Friday, May 25, 2018

How big should your book pages be?

(chart from CreateSpace)


Until this week, all of my printed books had common 6x9-inch pages. A few years ago I saw a book written by a friend that had larger pages. The pages were "airy" with large margins surrounding the text. I liked the appearance and thought I might try big pages some day--and then forgot about the idea until a few weeks ago.



Since January I've been working on a book about Donald Trump. I originally planned to publish it around March first. But I kept needing to write more and the date slipped. I had planned to have about 50,000 words. My final number was 88,701.

Publishers Weekly analyzed data from Amazon.com and declared that the median average "word count" for books is 64,531 words, which translates to about 290 paper pages. While a mean average might be more useful than the median (half of the books have more words, half have fewer), the number from PW is still useful. It’s probably best for new writers not to stray too far from the average.

Most printers can produce books with as many as 800 to
1,000 pages, but books with more than 500 pages are unusual. With nonfiction, you need to have enough pages to cover your topic adequately. Don’t skimp, or pad.
  • The book should not be so big that it will be priced a lot higher than its competitors or seem like “too much to read.”
  • It should not be so short that it seems incomplete, or doesn’t offer value for its cost.

The form of a book affects the acceptability of its size. A printed book with 600 pages could be heavy to carry and difficult to lay flat (and expensive to print and ship). 

The cost of each additional page printed is insignificant. The cost of each e-page is zero. There is a prejudice against very thin books, so try for a minimum of about 120 pages. Thin books just don’t seem like real books, and the printing on the book’s spine will be tiny.

Novels can be much longer than nonfiction. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is about 1,300 pages long, and some of Rowling’s Harry Potter books have over 700 pages.

A book’s page count is not final until it is ready to be printed. Many factors determine how many words fit on a page, including page size, type size, line spacing, margins, headers, number and size of illustrations, front and back matter, etc.

Despite the amazing recent growth in ebook sales, most books sold are still pbooks. Each piece of paper in a pbook costs money, and if you use a self-publishing company (as opposed to a printer), you can get really ripped off on paper charges.

Lightning Source is the dominant Print-On-Demand company, producing books for publishers of all types and sizes, including my own Silver Sands Books. I sometimes use CreateSpace (part of Amazon) and its prices are similar.

[NOTE: some prices below are out-of-date, but should be fairly close to current prices.]


At Lightning Source one copy of a 300-page paperback will cost $5.35. If you add two pages (one piece of paper) the price goes up by three cents. Pricing-per-page seems very logical to me, but that's not the way some self-publishing companies work.

Here's the wacky price chart from E-BookTime.com: (Despite the company's name, it also produces pbooks.)





Prices are based on page ranges, not the actual number of pages. When you exceed a range by just one page, the minimum retail price goes up two bucks, and the author's wholesale price goes up $1.40.

The company says it provides "
Book publishing that is . . . affordable." A 351-page paperback selling for $20.95 is waaaaay overpriced for most genres. High pricing can make your book noncompetitive.


(above) Infinity Publishing's book pricing is strange. Its suggested cover price for a book with 129 pages is a buck more than the price for a book with 128 pages. The author pays 54 cents per book for the additional page. Page number 129 is printed on a very expensive piece of paper. Independent self-publishers who have Lightning Source print their books pay .013 for an additional page. Ironically, Infinity's $149 Extended Distribution Package uses Lightning Source to print the books. Infinity pays Lightning .013 cents (or maybe less) for page number 129, but charges authors 54 cents! That's a nice markup. Infinity also says that its own printing and fulfillment are better than Lightningbut they are willing to use Lightning anyway.


(above) Xlibris also has an inflated and weird "delta" between page ranges. As shown above, a 107-page paperback book will sell for $15.99 and the hardcover will sell for $24.99. If you add just one page more, the price goes up $4 or $5. The difference in the manufacturing cost is tiny, and can't possibly justify the difference in cover price.

The price for a paperback with 398 pages is $19.99 (just like the 108-page book), but, at 400 pages the retail price jumps four bucks to $23.99, and that price holds all the way to 800 pages. Xlibris gives away 400 pages for "free," but charges four or five bucks for one page! Xlibris books are printed by Lightning Source, so the price per additional page is insignificant.

You want to sell pbooks and if you want people to buy them, the price is important. Choose your printing partner carefully. If you must use a self-pubco, pay attention to the page count, including the pages added by the company. 


----------------------

An 8.5-by-11-inch manuscript page holds about twice as many words as a common 6-by-9-inch book page. A 200-page manuscript can yield a 400-page book (with no graphics), and have about 100,000 words.





Anyway, my book ended up with nearly 90,000 words. With .6-inch margins on the bottoms and sides and 1.6 inches at the top, that would've taken 392 pages.

I decided to use jumbo-ish 7x10-inch pages and the page total was reduced to 306 pages. I could have reduced type size and top margins, but I chose not to.

You may be surprised to learn that page size does NOT affect the cost you pay for printing (unless you pick something outlandish). By employing bigger pages I was able to keep my cost low and the selling price at a reasonable-and-profitable $15.95. The jumbo format gives the book a distinctive look.

I'm writing this sentence at 9:26 AM on Friday May 25, 2017. My first copy of the book will probably arrive in three or four hours. I hope I'll be pleased, not horrified.






Monday, May 14, 2018

Be sure to understand the important "peas" in the publishing "pod"







Book publicity is one of several related and sometimes confusing or nearly synonymous “p” terms.

Someone does promotion (which often includes public relations) to achieve publicity. They all can be part of an author's platform.

Publicity is lots of people knowing about your book and hopefully buying copies and/or urging others to buy.

Promotion is all of the efforts intended to achieve publicity. Although publicity is the end result of promotion, many people call themselves book publicists and relatively few call themselves book promoters. (Publicists used to be called "press agents"). A publicist or promoter can guarantee to provide promotion, or public relations, but cannot guarantee that you or your book will achieve publicity. 

Red Hot Internet Publicity is mis-titled. The author uses "publicity" as a synonym for "marketing," and it wasn't until I reached page 115 of her 193 pages that I encountered anything that I considered to be related to the book's title -- which was the reason I bought the book.

Despite its name, public relations is not directly concerned with relations with the public. Media are intermediaries. Writers hope to attract the attention of media people by sending out press releases, or by contacting journalists, editors, bloggers, talk show hosts, TV producers and movie makers.

Promotion includes more than public relations. It may include public appearances, publicity stunts and platform building. 


Platform is a major buzzword in current publishing. It’s not the same as a political party’s platform. Think of it as a metaphor for a structure that will boost you up and make you visible to potential readers, sources of publicity and bookstore buyers. Components in your platform include websites, blogs, business connections, social media, radio and TV appearances, quotes in media, online mentions, speeches, articles, friends, neighbors, etc. Your first book is part of your platform and should help sell your later books.

Platform photo from http://www.lighthouse.net.au. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recipe for a book publishing disaster:



Here's a fine way to fail:
  1. Publish with America Star Books -- probably the worst publisher in the world. (formerly PublishAmerica).
  2. Give your book an absurdly high price.
  3. Have zero reviews on Amazon.
UPDATE: Its Amazon sales rank is now nearly 15 million!!! Yes, million.


Monday, April 30, 2018

Creative Language Awards: sex, ego-burst, headline, history, sex, drugs, dialog


 

"I'm a slut, not a murderer": suspect on Bones.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass—and I'm all out of bubble gum."
: Rowdy Roddy Piper




"Victim of Dog-Authorized Anal Assault Receives $1.6 million settlement": Forbes.com 



“Over?  Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”: John Belushi as Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House

  

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”: Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins in City Slickers 



“Foul-mouthed? Fuck you!”: Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop
  

 
“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”: Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool 


 
“She thinks I’m a pervert because I drank our water bed.” “Stop whining and eat your shiksa.”: Woody Allen as Miles Monroe in Sleeper



“There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched be­tween the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman.”: Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander 



“I have a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.”: Robin Williams on the Tonight Show 


 
“Listen, let’s get one thing straight. In the hours you’re here taking care of my mother, no ganja.”: James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos 


 
“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”: various people, including me. (No, that's not me. It just looks like me.)
 



-----

police car photo from KOB TV, Thanx.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Some book title tips, and some plugs



(above) Every baby needs a name and every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and a title can’t be copyrightedMore than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. I met Deborah Burggraaf, the author of a very good one, on a plane trip a few years ago. If you like her title, you can use it, too—but please don’t.

Both Danielle Steel
 and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith. At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage. At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift. At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with those titles, too—but please don’t.

If you want to call your next masterpiece Holy Bible, Hamlet, War and Peace, From Russia with Love or The Da Vinci Code, you can. You might get sued. You might win, but it won’t be a pleasant experience. You’ll probably also confuse and annoy a lot of people—so try to come up with something original.

An identifying term in a book series can be trademarked. If you publish The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Harry Potter, you’ll probably be sued by two publishing companies, and lose twice.

Some people think it’s bad luck to announce a pregnancy before the baby is born. Others start blabbing and buying baby clothes on the day after conception. There is similar disagreement about announcing a book’s title long in advance. You may think that you should keep your title secret so nobody copies your idea. But the loss of advance publicity and the delay in moving up through search engine rankings is probably worse than helpi­­ng a twin title. If you think you have a hot title, try to publish fast, and maybe your book will be on sale before another one with the same title.

One possibly bright note: if another book has the same title but better publicity, people searching for that book may find your book by accident and buy it.

Come up with about a dozen possible titles. Print them up in big type, one title per page. Hang them on the wall. Stare at them. Close your eyes and say the words and analyze what you visualizeor don't visualize. Within a few minutes, you’ll likely eliminate a third of the titles.

Try multiple variations of your favored titles with minor differences, just changing or dropping a word. Sometimes substituting a shorter word will mean that your title can take up two lines instead of three, so you can use bigger type or a bigger cover photo or both. “Club” and “group” take up less space than “organization.” “Pasta” is shorter than “macaroni.” It's OK to use a single-character ampersand instead of a three-character "and" in a title.

When you get down to two or three "finalists," make dummy book covers with appropriate type and artwork. Print them out and wrap them around real books (even if you plan to publish e-only). Hold them at different angles. Carry them around with you. Ask typical purchasers (if you know some) what the titles mean to them. In 2008 I was shocked to learn that people completely misinterpreted my favored title for a future book. I changed it and the book has sold very well.



(above) Here’s an early concept and final version of one of my books. Try for a title that calls for action. The cover that starts with a bold “GET THE MOST” is much stronger than the wimpy “How to Get . . .”

(below) The ebook version has an even stronger title, How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company. I could have made it "Don't Get Screwed . . ." Maybe I'll change it.




If you’re writing a nonfiction book, the subject will suggest the book’s title. The subject has to be in the title to attract browsers in stores if your books are sold there. The subject-in-title is also critical for online shoppers searching for keywords or key phrases in search engines or on websites. Assuming the core of your title is something like “auto repair,” “retirement” or “sailing,” you need just a few words to fill it out. Some typical phrases are “learn about,” “all about,” “how to,” “plan for,” “introduction to” and “buyers guide.”

(below) Try this handy Title Generator Table to get started. Pick one item from each column:



Any of those titles should make it very clear what your book is about, and—except for the sex—would also be boring and forgettable. With nonfiction, strive for a title that explains the book’s benefits and the problems it solves. Try to inject a little bit of humor, whimsy, mystery or novelty. Find something that will separate your book from competitors’ books without hiding its subject.

(below) Search engines can help you choose words to go in your nonfiction book’s title and subtitle to improve online “searchability.” In the examples below for a book about “vitamin deficiency,” Bing and Google revealed popular related search terms that will help you choose words to appeal to potential book buyers.


(below) Whoopi Goldberg is both funny and smart. Her book’s title, Book, is only slightly funny, and not at all smart. It provides no indication of the subject (“Whoopi!” might have been a better title). A Google search for “book” shows over ONE BILLION links. Most are not for Whoopi’s book.




(below) Sometimes a title like Star Crossed seems "blah" and forgettable in simple textbut absolutely ignites when combined with the right graphics. Using a title that depends on a visual image to go from "eh" to "WOW!" is a gamble; but this image, while subtle, is so powerful and unforgettable that I think the gamble was worthwhile.


The simple title is absolutely perfect, and intriguing for Bette Isacoff's memoir about religious intermarriage. Bette was a 21-year-old Catholic student teacher who fell in love with a 17-year-old Jewish student (who lived across the street from me in New Haven). This was in 1968, when Jews and Catholics rarely married each other, and there was lots of opposition. Bette and Richard rebelled, got married and are still very much in love. I'm not exactly macho, but I seldom read love stories or chick-lit; however I strongly recommend Bette's book—and love her title and cover.

(below) Your title should not promise to reveal secrets unless it really does. Few “secrets” are secret—and no secrets are secret after even one person reads your book.


(below) Unlike nonfiction, keywords don’t matter for fiction, humor or poetry titles. You just want something distinctive and mem­orable. Short is often better than long.



(above) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great short title. So is I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Zac Bissonnette’s How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents and Erma Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank are great long titles.

Pick words that sound good together. People like and remember alliterations. If your title uses the name of a fictional character, pick a name that will help your book. Saving Silverman beats Saving Berkowitz. The Great Gatsby beats The Great Murphy. With actual names, you can do an alliteration like The Obama Overture or The Kennedy Killing.

Avoid awkward word combinations like “and end,” “usually use” and “be because” on and in the book.

(Mostly for nonfiction) The subtitle gives you a second chance to sell your book. It’s very important online, and in stores. Pick a good one. Sometimes a title and a subtitle can be switched, or a new title can combine elements of both.



(above) You can also have a 'fake' subtitle loaded with keywords that would be ugly on a cover, but are very effective for capturing searchers on Amazon.com. Publishing expert Aaron Shepard is a wizard with long subtitles. He has a lot to teach you. Pay attention.

I once modified a subtitle on Amazon long before I changed what was printed on the book. No one complained.

The subtitle printed on the cover of Fundamentals of Public Administration is “A Blueprint for Nigeria Innovative Public Sector: Understanding the dynamics and concepts of Public Policy Administration, Local Government Administration in developing countries, Servant Leadership in Public Sector, Leadership, Budgeting and Financial Fiscal Responsibility in the Public Sector.” I think that’s a bit too much.


Want more book tips? Buy my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice:





Friday, April 20, 2018

Humor is important to me but I learned two important reasons to not use 'funny' spelling in a title



Most people who know me (except for those who hate me) probably think I'm a pretty funny guy.

My wife often complains that I have a reckless sense of humor and I “go too far.” She’s afraid that I’m going to get into trouble like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. I think artistic expression outranks domestic tranquility. In my domicile, we have much more expression than tranquility.

Like Penn and Teller, Bart Simpson (above) and the folks on Jackass, I’ll do almost anything for a joke.

Some people have occasionally described my humor as sick, tasteless or black humor. That’s because I can find humor almost anywhere and anytime -- and that can make people uncomfortable.

I designed and wore the shirt shown up above when I went to the hospital to be treated for a kidney stone. It made people laugh and laughter is the best medicine. Most people are too serious most of the time b
ut I’m frequently able to find humor when others can’t, like when I'm awaiting surgery.

Sure, humor can hurt. Just ask the victims of laughing bullies in school, or those in nightclub audiences singled out by comedians like Don Rickles (at left).

Authors and publishers I've criticized in this blog may not have laughed at what I wrote about them. Too bad.

As it says up at the top, "
If you present work to the public, you may be criticized. If your feelings get hurt easily, keep your work private. When you seek praise, you risk derision. Either produce pro-quality work by yourself or get help from qualified professionals."

Some literary critics use sophisticated scholastic analysis in their book reviews. I prefer to go for laughs. A few victims and observers of my criticism say I should be nicer. As my wise father said, "if you want nice, buy a puppy." Don't write or publish crappy books.

Sometimes humor can backfire and hurt the joker. I contemplated that possibility and slightly changed the titles and covers of two books. My efforts at humor could limit my books' sales and my income, so I decided that it would be better for me to be more serious than I had planned. 

Both titles had intentional spelling errors. I initially assumed that every potential reader would realize that. But maybe they won't. Maybe some super-serious (or stupid?) people would think I accidentally made the errors and didn't catch them and fix them.
  • Maybe some people would think I'm guilty of the same shortcomings that I criticize in others. (Heaven forbid!)
  • Another reason to not have deliberate misspellings in a book's title is that search engines like Google don't understand jokes (at least, not yet). They will index the misspelled term, and anyone looking for links to the properly spelled phrase will not find my books. That's not good.
Old and New, #1
Old and New, #2 (not the final design)

Of course, just because I made these books more serious doesn't mean that I'll stop laughing, even at myself.