Archive for the 'self-publishing' Category

Finding a book publisher takes a lot of TLC: Talent, Luck, and Connections

Looking for a royalty-paying publisher for your book?

Ask yourself whether your writing skills and your ability to organize and express your ideas are up to taking on a book-length project. Tackling a book is different from putting together an article or an advertising piece: there’s a great deal more structure and development involved. If you’ve done some writing previously, ask others whether they believe you’re equipped for the task. The better your writing, the easier it will be to place your manuscript with a publisher. Do you have the talent required?

Whom do you know, and whom can you meet? If you have writer friends, can they introduce you to an agent or a publishing house editor? On your own or in collaboration with your publisher, you’ll need to contact media outlets, wholesalers and retailers, publicists, and possible readers because nowadays much of your success will be DIY–do it yourself. Being comfortable with multiple levels of social media is essential. What are your present and potential connections?

Talent and connections will get you a long way, but they’ll also have to be accompanied by a lot of good fortune. Will your book hit the market at just the right point in time to ensure sales? Ideally it will impress all (or at least several) of the people who matter in your field, and you’ll receive praise that will help you sell copies. The bridge between your talent, your connections, and sales is a large measure of luck. JK

Price your book at what YOU, not Amazon, think it’s worth.

No one knows the value of your book better than you and your publisher, so why shouldn’t you have a say in how it’s priced? And shouldn’t you be the decision maker who determines how long your book remains at its stated price? Of course you should.

You decided to write your book. You did the research and planning. You put the words together. It doesn’t make sense for a marketing company to tell you how much all that effort is worth. That’s your decision. If your decisions are disregarded, you have the right to walk away

If you believe in your book’s value to your audience, then you should set its price as a paperback, hardcover, or electronic book. Your time and your effort have very real value, and you deserve to receive as high a return on that investment as you think is fair and reasonable and salable.

Imagine coming up with an idea for a new household product, something unique and revolutionary that’s never been seen before.  You do all the research and development, design, and manufacturing, and decide that a competitive retail price for your product–one that will help you recover the investment of your time and effort and make some measure of profit–will be $39.95. You turn to Sears, Walmart, and Macy’s to market your product, and they tell you they’ll put it in their stores, but they plan to sell it for $3.99–or $7.99–or $9.99. Even at their highest price, you stand to lose thirty bucks on every sale made. Who would agree to such a foolish deal? You’re certainly not going to “make it up on volume” and will only go deeper in the hole with every item sold.

There are really are only three variables to consider when offering a product (your book) or service for sale: Time, Quality, and Cost. You know the time and effort that went into your book. You know that you’ve produced a quality book that fulfills a need your readers will see as a benefit. And so it should be you who decides what the cost of that book should be to your readers.

Seven questions to ask yourself about your writing

1. Is my tone correct? Readers react most strongly to a writing tone that is warm but not effusive, conversational but not chatty, informative but not pedantic, professional but not stiff. Talk to your reader as if he or she were sitting across from you.

2. Does my writing flow smoothly? Well organized writing moves logically from beginning to middle to end, with appropriate transitions and logical conclusions.

3. Is my writing economical? Overly wordy, pretentious, and patronizing writing quickly becomes tiresome. Readers have limited time and patience. Brevity and clarity best convey ideas.

4. Is my writing style interesting and engaging? Varied sentences–some long, some short–evocative language, properly used vocabulary, and active verbs give strength to writing.

5. Is my writing mechanically correct? Poor grammar, misspellings, misuses, “insider” language, jargon (especially when incorrect), and cumbersome construction all detract from the message.

6. Is my message clear? Readers want and deserve to know a writer’s purpose, point of view, and whether the writer advocates a particular course of action. They should not be left wondering where the writer stands.

7. Does my writing grab the reader? Effective writing involves the reader not just at the outset but throughout the book, again and again.

You Ought to Write a Book

Find out how at www.sallychapralis.com/blog.

Are you a page turner or a button pusher?

“‘[M]ateriality matters.’ The reading experience includes manual activities and haptic perceptions (what the skin and muscles and joints register), and so as activities and perceptions of that kind are changed from one kind of reading experience to another because of the object, the reading experience, too, will change.”

There’s an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that compares reading, especially textbook reading, to reading a physical, printed, ink-on-paper book. Conclusion? One effect . . . is that the digital text makes us read “in a shallower, less focused way.” That, I think, is a critical factor for all writers to consider as they write both for print and for on-screen media. JK

 

BookWords

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.

—Agatha Christie (1890–1976)

Writing a book? Start at the end.

People occasionally tell me they’re writing a book. When I ask them what it’s about, more often than not they begin by telling me it’s totally different from anything ever before written about their subject—a truly unique approach. And then they launch into a long-winded, rambling description that tells me they haven’t yet figured out the most important aspect of the book: FOCUS.

Leaving aside the possibility that their book might, indeed, be a radically new take on their theme, their inability to state a succinct premise means they’re going to have a hard time writing it and a harder time selling it to an agent or publisher. They’re too caught up in telling me what they want to write instead of focusing on what a reader might want to read.

I don’t mean to imply that every author must be so market driven that he or she can be successful only by pandering to the buying public. Authors should not lose sight of the integrity of their work and the importance of their point of view. But if they want their book to be read—and isn’t that the reason for writing it in the first place?—they need to consider what will make their audience want to read it.

If you’re a budding author, here’s a suggestion that might help you get your book into the hands of your target reader: Write the blurb first.

What’s blurb copy? That’s the text you’ll find on the inside flap of a hard cover dust jacket or the back cover of a paperback book. It tells briefly what the book is about; it’s the pitch that is intended to sell the book. Blurb copy is an important element in the purchase process.

A customer entering a bookstore first looks around the store for orientation to decide where to begin browsing. Once he or she gets to the section where your book is shelved, the customer scans the selection looking for an eye catcher. Some of the books will be face out on a shelf; most will be spine out. For books face out, an attractively designed front cover will grab the browser’s attention. If the customer cocks his or her head to the right and reads the array of titles shelved spine out, he or she is most likely to pause at the quirkiest or most descriptive or most boldly legible titles. Book designers who concentrate all their efforts on the front cover and add spine copy almost as an afterthought do their authors a disservice. With the thousands of titles that even a small bookstore stocks, it’s not possible to display every book face out; the spine has to help make the sale.

The purpose of a book cover is to encourage a browser to want to pick up the book. The design may be words alone or an illustration—photograph or drawing—that relates to and compliments the subject of the book. The title and subtitle should pique the customer’s interest.

What does a customer do after taking a book from a bookstore shelf? Most browsers will turn the book (paperback) over or open the cover (hard cover) to read the jacket blurb. Imagine you’re that browsing customer. Ask yourself what would interest you enough to want to actually leaf through the pages and read a couple of sentences. That’s what you as an author should put in your blurb. That’s the focus, the appeal, the pitch that will help sell your book. With luck the customer will go on to check the table of contents, perhaps read a page or two, and then decide to take the book to the cashier.

*   *   *

It’s unlikely that the blurb you write now for the book you’re planning will ever actually be used. But you should still do it because

1. It will help you make a sales pitch to an agent or editor.
2. It will help you focus on target readers who will want to buy your book.
3. It will help you stay focused as you develop your book. Tack it up above your computer.
4. It will help the marketing and publicity departments work out a sales plan.
5. It will help you create sound bites to use during promotion appearances and interviews.
6. It will give you a quick answer to the question: What’s your book about?

Unless you self-publish, in the end a new blurb will probably be written by someone in the publisher’s marketing department. Also the artwork you originally foresaw anchoring the front cover illustration and the title you’ve been using since the book’s inception will undoubtedly be changed for marketing and promotion reasons.

None of your first blurb-writing attempts is wasted, however, because each step you complete on your way to a finished manuscript is an important component of your book as a final package, a focused package that will have maximum appeal to many book buyers.

It all starts with your blurb. JK

“Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!”

“It’s a game of Whac-a-Mole,” said Russell Davis, an author and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a trade association that helps authors pursue digital pirates. “You knock one down and five more spring up.”

This time the game has to do with copyright violations and the posting of books on the Internet without permission from their authors or publishers. And there’s not much point in calling Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson in on the case because there’s little likelihood the thieves will be caught. It costs too much time and effort to pursue them, and as author Steven King sees it, “The question is, how much time and energy do I want to spend chasing these guys . . . [a]nd to what end? My sense is that most of them live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions [sic] and discount beer.”

Literary pirates see books that have been published in PDF versions or digitalized for Kindle or Sony Reader downloading as easy prey. One publisher alone, John Wiley & Sons, claims to have sent take-down notices to more than 5,000 violators during the past month, a figure that’s up more than five times from a year ago. Wiley now has three full-time staff persons whose job is to track offenders.

Mokoto Rich, writing in the New York Times, says, “Sites like Scribd and Wattpad, which invite users to upload documents like college theses and self-published novels, have been the target of industry grumbling in recent weeks, as illegal reproductions of popular titles have turned up on them.”

Digitalizing books, then, seems to be a double-edged sword: Yes, it may make the book more widely available, but there’s also the risk that the book could be illegally picked up, entirely or in part, and displayed on a site that does not compensate either the author or the publisher. What do you think? Digitalize or not? JK

Subsidiary rights

Your book may enjoy a life well beyond that of conventional bookstore sales or of being merely pages bound into a paperback or hard bound cover. In general—and there are very specific legal definitions—subsequent permission to publish and market a work to a specific buying public or in a format other than its original book form can loosely be termed a subsidiary right. And such a right is a commodity that can be sold, giving your book greater income producing potential beyond its initial publication.

Other formats can include movie, TV, and now Web adaptations; translations; audio or video recordings; book club editions; merchandise tie-ins; premium offers; and, of course, ebooks. You can find more information at the Publishing Law Center Web site.

I once ghostwrote a book titled Fire! Survival and Prevention, which the publisher, Barnes & Noble Books division of Harper & Row, sold to manufacturers of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers to give away to purchasers of their products. To our (mine and the publisher’s) surprise, the book was also picked up both by Doubleday and Literary Guild Book Clubs for use as a pro bono premium to their subscribers.

Lucy Shaker’s book Looking Back, Looking Ahead: A History of American Medical Education, one of our Adams Press books, generated interest both from a medical college and an insurance company as a premium gift. Another Adams Press book, Kathryn Clarke’s novel The Breakable Vow, is the foundation for a multimedia presentation that includes the book itself, an instructor’s manual, audio tapes, CD, workbook, and a facilitator-led presentation that is marketed to state attorneys general, law enforcement agencies, and mental health professionals for use in workshops focused on dating and domestic violence. After selling 12,000 copies herself, the author of that self-published work sold her book to a traditional royalty publisher.

You can probably think of many, many tie-ins based upon books. Some titles have become entire industries all by themselves: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series; Steven R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People; and the books and book-related products of Martha Stewart, Wayne Dyer, Suzanne Summers, Deepak Chopra,  and countless others.

Very often the opposite happens, and books are commissioned by organizations and individuals who have already achieved success in their own field and want a book to add to their product line. ComPsych, for example,  is the world’s largest provider of comprehensive employee assistance programs. Adams Press publishes books for them to offer as resources to their client companies, books that are not available to the general public; so far we have written, designed, and printed Paving the Way to a Smooth Relocation, Living the Healthy Life, Charting the Course to College, and Solving your Day Care Dilemma—with more on the way. The Adams Press logo appears nowhere on the books; ComPsych is the publisher.

Similarly, we produced Charles Remsberg’s new book titled Blood Lessons: What Cops Learn from Life-or-Death Encounters for Calibre Press, whose books are among the product lines sold through the PoliceOne Web site. JK

“It’s always okay to add five dollars”: pricing textbooks

Way back in the mists of time when we (Ann and Jim) were in college (The Ohio State University for both of us), all of the textbooks that we each bought every quarter cost less than half–sometimes way less than half–of what a single book for a single course may cost today.

“In protest of what [CalTech economics professor] R. Preston McAffee says are textbooks’ intolerably high prices–and the dumbing down of their content to appeal to the widest possible market–he has put his introductory economics textbook online free. He says he most likely could have earned a $100,000 advance on the book had he gone the traditional publishing route, and it would have had a list price approaching $200.” Read more. JK

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