Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Make Reporters Say Yes: The Must-Know Steps for Self-Published Authors to Get Local Media Coverage

A few months ago, I was privileged to meet Annie Lubinsky, the wonderful Features Editor of a local newspaper in my area. After chatting about our respective positions and realizing the great need to educate authors on obtaining exposure for their books through local media, I saw the value in doing a webinar together on the topic, asked if she’d be interested, and she gladly accepted.

The guidance Annie gave in that presentation was invaluable, and because I’ve wanted it to reach a wider audience, I’ve finally written the following article (with Annie’s blessing!) in an easy-to-digest Q&A, highlighting the information we shared in that webinar.

Yes, newspapers are still alive, both in print and online. And our goal was to take writers from feeling intimidated and overwhelmed about approaching local media to being more knowledgeable, confident, and respectful of the process so they could gain the editor relationships and exposure they desired. I hope you’ll find we accomplished this as you use these tips to obtain coverage for your own labor of love!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Is Ingram Spark the Next Great Option for Self-Publishing Authors?

I admit it. When I found out just two weeks ago that Lightning Source had launched Ingram Spark to answer the call for a more author-friendly platform, I was thrilled. I eagerly encouraged one of my clients—who was previously going to use Lightning Source along with CreateSpace—to try it, and he thought it would be great too. But after my client’s account was approved and I set up the title and uploaded the files for him, my thrill quickly faded.

Now, I want you to know that I held out writing this post because I didn’t want to make a snap judgment; after all, Ingram has a great reputation, which is why I had such high expectations of the new platform. But the truth is that it doesn’t seem ready for the self-pub author, or even the publishing professional who works on behalf of the author. Why?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can Self-Published Authors Acquire Shelf Space?

Every author dreams of it ...

At the end of a long journey of writing, editing, publishing, and everything else in between, there it is: your book on a real-deal bookstore shelf. As if a light is shining down on it and angels are singing, you feel you’ve arrived in the literary world as an author. For some, it simply doesn’t feel right to call ourselves author until our book sits on a shelf for people to hold, flip through, and buy. Sure, there’s the digital shelf, but let’s face it: Online retailers are great, but they just aren’t the same.

Now, if you’re a self-publishing author, you may be asking yourself: Is this glorious outcome of penning and publishing a book just a pipe dream?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When’s the Best Time to Release My Book?

After you’ve worked hard on your manuscript for months or even years, you may be thinking: I just want to finally get it out there! But as a smart author who follows this blog, you already know that the book production phase (editing, design, proofreading) is critical and shouldn’t be rushed. Equally vital is the building of your platform, which must allow you enough time to cultivate an eager audience who’s excited about your book.

So how do you decide when your book should actually launch?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Learning to Embrace Deletions Saved My Writing

If you’re a writer, you know exactly what I mean when I talk about facing deletions. You’ve all been there … you’ve either been told by your editor that some elements aren’t serving the content or the story well, or you’ve wondered yourself if something you once thought was brilliant should go. UGH. This is when you know this passion isn’t for the faint of heart.

I know firsthand these comments or inklings aren’t easy to receive, believe me! I’ve done my fair share of struggling with this topic, but then—Boom!—something incredible happened. Suddenly my perspective shifted, and when it did, I came to embrace deletions in an almost giddy fashion. It was, however, still a process, so I’m going to bare my soul and share with you exactly how I conquered it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Show Me the Money: How Self-Pub Royalties Compare to Traditional

If you’re like many writers, one of the greatest allures of self-publishing—alongside the heightened level of control and more abbreviated time frame—is the royalty percentage you receive when the book sells. Not merely a perk, that increased dollar amount has become one of the primary driving forces behind the choice to self-publish—even authors who’ve previously gone the traditional route have left the venue for a more lucrative take on their labors of love.

 Let’s examine why:

  • Traditional House: typical 6% royalty on paperback
  • Self-Publishing: typical 15–40% royalty on paperback

Yes, the difference is that stark! But why, you may be asking, is there such a variance with self-pub books?

I know some of you would prefer to run and hide when dealing with numbers, so my goal here is to provide you with an easy-to-digest explanation of how the whole system works. So hang on with me, and let’s dive in to the fun stuff!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

6 Vital Questions (and 8 Key Points to Remember) in Seeking Your Dream Book Production Partner(s)

What I know without a doubt is that no matter the genre, no matter the subject, every book is precious to a writer. This is why it’s so important to me that authors who wish to self-publish seek a partner—or team of partners—who truly connect with and care about the words on the pages they’ve worked so hard to write.

As a professional book doctor, producing someone’s book isn’t just a job to me; it’s deeply personal because a book is profoundly personal to the author who wrote it. But as I know I can’t take the hand of every self-publishing writer—both because I’m only one person and because I’m not the perfect match for every manuscript!—I wish to offer you some loving advice when seeking trusted partnerships so that your experience will be positive and fulfilling for you as your labor of love is brought to fruition.

Since there are many elements that make up your book’s top-notch production, you'll want to use the following questions (and your answers, of course!) as a guide when interviewing prospective editors, book designers, and/or other professionals to determine if the person will be right for you in your publishing journey. :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Why Interior Book Design Costs More Than You Think It Should (Part Two)

By now, if you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that one of my fervent goals as a professional book doctor is to keep self-publishing authors from making costly mistakes—both money-wise and credibility-wise.

Let’s face it: Once your book has been produced and published in a substandard way, recouping your reputation and overcoming the often poor reviews is no easy road for a writer, not to mention the cost of the stack you enthusiastically purchased to have on hand for eager fans and speaking gigs. Having your book subsequently redone the right way is the only smart choice—yet has the damage already been done?

Photo courtesy www.obsessivebookworm.wordpress.com

I don’t have to tell you that first impressions govern every aspect of our lives. How we feel about people, food, websites, book covers … you name it … determines whether we stick around for more or revisit them later. Our human nature wants to be pleased at the outset, perhaps so that we innately don’t waste too much time on the myriad choices placed before us on a daily basis. And when the first impression isn’t good, we’re often tainted for a second look … or taste … or read.

This is precisely why it’s vital not to take short cuts when editing, designing, and packaging your labor of love. The chances that a reader will come back to see the “improved version” are slim to none (unless they love you!), so do yourself a favor:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Why Interior Book Design Costs More Than You Think It Should (Part One)

Photo courtesy Keystrokes and Word Counts
If you’re like many writers, you may have entertained the notion that if you self-publish your book, you can save a ton of money by laying out the interior yourself. After all, isn’t that something you can do in Word? How hard could it be to pick a font, set a margin, insert page numbers, and basically make it look like a book? Never mind that you’ve only ever typed regular ol’ documents in Word, perhaps with some photos or graphics inserted here and there. Cinch, right?

Well, it might be, except that some crucial elements are missing:
1.  Word is not conducive to laying out a bookstore-quality book interior.
    2.  It's likely that you have no training or skill in book design. Though you may certainly possess some of the qualities below, book design is a specialized talent that requires all of the following:
      • keen understanding of the art
      • mastery of the various industry standards & technicalities
      • proficiency in an appropriate book design program
      • superb creativity
      • sharp technical prowess
      • fine interpretative skills
      • a gift for typography
      • focused expertise to deliver excellence
    3.  You are completely unaware (and how could you know if this isn't your field?) how much magic is performed to make a book interior look simple to create, making it flawless, befittingly engaging, and consistent in every way that counts.

    At the risk of sounding harsh, I’m not sure how the ability to type a manuscript in Word has somehow given writers the belief that this rudimentary skill translates into being able to lay out and design a book’s interior. But I know it has, because I’ve seen more and more self-published books authors have done themselves that are, quite honestly, an embarrassment to themselves and to the literary marketplace.


    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Shine with Stellar Book Cover Design

    How Smart Authors Achieve Standout Covers

    The first cover I designed for a full-length book was incredibly rewarding, both in lessons and in outcome. But perhaps the most telling phase was when I got my client on the phone and suggested that we scroll through Amazon together to get a feel for which cover elements—colors, typography size and style, graphics—grabbed her attention and which ones turned her away. This exercise, I knew, would give me direction in designing a concept for her particular cover, one that would make both her and her target audience happy.

    What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly her impressions would be made. Within seconds, I heard: “I hate that one,” “That one’s okay, but … (fill in the blank),” “That one’s really cool,” “That one’s BOR-ING,” and so on. Wow, I thought, I never timed my first impression of a book cover before, but I realized that for me too, it was instant. I've bought many books because I first loved the cover … then read the description to find the content appealed to me too.

    Now, let’s be honest: art is subjective no matter how you slice it. Colors are subject to personal opinion; photos can delight or diminish, depending on the observer. There is no creating a piece of art that everyone will love, and a book cover is indeed a piece of art.

    So how does a self-publishing author go about creating the best cover for their book?

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    Be Smart, not Taken: Red Flags to Heed When Seeking Self-Publishing Providers

    I received a call several months ago from a potential client who wanted to discuss a possible “redo” of his book. The person who designed it claimed to know what he was doing; and editing … well, let’s just say there was virtually none. Worst of all, it was already listed on Amazon.

    Upon meeting in person and seeing the book for myself, I was crestfallen that what this author had deemed acceptable—because I suppose he didn’t know any better—was nothing more than a bound first draft in book form, replete with myriad errors and every earmark of a poorly self-published book. How it got to Amazon in that stage was appalling; it honestly needed many hours of attention in every possible arena before it could be presented to readers.

    To add frustration to the scenario, the people in charge of the company’s book budget on behalf of the author were reluctant to put the necessary funds into it. The money they invested badly in the blatantly amateur version impacted the budget they needed to bring it to a professional level for publication, and not knowing anything about book production, they didn’t understand why it still needed so many hours, and therefore more money to make it right. It was a true recipe for disaster, one that I wish the author—and every writer out there who wants to independently publish—had known enough to thwart.

    Though this instance was extreme, it’s sadly not the first I’ve seen … or been asked to rectify.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Portrait of an Editor as a Hired Hand, Part Three

    Why Quality Copyediting Is Crucial When You Self-Publish

    Does the word copyediting make you want to run and hide? Is sorting out the nuances of the mechanics of language nausea inducing? Do terms like dependent clause and dangling modifier cause an eye roll? Ditto for the subtle yet important difference between an em dash and an en dash?

    If you typically believe that grammar rules are out to get you, you’re not alone; you also don’t have to suffer. (Bugle blow, please.) All hail the copyeditor!

    In Part One of this blog series, you learned that producing a book is akin to producing a play—neither are ready for an audience without multiple rehearsals, or editing rounds. And in Part Two, I gave you the lowdown on the granddaddy of developmental editing and why it commands the time and financial investment that it does. Now you’re wondering: But what about punctuation and all that stuff?

    Oh, the grammar nerd in me is so happy you asked!

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    Portrait of an Editor as a Hired Hand, Part Two

    Why Quality Developmental Editing Is Crucial When You Self-Publish

    In Part One of this blog post, I illustrated how publishing a book without quality editing is like debuting a play without any rehearsal … a certain recipe for chaos and disaster!

    No production—be it play, recital, or book—can greet an audience with pride and confidence if the producer hasn’t given it proper attention in the form of numerous run-throughs. These practice sessions allow for mistakes to be corrected, elements to be refined, cohesiveness to bloom. If you’re a writer, this is where your professional editor is indispensable.

    As you prepare to pay hundreds—or, more likely, thousands—of dollars on top-notch developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading, it’s important for you to understand why the investment is one of the biggest and most important you’ll make in your book project. And as promised, this post will be day one of your backstage pass to uncover just what you’re paying that editor to do for you …

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Portrait of an Editor as a Hired Hand, Part One

    Why Quality Editing Is Crucial When You Self-Publish (Part One)

    ed·it  /ˈedit/
    verb [with obj.]

    prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

    Doesn’t sound so complicated, does it? But the mere twelve words that comprise that definition represent a myriad of fine skills of which most people aren’t aware. Correcting. Condensing. Modifying. Each of these verbs is loaded.

    If you’re a writer—even an excellent one—you know (I hope!) that no manuscript can become a respected or beloved book without an exemplary editor. Yet I often encounter authors who have little to no understanding of why quality editing takes so long and is typically the single biggest—and most vital—investment you’ll make as a self-publishing author. If you're unsure yourself, perhaps the following analogy will give a clearer perspective.

    Imagine assembling a group of actors for a play you’ve been dying to produce. You believe in each of the performers wholeheartedly; you likewise love the script. You figure the combination of talented people and well-written scenes can’t go wrong, so you skip rehearsals and go right to opening night.

    Can you envision the chaos that ensues?

    photo courtesy of: http://tinyurl.com/dramatic-pov

    Just as you as a director wouldn’t debut a performance without having rehearsed it many times over, neither should you as a writer consider publishing your book without the same mindset. Here’s what I mean:

    Friday, January 25, 2013

    The Call of the Publisher: A Big Six House Joins the Self-Publishing Revolution

    Traditional publishing has taken a significant hit in the last few years as e-books and self-publishing companies have sliced into its conventions of putting books in readers’ hands, so when Simon & Schuster recently announced they were launching a self-publishing service, I couldn’t help but find the news intriguing.

    It may seem counterintuitive for a big house to embrace indie publishing, but when you consider what’s to gain, it actually makes perfect sense.

    Think about it:

    When an agent sells your book to a publisher, all the expense of producing your book—editing, interior design and layout, cover design—falls on the house. Then they pay the author an advance—more money out. If you’re lucky, you get some marketing attention from the publicity department, again at their cost. This investment on their part is, of course, with the expectation that your book will delight readers to the tune of earning back their gamble and more.

    Imagine now the wheels turning in the minds of those running the publishing houses.

    What if we could offer what CreateSpace or Lulu does, leave the control in the hands of the writer (which is a huge benefit of self-publishing), and reap some of the profit?

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Oh, the Places Authors Can Go in 2013, Part Two

    In part one of this blog post, Oh, the Places Authors Can Go in 2013, I shared the growing trend of publishers seeking out successful self-published authors on the Amazon “stage,” similar to how talented new singers are discovered on American Idol.

    The question I posed was whether or not this “discovery”—and the subsequent courting of the author by the publishing company—was beneficial to the writer. The short (and not so glamorous) answer is: It depends.

    Let’s paint a picture:

    Sunday, January 6, 2013

    Oh, the Places Authors Can Go in 2013, Part One

    Happiest New Year wishes to everyone! After a long, unintended hiatus I’m now back in full swing, keeping you in the loop on everything of interest in indie publishing ... and there’s a lot to share!

    I’ve been eager to focus this exciting blog relaunch on where self-publishing is going in 2013, a topic of intrigue for all of us, and I believe this is an excellent place to start:

    I’ve had a vivid vision these last months that self-publishing is quickly becoming to the writing world what American Idol is to the singing world. Where did that notion come from? Take a look:

    Singer with talent = puts oneself on public stage = evaluation by fans and people in the biz = possible contract and stardom, if fortunate

    Writer with talent = produces book on own for public platform = evaluation by fans and people in biz = possible contract and stardom, if fortunate

    Photo courtesy of www.yourhoustonnews.com

    How exactly does this work?