Friday, February 26, 2010
Design Wizard 2.o - Book Interior Design
I don't know how many of you have attempted to design your own book interior but it was one of the MOST frustrating things about putting my book out. My chapter titles kept shifting all over the place. Never quite got the headers or footers right. Couldn't decide what size I wanted to print my book in so everytime I changed the page size, i.e., from 6x9 to 5.5 x 8.5, all my formatting got completely jacked up. In short, the inside of my book looked like a HOT MESS!
I was determined to find some kind of software that would take the pain out of that task. And find that software I did.
With this unbelieveably inexpensive but incredibly useful software, all you need to know how to do to set up a perfect book interior is click a mouse, type a few words, and cut and paste. What took me nearly a month to do--and I still never got it right--Design Wizard helped me do in about 2 hours. This is the best $37 dollars you will ever spend if you plan to self publish more than once.
How does it work?
It integrates into your MS Word program. As I understand, it does not work on MAC (sorry). But it becomes an option in your toolbars. Once you install it and click the option in your tool bar, it literally prompts you through your entire design. It asks you what size you want your book to be, do you want headers, footers, page numbers, what font, etc. etc. Then you just cut and paste your chapters in. And that's it. The great thing is that you can change the size of your book, your margins, etc. and it will reformat the entire book with the click of a button. You can make changes, literally in minutes.
If you're not sold yet, you just aren't gonna be. lol Buy this YESTERDAY! It will take all the pain out of your book interior design.
Book Design Wizard
BOOK COVERS for the Broke Author!
Since I've had so many people ask me about getting inexpensive book covers, I queried a few of the forums I participate in to find folks who will do them at a bargain price.
NOW, first I have to give props to my cover designer, Dee D'amico. She's not necessarily cheap, but if you like cool illustrations, contact her and she'll work with you. And I can personally vouch for the quality and speed of her service. She took my stick drawing and made my awesome cover.
These are other designers but I cannot...I repeat I cannot vouch for their services. However, they have said that they are willing to work with indie authors on price. Please do your research and ask to see their portfolios. This is only a public service announcement. :)
http://www.direatrium.com/ Gallery: http://www.direatrium.com/Gallery.html#starved
http://www.vedicdesign.com (Author said she paid $199 and they gave her three design options)
firstname.lastname@example.org (Hetman Publishing - $50 for Createspace members e-mail him for details)
http://www.12on14.com or e-mail email@example.com
That's all for today.
Keep it real...and keep it real cheap!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
What is print-on-demand?
Print on demand is a production model which essentially provides that books are printed according to market demand--or when they're ordered. It's based on Toyota's Just-In-Time production. JIT provided that instead of pre-building thousands of cars and hoping that enough customers would come to buy them, they'd build them as they're ordered. And they'd make their production process SO efficient, that a car could be built according to the customer's specification, in no time flat. The same principal holds true for POD. Instead of, say an author, having to order 10,000 books and store them in the garage, praying they can find some place to sell them, you order the books as you find customers. It reduces the need to stock inventory from every level of the bookselling process. So, if a store wants to buy 5 copies of your book to try it out, they can buy five, see if they'll sell, and then order more if necessary.
That's all print-on-demand is. So when you hear POD, you should not equate that with PUBLISHER.
The big difference between POD and Offset printing is that if when you order books in bulk numbers from offset printers, the more you buy the less it costs per book to produce. With POD, the cost of the book is the same regardless of whether you purchase one or 1,000. This makes POD more expensive than offset printing when you get into "thousands" of books. As a self-published author just starting out, you are probably not going to need thousands of books. Some have problems selling hundreds...and tens. At this stage of the game, POD is probably the best option.
So, what are POD companies?
Again, POD companies are NOT publishers! None of them are. POD companies are, for the most part, middle men or facilitators. They help turn your masterpiece manuscript into book format. That is all they do.
Different PODs, offer different pay-for services, at different costs. Some offer editing services, book cover design, marketing, and distribution. These are services that you pay for that can help enhance your book's presentation. Offering these services does not make it a publisher. With a traditional publisher, you should NEVER have to pay for the services. They will be provided to you for free AND you will receive a royalty.
"Well," you say, "my POD company pays me a royalty." Doesn't matter because the entire cost of producing your book was borne by you...not them.
There are different levels of POD companies. For the sake of this post, I'll call them Full Service, Minimal Service, and Mixed Service.
Full service companies include: iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse
Minimal Service: Lightning Source, TextStream
Mixed Service: Createspace/Booksurge, Lulu
Now, I've only selected a handful of companies. There are many more that you can Google.
Which company is for me?
Before you sign up for anyone, you MUST assess your needs and your goals. When I got ready to publish my book, I had several needs and goals.
Goals: To get my book onto as many major book retailers as possible. To get my book on bookstore shelves. Getting onto online retailers seemed to be the easiest thing. Getting into bookstores, not easy AT ALL. Through my research, I found out that you need several things to get into bookstores.
- You book must be set at a retail price comparable to similar books on the market.
- You must offer a standard industry discount typically between 40-55%.
- Your book should be returnable. That means, if a retailer can't sell it, they can send it back to you for a refund.
- Your book should be available through a major distributor (Ingram, Baker & Taylor)
- It should have a professional-looking cover and interior.
- To be able to set my price.
- To offer returnability
- A printer
- Amazon sales channel
- To keep the set up, price, and printing costs as CHEAP as possible.
Now let's turn to the PODs.
Full Service PODs offer everything. They help you set up your files. They send your book to the printer. They set up distribution for you. They offer marketing, book design and editing packages. It's an All-in-One. But remember, for my goals, I want to get into bookstores too, so I want to ask about the following: Discount, Returnability,
- Xlibris - Cheapest Package - $399; Wholesale Discount- up to 48%; Book returnability - $699; Set your own price - $249; Distribution/Retail-Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon
- iUniverse - Cheapest package - $1099; Wholesale Discount - 36%; Book Returnability - $699; Set your Own Price - No; Distribution-Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon
- AuthorHouse: Cheapest package $599; Wholesale Discount - Could not find information; Book Return - $699; Set your own price - No; Distribution - Baker & Taylor, Ingram, Amazon
Minimal Service. These companies provide you with printing services and access to distribution channels ONLY. No editing, no book design, no marketing, no nothing. They are the cheapest because they don't offer these services. You have to format and submit your own files in PDF format. But they give you the most direct access to the distribution channels because they are owned by the distributors. This means, instead of the middle man, you're working directly with the companies and your books get listed much more quickly from the point of signing up. These companies work with major publishers, like the Hachette Group, on a regular basis. So they don't just work with authors, they work with presses of all sizes and prominence.
- Lightning Source - $37.50 book interior upload ; $37.50 bookcover upload; $30 for proof (includes overnight delivery); $12 for listing with Ingram; Set your own price - Yes, Free; Set your own wholesale discount - yes, Free; Book Return - Yes, cost to print book +$1.00; Baker and Taylor, Ingram (Listing to Baker & Taylor takes 4-6 months, Ingram - Immediately)
- TextStream - $30 file set up; listing with Baker & Taylor; Set your own price - Yes, Free; Set your own wholesale discount - Yes, Free; Book Return - Yes, Free; Distribution - Baker and Taylor (immediately).
Mixed Service Companies: These companies let you do things your way. If you need more services you can get them. But if you don't need the services, you could potentially publish your book for FREE.
- Createspace: Cheapest package: Free; Set Your Own Price - Yes, Free; Set your own wholesale discount - No; Distribution - Expanded Distribution With ProPlan ($39) - Yes, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Amazon. Wholesale discount - 40% Amazon, Bookstores ??? (author gives up 60%, we don't know what goes to the retailer).
- Lulu: Cheapest package: FREE; Set your own price - No (typically above market prices); Distribution - Yes (for a fee); Book return - Could not find information; Distribution - Amazon, Ingram, Baker & Taylor; wholesale discount - ???
(Note: I'd always be wary of a company that does not make this information readily available on their website.)
What services did I choose and why?
In a previous post, I spoke about the benefits of purchasing your own ISBN. One of those benefits was getting to work with as many companies as I want to ensure that I'm getting the best (cheapest) deal and widest distribution.
Well, as the cheap indie author, I selected: Lightning Source, TextStream, and Createspace. Why? Because I wanted to be able to offer my book to bookstores while maintaining maximum control over pricing, discounts, and returnability.
- I had complete control over my cover design. With many full service PODs, they use templates and stock photos that make your book look "self-published."
- I have the technical savvy to set up my own files.
- I hired my own editors and got a better perspective because I used someone directly from the publishing industry. With those services, you don't know the professional history of the editors that work on your book.
- I could offer returnability at no cost, something most companies charge $699
- I designed my own book interior (Design Wizard - $37--Google it)
- I controlled my own pricing--for free. Most do not allow you to set your own price. I went to the bookstore, checked out the prices on books similar to mine, and set the price accordingly.
- I can set my own wholesale discount for FREE; this allowed me to set a standard wholesale discount.
- Createspace is an Amazon company, so they take the lowest discount for Amazon sales (40%); Through anyone else they usually require 55%. So by using Createpace, I'm keeping more royalty.
So, to sum up, before you sign up for ANY POD, if you endeavor to get into bookstores ask the following questions.
- Can I set my own price?
- Can I use my own ISBN?
- Is the agreement non-exclusive? (A MUST--if you want to work with multiple companies)
- What wholesale discount do you offer to retailers, Amazon? Can I set my own discount?
- Do you offer book returnability? How much does this service cost?
- Which distribution channels do I have access to (Ingram and/or Baker & Tayor a MUST)
Unfortunately, many authors who sign up with many of the full service companies don't understand what I've explained today and they set their book up for failure.
For example: One company offers a 36% discount. This is below the industry standard and bookstores probably won't stock it. But this same author might pay $699 to offer book returnability. They've wasted $700 to offer book returnability on a book that a bookstore will never stock.
What does a bookstore mean when they say, "We don't stock POD books."?
First, we now understand there is a difference in PODs and the services that they offer. They are not equal. When a bookstore says they don't stock POD, they mean companies like the example above that offer 36% discount and no returnability.
If your POD company is Lightning Source and you offer returnability and a standard discount (and provided your book is well-designed and priced) you have an EXCELLENT chance of getting your books on bookstore shelves.
How do I know?
Because I did it! On the next post, I'll tell you how!
Anymore questions on POD?
Until next time, keep it real...and keep it real cheap!
Friday, February 12, 2010
First, I can’t even begin to tell you how important editing is, particularly for indie published titles. You may attract a reader with a fancy cover, but you establish an audience by putting out well-written, well-edited, and entertaining stories. Period. If you fail on the latter, I don’t care how fancy your next cover is, people are not going to want to lay out cash for your book. It’s that simple. Your reputation and career in writing is based on what lies between the cover.
With that in mind, one commandment about editing that every indie author should heed.
Thou shalt NEVER be the sole editor for thine own book.
Serving as your own editor, in my opinion, is like representing yourself in court—not very smart. If you don’t know the law, how can you apply that law to defend yourself? By the same token, most of us don’t know grammar rules at a professional level. We can get by, but you have to do better than “get by” when you publish a book for public consumption.
For my day job, I work as an editor for a military organization. And what I can tell you is that, as an editor, with something of a trained eye, ICONSTANTLY miss mistakes in my own work. I’ll read through something I’ve written a few weeks prior and I can’t believe the mistakes I make. Why is it so difficult to edit your own work? Even the best writers have a tendency to read what they MEANT to write instead of what’s actually on the paper. At a minimum, you need a second set of eyes to read over your work. If you’re lucky, that person will also know basic English grammar. But the more eyes on your work, the better for your book.
With that said, when you ask someone to edit your book, what are you REALLY asking them to do? Most of us don’t really categorize editing, we have an idea that you just fix what’s wrong. But knowing the levels editing will help you determine what you can afford if you do eventually hire an editor.
In my experience, there are essentially four types of editing.
1. Proofreading. When you ask someone to proofread, you are really asking for the most basic editorial service. Proofreading really involves fixing the mechanics, such as missing or improperly used punctuation, wrong typefaces and font sizes, mist italicizations, capitalizations, transposed letters, etc. etc. The proofreader won’t change any words, they won’t delete anything you’ve written, they won’t rewrite. Just the basics.
2. Copyediting. In addition to proofreading, copy editing involves ensuring consistent word usage throughout the book, suggesting word changes, fixing language usage errors, etc.
3. Substantive or Heavy Editing. This is the maximum level of editing service that you can get. Everything’s pretty much on the table. They look at everything from grammar to structure, plot, and style. (This service can cost several thousand dollars for an adult-length novel.)
4. Manuscript Review or Editorial Review. This level of editing involves no changes to your manuscript whatsoever in terms of copyediting or proofreading. With this level of service, the editor reviews your entire manuscript and provides you with suggestions on plot, structure, pacing and flow, dialogue, etc. They may say “You use too many semicolons” or “check your comma usage” but they don’t make changes for you. They will answer questions like, such as Does the book have its intended effect (i.e., if it’s supposed to be funny, does it make the reader laugh?) Is the book commercially viable? They will usually provide you with written report that summarizes their findings and you’re left to incorporate those changes on your own.
In addition to the multiple levels of editing, there are also multiple types of editors. For example, I’m an editor in the technical sense. A professional editor too. BUT apart from writing my own novels, I do not have any experience in the acquisition, editing, and sale of books for a major publishing house that will be sold to readers nationally/internationally through major retailers. That subtle distinction sets apart editors from EDITORS. If you hire somebody, make sure you know who you are hiring and what level of service you’re paying for.
With that said, I have a few recommendations for self-editing and what to ask for when you hire an editor.
1. When editing your own work, two things you can do to help yourself find mistakes are read your work out loud and read the chapters and pages out of order. When you read out loud you tend to read exactly what’s on the page. Reading aloud also helps you identify issues with rhythm and awkward sentences.
2. When I edited my novel, I used a software called Autocrit. It is one of the single most valuable tools I used in self-editing. After processing each chapter through this software, my book was noticeably improved and got A LOT more attention from literary agents. You cut and paste blocks of text into the program and it helps you identify such issues as overuse of adverbs and clichés, poorly-worded sentences, and many many many other items that you would not likely see on your own. It does not provide alternatives, however, so the hard work is up to you. I HIGHLY recommend this tool. It’s available by a yearly subscription and the cost is cheap compared to the benefit you receive. http://www.autocrit.com/
3. If you cannot afford to pay for copyediting or proofreading, my suggestion I highly recommend getting a manuscript review from a former acquisitions editor of a major publishing house. Costs vary ($500 and up). Some will allow you to set up a payment plan. I did a lot of my own editing in addition to a friend who is a teacher who helped me proofread for the small fee of an acknowledgement. Then I could afford to spend all my editing dollars on getting a manuscript review. The key is getting someone who will tell you what you need to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear. I hired such a person. She kept it very real with me and gave me very good advice about how to proceed with my career and issues that I needed to keep in mind. If you need a recommendation, please let me know. I have three that I regularly recommend because I’ve had some interaction with them or they were recommended to me by others.
4. When hiring an editor, unless the recommendation is coming from someone you know and trust, ALWAYS CHECK REFERENCES. Good editors will have testimonials available on their website.
5. Critique groups, some which are free to participate in, offer great opportunities to get your work reviewed and most reviewers tend to do some proofreading as well. I’ve heard that AbsoluteWrite.com has a great critique group. My personal favorite is http://www.thenextbigwriter.com/. The reviewers on that site are really amazing and generous with their time and effort. The site is set up like Authonomy.com but unlike Authonomy, you have to give as much as you get. You’re required to review in order to earn points to post your own work chapter by chapter. In this way, they really encourage maximum participation. The cost is $50 a year, but the invaluable feedback I got from reviewers and the friends I made were far worth the price.
6. Buy at least ONE style manual! There are three that I highly recommend for writers: 1. The Chicago Manual of Style. 2. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White (often referred to at the Writer's bible.) 3. A Writer's Reference by Diane Hacker. Those are my three favorite/best reference tools and I own them all. There are MANY others that I'm sure are used that others will recommend. These are the ones that I've found most useful. Strunk and White is very cheap and can be read in a couple of hours. It's amazing all the mistakes that you will pick up in your own writing by just reading that just one time.
7. If you’re in a major bind, on rare occasions, I do proofreading/copyediting for authors who are tight on cash and need a trained eye. My fee is SUPER cheap because I don’t do really do it for the money. I do it to help out broke authors like myself. I only accept a small number of projects (because I’m focused on my own writing) and they have to be pretty straightforward. Contact me at karla (at) klbradywrites (dot) com for more information on that.
Whew! That's about it. What are your big editing challenges?
Keep it real--and keep it real cheap!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I’m one of those people who will buy a book largely based on the cover and a quick glance over the back cover copy. I’m easy, I know. And I can’t tell you how many books sit unread on my bookshelf because of that. Oh yeah, I’d been snookered, bamboozled, led astray, cast aside…lol. But it didn’t matter because by the time I figured it out they already had my money.
A really good quality cover is sometimes all you need to entice buyers…but to keep those buyers coming back you better have a damn good story too. But your cover and editing should be your two biggest investments when designing and publishing your book—no ifs, ands, or buts about it!
So, you whine, “Kaaaaarla, I don’t have enough money to hire a designer. And I can’t even draw stick people.”
Well, I’m going to give you a couple of money-saving tips that might help.
Tip #1: Check Craig’s List and Writer’s Forums. There are tons of freelance designers, many of them fresh out of design school, who would love the opportunity to design your book cover. Most don’t charge that much and are only looking for a good reference, so they go above and beyond. Always be sure to ask to see their portfolio so that you can see their previous work and whether their style of design fits in with your ideas.
Tip #2: Barter. Exchange service for service (and I don’t mean sexual services so get your head out of the gutter!). I know one writer who got her a graphic artist to design her book cover and in exchange she helped edit his graphic novel. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Tip #3: Hire someone to design the front cover only…and you do the rest.
I actually designed my spine and rear cover right on Microsoft Word and paid an illustrator to do the front cover because I didn’t have the money to pay someone to do the whole thing. I’ll admit that my first try really sucked because I didn’t go to the stores to look at back cover designs. But my second version turned out pretty dang decent. Looks like a REAL book. Note: You must have the Adobe Acrobat PDF plug in or the full standard or professional version on your computer to do this.
Here’s how I did it.
1. I opened up a new document in Word and set up my page dimensions by going to “page size” under the page layout menu. My page size is the size of the front and back cover of my book + the spine (6x9*2 + spine thickness). Lightning source, one of my printers, has a free spine calculator. You tell it how many pages your book has and what size it is, and it tells you the spine thickness based on the types of paper they use. (Note: You will usually need to make your length and width dimension about .25 longer to account for what printers call “bleed” around the outside edges. I could go into a long explanation here, but I won’t. Just do it! i.e., each box for the front and back cover is 6.25 x 9.25 and for the spine you only add .25 to the length. .71 x 9.25)
2. I set up two boxes for the front and back cover and one separate box for the spine. So, it should be in three pieces. I simply inserted the illustration in the first 6x9 box, inserted text boxes in the back cover box, and inserted a text box in the spine. Word 2007 has some great pre-designed text boxes that are great for inserting reviews and quotes from readers and reviewers. All you have to do is enter the text.
3. I cut and pasted my barcode into the bottom of the back cover and ensured that I typed in the price. (One tip for inserting your barcode: Do NOT resize after you download it from Bowker. If you do, the picture will come out pixelated and the printer won't accept it. Ask me how I know!)
4. Next, I grouped all three boxes together by holding down the ctrl button and clicking on all three boxes, hitting the right click button, and clicking on the word "group." Voila! My cover was in one single box instead of three separate ones.
5. Then, I used my Adobe PDF plug-in to convert my Word file to pdf. Be sure to select “US Prepress” and “press quality” in the preference section of Adobe to ensure the colors convert to CMYK, which is what most printers use. And that was pretty much it.
It doesn’t have to cost a million bucks for your book to look like a million bucks!
Next, I will cover the all-important topic of editing!
Keep it real—and keep it real cheap!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Yep! Imagine my surprise.(LOL) It's funny now that I think back on it. I was like, “It’s not supposed to be here!” because, in my head, I had shelved the book in another place in the store. Knowing what I know now, I would probably go with a fun all-text cover, so that the book could reach more mainstream audiences without looking like “Which one of these is NOT like the others?” no matter where it sits in the store.
As an aside, make sure that you encourage people to tag your book when it’s listed on Amazon. The more frequently your book is tagged in a particular category, the sooner your book will come up when someone searches by that term. For example, I have 50 tags in the chick lit category, so my book now comes up within the first two pages if someone searches for chick lit. I don’t know about you but I may look at the first 5 screens of books in a given category before I give up, so the earlier your book comes up on a search, the better chance you have to get a sale. Encourage folks to tag your book…and please tag mine if you’re in the neighborhood. :)
As I watched book buyers come in and peruse the books on the Urban Lit table, my poor little book was mostly overlooked. I think because the cover said, “You are waaaay out of my genre.” Even if the story might’ve appealed to from a female perspective, the cover didn’t get them. So, I moved the book over to the mainstream table and covered up another author’s book so I could squeeze The Bum Magnet in between Emily Giffin’s “Love the one you’re with” and another title that had a very colorful “chick lit-ish” cover (can't remember the name). And guess what? It got picked up within ten minutes. I moved two more books to that same table (on top of the author's book--shame on me!) and the entire supply had sold out within two weeks and the store placed a second larger order the next go around. Why? Because the cover was at least “in the family” of the kind of book they were looking to buy.