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Thursday, April 17, 2014

A minister/book designer committed sins that hurt her book. Don't hurt yours.




Jamie L. Saloff is a minister, metaphysician, counselor, soul healer, publishing adviser and more.

She has written and published a mostly good book that can guide would-be publishers through the sometimes-arduous process of using Lightning Source for printing and distribution.

There is a lot of good in her book. Sadly there is also much wrong with it.


In Christian theology there are seven "deadly sins" -- wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
  • Pride (hubris in Greek) is often considered to be the worst sin. Jamie preaches about the danger of not having a book professionally edited, but abundant errors made me assume that this book had no editor. I couldn't find an editor mentioned in the book or in its online data. Jamie needs an editor, and her avoiding an editor is the sin of hubris.
  • Acedia is an ancient sin that somehow dropped off the list of the Big Seven. It's apathy -- neglecting to take care of something that needs to be taken care of. Acedia is rampant in this book.
The book is burdened with an absolutely horrid title, Seven Easy Steps to Professionally Self-Publish Your Own Book Using Lightning Source & Print-On-Demand Printing: a quick reference guide for entrepreneurs who want to create 'profitable print products'(tm) to increase their income and visibility while working from home. (The split infinitive is the least of the problems.)

Strangely, the title says "your own book" on Jamie's website and on booksellers' sites, but "own" is not printed on the cover or title page. Also, the printed title begins with "7" but websites use "Seven." In movie and TV production, these inconsistencies are known as a "continuity" errors.
 One big danger of self-editing is that the writer will have words in her head that she thinks are on the page. The converse is also a problem: not seeing what is on the page.




(above) The cover design is as jumbled as the title. The illustration certainly does not imply "easy." A book cover is an advertisement, and any ad must have a focal point. Some part of the cover must have a dominant element that draws the eyes of the viewer.


With Jamie's cover, eyes wander through the wilderness, distracted by multiple, meaningless arrows, seeking something important. The pastel tones are dull, wishy-washy and simply blah. Covers need contrast. The only element on the cover with contrast is the empty-headed guy's black collar.

The visual cues are confusing. 

  • Arrows point up, down and off the page. Why?
  • "Profit" is centered and on a bolder-colored circle than "Visibility" or "Print On Demand" -- but they have bigger circles and are not in the center of the cover.
  • "Dynamic" has a big circle, but the word has so many meanings it is nearly meaningless.
  • High-contrast implies importance. Jamie put the contrasty black collar at the bottom -- the least important position on the cover.
A book's title is usually very important, but Jamie's long title requires small type which makes it hard to read. The subtitle is an important selling opportunity, but Jamie's subtitle is nearly illegible because of the over-fancy typeface and poor contrast.

(In addition to her other roles and activities, Jamie is a book designer who charges at least $450 for a cover design. $450 is a lot of money for a cover. I've seen better covers produced for $5 by artists on
Fiverr.com.)




(above) In reduced size, even on Jamie's website, the cover contents are barely discernible. Jamie's own name is hard to read on the cover in any size -- a major sin for a book designer and author who wants to build her brand. (Compare the readability of the three authors' names on the covers down below with Jamie's name on her cover.)

Jamie says, "What will your cover look like when it is two inches tall? . . . Is the main concept still understandable? Or does the whole thing become a blur?" Her cover becomes multiple blurs.


To balance my bitching about the cover, I will offer a compliment for Jamie's interior design. The oversize pages with larger-than-normal spacing between lines are attractive and easy to read. 


There are multiple minor sins inside the book. Some should have been caught by a copyeditor; some would have required correction by a person with knowledge of the book business. Problems that I found in the review copy Jamie sent me were not corrected in the final version of the book I bought on Amazon. (Yes, I do buy books.)
  • "Forward" should be "foreword." That's a common error for newbies, but an unforgivable sin for a "self-publishing expert."
  • The table of contents lists page numbers for the starts of chapters, but the pages that start chapters are un-numbered "blind folios." That's an ISPITA (Industrial Strength Pain In The Ass).
  • Pages 59 through 65 have no numbers. Traditionally some pages don't get numbers but six consecutive un-numbered pages are very unusual and make it hard for the reader to know where she is.  
  • Page 54 is missing a page number for no good reason.
  • Jamie says that "POD books are published on a high quality, superfast photocopier . . . ." That sentence has two problems: (1) She should have said "printed," not "published." (2) The device that prints POD books is a printer, not a copier. It does not have a built-in scanner as copiers do.
  • She says that many self-publishing companies "hold the rights to your book for a lengthy period of time, preventing you from taking it elsewhere." That may have been common in the ancient days of "vanity presses," but most current self-publishing companies offer non-exclusive contracts. The policy of iUniverse is typical today: "you have the right at any time to grant other entities a similar 'license to publish.' Examples of other entities might include a traditional publisher, another print-on-demand publishing company or an audio book publisher."
  • Jamie warns that Microsoft Word downgrades photographs. I've used MS Word for many books and never had that trouble.
  • "ISBN number" is redundant. The "N" stands for "number."
  • The prepublishing section of the Cost Estimating worksheet includes a line for the cost of "Cataloging in Production Data" (CIP). Self-publishers almost never use CIP.
  • The postpublishing section includes copyright filing (with an incorrect price for manual filing). Books can be copyrighted before publication.
  • That section also includes the LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number). There are two problems: (1) LCCNs are issued prepublication and later Jamie tells us that "you must file for your LCCN before the book is published." (2) An LCCN is free -- so it doesn't need a line on a cost worksheet.  
  •  
  • In her section on preparing text using MS Word, Jamie wisely tells readers to minimize underlined words. I disagree with her statement that "underlining causes text to shrink in height in order to make room for the line beneath." (above) In tests of multiple typefaces and several versions of Word, I never encountered this problem.
  • "PDF" stands for Portable Document Format -- not Portable Document File.
  • "KISS" stands for Keep it Simple, Stupid -- not Keep it Simple and Straightforward.
  • "Error free" should be hyphenated.
  • OTOH, "non-fiction" should be one, non-hyphenated word. Ditto for "e-mail" and "e-book." Those words are now so common that they don't need hyphens.
  • The book has bits of bad sentence structure such as lack of parallelism. Some punctuation marks and spaces are missing. There is at least one unneeded ampersand and there are various grammatical errors. Jamie tells us that "I tend to notice things that others don't." She did not notice enough. That's hubris and acedia, again.
  • Jamie criticizes the free USPS mailing envelopes and recommends purchasing mailing boxes from Uline. Uline's boxes are fine -- but so are the free boxes available from the USPS.
  • Despite having just over 100 pages, the book is padded. For example, it includes warnings about enlarging photos and overpaying attorneys. Those are important warnings, but are not part of the process of having a book printed. Neither is the section about forming a company. Neither is book pricing. Neither is website design. Neither are blogging tips. Neither are marketing tips. Neither is the worksheet for analyzing book-signing costs. Neither is the section on using copyrighted material.
  • There are two or three nearly empty pages before each of the seven steps.
  • The padding makes it hard to find and focus on the "7 easy steps."
  • The book needs a glossary. Newbies may not understand "sidebar." I'm not a newbie but have never heard of "time breaks" in a book.
  •  
  • (above) The text in many places is "full justified" but in the many lists, it's "flush-left/ragged right." The varying justification is disconcerting.
  • The second paragraph above shows that in some cases Jamie places a comma before the final three digits in a number, but not in other cases. A copyeditor should have fixed this.
  •   
  • (above) The script typeface chosen for quotations is hard to read and the swashes are distracting. Fancy type may be OK for a title or other short text block, but is inappropriate for paragraphs. "Cover" does not need to be uppercased. 
  • Jamie chose to use sans serif type for her body text. She is not the only self-pubber to do that, but, in general, serif faces are used in most books' body text and are considered easier to read. I had no trouble reading Jamie's body text.
  • Jamie published quotations from people ranging from Thomas Edison and Steve Martin to "Pro Blogger" Darren Rowse. What the heck is a pro blogger?
  • Jamie says authors will make more money by offering booksellers a 25% discount than a 20% discount. That makes no sense to me. Plenty of author-publishers offer 20%.
  • On the other hand, I do agree with Jamie's warning to avoid paying Lightning Source $60 to have your book in its Advance magazine for booksellers, not to allow returns of unsold books and not to order large quantities of books unless their sale is certain.
Jamie's title has 41 words and more than 260 characters and spaces. There are a couple of intrusive quote marks and a trademark symbol, too. I feel worn out just from typing the title.


(above) The title is so long that it gets chopped off before the last syllable of "entrepreneurs" on Amazon.com and other booksellers' websites! 

It's possible to devise excellent short titles -- and even excellent long titles. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great short title. So is I, Claudius by Robert Graves and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

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.

However, Jamie's 41 words are excessive and those 41 words are not memorable.

  
If someone is interested enough to ask the title of your book, you should not have to inhale oxygen before reciting it or offer to email the title.

Rev. Saloff has written other books such as The Wisdom of Emotional Healing: Renowned Psychics Andrew Jackson Davis and Phineas P. Quimby Reveal Mind Body Healing Secrets for Clairvoyants, Spiritualists, and Energy Healers.


That's certainly a long one, too, but the main title (before the subtitle) has a comfortable five words. It's important for a title to make sense without a subtitle -- and be easy to pronounce, remember and recite without stopping to take a breath.


Even without the subtitle, Seven Easy Steps to Professionally Self-Publish Your Own Book Using Lightning Source & Print-On-Demand Printing is ridiculously long.

Sure, it's good to get important keywords into the title and subtitle of a nonfiction book, but there is such a thing as TOO DAMNED MUCH. The redundant "print-on-demand printing" is simply silly.


Readers and reviewers (like me) resent "keyword stuffing." 


You may have heard of "preaching to the choir." I preach to the minster. (And I confess to occasional hubris.)


Rev. Jamie Saloff provides a lot of information in this book but much of it is not directly related to the title of the book and the abundant small errors are distracting and reduce her authority as an "expert." 

The book sells for just $8.08 on Amazon, and that's certainly a fair price. With appropriate pruning, however, the book could lose half of its 108 pages, and maybe sell for $3.99 -- but there is no profit in $3.99 POD books. (Jamie tells us that "With most Profitable Print Products, you should be able to earn between five to eight dollars per book.")


-   -   -   -   -
Jamie set out to write about working with Lightning Source but ended up writing a general book about self-publishing -- and there are a great many other general books about self-publishing, and other good books that deal with Lightning Source.

Before you write a book it's important to analyze the market. Who are your potential readers and what other books are competing for their attention? (The huge number of competing books caused me to stop writing general books about self-publishing.)


 -   -   -   -   -
The following is aimed at Jamie and other authors:

If a life experience is not related to the subject of your book, leave it out.

  • One author of a book for authors tells prospective readers how many kids he has, what his wife's maiden name was and how well he did as a basketball coach.
  • Jamie tells us that she is a graduate of the Fellowships of the Spirit. That's not the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Yale University School of Art or the Rhode Island School of Design.
  • Also, if you have an abbreviated credential that needs explaining, such as Jamie's "CM" (Certified Metaphysician, or maybe Certified Manager or Condition Monitor), explain it or delete it.
(above) I became a minister online for free. If I was willing to pay $32.95 I could be a Dr. of Metaphysics.

Jamie's "Author Prophet" website says she "offers guidance and soul healing to authors, . . . astrologers, tarot readers . . . ." If you're writing a serious book about acne treatment or the War of 1812, would you want to be grouped with carnival entertainers?  

A promotion for one of Jamie's seminars says: "Are you a healer, medium, or spiritual entrepreneur? Is your spiritual/metaphysical business struggling against a tight economy, preventing you from making the money you want to meet your expenses, comfortably take care of your family, and do the things you love most? Are you constantly exhausted from working long hours, frustrated with dated sales methods that don’t work, and stuck with tactics that offer meager results? Imagine instead attracting lucrative clients who want to pay you what you are worth, giving you the opportunity to earn more in less time. Delight in having clients seek you out and recommending [sic] you to all of their friends. Regain the passion of sharing your gifts by gaining clarity around how to effectively promote your business with ease and grace."


Maybe the metaphysical/carnival side of Rev. Saloff should have been separated from the author-instructing side. Maybe a pen name would be appropriate.


                                                       -   -   -   -   -

Jamie knows a lot about publishing and provides good information in this book -- but the errors and extraneous padding are sinful. The book could be, and should be, much better. The errors I found could have been found by someone else and fixed before publication.

- - - - -

Oxygen mask photo from www.iastate.edu.

Tarot cards from www.onlinepsychicfinder.com.  Thanks. 




6 comments:

  1. Saloff should have hired you before publication. Keep kicking ass, Michael.

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  2. It seems that you put more effort into the review than she put into the book. Some authors and books are obviously hopeless, but others could have turned out much better than they did. So sad.

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  3. Why do so many experts ignore the advice they offer? "Physician, heal thyself." (Luke 4:23)

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  4. It's a shame that Saloff buried important information in the middle of extraneous baloney. If properly edited and organized, this could have been a decent 50-page book (e-book or printed) worth ten bucks.

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  5. If I want help publishing my book I probably would not get it from someone who advises carnival con artists.

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  6. Shame on you! If you can't say something nice, don't say anything.

    Do you know how hard it is to write a book? I doubt it.

    Like all authors and ministers, Rev. Salofff deserves praise, not criticism.

    ReplyDelete