Category Archives: Publishing

Turning Failure into Success

The Complete Writer
Section VIII: The Writing Life:
Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay?

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

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Turning Failure into Success

They say failure can help turn your losing experience into a successful endeavor. That became evident from the erotica publishing enterprise, which after a couple of years appeared to have joined the 50 percent of small business start-ups that fail within five years.[3]

On the surface, what I learned from that is not to try to sell anything unless you have some very strong marketing skills and are willing to spend uncountable hours using them. However, something far more positive is coming out of it.

These days, I have more work than I can handle. People are lined up at the door trying to get me to edit their golden words or advise on publishing them. And one of my clients hired me to help him self-publish a memoir that he intends not for the public but for family and friends.

By way of saving money on design for him, I mocked up three draft covers for his delectation. One of them turned out looking pretty darned nice. Another would be even better if the quality of the image were better—it has a couple of flaws, one of which probably resulted from dirt on the lens and the other of which appears to be a data issue. We used his images, taken with a variety of cameras over forty years.

As I remarked in Chapter 33, there are any number of good reasons to use print-on-demand or e-book technology other than trying to trying to publish a best-seller. In fact, trying to publish the Great American Novel is the worst of all possible reasons.

One of several things I learned a-sailing the Amazon is how to create a nice-looking paperback through print-on-demand technology. As a result, I now have the skills and tools to take a book all the way from manuscript to print. And that process can be modestly lucrative.

Three projects like the client’s private memoir would recover all the losses I’ve enjoyed in the book publishing enterprise.

I’ve also learned of a Mac app that allows you to create really attractive .mobi, ePub, and iBook e-books fairly simply. I may try this on the client’s MS just to see what happens. If it can handle images (not an easy trick), then I would be able to offer e-book formatting of fairly complex documents, too. This would further enlarge the opportunities to make a profit helping other people publish their projects.

I would never advise a client to spend a vast pile of money self-publishing what he or she imagines is the Great American Novel. But if the person has a good reason to create a book-length document for a business, for a nonprofit organization, for patients or customers, or for family and friends, self-publishing can be an economical and relatively easy way to fulfill certain specific needs. And if you’re just a hobbyist—and you know you’re a hobbyist—writing a book because you get a kick out of writing and would like to see your results in print or on Amazon is surely no more expensive than skiing or four-wheeling. As long as you understand what you’re doing and don’t imagine you’re going to get rich (or, probably, even to make a profit), I’ll even help you publish your novel.

Does this experience generalize?

Evidently so; otherwise we wouldn’t have those chestnuts to the effect that you have to fail before you can succeed.

In learning how to lose money, you learn how not to lose money. With any luck at all, you may learn how to make money. This is an underlying principle of all the personal finance advice dispensed in popular media: if you get into debt, you can learn not to get into debt; if a bank screws you, you can learn to use a credit union; if you’re not earning enough, you can learn ways to earn more.

Some errors, of course, are not so easily rectified: fail to save enough for retirement and you won’t have a second chance. Text your way up the wrong way of a freeway off-ramp and your next success will be a Darwin Award.

But most of the time you do have a chance to learn something—and profit from it.

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing: Print

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

[37]

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:
Print

The most sensible way to prepare your book for print-on-demand publishing is to hire a graphic designer to do the layout and run interference with the printer for you. But of course . . . we rarely take the most sensible way. How boring would that be, eh?

Let’s look at what one needs to launch the print-on-demand venture:

The manuscript

That seems self-evident, so let’s clarify it: the edited manuscript in its absolutely positively last draft in perfect shape.

This is to say not to get ahead of yourself. Don’t conceive any silly ideas to the effect that you’ll slap what you have in a page layout and then add, subtract, multiply, and divide in page proofs. Even if you’re not paying a graphic artist to do the design and page layout, the amount of time added by making corrections in the laid-out copy will cost you dearly. So, be sure your content, heads, and subheads are in as final a form as they’re ever going to get.

The page layout

This is the book’s interior design. It’s the physical way all the book parts we explored in chapter 35 will look once the magnum opus is in print.

You can come by this in three ways. One is to hire a graphic designer to visualize the book’s size and physical appearance and design a graphic layout to make it so. If your book has a lot of images or other kinds of graphics (such as tables, graphs, lists, and the like), you would be well advised to have a professional design its interior layout.

That is also true if you have a specific reason to need a perfectly designed, exceptionally handsome finished product. If, for example, your book will be a marketing device for your business, you absolutely should hire a graphic artist to handle the design. If it is to be something you want to hand down to your family’s future generations—a gift, that is, to the scions of your dynasty—you probably should consider the cost of a graphic designer as money well spent.

Most readers haven’t a clue, however. And so this brings us to the second pathway to page design: a do-it-yourself template.

Unless you’re very skilled with Word, trying to set up a book without a professionally designed template is counterproductive. Setting up margins and gutters correctly for a printer’s trim size is no easy DIY project.

You can acquire templates that allow you to lay out a book in Word or, if you know the program, in InDesign. Also, it’s not difficult to use Apple’s Pages to set up a book’s margins, if you know the correct trim size and you have some degree of design and technical sophistication.

A Google search will reveal a number of entrepreneurs who sell templates pre-fabricated to lay out books in Word. For this book, for example, I am using Joel Friedlander’s[6] “Focus” template in a 5.5 x 8-inch trim size.

(Trim size, by the way, is the size the pages will be cut. The final size of a paperback book is the same as its trim size.)

You can obtain templates at CreateSpace,[7] Amazon’s print-on-demand supplier. I haven’t done so, because friends and associates have had mixed results with CreateSpace, and so my preference is to work with a local print-on-demand vendor. However, many people have been happy enough with CreateSpace’s products.

If you’re bound and determined to do this job yourself, bear in mind these crucial factors:

  • Word is not a page layout program. It can do a serviceable job, but the result will never be a great job.
  • You will need some serious sophistication in the use of Word.
  • The job will take three to six times longer than you expect.
  • Your computer will need to convert the Word file to a print-quality PDF. Most Macs will do this if you choose “print to PDF” instead of “save as PDF.” Many PCs will not. To make that happen, then, you will need to download and learn to operate Adobe Distiller or Acrobat Pro.
  • To get the PDF right, if you’re working on a Mac, you must go through the Word document and make sure every section is formatted in the correct trim size. Otherwise, the default settings (letter-size paper) will apply and your print-on-demand supplier’s upload software will tilt like an old-fashioned pinball machine. I expect this applies on a PC, too.

It’s not hard to do these things, nor is it unreasonably hard to learn them. But it can be very time-consuming. Do be prepared for this factor.

An ISBN

We visited the International Standard Book Number in chapter 35. An ISBN is not required unless you intend to sell your book in the retail market or try to get a library to stock it. Brick and mortar booksellers and libraries require an ISBN. Amazon does not need it for e-books but does require it for print books.

You do not need an ISBN to secure your copyright. The ISBN has nothing to do with copyright.

Consider how you will distribute your printed book. If it’s a family history or genealogy that you’ll give to the aunts, uncles, cousins, children, and grandchildren, then you will not need an ISBN. If you’re going to sell it through a retailer, then you do need an ISBN. The ISBN is easily purchased through Bowker.[8]

A bar code

Same principle applies here: print books intended to be marketed through retailers need a bar code keyed to the ISBN. Bowker will sell you a bar code, for a pretty penny. You can get one for free online, though, from CreativeIndie.[9]

The cover art and copy

You will need high-quality camera-ready artwork for your print cover. Minimum resolution should be 300 dpi.

Although it is possible to produce an acceptable cover using PowerPoint and a photo editor (this book’s cover was created with those tools), I don’t recommend it. InDesign is designed for graphics such as book covers, but the learning curve is steep. Gimp, the online freeware that apes InDesign, also can help you create your book’s artwork, but it is no easier to learn than InDesign. So, unless you have training in page layout software, you’re well served by hiring a graphic designer for the job.

Smashwords, a distributor of e-books, has a list of graphic artists who are willing to work for cheap.[10] I have never used any of these vendors and cannot comment on their quality; some apparently do e-book covers only; others may be experienced with wrap-around paperback covers. Another option in the low-rent category is Fiverr[11]; many people say they have found excellent graphic artists to do a one-off project like a book cover. It looks like a pig in a poke to me: be sure to ask for references.

If you feel you need a very high-quality cover—you do, if you intend to sell the book in the retail market—then you should go to one or more of the graphic artists’ associations that provide lists of members looking for freelance work. Brescia University lists the seven most prominent such groups.[12] The Copyeditor’s Desk also can connect you with one of our skilled and experienced subcontractors; get in touch through the Contact page at our website.[13]

Interior images

Print-on-demand technology cannot yet handle color images, at least not well. You will need to provide your images in black and white format. Convert color images to black and white in your photo editor or in Word. You can find Word’s conversion function in “Format > Picture > Recolor.” Select “grayscale,” not “black and white.” Adjust exposure and contrast as needed to attain the best reproduction.

The layout process

If you have a Word template, copy and paste your edited manuscript into the template, chapter by chapter. Using the Word “styles” that come with the template, format every element of the book’s file as appropriate. Most template makers provide instructions for how to do this. Follow the instructions closely.

Insert images using Word’s “Insert > Picture” function, bearing in mind how they’re likely to look in their position within the format. Size and position accordingly.

If you have not already done so, desaturate the images to make them black and white.

Now, here are some things you need to know about page layout.

Running headers should never appear on the first pages of chapters. You can set Word to omit them in the Insert > page numbers function.

Chapters should always open on a recto (odd-numbered) page.

If the preceding chapter ends on recto page, then the back side of that page (the verso, even-numbered page) should be left blank.

No page number or running head should appear on any blank page.

You cannot make Word do this automatically. The (sort of) easy fix is to create a blank text box in another file and “fill” it in white. Save to disk. Copy the text box to the page you want to be blank and move it over the running header, to cover it. If it does not hide the type under it, format the text box: format > text box > layout > in front of text. Assuming you print on white paper, the text box will hide the redundant running header. Obviously, this will not work on ivory paper.

Front matter should be paginated in lower-case Roman numerals; the rest of the book is paginated in Arabic numerals. Accomplish this by entering a section break (not a page break) at the end of the page of the front matter. Then in “Insert > page number,” instruct Word to paginate the front matter i, ii, iii… and the next section 1, 2, 3… starting anew with the numeral 1.

First paragraphs below every chapter title and subhead should be set flush left.

Other paragraphs should be set first line indent, and that indent should not be Word’s standard half-inch. About .2 inch works for most page layouts. Experiment if your layout is nonstandard.

A typical trade book paperback is 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

The spine size depends on the number of pages; your print-on-demand vendor’s software will calculate the width for you. Copy runs from the top to the bottom, not the other way around. Either the author’s name or the title may appear first. The publisher’s logo appears near the bottom of the spine.

Allow many more hours for this project than you imagine it will take. Page layout in Word is a time-consuming and challenging chore, even for people who are proficient in Word. If you don’t have strong admin-assistant level skills, you will be tearing your hair.

And that is why I strongly recommend hiring a graphic designer to do the page layout as well as the cover. You can do it, but it will make you crazy.

How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: E-books

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:
E-books

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

[36]

How to Prepare Your MS for Self-Publishing: E-books

This chapter is not for the technically proficient. If you know HTML and CSS—and know them well—format your document in ePub and be done with it. You can submit an ePub file to any of the major e-book distributors. Freeware that will simplify your life is Calibre. Its documentation is written in techese and difficult for the untechnical to learn.

For the rest of us, there’s hope: it’s not difficult to format a Word document for Kindle if—and only if—it consists mostly of plain narrative, with no graphics. That means no pictures, no diagrams, no graphs, no maps, no boxed pull-outs: nothing but plain sentences, paragraphs, chapter titles, and basic subheads.

Anything more complex—such as the book you have in your hands—requires a format conversion program such as InDesign, Apple Pages, or Calibre. Unless you’re familiar with such software, you’ll find a professional e-book formatter’s services well worth the very reasonable cost.

Formatting basics

In either event, your entire document must be formatted using Word’s “Styles” function. This includes titles, subtitles, paragraphs, captions, footnotes, and the like.

Do this whether you intend to attempt a DIY project or whether you will hire a professional formatter to do it right. Do not fail to set the formatting with your word processor’s “styles.”

Instruction on how to use Word is beyond this book’s scope, but you can find how-to’s by clicking on “Help” or by searching for the desired function in Google.

The font you select is irrelevant to e-book formatting. In Kindle, the reader can select fonts and sizes according to need or whim. So you can simply use Word’s default or, if you prefer a less unsightly font, select Times or Times New Roman.

Margin settings are similarly irrelevant in e-book formatting. In Word, then, use the default margins (1 inch top and bottom; 1 inch left and right).

So, using “Styles,” go through the manuscript and apply the chapter title style to each chapter title, the level 1 subhead to each main subhead, the level 2 subhead to each sub-subhead, the paragraph style to each paragraph, the bulleted list style to each bulleted list, and so on. Do not use the Format… command to accomplish this task. You need to have all the formatting set up with “Styles.”

This includes italic, boldface, and small caps as well.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by using an e-book format template. A number of these are available. These come with preformatted styles for all elements in your manuscript.

Remember: in any word processing program (Word, Pages, GoogleDocs, Open Office, etc.), what you see on the page is NOT what you get. An e-book displays “flowable” text. That means it changes to suit the reader’s preferences and to adapt to the device on which it is viewed.

Page numbers go away. So do your pretty running headers. Knowing this, remove pagination and running headers from your document.

Formatting for heads and subheads may be arbitrary. Do set the heads and subheads using your word processor’s “styles.” Their format will come out looking distinct, if you set them consistently. However, they may look different from what you expect.

The live table of contents needs to be formatted on a PC, not a Mac. You will need a ToC with live links; if you don’t know how to create one of these (in Word, go to Format > Document Elements > Table of Contents), you should hire someone who does or, preferably, hire a professional e-book designer to do the entire job.

Graphics of any kind (this includes photographs, drawings, tables, graphs, maps, lists, and anything else along those lines) are very tricky to install in an e-book. It’s possible to do so using a word processing program, but it’s difficult and requires real technical proficiency.

For this reason, a book that contains any complexity at all beyond A- and B-level subheads is best consigned to an experienced, technologically proficient e-book designer.

Drop caps installed in a word processor do not compute on Kindle readers. Do not use drop caps in an e-book. Doing so will create a mess.

This is an example of a drop cap.

If you want to fancify your first paragraphs, try setting the first few words in all caps, like this:

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in outer Richistan, the wind howling through the mountain passes and…

Small caps would look much more professional. But not all versions of Kindle can read your DIY small caps. If you set your first view words in small caps….

…you may get IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in your published e-book, depending on how it’s viewed.

The best candidate for DIY e-book formatting is a work of fiction with plain-vanilla formatting: one that contains nothing more complicated than chapter titles and an occasional subhead. If it contains a map, a diagram, dingbats formatted as jpegs, or anything even faintly out of the ordinary, hire an e-book formatter.

Before you upload your book to kindle . . .

First, write the keywords, category and the description. These are not things you want to scribble on the fly, as they’re presented to you in Kindle’s online form.

The keywords and categories will guide your readers to your book. Think, from a reader’s point of view, what category or keyword a person might search for that would bring up your book. You get two browsing categories (often they do not fit: this book will probably be classified under “self-help” and “crafts and hobbies” ), and seven keywords.

Converting and posting your book to kindle

It is possible to convert a Word document directly to Kindle (i.e., .mobi format) from your “Bookshelf” page. I strongly urge you to rethink this scheme if your book has any level of complexity at all. The book you are reading, for example, will be formatted by a professional.

You will need a correctly designed and sized “cover” image in JPEG format. Please see the previous chapter for discussion of this issue.

I have used Amazon’s online Kindle conversion software for Camptown Races books, which are short, very simple, and contain no formatting other than the book title, the chapter titles, and the paragraphs. For this purpose, it has worked satisfactorily—but bear in mind, readers do not pick up light erotica for its elegant design. Converting any layout more sophisticated than a very plain novel will give you a migraine.

Review your document line by line to be sure you have formatted everything, including single words set in italic or boldface, using the “Styles” function.

In a separate reading, proofread carefully. You may want to get a friend or employee to proofread the copy, since your eye will fill in what your mind knows to be correct, and even with Word’s spell-checker running, you will miss some typos.

Set up a book-seller’s account with Amazon’s Author Central. The instructions are posted online;[5] it’s not as complicated as it looks. Select Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can go through CreateSpace, which has many services and tools for self-publishers. Personally, I use Kindle Direct because I have heard so many horror stories from people who have tried CreateSpace: bad design, second-rate products, poor customer service, various incomprehensible hassles—in my opinion, it’s better to have more direct control over production. You do not need CreateSpace to build an e-book file and publish it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Once you’re registered with Author Central, follow the steps to publish your book from your “Bookshelf” page. This is rote and very simple.

All you have to do is upload your Word file, and Amazon’s software will automatically convert it to Kindle format.

Three things you should know about this process:

  1. Your book cover needs to be prepared as a high quality JPEG—at least 300 dpi—and sized at about 1200 x 1800 pixels. You can’t upload a PDF here.
  2. Amazon has a spellchecker. Even though you think your manuscript is perfect after the ten proofreadings you’ve gone through, and even though the spellchecker flags exotic place names or unusual proper names, it will catch typos that you missed! Every time. Be sure to look at the spellchecker’s results and go through each item.
  3. Amazon gives you two choices for reviewing the completed .mobi file:
  4. You can read it online in Amazon’s online Kindle reader; or
  5. You can download a Kindle reader to your computer, download the .mobi file, and read the thing in your terminal.

Your best choice, hands-down, is to download the Kindle reader, then download the .mobi file and read it in your resident Kindle reader.

While no two Kindle devices necessarily show a given .mobi file the same way, the online Kindle reader at Author Central is a disaster, particularly if you have even slightly complex formatting, or if you have changed the formatting within a document before uploading it.

The first book I published on Amazon contained a lot of lists and several levels of heads and subheads. It looked fine in the online Kindle reader, so I clicked “publish.”

Forthwith, up came an angry review from a reader who complained about a mishmash of weird formatting.

I downloaded the book to my iPad and opened it in the iPad’s Kindle reader and saw she was right: the whole thing was a mess!

I had to remove the book from Amazon, rename it, get a new ISBN, produce all new marketing materials, and hire an e-book formatter to completely reformat the 350-page book from beginning to end.

Back at Author Central, I downloaded the Kindle reader offered there and used that to open the delinquent .mobi file. It, like my unhappy reader’s device, revealed a formatting jumble. So, the message there is don’t, under any circumstances, use Amazon’s online Kindle Reviewer as a quick way to review your book during the upload process.

After you’ve downloaded Author Central’s kindle reader, you can also download the .mobi file to your computer. This allows you to save it to disk. Back up the book in every format you create and store it to an external hard drive: this includes your word-processed version, PDF, .mobi, ePub, and anything else you encounter.

Follow the steps through the online form. Set your price, click on the “agree” box, and click done. Your book will go online within a couple of days.

KDP Direct vs. KDP Select

Amazon will pressure you, at the time you upload your book and in various communications, to join its KDP Select program. Supposedly this step up from the entry-level KDP Direct will supercharge your sales.

Personally, I find KDP Select to be somewhat problematic. Primary reason: when you enroll in KDP Select, you agree to embargo your book. You can’t sell it anywhere but on Amazon: not at Barnes & Noble, not down at the local grocery store, not through Smashwords, not even from your own website.

If you have published the work as a series and also as a “boxed set” or complete book and you have put even one of the serials in KDP Select, the complete book containing the embargoed work is also embargoed!

Additionally, KDP Select limits your pricing to no more than $9.99. If you consider how many hours it takes to write and format a book and how much you could have earned during those hours on a freelance or employee basis, you’ll soon realize that you would have to sell a boatload of books at $9.99 to earn even minimum wage, to say nothing of covering your costs and making the book turn a profit.

KDP Select automatically enrolls your book in Amazon’s “lending” program, which essentially gives your book away for free. The theory here is that people who join the lending program will pay to do so. A pool of money is set aside from these fees, to be paid to authors whose books are “borrowed” in this way.

But Amazon spies on its book users. Those who “borrow” your book must open it and look at a certain number of pages. You are paid—if you’re paid—according to the percentage of the book the reader has eyeballed.

Let me put it this way: you can supercharge a snail. You’ll still have a snail.

To my mind, it’s just not worth giving Amazon full control over where you sell your book and who reads it. Some authors have reported good results from KDP Select; others have seen no change in sales. My guess is that those who are happy with it have strong marketing programs elsewhere and would have seen decent sales had they maintained their independence and stayed with KDP Direct.

I recently ran a one-week KDP Select “countdown” sale of six titles—a cookbook and five erotic romances. I hyped the bargains from one end of the social media to the other. During the entire month of that sale, I sold eighteen books. Revenues were $18.97: about the same as I earn month by month without slashing the prices to 99 cents.

Working with a professional e-book formatter

Let me say it one more time: you are best served by hiring an e-book formatter to convert your book to electronic format. Unless you love spending hour after hour after hour trudging up and down Himalayan learning curves, unless you like wasting your time, and unless frustration is a gratifying emotion for you, please do consider farming out your manuscript to an expert formatter.

E-book formatters not only can save you a great deal of time (and time is money if you write or edit on a contract basis), they also know how to get images to work in electronic files, how to optimize the files for viewing on a wide variety of readers, and how to set them up so that browsing buyers will see the most tempting part of your book first.

Here’s what the person will need:

  • The manuscript, carefully proofread and thoroughly, accurately formatted in your word processor’s “Styles” function.
  • Images in high-quality JPEG format. Each image should be sharp, clear, and at least 300 dpi.
  • Your completed cover, also as a high-quality JPEG.

Be sure your manuscript is as edited as it’s going to get, so as to spare the formatter unnecessary extra work.

 

How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: Parts of a Book

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:
The Parts of a Book

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

[35]

Preparing Your Manuscript for Publishing I:
The Parts of a Book

Every book that follows the Chicago Manual of Style—the standard of the book publishing industry—contains certain set parts. These are broadly known as the front matter (half-title or bastard title, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, foreword or preface); text (author’s introduction and book’s the main content); and back matter (appendixes, index, author’s bio). Running headers and footers, including pagination, are also part of the book, as are various graphics. The cover, too, is a book part.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these.

Front matter

The half title, sometimes called a bastard title, is the first page of the book. This page displays the main title only, without the subtitle or any other details. It appears on the right-hand side (“recto” page); the back of this sheet (the “verso” page) is left blank, unless the book is part of a series. In that case, the title and volume number of the series, the general editor’s name, and sometimes the titles of previous volumes in the series may appear on the verso side of the half-title.

Often, a paperback does not include a half-title. As you can see, this book has no half-title. Neither do e-books.

The title page starts with the book’s main title. On the next line, the subtitle (if any) should appear, followed by the author’s name and the name and city of the publishing house.

In this book, which was created with a commercial template, the book’s title appears in 36-point Big Caslon small caps; the subtitle is in the same font in 12-point caps and lower-case (cc/lc), and the author’s byline is in 18-point cc/lc. The publisher’s name and city are set in 14-point cc/lc.

No law governs the choice of fonts, the size, or the position. The lines may be centered or flush left, as desired. But the design of the title page should match or be compatible with the design for the content of the book.

The copyright page appears on the back side (verso) of the title page. The copyright statement looks like this:

Copyright YYYY Copyright Holder

or

Copyright © YYYY Copyright Holder

Thus:

Copyright 2016 Oliver Q. Boxankle

If you wish to include a reminder that you will sue the bedoodles out of anyone who infringes on your rights, this is the place to do it:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This gassy statement is redundant. The fact that you have a copyright in the material and you have neither sold it nor released it to the public domain means the same thing as the verbiage above. Anything you create in a reproducible medium—including writing—is automatically copyrighted as you create it. You own the copyright on it by virtue of your having made it. Copyright will always belong to you, unless you choose to sell some or all of your rights in the work.

If there’s some other copyright information that should be included, such as acknowledgement of previously published material, include it here.

Some parts of this book originally appeared in The Essential Feature, by Victoria Hay (Columbia University Press, 1990).

Include the name of the publisher and contact information. Some sources suggest you include an address. If you’re self-publishing and working out of your home, obviously this is ill-advised. Instead, include a contact page at your website, or else rent a mailbox through the postal service or a private mailboxes shop. Although you need to include the publisher’s city, do not include an address where anyone can find you in person and do not include a telephone number that rings directly to you personally or to a home office.

Plain & Simple Press
Phoenix, Arizona

Next, credit special contributors, such as graphic artists (cover design, interior design and layout, photographer(s), editor, and the like).

Book Layout ©2013 BookDesignTemplates.com

This credits the designer of the template used to lay out the book’s interior; the template itself is copyrighted. If a graphic designer laid out the interior, credit that artist here; similarly credit the artist who designed your cover, and the photographer (if any) who provided the image.

Don’t neglect to include the edition number and your ISBN on the copyright page.

Book Title/ Victoria Hay. —1st ed.
SBN 978-0-0000000-0-0

You’ll need to get a new ISBN for each new edition, and also for every format in which the book appears. That is, the ePub version has its own ISBN, as does the Kindle version, as does the paperback version, as does the hardback version.

Traditional publishers also include the Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) data.[1] Unless you are selling your book through brick-and-mortar bookstores, it’s not necessary. If you hope to get your book into libraries, you’ll need a Library of Congress Preassigned Control Number (PCN) so you can get a CIP, which is required by libraries. CIP is not readily available to self-published authors, and so to navigate these shoals you will need to do some research.[2]

You may include a brief biographical note of the author or other contributors. If this information is given on the copyright page, it appears at the top of the page and the name or names must be consistent with their appearance on the title page. Often, as in this book, the author’s bio appears at the end of the book.

What is an ISBN and why do you need it? Or do you need it?

“ISBN” stands for International Standard Book Number. A special ISBN is set up for each book in a system provided by Bowker.[3] It is a universal, unique identifier that enables publishers and booksellers to manage fulfillment and inventory. Each format for a book must have a separate ISBN.

To get into Books in Print your book must have an ISBN. Libraries will not carry books unless they’re in Books in Print. So, you need an ISBN if you are going to ask your local library to carry your self-published book.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar bookstores require an ISBN. Many barriers to selling in real bookstores confront self-publishers; this is one of them. If you think you want to jump those hurdles, start right away by registering an ISBN with Bowker for your print book.

Contrary to what a certain large retailer would like you to believe, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. “ASIN” stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It’s just an inventory number for Amazon; it has no meaning in any other context. The ISBN is universally recognized and used by retailers, libraries, distributors, and fulfillers.

You do not need to an ASIN at Amazon because amazon will assign one. An ISBN is needed to sell through most other retailers and for lending libraries.

With the ISBN, you can acquire a bar code for your hard-copy book. All retailers, including Amazon, require a bar code for paperback and hardback books. Once you have the ISBN, you can get a bar code from Bowker, for a fee. However, free bar codes are available on the Internet.[4] A bar code includes your ISBN (providing a tracking number for the retailer and for you) and the book’s retail price.

A dedication or epigraph (or both) may appear after the copyright page. Each of these occupies the recto side (odd-numbered) of its own page, with a blank verso side.

The table of contents appears next, also starting on the recto side of the page. You can generate a table of contents in Word. For electronic publication, this is required (an e-book formatter will create it in HTML ). You should know that at this time Amazon cannot recognize the code used to generate a table of contents on any Apple device or program. Thus if you write in Word for the Mac or in Pages, your TofC will have to be updated in Word, Scrivener, or InDesign for a PC. Be prepared for this frustrating and potentially time-consuming complication.

The foreword, preface. acknowledgments, and introduction follow the table of contents. A preface is written by the author and often signed or initialed. A foreword is written by someone other than the author. It may appear as a selling point: “With a Foreword by [Famous Personage]!”

The introduction may appear as part of the front matter if it is written by someone other than the author. In that case, it should follow the foreword and be paginated in lower-case roman numerals. An introduction written by the author usually is presented as part of the text and paginated in Arabic numerals.

Text

The text is the main body of the book. It consists of the author’s introduction (if any) and the book’s contents. It is divided into chapters that may be organized into parts (as the present book is). Chapters are often subdivided with subheads.

Chapters should be approximately of similar length. Chapter titles should be short and to the point; avoid whimsy and cuteness. Each chapter starts on a recto (odd-numbered) page; no running header appears on a chapter’s first page, although a page number may appear at the bottom of the page. You can move the running header (including the page number) into a running footer on each chapter’s first page. This is tricky to accomplish in Word; you’ll need to Google or otherwise find the instructions for how to do this in your version of Word.

Technically, a chapter title is a level B head (the book title being the level A head). However, layout artists and editors commonly call the chapter title level A, subheads level B, and sub-subheads level C. This is true of most templates designed for use in Word.

Set each section title, chapter title, and subhead in a recognizable, distinct typeface and position. In this book, for example, section titles are set in 20-point Big Caslon, four single spaces below the top margin, [setting these two details in WordPress is beyond my skills!] centered, roman (not boldface, not italic) and numbered with a centered Roman numeral. Thus:

VIII

The Writing Life

The template used to lay out this book includes a special format for the chapter number: gray, roman indented .5 inch, with 48 points before and 12 points after (there are 72 points in an inch—in theory).

[10]

The chapter title itself is set in 24-point Cambria, roman, flush left, 20 points before and 0 points after:

Chapter Title

Subheads are set in Big Caslon 11.5 points, small caps, flush left, with 12 points leading before and 6 points after, and sub-subheads, which generally should be avoided for nonacademic books, also need their own distinctive formatting. Because of the limitations of WordPress, I’m unable to illustrate these here. Many nonfiction books will show examples of subheads.

They may stand alone, like this:

Here Is a Subhead (a B-level head)
A sub-subhead might look like
this…
Or It Might Look Like This

In any event, B-level heads should all be formatted the same.

Subheads at a lower level may be presented in run-in format, like this:

A run-in subhead. In this case the subhead is set, sentence-style, as part of the paragraph. It’s distinguished with bold-face type.

The first paragraph below a chapter head or subhead should be set flush left, no indent, as you will see in the format throughout The Complete Writer.

Back matter

Back matter includes glossaries, lists of place names or proper names, appendixes, endnotes (headed Notes in Chicago style), a bibliography or reference list as needed, a list contributors, the index, and possibly a biography of the author.

The cover

Much has been said among the DIY set about book covers. Although it’s possible to trick one out in Amazon’s cover-building software, in PowerPoint, in Acrobat, in InDesign, or in a freeware program called Gimp, I strongly recommend that you hire a graphic designer to create your cover.

All the programs that allow you to build a DIY cover amount to GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. To create an effective cover that will help sell your book, you need to understand the principles of artistic design, typesetting, cover lines, and configuration for commercial marketability. Designing a cover for an e-book requires a different set of skills and knowledge than designing one for print.

An e-book cover consists only of the “front” cover. Because it is presented in thumbnail size, it must be designed so that its picture, its title, and the author’s byline jump out of a very tiny image.

A cover for a paperback book is designed as a wrap-around: it includes, on the left-hand side, the copy and images for the back cover, set in two or three blocks; then, in the center, the correctly sized spine with the title and author’s name running vertically; and finally, on the right-hand side, the image and cover lines for the front cover. The spine’s width must be calculated and accommodated correctly in the design, with the front and back covers adjusted accordingly. The entire production must be fitted accurately to your book’s trim size: the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the final printed product.

Learning to do these things, learning the software, and doing the job over and over and over until you get it right is about as unfun as unfun can get. Do yourself a favor and hire a designer.

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press? The Complete Writer

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

 34

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

One reason: Creds

Several of my friends and acquaintances have immersed themselves so deeply in the indie publishing/self-publishing phenomenon that they can’t see why anyone would want to publish through an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar mainstream publisher. After all, they cry, look at how much more money you can make on sales of your book through Amazon!

To that I have this to say:

  1. Fat chance and good luck with that.
  2. Even if you make more per retail transaction, you’re still very unlikely to make as much publishing a good, truly promising book through Amazon as you would on an advance against sales from a major publishing house. And . . .
  3. Let’s look at the whole picture.

Here’s the thing: even if you publish regularly on Amazon, you’re unlikely to earn a living at it. Sure, some people do. But most people don’t. And dreaming about being a Writer with a Capital W does not put food on the table or a roof over your head.

Unless you have a working spouse or independent wealth, what you need to be a Writer is a job that will support you while leaving you enough hours in the day, every day, to do the work of writing. And those hours cannot occur after eight or ten hours in the salt mine: writing is every bit as much a job as slinging hamburgers or preparing tax returns or painting houses or pushing some company’s papers. The Writing Hours need to occur when you’re fresh enough and energetic enough to devote your full attention to your job of preference.

There is a type of work that fills the bill: full-time (not adjunct!) teaching in higher education, preferably at a university. Preferably in a graduate-level writing program. Whereas in the olden days artists and writers were supported by aristocratic patrons—dukes and earls and kings and such—today’s patron is the university. Universities (and, to a lesser degree, two- and four-year colleges) support artists and writers by employing them in jobs that are light on labor and heavy on prestige. And the “prestige” part is the part they expect you to deliver.

To provide that—to get a tenure-track job at all—you have to be published through a recognizable press. And that does not include CreateSpace. As with any tenurable position, jobs in writing programs require more than just publishing. It’s not that you’re published. It’s where you’re published. You have to be published with a first-line trade or scholarly press that has gatekeepers—editors and marketers and reviewers who assess the quality of your manuscript before it’s accepted for publication.

A book or two published through a recognizable house will open the doors to jobs that ask only that you teach two or three sections of creative writing or literature in exchange for freedom and time to build your career as a writer. It doesn’t have to be a Big Five publisher. An academic press or a small (but real: not CreateSpace, not Nook, not iBooks, not Kindle) publisher will do the job.

I landed a full-time university teaching job complete with excellent benefits, very nice office space, a decent salary, and a future on the strength of two books published through university presses and one through a major commercial publishing house. If I were to apply for such a job today, my CV would contain no mention of the books published through Amazon’s Kindle platform. Amazon wonders notwithstanding, any whiff of a self-published book could be fatal.

Could I earn more by aggressively marketing a self-published book with broad appeal than I would by publishing the same book through a mainstream publisher? Maybe. Let’s suppose we even say “sure.”

But that income would be short-term. It would peter out in a few years, maybe even in a single year. To stave off the evil day, I would have to devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing and to hustling sales.

A salary from an academic job, on the other hand, will remain a salary as long as I hold the job, whether I publish more books or not. The academic employer will match contributions to a 403(b). It will offer a health insurance plan. It will offer disability insurance. It will give me an annual travel budget to cover junkets to various professional conferences. It will, in a word, support me.

Now, I’m not saying no one ever cobbles together a living wage by cranking out self-published books. No doubt some people do—maybe a lot of people. But it’s an iffy proposition.

If your books are good enough to sell to enough readers for the proceeds to support you, then they’re good enough to sell to a mainstream publisher. And the kind of job you can land with a few mainstream publications on the CV will support you steadily and usually better than a catch-as-catch-can income stream from Amazon will.

Mainstream publication gives you credentials—the credentials you need to persuade an academic patron (a university or community college) to support you while you keep on writing.

 

 

Self-Publishing: REALLY? The Complete Writer *Free Reads*

The Complete Writer

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section VII: Publishing and Self-Publishing

32

Self-Publishing: Really?

Know how to get a small fortune?

Start with a large fortune and publish a book.

(Cue laugh track)

 That old chestnut wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t so true. As a practical matter, most people make nothing on self-published books. They soon find their magnum opus interests no one but themselves, and the whole project turns into an expensive hobby.

At this writing, I have a pricey Facebook Ads campaign plus several other efforts under way, by way of peddling one of the forty-eight books and bookoids my two imprints have put online at Amazon. It’s been going on for several months. So far we’ve sold a few copies of the cookbook in Kindle—and far more of them in hard-copy through face-to-face marketing—three copies of Slave Labor, an occasional copy here or there of the erotic shorties. And we have sold a few copies of the beloved novel. Not for lack of trying: serial versions of the thing have earned five-star reviews.

The books that do sell with a little regularity—the “racy books” published through Camptown Races Press—do not even come within shouting distance of breaking even on ad investment.

The cookbook sold smartly to a group of friends but in the wide world is barely noticeable on Amazon.

Yesterday as I took a break from hour after hour after crushing, unpaid hour of recovering a 325-page book our software had corrupted for reasons unknown, I reflected on the causes for this.

Books have never been easy to sell.

Unless you have a platform from which to market them—a business with a broad reputation or one that does something relevant to the book’s subject matter—you will have to hustle madly to bring your book to anyone’s attention. That has ever been so, yea verily since long before the Amazon disruption.

Digital publishing amplifies that difficulty

Amazon has made the marketing challenge infinitely more difficult. Without literary agents and publishing houses as gatekeepers, the market is now flooded with dreck and chaff. Not just flooded: we’re talkin’ tsunami here.

Readers know that about 80 to 90 percent of books offered on Amazon and waypoints are junk or self-serving marketing tools. They also know, if they’re at all savvy, that they can acquire most of the stuff—and even some readable books—for free. So of course they’re not about to pay you enough to cover your time and skills. Not when they think they shouldn’t have to pay you anything at all.

So, the nature of the market has changed: not for the better, where people who write for a living are concerned.

A fly-by-night enterprise from the git-go

Then we have the issues inherent to self-publishing that have always worked against independent writers: publishing a book or periodical and getting people to buy it requires a full staff of workers. It’s not something one little person working alone is likely to succeed with.

Every time I’ve published a book through a mainline publishing house—and I’ve published three of them, not counting the ones I’ve worked on for my employers or the ones my business has packaged for other publishers—I’ve worked with an acquisitions editor, a copyeditor, a layout artist, a proofreader, a marketer, and various secretaries and admins.

The first magazine I worked for, which published the occasional easy-to-market book, had five editors, three graphic designers, four or five ad space sales staff, and a publisher whose job was to market the publication. The next magazine had three high-powered editors, a fact-checker, a photo editor, four graphic artists, a production director, and a marketing department. It also had a book division with its own editor and designers.

To make a self-published book fly, you need to do the work of all those specialists.

And you’re not a specialist. If you are, it’s as a writer, not as an artist, a marketer, a sales rep, an acquisitions editor, a production manager, a copyeditor, or a proofreader.

The likely upshot

Because you’re an amateur at seven in eight of the jobs that need to be done to write, produce, and sell a book, your chances of success are almost nil. But even if you were expert in all those lines of work, you’re only one person: there’s no way you can do the work of eight people and do it well.

That’s why you’re better off trying to sell your book idea or manuscript to a mainstream publisher. And it’s why, if you have a lot of money to start with and are willing to subsidize your book by hiring the talent needed to put it together and sell it, self-publishing means you’re likely to end up with a lot less money.

All is not irredeemable gloom and doom, though. In fact, there are some good reasons to self-publish. In some circumstances, self-publishing can be the most reasonable, most economical, and most successful way to reach a targeted, interested audience. Stay tuned for chapter 33 to learn when and why to publish your own book.

How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal

Derailed from the Ella’s Story project!. I’m afraid this week’s episode  ain’t a-goin’ online tomorrow (Monday), as scheduled. That would be because I’ve spent the last ten days or so working on a new book proposal — one to be sent out to real publishing houses, one after another, until someone folds and buys the thing. 😀

First part of next week, I’m sending this thing to a prominent Canadian university press, mostly because the subject matter (which shall remain unnamed until I have a contract) has had more press and regulatory attention in Canada than in the U.S.

Writing a nonfiction proposal is a project. And since you don’t do this every day for a living, it’s usually a gestalt project: interrupted every time you turn around by more immediate concerns. Kids, jobs, spouses, barking dogs, blog posts… Hereabouts, paying work has been coming in over the transom — the Chinese mathematicians do not spend any time sitting on their hands! — so of course their projects take precedence over a speculative endeavor. Even though I expect this speculative endeavor to turn a few shekels. Eventually.

But now is more immediate, by far, than eventually.

So here’s a plan: Not having a chapter of idle fiction to post, why don’t we talk about how to write a nonfiction book proposal…

Probably we should start with why one would do such a thing.

Here’s my line of reasoning for this book:

Amazon is all well and good for a bookoid that you don’t think is very important (the Fire-Rider series, for example, or yet another diet/cookbook, or a strange fictional ramble that doesn’t fit into any standard genre but surely isn’t literary fiction either…). But if you have something you think people will buy, or a subject you think is important enough to bring to a wide audience (not just your friends, relatives, and those folks on Fiverr you paid to write reviews), you’re best off to bring it out through a real publishing house: a commercial publisher or a university press.

Advantages:

  1. Publishing houses have marketing departments. No, they’re usually not the high-octane variety, but they at least give you a leg up.
  2. Publishing houses have copyeditors. You don’t have to pay those copyeditors to clean up your manuscript and make it fit Chicago style.
  3. Publishing houses have book designers and page layout artists.
  4. Publishing houses have acquisitions editors and editorial committees and marketing committees. Yes: the dreaded gate-keepers. When you can get past those gate-keepers, you signal to interested parties that you have a half-way decent product. Maybe even a salable product.
  5. Publishing houses have advertising budgets. They also have catalogues and websites that feature your book — free of charge to you.
  6. Book reviewers at major publications — the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times,  the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and that ilk — will not give your self-published tome a second look. Nay, not even a first look. To get real book reviews in real markets that reach real readers who are likely to buy your book, you need to be published through a publishing house with a real gate-keeper. And that doesn’t include CreateSpace.
  7. Libraries and bookstores will pick up your book from a real publisher without you having to jump through hoops to make that happen.
  8. Real publishers will pay you an advance against royalties. You don’t have to return that advance if your book doesn’t sell enough to earn that much for the publisher (they may not love you, in that case…but at least you get paid something for the work you put in to writing the book).
  9. Real publishers don’t jack you around, trying to get you to give your book away for free in their profit-making “lending” program.

Okay, so once you’ve decided you want to get serious about publishing and moving your writing career a notch above the outsider level, you need to write a winning proposal.

The proposal is your sales pitch. It’s the tool you use to persuade the staff of a publishing house that you have a book idea that fits the company’s mission and that they can market successfully.

So, a proposal is a pretty standard document — though you have to write with some flair and have a winning idea to make it fly. Here’s what’s in a proposal:

  1. Cover letter to the acquisitions editor. (Find this person’s name at the publisher’s website or from a current edition of Literary Marketplace.) Give your book’s working title and explain what the book is about and why you think their house is the appropriate publisher for it.
  2. An overview of the book
  3. A discussion of why you’re writing it.
  4. Explanation of how your book compares to others in the field. (It’s OK if there are other books on the subject: sometimes the existence of similar books even helps to sell yours by showing there’s a market for it.
  5. Description of the intended audience. Who do you think will buy this book, and why. If there’s a special market segment — such as textbooks, for example — say so and explain why the book fits into that segment.
  6. Statement of the anticipated length of the final manuscript.
  7. Description of the number and nature of any graphics (tables, illustrations, figures)
  8. Explanation of your qualifications for undertaking the project.
  9. A table of contents: a list of chapter titles.
  10. A chapter outline: bulleted outline or narrative description for each chapter.
  11. Your book’s introduction and one to three completed chapters.

None of these things is very hard. But they can be time-consuming. You shouldn’t let yourself get in a big hurry to do them: leave time to let it sit, come back to it, and revise.

Like I say: It’s a project.

Self-Publishing: The Tsunami

Y’know… I’ve self-published a number of my own (lesser…) efforts. I do not make any pretenses as to their superiority or lack thereof. And I think it’s delightful that an independent, unknown author can take her beloved magnum opus to its audience of two (if she’s lucky) and tell herself that she’s “published.”

But… My god, there should be a limit!

Problem No. 1 is the same problem we’ve always had with this route to the public: in the absence of a gatekeeper, any kind of schlock can go to print and distribution. And believe me, it does.

Problem No. 2: Amazon et alii have made the self-publishing process so easy that we now have an indiscriminate flood of schlock. It saturates the book market.

It saturates Amazon to the extent that you can’t tell whether you’re ordering a decent book or not. People put up their friends and hire hacks to post glowing reviews, and so if you sort an Amazon search by customer reviews, a slew of apparently stellar volumes will pop to the head of the list.

They’re stellar, all right. In the sense that a red dwarf star is stellar. Dull and glowing by the light of spent radiation.

An example of this struck the other day, here at The Copyeditor’s Desk. We would like to offer proposal writing services through our little business. As a faculty member at Arizona State University, I wrote a few proposals, and in an earlier incarnation, my little business picked up a number of jobs by answering federal RFPs. And I spent several terms — nigh unto a decade — on the Arizona Humanities Council’s board of directors. All we did there was read, assess, and decide whether to reject or approve proposals.

So I do know how a proposal works.

However, it’s been awhile. Given that times do change, I figured I’d better cobble together a DIY refresher course to bring my skills up to date before offering us up on the open market as proposal writers.

First off, I spotted a course offered through a national association of grant writers. It was pricey, but I could add people to it, so I subscribed for myself and my associate editor.

Result: middling. Apparently there’s not enough to say on the subject to fill several hours of video time — certainly not enough time to justify charging what that outfit charges — and so the instructor bloviates. On and on and eye-glazingly on. The content ranges from saccharine pep talk to entire segments dedicated to telling viewers what she’s going to say next.

I do not have time to waste like that (nor, truth to tell, did I have the money to waste on the thing…).

Insight: I need a book: a guide to proposal writing.

So I go to Amazon and see there’s really not much out there. Well: there is, but there isn’t. Most of the hits on searches for “grant writing” and “proposal writing” receive mediocre reviews. The ones that show near the top — one, for example, in the “Dummies” series — appear to have arrived there grâce à self-promotion of the most vigorous type.

I go back to the online course, waste some more time listening to hot air. Lose patience. Give up.

Drive down to the only surviving general bookstore in the city. They have exactly NOTHING on the subject, and the place is so over-run with Christmas shoppers I have to prize my way into a harassed clerk’s attention. She directs me to a) the business section (nooo…) and b) the wanna-be writer’s section (noooo to the power of ten).

Damn!  Back to Amazon. This time I filter the search in order of customer reviews. Several how-to books on grant writing appear, festooned with five-star decoration.

Order one that looks like it might be OK.

First warning sign: it takes for-freaking ever for the thing to be shipped: ten days or two weeks.

Now it finally arrives. I tear open the package to find this thing printed on the cheapest of all possible paper with one of those cheesy covers that curls up the first time you open the book and then stays curled for all eternity. Evidently self-published, despite bearing the name of a prominent East-Coast publisher.

Well, yes. Look closely at the copyright page and you learn that said venerable publisher has added self-publishing to its wares.

This outfit’s name on your copyright page looks grand, but evidently the author got no more publishing services than I would get running my copy through the PoD press I use. In fact, my guys produce a much better-looking book.

Oh well.

Now I start to read the thing.

First thing I come to is the advice that you must L-O-O-O-O-V-E your cause and your work to be a successful grant writer.

Oh.

Effing.

BARF!!!!!

I’ve just sat through hours of the same kind of bloviation, transparently intended to fill space in the expensive video for which customers are charged a L-O-O-O-O-V-E-ly pretty penny.

When you’re trying to learn a professional skill, you do not need a pep talk. You need a road map.

Where was this woman’s editor?

Absent, apparently, along with her common sense.

Herein lies the problem: It’s too easy to churn this stuff out. It’s too easy to get it published on Amazon. It’s too easy to hire a printer to make a fake book out of it. It’s w-a-a-a-y too easy to put people up to posting bushels of ecstatic reviews at Amazon.

The result is, we have an ocean of trash out there, much of it deceptively packaged. I would not have purchased this book if I had realized it was self-published blather. Which, my dears, is exactly what it is.

Therein lies the problem with self-publishing. The tripartite problem, really: it acts on authors and publishing houses as it acts on readers. Videlicet: in the absence of a discerning gatekeeper’s eye — without an editor, a marketer, and a publisher who knows what quality work looks like and who has a decent sense what will sell and what will not sell — we are all awash in a sea of mediocrity.

For authors: we don’t know whether what we’re emitting is worth the hot air we expend on it…or not. We always think our stuff is wonderful. So does our mother. Our friends…maybe not so much, but you can be sure that they want to stay our friends and so they tell us that yes, yes, we’re so right: our stuff is wonderful.

This will happen even if what our stuff deserves is a one-sentence form letter reading “This is something that we cannot publish.”

It’s damn hard to blossom when you’re standing in a field overgrown with weeds. And how do you compete with someone who hires people or puts friends and acquaintances and customers up to blitzing Amazon with five-star reviews? Most writers hang out in the garret writing because they prefer their own company. We’re not  marketers. We’re not social butterflies. We’re writers. And that would be why we need publishers (real ones, that is), complete with marketing apparatus.

For publishers: they can bust their buns to put out the best books imaginable by the most gifted writers in creation. Good luck bringing them to a public drowning in schlock. Who wants even to be bothered to look for a decent book, at this point? Why, when I can find what I want online? No, it’s not all in one place, and it’s not all in a convenient form that I can pull off the six-foot shelf when I need a reference. But hey: it’s free, and I do know that something from the National Institutes of Health or PBS is likely not to be schlock.

And as for the public? One word. Schlock.

Duotrope?

So, here’s something interesting: a platform that helps you scope out something over 6100 markets for fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and photo essays. It’s called Duotrope.

The intriguing aspect of this resource is that it goes well beyond a simple Writer’s Markety listing of potential publishers for your golden words. It provides access to a database of statistics that can tell you, for example, the acceptance rate of given publications, markets most liked by Duotrope respondents, and search statistics showing what other people look for.

It also has a tool to help you keep track of submissions (you don’t have a calendar on your computer??), a collection of editor interviews (always useful for getting a sense of the readers targeted by a publication and how the editors try to reach them), and market listings showing what editors are looking for, acceptance rates, and pay rates.

Unfortunately, it has a paywall: a $5/month membership fee. But that’s not unreasonable: all you’d need is one paid article to more than cover that. In reviewing Duotrope over at Juggling Writer back in 2012, Bartleby Snopes founding editor Nathaniel Tower concludes that its statistics are reasonably accurate, and, if you intend to use the site seriously as a tool to locate markets for your literary maunderings, it’s worth the cost.

There are some free alternatives, BTW, but none seems to cover the number of publications listed by Duotrope.

New Pages Literary and alternative magazines
Ralan Speculative and humor
Every Writer Literary journals
Fiction Factor Wide range of genres; e-publishers & print

Me? I think I probably will subscribe to Duotrope, after taking advantage of their seven-day free trial. Funny about Money, my main blog, occasionally emits something that might interest a wider audience — this morning I found about a half-dozen posts that could be reworked and sent to various small journals. Why not?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Image: Depositphotos: © ginasanders

Managing the Creative Workload

Tame your to-do list with this one simple productivity hack. Especially great for writers and other creative entrepreneurs.Creative workers, especially those of us who are self-employed, often find ourselves trying to cope with a workload that entails tackling too darned many things at once. Managing this workload can be a real challenge.

Normally, I organize my workdays and keep more or less on track by using to-do lists posted on white-boards, one hanging in the office and the other on the door that leads out to where the car awaits.

Of late, though, these have served more to discourage than to help get work done.

Listing all the tasks that need to be done today leads one to try to accomplish 87 gerjillion things on deadline. And that is untenable.

Overload and the To-Do List

The other day I happened upon another approach.

What if you didn’t set yourself a slew of tasks, but instead aimed to get just one important thing done during the day? That would free up the day to do things you would like to do (as opposed to have to do). And accomplishing one thing a day would mean five goals would get done during a week.

Five things accomplished in a week is a whole lot more than zero things accomplished in a week.

Does your to-do list have everything on it? This productivity hack can help you manage the creative workload.So this Monday I set out to do the following:

  • Start building a Goodreads presence, somehow
  • Proofread 30 Pounds page proofs; order 20  hard copies to fulfill orders
  • Meet with client; work on his book
  • Post another racy book
  • Plug the latest Fire-Rider collection; update websites accordingly.

Five chores. It’s Thursday, and I’ve accomplished four of them.

I resisted listing any daily to-do chores. The goal was to get through five projects in a week.

Amazing Results

Without the nagging pressure of a horde of tasks waiting in the wings, I found myself focusing on a given project for longer periods and with fewer self-imposed interruptions. The result: I got through a lot of work, including some unplanned extra chores for a client. This spun off quite a few other small chores that also got done…so in fact, more than five things have been accomplished this week — and it’s not Friday yet.

Effectively what has happened is that setting fewer goals has meant more things got done! Many, many more things.

The Take-Away Message

Focusing on the bigger picture makes it easier to get moving, and five things to do in a week are less discouraging than ten in a day.

And if one strategy isn’t working, try something different. Even if it’s a tried-and-true strategy, sometimes changing gears (or getting a little assistance!) can make a big difference.

The Copyeditor's Desk, Inc.

The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.

We specialize in editing business, academic, and technical writing and provide editorial, ghostwriting, and indexing services. We’d be happy to take that work off your plate so you can focus on the most important items on your to-do list — things that only you can do. To learn more about our services, please click here.

To-Do Image: DepositPhotos, © iqoncept