Friday, October 29, 2010

How is an eBook like Pizza Hut pizza?
(and what happened to Dan Poynter?)

Maybe an eBook is to a pBook as Pizza Hut is to pizza

I live and work in Milford, Connecticut. Milford is in New Haven County, an area known for and proud of excellent Neapolitan pizza. (Many of our traditional pizzerias spell pizza as "apizza" and pronounce it "ah-beetz.")

Some of our local pizzerias have been owned by the same families for two or three generations, and new ones seem to open every few weeks. Because of the loyalty to the locals, it has been hard for the national chains, which have been so successful elsewhere, to build business here.

Everyone in this part of Connecticut has one or two favorite pizzerias. We are experts, fans, afficionados and snobs. People here are less likely to switch pizza sources than to switch cola or jeans brands.

By Mafia decree (or maybe simple collusion) local pizzerias are closed on Monday, so the pizza makers can spend time with their families.

Apparently Pizza Hut and Domino's have dispensations from the Pope or from the Capo di Tutti Capi ("boss of all bosses" in the Mafia), and are open seven days a week. This means that locals who must have something pizza-like on the first workday of the week, will go to the Hut or Dom's on that day -- but probably not on other days. On all days, the pizza chains serve customers who have recently moved from places like Kentucky or Utah and don't know what real pizza is supposed to look and taste like.

(above) Vaguely round, sloppy and delicious traditional New Haven "ah-beetz" from Frank Pepe, and perfectly round and bland pizza from a national chain's factory

The growing acceptance of the typographical limitations of eBooks has led to an increasing dumbing-down of pBooks — particularly, the lack of hyphenation. eBooks have made ugly books normal, and apparently acceptable to many

On Wednesday, I completed the approximately 50th read-through of a 318-page book I'm publishing. I carefully examined each line and each paragraph, made decisions about word spacing and hyphenation, and substituted words, to make each page look as good as possible.

On Tuesday, I received a copy of 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.

Danny O. wants us to know that he graduated from Harvard and is on the board of directors of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Dan P. is generally recognized as an authority on self-publishing.

The printing in their book is just plain ugh-lee. Unlike Dan P's classic Self-Publishing Manual, (first published in 1979) the new 2010 book has oversized indents, no hyphens, and the text type is condensed sans serif. Word spacing is atrocious, every page has rivers, and there are orphans which could have been easily eliminated.

Dan Poynter boasts that he is "the father of self-publishing," "the leading authority on how to write, publish and promote books," and is "on the leading edge of book publishing." If Dan thinks crappy typography as shown above is acceptable, he's fallen off the edge.

I don’t claim to be the leading authority on anything. I'm just an amateur publisher and page formatter, but I could have made the paragraph much nicer:

This book sadly follows the same "design" scheme as Dan's quick-n-dirty Self-Publishing Manual, Vol 2 from 2009. The new book is a little less ugly, but neither book is as "professional" as Dan's 1979 book. This is not progress.
  • I can't help wondering if Dan decided that since eBook typography (I hate using those words together) is acceptable, an ugly and sloppy pBook is also acceptable.
  • I can't help fearing that newbies who regard Dan as a guru will follow his example and produce even uglier books.
I'm facing a personal dilemma with eBooks right now. I have published a few as PDFs which maintain the page formatting of my pBooks, but I am reluctant to release the books in the more popular — and uglier — eBook formats. Because of this, I may be missing readers and income — but I just don't like ugly books.

I suppose at some point I will stop comparing eBooks to pBooks and will come to accept a Kindle page as normal, but part of a parallel universe of publishing.

My cousin Dave is a pizza maven with very high standards -- but he will sometimes tolerate chain pizza. Rather than dismiss Pizza Hut's mass-produced products as substandard pizza, Dave says, "It's not pizza. It's pizza HUT."

Maybe I should be able to say, "It's not a book. It's an EBOOK."

(photos from and Domino's)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CreateSpace says it was wrong and is sorry for censorship

In yesterday's post, I told you that I was surprised and annoyed that CreateSpace had rejected a book I submitted because it included the name of parent of CreateSpace.

This policy seemed particularly weird because CreateSpace has previously printed many books which mention -- even in their titles.

And, last year, CreateSpace printed a book for me that mentions at least 20 times.

CreateSpace heard that I was unhappy. I received a nice apologetic phone call and was told that a mistake had been made. It's perfectly OK for CreateSpace customers to mention

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Publisher CreateSpace doesn't believe in Freedom of the Press!

Yesterday I submitted a book file to subsidiary CreateSpace for printing.

In the past, I've complained that CreateSpace is a tough nanny, because with a, the company demanded that I show proof that I had permission to use every photograph in the book. I’ve never encountered this, or heard of this, with other publishers or printers, and it delayed publication of that book.

This time the book examiners went way beyond mere paranoia about lawsuits for copyright violation.

This time they want to censor what I wrote

The book is titled, The Brainy Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing.  As would be expected, it mentions (approximately 99% positive.)
I got this scary response:
"The interior file submitted for this title contains text referencing Please remove all text and/or logos which reference"
Years ago, the USSR forbade published criticism of the Communist Party, but I am shocked to find that an American printer/publisher/bookseller wants to censor a writer.
I'll have the book printed by Lightning Source, instead. It will cost me a little more upfront, but I'll probably make more money, and I won't have a reincarnation of the KGB peering over my shoulder as I type.
Interestingly, CreateSpace had absolutely no objection to printing and distributing a previous book I wrote that was critical of its competitor, Outskirts Press. That book mentions many times. Many other books printed and/or published by CreateSpace also mention -- even in their titles.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Encouraging percentages

Albert Einstein said, “Genius consists of 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.”

If you show up at your keyboard and sweat a lot, you’ll do better than writers who took the day off, or don’t sweat much.

(Einstein photo by Yousuf Karsh. Allen photo from, photographer unspecified.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who cares who published your book?

  • Zoe Winters is a romance wri­ter and blogger. She said, “The average reader doesn’t care how a book gets to market. If the book is good, it does­n't matter if your Chihuahua publish­ed it.”
  • Joanna Penn is an author, blogger, speaker and business consultant. She posted, "I definitely do not buy books based on the publisher. In fact, most of the time I wouldn’t know who the publisher was anyway and in a brief survey of other book buyers they have a similar experience. . . .  If you have a professionally edited and interesting book, with an eye-catching cover, buyers will not know the difference anyway."
  • Author/blogger S.G. Royle wrote, “Peo­­ple don't buy books from publishers. They buy them from authors.”
  • Edward Uhlan founded Exposition Press—an early and important pay-to-publish company—in 1936. He said, “Most people can’t tell the difference between a vanity book and a trade book anyway. A book is a book.”
  • Self-published author Lloyd Lofthouse wrote, "Besides the author, family and friends, who cares if the author wrote a book and published it through a traditional publisher or self published?"
On the other hand, many booksellers and book reviewers can tell the difference and do care—and may reject a book if its publisher, such as PublishAmerica, has a bad reputation.

(pooch pic by Danielle deLeon)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's a printer?

It's unfortunate and amusing that words used in the book business -- a business that exists to communicate -- often don't communicate enough.

Just as a "notebook" can be a notebook or a portable computer, a "printer" has multiple meanings. If you use the word in your writing, make sure the context makes it obvious what you are referring to.

(above) A person who operates a printing press is a

(above) A company that provides printing services is a

The owner of the company,
even if she or he never has ink-stained hands,
could still be called a

(above) The machine on your desk that prints is a

(above) The big machine that prints books is a

(above) The big machine that prints books on demand is a

Photos from USPS, Morris Printing Company,  HP,, Xerox

Friday, October 22, 2010

Huh? (again)

Self Publishing Comes Of Age: Print On Demand
By: Karen D. Carlson

With our current technological innovation, it could be simpler to anybody to initiate self publishing of their very own e-book or the so called digital book. Anything more, because of the technological innovation, you can create and even part of the promoting staff of the very own e book for any feel it or otherwise low cost.

And for the data, the Internet is something about data and automation. So that as a specialist within the Internet, if you are searching for a particular subject, whenever you just click, you want it now. Then, e-books for that reason regarded as one of the perfect items on-line. They'll provide to customers to instantly download the manuscripts.

Composing to some possible reader will be the main key to some profitable e-book. It signifies, that you simply have to supply for your visitors with all of the data they want. How do we identify the possible readers of our Ebook? Simply, visit an online site and search for your key phrases about your specific topic and it'll give facts.

When you already drawn up your chapter titles, you can also start drafting every chapter. As an input, prior to you write, you need to put in your head which you are writing in front of the computer screen, so reading will be more challenging than studying within your paper. It is going to cause you eyestrain may slower you to examine. Thus, to finish your e book, type it the precise position, don't simply type and edit, you ought to be sure that the words you might be entering are already right.

Use a simple to study font when composing your e book as well as black wording. You can only use more shades in illustrations and borders or partitioning but not in written text. The crucial thing is you can do every thing to create our readers as comfy as you can. If it is difficult to read, they will be frustrated-and which is extremely unprofessional e book writer.

Self publishing within the Modern World will enhance you more earnings than a standard publishing as a result of its faster accessibility. But even though, a basic audience even now think about studying a actual book than reading an e-book within the display that will impact their eye-sight due to the radiation.

Living in the world of the internet is some thing that writers have been dreaming of for a long time. Gone are the days whenever you would need to wait years to hear from a publisher, as an alternative with web2print, print on demand, as well as other technology for writers and publishers, now it's simpler than ever before to enjoy your job go live in only several hours with the press of the mouse.


"Article Dashboard is an online article directory for both publishers and authors. Formed in August of 2005, strives to become a leader in the world of online publishing by providing syndication services to website owners, ezine publishers, and more."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More than a "content provider"

I recently heard a professional writer--who for years had freelanced and held staff positions on well-known newspapers and magazines--refer to himself as a "content provider."

This educated, skilled and creative person was demeaning his past to seem to be more a part of the present and the future.

Rather than writing articles and stories for printed pages, he now earns his living by providing the content to fill the bottomless online pages of blogs, e-zines and websites.

This man, who once regarded himself as an artist and craftsman--and part of a tradition that stretches back to Shakespeare, Chaucer, Sophocles, Homer and beyond--has reduced himself to the verbiage equivalent of a company that delivers water to fill swimming pools or dirt to fill holes.

What a shame.

(The photo shows a bust of Homer from the British Museum in London. Homer apparently lived somewhere in the 850-1100 BCE range. We still read the content he provided, including the Iliad and the Odyssey. Will anyone read this blog 3,000 years from now? Will anyone read anything 3,000 years from now? Will there be anyone 3,000 years from now?)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Xlibris will offer à la carte writing help

Xlibris Publishing, one of the former competitors now owned by Author Solutions, has joined the growing number of self-publishing companies offering à la carte services to all writers.

Several years ago I got friendly with the owner of a self-publishing company (the kind of company I used to call a vanity publisher) and I suggested that he offer some of his book preparation services to people who were not buying complete publishing packages.

As long as the company has the staff to handle the work without neglecting the "package" customers, this program would generate additional revenue, act as sampling for potential bigger purchases, and provide services to people who need them.

He wasn’t impressed with the idea, but some of his competitors are.

AuthorHive (like Xlibris, part of Author Solutions) began offering à la carte marketing assistance in early 2010.

Outskirts Press followed a few months later, selling both marketing and editorial services.

Today, Xlibris announced its new publishing services, the Xlibris Writing Coach.

This service "will bring the author to a step-by-step process of creating a book from conceptualizing ideas and developing characters to editing and completing a manuscript with the help of a writing coach. All Xlibris Writing Coaches are professional, published authors in their own right and experts at their craft. They have extensive experience teaching, editing, and coaching other writers, from beginners all the way to experts, on honing their manuscripts and craft." At the recent  Self-Publishing Book Expo, Author Solutions marketing director Joe Bayern told me that the company's best editors work on Xlibris titles, so there's probably a good chance that you'll get some worthwhile help.

There are several Xlibris Writing Coach Packages:

  1. Xlibris Writing Coach Advantage Package: A 2-month coaching program for writers with the time and confidence to move quickly through their manuscript and publish a book with simple design requirements.
  2. Xlibris Writing Coach Professional Package: A streamlined coaching program similar to the Xlibris Writing Coach Advantage, offering more sophisticated book design options and includes a hardback edition.
  3. Xlibris Writing Coach Premium Package: A 4-month coaching program that will hone your writing skills and provide you with 180 pages of professionally crafted material, allow you to publish a first-class book and initiate your marketing campaign.
  4. Xlibris Writing Coach Executive Package: A 6-month mentoring program providing you with the key to the craft of writing, culminating in a 300-page manuscript and customized publishing services enough for you to publish and market the book of your dreams.
For more information on self-publishing or marketing with Xlibris, see
NOTE: This posting is provided as news. It is not an endorsement. I have not tried any of the services mentioned.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


How To Use Printing On Demanded Successfully

by Tammy D. Pruitt in

Because the basic thought about printing on demanded is to have a large document run after the point that the book was requested by a purchaser and must be ready for shipment, on demand printing can save publishing corporations and small-time publishers a lot of paper and money. Many of the people that use this avenue of printing are tiny publishing companies or small-time publishers. The fact is that the financial backing of these publishers is ridiculously limited, they cannot give up the money to invest a lot of money inside of printing piece that they possibly won't unload to customers. Around this case, on demand printing is the best way to run.

Big printing factories serve quickly changed to this method because with a high rate of books sold a bunch will remain nonetheless. To avoid this from occurring, after a set period in which the success of the publication can be estimated, the press decides to increase the stocked copies or just begin printing on demand.

Big companies utilize large bank accounts to buy the very best equipment to do their job. Obviously, a hobby writer just can't afford such costs. Because of this there is another option. Presses can choose to print a minimal number of files in one run. Operating this way, the running cost is quickly returned by the selling price, and the publisher isn't going to have to throw down more than a tiny bit of money into it.

Comprehending something with regards to economy strategies can be a lot of help if the book was promoted in the first stages the publisher will have to put in an increased amount in order to get enough copies of the text to reach the number of products that will be demanded by customers. Since it's a fact that all clients do not like to wait for several days to acquire their books, they occasionally forget about it or get it from a different publishing company that can ship it faster. This only causes the first publisher to not sell as much, while the entity that still supplies copies that usually can be shipped quickly will come out ahead. By guessing a logical number of copies to be sold in the starting few weeks, the publisher will be able to recoup his investment that same month. Also, according to sales, the publisher can get an idea about the number of copies of the subject are going to be ran.
In the case that the publication is not prosperous, the publisher can begin advertising the same publication again and wait for a reaction from buyers. This can sometimes last up to 900 days from the original sale. Luckily reminding his intended crowd of the already printed article can boost up sales even by 100 pieces per month.

Author Description :

If you want to utilize printing on demand or POD, your first thing you must serve is the article you must have printed in a technological format, specifically when it comes to digital web printing. If there are other pictures that have to be embedded to your final print, these should be scanned and correctly placed into your project as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Borders follows B&N in eBook publishing, but seems too expensive

A few weeks ago, Barnes & Noble launched its “PubIt!” (publish it) program, an “easy and lucrative” way  to distribute eBooks through Barnes & and the Barnes & Noble eBookstore “with distribution, visibility and protection that only Barnes & Noble can offer.” Authors can reach readers using hundreds of devices including Nook, PC, Mac, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, BlackBerry and others.

PubIt! distributes books in the popular ePub format. If your books aren’t available in ePub, PubIt! has a free tool to convert Microsoft Word, HTML, RTF, and TXT files into ePub. It also enables you to preview your titles on a Nook emulator before submitting them. ISBNs are not required.

The program is open to authors and publishers worldwide and books can be in any language. There are no start-up fees or annual fees (and apparently no per-book fees). List price must be between $0.99 and $199.99. The publisher (maybe you) gets a royalty of 65% on eBooks priced from $2.99 to $9.99, or 40% on eBooks priced at or below $2.98, or at or more than $10. (It’s simpler than that sounds.)

To keep up, bookstore rival Borders has just launched "Borders—Get Published" to enable authors to publish and sell eBooks through the Borders eBook store and other eBook retailers.

Users can produce books of any length, set prices ($2.99 to $9.99), and publish via “BookBrewer”software. Authors add content by typing or pasting into an online form, or feeding content from a website or blog. As with B&N’s PubIt!, books are published in the ePub format for reading on many devices.

The $89.99 “basic” package includes an ISBN, and availability to major eBook retailers. Royalties are paid quarterly and will be 40-45% of the selling price. With the $199.99 “advanced” package, authors own the full version of their ePub file, which they may share, or submit to other eBook stores.

Borders is bragging that their ISBN is worth $125, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to use Borders instead of B&N, which doesn't require an ISBN.

Both companies must compete with Smashwords, which began ePublishing in 2008. It supplies eBooks to many booksellers, including the B&N eBookstore, which carries about 11,000 Smashwords titles, according to Publishers Weekly.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A paragraph and blog I never finished reading

"One of the biggest challenges when your an author or writer is getting your book published."

Another challenge is convincing people to keep reading when there's a silly error in the first sentence.

(from  "award-winning serial entrepreneur" and "sought after social media coach and branding architect"  Leili McKinley --

Friday, October 15, 2010

Book cover design tips

(left click to enlarge)

The back cover of my Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) explains the book, helps sell the book, and is funny to read. doesn't automatically put back covers online, but you can do it yourself.

Your back cover

Every book that has a front cover also has a back cover (unless someone tore it off). In a physical bookstore, the back cover is an important selling piece. Your back cover is an advertisement! Make the most of it. It gives you an excellent opportunity to convince a prospective customer to purchase the book she or he has plucked from a shelf or display.

It’s very different when you are selling online. does not automatically show your back cover. If you want potential customers to see it and read it, you have to up­load the image yourself by clicking on "Share your own customer images."

If you want your book to be sold by booksellers, your back cover must show an ISBN and its associated bar code, which usually go at the bottom of the cover.

It’s customary to indicate the book’s classification, such as “humor” or “gardening,” so bookstore people know where to put it. There’s no rule against listing two classifications such as “history” and “geography” if they both apply. Find out how competitive books are classified, and check the huge book subject list at the Book Industry Study Group:

Here’s what else you should include:
  1. What the book is about and why people should buy it
  2. Comments (“blurbs”) from readers and reviewers if available
  3. Your brief biography, to establish yourself as an authority in the field you are writing about
  4. Your photo—a studio portrait, not an amateur snapshot
  5. Name of publishing company, with city, state and web URL
  6. List price for United States and possibly other countries, particularly Canada 
What goes on the spine?

Even if all of your sales are online and you don’t care about be­ing noticed on a shelf at Borders, a legible spine title will make it easier for your customers to pluck your book from their own bookshelves.

On a crowded shelf in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, often the only sign of your life will be a narrow spine squeezed in among dozens of competitors.
Because of the limited space available (the spine on a 200-page book is only about a half inch wide) you have to consider the trade-offs between visibility and contents.

The more you try to squeeze onto the spine, the smaller each word will be. It’s important to be as big and bold as possible. In thin books, you probably won’t have room for a subtitle, and maybe not enough room for even your own name.

This is where an experienced designer like Joel Friedlander can make a big difference. By using a narrow typeface, your spine can have more words in the same space. Lettering should strongly contrast with the background color. It may be necessary to omit your name or use just your last name.

It may be tempting to omit your own company’s logo to save space. It should be there, even in small size, because it’s a sign of professionalism that’s important for a self-publisher who has her own company. HOWEVER--if your book is published by a self-pub­lishing company, its logo may hurt, not help.

The spine size is determined by the thickness of the book, which is determined by the number of pages and the thickness of the paper—so you can have only a rough layout of the spine until the number of pages is finalized.

Cream-color paper is usually a bit thicker than white, so if you want the biggest possible spine, use cream pages. The difference is small, but probably perceptable on books with about 200-250 pages or more. A 200-page book in cream could have a spine width of .454 inches, compared to .424 inches in white.

I've recently done two 366-page books with white pages. Their spines would be about 7/32nds (or maybe 7/64ths?--I misplaced my calculator)  of an inch wider if I used cream paper. They were thick enough, and white was right.

It’s possible that the spine text won’t be centered between the front and back covers, so leave some extra white space (or whatever color you are using for your background) around the text. Your publisher or printer can advise you how much clearance is required between your text and the edges (the safety zone). A sixteenth of an inch is typical.

Make sure the spine text faces the right way. Every so often—even from major publishing companies—books are printed with inverted spines. The error is usually caught before books are shipped to stores. CD and DVD packages are printed improperly more frequently than book covers are.

When your book is standing up with its front cover facing to the right, the spine text should read from top to bottom. When the book is lying down with its front cover facing upward and the spine towards you, the spine text should read normally, from left to right.

Some books have vertical type stacked up on their spines. It often looks ugly because of the variation in letter width. I usually don’t like it, but I can’t stop you from doing it.

If you have a really thick book, of course, your spine text can be horizontal even when the book is vertical. If you have an incredibly thick book, maybe it should be two books.

Show some originality, please.

It’s smart to study other books and to seek inspiration from successful authors and designers—but don’t be a copycat.
The book on the left has sold millions of copies since 2004. It provides guidance for solving personal and professional prob­lems.
The book on the right, which copied the cover design, typefaces and title style of the bestseller, is a promotional piece from Outskirts Press.
I saw three five-star reviews for the Outskirts book on One was written by an Outskirts author featured in the book, and one was written by an Outskirts employee. That seems a bit sleazy--just like the cover copying.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book cover design tips

A beautiful illustration that would be a powerful eye-grabber under the spotlight in a Borders store may become a tiny incomprehensible blob when displayed on a website. Subtle color combinations that win awards in art school may not have adequate contrast to allow potential customers to separate the text from the background on computer monitors.

Make sure your book looks good in the size in which Amazon and other online booksellers will show it. It’s possible for people to click on the thumbnail image and see almost a full-size cover, but try for a design that works well in postage-stamp-size. Excellent artists have designed very attractive stamps. (The cover shown here is not the final design.)

Also consider how your book will look when converted to grayscale (black and white). It may show up in a book, catalog or newspaper that doesn’t have color pages.

If you have a photo or illustration on the cover, make sure it does not overpower or conflict with the title. It should reinforce the title. Don’t use a photo so big that it necessitates a small title that will be hard to read.

If the photo or illustration is important, make sure the title or subtitle doesn’t mask it.

Make sure you have adequate contrast between your type and the background. Red-on-orange may work for a day-glow concert poster, but it makes a book cover hard to read.

Choose the appropriate binding for your topic, audience and price. Most how-to books are perfect-bound paperbacks (soft covers). If your book’s price is $24.95 or higher, many people will expect a hardcover book, probably with a dust jacket. Hardcovers cost more to manufacture than soft covers. A casewrap is a less-expensive hardcover binding without a dust jacket. Instruction manuals and cookbooks are more useful if they can lie flat when open and are often con-structed with a comb or spiral binding. Unfortunately, these two binding methods are fragile and pages may become detached if the book is used frequently.

Make sure the mood of the artwork complements the title and the purpose of the book. A pastoral scene with cows grazing near a brook is probably not right for a “get up and take charge” business book—even if those cows are really bulls.

If you are supplying the cover design, your publisher or printer can provide a custom template with lines that show where you should put words and pictures, and where you should not. The template above is from POD-printer LightningSource, which prints most of my books.

Diagram above shows boundaries in the lower-left corner of a cover design template.

Book covers are very different from other “documents” in one important way: If you’re writing a term paper or a letter, you wouldn’t dream of letting your words go all the way to the edge of a page. Book covers (and magazine covers, ads, posters and packages) often have graphic images that go all the way to the edges. It’s just not possible to predict exactly where the printer’s trimming blades will chop your paper, so the cover is designed with art that “bleeds” outside the normal borders. The typical bleed is ¼ of an inch. Keep important text and images out of the bleed space so they are not lost. A typical 6-inch-wide book cover has a safety zone that stops ¼ inch away from the theoretical trimmed edge. Beyond that safety zone is the danger zone that should not contain anything important. The danger zone and the area beyond the trim are considered to be the bleed area. Without a bleed, your cover may have an unintended white border beyond the edge of a color graphic element. Your cover may be designed to bleed in just one direction, or it can bleed on two, three, or all four edges (full bleed). Cover alignment is not precise. Don’t be surprised if part of your front cover or back cover ends up on the spine. For this reason, I caution against bleeds that might accidentally wrap around. On the other hand, if your book has horizontal color bands or a large illustration that deliberately wraps around three surfaces of the cover, the design can be very dramatic with little danger.

Unless you have a tiny budget, do not use a pre-made cover design from a self-publishing company, where you just pick a title, a color and a typeface. It’s much better to pay for professional help to get something original and interesting. If you do use a template, check out the available variations, and also see how you can tweak your art and text to provide the best results with the enforced limitations. The cover shown above is a quick-n-dirty free design I made with a CreateSpace template. When the book is published next month, it will have a different cover.

There are already books about self-publishing for “big dummies” and “complete idiots.” Dummies and idiots can’t publish books, and probably shouldn’t write them. This book is for smart writers—but not necessarily geniuses—who want to learn about self-publishing. It's part of my growing "Silver Sands Publishing Series." By next month the series will include books for writers who want to use self-publishing companies, writers who want to start their own publishing companies, and the book shown, for writers who are not sure which path to take. 

There are online “budget book design” services that can provide a cover design for about $300. I have not tried any of them, but I’ve heard good things about some of them. Take a look at the online samples and customers’ comments. Some self-publishers are very pleased with low-priced cover designs produced by freelance artists all over the world through For $10 you can post a project description, and then sort out the proposals and references.

A simple design is better than a complex design. You have only a second or two to capture a shopper’s attention.

Check the final design very carefully. It’s easy to miss errors in unexpected places, like the price, a URL or a Zip Code. Have your copyeditor check the cover.

Watch out for conflicts and inconsistencies. Sometimes a number (“10 years in preparation”) might be inside the book, but the cover says something else (“11 years”). I know of one book with different titles on the front cover and spine, and another with the wrong title on the back cover. BE CAREFUL.

(This is more an issue for bookstores than for online selling, where people search by topic.) Don’t deceive browsers just to attract their attention. Bikini babes and muscle men don’t belong on the cover of a book about gardening or contract negotiation.

Some publishing authorities suggest evaluating cover designs by looking at them from three or four feet away, to determine if they are readable by the average shopper wandering down the aisles in a Barnes & Noble store. It’s a nice test, but it may be utterly unimportant for a book that’s sold mostly online. Some other authorities completely dismiss the value of having an attractive cover for online sales. I disagree. I think people prefer to own attractive things. Also, a better-looking book is more likely to be noticed and picked up by visitors to one of your customers’ homes or offices. Each of your books can help sell additional copies—and you don’t have to pay a salesman’s commission.

I like the crisp and clean look of a white cover, and that’s what I used for my first three books. Unfortunately, they blend into the white pages of booksellers’ websites. A color background or a dark border would be better for online sales. Be careful with borders, they may not be printed exactly the way you want them to be. I've given up on borders.

Every part of your cover is an advertisement that should help to sell books. If you are an unknown author, your name on the cover can be accompanied by a one-line bio, such as “Professor of Nuclear Medicine at Harvard University.” If you have no such claim to fame, use the space for a blurb from someone to establish your credibility, either through her own fame or by what she says. If all you can say about yourself is that you wrote an unknown book in another field, don’t say it. Find someone to say something positive about you or your book.

(binding illustrations from

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

eBooks flunked out of college

eBooks and eReaders were expected to be popular on campus, replacing some expensive and heavy printed textbooks. It did not turn out that way. See

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How a man who made my life miserable may have helped me to improve a book and taught me some important lessons

As some of you know, early one Saturday morning last June, I received an alarming call from a friend. The friend had received an email saying that I was a convicted rapist who published child pornography, burned my wife, was in prison for four years, drove drunk, used the Internet to find children for sex, was in an international pedophile ring being investigated by the FBI, was a threat to my neighbors, and had even RAPED MY DOG.

As shocking as these false accusations were, things rapidly got worse.

The anonymous accuser sent similar emails to other friends, relatives and business associates, and people in the media. He wrote accusatory letters to newspapers, set up petitions to have me put on a sex offender list, and established a libelous website with false accusations. The site had pictures of me and my house, directions to get there, and my phone number.

The attacker used multiple false identities in the attack, formed a phony organization for credibility, and tried to halt printing and sale of books I wrote. People called for my imprisonment, castration and execution.

The attacker said that I was: a pornographer, a pedophile, a scumbag, a revolting beast, a sick hairy freak with a hairy beard who looks like a pervert, and a depraved, nasty deform­ity with a history of disturbing child sex offenses and sick pedo­philia con­vic­tions, with a forensic history as long as an arm.

The one obvious suspect was a man diagnosed as a paranoid psychopath who had never met me, but knew of me, and I knew of him. Police and the FBI never proved he was the perpetrator. I was able to get some lies removed from the web, but some are still there--and may remain there for as long as the Internet exists.

Under the protective umbrella of the First Amendment, companies that host websites allow anyone to say anything about anyone...and some people will believe the most absurd accusations without any effort to verify them.

Because of the abundant online smears, I immediately halted publicity for my new mostly humorous/mostly true memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults). I didn't want any potential reviewer or reader to Google me and find the horrible libel written about me.

The original book cover had a line that declared, "Dirty Parts Easy To Find" -- a parody of the custom of teenagers to mark the dirty parts in books (such as part of page 149 in the Grove Press edition of Candy, which I memorized in junior high school).

My accuser seized on my cover line and lied about the book. He said it "contains graphic references to underage sex with a 15-year-old female minor, and inside the book contains a disturbing account of bestial obscenity which contexts [sic] anal sex and sodomizing a dog called "Hunter" with a vibrating dildo."

I love my dog, but not that way.

When an FBI special agent visited me to make a report on the case, he saw the book and took the cover line literally. He asked if there were pictures of genitals (i.e., "dirty parts") in the book.

When I planned the cover, I never imagined that the line that I thought was funny could be used as part of a horrible attack against me and my publishing company, and never imagined that an FBI investigator would misinterpret the line.

In retrospect, maybe the cover line was sophomoric and ill-advised.

So, I have revised the cover to make it a bit less sophomoric, a bit less sexy, and maybe a bit less offensive to people who were too timid to possess the book and be seen with it.

I will soon release the book with the cleaner cover, and will finally begin the publicity campaign that was supposed to start last June.

Is there a lesson in this? Actually, there are at least two:
  1. We all have enemies, maybe even powerful, smart and sick enemies we've never met.
  2. Anything we can write, or print, can be misinterpreted and used against us. Writers, particularly self-publishers whose work will not be vetted by corporate lawyers, should be very careful.
I am now finishing Internet Hell, a book about my ordeal.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Get virtual books, for free or close to free.

My Brainy Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing won't exist until next month, but I have a picture already.

It’s good to have a realistic "3D" picture of a book before it exists, for publicity, seeking orders, and evaluating titles and cover designs with more impact than a flat printout or monitor viewing can provide. A picture of a printed book can also help to sell eBooks.

If you have a cover image, it can be magically attached to a realistic picture of one book or a stack of books at

You can choose from a huge selection of book types, and even CD-ROMs, loose-leaf notebooks, iPads and multimedia packages. The picture above was a freebie. Some other styles (like the one below) have to be paid for with an inexpensive membership ($9 per month, or $90 per year).The service is extremely easy to use, and an image takes less than a minute to render and download.

Internet Hell exists now only on my hard drive, but I have a picture of the book.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

You can sell the same words more than once.

When I was in Mrs. McGarthy's class in fifth grade, each student had to choose an American president to write a report on. I don't remember why, but I picked James Buchanan. It may have been because I was a stamp collector and had a "plate block" of three-cent stamps showing Buchanan's home, Wheatland, which was issued in 1954.

Buchanan was the 15th president, serving from 1857–1861, right before Lincoln. I don't remember much more about him. He was the only president from Pennsylvania and the only non-married president.

Buchanan's significance to me greatly outweighs my knowledge of him, because that report became the source of a valuable lesson that has served me well for over fifty years: You can sell the same words more than once.

When I was a school kid, I wasn't selling words for money as I did later, but I did have to convince my teachers of the value of my words to get good marks, so the processes were related. Then and now, it's good to maximize income and minimize effort.

The Buchanan report I wrote for fifth grade was subsequently improved, modified and lengthened and submitted to my teachers in sixth, seventh and ninth grade, plus my junior year in high school, and for an American Studies course in college.

I also wrote a report on Warren Harding and used it in two classes. I think my brother recycled it, too.

Ironically, U. S. News & World Report ranks Buchanan as the worst president ("He refused to challenge either the spread of slavery or the growing bloc of states that became the Confederacy.") and Harding as second-worst ("He was an ineffectual and indecisive leader who played poker while his friends plundered the U.S. treasury."). Was there a sunconscious pattern to my picking?

After college, as a freelance writer, I often sold variations of the same article to multiple magazines with different audiences, such as Rolling Stone and Country Music, or Esquire and Ingénue.

It works the same way with books.

A year ago, I published Become a Real Self-Publisher: don't be a victim of a vanity press, which was written for people who don’t use self-publishing companies. In the middle of this month, a spinoff--aimed at writers who do use self-publishing companies--will go on sale. It's called Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book. I'm also updating the original book for publication by the end of the year as Independent Self Publishing: the complete guide. This weekend I started another spinoff, Brainy Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing, aimed at writers who are unsure of their path to publication. Parts of the first book were also used in my Stupid, Sloppy, Sleazy book about Outskirts Press.

All of those books include material originally posted on my blogs, and some material written for my books eventually shows up on my blogs.

Look at what you've already written and figure out how you can Recycle, reuse, repurpose, revise, sequelize and serialize.

My first book about phone equipment has had two spinoffs, and two more are coming.

My funny memoir has had one spinoff, so far.

Many thousands of books reach readers without booksellers. They are distributed—sometimes for free—by entities that want information or opinions circulated. These “special sales” can generate high profits, with no risk of returns.

A book you’ve already written may be perfect for use by an association, corporation, government, charity, foundation, university or a political party. Perhaps a book you’ve written needs just slight changes and perhaps a new title and cover to become perfect. Maybe information in your book is fine, but the book needs a new point of view or emphasis. Make a deal.

(Buchanan portrait is public domain, from the White House)

Friday, October 8, 2010

What the hell is this thing?

Is it a standard piece of female apparatus?
Is it something a man would own and use?
Is it an iPad case with a broken strap?
Is it an evening bag with a broken strap?
Is it a tampon dispenser?
Is it a sewing kit?
Is it a GPS protector?
Is it a makeup mirror?
Is it a netbook?
Is it a purse?
Is it a wallet?
Is it a calculator?
Why can't I identify it?
Why is it on the cover of a book about writing?

I just bought a book about writing and publishing. (It's a good book which I'll be reviewing in the future.)   The front cover shows that thing up above.

In my quest for knowledge, I asked my wife what she thinks the thing is. She thinks it's a small computer with a dangling power cord. The author said it's a journal.

UPDATE: This is a modified version of the original post, which was unnecessarily provocative. I had said that men don't use journals. Apparently some do. But if I need to do some impromptu alfresco writing, I'll use an iPad, not a paper journal.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some weaknesses of Word

Microsoft Word often makes mistakes with hyph-ens.
Its me-thod is migh-ty fru-strating.

Sometimes Word seems to guess, or follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than Word 2007.

“The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also really like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity,” “misunders-tanding,” “mi-nimize,” “sa-les,” “me-thod,” “libra-rian,” “mi-spronounced,” “migh-ty” and “bet-ween.”

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “cre-dit” and “se-tup.” Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon. Someone has to fix this stuff.

Terms that can have two meanings and can be pronounced in two ways cause problems. Word 2007 won’t hyphenate either “Polish” or “polish, and can’t distinguish between “minute” (the noun) and “minute” (the adjective). It gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute.”

Automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names, such as “Fe-dex” and “Pa-nasonic.”

So now you have another reason to proofread very carefully, and never to have complete faith in robots.

W o r d   o f t en  p u t s too much space between letters.

Word’s “loose” text can make a book look much worse than one designed with real publishing software, and may waste paper. Some fonts, such as Trebuchet MS, are worse than others. Examine each paragraph closely. If there is too much "white space," change some words, force hyphenation, adjust Character Spacing—or use all of the tricks—to close up gaps. Character spacing is in the Font tab. Condensing by .1-.5 points often works right. Most letters should not touch. It's particularly important to have attractive spacing in chapter titles and subheads.

Watch out for unexpected changes.

Check your text carefully. Word has a mind of its own and sometimes makes decisions without consulting you. Changes in line spacing (leading) are fairly common. Alignment of bulleted lines can change, too. Sometimes you'll fix a problem and Word will unfix it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WTF? Amazon is selling some eBooks for more than pBooks.

Some big advantages of eBooks are that they take up no shelf space, arrive quickly, allow the reader to changes the type size, provide electronic bookmarks and dictionaries, and SAVE MONEY.

Readers have come to expect new and bestselling eBooks to cost $9.99, compared to $15 to $30 for the hardcover versions of the same title.


List price for 985-page Fall of Giants by Ken Follet is $36. Amazon's price for the hardcover version was  $19.39 this morning. The price for the eBook was $19.99--60 cents more--even though no paper, cloth, cardboard, ink, glue or trucks were involved in production or delivery.

The hardcover version of  Don’t Blink by James Patterson and Howard Roughan has a $27.99 list price. This morning, Amazon was offering it for $14--but the eBook version was priced at $14.99--nearly a buck more, despite an infinitesimal cost to produce, store or deliver.

Readers are screaming about the prices on the Amazon website, and giving the worst-possible one-star rating. Some examples:
  • I refuse to purchase this book IN ANY FORMAT until the publisher lowers the e-book price.
  • I would love to read this book, but I have no intention of paying more for an e-book than a hard copy. There is no business model, rational, debate, fact, etc. that can prove to me it costs more to publish an e-book than it does to layout, print, bind, box-up, ship, handle, receive, unload, un-box, store, shelve, ring-up, and bag a hard copy book. Until the publisher figures this out, I'll wait for the used version. It's time for them to come to terms with the technology.
  • I join in the consumer outrage that a print publisher would charge more for a digital edition than a paper edition. I sense that the conglomerate publishers need to learn a lesson, and having a book or three fail because of consumer backlash is probably the only way to get that message across to them.
  • This is corporate greed on display as the suits in their ivory tower think they can set the price for the digital version of the book anywhere they please and people will buy it just so they can have the e-book reading experience. They think we're too stupid to realize they're price gouging us. I'd like to hear one these publishing executives explain the rationale for this pricing. I'd be very interested in learning how the publishing industry can save us money by not publishing a digital edition.
  • The publisher expects more for the kindle electronic version than the hardback. It is unfortunate the publishing industry continues to live in the past. No wonder pirating is a problem. Give us a fair price for a quality product and we will buy it. Take advantage of your customers and feel their wrath. I noticed the book is falling down the rankings. Too bad for Mr. Follet, good for the consumer.
  • Love my kindle... hate this pricing. Hope this is not a trend. We should all boycott this book at this price
The weird pricing is the result of a deal that Amazon made with publishers that allows publishers to set the eBook prices while Amazon sets the pBook prices. In an effort to deflect reader wrath, Amazon's website states, “This price was set by the publisher.”

Book publishers and other booksellers have complained that Amazon has been charging too little for hardcovers (such as the 50% discount on Don't Blink), in an effort to drive out competitors.

According to the New York Times, "Russ Grandinetti, the vice president of Kindle content for Amazon, suggested that the publishers should lower their e-book prices in response to consumer complaints. Setting a price for a Kindle book that is higher than its print counterpart makes no sense. It’s bad for readers and authors, and is illogical given the cost savings of digital. We’ve seen publishers do this in a few cases, and we’ve been urging them to stop.”

The Times also quoted David Steinberger, chief executive of the Perseus Books Group: “What we are seeing is a sorting-out period as a new, very vibrant market for book content begins to develop with multiple platforms, multiple formats and multiple retailers. Ultimately as the competitive market develops and e-books go mainstream, pricing norms will develop. But that really hasn’t happened yet.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Silly error in important press release about a book publisher and a magazine

Xlibris To Promote Self-Published Books
 With Publishers Weekly

Xlibris, the self-publishing industry leader [says who?], has announced the launch of their Publishers Weekly Marketing Packages to help self-published authors in promoting their books.

These packages enable authors to maximize the full potential of their marketing campaign by promoting their self-published book on the different Publishers Weekly services that cover both print and online media.

Publishers Weekly is a well-respected international news magazine that serves all segments in the creation, production, marketing and sale of the written word. On print, their presence is made known through the Publishers Weekly Magazine. Online, they are known through the website where they feature five niche-oriented e-newsletters namely the PW Daily, Cooking the Books, Children’s Bookshelf, Religion BookLine, and PW Comics Week.

Combining online and print advertising, these marketing packages from the self-publishing leader gives authors the opportunity to reach out to not only the niche markets of their books, but also to literary agents and publishers looking for the next big thing in books.

About Publishers Weekly
Publishers Weekly is a well-respect international news magazine that has been in publication for over 130 years. They are part of Reed Business Information’s Publishing Group (Reed Elsevier) and they belong to the same publishing house of Criticas, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Variety and Daily Variety.

About Xlibris

Xlibris was founded in 1997 and, as the leading publishing services provider for authors, has helped to publish more than 20,000 titles. Xlibris is based in Philadelphia, PA and provides authors with direct and personal access to quality publication in hardcover, trade paperback, custom leather-bound, and full-color formats.

SOMEBODY at either Xlibris or PW should have noticed the error.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Impressions of Self-Publishing Book Expo

But first, read about the same venue 40 years earlier.

On Saturday 10/2/10, I attended the second Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE), at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, uptown from Times Square and downtown from Central Park.

The first time--and the last time--I was at this hotel, it was named the Hotel Americana.

I was there in 1970, reporting on the Consumer Electronics Show for my first post-college job as assistant editor of High Fidelity Trade News ($115 per week and an impressive title).

1970 was in the era of 8-track cartridges, quadraphonic sound, strange-shaped speakers and monochrome video recorders. In those days, a big TV had a 25-inch screen. The monitor in front of me is a 27-incher, wide-screen, flat-screen and hi-def. That description (and home computers, thumb drives, iPads, digital movie cameras, tiny wireless videophones, GPS, broadband and wi-fi) were not even realistic dreams the last time I was in this hotel.

The 1970 "CES" was held at the Americana and the nearby New York Hilton (it has since moved to Chicago and Las Vegas). Trade shows are a great testing ground for young business reporters. CES was a grueling physical ordeal compared to my normal desk work, but had free booze, cool technology and hot chicks.

I had invited my college buddy, Dave Evans, to see the new big boys' toys at CES with me. We spent about eight hours cruising the show floor over and over and over again, with little rest and no food.

When the show closed at 5 p.m., the action shifted upstairs at the Hilton and also into the Americana, where the manufacturers welcomed retailers, journalists and even competitors to their "hospitality suites."

In most cases, a hospitality suite was an ordinary hotel room, with a well-stocked bar, and the bed put in the bathtub so products could be displayed in the center of the bedroom.

Dave and I worked our way from one end of the Hilton to the other and from one end of the Americana to the other, stopping in dozens of suites and drinking in each one. By 10 p.m., Dave and I had probably walked 10 miles, drunk three gallons of liquor and eaten two shrimp, a pretzel and a celery stalk.

The Consumer Electronics Show was great place to learn to be a business journalist and a great place to drink--on other people's money. I got so drunk at the Americana that night in June of 1970, that I never got drunk again. I woke up in a strange hotel room, and didn't know how I got there, or even what country I was in. You can read about my reporting and drinking in my book, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults).

This year, after a 40-year gap (Shit! I feel old writing that), I was once again at the same address and, strangely, again wearing a press pass and checking out new stuff. Since my report goes here on my own blog, I don't even earn $115 per week for writing it. I'm not sure if this is progress, but I'm not complaining.

I was actually at the Sheraton/Americana for several reasons on Saturday. I was entitled to the press pass (actually a badge with a label which proclaimed "MEDIA") because the show management wisely expected that I would write something nice about the expo, and I am doing that. Also, as a self-publisher, I hoped to learn about new products and services that would be useful in my business. I also hoped to do some low-key promotion for my latest book, Get the Most out of a Self-Publishing Company: Make a better deal. Make a better book.

Observations, in no particular order:
  • There were lots of people there, right from the opening at 10 a.m. It was obvious that Expo impresarios Diane Mancher and Karen Mender were correct in assessing the need for such an event, and they made the right decision in making the exhibit floor a freebie for all attendees. Last year nothing was free. The panel sessions I visited were well-attended, with an alert audience asking important questions and getting good answers from knowledgeable and experienced experts.
  • I was surprised and dismayed at the ignorance demonstrated by some self-publishing newbies, and even by some of the exhibitors. It seemed strange that there had to be a session called "Why a professional editor can be your best friend." People in the audience (and the authors of most of the books I featured in last week's BAD BOOK WEEK) just didn't realize that professional editing is vital--not optional. I've said this before and I'll say it again: "If you can't afford to hire a professional  editor, you can't afford to self-publish."
  • I was surprised to see the large number of companies offering marketing and publicity services. There is definitely a need for them, but I don't know how an author can decide among them. I spent some time with Beth Werner, who operates Book Marketing Boot Camp, a series of one-to-one sessions to help you create a marketing plan. Beth believes that advertising fiction can be profitable for the author, which surprised me. Beth seems to know what she's doing and her service is definitely worth considering.
  • Publishers Weekly magazine was present to push its new PW Select program. PW's Cevin (not "Kevin") Bryerman was quick to send me a follow-up email, which so far none of the other exhibitors who collected my business cards have done. For what I think is a reasonable $149 fee, PW Select includes a six-month digital subscription (the website is free now, but Cevin said that status will be changing under the new PW owner), listing of your title in the December 20th PW Select Announcement Issue, special advertising rates in print, newsletters or website, and--most important--the opportunity to have a PW review. If your book is selected for a review it will be published in the print magazine and syndicated to PW partners. Some book bloggers have bitched that the $149 fee treats self-pubbers as second-class citizens, and that the big publishers don't have to pay the fee. Well, in 2010, we self-pubbers are second class citizens, but $149 provides entry into the elevator that may raise our status. I'm not interested in attracting the bricks-and-mortar booksellers who read PW, but I recognize the value of a PW review, so I'm willing to gamble $149 on the chance to help one of my new books. When you consider how much self-pubbers spend on review copies, a publicity campaign and entering award contests, $149 is not such a big deal. Someone wrote that the future of publishing is self-publishing. If PW is to survive the transition and maintain relevance as a news medium, it will have to stop differentiating between traditonal publishers and the rest of us. It must provide news coverage and reviews based on importance and quality--not on company size. It's possible that on one day in one year, my little company may do something more important than Simon & Schuster, and it should not be ignored.
  • BlueInk Reviews is a new and unashamed pay-to-get-your-book-reviewed service operated by (of course) three women with experience in publishing.  You can get a quick review (4-5 weeks) for $495 or a not-so-quick review (7-9 weeks) for $395. As of today, October 4, the BlueInk website was touting a 25% discount good through October 1, and said that "Your review will be featured on our site throughout the summer..." Sorry, Jody, Patti (with an "i") and Patty (with a "y"): both the summer and October first have passed, and I think I'll pass, too. I don't think a paid review has any value. It certainly has less value than five-star reviews on from readers who have actually paid for books, rather than being paid to read and review them.
  • I arrived a few minutes before Expo opening time and needed to say a few hellos in the exhibit area, but the schmoozing went on for so long that I missed a 10 o'clock seminar on online book sales. While I am certainly familiar with the subject and did not expect to learn much, I did want to hear my arch-nemeses Brent Sampson of Outskirts Press. I like Brent much more as a speaker than as a writer, and I wanted to meet him and tell him that I have come to agree with him that there is a difference between a "self-publisher" and a "self-publishing company." (Strangely, there is no difference between a "publisher" and a "publishing company"--except that a publisher may be a person or a company.) I may also come to agree with him about what he calls Adsensiphobia.
  • I left the Expo too soon for the panel on publicity. I wanted to tell panelist Penny Sansevieri that my new books about self-publishing no longer criticize something she wrote a while ago. See--I do have a heart.
  • At least two of the sessions had overflow crowds, with people sitting in the hallway outside the room. It would have been nice if everyone could have been seated inside, but the people listening intently in the hall created an impression of excitement and importance.
  • The Expo was great place to pick up chicks, for those so inclined. (I'm married and don't cheat--but I do browse.) A recent study of the publishing industry revealed that people in the business are overwhelmingly female (and white). Some online commenters said that this condition has resulted in scarcity of books for men. But, since most book buyers and readers are female, I'm not sure about the cause and the effect.
  • Testicle-bearers like me were obviously in the minority as visitors, exhibitors and panelists at the Expo. My minority status didn't bother me, but I was aware of it. It was not scary like being James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss, 48 years and one day before Self-Publishing Book Expo. It was more like I had accidentally walked into the ladies' room.
  • Most of the attendees seemed to be sub-45. Many looked to be aged 25-35. A couple of visitors seemed to be teenagers, and a couple looked over 80. I saw few black people, one Asian, and no obvious Latinos. Dress was mostly conservative-casual, with no obvious body piercings or ripped jeans, only one visible tattoo, and no strange-colored hair or shaved heads. The mix was not typical Manhattan, but maybe was typical book-biz.
(above) I recently read that while book publishing is female-dominated, journalism is male-dominated. At the Expo I chatted with Molly Gallegos  (left), who recently moved to New York from Colorado. Molly is a talented artist, photographer and writer who wants to make the transition from journalist to author. SPBE was the right place for her to be. On the right is an actual author, Lueza Gelb. Her Schroon Lake was awarded "Best Memoir" by the Adirondack Center for Writing. The book is the memoir of a girl born to wealth and privilege, who watched the family fortune fade. It seemed like a powerful story, and I ordered a copy from Amazon. I would not have ordered the book if I had not attended Self-Publishing Book Expo. I'm updating and relaunching my own memoir in a few weeks, and I'm looking forward to seeing how award-winning Lueza told her story. Heck, the beginning of this blog post is a memoir. Weird.

(above) I took photos like this 40 years ago in the same hotel--but back then my Nikon contained film and I got paid to be a reporter/photographer. Saturday I used a digital Nikon, and I covered the show for fun and glory. On the left is Isobella Jade, model and author of new book Short Stuff. Isobella says she's a bit under 5'4" tall. When I was four years old, I was a model, too, and was even shorter than Isobella. The tall guy on the right is Jason Kuykendall, Jeff Bezos's Kindle man in New York. Jason was impressed that I could pronounce his last name and knew the name was Dutch. I was impressed when Jason told me I could format a Kindle book myself.  That tip more than paid for the round-trip train ticket and the overpriced chicken wings in Grand Central Terminal. (BTW, it is "Terminal"--not "Station.")
  • had three exhibit tables promoting CreateSpace, Amazon Encore and, of course, Kindle. I'd previously read about and written about the Kindle, but this was my first opportunity to try one out. I was greatly underwhelmed. My first inclination was to try to turn pages by swiping my index finger across a page, but nothing happened. I had the same experience when I first tried a B&N Nook e-reader. I've had an iPad since last April. Any device that tries to compete and doesn't have a touch screen is simply too 20th-century to be relevant.
  • Jason Kuykendall admitted to owning both a Kindle and an iPad. (MEMO TO JEFF BEZOS: Don't fire Jason for heresy. He's good for Amazon.) Jason was smart to point out that Kindle should be considered a channel for distributing books, not just one family of devices for reading them. He's right. I've enjoyed many Kindle books on my iPad. Jason gave me some surprising good news. I had heard that it was very difficult to format a book with lots of graphics, and my books have lots of graphics. Jason explained that it can be difficult to do a Kindle book with complex graphics like flow charts and mathematical formulas, but there is no problem with ordinary photos, diagrams and charts. Based on his recommendation, I uploaded my first Kindle experiment a few hours after I got home from the Expo. I still have to make some adjustments, and I'll give you a full report later.
  • Although Amazon sent people cross-country and rented three exhibit tables, hometown favorite Barnes & Noble was conspicuous by its absence. It was foolish for B&N not to be there, especially since they would not have to pay for airfare or hotel rooms like the west-coast competition. SPBE would have been an ideal location and date to appear before self-pubbers, because the B&N "PubIt!" eBook selling system went live just a few days earlier, and the Expo would also have been a good venue for showing off the Nook eBook reader. B&N has been in turmoil recently, but they missed a big opportunity to show off at SPBE. Maybe they'll smarten up for next year.
  • Also conspicuously absent was FOOD (except for the Tootsie Rolls and other small candy provided by exhibitors. The show did have two water dispensers in the exhibit room, but more refreshment and nourishment was needed. Food in or near the hotel is expensive, except for the felafel cart around the corner on 52nd Street. (MEMO TO BARNES & NOBLE: Next year, exhibit at the Expo and assume the role of gracious hometown host. Provide some of the Big Apple's favorite snacks as freebies.)
  • About a dozen authors had tables and were hawking their books with vary degrees of success. The biggest audiences seemed to be gathered around the most gregarious authors. Authors with the vibrancy of a totem pole did little or no business. I was at one table, talking to one author and another author sharing the table stood there as still and as silent as a sculpture. I didn't want to seem rude, and I introduced myself, and got no response. I bought a book from the more communicative author. If you write books, you must be prepared to sell books--even one at a time. Self-publishing is not for the bashful or meek. If you’re not confident enough to talk about your book and yourself, you’ll have to hire someone else to do it for you. Even if you hire experts to toot your horn for you, you’ll miss potential sales if you are too shy to toot to or talk to strangers. 

(left-click to enlarge)

(above) With neither intention nor plan, I have already published or will soon publish seven books about self-publishing. The Expo would seem to be a perfect place for me to hawk my books. I did not try for three reasons: (1) I would have to find a way to do remote credit-card authorization which I might never have to do again. (2) I'd have to get involved with the sales tax sadists at the New York State Dep't of Revenue. (3) I had no idea how many books to bring. My books are printed on demand. I did not want to invest in inventory for the show, and then figure out how to deal with leftover stock. (MEMO to Diane and Karen: for next year,  consider a centralized bookstore with credit card processing and maybe sales tax reporting.)
  • Attendees had to choose among multiple seminars held at the same time. It would be good if video recordings could be available, either online or on DVD. They could be free to people who paid for admission to seminars, and sold to non-attendees. (MEMO to Diane and Karen: Free seminar highlights posted online could be a good promo for the following year's Expo.)
  • It was very smart for the hometown magazine New Yorker to be at the Expo, touting their cartoon licensing program. The magazine's witty and sophisticated cartoons would be great addition to many books, and I'm considering them for one of mine. Sadly, the New Yorker can't license the classic spooky Charles Addams cartoons, which led to the great Addams Family TV series, and the copycat Munsters.
  • Stock-photo suppliers such as Fotolia and iStockPhoto should have been there.
  • Although I walked around the Expo exhibit floor at least six times (just like at CES 40 years ago), apparently I missed at least one exhibitor. When I got home I found a promo sheet in my show goodie bag from, a company that does eBook coversion and sales. The web link goes to That site explains the smartibooks process, and also touts a book, How 'U' Can Compete with the Giants of Book Publishing by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow. I found the connection between authors and an e-formatting service to be confusing. Also, the service pays a maximum royalty of 35% and only to a PayPal account. Publishing via Amazon's Digital Text Platform  or B&N's PubIt! pays about twice as much, and puts money into your bank account.

(above) These smiling ladies are Jordan Barbeau (publicist) and Kaylee Davis (director of author care) at the newly invigorated Vantage Press. On the right side of the table is my newest book about self-publishing. Vantage did not publish it, but they like it so much they're giving away copies. Out of camera range to the left was David Carriere, Vantage publicity director. Sorry, Dave, I'd rather look at smiling women--and at my own book. Vantage was promoting a special offer that provided 20 extra copies of an author's books at no additional charge.
  • The Expo was a perfect venue for New York-area self-publishing companies to meet prospective customers and pitch S-P services. Recently revitalized Vantage Press and newbie OffTheBookShelf had steady streams of traffic. Other local companies such as Arbor Books and  Self Publishing, Inc. were nowhere to be seen. As with B&N, they could have exhibited without paying for plane fare or hotels.
  • Indiana-based Author Solutions, owner of former competitors iUniverse, Wordclay, Trafford and Xlibris (and the private-label service provider for some traditional publishers) was exhibiting. I pointed out to marketing director Joe Bayern that it is hard for a prospective customer who does not fit into a genre such as chick-lit or Christian, to decide which Author Solutions imprint (i.e., brand) is the appropriate choice. Joe explained that the company would be making an effort to better differentiate the imprints, and revealed that the company's best editors work on Xlibris titles.
  • It seemed strange that Lulu, Outskirts Press and some of the other big names in S-P were not at the show. I had some questions to ask, and so did other attendees.
  • Apparently there is still strong belief that self-publishing authors would rather not be self-publishing. Bowker Manuscript Submisisons is operated by the same company that provides ISBNs in the United States. It's an online manuscript submission service for authors who want to present their book proposals to "the leading publishers in the industry." If you choose to “opt-in,” your work can also be reviewed by self-publishing companies. 
  • The Writer magazine was exhibiting, but not Wrtiter's Digest. That was silly of WD. A lot of their editorial is directed to self-publishing authors, and a lot of their ad revenue comes from self-publishing companies.
  • It's important for exhibitors without strong brand recognition to have signage that explains what they do, or at least have a massive pile of attractive or tasty freebies to lure people in. The Amazon Encore display area was deserted each time I walked by. There was a sign that said "Amazon Encore," but no indication of what Encore does. I seemed to be one of very few Expo visitors who cared enough to ask. Encore is a publisher. It uses information such as readers' reviews on to identify "exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats."
  • The Expo seemed to be the physical (i.e., non-cyber) debut of, a company touting "personal publishing." As with most self-publishing companies, this company's pBooks are printed by Lightning Source, but eBooks and audiobooks are also available. Authors can choose how much of the book preparation they do themselves, and which services they need help with. The company is based on Long Island, and founder/boss Scott Weisenthal said he gets personally involved with most of the books he publishes. The website says, "We’re writers and about a year ago, we decided to develop to empower writers like never before. It is a free community where authors (published and unpublished) can set up their own bookstore, market themselves, sell books at the price they want, connect with like-minded writers, create their own cover art, and convert their books to epub for free. The site is not a vanity press, and we are constantly developing new tools for writers and readers in this evolving digital world." I was sorry to see that the site's bookstore section is offering the miserable Principles of Self-Publishing, which was featured in BAD BOOK WEEK.
  • The authors I spoke to were all optimistic about their publishing futures--even poets with almost zero chance of commercial success. 
  • Some authors were confused about the meaning of Print-On-Demand and some were dubious about its quality. I showed a copy of one of my books to a doubter, He said I'd "never be able to get that kind of print quality with POD." It is a POD book.
  • Some exhibitors were ignorant, too. Someone behind the table at a new self-publishing service tried to convince me that using them would be better than selling through Amazon because Amazon keeps 55% of the book's selling price. Amazon is perfectly happy to work on 20%. This guy said he'd always given Amazon 55%. He left a LOT of money on the table.
  • Although most self-publishing authors seem to be using POD now, there were several offset printing companies at the Expo--and they do more than print books. Self-pubbers have a large and growing variety of paths to reach their readers, and that's good. Thomson-Shore is an intriguing company, providing editing and design as well as printing books, and even promotional posters, postcards and bookmarks. Bookmasters Group also offers design, editing, eBook creation and distribution. Book1One prints in a wide range of formats, but so far does not edit or do eBooks. It's probably just a matter of time. The company touts its quality and flexibility. They'll print one book for you, if that's all you need--even one hard cover--and will even bind books printed elsewhere. Book1One has a blog, strangely featuring the writings of Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow, who are also involved with Smartibooks.
  • A lot of education is needed in self-publishing, which is good news for the Expo, and for people like me who want to sell books about self-publishing. I expect that the show will be successful for years to come as self-publishing becomes more and more important, and more and more acceptable. There are probably six or more cities in the country where the show could be held, if Diane and  Karen want to hit the road.
  • Although I skipped the first Expo, I'm glad I attended the second. I'm looking forward to the next one--especially if Barnes & Noble can be persuaded to supply knishes, or eggreams and pretzels, or pizza, dim sum, cuchifritos, gyros and other traditional New York foods.