There is a direct relationship between the number of sales you can expect from a book distributor and the value-added services they provide to publishers and readers. Publishers are best served to ally themselves with book distributors that do the most to earn their sales commissions and inspire customer loyalty. What do they offer in exchange for their cut?
Brick and mortar retailers generally demand 50% or higher commissions from publishers and therefore offer decreasing value. The idea that book retailers should make more money than writers and publishers do for wedging a tiny piece of merchandise spine-out on a shelf full of competing products is absurd, but the state of retail bookstores tells its own story. Publishers and readers have already switched en masse to online book distributors. Some physical retailers do sell eBooks, but it’s hard to justify going to a physical bookstore to buy one when you can sample books, read reviews and purchase them online. Selling eBooks at a bookstore is like selling DVDs of a stage performance at the box office. Continue reading →
I recently responded to an article on Publishing Perspectives by Andrew Pantoja that innocently advises self-publishers about sources for cheap book covers. It is technically easy to create your own cover; therein lies the problem. It’s also easy to sew your own parachute. I have seen successful covers made by amateurs but I’ve seen plenty of authors proudly displaying horrible design abortions.
Why hire a pianist for a wedding when you can get a digital piano cheaper? This same flawed logic is often embraced by do-it-yourself cover designers. It substitutes obtaining a tool for solving a problem. It’s even more embarrassing when the purchaser of the piano can’t hear the difference; a guaranteed room-clearer.
Graphic Design is not about making something “pretty” or even finding something you personally “like.” Design is a craft practiced by professionals who not only understand how to use their tools, but how to choose and mix typefaces, combine colors, achieve tension and balance, and avoid cliches. Graphic design uses text and images to solve a problem or achieve a goal. As with dentistry, there’s much to be said for working with a professional. Continue reading →
Comment: I see self-publishing as vanity publishing. There’s a reason there’s a traditional route; it really does sift out the crap. I may not be a published author, but I’ll be damned before I chuck in the towel to push out my writing through self publishing. I did not spend years honing my craft, get myself into all sorts of tight corners just to get my stories, and lose all those late night hours redrafting just so my work can get lost in the crowd.
My Response: I’m a proud self-publisher. Self-publishing is, by definition, not vanity publishing. I own all my own rights and my own ISBN numbers. My press is a legal entity. I also got myself into all sorts of scrapes to get my stories and I spend hours honing my craft every day, seven days a week. It’s 5:30AM as I finish this. I challenge any traditional press to exceed the quality of the work I produce.
Traditional presses do indeed filter out some crap, but to assume everything not vetted by a Big Six publisher is crap is the literary equivalent of racial prejudice. Major marketing vehicles like the New York Times Book Review serve only the upper crust of the publishing world, defining by exclusion who “the crowd” is. Continue reading →
It’s the latest big deal in publishing: Big publishers are being sued; accused of using the ‘agency model,’ to keep prices of eBooks artificially high. Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, is complying but only offering agency terms to the Big Six publishers. But in spite of all the brouhaha, independent publishers don’t need to worry themselves about it.
Certainly, Amazon has well-founded concerns that if they don’t meet the terms of their largest suppliers, they could lose the right to distribute their eBooks. Not only would that be costly, it would dilute Amazon’s strategy for the Kindle; namely having the world’s largest selection of popular, desirable eBooks.
But small publishers—especially self-publishers—operate under an entirely different set of business conditions. While the judicial system referees the conduct of the publishing industry’s big players, other market pressures are more deserving of indie publishers’ attention. Continue reading →
Editing is one of the first hurdles you’ll encounter as an independent writer. Your fan club is your enemy. Encouraging friends who think it’s “wonderful you actually wrote a book” are not unbiased editors. A good editor will put your work under a microscope, analyze it to death and probably make you feel at times like any talent you think you have is imaginary. Good editors do encourage and offer praise for what works, but they’re relentless at tearing your writing apart and making you put it back together the right way. Editing is a grueling, time-consuming process and it’s a task that must be entrusted to someone who will give you “tough love.” We’re all too close to our own work to see the flaws and missing pieces, especially when the writing is fresh.
Poor editing is the number one complaint heard from critics of the independent publishing industry. Though the standards of mainstream publishing houses are overrated, I’ve read many indy books where spotty spelling and lack of polished prose present barriers to enjoyable reading. Moreover, our own well-crafted books get lumped into the “indy” category with this trash. Unedited authors sully the publishing waters for the rest of us.
I have discussed the idea of editing with other writers and heard the reply, “I don’t need an editor; I’m an excellent speller.” An editor is not a proofreader. Though the best of us require proofreaders, a story editor is someone who can comment on the work objectively. Is the story believable? Are there unexpected temporal jumps or unexplained threads in the narrative? Are the article’s assertions properly supported? As with affairs of the heart, it’s easy to understand the problems of others and difficult to acknowledge what we’re too close to see—and if you think writing isn’t an affair of the heart, you haven’t started your book yet. Get that third-party perspective. Continue reading →
Certainly, thesis writing is one of the purest forms of self-publishing which is why I’ve included this post here. In my work as a professor, I regularly encounter students who get “stuck” while writing their thesis papers. A good framework for developing, presenting and supporting a well-developed thesis reveals what to write, how to organize it and how to get it finished without a struggle.
First, it’s important to understand what a thesis is; many students don’t (and many institutions have difficulty explaining it). Two relevant definitions (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) are:
1 : a position or proposition that a person (as a candidate for scholastic honors) advances and offers to maintain by argument : a proposition to be proved…
2:a dissertation embodying results of original research and especially substantiating a specific view; especially: one written by a candidate for an academic degree
In the wake of Borders’ bankruptcy, I’ve read various theories about what led to the bookseller’s demise. Monday morning quarterbacking inevitably follows someone else’s failure; it’s easy to stand at the curb and analyze the tire tracks, but Borders’ crash had little to do with pilot error. In the span of a few years, books changed, publishing changed, printing changed and bookselling changed. Their time had simply come. Continue reading →
As a book designer, I’ve been disappointed with eBooks. The design of a book once involved careful selection of typefaces, margins, leading (line spacing) and other other fine details until the eBook powers-that-be declared that a book is simply a container for text. Don’t get me wrong; eBooks have some wonderful advantages, and they’re far from illegible, but the HTML-based ePub format used for most of them (Kindle uses a proprietary wrapper for a virtually identical set of HTML files and graphics) is the equivalent of where the world wide web was in the late 1990s.
Enter Adobe InDesign CS5.5 with good responses to several of my eBook objections. Continue reading →
When designing the cover for my own novel, Waves, I tried a number of approaches before settling on a design that worked for me. This article details my process.
Before I even finished writing, I played around with an idea, initially planning to release a 5×8 inch paperback.
Original Draft Cover Design
I liked the juxtaposition of themes from the story; physical waves, waves of life, the waves in the girl’s hair, but it’s too busy. It’s also a bit drab; too balanced and static. I just never fell in love with it. Also, the contemporary approach to book cover design so often starts with a photo search. It often works, but it’s predictable. Maybe a good designer should go beyond finding photos that “go with the story?” At least some of the time? Continue reading →
I regularly hear people bashing self-published books as universally “crappy.” Many independent writers do publish books with amateurish covers and poorly edited text typeset with a word processor, but there are “crappy” books released by major publishers, and high quality books released by unknown, do-it-yourself writers. Generalizations don’t do much to help the overall standards of quality.
Yes, there are certainly plenty of crappy books out there—much like all the crappy home-made websites (and the majority of professionally-built ones). We also have crappy banks, crappy insurance companies, crappy politicians and crappy schools that make the self-publishing world look like a model of perfection, but there are two good sides to the state of self-publishing: we live in a world where the common person has unprecedented power to publish, and where there’s mediocrity, there’s the challenge to rise above it. Continue reading →