Friday, May 29, 2009

An alternate to celebrity blurbs

Every author dreams of having cover blurbs (endorsements) from famous people who'll say nice things that may entice people to buy books.

Often, especially for a new author with a new book, it's just not possible to get the attention of an expert who will add authority to yours.

That doesn't mean your book has to be blurbless.

There's nothing wrong with asking for and printing blurbs from friends and family, if it's appropriate to your book. Later on, If Oprah or another celeb falls in love with your words, you can revise the cover to incorporate the new comments.

My book I Only Flunk My Brightest Students -- stories from school and real life, deals with my life. So it made perfect sense to use blurbs from people who know me, rather than some distant Nobel Prize winner.

My book is funny. Identifying the source of my front cover blurb as "author's classmate since first grade" is almost a parody of the traditional stuffy IDs ("professor of Indo-Eurasion folk medicine at the University of Guatemala), and reinforces the mood of the book.

Don't forget blurbs for the back cover, and the first inside page, and for Amazon and other online booksellers, and for your own web pages.

There's nothing wrong with your acting as a writing coach for your blurbers. You can edit blurbs as long as you don't change the meaning (I always get approvals on edited blurbs). You can even write a complete blurb and ask someone to "adopt" it.

In some fields of writing blurbing is incestuous, with authors trading blurbs in order to publicize their own books.

Some blurbers dominate their fields. They are like hired guns, or "medical experts" who will provide an expert opinion at a trial for whichever side will pay the most money. Some experts seem to write more blurbs for other books, than complete books under their own names.

A sincere and well-written blurb from someone who has actually read your book and knows the background behind it can be more valuable than a few perfunctory words from a distant celebrity, because readers will be better able to identify with it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proofread in multiple media

No matter how many time you check your manuscript, there WILL be errors in your final printed book.

One way to minimize the goofups is to read your future masterpiece in multiple formats, including the original word processing screen, a PDF on screen, and a printed paper proof.

Let others read it, and have one of them read it out loud to you.

One problem that's almost invisible on PC monitors but can be seen in a printed book are sentences or paragraphs that are gray instead of black. Look closely.

And watch out for straight apostrophes and quote marks that really should be curly.

This is a common problem when you copy and paste from text that was intended for Web use, where curlies are seldom used. The difference may be hard to spot on a PC screen, so ZOOOOOM up to 120 - 180% of normal size to make the errors stand out.

Also watch out for unintentional hyphens that may move from the end of a line to the middle of a line. This generally won't happen with automatic hyphenating. But if you manually insert a hyphen, and then shift text around, possibly by changing the size or position of a graphic element, hyphens can wander around the page.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lightning Source to use Espresso Book Machine to print books in stores and libraries

Lightning Source, the dominant Print-On-Demand printer, is launching an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) pilot program. Books will be printed at the point of sale -- primarily bookstores and libraries -- not at Lightning's own facilities.

The EBM was developed by On Demand Books and was named to Time Magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2007” list. It provides revolutionary direct-to-consumer distribution and printing. The EBM is like a vending machine for books, but contains only raw materials, not completed products. It automatically prints, binds, and trims, on demand at point of sale, perfect-bound, library-quality paperback books.

These books, which have full color covers, are indistinguishable from other books sold in bookstores. A 300-page book can be produced in four minutes or less for a cost of consumables of a penny per page. “EspressNet,” the EBM’s proprietary and copyrighted software system, assures the security of publishers’ titles, automatically tracks all jobs, and remits all royalty payments. The EBM can produce a book of up to 830 pages.

Ultimately, the EBM will make it possible to distribute virtually every book ever published, in any language, anywhere on earth, easily, quickly, and inexpensively.

Participating publishers in the experiment include John Wiley & Sons, Hachette Book Group, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Clements Publishing, Cosimo, E-Reads, Bibliolife, Information Age Publishing, Macmillan, University of California Press and W.W. Norton.

The pilot will enable these publishers to enhance the availability of their titles at point-of-sale EBM locations. Approximately 85,000 titles from these publishers will be available for purchase at EBM locations in the USA this month.

Upon the completion of a successful pilot, other publishers that print and distribute books with Lightning Source will have the option to participate in the EBM channel. Complete channel automation is expected in the first half of this year, and rollout of the program to publishers globally is expected to follow shortly.

"We see the Espresso Book Machine as an innovative and exciting way for publishers to get their books out into the market,” said David Taylor, President of Lightning Source. “There is clearly a place for the in-store print on demand model in the emerging landscape of globally distributed print.”

Taylor continued, “Working with On Demand Books allows the many thousands of publishers with whom we already work the chance to get their books into this new distribution channel with minimal effort. In the times in which we are living, publishers need to be looking at every option to ensure that their books can be immediately available to people who want to buy them."

"Since the introduction of print on demand over a decade ago, I've dreamed of a day when the technology would be refined and reduced to in-store scale,” said Richard Curtis, President, E-Reads. “At last it's here and I'm overjoyed at this significant moment in the evolution of the book industry. Now you can visit a bookstore, order a book online, and pick your copy up after a leisurely cup of coffee."

"On Demand Books is delighted that the Espresso Book Machine is playing such a central role in a program that is blazing a trail to the future of book publishing,” said Dane Neller, CEO of OnDemand Books.

Neller continued, “With the book business facing dramatic changes and challenges, we believe the timing of the EBM couldn’t be better. Publishers, retailers and libraries alike see the appeal of the machine that collapses the supply chain, boosts backlist sales, matches supply with demand, eliminates returns and powers new, high growth sales channels for publishers.”

On Demand Books, proprietor of the Espresso Book Machine® (“EBM”), was founded in 2003 by its Chairman, Jason Epstein, who's been in publishing for nearly 60 years, and business executive Dane Neller, who was president and CEO of Dean & Deluca.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last year POD books beat conventional books
in the US

Yesterday Bowker, the major provider of book information, released statistics on US book publishing for 2008, compiled from its Books In Print® database. Based on preliminary figures from publishers, Bowker is projecting that US title output in 2008 decreased by 3.2%, with 275,232 new titles and editions, down from the 284,370 in 2007.

Despite this decline in traditional book publishing, there was another extraordinary year of growth in the reported number of “On Demand” and short-run books produced in 2008. Bowker projects that 285,394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over the 2007 total of 123,276 titles. This is the second consecutive year of triple-digit growth in the On Demand segment, which in 2008 was 462% above levels seen as recently as 2006.

“Our statistics for 2008 benchmark an historic development in the US book publishing industry as we crossed a point last year in which On Demand and short-run books exceeded the number of traditional books entering the marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for Bowker. “It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench.”

“The statistics from last year are not just an indicator that the industry had a decline in new titles coming to the market, but they’re also a reflection of how publishers are getting smarter and more strategic about the specific kinds of books they’re choosing to publish,” explained Gallagher. “If you look beyond the numbers, you begin to see that 2008 was a pivotal year that benchmarks the changing face of publishing.”

Among the major publishing categories, the big winners last year were Education and Business, two categories that might suggest publishers were seeking to give consumers more resources for success amidst a very tough job environment. There were 9,510 new education titles introduced in the US in 2008, up 33% from the prior year, and 8,838 new business titles, an increase of 14% over 2007 levels.

By contrast, the big category losers in 2008 were Travel and Fiction, two categories in which publishers clearly saw less demand during a deep recession in the US. There were 4,817 new travel books introduced last year, down 15% from the year before, and 47,541 new fiction titles, a drop of 11% from 2007. Moreover, the Religion category dropped again last year, with 14% fewer titles introduced in the US, and that once reliable engine of growth for publishers is now well off its peak year of 2004.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Write books, not just words

For much of the 20th Century, writers composed their masterpieces on 8.5 x 11 inch sheets of paper. Later they used word processing software that emulated the same size and shape.

Also traditionally, most authors have a specific word-count in mind, such as 70,000 words, as they write their books.

But when I'm working on a book, I usually have a specific page-count and price in mind, such as 300 pages/$19.95 or 400 pages/$29.95.

And rather than just spray words onto my monitor, I set up MS Word for the actual page size of my book (usually 6 x 9 inches) and correct margins, and start writing a book.

By viewing actual pages, it's much easier to judge my progress, and to know if chapters should be chopped or stretched or shifted, and when illustrations should be enlarged, reduced or moved around.

And I alway insert a temporary left-hand "page zero" ahead of the real right-hand "page one" so I can view pages as realistic two-page spreads, instead of onesies, or with left-right-reversals.

This is not very important if a book is all-text, but if you have photos or illustrations or tables, it's important to view the spreads as your readers will see them, to avoid graphic disasters.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An award-winner from the Borat Akademi of Writteningistics

Some "writers" should not be allowed in the same room as a pen or a keyboard.

Republished without alteration from an unmentioned blog:

Writing Can also Make You A Big Fortune

I like writhing, because writing is good way to express your feelings and record the different moments-happy and sad in the life. It keeps thinking while writing and my brain become clearer to think about the things from different angles. It is very good to me and makes me think like a wise man. What’s more, when I get old in the future, all the articles can be wonderful memories when I read it again. Otherwise, writing can be a good way to make a living. I read a report the other day. It is said that a self-publisher called Gang Chen earned 100,000 US dollars during the past half year. It is a piece of exciting news for those who love writings as me. We can enjoy the pleasure of writing and need not to worry about the living problems any more. Self-publishing has become more and more popular all across the country recently. More and more people who like writing began to try self-publishing, not always write articles to earn some money that is just enough for the living. They can make a big fortune through writing and self publishing. That is really great. I will try it. What about you? What do you think after you read this exciting news?

What do I think? I think you should not write in English. Who was your English teacher? Borat? You definitely are more suited to writhing than writing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Consider an "out-of-town tryout" for your book

Traditionally, theatrical productions that were headed to Broadway "tried out" out of town, often in Boston and New Haven. There, the writer, director and producers could observe audience reactions and make changes before the show was presented for the New York audience and theater critics.

When I was in junior high school in New Haven in the early 1960s, I saw many tryouts at the Shubert Theatre. My friends and I paid $1.20 to sit in the second balcony, and sometimes sneaked down to better seats -- even box seats -- if no one else claimed them.

Self-publishing authors have an advantage over authors that work with traditional publishing houses in that they can have an "off-Broadway" tryout, just like a drama or a musical.

With minimal expense, you can get a few dozen copies of your book, and distribute them to friends, relatives, librarians, booksellers, consultants, agents, other writers, teachers, experts -- anyone whose opinions you respect. You'll probably get lots of good advice that will influence your final text and covers, and you might even get compliments that can be used as "blurbs" to help promote the final version of the book.

One of my books had a limited release last December. While I was pleased with it, and got consistently good reviews, I realized that the title confused some readers, and one chapter should be replaced with other material, and I should shift some of the front matter to the back so people would reach the "meat" of the book sooner. I also decided to add some material, and I may lower the cover price.

This fall I will release the new version of the newer/better book, with appropriate advance publicity that I hope will build anticipation and sales. I now know a lot more about book publishing than I did last year. (Illustration from old Shubert program at the University of South Carolina)

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm taking a few days off to finish writing a book and start a new one. I should be back during the week of 5/11.

Friday, May 1, 2009

An inexpensive way to sell books,
but who needs it? is a book marketing website intended to to help authors sell self-published books directly to readers. The price is low. Authors pay just 99¢ per book title per month, and 5% of the sales.

Authors also pay Jexbo 5% of the shipping cost, which seems silly, and strange.

Jexbo says it provides its author-customers with a no-cost website for book promotion, but I could not find any of the sites. Since you'll need a website (low cost or no cost) to send people to your book on Jexbo, why have a second site there?

Many links on the Jexbo site are useless, leading to non-existing author profiles or related products.

Jexbo tells readers, "you'll find unique books in numerous categories and be able to communicate directly with authors."

The site has a few dozen book categories, and apparently just a few dozen book titles available, both paper and e-books. Unfortunately, the category list is deceptive. In most cases, a click on a category returned this disappointing message: "There are no items in this category."

While the cost seems low, the potential business seems extremely low.

No one will know you have a book for sale on Jexbo, unless you have a marketing program that will promote your book and send readers to Jexbo. It seems infinitessmally unlikely that someone will go to Jexbo insted of Amazon or Barnes & Noble to search for books in a specific category and find your book.

Sales are further limited because Jexbo doesn't accept credit cards -- only Paypal. If a reader wants to use the nearly universal plastic payment method and does not have a Paypal account, she'll have to open a Paypal account, or she can't buy your book.

If someone actually does find the Jexbo site, and finds your book, and is willing to use Paypal, you should receive an email with the transaction details so you can ship your book to the customer. This means that the author has to also be a warehouse manager and shipping clerk, and probably drive to the post office.

The 5% you'll pay Jexbo is less than the 10% or 20% that Amazon usually collects, but you get much less for the money you do spend. If you self-publish with POD printer Lightning Source, as I and many others do, your books will be quickly available on Amazon, B&N and other book selling sites worldwide. Millions of potential readers can easily find you. They can use credit cards. You don't have to own inventory. You don't have to ship anything. You don't even have to calculate postage.

I don't know everything, but I don't know of any good reason to use Jexbo.