Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro has been named a Silver award winner in the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards!
April 10, 2015, I traveled to Austin, TX, to attend the awards ceremony, and it was a terrific experience. My friend, colleague, and contributor to Perfect Bound, Kathy Clayton, was my guest for the evening.
Our table of ten was filled with finalists and industry notables. Having chosen our table at random, we were thrilled to be seated with three other finalists. Also at the table were Sonia Marsh, who heads the popular Facebook group Gutsy Indie Publishers, and Brian Jud, executive director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS; formerly SPAN).
Two of the finalists at the table won Gold Awards. Rita Gardner won for her memoir, The Coconut Latitudes, and Shea Henderson won in the crafts and hobbies category for her book School of Sewing. We all joined the fun.
Perfect Bound took Silver in the reference category. Although it would have been nice to win the Gold, the book has done well. Over the past two days both the print edition and the ebook have landed on Amazon bestseller lists, and for several hours yesterday the print edition was on two bestseller lists concurrently.
It is constant conversation among writers as to whether these awards competitions are a good investment. Some can be quite expensive. The strategy at Hop On was to choose two awards where we valued the opinion of the awarding body and where we thought our book would fit — and possibly win. For us, it has been a terrific experience and a whole lot of fun. Besides being recognized by an industry-leading organization, we are also reaching more readers, and that is what the publishing adventure is all about!
Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.
How to Register
Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2015) is $35 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.
In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)
When to Register
You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly three months for the electronic application and nearly six months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.
The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.
Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.
What Not to Include
When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:
Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.
As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.
The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:
You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
The work isn’t finished.
Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.
For the next 12 days, you can get Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro for 99 cents! From now until January 2, e-books are just 99 cents through our website.
At that price you could buy a copy for everyone on your shopping list and keep another for yourself. But here’s a secret: You don’t have to do that. Perfect Bound is shareable!
Although many e-books are DRM protected, we at Hop On think that’s silly. You can share a print book, so why not an e-book? That’s why we chose not to protect Perfect Bound. So share and share alike! Now isn’t that the spirit of the holidays?
Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).
Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.
Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session
Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.
Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour
Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.
Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour
Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.
Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour
Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.
In the past, I have offered two related workshops, one that presents information on how to make your manuscript more marketable and another that teaches you how to take your manuscript through the publishing process. I gave these workshops often when I lived in St. Louis, and now that I am settled into life in Maryland, I am resurrecting them here!
The big bang we were hoping to make on September 1 was more like the sound of a pop gun, but we made up for it on the 2nd. The publication of two meaty articles (on the websites Live Write Thrive and Publishing Perspectives) garnered us some much-appreciated attention, and at 11:30 on Wednesday night, we discovered we had hit the Amazon bestseller list for Editing Reference!
Two other articles that were expected to publish by then had not yet surfaced, and it turned out there was some miscommunication. The Writer Beware article published Friday instead of Tuesday, and the excerpt on Jane Friedman’s blog pubbed the following Monday instead of Wednesday, but publish they did, and we again saw immediate returns. For those writers who have been following along, blog tours really are worth the effort.
Another highlight came Wednesday when veteran editor Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, who has much more experience than I, contacted me about the book. After reading the sample chapter available on the Hop On website, she bought the book and wrote an impromptu blog post recommending Perfect Bound as a continuing-ed book for editors. We were thrilled!
The launch parties at Kensington Row Bookshop in Kensington, Maryland, and Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, were great fun and also well worth the investment. On both nights we surpassed our modest sales goals and, more important, were able to celebrate with friends, colleagues, and newcomers alike. I was even able to meet my designer, Sue Hartman, for the first time. We had worked together off and on for 15 years and never met until now!
Those who attended can attest that my daughter stole the show. She was a trooper, staying up well past her bedtime to help her parents celebrate and enjoy the moment. I loved getting to share the night with her.
There is much more to come from Hop On Publishing. A webinar is scheduled for next week, another talk and signing on the 27th at Novel Books, and a trip to Rehoboth Beach for a workshop October 4. This week we are catching our breath and soaking in what we have achieved.
To everyone who attended the events, bought the book, listened to our stories, let us stay at their home, held the baby, chased the baby, or otherwise sent good vibes our way,
Excerpt from Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, by Katherine Pickett
For many writers, the design part of book publishing is mystifying. This excerpt from the chapter “Making It Look Good: Design and Layout” sheds some light on what to expect and what is expected of you when working with a designer.
What You Can Expect from Your Designer
Professional designers offer an expertise that most literary types don’t have: they know what it takes to make a book visually appealing. That includes a wide range of aspects, from choosing appropriate artwork (photo or illustration), colors, and fonts for your subject area or genre to knowing the best spacing to use on chapter- opening pages and where to place the page numbers and running heads. Further, your designer will be able to locate the correct artwork and, if you are self-publishing, may be able to help you secure licenses for using the art. For the traditionally published author, the publishing house most often takes care of licensing.
You can also expect your designer to understand good layout principles. That means knowing how to “twin” pages—that is, make sure that the tops and bottoms of facing pages align—and fix bad breaks. It also includes making adjustments to spacing, hyphenation, and justification to ensure that the last page of a chapter has enough lines of text (at least six lines is optimal; four is passable) and that there are no blank right-hand pages.
When it comes to choosing the design for your book, your designer will do his or her best to represent your ideas. It is helpful if you have specific ideas to share, rather than vague notions, but also be sure to listen to your designer if he or she is gently nudging you in a certain direction. The designer may have reasons for his or her ideas that you aren’t aware of, and, in my experience, if you don’t ask your designer’s opinion, you won’t get it. The designer will give you what you asked for, even if it isn’t his or her first choice.
If you are self-publishing, you will work directly with your designer to come up with design ideas that are appropriate for your book. Your designer will listen to your ideas and attempt to convey your vision for the book through the cover and interior designs. Although you may use a different interior designer and cover designer, or possibly a template interior and a custom cover design from your designer, you will achieve a more seamless look if the same person does both designs. Template interiors work best with all-text books such as novels, where it is unlikely that a lot of adjustments will need to be made. Self-publishing advocate Joel Friedlander sells templates for Microsoft Word through his website (www.thebookdesigner.com), while some designers offer templates at a savings compared to a custom design.
Those working with traditional publishing houses should recall that although they have input on the cover and interior designs for their books, they very rarely get final approval. That means you can give your opinion, but you are not likely to get everything you want.
What Your Designer Expects from You
As mentioned, authors who have signed with a traditional publishing house will have little direct contact with the designer. Therefore, designers do not have many expectations from these authors specifically. Nevertheless, for all authors, a good working relationship with a designer requires a collaborative mind-set.
Designers working with self-publishers expect their clients to have an opinion about what the design should be. If you have researched the competition ahead of time, you are in great shape, as you probably already have thoughts on what you like and what you don’t. Designers are the creative minds, however, and do best with a little freedom. That is to say, if you let them, good designers will take your ideas, add a few of their own, and bring you two or three design options that look great and fit your needs. If you have not formulated your thoughts on how your book should look—for example, you have not researched the competition and therefore do not know what the conventions are for your genre—your designer will have to come up with something all on his or her own. This may work out great, but it also may happen that although you did not know how to verbalize what you like, you did indeed have an opinion, and the designer has missed the mark. This will result in many back-and-forths that could have been eliminated if you had done some research beforehand. Conversely, if you know precisely what you want, down to the last detail, you leave your designer with no room to be creative. You may get exactly what you want, but you lose the advantage of having hired an expert, and what you want may not be what is best for the marketability of the book. Looking through other books to find the designs you like may take a bit of time, but it’s also a lot of fun. It means your idea for a book is getting closer to reality.
When it is time for layout, be organized. Your manuscript file should be clean and ready to go, and your artwork and captions should be numbered and organized. A “clean” manuscript is free of extra spaces between words or sentences, free of extra paragraph breaks, and free of extra tabs. The entire file is double-spaced and in one standard font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier New. All text is “normal”; there are no random style sheets applied via Microsoft Word. And any queries from the copyeditor have been removed, with all tracked changes accepted. If you supply your manuscript this way, the designer can focus on more important issues and you will receive your page proofs that much faster.
For the past year I have been writing a book about how to publish a book well. In Perfect Bound: How to Publish a High-Quality Book That Sells (formerly Manuscript to Book: How to Avoid the Potholes on the Road to Publication) I take the reader through the entire book publishing process, one step at a time, highlighting the common pitfalls that authors fall victim to at each stage and offering practical guidance on how to avoid them.
As I embark on this same path that the book describes, I invite you to share in the journey. At each phase of book production I will detail what is happening to the manuscript and where it is in its transformation into a book. If you, too, are hoping to publish a book, these updates will give you a glimpse of what you have to look forward to. As is one theme of Perfect Bound, knowing what to expect will save you time, money, and embarrassment throughout the book publishing endeavor.
As an aspiring author you have several options for how to get published. The two most popular are through a traditional publishing house and self-publishing.
Three other routes also offer viable ways to have your work published. You could partner with an organization or business, you could write on a work-for-hire basis, or you could use a publishing service, where you pay a company to shepherd your manuscript through the book production process.
Each of these paths comes with its own demands and requirements of the author. By assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, you can find the route to publication that fits you best. Take this 10-question quiz to get started.
Do you have a national marketing platform already in place?
Do you want your book to be published in less than a year?
Now review the questions to which you answered yes. These are the assets you bring with you to the publishing endeavor. Use them to help you narrow your options.
If you answered yes to questions 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10, self-publishing may be right for you. Self-publishing offers the most creative control, but it also has up-front costs, such as editing, design, and marketing.
If you answered yes to questions 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9, traditional publishing may be right for you. It can be difficult to break into traditional publishing without a targeted marketing hook and a strong platform, but you do avoid much of the up-front expense.
If you answered yes to questions 3 and 4, collaboration with a nonprofit or business may be right for you. Collaborations work well when you can find an organization that targets your ideal readers. Exposure is sometimes limited, but you gain credibility.
If you answered yes to questions 5, 6, and 8, work-for-hire may be right for you. Although you lose some creative control in this situation, you gain experience and can create a steady income. For many writers, this is their bread and butter.
If you answered yes to questions 1, 6, and 10, a publishing service may be right for you. With the right company, this route generally offers a no-fuss, no-muss solution, wherein you retain complete creative control but also foot the bill. Ensuring quality is the hitch here.*
There are many viable paths to publication. The key to your success is choosing the route that maximizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. With the results of this quiz in mind, explore your options until you find the one that’s best for you.
*I would be remiss if I did not mention that many of the publishing services now available have awful reputations for preying on uneducated authors. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Know what you are getting before signing with a company and avoid any that try to pressure you into a decision.
Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014
Because nonfiction books are often acquired before the manuscript is complete, sometimes it happens that the manuscript turned in to the publisher is not fit for publication.
Although it is rare, I have twice copyedited projects that were later canceled because the manuscript was submitted in such a state that it was deemed unacceptable.
In one case, the sentences simply did not make sense when put together in a paragraph. There’s no other way to describe it. I alerted the publisher of the problem, the managing editor reviewed the manuscript, and when it was determined that the book was not salvageable, it was canceled outright.
In another case, I was tasked with cutting 30,000 words—a quarter of the manuscript—in order to weed out the tangents and uncover the true narrative of the book. This author was then faced with an ultimatum: accept these changes or cut ties. The author chose the latter.
Under these circumstances, the publishing house has the right to recoup the first portion of the advance. The author has the right to find another publisher. Both are examples of times when working with an agent may save an author considerable heartache and legal trouble. From an editor’s perspective, working with a critique group and employing some heavy self-editing may also have been in order.
If you are seeking a traditional publisher, be sure you know exactly what is expected of you before you sign. Open lines of communication with the acquisitions editor regarding how you are shaping your manuscript will also help head off problems. Enlisting the help of beta readers will further aid you in crafting a manuscript that is ready for production.
Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014.