Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I could not hate Your Online Publicist more if it distributed poisonous candy on Halloween

In the past few months I've gotten many phone calls from Your Online Publicist, as often to my private personal unlisted phone number as to the number of my publishing company.

The callers are women with heavy accents, struggling to read scripts.

They tell me that their editorial staff is impressed with my writing style, and other bullshit that does not impress me. They are trying to get me to use the company's services to promote an ancient, obsolete book (published in 2010 and that I am no longer interested in selling), at book fairs outside the United States.

I explained this in each call and told the women that I have other, recent, books. But, instead of further engagement that a competent salesperson should provide, I got hung up on.

This happened with "Monica," "Nancy" and other women with apparently fake names. Their script and inadequate training do not prepare them to deal with an author of multiple books. They might've generated income for themselves and their company—but they failed.

The calls persist despite my many requests to the women to remove me from their list, and an email sent to the company on 9/16 (which was not replied to).

I don't know how Your Online Publicist stays in business. From what I've observed, it deserves to go out of business! 
  • Its Facebook page, website and blog are out-of-date.
  • Its website has horrid writing, apparently produced by someone who is not a native English speaker.
  • Uppercasing is illogical, almost random.
  • Centered text is amateurish and hard to read.
  • Incompetence is abundant—including such bloopers as "Grabe your copies Now!" A publisher should never display such mistakes.
  • On Facebook, the company indicates that it loves one of its own posts! Apparently nobody else does.

The company promises "Revolutionary Online Publishing." That claim is repeated, unexplained and a lie. There is nothing revolutionary about the company. It offers the same overpriced incompetence as its competitors.

Authors' websites are sloppy and clogged with extraneous information.
  • Will anyone buy a book because they know the names and occupations of Gene Boffa's children, or what his grandchildren do in the summer? Of course not!
  • Do we need to know the name of William Caudle's wife? Probably not.

Some pages for ordering books do not exist! That doesn't happen with Amazon.

The company's publishing and website prices are absurd. It's extremely unlikely that an author can make any money using this company! Its publishing packages include an allegedly "FREE eBook copy"—but the packages cost from $6,000 to $15,000!  "FREE" is very costly.

Publicity packages are priced at $5k, $9k and $14k per year. YIKES!

I wanted to view some sample press releases, but none are provided on the company's website. I found a few releases online (two are linked here and here), but they seem to have been written by someone who has a limited familiarity with the English language. 

In addition to the language problem, the releases, especially this one, were apparently written by someone with absolutely no knowledge of book publicity. A release should be written in a neutral, journalistic style to make it easy for editors and writers to use. But this one is gushing, like an amateur advertisement (with an unnecessary injection of religion). A Google test shows that the release has been ignored by all news media—certainly not the desired result for the expenditure of thousands of dollars! 

The company's website has links to authors' websites, but there are many missing pages and at least one scary ACCOUNT SUSPENDED notice. That's embarrassing for the author (if anyone sees it).

The company seems to be an incompetent predator like many vanity publishers, taking advantage of ignorant writers. I am not one, fortunately.

It even wants writers to have their own bookstores. That's ridiculous. No writer's store can possibly have the traffic of Amazon, B&N or even a local independent bookseller supporting multiple authors and subjects.

The company's name is confusing and ill-chosen. Your Online Publicist seems to be more of a publisher than a publicist. Was there a translation error? The name is also inconsistent. On Facebook it calls itself "Your Online Publicity." A publisher needs to have a copyeditor, for its own work as well as its authors. 

Your Online Publicist deserves to go out of business. Do not give it even one penny!

UPDATE (30 September 2020): This morning I got a call from a heavily accented woman who said her name is Meg. As usual she tried to get me to promote an ancient, obsolete book I had no interest in promoting. She said her people are "fascinated" by my writing style and I've been chosen by the company's "decision makers." 

She then tried to convince me of the dubious advantages of opening my own bookstore to compete with Amazon (with a link from my Facebook page!!!), and suggested that I use the company to distribute a press release to generate interest in a book.

I asked the price for distribution and I was connected to a "senior publicist" allegedly named Brian Larsen. I asked how he got my personal unlisted number. He initially lied that it was on a press release, and then said that it is in a data base of authors (extremely unlikely).

We chatted a bit more, he looked at my website, asked a few questions, and hung up on me.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Amazon KDP authors can save money and get books faster from Amazon than from KDP

When I began my publishing company, Silver Sands Books, in 2008 I used Lightning Source to print and distribute my books. I also tried Lulu.

For the last dozen books I've used Amazon's CreateSpace subsidiary (now called KDP) to print and distribute. It does good work, quickly, with no upfront cost and good tech support when needed. 

Every author needs copies of books, for error-checking, gift-giving, reviews and just keeping around.

Amazon sells my latest book for $14.95. With sales tax and free "Prime" delivery, my total price is $15.90.  

As the book's publisher, I earn a royalty of $5.96 per book, lowering my delivered cost to just $9.94 if I buy a book at "retail" from Amazon.

Naturally, I could order a book "wholesale" directly from KDP. My direct price per book is a very reasonable $3.01, but shipping and handling add $11.18 for one book, and sales tax is 90 cents, for a total of $15.09. That is significantly more than ordering from Amazon with a royalty.

As shown above, shipping can take up to five business days after printing, and cost as much as $18.97! 

However, the normal shipping time for orders from Amazon (not KDP) was 5-7 days in the late summer, but has recently gone back to normal speed. I ordered a book on Saturday, 9/26. It was printed and shipped the same day, and I should have it today, Monday 9/28—with FREE SHIPPING. 

Strangely, KDP does not seem to offer quantity discounts. Prices for one, 100 and 500 books are the same $3.01 each, but the shipping cost per copy goes down to just 82 cents each for 500 ($409.99 for 500). Total is $1,914.99. 

However, if you need large quantities (1,000 or more), you'd probably save money by using an offset printer, not a print-on-demand ("POD") printer like KDP. 

Shop around and examine samples.
  • BookBaby charges $2,551.04 for 500 180-page 6-by-9-inch books including shipping.
  • Steuben Press wants just $ 987.49 (plus shipping).
  • 48hr Books charges $2,231 plus $280.21 for shipping to me here in Connecticut.
  • Lightning Source's price is $1,983.90, delivered. 
  • Whitehall Printing Co. charges about $3,100 plus shipping.
  • The Book Patch wants $1,938.75 plus shipping.
    [I apologize for any errors above.]

One other thing, if you buy books from Amazon, you may raise your sales ranking, which may increase sales to 'real' customers who are impressed by your number.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Authors: to detect the most errors, check your book in multiple media


Last weekend I uploaded what I hoped would be the final version of my wonderful new book, Failure To Communicate. The title is from dialog in the highly acclaimed 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman. 

It's been on sale for about a month but I've been tweaking and adding and have held off on promoting the book until the ebook version was available. Yesterday I received a physical copy and I'll study it carefully. 

I've already made hundreds of corrections. Most of them were too tiny for mere mortals to notice or be bothered by—but I was compelled to find and fix them. Perfection is elusive and probably impossible, but I am honor-bound to strive.

Sadly, I find tons of errors in books published by major companies with huge budgets for editors. One of the sloppiest I've recently read is the highly enjoyable American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. Every chapter has words that run together. A ten-year-old with no degree in journalism could have found them and fixed them.
A while ago I attended a lecture by a very bright doctor. The "handout" he distributed had over a dozen blatant errors. He is apparently a skilled surgeon, who does better with a scalpel than with a keyboard. Anything you write with the hope of generating business deserves professional editing.

Back to my new book: I'm sure I'll find dozens of stupid errors to repair, and each repair can cause still more errors.

That's the way it was in Shakespeare's time in the 1600s, and that's the way it still is. Any time humans are involved in making something, there will be human errors. 

Even though I'm careful and experienced, I am far from perfect. I am often amazed at the errors that should have been obvious that eluded me through dozens of examination sessions. Sometimes I make changes simply because I've changed my mind and don't like something that seemed just fine a few months ago. Sometimes I'll take advantage of the delay to add things.

While you'll spot many errors in a book manuscript when it's displayed on a computer screen, you'll probably detect even more when it's printed on paper—like a real book.

Amazon KDP (formerly CreateSpace) and Lightning Source will provide PDF proofs on your PC screen for free, or printed proofs for about $20, delivered. If you are planning to have Amazon KDP print your books, you may as well let them provide proofs. HOWEVER, if you are willing to approve an imperfect book to be on sale temporarily, you can get books faster and for less money by ordering from Amazon! Your purchases may even help your book's sales ranking.

Years ago, after three brain-numbing read-throughs of a second-generation proof from Lulu, I figured I was ready to upload my PDF files to Lightning Source so I could start selling books.

I realized that it was destined to have as-yet-undiscovered errors, and I had a thought.

If I could get a printout on paper, I could give it one more read-through and make corrections over the weekend, and then upload the PDFs on Monday or Tuesday and still get a pretty proof from Lightning Source by the end of the week.

I was vaguely aware that some of the copy-and-ship franchised stores could print from a thumb drive. I did some checking online and was both surprised and thrilled to learn that UPS Stores (formerly Mailboxes Etc.) could accept files as online uploads, and that there was a UPS store just seven minutes from me.

I quickly established a UPS account online and uploaded the file. This was around noon, and I was informed that my print job would be ready by 4 p.m. The price was just $27.31, including three-hole punching and sales tax and file storage. At a little after 2 p.m. I received an email notifying me that the work was ready for me to pick up. $27.31 was more than the minimum $15.81 that I could have paid Lulu, but I received the "book" in hours—not ten days. It was less expensive—and faster—than the proof from Lightning.

Unlike a Lightning, Lulu or KDP proof, the UPS proof didn't include a coated and colorful bound-on book cover. However, I quickly discovered that the three-hole-punched format is MUCH BETTER for proofing.

When put into a binder, the pages stay flat for reading and marking. And since my pages are formatted for 6 x 9 but UPS used 8.5 x 11-inch paper, there was plenty of extra space for my proofreader's marks and even for copy revisions. I really liked being able to insert tabbed dividers, and quickly started to use the pocket in the front cover to hold my red Sarasa editing pen, Post-Its, bookmarks and a small pad.

I had to go out of town the next day and knew I'd spend some time in my car waiting for my wife to shop. I took the binder with my proof, propped it up on the steering wheel, and got to work. It would have been much more difficult to do this with a normal bound book.

By page 173 I found at least 200 things to fix which I had not noticed on my monitor or in the Lulu proofs. 

It's very important to check your books in multiple media: on-screen as a word-processing file, on-screen as a PDF, as a PDF printed on plain paper, and as a bound volume. Each medium will reveal different errors. Even if you plan to publish only ebooks, paper proofs will help you get a bit closer to perfection. 

No matter how many time you check your manuscript, there WILL be errors in your final pbook or ebook.
  • One problem that's almost invisible on PC monitors but can be seen in a printed book are sentences or paragraphs that are gray instead of black. Look closely.
  • And watch out for straight apostrophes and quote marks that really should be curly. This is a common problem when you copy and paste from text that was intended for Web use, where curlies are seldom used. The difference may be hard to spot on a PC screen, so ZOOOOOM up to 120 - 200% of normal size to make the errors stand out.
  • It's easy to accidentally copy-and-paste wrong typefaces from the web or other documents. Look very closely.
  • Also watch out for unintentional hyphens that may move from the end of a line to the middle of a line. This generally won't happen with automatic hyphenating. But if you manually insert a hyphen, and then shift text around, possibly by changing the size or position of a graphic element, hyphens can wander around the page. Your word-processing software can search for improper hyphens. It's tedious work, but should be done.

Melania Trump advised kids to "be best." The language is awkward, but it's good advice for authors as well as children. (photo from conservativemedia.com)