Monthly Archives: April 2011

Another Indie Author Reports Results – Nonfiction vs. Fiction

19 April 2011
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Tracy Marchini reports very early results from two books she self-published, Pub Speak: A Writer’s Dictionary of Publishing Terms and Effie At The Wedding, a 99-cent YA short story. You’ll remember Tracy from Five Things I’ve Learned By E-publishing.

Excerpts:

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from writers that tell me that they would love to buy a copy of Pub Speak, but don’t own an ereader. (I am working now on putting out a softcover edition!)

. . . .

I think that Effie is seeing growth because there is less initial investment from the reader — they like the cover and the blurb, and if they don’t like the story then they just won’t spend another dollar on my work. With Pub Speak, I think it’s a combination of two factors: a.) people still want physical copies of their reference books and b.) it’s not priced for the casual browser.

. . . .

The argument has been that lower pricing will make up for “lost profits” in the long tail. I’m only three weeks in, so I can’t vouch for that personally.

Link to the rest at Tracy Marchini

How to be a Guest Blogger on a Very Big Writing/Publishing Website

19 April 2011
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We all know that the modern author is supposed to blog. See this if you disagree.

One of the challenges for any blog is attracting people to read the blog. Guest blogging on a bigger blog is one way to do this.

Former agent Nathan Bransford operates one of the biggest blogs in the world of publishing. He’s inviting you to audition for the position of guest blogger. If you succeed, zillions of people will come to your blog and Oprah will probably invite you onto her show. (Does she still have one?)

Tip: Passive Guy just made a post on Nathan’s All Things Publishing forum.

Click HERE for more details.

40 Free Tools for Authors

19 April 2011
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I’m a big fan of freeware. I’m not seeking incoming rounds from Mac fans, but when I tried out a Mac several months ago, one of the things that brought me back to Windows was the zillion little freeware programs I use to make my computer operate differently than any other computer in the universe.

Writing is a great realm for freeware. For example, I have a character named Queen Xotherania in a manuscript that’s nearly finished. I use a program called AutoHotkey to type qz and it automatically expands to a properly-spelled and capitalized Queen Xotherania. It took me about 10 seconds to set up the shortcut and repaid my effort by the third time I only had to type qz instead of the real deal. I have at least 50-60 of these shortcuts I use regularly, including some for this blog.

I remember reading that the late political journalist and author William F. Buckley used a similar program for writing dialogue. When he finished a line of dialogue, a couple of keystrokes inserted a period, a quotation mark, a paragraph break, a tab and another quotation mark so he was ready to type the next line of dialogue.

Piotr Kowalczyk doesn’t mention AutoHotkey, but he does list a boatload of free programs for authors broken into the following categories:

Writing and editing – tools, which can help you better write and edit your book
Design – how to easily prepare a cover of a book; go try it, it’s easier than you think
Formats and conversion – tools to convert and prepare books in desired file formats
Publishing – a list of the best self-publishing platforms
Online presence – what you need to effectively promote and sell your books
Reader engagement – tools to engage your readers in your books and writing
Analytics – analyze your writing, sales and effectiveness of online activity

I think you’ll find at least one of Piotr’s programs will help you out.

Here’s the link at TeleRead

Here’s a link to AutoHotkey – The program’s vibe is a little geeky and you can configure it to rule the world if you’re in an obsessive mood, but it’s very easy to create the little shortcut replacements like I use for Queen Xotherania.

PS – I almost published this with the title 40 Free Fools for Authors. That’s an inspiration for a future post.

Self-Publishing a Book Using CreateSpace

19 April 2011
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Author and indie publishing guru Karen McQuestion takes you through the whole process of getting your manuscript ready for CreateSpace POD sales.

Excerpts:

How much will it cost to set up my book? There are no set-up fees for your book; before making it available for sale, we do require you to purchase and approve a proof copy of your book. We’ll also provide you with a free CreateSpace ISBN (International Standard Book Number—an identifying number necessary to sell a book commercially) if you don’t already own one.”

I opted for something CreateSpace calls their “Pro Plan,” which allowed me to earn higher royalties and reduces the cost of ordering my own copies. It also allows the book to be part of the expanded distribution plan, which means bookstores and libraries can order it.

This was the breakdown of my costs in producing my children’s book, Celia and the Fairies:

Pro Plan $39.00 (yearly renewal fee of $5.00)

Proof Copy $9.34 ($3.15 for the book plus $6.39 shipping)

Second Proof Copy $9.34 (found an error and had to redo it)

Cover Image $20.00

Paid my daughter to do the cover design $20.00

Total cost: $97.68

. . . .

To create the interior file, the actual pages of the book, I needed to resize my manuscript page to match my chosen trim size. I did this while it was still a Microsoft Word document. After opening the document, I clicked on Page Layout=> then clicked on Size. The program didn’t have my exact size (5.25 x 8 inches), so I found the closest one (5 x 8 inches) and changed the number manually by clicking on it and just typing in the numbers.

I found it easiest to view the manuscript using the “Print Layout” setting, although it’s a personal preference. What you see on the screen is exactly how it will look in the book, so if the print is tiny or the lines look crowded, you’ll want to make adjustments.

Following the format of a traditionally published book, the very first page had the title of the book centered. The second page, which would be the other side of that first page, I left blank.

The third page has the title with the author’s name below it. The fourth page is the back of that page and will be the copyright page, usually with ISBN, but you don’t have that yet, so don’t sweat it.

The fifth page is the dedication page, and the next, the sixth, is again blank.

The seventh page is the actual start of the book. This is where the page numbers will begin. Again, look at a traditionally published book in your genre for guidance in formatting your book. I decided to start about halfway down the page, and to NOT have a chapter heading (i.e. “Chapter One”) for the first chapter. Some books do have a chapter heading for the first chapter; it’s entirely up to you.

Link to the rest at McQuestionable Musings

Five Things I’ve Learned By E-publishing

18 April 2011

Editorial consultant Tracy Marchini published her first ebook, Pub Speak: A Writer’s Dictionary of Publishing Terms, and learned some important lessons.

Excerpts:

1.) You cannot do the cover yourself, unless you happen to be a graphic designer.

There was a brief moment where I thought to myself, “Well, I’m artistic, perhaps I can do my own cover.” Despite the fact that I’ve advised plenty of people to invest in professional cover art, I still spent some time in front of my computer with MS Paint, a sketchbook and a scanner. Luckily, this bout of insanity was short lived, and I accepted that I had to follow my own advice.

. . . .

3.) Self publishing is about the long tail.

In traditional publishing, there is a ton of pre-publication publicity and marketing done which is designed to launch a book as big and fast as possible. High orders from buyers will hopefully propel the book on a best-sellers list before it even hits the shelves, and then it’ll stay on the list and on the shelves because people are paying attention. The book has become popular among consumers, because the publisher made it popular among book buyers. Most books however, will be off the physical shelves within three months, which means an author has a short window of time to keep their book in the bookstores.

In self-publishing, the business model tends to be more of a slow, gradual growth that’s built on a number of successful books. Self published authors should be prepared for the long tail, where the first orders are a spike of friends, family and followers, but the real success comes over a longer period of time. Though most self-published books will never sit on a bookshelf, by self-publishing Pub Speak, I can keep it available for as long as I desire – giving it the time that it needs to grow.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

If you had a problem giving books away free, you would never, ever sell a book to a library

18 April 2011

Nathan Bransford is a bright guy and insightful commentator on all things publishing.

However, I think he misses some important factors in a blog post that went up this morning discussing 99 cent book pricing. Contra my usual format, I’ll insert an excerpt from Nathan first and my thoughts afterwards.

Excerpt:

Tragedy of the $0.99s

Thought experiment. Let’s say that everyone sold their books at $0.99. Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, J.A. Konrath, Amanda Hocking… everyone.

What would that publishing world look like?

Well, for one, more books would probably be sold overall. But not an exponentially greater number. There’s an important constraint that limits the number of books that can be sold: readers’ attention.

At the end of the day, there are only so many people in the world who read books and only so much time in the day they spend reading them and so much money they’re willing to spend for them. People do buy a few more books than they end up reading, but not that many more.

So basically in this hypothetical you end up with a situation where no one makes much money per copy sold and a good bulk of the readership that would probably have paid more if they had been required to. Unknown authors would no longer derive a benefit from the discounting.

If you think of discounts as resources, those discounts could end up depleted when the early movers drive down prices, and no one is able to derive benefit from them anymore.

And when book prices are $0.99, there would be still more pressure to give books away for free to try and build an audience. It’s not that hard to envision a price race all the way down to free for debut authors.

Here’s what I think Nathan misses.

In the present US market (and I suspect elsewhere), if you consider the number of times a book is read most of those “readings” generate no revenue for publishers, authors or bookstores. How does this happen? Somewhere authoritative (can’t locate at the moment) I read that two-thirds of all the books people read don’t cost them anything because they’re borrowed from libraries or friends.

If you had a problem giving books away free, you would never, ever sell a book to a library. In fact, you would never sell a printed book to anyone. You would license each book and limit its use to the original purchaser. Every major software company on the planet does this. To be clear, Passive Guy is not advocating this, he’s just demonstrating that Big Publishing gives away most of the “readings” it sells for free.

Absent the type of copyright license I mentioned, a printed book is inherently a delivery mechanism that encourages multiple people to read a given copy of the book. After a single read-through, the book is almost like new. Even the most cheaply-produced paperback is good for 20-25 free reads.

Speaking of the supposed damage 99 cent pricing can do, when Nathan says “there are only so many people in the world who read books,” he’s thinking about books the way publishers think about books – how many physical books go out the door, not how many times people read those books. If J.K. Rowling’s publisher sells a million physical Harry Potter books, it is, in fact, selling several million “readings” of those books. The real “readings” market for Harry Potter books is much, much larger than the number of physical books sold.

Ebooks change the “readings” dynamic in a significant way. Under its present terms, Amazon allows you to lend an ebook you purchase to one person for 14 days, then no more lending. When a Harry Potter ebook sells on Amazon, the publisher is selling no more than 2 “readings.” I would guess that the percentage of Kindle books that are lent is very small, so each sale is pretty close to one reading.

How does this work for pricing? If a library buys a hardcover book for $20 and 100 people check it out before it falls apart, the publisher has sold a “reading” of that book for 20 cents. If Amazon sells one of the 99 cent indie books that worry Nathan so much, the author has sold a reading of that book for pretty close to 99 cents.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s pull a quote from Nathan and look at it:

[T]here are only so many people in the world who read books and only so much time in the day they spend reading them and so much money they’re willing to spend for them. People do buy a few more books than they end up reading, but not that many more.

This is missing one of the results of disruptive change, including disruptive pricing like 99 cent books.

“People do buy a few more books than they end up reading, but not that many more.” If a book costs $20, you’ll read most of the books you buy. If you buy a steak for $20, you’ll eat most of the steaks you buy. If you buy a hamburger for 99 cents from the dollar menu at McDonalds and it doesn’t taste so good, you throw it away without finishing it. If you’re still hungry, you buy something else off the dollar menu. A 99 cent book is an impulse purchase. You don’t think twice about buying it and not reading it. In fact, hard core Kindle users typically have lots of books they haven’t read on their ereaders.

“only . . .  so much money they’re willing to spend for [books]” Only so much money people are willing to spend for $20 hardcovers is a different thing than only so much money people are willing to spend on 99 cent ebooks. First of all, if the budget is the same and strictly followed, instead of buying one printed book, the purchaser buys 20 ebooks.

But study after study of consumer behavior shows that people underestimate how much they spend on impulse-priced items they consume regularly. 99 cent ebooks are like potato chips. If one tastes good, you eat ten more. It’s easier to pry 99 cents out of a consumer’s pocket twenty times than it is to get them to spend $20 once.

Even the Arabs are disrupting! With $4.00 gas, you may be able to buy a 99 cent ebook cheaper than you can drive to the library.

Let’s return one more time to Nathan’s quote, “[T]here are only so many people in the world who read books.” How big is the market for English language ebooks? I blogged about an estimate that Mike Schatzkin quoted: “the world has 600 million native English speakers and 1.4 billion English speakers in other countries. If that were true, the US would have less than a sixth of the total within its boundaries.”

With physical books, there are country rights and long traditions of high prices for foreign books in many different countries around the world. With ebooks, in five minutes, I could show anybody with an internet connection anywhere in the world how to connect with Amazon US in a way that made it look like they lived in Iowa and download those 99 cent ebooks. No waiting, no VAT, no government-enforced prices on printed books, just a bunch of disruptive electrons squirting all over the place.

Link to Nathan Bransford Author

Wonder How to Format Your Self-Published Book for Print?

18 April 2011
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We all know ebooks are the coming thing and will devour the world.

How will that occur? One night, all your paranormal books will crawl out of your Kindle and start chewing. When you wake up the next morning, you’ll find yourself inside a Nook with your face pressed against the screen, looking out at a scene of complete devastation.

But you already knew that.

What you didn’t know is that, before the Great Devouring, if you’re self-pubbing, you can do a POD at same time you release your ebook into the Amazonsphere and the World of Nook. But you need to do it before your ebooks escape and eat all the trees.

Shelley Hitz AKA Self-Publishing Coach Extraordinaire has created a template for your paper book and she’s willing to share.

Excerpts:

I started doing some research and realized most authors simply type their book in a Microsoft Word document and then convert it to PDF to upload to their publisher. It sounds simple, but I wondered how to format my Word document so that it would be the correct size for printing.

That’s when I developed my own book template.

. . . .

So what did I do?

  1. First, I opened a Microsoft Word document and saved it to my computer. If you don’t have Microsoft Word installed on your computer you can also use the free OpenOffice.org software.
  2.  

  3. I then researched the fonts that are recommended for print books…the best fonts for titles and for the text and inserted them into my template. I set up my first chapter in the fonts and sizes I decided upon.
  4.  

  5. Next, I resized my Microsoft Word document to: 8.5 inches x 5.5 inches. It is simply half of a regular sized sheet of paper (8.5 inches x 11 inches) and tends to be the most popular and most affordable size to print a book.
  6.  

  7. Then, I created an endorsement page, a title page, copyright page, table of contents page and dedication page.
  8.  

  9. And finally, I was ready to start writing my book in my self publishing book template.

. . . .

Tips on Inserting Graphics

One thing you need to know about inserting graphics into your Microsoft Word template is to choose graphics that are 300 ppi (pixels per inch) for print quality. I choose to buy stock royalty free photos from istockphoto.com which gives you the rights to use the pictures on printed materials, like books. You can search for images on their website. Once you find the image you want for your book, make sure to download it in the correct size for your book in 300 ppi quality.

Link to the rest at Self-Publishing Coach

The Gatekeepers are Necessary

17 April 2011
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I almost skipped the latest Joe.

That would have been a great mistake.

Although I admire him greatly, I haven’t bought any of his books. Don’t think they’re my cup of tea. Not enough unicorns.

However, I nominate Joe as the greatest indie writer of slogans and pithy bits. In his latest blog post, he chews through lame arguments against self-publishing. Here’s my fave:

The gatekeepers are necessary.

I agree. But I don’t call these gatekeepers “agents” or “publishers.”

I call them “readers.”

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

The Future of the Bookstore – One Book Per Store

17 April 2011
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Only in New York. A monobookist bookstore. It is a serious statement about the future of print books.

Excerpts:

To celebrate the launch of his new book about the Phoenix Mars mission, author Andrew Kessler constructed a “monobookist bookstore”–a temporary shop stocked with more than 3,000 copies of Martian Summer.

We caught up with Kessler to find out more about Ed’s Martian Book, a bookstore located at 547 Hudson Street in New York City. He explained: “Since we wanted to make a big serious statement about the future of books we had to get the timing just right. Ed and I waited for the Borders’  bankruptcy proceedings to begin and religious tension to mount across the globe. And when that all finally happened, we knew the timing would be perfect for a new kind of monobookist bookstore.”

Link to the rest at GalleyCat

Ready to Self-Publish? Not So Fast! You Have an Agent. Forever.

17 April 2011
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In perpetuity. That’s a long time.

From Agent Kristen:

Not to be a downer on the Friday but a lot of authors are super excited about getting their rights reverted and then being able to digitally publish those titles themselves.

By all means, I’m certainly not opposed but you might want to check that agency agreement you signed before you run out and do that.

. . . .

I know a lot of agencies that have “in perpetuity” language that they will be the agency of record for life of the property—regardless of whether that title is currently under a publication contract or not.

Link to the rest at Pub Rants

 

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