  • If you get substantive feedback from your readers, judge it against your answers to the above questions. Do not automatically act on their suggestions. This is your book, not theirs, and you should follow your own instincts. This is especially important if you are confident in your answers to the above questions.

Copy Editing

Ideally, copy editing should happen only after you are comfortable with the substance of your manuscript. In the traditional publishing house where I spent much of my career, copy editing happened in the production department after the acquisitions department was satisfied with the substance of the manuscript. When I take on a copy editing project, I identify my primary dictionary (Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary) and my primary style guide (The Chicago Manual of Style). I also provide a sample edit, intended to generate feedback from the author, and develop a "supplemental" style guide that includes a word guide, a name guide, and variances from the main style guide. I have these suggestions:

  • Work with your copy editor to develop the supplemental style guide. As the publisher, you have the right to set your own style. For the most part, you should follow The Chicago Manual of Style or another credible style guide. However, you will likely have some special words or practices that should be written into the supplemental style guide. 
  • Do not have more than one copy editor. Because the job of a copy editor is to establish consistent practices--of capitalization, punctuation, grammar--bringing more than one copy editor into the project creates confusion. Exactly the opposite of what you want. The reason your copy editor does a sample edit is to get your feedback before he goes ahead and copy edits the rest of the book. If you read the sample edit and do not think he can edit the book the way you would like--or you want a different copy editor for unrelated reasons--this is the time to make a change. Once he starts editing the whole book, you should stick with him. If you remain nervous, which is quite reasonable for first-time authors, turn your energy to the task of getting better proofreading.

Proofreading is an enormous problem for self-publishers. First, it is difficult to do well. The rule of thumb I heard years ago seems to be true: Good proofreaders miss 50 percent of all errors. Second, because it is difficult, it is costly--too costly for the average self-publisher. An excellent practice is to have two proof cycles, with two different proofreaders for each cycle. As good as this practice is, the math says that you can expect to catch only 93.75 percent of all errors. Even so, this practice is too expensive even for some traditional publishers (which is why you see so many boo-boos in books these days). If you were to hire four professional proofreaders for your project, it would cost you more than you would pay me to copy edit your manuscript, design your cover and interior, makeup all the pages, and get clean files to your printer. The cost-benefit does not work. My suggestion:

  • That excessively anal friend you wanted to hire as a second copy editor? Ask her to proofread your book. Make sure she has a copy of your supplemental style guide and explicit instructions to note only typos, misspellings, style violations, design hiccups, text-flow problems, or other errors and to avoid "copy editing"  your book (or, for heaven's sake, critiquing the substance). Good proofreading instructions, especially when accompanied by an impressive supplemental style guide, will make the task look sufficiently important. If you have more than one proofreader per cycle, good for you, but remember that you will need to be the arbitrator, deciding which changes to make and which to let stand. 
--The Publishing Pro