Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Here's a little bit of what the email said: "I almost fell down. I kindly mentioned that a lot of people don't consider authors going through those POD companies to be self-publishers. While keeping it simple, I mentioned a few of the reasons why, and the difference between them and digital printing and CreateSpace and offset printing and fulfillment companies vs. distribution companies and wholesalers. I'm not sure how much he understood. I told him that Xlibris, AuthorHouse, and iUniverse are rip-offs for authors, and that athours should not settle for not owning their ISBNs."
Unlike the writer of the email, I am not shocked at all. Based on what I see online daily, there is still a HUGE misunderstanding as to what constitutes "true" self-publishing. In yet another attempt to clarify the differences in publishing options--I am one of many who is trying to educated people--let me explain what means what.
An author who signs a contract with a traditional publisher usually receives an advance of a few thousand dollars against future royalties. The publisher owns the ISBN, but the copyright is in the author’s name. The publisher pays for and makes decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and production. Sales channels generally include book wholesalers and retailers, as well as inclusion in the company’s catalog. Authors are expected to do a good deal of book promotion and publicity—although they are often not aware of this until it’s too late.
True self-publishing authors assume all responsibility for all aspects of their books—and they keep 100 percent of the profits. They also own their book’s ISBN and copyright; they pay for and make decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and printing, and they can use a wide variety of sales channels, including the Internet as well as all routes available to traditional publishers. Self-publishers know up front that they will be responsible for marketing, promotions, and publicity. Self-published books that sell extremely well may be noticed by traditional publishers, who might want to buy the rights from the author/publisher. (This has been the case with four of Marilyn Ross’s self-published titles. Marilyn is the founder of SPR and my co-author of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition--one of the titles that was picked up by a traditional publisher.)
POD “Self-Publishers”—Another Twist
Today there is a popular player on the field—a hybrid of the typical “subsidy” press and POD. These companies call themselves “self-publishing companies” or “POD self-publishers,” and they offer more choices to authors at better prices than the typical subsidy companies. They might advertise that customers can use their own cover designs or set their own price. And they are usually inexpensive. What that means, unfortunately, is that they frequently attract bottom-of-the-barrel literary talent. Plus, with such low up-front investment, the authors themselves dive in head first, often without professional editing, typesetting, and cover design. Although these hybrids sometimes offer these services, they may be less than satisfactory. The result of this low-cost approach is frequently a poor quality book that sells few copies.
Typically, these companies issue one of their own ISBNs for your book. With this approach to POD, you are not the publisher. (There goes that control we wanted.)
The reality is that many of these companies are vanity publishers calling themselves “self-publishing” or “self-publishing POD” companies. In reality, though, they are often trading on the good name of self-publishing to make their companies appear to be a legitimate option for authors.
If you decide to go the route of one of these POD outfits, do your research! And keep in mind that since the digital landscape changes so rapidly, you should consult current Web sites of any companies that interest you. Also read industry magazines and newsletters to find out about new firms that have hung out their virtual shingles.
It’s also worth noting here that there are many digital (POD) printing companies that offer excellent service, prices, and quality. They should start calling themselves what they truly are: book printers.
Is POD “self-publishing” ever a good idea? Absolutely! Suppose you have no time or inclination to go the self-publishing route, yet have a book of poems you want to distribute to friends or relatives at Christmas. Or perhaps a beloved family member just died, and you want to preserve her writing for posterity. Maybe you’ve just finished tracing your ancestry and choose to distribute these genealogical findings to a wide circle of relatives. These circumstances, and any others where profit is not your motive, might be justification for subsidy publishing.
A subsidy publisher (which was more frequently called a “vanity” publisher in the past) takes payment from the author to print and bind a book. With subsidy publishers, it’s the writer’s cash, not the quality of his or her work, that counts. They publish anyone who can pay. Typically, they provide little or no book editing, marketing/promotion, or warehousing services. It has become more and more common in the past couple years for these subsidy presses to refer to themselves as a “self-publishing company.”
Their use of the term “self-publisher,” which they and their authors are not, is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. They are even so bold as to imply that authors have only two choices: publish with a traditional house or “self-publish” with a subsidy publisher. Self-publishing your own book implies that you, yourself, are the publisher. If you use a subsidy press, they are the book publishing company, not you. They are a book publisher for hire, not a self-publishing company.
Authors who are “accepted” by subsidy publishers—and 99.9 percent of them are as long as they have the cash—pay to have these companies publish their books and get royalties on copies sold. The publisher owns the ISBN, although the author retains the copyright. The author pays for all steps in the publishing process, but the publisher makes most or all of the decisions on editing, cover, size, price, and production of the book. Sales channels are usually limited to the Web since these books are generally ignored by reviewers and others in the book trade. Authors must do their own promotion and publicity. Since they make money up front, subsidy publishers take no risks, and they have no incentive to design an outstanding book or fix typos or other problems. They likely print very few copies and stamp their company imprint on your book.
If you have visions of your book becoming the next bestseller—or if you’d simply be satisfied just turning a modest profit—a subsidy publisher may not be your best route. Books printed by subsidy presses rarely make it into bookstores. If your book does make it into a bookstore, you may find that it is not shelved in your intended genre, but rather, it has been placed in a catch-all category called “local authors.” Potential buyers often ignore this category because they perceive these books as being inferior in overall quality, which they sometimes are.
Review copies of books sent to columnists by subsidy publishers generally go directly into the trash can. Reviewers realize that very little editing has likely been done, and they also know that promotional efforts will be practically nonexistent and the book will not be available through the usual book distribution channels. A subsidy publisher’s name on a book is pretty much the kiss of death.
When you choose a subsidy publishing company, there is another issue to consider: Since they own the ISBN for your book, they usually set the price. They literally will tell you what to charge for your own book! This is more than a loss of control—it can even damage the sales of the book if they set the price too high or too low. Once an ISBN is set and printed on the back cover, and embedded in bar code, it’s almost impossible to change.
An ISBN is to a book what your Social Security number is to you. It’s your ID in the world. Consequently, all orders and inquiries will go to them. They are also listed as the publisher of record in Books In Print.
Why would this matter? Let’s take a few hypothetical situations: What if a book club discovers your book, loves it, and wants to adopt it for an alternate selection? The club will contact your Internet publisher who can’t handle the deep discounts needed and thus has no financial stake in such a transaction. What do you think will happen? Zip. Zero. Nada. Suppose a corporation is interested in purchasing 1,000 copies of your book, contacts the Internet publisher, but is turned off by the high cost of the books. You never hear about it. What if a distributor wants to take it on, but finds the economics aren’t feasible? Tough luck. Any of these scenarios can cost you thousands of dollars.
Authors choosing subsidy publishing really need to do their homework to make sure they understand exactly what they are signing. But if you intend to make money selling your book, and if you want value for your money as well as a credible product, true self-publishing is likely the best way to go. If you do self-publish, ensure your book’s quality by working with a reputable self-publishing company. Doing anything less can be a costly and career-threatening mistake.
(Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier. Coming in summer 2010 from Writer's Digest Books. For more information, contact sue@SelfPublishingResources.com; 720-344-4388.)
Monday, December 14, 2009
Fortunately for the novice self-publisher, there are publication consultants who can guide you through each phase of the complicated publishing process. There are advantages to using a “book shepherd” (so dubbed, I believe, by one of the original self-publishing gurus Dan Poynter)—one of which is that it can save you a lot of money in the long run. A book shepherd can keep you from making some of the typical rookie mistakes. Look at it this way: You can spend years learning the self-publishing business on your own, or you can hire an expert to help you navigate the process.
There are different types of book shepherds. Some offer advice on the many aspects of publishing, referring you to experts for the areas they don’t handle. Others provide turnkey service, taking care of filing the necessary forms, manuscript editing, interior and cover design, printer brokering , and overall project management. Others, like us at Self-Publishing Resources, offer either turnkey service or hourly consulting if you want to do-it-yourself.
Working with a good book shepherd can also greatly increase your chances for publishing success. Planning ahead is extremely important, and something that is not always considered. Often, authors jump in to self-publishing without a lot of forethought. A self-publishing venture is a business enterprise, and it should be treated as such. There are myriad decisions to be made, including book title, cover design, printing options, price, just to name a few. And all can have a huge impact on whether or not your self-publishing undertaking will be successful.
There are well over 100,000 book published each year. You can’t wait until after your book is printed to think about marketing and promotions. And even the most well-written, beautifully designed book in the world isn’t going to sell if no one knows about it. Book shepherds can offer advice in this arena as well, often suggesting options for selling your book you had never considered.
The bottom line is that a good book shepherd can save you time, money, and stress, and will give you a much greater chance for self-publishing success.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Editing and Proofing
Developmental Editing. Understand that a developmental editor is not the same as a peer reviewer. I can tell you from my observations that they are not catching overall writing problems, and this is not the job of a copyeditor either. Whether you use me or someone else for developmental editing, it will be expensive but it will improve the overall read and feel of your writing. Even while your writing improves over time, you cannot expect it to be perfect--ever; that is just the nature of writing. I never depend on myself for my final edits but rather I send my work through one and often several professional editors at whatever cost to me.
Proofing. Always proof your work after completing it. It will save your editors and layout people time and will save you money.
Ellipses. Rules for ellipses are well defined. The Chicago Manual of Style defines the grammatical use as follows:
- To indicate text missing from within a sentence, put a space before the first ellipsis, after the last ellipsis, and in between all ellipses. “The author...wanted all writing to be clear and concise.”
- To indicate text missing from the end of a sentence, do not put a space before the first ellipsis, put a space in between all ellipses, and add an extra one at the end to indicate the final period. “The author demandingly wanted all writing to be clear....”
Glossaries. Consider using them; glossaries are a great help for obscure terminology. They are as helpful, if not more so, than an acronym list.
Lists. If the listed items are in a hierarchy, use numbers or letters; otherwise, use some sort of bullet.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
But the real shame in all this is that many in the industry are lumping together genuine self-publishing with subsidy/POD "self-publishing." And there is a big difference between the two.
A hybrid of the typical "subsidy" press and POD, these companies call themselves "self-publishing companies" or "POD self-publishers," and they offer more choices to authors at better prices than the typical subsidy companies. They might advertise that customers can use their own cover designs or sent their own price.
They are usually inexpensive. What that means, unfortunately, is that they frequently attract bottom-of-the-barrel literary talent. Plus, with such low up-front investment, the authors themselves dive in head first, often without professional editing, typesetting, and cover design. Although the hybrids sometimes offer these services, they may be less than satisfactory. The result of this low-cost approach is frequently a poor quality book that sells few copies. These companies are trading on the good name of self-publishing to make their companies appear to be a ligitimate option for authors.
In true self-publishing, authors assume all responsibility for all aspects of their books--and they keep 100 percent of the profits. They also own their book's ISBN and copyright; they pay for and make decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and printing; and they can use a wide variety of sales channels, including the Internet as well as all routes available to traditional publishers. Self-publishers know up front that they will be responsible for marketing, promotions, and publicity. Self-published books that sell extremely well may be noticed by traditional publishers, who might want to buy the rights from the author/publisher (What Color Is My Parachute? and The Celestine Prophecy are two such titles).
Genuine self-publishing can be a good idea for speakers, entrepreneurs, business professionals, and other nonfiction writers with a niche market. Sensible authors/publishers realize they probably won't achieve New York Times bestseller status, but with a well-edited and well-designed book, and a well-thought-out promotions plan, a book can be an important marketing tool.
Another bone of contention I have with Harlequin is the misleading (at best!) copy on their website. How about this, for example: "Have you always dreamt about being the center of attention at a book signing event featuring you, the publishing author? If so, then the Marketing Plus Package is for you."
Unfortunately, this is seldom the case, as most authors (self- or traditionally published) will tell you. Without extensive promoting on the part of the author, there isn't even a guarantee the bookstores will carry the book for the signing.
Or how about the Targeted Personal Media Valet service? For a mere $5,400, Harlequin will provide what amounts to generic PR authors could do themselves--or even get outside help from book biz professionals for a fraction of that cost.
The overcrowded self-publishing field is already chock full of poorly done books that very few people read (thanks, POD "self-publishers"). It's a shame. And I certainly hope it's not a continuing trend.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Self-publishers need to approach their venture in the same way. So set aside your subjective evaluation of your work and look at your book from a publisher’s perspective.
Questions for aspiring authors to consider before publishing:
- Do you have a compelling title?
- Is the projected length appropriate for your genre?
- How many illustrations will you have? Who will create these?
- What is the projected completion date?
- What are the leading competing books (author, title, year of publication)?
- How does your book compare to the competition? How does it differ? What makes it stand out?
- Name three benefits for readers of your book.
- Who is your audience? How will you reach them?
- How will you price your book? Is it appropriate for the genre?
- How many books must you sell to break even? To make a profit?
Ultimately, authors must also decide upon their goal for the book. Is it to make money off book sales? Is it to establish “expert” status in your field? Is it to serve as a platform on which to base a consulting career? Your reason for publishing should be an important consideration in deciding on how many resources you intend to invest in the project.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Capitalization. Avoid inconsistent or grammatically incorrect capitalization in titles and section headings. Refer to The Chicago Manual of Style for rules on capitalization. For instance, articles such as “a,” “and,” and “the” do not get capitalized unless they begin the title or heading.
Casual Writing. Nothing is more unprofessional than casual writing in a technical or trade publication that purports to having been written by a knowledgeable professional for readers who purchase the publication. Professional writing should not project a sense of “hominess;” it should be clear, succinct, and informative. Also, avoid using personal pronouns in writing; although a writer may be writing about lessons learned in the field, the reader does not need to be told this. Choose “This publication gives the reader information relevant to rights and permissions based on substantiated . . .” instead of “I provide the reader with information. . . .” My guess is that the reader does not want to hear it—especially busy professionals who have their own background and experience in various fields. You want to increase your sales without risking turning readers off and thereby potentially losing sales. You have excellent and invaluable information in your publications; ensure buyers/readers are focused on this concept only. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is an excellent reference.
Clichés. Avoid using any and all overused terms since readers may perceive this as a sign of an inexperienced or lazy writer who cannot come up with an original thought. This is English 101 in its purest form. It takes more time and effort to avoid clichés, but that is what separates the writer from the inexperienced writer. Note that I could have said “separates the men from the boys” but I did not because it is a cliché. See The Dictionary of Cliches for a good reference.
Commas vs. Semicolons. When you have items in a series that contains some commas with individual items, use semicolons to separate each individual item. For instance, “Gary Smith; PO Box 15092; New Orleans, LA.”
Compose/Comprise. This is almost universally done incorrectly!! The correct use is “composed of” and “comprises”—never “comprised of.”
Compound Words. Be careful when compounding words. Understand that “set up” is a verb but “setup” is a noun.
Confusing Words. Know the difference between such words as “insure,” “ensure,” and “assure,” as well as “compliment” and “complement.” See the following three references:
Consistency. It is okay to use “E-mail,” “e-mail,” or “email.” Just pick one and stick with it.
Contractions. Avoid contractions in formal writing. However, understand that in some cases it simply would be too awkward to use the contraction as in “. . . but wouldn’t we all”; you would not write “. . . but would not we all.” Also, be sure you understand the difference between a contraction and a possessive. For instance, “its” does not have a possessive; use an apostrophe only for the “it is” contraction. And plural possessives have the apostrophe after the “s” as in “students’ book bags.”
Definitive Language. Avoid statements such as “all such and such is like this.” It is much better to write, “Often, such-and-such is like this” or “A large body of knowledge indicates that such-and-such exists.” No one can know everything about something.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
This information, presented in alphabetical order, should assist you in writing professional, clear, succinct, and grammatically correct books, articles, and promotional materials. Although some grammatical information is given, other information is a matter of personal style and format suggestions based on a couple of decades of professional writing and editing experience.
Naturally, the style and format suggestions are only recommendations. As with any of this, it can be viewed as an editor’s job anyway, but the fewer the problems, the less editing will cost you in the long run.
I’ll be running this as a several-part series. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
Also, there is usually no need to use the acronym if it is never used again unless it is so recognizable as an acronym that readers may not understand it spelled out only. For instance, even if it were only used once, spell out Zone Improvement Plan/Program; you would spell it out, then use the acronym “ZIP.” Otherwise, readers probably would not even know what you are referring to if you only spelled it out.
Additionally, avoid abbreviating terms that you think everyone knows, such as “Ed Calendar.” It is better form and more clear to spell out “Editorial Calendar.”
Acronyms, Plural. Even if the plural goes after the first word, the small “s” goes at the end: Justices of the Peace (JPs). Also, possessives get the apostrophe in the acronym as well as in the spelled out version.
“And” and “But.” It is grammatically acceptable today to begin sentences with “and” and “but”—just do not overdo it.
Articles. Use “a” if the acronym or initialism begins with a consonant; use “an” if it begins with a vowel or a consonant with a vowel sound, such as “an RFP” where “R” is sounded as “are.” (PM-1)
Assure, Ensure, Insure. You “assure” someone of something; you “ensure” that something will be done; you “insure” something with money. Also, use “that” after “ensure” in most cases.
Bulleted or Numbered Items, Introducing.
Always begin bulleted text with a capital letter, even if it is a sentence fragment.
Parallelism is paramount; if items are not parallel, they draw attention to themselves. (See the section on Parallelism.)
Normally, do not use punctuation—such as a comma or semicolon—at the end of each line item if they are fragments.
Use a colon when introducing lists that are fragments, and end the introductory sentence with “as follows,” etc.
Use a period when introducing lists that are complete sentences, and end the intro sentence with “as listed below,” etc.
If there is no “2” or “b” you normally don’t need a “1” or “a.”
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
This leads to a slew of other questions: Is there a commercial market for my book? Who is my audience? Will they buy the book? What is my competition? How will I let them know the book exists? Can I price the book so that I will still make a profit? Will I sell enough copies of the book to make a profit?
A subsidy press (aka POD self-publisher) will print your book with a cookie-cutter, templated cover and interior design that likely will be marginal at best. If they offer editing services, it’s probably little more than a proofread. Sure, you can invest just a couple of hundred bucks—and you’ll be in print. But remember, you’ll need to purchase the books from them at a much higher price than offset-print books (or even from print-on-demand printers that offer printing only, such as Lightning Source). Your book might be priced too high to compete with others in its genre. The margins make it nearly impossible to make a profit if you want to sell books in the traditional book market.
Most of these books sell just 50 to 100 copies. Part of the problem is that reviewers shun them because they are immediately identified as subsidy published. Distribution is a challenge. If you are lucky enough to get into your local bookstore, you’ll probably be shelved in the “local author” section with the rest of the “self-published” authors.
If you decide to invest more—at least $2,000 or $3,000 plus printing—and self-publish (i.e., start your own publishing company, obtain your own ISBN, etc.), yes, your investment will be higher at the onset. But, if you put together the right team of experts, you will probably end up with a well-edited, nicely designed product that will stand up to any other book on the bookstore shelf. Distribution is doable. Your book will be priced appropriately because you won't be paying inflated prices for each book, and with a well-planned and consistently executed marketing and promotions plan, you have a much better chance of turning a profit.
Many of my clients have sold thousands of books, more than earning back their initial investment. Their books are available through major distributors and shelved under the appropriate subject at the bookstore.
So, which is cheaper? I guess it depends on whether or not you really want to sell books.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Don't skimp on professional editing; it will bite you in the butt down the road when you are clobbered in reviews.
- Along those same lines: Don't blow it with a shoddy book cover. That will instantly label your book as "self-published"--and likely shoddy (even if it's not).
- After your manuscript is complete and your book is in print, your work has just begun. Prospective readers will not automatically flock to your new title. Even the most compelling book needs to be promoted.
- Start promoting your book well in advance of its completion. If you wait until after your book is published, you won't have the advantage of prepublication momentum and it can be harder to get that momentum going.
- The chances of you getting on Oprah are slim. Concentrate your marketing efforts on more realistic avenues.
- You don't need to do an expensive bookstore tour to be successful. Bookstores, in fact, are not the best place to sell books.
- Don't expect overnight success. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to book promotions. You have to keep at it, month after month, if you expect to sell books.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Television, being the most prestigious of promotional media, many times presents the largest challenge to your imaginative publicity campaign. Always contact TV stations in main metropolitan areas at least eight weeks before your availability date. Major network shows will require even longer lead times. Call the producers' offices to find out how far ahead their guests are booked, and ask the names of the producers or guest coordinators, the correct spellings, and their e-mail addresses.
We recommend both the front- and backdoor approaches to television in the big cities, meaning you send one package to the general program director and another to the producer of any specific show you wish to be on. Sound interesting and vivacious! No one wants a dull guest. Make sure you are pitching an idea for a show--not just promoting your book.
Of course, follow up on both if you haven't heard anything in a couple of weeks. As with all promotion, tenacity and repetition may turn the key, but don't inundate them with correspondence, phone calls, or emails.
(Portions of this post have been excerpted from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier, coming March 2010, Writer's Digest Books.)
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Writer. The basic foundation for your enterprise is writing. Study your craft and refine your product. Good, readable works sell much more readily than disorganized garble or lofty dissertations.
Editor. If you're not lucky enough to have a qualified friend or relative to edit—one who knows the English language well and will be objective—hire a professional. This is the one area where it is very easy to miss the forest for the trees, overlook the same typo, and lose your objectivity.
Designer/Artist. Many books and book covers are self-illustrated or designed. Even if you decide to get professional freelance help, it would be foolhardy not to get somewhat involved personally.
Typesetter/Compositor. When you use a computer to prepare printer-ready files, you become a typesetter. We highly recommend you use a desktop publishing software. (Or hire a pro!)
Printer. Thousands of books and booklets are created each year at copy shops, but this is probably not the best way to produce your project Make a wise decision between print on demand and traditional printing processes. Educate yourself on printer specs and other requirements.
Financier/Accountant. You are the chief accountant, bookkeeper, and company representative to your banker. You must keep good records for yourself and for the IRS.
Marketeer. It doesn't matter how well all other hats fit if you don't wear this one well. Be imaginative and creative. Go ahead and slip into flamboyance when you don this hat. Shrewd promotion and sales strategies will do much to ensure your publishing project's success.
Shipper/Warehouser. It doesn't do any good to get book orders unless you can fill and ship them. Although this is a routine job, it takes time, space, and energy.
Legal adviser. Many times attorneys collect sizable fees for answering simple business questions. Take a good look at the question. The use of common sense and comparison to similar situations will often save a fee. There are instances, however, when you definitely need an attorney—if you've been accused of libel or copyright infringement, for instance.
Business manager. This hat has been saved for the last but not because it's a low priority. Quite the opposite. You can do a fantastic job on all other aspects of the business and still lose your shirt if this hat isn't secured firmly on your noggin. In fact, a study once conducted by theSmall Business Administration showed that 93 percent of the businesses that failed did so because of poor management practices. The job of business manager can be a piece of cake or an absolute nightmare—it's up to you. Managing a company is fun if you establish and adhere to operating procedures designed for that business.
Be prepared to fall and skin your knees occasionally. No one has all the answers; certainly not a new self-publisher. Although we have compiled this reference to help you avoid mistakes, there will be times when you'll goof or when nothing seems to be going your way. Hang in there! Soon things will take a positive turn. As in anything, there are pitfalls, but there are also many pleasures. Move ahead with passion and conviction, and you will succeed.
(Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier, coming March 2010, Writer's Digest Books.)
The past two years have included some of the most extreme ups and downs I've ever experienced...some, such as the birth of my son two years ago, are worth mentioning. Others are not. All have challenged by "ability" to "bounce back."
I've been tested again over the past few weeks, which explains the gap in blog posts--and why I'm mentioning this in the first place. My friends and I like to talk about putting on our "big girl" panties during trying times, which basically means drawing upon our inner strength to persevere. I seem to be taking 10 steps forward, then 50 steps back this time. But hanging in there and continuing to move forward--even at a shuffle's pace--are the only options.
Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's return to our regularly scheduled blog.
Monday, July 27, 2009
You also may have learned to type on a typewriter and thus put two spaces at the end of a sentence. In the computer age one space is preferable. Otherwise, it looks awkward when typeset. No problem, though. Simply do a search and replace, and change the two spaces to one.
Even the best writers can benefit from good editors working behind them. Editing is a special skill the average author doesn't perform well. And since, in spite of their expertise, editors are notoriously poorly paid, the expense of getting professional help for your work won't normally be too large. By the way, please, please don't submit an e-book without editing. Most sites will simply take what you give them and put it up. If our industry is to prosper, every author must take personal responsibility for presenting a quality product.
A poorly edited book is harder to read, harder to believe, and less likely to be reviewed. It is shameful to see a good book cut to ribbons by a reviewer because of poor grammar or spelling. In a recent review, while the plot of a particular book was praised, the reviewer noted, "Unfortunately, the reader also has to detour around some disasters in editing and proofreading."
Because authors know their subjects so well, they are usually too close to their material; objectivity is lost. A professional editor can help detect passages that are unclear, poorly organized, or overwritten. This is called content or creative editing. During a second reading your editor will do copyediting, whisking out grammar, spelling, usage, and punctuation errors. The job of an editor is to hone and polish your manuscript to a fine edge, not to impose his or her style on it.
Where do you find such folks? There are several options. Look in Literary Market Place under ``Editorial Services,'' or contact the Editorial Freelancers Association at www.the-efa.org or (212) 929-5400.=. If you wish to hire help with editing—as well as retain complete services for design, production, and marketing for your book—you can also contact us at www.SelfPublishingResources.com or (720) 344-4388. (Shameless self-plug, yes--but I would be remiss in not mentioning it!)
Be sure the person you hire has had experience editing books. An article or book writer is often not experienced or qualified in the editing process and typically has an editor going over his or her manuscript.
Short of hiring a pro, which is best, enlist the help of several literate friends or associates to go over your work. It's a good idea to give them some instructions. Ask that they underline any misspelled or questionable words, circle unclear passages, and note rough transitions with a question mark. Also recommend they jot any suggestions in the margins. Encourage them to be specific. Distinct constructive criticism is like surgery; it cuts out the malignancy and spares the rest of the body. Vague criticism is like chemotherapy; it causes the copy's hair to fall out and makes the whole thing look sick.
Even best-selling authors use others to refine their work. James Michener said, "I invite four outside experts—a subject-matter scholar, editor, style arbiter on words, and a final checker—to tear it apart . . .. Should you do any less?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
First Things First by Stephen R. Covey
I also have a couple of titles put out by Entrepreneur magazine.
Of course with all that said, I also picked up the first season of Nip/Tuck.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
2. Include marketable mentions. Hoping to sell quantities of your book to a corporation? Include the name of the organization and a quote from the CEO. (Conversely, you might choose not to mention names to keep the content generic so it can be used in a number of different companies.)
3. Consider global appeal. If your topic will "travel" into other cultures, you might have potential for foreign rights sales or translations into foreign languages. If so, exclude words or ideas that might be offensive to people in other countries. It's not unusual for a book to make more money in foreign than domestic sales.
4. Get a well-known person to write a Foreword. Hopefully, you've been developing contacts in your area of expertise for years and database full of potential Foreword writers. It is often more graceful to simply request their feedback on the manuscript first. Then, once they've raved about it, ask if they would honor you by writing the Foreword.
5. Think about adding a Glossary. Especially if your topic is technical or if newcomers to the subject will be using the book, include a Glossary. One reviewer commented that the Glossary in our Complete Guide to Self-Publishing was itself worth the price of the book.
6. Create a bookmark. A bookmark is a miniature Mighty Mouse. The one we developed for Self-Publishing Resources founder Marilyn Ross’s book Jump Start Your Book Sales is a stand-alone order form. It includes a photo of the book, sales copy with bullets, testimonials, how to order, plus our Web address for people who want more information. We tuck one in everything that goes out of this office: invoices, sales letters, general correspondence, lead packages, proposals, etc.
7. Go after excerpts in magazines. Once the official publication date has passed, you can merchandise what is termed "second serial rights" to magazines and newsletters. Perhaps it will be a chapter, a quiz, a sidebar of information, or maybe a small self-contained section. They may pay you a couple of hundred dollars—or nothing. But your real payback is the ordering blurb you'll include at the end.
8. Recycle your publicity. Often it's the second or third time around that's more powerful than the first exposure! Include reviews, feature articles about you, interview pieces, etc. in speaking proposals, media kits, everywhere! People like to jump on an already-moving bandwagon.
9. Be generous with review copies. We sent out almost 500 free copies of Jump Start Your Book Sales. When the publication date was just a month away, we'd already received 16 reviews and there was a "buzz" starting. Assuming it is done well, your book is your very best sales piece. And don't stop sending reviews once the book is older. Always be on the lookout for new publications or prominent people who might be interested in a copy.
Friday, June 19, 2009
A subsidy publisher (sometimes called a vanity press) takes payment from the author or self-publisher to print and bind a book. With subsidy publishers, it’s the writer’s cash, not the quality of his or her work, that counts since they publish anyone who can pay. Typically, they provide no book editing, book marketing/promotion, or book warehousing services. They are a book publisher for hire, not a self-publishing company.
Some publishers that fall into the subsidy/vanity category include:
Their use of the term “self-publisher,” which they and their authors are not, is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. They are even so bold as to imply that authors have only two choices: publish with a traditional house or “self-publish” with a subsidy publisher. Subsidy presses deceive authors into believing they are “self-publishing” when in fact they are not. Self-publishing your own book implies that you, yourself, are the publisher. If you use a subsidy press, they are the book publishing company, not you.
If you have visions of your book becoming the next bestseller—or if you’d simply be satisfied just turning a modest profit—a subsidy press is not the best route to go. Books printed by subsidy presses rarely make it into bookstores. If your book does make it into a bookstore, you may find that it is not shelved in your intended genre, but rather, it has been placed in a catch-all category called “local authors.” Potential buyers often ignore this category because they perceive these books as being inferior in overall quality, which they often are. Sometimes the book bindings themselves are shoddy or less than professional. Cover art is noticeably amateurish at times, and the typesetting and font selection is not enticing for the reader.
Review copies of books sent to columnists by subsidy publishers generally go directly into the trashcan. Reviewers realize that very little editing has likely been done, and they also know that promotional efforts will be practically nonexistent and the book will not be available through the usual book distribution channels. A subsidy publisher name on a book is pretty much the kiss of death.
When you choose a subsidy publishing company, there is another issue to consider: Since they own the ISBN for your book, they usually set the price. They literally will tell you what to charge for your own book! This is more than a loss of control—it can even damage the sales of the book if they set the price too high or too low. Once an ISBN is set and printed on the back cover, and imbedded in the UPC bar code, you cannot change it.
It boils down to three types of publishing.
1. Traditional publishers. An author who signs a contract with a traditional publisher usually receives an advance against future royalties. The publisher owns the ISBN, but the copyright is in the author’s name. The publisher pays for and makes decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and production. Sales channels generally include book wholesalers and retailers, as well as inclusion in the company’s catalog. Authors are expected to do a good deal of book promotion and publicity—although they are often not aware of this until it’s too late.
2. Subsidy publishers. Authors who are “accepted” by subsidy publishers—and 99.9 percent of them are as long as they have the cash—pay to have these companies publish their books and get royalties on copies sold. The publisher generally owns the ISBN, although the author retains the copyright. The author pays for all steps in the publishing process, but the publisher makes most or all of the decisions on editing, cover, size, price, and production of the book. Sales channels are usually limited to the Web since these books are generally ignored by reviewers and others in the book trade. Authors must do their own promotion and publicity. Since they make money up front, subsidy publishers take no risks, and they have no incentive to design an outstanding book or fix typos or other problems.
3. Self-publishers. Self-publishing authors assume all responsibility for all aspects of their books—and they keep 100 percent of the profits. They also own their books’ ISBNs and copyrights; they pay for and make decisions about editing, cover, size, price, and printing, and they can use a wide variety of sales channels, including the Internet as well as all routes available to traditional publishers. Self-publishers know up front that they will be responsible for marketing, promotions, and publicity. Self-published books that sell extremely well may be noticed by traditional publishers, who might want to buy the rights from the author/publisher.
Authors choosing subsidy publishing really need to do their homework to make sure they understand exactly what they are signing. But if you intend to make money selling your book, and if you want value for your money as well as a credible product, self-publishing is likely the best way to go. If you do selfpublish, ensure your book’s quality by working with a reputable self-publishing company. Doing anything less can be a costly and career-threatening mistake.
Please feel free to comment and ask questions!