Category Archives: Self-publishing

Strategies for Success

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.

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Strategies for Success

Now that I know what I’ve learned from experience in the self-publishing game, if I were to start Plain & Simple Press or Camptown Races Press anew, here is what I would do today that I did not do when I started the enterprise.

Hire an experienced marketer with a proven track record—up front

A marketing person would be my first hire. That is where I would put most of my start-up money, and it’s also where I would invest the most effort in recruiting and personnel assessment. I would hire this person before doing anything else.

The woods are full of people who will tell you they can market books. Most of them haven’t the faintest. Some are so hungry, they will lie just to get the job, saying they understand how to engage this or that tool to attract readers and sell books. In addition, a lot of popular ideas about what strategies work are simply wrong, or are outdated.

Where do you find a paragon among book marketers? Ask everyone you can think of, in and out of book publishing.

Track down authors whose books resemble yours and that are selling well. Send each author an inquiry asking if they can recommend their marketer. Most will not respond, so you’ll need to send out quite a few queries. But sooner or later you’ll probably find someone who will refer you to their marketing agent.

Contact the local Public Relations Society of America chapter. This group’s members are working professionals in marketing and public relations. They have a jobs board and invite job postings from prospective employers.[30] Be prepared to budget some money to post an ad and to hire someone for a gig that lasts long enough to produce results.

If there’s a publishers’ association in your state, along the lines of the New Mexico Book Association,[31] attend a meeting and ask members for suggestions. Many of these groups are very active and include publishers and authors with successful track records.

Attend regional and national book fairs. Network actively and inquire among the people you meet to see if anyone can refer you to a good marketing agent.

Attend regional and national writers’ conferences. The larger, better established ones attract New York literary agents. These people do know effective marketers. They may (or may not) refer you. Nothing ventured: while you’re there, you can also ask authors who seem successful.

Budget a substantial amount of money to pay for marketing services and campaigns, which should begin before the book is published. In retrospect, it’s clear this is where the largest share of a publisher’s or author’s budget should go.

Hire a virtual assistant to handle the social media time suck.

Although the effectiveness of social media marketing is, in my opinion, questionable, it cannot be neglected. And it is very time-consuming.

This is another task to which I would dedicate a fair slab of the budget.

You or an assistant should write blog posts every day having to do with subjects related to your books or your readers’ interests. Each of these needs to be optimized for and posted at Pinterest, and then you need to post each one at Facebook groups, on your Facebook business page and on your personal Facebook timeline, at Goodreads, on Twitter, at Google+, and to the extent appropriate, at LinkedIn.

Exclusive of the blogging, which you should be doing anyway, the ditzy social media tasks can easily soak up two hours a day. That’s two hours when you’re not writing, two hours that you’re not out on the town networking, two hours that you’re glued to the computer unable to exercise or take care of your family or read or think or do anything else. And two hours is a conservative estimate.

Unless you truly love passing your time on social media, hire someone else to do this stuff.

Crowd-fund or take out a business loan to pay these contractors.

It’s always better to use someone else’s money than to throw your own down the drain. Platforms such as Kickstarter,[32] Publishizer,[33] and Unbound[34] help fund and market your publishing project. Obviously, you have to share the revenues. But these outfits can generate revenues: a share of something is a lot better than a share of nothing.

Some such organizations function like publishers, but they seem to be more flexible in terms of the kinds of books they’ll chance their money on.

Put books on Ingram right away.

Ingram provides distribution services needed to circulate books to retailers, educators, and libraries. It offers a wide variety of marketing and fulfillment services, as well as a partnership with CreateSpace, a PoD service whose reviews are mixed but which is internationally known.

I would not use Ingram’s CreateSpace for printing, because I want more control over that process than you can get by working through a gigantic faceless corporation that outsources its jobs overseas. However, I would get my books into their distribution system as quickly as possible.

Focus on person-to-person and business-to-business marketing

Early on, I discovered that the 30 Days/4 Months diet plan and cookbook sold easily and in gay abandon when I talked it up to groups in person. Campaigns to sell it on social media generate plenty of “likes” but not many sales.

Acquaintances made in writers’ and publishers’ groups report similar experiences. Almost everyone who is making any money on their books will tell you that speaking in front of groups and arranging author-signings and bookstore presentations sells more books than any amount of virtual jawing on social media.

The next stage of my marketing campaign will be heavy on presentations and in-person networking. If I could have started out knowing then what I know now, I would have hit the ground with personal presentations, radio talk-show interviews, podcasts, and YouTube videos.

Set a Target Income and Ignore All Other Metrics

No amount of “awards” or “Amazon Best-Seller” ego-stroking status changes the real measure of a business’s success: the bottom line.

At the outset, decide how much you believe your book sales should earn: $NNN per year.

Keep accurate records of your income and expenses, in Quickbooks, Mint, Excel, or a similar tool. Nothing else matters in terms of your book’s success. Many “Amazon best-sellers” earn next to nothing for their authors, and many books that do not appear in Amazon’s specious best-seller categories earn well. Pay attention to this fact.

No other device works as well to make you scam-proof.

[1] https://www.loc.gov/publish/cip/

[2] Here’s a good place to start: https://www.the-bookdesigner.com/2010/03/cip-what-it-means-how-to-read-it-who-should-get-it/

[3] http://www.bowker.com/

[4]http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[5]https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?ie=UTF8&topicID=200650270

[6] http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/

[7] https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323

[8] http://www.bowker.com/

[9] http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/

[10] https://www.smashwords.com/list

[11] https://www.fiverr.com/

[12] http://online.brescia.edu/graphic-design-news/7-prominent-graphic-design-associations/

[13] http://www.thecopyeditorsdesk.com/contact/

[14]http://writeablogpeoplewillread.com/about-this-course/?hop=phxgirl

[15] goodreadsucks.com

[16]http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

[17]http://www.victoriastrauss.com/2014/07/18/on-trolls-and-fake-bad-reviews/

[18] http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-automate-your-tweets-3-useful-twitter-apps/

[19] http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-automatically-send-tweet-when-you-publish-a-new-post-in-wordpress/

[20] http://www.pinterestforbloggers.net/

[21] http://www.networkedblogs.com/

[22] http://mailchimp.com/

[23] Victoria Strauss, “Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize and Avoid Them,” June 9, 1915. Writer Beware. http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/06/awards-profiteers-how-writers-can.html . In late 2016, the Writer Beware blogsite remains at http://accrispin.blogspot.com/. Don’t miss this valuable resource.

[24] “Confession: I’m a #1 Best-Selling Author…and a Nanny,” July 18, 2016. http://thefinancialdiet.com/confession-im-1-bestselling-author-nanny/

[25] Rachel Deahl, “New Guild Survey Reveals Majority of Authors Earn below Poverty Line,” September 11, 2015. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/68008-new-guild-survey-reveals-majority-of-authors-earn-below-poverty-line.html

[26] “ February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s e-book, Print, and Audio Sales,” http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/

[27] Jay Yarow. “How Many Kindle Books Has Amazon Sold? About 22 Million This Year,” July 20, 2010, Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/sorry-amazon-kindle-e-books-outselling-hardcovers-isnt-that-impressive-2010-7

[28] Claude Forthomme, “Only 40 Self-Published Authors Are a Success, Says Amazon,” February 7, 2016, Claude Forthomme-Nougat’s Blog, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[29] Jennifer McCartney, “Self-Publishing Preview, 2016,” Publisher’s Weekly, https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/

[30]http://www.prsa.org/Jobcenter/employers/products_pricing/intern_entry_level_freelance/

[31] http://www.nmbookassociation.org/about-nmba/

[32] https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/publishing

[33] https://publishizer.com/

[34] https://unbound.com/

Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

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.

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Pitch Your Book to 10,000 of Your Closest Friends

Prevailing wisdom has it that social media are the key to marketing a book. Your company is requested on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, even YouTube. The folklore contains a germ of truth, given that as a book author, you personally are the main marketing engine for your products.

Along with this advice, we often hear legends of authors who have sold thousands of books by running campaigns on various social media. This, too, may be so. But with a caveat.

Social media marketing requires you to build large followings of real people—not the kind of bots that show up on Twitter and emanate computer-generated “follows.” You need human beings who recognize your name, whose names you recognize, and with whom you have something resembling conversations over the Internet.

You find these people by tracking down and “friending” (or “following” or “connecting with”) everyone you’ve met since before you were in preschool: classmates, fellow workers, friends, relatives, friends of relatives and relatives of friends . . . and on it goes.

It’s best to have built a large following before you have something to market. If you submit a book proposal to an agent or to traditional book publishers, they will want to know where you’re active in social media and how many followers you have. It’s a selling point in trying to persuade a mainstream publisher to buy your book. If you’re self-publishing, you want to have created a pre-existing interest in you and in your subject, so that you have an established audience for your book.

Some say that Goodreads is the most effective social medium for self-publishers. This was true before Amazon acquired it, and it apparently remains so. You can establish a presence at Goodreads as an “author,” thereby giving yourself a little cachet. But that will not excuse you from working steadily to build and maintain your readership there.

Social media marketing requires you to post something almost every day on every platform. But what you post cannot be blatant advertising for your books or products. You must create the effect of real-world conversation on a wide variety of topics, most of them immaterial. Think of social media as small talk, translated to the Internet. It’s a vast cocktail party, without the highballs and canapés.

Unless you serve them to yourself, that is.

At Goodreads, the topic is usually books and book reviews. Conversations may spin off a book discussion, but most people seem to haunt Goodreads because they like to read and talk about what they read.

Because it brings you a built-in audience of book readers, Goodreads is potentially your richest field among the social media. Like any facet of doing business with Amazon, it can also be intensely frustrating.[15] Personally, I gave up on Goodreads after it repeatedly rejected an ISBN that I copied directly from Bowker’s website, making it impossible for me to market the book there.

In the past, too, Goodreads has suffered from very nasty trolling.[16] As a result, some authors’ book sales have been irreparably damaged.[17] Amazon has taken steps to deal with the abuse, apparently with some success. However, you should be aware that the potential for personal attacks, blitzes of negative reviews, and faceless bullying exists and probably will never completely disappear.

Facebook has “Groups” whose topics focus on a wide variety of subjects. If you’re a genre writer, you can find people who love your genre, be it science fiction, romance, detective cozies, or whatever. You’ll also find groups of aspiring writers and groups of publishers. These represent ready-made potential readerships.

However, know that you cannot simply advertise to members of such groups, any more than you can on your own timeline. You have to engage them in conversations. This is time-consuming and creates a significant distraction from the real writing that you’d like to do. Nevertheless, if you want to market your book, you don’t seem to have much choice, unless you hire someone to do the job for you.

FaceBook does sell advertising, notoriously now that the company is overriding the adblockers of people who prefer not to be subjected to that kind of intrusion, and even more notoriously after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Because Facebook Ads can, in theory, be closely targeted to specific interests and demographics, some people say they have good results. This claim, however, is controversial. A number of customers have complained that Facebook Ads represent a bottomless pit into which to throw cash.

I hired a marketing agent to create and manage a Facebook Ads campaign for my novel, Fire-Rider. It sold exactly zero copies. The cost was high, and I felt the money was wasted.

In any event, you certainly should make your publishing efforts known on your personal timeline. Those who are most likely to buy your book are people who know you in person.

Twitter has hashtags to attract subscribers’ attention. Use the platform’s “Search” function to find active hashtags (#amwriting, for example) and include two or three relevant tags in each post. As I write this, Twitter still limits post length to 140 characters—the hashtags, the URL you post, and each image soak up some of those characters.

Thus, speaking of time sucks, creating a Twitter post that works can be a time-consuming challenge. Here, too: if you’re corresponding with real people, you’re better off to emit small talk rather than obvious sales pitches.

A drawback to Twitter is the number of machine-generated tweets, likes, and follows. Several apps exist to automate tweets and post them at optimal times of day.[18] You also can install a WordPress plugin that will automatically tweet each new post.[19] These aren’t necessarily bad things. But they do indicate that some portion of the traffic at Twitter isn’t entirely human.

LinkedIn can be useful, because it not only allows you to blow your own horn in a resumé-like context, it connects you with people in the publishing industry and enables a kind of high-level shop talk that can let you highlight your topic or discuss issues related to writing and publishing.

The level of conversation at LinkedIn differs from all the other social media sites. This is not the place to post photos of your kittens. Think of it as social media in a business suit. You want to come across as professional and serious. That characteristic makes some kinds of books eminently marketable on LinkedIn, just because of their nature. (Think books related to business marketing, for example.) With other kinds of books (fiction, inspirational, cute kitten stories), you’re probably better off to deflect the subject of your LinkedIn content to business aspects of your endeavor (what marketing ploy just worked successfully with your collection of inspirational sayings? What demographic buys the most cat books?).

Blogs are another form of social media. If you write engagingly enough and often enough, over time you can collect a surprising number of followers. And you can use your blog openly to plug your books, either in a given post or by installing widgets in a sidebar with links to your book’s Amazon address.

The whole idea of participating in most other social media is to drive readers to your blog, where you can entertain them with lively posts and showcase your wares. Often I post links to posts at the Plain & Simple Press blog, hoping to draw readers to the website, where they can find out more about all our books.

In that line, Pinterest is said to be especially effective. Experienced bloggers will often say that Pinterest drives more traffic than any other social media.

Pinterest features nothing but images with links to personal and business websites. The appeal escapes me, but it is very popular. Lacking any capacity to appreciate the marvels of Pinterest myself, I hire an expert who optimizes my site for Pinterest, creates correctly formatted images, and posts them on Pinterest so as to bring readers over to the Plain & Simple blogsite.[20]

Similarly, it’s possible to automatically link your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter. Networked Blogs[21] is one way to accomplish that.

Your blog can tie into another form of social media: the newsletter. Add a “subscribe” function, and you can easily gather viewers’ email addresses. A program called Mail-chimp[22] will vacuum up the addresses, create a master mailing list, and allow you to send newsletters to everyone who has subscribed. Some people believe a newsletter is the most effective marketing tool for businesses trying to reach customers—and that includes authors trying to reach readers.

YouTube is another popular social medium. Probably the most effective way to reach viewers here is to post how-to-do-it videos. This requires you to have an adequate video camera and learn how to post the file, which is not very hard. I’ve posted lectures for my online students there and found it an easy way to personalize the message. To create the degree of professionalism needed to sell a book, though, you probably should consult with a videographer: someone who has some training in making polished, stumble-free videos.

Podcasts are popular among many social media users. These are comparable to old-fashioned radio talk shows, only without the annoying ads and untethered to a time slot. You do need some broadcasting skill to create an effective podcast. Take a course or hire someone to help produce the thing.

In my experience, the best bet is to reach out, in the persona of a human being, to as many “friends” as you can gather on LinkedIn and on Facebook; to try to capture as many email addresses as you can from your blog; and to send out a newsletter as well as blogging regularly. And hire a social media marketer who really is an expert on how the systems work.

The Complete Writer: Selling It

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.

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Selling It

Whether you publish through a mainstream press or whether you self-publish, the bulk of the promotion job falls upon you, the author. One fairly easy way to promote your book is to volunteer to do a presentation on some subject relevant to a group’s interests.

For example, my friend, journalist and blogger Donna Freedman has offered to speak to a large writer’s group about strategies for creating popular, readable blog entries. Because the group’s main thrust is not craft but marketing, members will be very interested in what she has to say—and we hope, in her new online course[14] on writing a blog people will read.

Similarly, I talked to a business group about donating directly to breast cancer research centers rather than to self-perpetuating organizations that function as middlemen. Members of this group are active in public service and donate generously to worthy causes, so I knew they’d be interested in the subject. And speaking about the Susan G. Komen foundation and similar institutions gave me an opportunity to plug my upcoming book on the decisions women face after they receive a breast diagnosis.

Some people believe face-to-face and radio show presentations are the most effective tools for marketing a book. One member of a writer’s group in the Phoenix area used her vacation time to visit friends and relatives in five cities, taking crates of books with her. Before leaving, she arranged to do short talks in bookstores and community centers in each town. She sold so many books, she had to order more and have them shipped ahead of her as she proceeded.

My coauthor for Math Magic, Scott Flansburg, made it a regular practice to approach radio talk show producers across the country. A “guest” appearance on one of these shows can be done over the telephone—no need to travel. He discovered that a radio show is a bottomless pit waiting to be filled, and many hosts were delighted to interview him. This, he discovered, was the single most effective way to sell the book, which became a major best-seller for William Morrow in the year we published it. His marketing agents told me that in the first year, his revenues from sales of the book and ancillary products came to $1.5 million, and a million in the second year.

Scott was a very powerful marketer, a good speaker with an engaging product. Most of us, obviously, are not going to become millionaires with our fantasy novel or detective story. But we’re a lot more likely to see some sort of profit by reaching out to the public. People can’t buy something unless they know about it!

A successful presentation can’t just have you step up to a podium and plug your book. You need to offer more than that.

Bearing that in mind, it’s pretty easy to create a public presentation that works, if you follow a few basic rules.

Consider your audience

The talk I made about breast cancer addressed a group of small business owners and executives. They’re committed to charitable works and, since most of them are middle-aged, they’re interested in health-care issues. Those who are not women have wives they care about, and so they can easily be engaged by the hot topic of breast cancer.

The material I put into the presentation may not go into the book at all, since its topic primarily concerns the kinds of choices women have to make, often on short notice and under a great deal of stress, about any number of proposed breast cancer treatments. On reflection I realized this angle would interest group members more and make them less uncomfortable than a frank discussion of what goes on inside the operating theater. For a different group, a different aspect of the topic might fly just as well or better.

Prepare your presentation thoroughly

Check and double-check your facts, and be prepared to answer any questions audience members may ask. Be sure to cover all the ground, even if briefly, within the time limit you’re given. Respecting the time limit is part of your preparation—don’t neglect this key aspect.

Write out a script and rehearse it, preferably in front of a mirror.

You should practice delivering your presentation several times—at least three, and maybe more. Ideally, your presentation should be memorized. Of course, sometimes that’s not possible—too little time is given for preparation, or you have to present complex data that’s hard to remember accurately under the stress of public scrutiny.

In rehearsing, pay attention to the amount of time it takes. It’s far better for your presentation to run shorter than the allowed time than to run over. A long-winded presentation makes the audience restless, even if it’s interesting; most people have someplace else to go. Be considerate of your audience. You can use the extra minutes for a Q&A session, which always engages people.

Don’t read your script to the audience!

Deliver your presentation as though you were speaking to a small group of friends, as off the cuff as you can make it appear. If you need a cheat sheet, list the main points in outline style and let these remind you of the content that you’ve rehearsed. Print out your notes in 18-point type, so you can read them easily under any lighting conditions.

If you use PowerPoint . . .

For hevvinsake don’t read the captions and notes in the slides to your audience! Nothing puts an audience to sleep faster.

Watch a few TED Talks or listen to NPR’s TED Radio Hour.

Study the style and demeanor of presenters. Note how the speakers move and how they engage their audiences.

Provide useful information, preferably in the form of a handout.

In my talk about the controversy around the Susan G. Komen foundation, I provided a one-page list of cancer research institutions to which anyone can donate directly. This was worked into the spiel, but it was offered separately to the group members, as a take-home.

Try not to be crass about plugging yourself.

Instead of reminding listeners repeatedly about the wonders of your new book, mention it in your bio and—ideally—get the person who introduces you to remark on it. Use your time to provide valuable and interesting information.

But make it easy for audience members to find your book.

Have a website that’s easy to find, preferably as your name—JoeBlow.org or some such—and place a link to Amazon or your own store so readers can buy. Bring business cards that carry your book’s title and a link to your book on Amazon or your website. And if you have copies of the book, bring a stack to the meeting, hand them around as a show-and-tell, and let audience members buy direct from you.

Look for the right audiences

This of course depends on your subject matter. A church group might be right for a discussion of some moral issue or—say—of philanthropy. Business groups are interested in a wide variety of subjects that bear on daily life and the well-being of members’ cities and commerce. Do a subject search on Meetup.com for groups that meet to talk about or participate in whatever your book concerns.

Don’t be shy about asking

The worst that can happen is they’ll tell you “no.” But you won’t get an invitation to speak if you don’t ask.

Speak early and speak often

You don’t have to wait until your book hits print to speak on your subject. If you have some expertise that you’re working into a book, begin giving presentations before the book comes out. Then when it’s published, you can go back to the group, remind them of your existence, and proudly announce publication.

Once you have a good presentation, recycle it

Massage it to fit the interests of other groups, work it into your newsletter and send it out to your subscribers, or revamp it into a post for your blog.

Take the opportunity to build your mailing list

Hand around a sign-up sheet and ask audience members to share their e-mail addresses. A quid pro quo is nice: you may offer them, for example, a special deal on the book or a chance at a free giveaway.

With names and email addresses in hand, you can send a newsletter to remind potential buyers of your existence. If you give a presentation before publication, a list of audience members will allow you to send them an announcement of the Big Reveal. Here, too may pitch an opportunity to buy the book at a special discount just because they were at your presentation.

Remember to give mail-list members an opt-out choice. It’s a basic courtesy, especially since some people do not appreciate finding sales messages land in their e-mail in-boxes. A number of mailing list programs will do this for you automatically.

Profit and Loss in the Micropublishing Biz

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.

[38]

Profit and Loss in the Micropublishing Biz

Using predesigned Word templates that my little micropublishing business contrived to purchase for a modest price (one was under $50 for a permanent, no-holds-barred license!), I created hard-copy layout for Slave Labor and converted it to PDF for the printer. My graphic artist, who thought the interior layout was decent enough, created a wrap-around cover for the desired trim size, accommodating the existing front-cover art, a spine, and new cover-4 copy. Then it was off to a local print-on-demand outfit.

If your bookoid is low on images, or if you’re willing to print the images in black and white, the cost for print-on-demand services is amazingly low. To put Slave Labor together and perfect-bind it costs $3.33/copy for 10 copies. Per-copy price stays the same at print runs of 100 and 1,000.

Slave Labor, being my sandbox project, cost something but not much: I traded out the e-book design in exchange for editing the designer’s upcoming book on marketing e-books. So the only cost had to do with the cover design and with the experiment in Word layout. I did have to pay something for the template, but not much.

30 Pounds / Four Months, the diet guide & cookbook, was what we might call the stage-two sandbox. The template worked well for the print-on-demand production, but because the interior design was so complex, with many lists of ingredients, several heading levels, and other complications, I ended up having to hire a professional e-book formatter to get that thing into Kindle.

So I regarded the costs for these two books as tuition for Micropublishing U. Once I’d done a couple of the things, I figured it should be pretty easy to put the rest of them online.

And I did have a “rest of them”!

As soon as Slave Labor went off to the printer and 30 Pounds went to Amazon and to the printer, I began work on packaging the eighteen books that Fire-Rider had lent itself to serializing. These I put online at the rate of one every week or two.

That installed twenty-three titles (including the three that have emanated from real publishing houses) on Amazon under my name. If I weren’t inclined to equate “publishing” a bookoid on Amazon with posting a blog post at WordPress, my ego would be as big as the moon.

We also published another twenty titles, give or take, under the Camptown Races Press imprint.

The people at Romance Writers of America claim you start to make a noticeable income after you’ve posted about eight titles—of any genre, fiction or nonfiction. So they claim.

I have yet to prove this, and as of this writing, I have more than forty indie titles up. Plus three from real trade and scholarly publishers.

Income from micropublishing depends not on how many titles your business has put online nor even on how good your books are. It depends almost solely on the strength, vigor, and accuracy of your marketing program. Good marketing equals good sales; good sales equal a noticeable income.

This means you have to like marketing. Some writers are good at it. But most: not so much. If you felt comfortable hustling a product and schmoozing with strangers on and off-line, you not would be hanging out in your garret writing books: you’d be making a decent living in a sales career.

It is possible to hire marketing agents. But alas, marketers can only do so much. Ultimately the job of selling a book falls to its author.

To make a living at writing, you will need to learn how to market books, and then you will have to do it. We’ve seen the volume of work involved in producing a self-published work. Add to that an equal volume required to sell it. Then, maybe, you’ll see a profit.

So. . .why self-publish?

Herein lies the reason I suggest your primary motive for self-publishing a book should never be profit. To produce a book to give to family and friends: fine. To make a book to publicize and raise funds for your charity, community group, or church: good. To self-publish a book to inform customers, clients, or patients: excellent. To print your novels or share expertise in your hobby for your own gratification and the entertainment of a limited audience: legitimate enough.

None of these endeavors is designed to turn a profit directly. By creating goodwill or informing a specific target audience, one or the other of them may generate donations or clientele. As a hobby, self-publishing may make you feel good and surely can lead to opportunities to meet new friends.

But to pay money to publish something because you think it might become a best-seller and turn you into a famous author? That is a bad idea.

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.

A tidy new “publishing” scheme

As you know if you follow “News & Chat,” the P&S Press blog, I’ve been amusing myself (and possibly you, with any luck!) by posting chapters here from three self-publishable books: The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me… (the latter being the world’s finest collection of bathroom reading).

This self-imposed task got to be a little much, when I insensately decided that a chapter of each should go up each week. That is, each week would see publication of not one, not two, but three bookoid chapters here at P&S Press.

So I decided to put the brakes on that.

The inchoate result didn’t seem especially well organized, to my mind. And since Ella is a work in (very slow) progress, it still didn’t leave enough time to draft a full chapter between deadlines.

So I’ve come up with a new schedule: One chapter a week of just one book, which will go up whenever I get around to it, but no later than Friday of a given week. Bookoids will rotate: first Writer, then Asked, then Ella.

In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult…and wouldn’t be, if WordPress hadn’t kindly deleted all the formatting I installed in months’ worth of The Complete Writer. Thought I was getting away with something, but nooooo…. To prepare that thing (and, it develops, all of the things), I had to create separate posts for the remaining un”published” chapters and “schedule” them in WordPress.

And that, as you can imagine, was a royally time-consuming task.

Now I’d like to do the same for Asked, all of whose content is tucked away in a manuscript that I’ve had neither time nor inclination to upload to Kindle. This also will take many hours…just not this hour.

Ella is, of course, still under way. What you see is all I’ve got! 😀 And the next chapter may or may not get written by the next deadline. Pray for the best.

Part of the plan, too, is to publish links to the published chapters at this site’s pages for The Complete Writer, If You’d Asked Me, and Ella’s Story in table-of-contents type lists. I managed to get this done for Complete Writer, but the other two remain. Once the existing posts are linked to entries on those pages, all that will appear there will be a TofC with live entries, rather than the aggregated content of the book in question.

This will make life a lot simpler for me! And since I usually have my links open in a new tab, a reader could in theory toggle back and forth between a bookoid’s TofC and its contents, easily and smoothly.

So it all sounds great, eh? Alas, though, these time-sucking projects have been much complicated by Life, the Universe, and All That: one crisis after another, to say nothing of the distraction that is paying work. My little dog has hovered near death for the past six or eight weeks (amazingly, she finally seems to be recovering). Friends have died. I crashed my car. The veterinary and house-maintenance adventures are running me out of money…

All that and more (if you like to follow real-life soap opera, you can do it at Funny about Money by entering the category “dispatches from hell” in the search bar at the upper right)…yes, all that and more have tended to work against the project to write Ella’s Story. When I have time to think about it, I’m so exhausted I can barely move, much less dream up new copy. So…I may not be able to keep up even with the new, attenuated schedule.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, watch this space. Whenever I get the energy to write it, I’ll publish a rough schedule for future posts.

Speaking of exhaustion, I cannot type another word. And so, to bed…

 

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.

FREE READS, Amazon, and the Price of Beans

For SEO purposes, what is our subject? The rip-off that is Amazon Kindle Unlimited. There. Now that we have the keywords in the first graf, let us move on.

So…here’s the thing: You can come here to my site and read my golden words, FREE, any time you please. Not one, not two, but three of my bookoids are serialized here, for your delectation, as *FREE READS* — oh, hallelujah brothers and sisters. But if I’m going to give my stuff away for free, I am going to give it away for free. That would be I and only I. No one else is going to profit on it, except maybe you. And that would be in the sense that maybe you will be able to derive some mild pleasure from these scribblings, in an idle moment, without having to pay for it.

Amazon, however — that fine disruptor of the publishing industry — tries to arrogate that privilege to itself. It offers several plans through which you, the “author,” can make your literary properties available to the public. One of them is “Kindle Unlimited,” a sort of lending library, whereby customers pay a small flat rate to access as many books as they please. In theory, these subscription payments are aggregated into a pool, a part of which is to be divided up among the writers who agree to offer their books through the plan. Writers are to be paid, we’re told, according to the number of pages readers read in the books they download onto their devices.

Now, we won’t even get into the matter of how fuckin’ outrageous it IS that Amazon peers over its customers’ shoulders, spying not only on what they read but on how much of it they read and when they read it. To my mind, that is unacceptable, and it is one of several reasons I do not read books in Kindle or any other electronic format.

But that is a different outrage from the outrage at hand. The outrage at hand, delivered today in the form of a report of the amount of “royalties” Amazon direct-deposited to my bank account, looks like this:

You may have to click on this image to see the details. Or not: WordPress really does not want to reproduce it in a reasonable size. But here’s what the graph above shows in spreadsheet format:

The book that I posted to Amazon using this “lending library” scheme is a cookbook and diet guide called 30 Pounds/4 Months. Somebody, somewhere, elected to download it and look at it. (To my mind one does not exactly “read” a cookbook, although it does contain chapters on dieting and healthy eating that an enthusiast might sit through from beginning to end.)

On March 31, Amazon registered that someone (or ones) read 334 print pages. The book  contains 281 pages. Explanation? a) Amazon is counting the front and back matter as “pages”‘; or b) Amazon weirdly defines a “page” as something much shorter than the standard 220-250 words; or c) more than one person read the book during an arbitrary period measured by Amazon’s software and reported on arbitrary dates. Probably, I think, the second, but who knows? Certainly not the peons who write the content Amazon peddles.

On April 3, person or persons unknown read 61 pages.

On or by April 14, someone read another 346 pages.

That adds up to 742 pages. Since the book is only 281 pages long, it means the equivalent of 2.65 copies of the book was accessed and read on Amazon.

And how much did I earn on the rental of three books?

Nothing.

That’s right: $0.00.

Not that a tiny fraction of $9.99 would matter. But it would at least not be effin’ insulting.

To add injury to that insult, Amazon embargoes any book you post on Kindle Unlimited. Give it away for free at Amazon, and you are not allowed to sell or give it away anywhere else.

No. Not even on your own website.

So if I wanted to add 30 Pounds/4 Months to the *FREE READS* here at Plain & Simple Press, Amazon could (and very well might) sic its lawyers on me.

Why, you ask, did I choose to avail myself of this self-defeating merchandising plan?

Mostly out of curiosity: I wanted to see if it actually would move books.

And yeah. It does. But interestingly, that is beside the point.

Basically what it does is force me to give away my work for free, or next to it.

Well, folks, here’s how I see this:

If you’re going to give your books away for free, you might as well give them away for free yourself, on your own site or to your favorite charities or to your friends and relatives or to your business customers or to your local libraries.

Forking them over to a vast monopolistic corporation that has set its sights on pushing all its competition out of business, homogenizing retail in the US and around the world, and dictating what manufacturers, writers, publishers, and retailers will be allowed to earn on their products is, in  a word, self-defeating.

Working for free is nothing more than slave labor. You’d do better to teach college courses on an adjunct basis — bringing up another whole generation of sheeple to work for vast monopolies for free.

You can look at it through another lens: as a hobby. And that is how I do regard the three works I’m making available to you just now, here at P&S Press. I write as I breathe…it’s what I do. I can, in the same way that I can knit a sweater or cook up a pan of lasagne, make the product of that hobby activity available to one and all for free.

That’s pretty much the definition of a hobby.

Amazon is working to redefine publishing as a hobby. If that’s what you want to do — make a hobby of your writing skills — fine and good. But don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s anything else.