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.”