Friday, August 12, 2011

Some of the worst publishing advice, ever

Theresa M. Moore’s Principles of Self-Publishing: How to Publish and Market A Book or Ebook On a Shoestring Budget is one of an increasing number of books about self-publishing written by people who are poorly equipped to teach the subject.

Her problems are that she is extremely careless, knows less than she thinks she knows, has an unjustifiably high opinion of her own editing ability and frequently ignores her own advice.

Theresa has apparently had some success writing books in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. She says that she has 30 years of experience as a writer, illustrator and publisher. She’s a member of the Count Dracula Society and has an AA degree with a major in accounting and a minor in advertising design. Sadly, her experience with vampire fangs, debits and paste-ups does not qualify her to instruct others in book publishing.

• Our ignorant expert says that the county where your business is located “will require you to post the registration [of your business] on your own in your local newspaper.” That’s not true in the counties where I've started businesses.

• In her inappropriate role of legal advisor, Theresa advises us that the abbreviation for Limited Partnership is “Ltd.” Actually, the correct abbreviation is “LP.” “Ltd.” is the abbreviation for “Limited”—the U.K. equivalent of an American corporation where shareholders have limited liability.

• She says that self-publishers “must obtain a tax permit or resale certificate.” If you are not actually selling books, you don’t need to get involved with sales tax. If you ship books only out of your home state to a state where you have no physical presence (“nexus”), you don’t need to collect or remit sales tax, although this policy may change in the future.

• The math non-whiz tells us that “As the price of your book goes up, the demand for it will go down.” That’s OK, in theory. And then she adds, “Your costs will go up as the demand for it goes up.” HUH? With print on demand, the cost of printing each book may go down a bit if you order 50 or more at once, but does not go up. With offset printing, quantity discounts can be substantial.

• Theresa says that a back cover’s margins “are the mirror image of the front.” There is no reason for them to be mirror images of each other, as long as they meet the printer’s requirements.

• She also says that the back cover can be “completely blank.” That’s true if you are going to give books away or sell them yourself. If you want booksellers to sell them for you, the back cover needs an ISBN and bar code.

• Theresa tells us that Lightning Source “will insert a generic barcode to your cover if you do not have one, but prefers you already have one.” That’s not true. Lightning is perfectly happy to provide a cover template with a custom barcode to correspond to your ISBN, and it’s FREE. A generic barcode would be useless. A book’s barcode must correspond to its ISBN.

• The non-expert tells us that type size is “presented in points per inch.” That’s wrong. Type size is expressed in points, but not per inch. Maybe she was thinking of dots per inch. In modern typography, one point is 1/72nd of an inch, so there are 72 points per inch. If Theresa was right, we could not have 80-pt type. Someone with 30 years’ experience in publishing and advertising should know this.

• In a discussion of page margins, Theresa suggests “usually 1/2 or .5 inch all around.” Grade school was long ago, but I am pretty sure that 1/2 inch and .5 inch are THE SAME . . . and that either one is too small for a book margin. The basic rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold the book in your hands without your thumbs covering any text. Adult human thumbs are usually wider than half an inch.

• Theresa offers this silly rule: “Never use a TIF file when a JPG will do.” That’s bad advice. Each time a JPG file is saved, it loses some detail. A TIF file is “lossless.” She says that most publishers prefer JPGs. Don’t believe her. Besides, her book is written for self-publishers who will be dealing with printers—not with other publishers.

• She says that the number of pages in a book must be even or divisible by four. If a number is divisible by four, it is an even number. Actually, the proper number depends on the printing equipment, varies from company to company and may change over time.

• According to Theresa, the title page should be the first page in a book. In many books, the first page—or pages—have comments (“blurbs”) from reviewers or casual readers. Many books use a “half title” (or “bastard title”) page ahead of the title page.

• Theresa is concerned about the cost of paper. She tells us, “As the price of printing goes up due to market and paper supply issues, the greatest amount of information must fit the smallest space.” Actually, POD prices have been stable for at least three years, and Theresa’s effort to save paper results in really ugly pages. This is the only book I’ve ever seen that has chapters ending and beginning on the same page. The back of the book has five blank pages. If Theresa did some simple arithmetic, those pages could have carried information and/or allowed more attractive pages, adding just a few cents to the cost of printing the book.

• In one of Theresa’s worst errors, she says that Lightning Source “is a full service publisher.” Lightning is not a publisher of any kind. It is a printing house that works for publishers. It does NOT provide services such as editing and page formatting, which a self-publishing company provides. Anyone who is advising publishers should know the difference between a printer and a publisher.

• Theresa wants us to know that Lightning Source charges an “exhorbitant shipping fee” for a proof. Both her spelling and her assessment are wrong. Actually $30 is not bad for printing the proof and providing next-day shipping.

• In discussing Lulu, Theresa says, “. . . you will have to purchase their free distribution package.” How does someone purchase something that’s free?

• She tells us that “CreateSpace also does absolutely nothing to help you promote your book, to Amazon or anywhere else. They have a shopping cart and that is all, and they are the publisher of record on Amazon.” This is all wrong. If you publish through CreateSpace, your book is automatically available on Amazon, with “look inside the book” included. CreateSpace (“CS”) is not the publisher of record unless you want it to be. CS is perfectly willing to print a publisher’s name, logo and ISBN on books.

• Theresa faults CreateSpace for not accepting PayPal payments and lauds Lulu for accepting PayPal. It’s hard to believe that anyone without at least one credit card would go into the publishing business.

• Here’s some of the absolute worst publishing advice I’ve encountered anywhere: “Concentrate on selling your books from your own web site and you will do better than if you rely on others for your sales.” That’s irresponsible and untrue. Booksellers’ websites like get thousands of times the traffic of any self-pubber’s website, and it’s silly for an author to get involved with running a warehouse and shipping department and handling credit cards. I bought Theresa’s book from Amazon, not from Theresa’s site.

• Theresa wrote, “. . . write to engage the reader’s interest and entertainment.” How does a writer engage a reader’s entertainment?

• She advises authors to “. . . go over the whole thing and weed out the mistakes.” In the very next sentence she typed “everytime” instead of “every time.” “Everytime” is a song sung by Britney Spears, but is not standard English. Maybe Theresa was thinking of “everyone,” which is one word.

• Theresa wants self-publishers to sell books, but warns against having phone numbers on sales sites. That’s stupid. Lots of shoppers need information or prefer to order by phone. She warns that telemarketers may call in the middle of the night. If you work from home, you should have different phone numbers for business and personal use. There is no need to have the business line ring after hours—and certainly no need to answer late-night calls. That’s what voicemail is for.

She thinks that PDF stands for “portable document file.” The real meaning is portable document FORMAT. It’s possible to have a PDF file, but not a PD file file.

• In addition to being wrong about “PDF,” Theresa is also wrong about “LCCN.” It stands for Library of Congress Control Number—not Certification Number. She says there is a “small fee” for an LCCN. There is no fee. She says you need to send at least two copies of your book to get an LCCN. One copy is enough.

• She talks about preparing a query letter and submitting a manuscript to a publisher. Those topics don’t belong in a book for self-publishers.

• Theresa cautions authors not to blog “too much” because it takes time away from book writing. Actually, blogging can promote book sales, and material written for a blog can be used for books.

• The ignorant author tells us, “Some online booksellers, like Amazon, take 60 to 65% [of the cover price]. I kid you not.” Theresa may not be kidding, but she’s way off base. Amazon is willing to collect 20%—or even just 10% when it discounts a book.

• Theresa is very wrong when she tells us, “In the book world, you must always round UP to the nearest dollar less five cents or a penny, so your book’s list price can be $17.95 or $17.99.” While most cover prices end in 95 cents, that’s a custom—not a requirement.

• Theresa says, “The suggested retail or list price . . . is the maximum a seller may charge for the book new.” Actually, many booksellers offer books for substantially more than the cover prices.

• She also tells us that “The list price is often set as the perceived value of the book on the marketplace.” It’s up to a buyer—not the publisher or bookseller—to perceive a value. Theresa perceives the value of her book to be $15.95. I paid $15.95, but, after reading it, I perceived the value to be about two bucks.

• Theresa is a big believer in promotional videos, but they’re useless unless you can find a way to make people watch them. Her own video is awful, and I don’t mean awe-inspiring.

• The book includes instructions for making a rudimentary “slide show” video for YouTube. She says, “If you are a complete novice at this here is where I can help you make a simple video that will do more to help you market your book than anything else you might do. The press release is effective but the video has more reach. You can make it as exciting and attention grabbing as the best movie trailer on the planet. The better you make it, the more people who will be inclined to watch it . . . .”  Theresa’s video is as ugly as her book is. It is NOT exciting. It is NOT attention-grabbing. It is NOT entertaining or informative. It is simply an uninteresting and unattractive commercial for an uninteresting and unattractive book, and it is extremely unlikely to go viral.

OK, it’s time for a compliment: Theresa provides some good instruction for writing fiction.

Another compliment: Theresa provides some wise advice: “. . . pay close attention to every part of the publishing process, including the preparation and presentation of the manuscript.”

Theresa knows a lot—but not nearly enough to teach about publishing. Even sadder, she does not follow the little bit of valid advice she provides for others. That is inexcusable. Stay away from this dreadful book—except to learn what not to do.



  1. Thanks for the warning.

  2. Really nice information you have shared with us.
    We are leading information provider in the areas of tax, accounting, business law and human resources.

    Thank you

  3. Unfortunaley you 'legal advice about sales tx and permits is not accurate in your home state of Connecticut....
    "• She says that self-publishers “must obtain a tax permit or resale certificate.” If you are not actually selling books, you don’t need to get involved with sales tax. If you ship books only out of your home state to a state where you have no physical presence (“nexus”), you don’t need to collect or remit sales tax, although this policy may change in the future."

    In Connecticut if you sell books, even if every one is shipped out of state, you still must get a sales tax permit, pay the fee and file the Sales and Use Tax return with the Department of Revenue Services.
    You will show that you had total sales of $X.00 and a deduction (itemized on the reverse side of the form) of $X.00 for out of state sales.

  4. Dear Anonymous (MDM?):

    I said, "If you ship books only out of your home state to a state where you have no physical presence (“nexus”), you don’t need to collect or remit sales tax . . . ."

    I did not say that no forms have to be filed.