Thursday, January 31, 2013
A wise old Roman said, “De gustibus non est disputandum” (Latin for "in matters of taste, there can be no disputes").
The French version is “chacun à son gout” (to each his own taste).
In the USA we say “whatever turns you on,” “whatever floats your boat,” “whatever tickles your pickle” and “do your own thing.”
While designing and evaluating book covers it’s important to recognize that there are great variations in personal taste.
[above] I think these two very different book covers are very attractive—but you may hate one or both.
I personally consider the cover at the top to be creepy, disgusting and disturbing—but that may be exactly right for readers of its genre.
Know your customers.
(Adapted from my upcoming The Look of a Book: the difference between good covers and bad covers and how to make a good one)
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
[above] Book cover type may have implications you’ve never thought about. Here are two book covers showing men in frilly shirts. If not for the typefaces, could you tell that one book is intended for straight women and the other for gay men? Either illustration could appeal to people of either gender and orientation but the type makes the difference. The Cross Bones type could be used on a book for straight men, but not with a guy in a frilly shirt.
[above] Here are two cowboy romance books. The huge letters used for Linda Lael Miller’s name and the curlicues and script typeface used for “Country” indicate its for women. The simpler typeface on the book at the right hints that it’s for men.
[left] Both of these books are in the lesbian romance genre, but the title type styles are entirely different Could one be femme and the other butch?
[above] And, finally, books written by a lesbian woman and a homosexual man -- with asexual typography.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
“Platform” is a major buzzword in current publishing.
It’s not the same as a political party’s platform, or a supporting structure for an oil well, lighthouse or lecturer.
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.
Traditional publishers want to know about the platforms of new authors. If your platform is unimpressive, your book may not impress them
(photo from http://www.lighthouse.net.au/)
Monday, January 28, 2013
I wrote the following in July of 2010.
- AuthorsBookshop.com is an online bookstore dedicated to selling self-published, independently published and small-press published books. We have created a home for indie books that is friendly, helpful and profitable for authors and small presses. It is also a great place for book buyers who want to feel good about where their books are coming from.
- In addition to selling independent books, AuthorsBookshop.com is a clearinghouse of information on self-publishing. Visit our Publishing Resource Center and our Publishing Forum for info on getting your manuscript into print. We provide networking opportunities as well as tools and information that will help you along the tough road that leads to selling your first book, and then help you continue to succeed as a book-selling author.
- Why are we doing this? Frankly, because we love books. And we love people who write books. And we love people who read books. The big booksellers have taken too much advantage of both writers and readers for too long. We have taken the power out of their hands and placed it squarely in yours.
- We are the best place in the world for independent books! How can we say that? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Mostly, because we are here specifically for independent and self-published authors. And because it is our mission to serve you, you can feel confident that we will do it best. Sure, you can - and should - offer your books elsewhere online. They will carry your books despite the fact that you are independent. But we want to carry them because they are independent!<<
I don't understand how shoppers will know your company exists, or, if they know you exist, why they'd prefer you to Amazon, B&N, etc., and why an author would use you instead of the larger companies.
You say, "The big online bookstores take 50-60% of your cover price!" That's simply not true. They are perfectly willing to accept 20% (or less if a book is on sale).
To work with you as a publisher, I have to register for $20 (not necessary with other booksellers), pay about $8 to ship three books (not necessary with other booksellers) and give you 30% instead of 20%. If a book is POD'd by Lightning Source or CreateSpace, it gets drop-shipped directly to the reader, and as a publisher I don't pay for shipping.
Why would I or any author or publisher want to get involved with your company? You are certainly less visible than Amazon or B&N, have a much smaller selection, and are more expensive to work with.
Am I missing something here?
I never got an answer from Brad.
The site included a strange and sloppy list of participating publishers.
Some companies, such as Lulu, Outskirts Press and PublishAmerica are listed multiple times, and with variations in their names that could have been easily corrected.
I really doubt that AuthorHouse and the others I mentioned submitted titles to the service It's more likely that individual authors got involved.
I strongly doubt that mainstream publishers Prentice Hall and Random House submitted books.
Brad's Facebook page implies that the company is still in business, but when I tried to check on the company today, I found the online equivalent of a tombstone.
However, I find it hard to sympathize with a business that's based on a dubious concept and has sloppy execution.
There's a lesson in this. Maybe several.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Amazon owns multiple publishing imprints (brands) including Encore, Avalon and Montlake Romance. Barnes & Noble doesn't want to sell or promote those imprints because they enrich the 'enemy,' and management at smaller stores may also reject them -- if they recognize the Amazon connection.
If a book carries Amazon's CreateSpace label it may be rejected by a bookstore simply because it is self-published -- and the store's buyer assumes it is crappy.
If you have your own brand (like my Silver Sands Books) and merely use CreateSpace for printing and distribution, you should not meet automatic rejection.
Bookstores reject books for many reasons, and literary quality is low on the list. Don't take rejection personally.
Sadly, terrestrial bookstores are vanishing and are no longer vital for book availability or publisher income. It may be good for your ego to see your books on shelves or in store windows, but the negatives of selling to terrestrial stores are huge!
You have to be willing to accept returns of often damaged books months after you think the books were 'sold,' you have to invest in inventory, get involved in shipping and invoicing (or have a company do it for you) and you'll give up a lot of profit and wait a long time for your money.
I've published over 30 books (e-books and p-books) and am quite happy with the money I get from online booksellers around the world. And if someone walks in to a B&N store, or 'Wanda & Larry's Literary Emporium.' she can easily order my books.
Terrestrial bookstores are great for readers, but terrible for self-pubbers. Concentrate on marketing that can drive online sales. At least three of my books have been Amazon bestsellers. One of my books has earned me over 5000 bucks. I visit my local B&N store twice a month, but I don't care if they stock my books.
My books on Amazon.com
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Don't publish unedited websites or distribute unedited press releases. Errors make you look stupid and may cost you business -- or kill your business.
In early 2011 I received a press release distributed for McKinney Publishing, a new pay-to-publish company that was apparently a part-time business operated from the home of attorney/author Lesley McKinney. It used the address of a UPS store in Jacksonville, Florida.
I see nothing wrong with having a home-based business but I don't like using a phony address unless it's necessary to hide from assassins or pissed-off customers. It took me less than a minute to find Lesley's real address. Fortunately, I am not an assassin.
Lesley's website says, "Out network is at your disposal."
- "Out" should be "Our."
- One of those editors should have changed "We've got" to "We have."
- "Choose" would be a better choice than than "chose." I'm not sure if Lesley meant to use the past tense, or thinks that "chose" (like "lose") is present tense.
- I don't know who does the vetting for Lesley, but a knowledgeable copywriter or editor would have written "employ only."
- Assuming that the editors are human beings, "who" is better than "that."
- Maybe it needs more of a human touch and less technology. Maybe the sentence should be two sentences: "We use state-of-the-art technology to ensure that your book has a professional, polished appearance. You'll be proud that the book bears your name."
- I have no idea how to implement a professional printer, or even an amateur binder. And, while I've used lots of software, I don't remember ever bringing software to bear. YUCK!
Lesley said that all of her freelancers "are intensely vetted to ensure they are very good at what they do." Maybe the vetting was not intensive enough.
According to a "Whois" lookup, the McKinney website went live on 1/18/11).
- (above) On March 1, 2011 the site included comments from five happy customers -- some of them located very far from Lesley in Jacksonville. It's hard to believe they found Lesley without a website. I know how long it takes to publish a book, so it's hard for me to believe that the books were published in such a brief time. I am reluctant to call a lawyer a liar, but I am skeptical about the endorsements. It's strange for a publisher's website not to show or list any books it has published, and not to have the full names of its happy authors. If Lesley can substantiate these endorsements, I'll gladly delete this section. If not, I call "BULLSHIT!"
- Sorry, Lesley, "unique" is an ABSOLUTE. The word should not take a modifier. Every unique item is equally unique. McKinney Publishing may be especially unusual -- but not especially unique, and maybe not even slightly unique.
- Unfortunately, Lesley did not learn that she should hire an editor.
Sadly -- and stupidly -- the press release carries ads with convenient clickable links for lots of Lesley's competitors. This is common with the freebie press release distribution companies, and a good reason to PAY to create publicity.
Finally -- and stupidly -- Lesley's Linkedin page had a link to what should be her lawyering website. Although she registered a domain name nearly a year ago, a website had not yet been published (perhaps Lesley was too busy publishing books). (below) The default page provided by her hosting company showed clickable ads for other law firms!
Lesley's law firm's website has also disappeared. So has her blog about publishing.
I certainly have sympathy for employees who lose jobs and authors who lose publishers. I can't feel very sorry for sloppy, unprofessional publishers like McKinney and Aachanon.
(House photo is from Google Maps, and may not be Lesley's house. It could be a neighbor's house.)
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
In June of 2009 I published the following post:
Tom Lehrer is one of my literary gods.
Tom claims he “went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity.” He graduated from Harvard Magna Cum Laude at age 18 and made Phi Beta Kappa. He taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley and the University of California, but is best known for hilarious songwriting, much of it political satire in the 1950s and 60s. His musical career was powerful but brief. He said he performed a mere 109 shows and wrote only 37 songs over 20 years. Britain’s Princess Margaret was a fan, and so am I. I can still sing Tom Lehrer lyrics I first heard in seventh grade. See www.tomlehrer.org.
In 1960 Tom wrote and sang, "Don't write naughty words on walls if you can't spell." That warning also applies to non-naughty words, and books, and signs, and websites.
It particularly applies to companies trying to sell publishing and editing services.
Today's Lehrer Award winner Aachanon Publishing says it is a self-publishing service provider that "provides all the necessary services for authors to make their book."
In a discussion of its editorial services, Aachanon says: "The copy-editors role is to help the reader grasp the author’s ideas, to prevent embarrassing errors and to ensure that the typesetter can do a good job."
If a real copy-editor checked that sentence, Aachanon might have avoided the embarrassing error of missing an apostrophe in "editor's."
Aachanon also says: "If you choose one of Aachanon’s professional editor to do your proofreading the proofreader will..."
Apparently the Aachanon editor was not professional enough to realize that "editor" should be "editors" and that a comma should have been inserted after "proofreading."
And Aachanon says: "we wiil send you a listing of self-publishing promotional professionals who will work with you."
If all of Aachanon's human editors were busy, a computer's spell-checker would have noticed "wiil."
In October of 211 I wrote the following about Aachanon. It apparently provided the least-expensive p-book publishing package.
Today I tried to visit the Aachanon website to see what's new. Here's what I found:
I certainly have sympathy for employees who lose jobs and authors who lose publishers. I can't feel very sorry for publishers who don't check spelling and get involved in suicidal price cutting.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Some people have strange compulsions.
Large-scale sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski had worked on Mount Rushmore and in 1948 started blasting a humongous sculpture of Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ziolkowski worked on the project until his death in 1982. In 1998, the face of Crazy Horse was completed. Ziolkowski's wife Ruth and seven of their children still work at the memorial.
Gene Simmons was born as Chaim Weitz and perfoms as "the Demon" in Kiss. Gene was compelled to have sex with more than 4,600 women. (Allegedly)
My compulsion is much more benign.
I ... must ... make ... websites.
Over the years I've made somewhere between 50 and 100 sites. Some for business, some for fun, some for me personally, some for my companies, some for other companies.
Some of my sites, like AbleComm.com, have been on the web for more than a decade. Some were "taken down" after a few weeks when it became apparent that they were bad ideas.
If I don't launch a new site or do a major revision every two months or so, I get itchy. I need a big dose of HTML to scratch my itch, to relieve the creative pressure.
Within the past month or so I've launched four new sites aimed at authors and hosted by Wix.com -- a company I've come to like a lot.
I built the sites with Wix's free-and-easy templates. They offer many more design choices than Yahoo and Network Solutions which I've used for other sites. You can get a free site from Wix with an amateur-sounding address ("URL") like http://suz734.wix.com/suzysbooks or pay a few bucks per month for an adult URL like my sites have. I keep the cost down by allowing tiny ads for Wix to be on the sites.
Books for Authors is a legitimate website, with reviews of more than 80 books with links to where the books can be bought. I wrote some of the books, but not most of them. Most of the reviewed books are fine, but the stinkers are identified. Spend your time and money wisely.
Create Better Books has information on books written by Yours Truly that will help authors create better books -- and maybe even make money from writing. There are over 20 books shown on the site, with links to booksellers, and previews of books that are still 'in the oven.' The site doesn't include all of my books about publishing. I removed one my wife doesn't like, and one that's become obsolete. The others are all wonderful, and prices range from 99 cents to $19.95. Please take a look and buy some books, and post reviews if you like the books.
Info For Authors, not surprisingly, has lots of info to help authors of all kinds. It covers writing, editing, designing, business and more. Look and learn.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Otis Redding sang "(Sittin') On the Dock of the Bay." It's a very nice song, but the key lyric may make no sense, like "Duke of Earl" -- and others.
Nitpickers like me know that the thing that Otis was sitting on was a pier, or maybe a wharf or a jetty or a quay. The actual dock is the space in the water next to the dock.
The Online Etymology Dictionary says the origin may be "via Late Latin ductia ("aqueduct") from Latin ducere "to lead" (see duke (n.)"
And that, neatly -- or perversely -- takes us back to the silly Duke of Earl.
We have "dry docks" to distinguish them from the wet docks.
And, of course, Star Ships visit space docks.
Er...what's up, Doc?
Friday, January 18, 2013
- traditional publishing
- trade publishing
- commercial publishing
- special sales publishing
- vanity publishing
- subsidy publishing
- subsidized publishing
- independent publishing
- artisanal publishing
- independent self-publishing (what I do)
- indie publishing
- academic publishing
- paid publishing
- web publishing
- instant publishing
- free publishing
- online publishing
- POD publishing
- PQN publishing
- joint-venture publishing
- Christian publishing
- and God-knows-how-many-other-kinds-of publishing
Apparently those are not enough choices for Laredo Publishing. The company wants you to try Co-edition. Strangely, the multiple-personality company also refers to "co-editing" and "co-publishing."
"Co-edition is NOT self-publishing. Co-edition is a partnership between an author and a publisher who lends an author its prestige and experience by backing a book project with a good potential. Most of self-published books are printed without editing, therefore with typographical errors, inconsistent grammar and poor literary quality, not to mention a copyright protection or an ISBN.
Co-edition means that a publishing house publishes your book with its logo; it means that the image and reputation of the publisher are at stake. Therefore, we do not publish all book projects that are submitted for co-publishing. Our Editorial Department evaluates and selects only those projects with a level of quality that merit publication. Book projects with poor quality are turned down. High quality is paramount.
The publishing process is faster
Most publishers work within a time frame of 18 months to 2 years to publish your book. Many authors do not want to wait this long to get published. When co-editing with us, the publishing process takes 3 to 6 months.
You participate in the publishing process
As a partner in co-edition, you will be actively involved in the publishing process, by reviewing and approving every stage of producing the book until the files are sent to press. The editor assigned to you will suggest the necessary editorial changes to enhance the literary quality and readability of your book. You will work closely with a designer in the process of designing and illustrating your book, from sketches to final art. This is a dynamic, personalized and interactive process that allows you to maintain control of your work.
The rights belongs to you
By assuming all the publishing costs, traditional publishers gain almost all the rights to your work. They make all the decisions about its printing, design, illustrations, stock, binding, and can decide not to reprint the book. In our co-edition partnership, the rights to your work belong to you. Your book can be re-printed as many times as you wish. By assuming all the publishing costs, traditional publishers gain almost all the rights to your work. They make all the decisions about its printing, design, illustrations, stock, binding, and can decide not to reprint the book. When co-publishing with us, you make your own decisions.
When co-publishing with us, you receive 25% of the net profit from the books we sell. With a traditional publisher you usually receive five to ten percent of the royalties. When a publisher covers all the publishing costs, you do not risk anything, but you do not gain much either.
We set up your book for distribution with online retailers
Your title will be set up for distribution with major online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes& Noble as well as in our Web Bookstores to fulfill all the orders we receive. Your title will have worldwide visibility."
- - - - - -WELL, this sounds just like what a dozen or more other pay-to-publish companies offer, and may be worse.
- Selectivity may be meaningless. Who knows how crappy a book must be to be rejected. Vantage Press tried to be selective and went bust.
- "Prestige" is bullshit. A Laredo Logo is not as good as a Simon & Schuster or Random House logo. Besides, many readers don't notice or care about the name of the publisher.
- The "25% of the net profit" promise may be as empty as the "percentage of the net" deals offered by Hollywood studios to naive actors. There may be NO net profit to get a percentage of. How can an author know if a book is profitable to Laredo?
- The statement that "Most of self-published books are printed without editing, therefore with typographical errors, inconsistent grammar and poor literary quality, not to mention a copyright protection or an ISBN" shows both poor sentence structure and ignorance of the publishing business.
- The company brags about its high standards and the experience and knowledge of its staff, but its website is FILLED with errors in grammar and typography (e.g.: "harbound," "Higfher Profits," children books"). A word processor's spell checker should have caught most of the errors. A word is missing in the section about proofreading! If Laredo's own website is this terrible, don't assume a Laredo book will be properly edited.
- The company says, "We are highly familiar with the HIspanic [sic] Market." Sadly, much of the website seems to have been written by someone who learned English as a second language -- and did not do well in the course.
- Many Laredo books are terribly overpriced. One 206-page paperback is priced at $19.95. After more than two years it has no reviews (and maybe no sales) on Amazon. Another $19.95 book shows the same dismal results after more than three years on Amazon.
- The notion of "partnership" implies that Laredo is investing some of its own money in your book. However, there are no prices on the Laredo website that would let a prospective customer compare the Laredo deal to the offerings of competitors.
- Some Laredo books are not available on Amazon.com or the B&N website.
- A lot of the company's book covers are uninspired or just plain terrible -- no better than what an amateur could have produced with a template.
I can't see any reason to do business with Laredo.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
You probably know people with annoying habits like snapping fingers, popping gum and inserting “you know what I mean” between sentences.
Printed pages can reveal bad habits, too. Try to identify yours and purge them from your pages.
Almost every sentence from the mouth of my father, Buddy Marcus, was part of a lesson.
Dad was driven to explain things, but he was also driven to keep talking long after the point was made.
I’m the same way. I’m pedantic like my Pop. I don’t like listeners who cheat and figure out the ending before I perform the finale. I tend to say and write too much to make a point.
One of my worst habits is giving too many examples. My natural tendency while discussing a bakery, steel mill or toy factory is to list six or more items it produces. I’ve given myself a three-item limit, and my writing is better because of it.
I often tell others to “learn when to shut up.” It’s good advice for me, too. Think of some advice you should follow.
Be aware of your eccentricities and don’t let them mess up your writing.
- Maybe you favor certain words—particularly certain weird words—and use them much too often.
- Maybe your text is burdened with clichés, especially ancient clichés.
- Maybe you use too much jargon to impress people with your knowledge. Simpler words could communicate better. Your readers should not have to keep referring to a dictionary.
- Maybe you use infantile or juvenile terms like “stuff,” “my mom,” or “poop.”
- Maybe you have an affection for ancient slang like “the fuzz,” “nifty” or “make the scene” that stands out like a sore thumb [that’s a deliberate use of a cliché].
If you read a lot you’ll probably add to your vocabulary. Try some new words in your writing, and talking.
Pretentious words are just as wrong as juvenile words. Time magazine and William F. Buckley used to deliberately show off their alleged sophistication by using words that few people would understand.
Books are supposed to communicate. When trying to impress readers with your vocabulary, you may actually alienate them.
(from my new book, Self-Editing for Self-Publishers (What to do before the real editor starts editing -- or if you're the only editor). It's an Amazon Kindle e-book, readable on many e-reading devices, including computers. You don't need to own a Kindle to read it.)
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The ribbon bar at the top of the Microsoft Word screen is very crowded. There’s a good chance that you’ve clicked only on a small percentage of the symbols and words up there.
Many of them won’t help you, but the backwards “P” can be very useful. It’s called a pilcrow, and normally indicates the beginning of a paragraph.
If you click on the pilcrow icon, the text on your screen will change greatly, revealing formatting indicators for such items as spaces between words and section breaks as shown below.
The sample reveals an extra space before the word “spaces” that might not be visible on a normal page.
The pilcrow icon’s “show/hide” function will probably reveal problems every few pages that you would not have otherwise noticed and will help you make a better book.
While editing, you should take advantage of Pilcrow Power. However, the extra indications can be annoying and fatiguing during regular reading—so tap the icon to shut off Pilcrow Power when you don’t need it. Also, when PIlcrow Power is in effect, your document will expand and the page numbering will temporarily change.
(from my new book, Self-Editing for Self-Publishers (What to do before the real editor starts editing -- or if you're the only editor). It's an Amazon Kindle e-book, readable on many e-reading devices, including computers. You don't need to own a Kindle to read it.)
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
|("Hard Copy" was a TV show from 1989 to '99, I never saw it.)|
The word “copy” is so ubiquitous in media that we seldom even think about it.
There are copyeditors (I was one), copywriters (I was one), copy boys (I wasn’t one), copy chiefs (not me), body copy, hard copy, soft copy, advertising copy, legal copy, copy desks -- and probably more.
As a noun, “copy” goes back through Old French and Medieval Latin to the Classical Latin “copia,” meaning “abundance” or “plenty.” Our modern word is related to “copious” and basically means “a bunch of words.”
You can copy some copy and copyright some copy (but be careful if you copy some copyrighted copy). I may ask, “do you copy?” and you may respond, “copy that!”
(from my new book, Self-Editing for Self-Publishers (What to do before the real editor starts editing -- or if you're the only editor). It's an Amazon Kindle e-book, readable on many e-reading devices, including computers. You don't need to own a Kindle to read it.
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shirt and mug from Zazzle.com