Monday, January 29, 2018

B&N's Nook Press gets new name & features

Barnes & Noble, Inc., the world’s largest terrestrial bookseller, announced the launch of Barnes & Noble Press, an enhanced and more user-friendly version of the company’s self-publishing platform that makes it easy to publish ebooks or print books from one integrated platform. The redesigned site replaces the formerly-named NOOK Press. "Nook" is the name of an e-reader format developed by B&N.
The new Barnes & Noble Press enhances the self-publishing experience in many ways, including increased royalty rates for ebooks priced at $10.00 and above, as well as additional trim size options for print books. Barnes & Noble Press also continues to give qualified authors the opportunity to apply for signings and events at Barnes & Noble bookstores, as well as giving select authors the opportunity to sell their books in stores.
“Barnes & Noble has helped authors of all kinds publish hundreds of thousands of titles on its self-publishing platform, giving them a chance to reach a national readership,” said Fred Argir, Chief Digital Officer at B&N. “Now, we’re thrilled to announce Barnes & Noble Press, which combines eBooks and print into one easy-to-use platform, as well as offering new features and tools for both the established author and the hobbyist.”
Barnes & Noble Press has several new features, including:
  • Improved user experience and new visual design
  • Sign in to a single website to create and manage print and ebooks all in one place
  • Increased royalty rate of 65% for ebooks priced $10.00+
  • Additional print book trim sizes, glossy cover and color printing options
  • 12 month pre-order capability for all authors for all ebooks
  • Author tools & tips
Barnes & Noble Press has received favorable early reviews from some of the platform’s bestselling self-published authors.
“I appreciate the simplicity of the Barnes & Noble Press formatting and uploading process,” said Marie Force, a New York Times bestselling author using Barnes & Noble Press. “The platform is great. It’s very clear, it’s easy to use, and I love publishing straight to NOOK readers so they can get my new book the minute it comes out.”
Current users of NOOK Press will be transferred automatically onto the new Barnes & Noble Press platform and their books will continue to be available for NOOK readers. Barnes & Noble Press says it remains committed to serving the self-publishing community by helping authors reach millions of readers, offering programs to help drive awareness and book sales, and providing high quality print-on-demand options so that anyone can create paperback or hardcover books for friends & family, business, fans, prospective readers and reviewers, and personal use.


Friday, January 26, 2018

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




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

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

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


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

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




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


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

The visual cues are confusing. 

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

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




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

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


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


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


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

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

Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Zac Bissonnette’s How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents and Erma Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank are great long titles.

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


                                                       -   -   -   -   -

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

- - - - -

Oxygen mask photo from www.iastate.edu.

Tarot cards from www.onlinepsychicfinder.com.  Thanks. 




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A book series should look like a series



"Trade dress" refers to characteristics of the appearance of a product or its packaging or advertising that indicate the source of the product to potential buyers. Trade dress may include shapes, typography and even colors. 

Most former British colonies use red, white and blue in their flags.Target likes red. But so do Coke, Staples and CVS. UPS like brown, as does Hershey--but Nestle uses non-chocolatey blue. 

When people see a big, bright yellow paperback with a diagonal black band and a title in "reverse,"-- they think DUMMIES. Even if a reader doesn't regard herself as dumb, if she was successfully educated by one "dummies" book, there's a good chance she'll consider another. Even when subjects and audience may be diverse, it can be good to make the same type of books look similar. 


  
[below] Books in the "Chicken Soup for the" series use the same ornate letter "C" that Campbell's uses on soup cans.​
 


[below] Scott Prussing hopes that folks who were turned on by one of his vampire sex books will try another. The cover design and titles clearly indicate that the books are closely related.






[above/below] I doubt that any other book series can duplicate the success of "dummies" with another color. However, I am doing my best with purple on my books about publishing. I removed the "beach" logo from the front cover of newer books but retained the "Create Better Books . . ." tag line.



[below] As my publishing plans evolved and it became apparent that I would be producing a series of ebooks, I decided to give them a consistent look, with a comic-book theme and purple band at the bottom. I redesigned the previous books to go with the newer ones. I kept the tag line, but took the logo off the front cover and use it on the title page.
 





[above/below] My recent books that are not about publishing don't relate to each other or to anything else. Maybe they should. With ebooks, I don't have to think about hundreds or thousands of books sitting in a warehouse that won't relate to my other books.









Monday, January 22, 2018

This market research trick is also a bookselling tip

If you know what you want to write about, the Internet will make it much easier to do market research than before the world was online.

With a little bit of typing, clicking and reading you can find out what potential readers are interested in—and where you can reach them when it's time to sell books.



Use search engines to find terms like I’ve listed below. Simply replace “golden retriever” with “super hero” or “Argentina” or "beer" or "horseback riding" or whatever you want to write about.

“golden retriever forum”
“golden retriever message board”
“golden retriever bulletin board”
“golden retriever club”
“golden retriever association”
“golden retriever community”
“golden retriever organization”
“golden retriever news”
“golden retriever newsgroup”

Search for the chosen topic on Facebook, too, and on Twitter.

When your book is nearly finished, return to the same places and mention to appropriately articulate participants that you are writing a book on the subject, and would like to send them a preview copy for their opinion. You can mention that you may want to quote them on the book cover.

After publication, go back again and answer some questions, and point out that your new book provides additional valuable information.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Bad news may be good news for your book sales


You've probably heard that "It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good." It's an ancient proverb that has come to mean that a wind that is bad for many people, can be good for others.
  • The same windstorm that drives a boat off its course and onto the rocks might also help a becalmed sailing ship to reach home swiftly and safely -- and can power the windmills on the land.
  • A wind that is no good for someone is unusual and ill indeed. 
  • Probably nothing is bad for everyone.
When I was in college in the 60s, I operated a slightly profitable business distributing anti-war pins. One said, "War is Good Business. Invest Your Son." Apparently 58,212 Americans were killed and 153,452 were wounded in the War in Vietnam -- plus about 2 million Vietnamese. Nevertheless, the war was good for arms makers, and for college kids who sold anti-war pins and bumper stickers.
 
When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011, The Associated Press said, "As macabre as it might seem, Jobs' death Wednesday will only add to the Apple mystique - and profit." The iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac likely got short-term sales boosts as consumers paid the ultimate tribute to Jobs. It's a commercial phenomenon that also occurred when Michael Jackson's album and song sales rocketed after he died in 2009.
Simon & Schuster moved up the publication date of its biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson from November 21 to October 24. Even before publication, the book was ranked #1 on Amazon's overall bestseller list and #1 on three other Amazon bestseller lists, because of pre-orders (including my order).


In my Independent Self-Publishing: The Complete Guide, I wrote, "Remember that the mere publication of your book is not usually sufficiently newsworthy to impress editors and writers. Only the most desperate small-town weekly would publish an article with the headline: 'Local Woman Writes Book.' Your news release needs a news hook. The hook is the main point of your release. It can be a theme, state­ment, trend or event on which you “hang” your news release.  If an important person just got married, promoted, fired, elected or killed, a book about that person should be newsworthy . . . ."

I certainly don't recommend that you murder someone you wrote about. But, if that person should die without your intervention, be prepared to take advantage of the promotional possibilities, like Simon & Schuster. Biographer Walter Isaacson was interviewed a great many times, and Simon & Schuster sold a great many books.

(top photo from "Gilligan's Island" TV show.)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Will your book be better if it's bigger? Probably not.

The bigger the book, the longer it takes to finish writing, editing and formatting it, the more it costs to produce and purchase, the more errors it will have, and maybe the fewer people who will buy it.


I almost never go to movies that are longer than two hours, because I know the movie will become a $14 nap. I am similarly reluctant to buy books with more than about 350 pages, because I doubt they will keep me interested.

In an online forum for authors, a newbie recently discussed his debut novel—which will have more than 800 pages.
  • It will be extremely difficult to persuade people to buy a huge and expensive book written by someone they've never heard of.
Maybe that book should become three books, or should be drastically cut. Almost any page can sacrifice a sentence or two without suffering. Most sentences can shed a word or two, and no reader will miss them. The maximum number of pages for a book is determined by printing and binding equipment (if the book is printed) and what people are willing to pay, carry and read.


One the other hand, the United Nations’  Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organ­iz­a­tion declared 49 pages to be the minimum length for a book. A publication with fewer pages can be a leaflet, pamphlet, booklet or brochure. Call it a book, and you risk offending nearly 200 nations.

Despite the UNESCO decree, no printed book has 49 pages. Pbooks have an even number of pages even if some pages don’t have numbers on them. An individual piece of paper in a book is called a leaf. Each leaf has two sides, called pages. A 100-page book contains 50 leaves. Or leafs.

Publishers don’t have to obey the United Nations. Outskirts Press can make “books” with as few as 18 pages, the minimum from Create­Space is 24 pages, and Lulu can do 32 pages. 

Most printers can produce books with as many as 800 to 1,000 pages, but books with more than 500 pages are unusual. With nonfiction, you need to have enough pages to cover your topic adequately. Don’t skimp, or pad.
  • The book should not be so big that it will be priced a lot higher than its competitors or seem like “too much to read.”
  • It should not be so short that it seems incomplete, or doesn’t offer value for its cost.

The form of a book affects the acceptability of its size. A printed book with 600 pages could be heavy to carry and difficult to lay flat (and expensive to print and ship). 

The cost of each additional page printed is insignificant. The cost of each e-page is zero. There is a prejudice against very thin books, so try for a minimum of about 120 pages. Thin books just don’t seem like real books.

Novels can be much longer than nonfiction. Tolstoy’s War and Peace is about 1,300 pages long, and some of Rowling’s Harry Potter books have over 700 pages.

A book’s page count is not final until it is ready to be printed. Many factors determine how many words fit on a page, including page size, type size, line spacing, margins, headers, number and size of illustrations, front and back matter, etc.

An 8.5-by-11-inch manuscript page holds about twice as many words as a common 6-by-9-inch book page. A 200-page manuscript can yield a 400-page book (with no graphics), and have about 100,000 words.


Most ebooks don’t have real pages. I know of one ebook with just nine “pages” and one with 1,594—unless the person reading makes an adjustment which changes the total.

With most ebooks, the readers can adjust typeface, type size and vertical/horizontal orientation. That changes the number of apparent pages. A hundred people could read a particular ebook, but they’re not necessarily reading the same book. 

Publishers Weekly analyzed data from Amazon.com and declared that the median average "word count" for books is 64,531 words, which translates to about 290 paper pages. While a mean average might be more useful than the median (half of the books have more words, half have fewer), the number from PW is still useful. It’s probably best for new writers not to stray too far from the average.

It’s normal for writers to love their words -- but readers may not share the love. Some writers who love their words recognize that there are just too many words. I voluntarily cut a book I wrote from 518 pages to 432 pages, and it’s better because of the cuts. It may have been even better at 396.