IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Award Winner!

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.

Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony
Katherine Pickett and Kathy Clayton at the IBPA awards ceremony

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.

Rita Gardner wins Gold
Rita Gardner wins Gold

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.

Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
Perfect Bound hit two bestseller lists April 14, 2015
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15
The ebook hit the bestseller list April 15, 2015

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!

 

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more insights and advice in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

Advertisements

Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do

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.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:  © 2015 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2015 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

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:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. 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.

 

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other retailers

Beta Readers Aren’t Editors; Editors Aren’t Beta Readers

If you have spent any time in the writing community over the past five to ten years, you’ve probably heard about beta readers. These are unpaid people who read your manuscript and give you feedback. The type, quality, and extent of feedback you receive depends on the readers you have enlisted to help you. Editors, of course, are professionally trained and educated to correct a wide range of problems in a manuscript to get it ready for publication. Although beta readers can greatly enhance the revision process, they do not replace editors. Similarly, an editor should not be thought of as a paid beta reader.

Beta Readers Are Not Beta BitsEditors

The feedback you get from your beta readers can be hugely helpful for identifying and resolving problems with plot, characterization, pacing, or a weak argument. These readers give you the opportunity to share your work and find out how it strikes the average reader. They do not usually make the corrections the way an editor will, but rather offer suggestions for you to implement. When you choose your readers, I recommend finding a range of people with differing skills and backgrounds so that you get a well-rounded view of your manuscript.

There are a number of sources for finding beta readers — critique groups, colleagues, writing partners, people you connect with via Goodreads or a Facebook group, among other places. Each will have something different to offer, and you will need to assess and evaluate their critiques individually to determine what feedback to accept and what to reject. These people are not professionals; they are simply giving you their opinions as to how you can improve your writing.

Some authors think that if they get enough beta readers, they can skip editing. This is generally not true. In the case of really good readers and a talented writer, the beta-reading stage can lessen or eliminate the need for a developmental editor. As mentioned, beta readers may uncover big-picture issues such as an inconsistent timeline, poor pacing, poor organization, or unrelateable characters, and the author may be able to address and resolve these problems on their own.

However, unless one of your readers is a professional editor who has done a complete line edit on your manuscript, you will still need a copyeditor at some point. If you find a publisher, the publisher may take care of the copyediting; if you self-publish, you will need to arrange the editing yourself. (For guidance on how to do this without getting taken, see my series of posts How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps.)

Employing beta readers in your writing journey is an excellent idea that can save you time and money. It is essential, however, that you know the limits of what such readers can do for your manuscript.

red penEditors Are Not Beta Readers

One major benefit beta readers do offer is a fresh set of eyes when a  writer feels she has taken the manuscript as far as she can on her own. Perhaps this is why some authors seem to think of their editor as a paid beta reader. Again, that is incorrect and may lead to problems.

In most cases, an editor should not be the first person you share your work with. You can go that route, but you can likely save yourself some money — potentially, a lot of money — if you get the outside, free opinion of beta readers first. Find out what average readers think and get the manuscript nailed down as much as possible on your own before investing in editing. Editing is expensive, and the more refinement you do on your own, the less you will have to pay someone else to do. (Read this article for more thoughts on this topic.)

Beyond that, working with an editor is different from working with beta readers. For instance, editors need a certain level of understanding about what it is you are trying to achieve with your book so that they can help you achieve it. Whereas you may want your beta readers to approach the manuscript with no preconceived notions, editing is more efficient — and better — when there aren’t a lot of surprises. So if your book has a twist at the end and you aren’t sure it’s working, you will get to the solution faster if you tell your editor what you suspect. It means revealing the twist, but that’s OK. If you aren’t sure it’s working, your editor can keep that in mind while she reads. If she agrees, she can then let you know why it isn’t working and how to improve it.

In addition, the corrections and suggested changes you receive from your editor deserve more weight than those of a traditional beta reader.  With both editors and beta readers, you as the author have to decide whether the changes further your vision for the book. However, professional editors have years of experience and training in their field, and if they see a problem, it’s likely other readers will too. If they have changed your grammar, punctuation, and syntax, it likely was incorrect. If they have suggested ways to strengthen your argument, you likely need to address that problem.

That does not mean you need to take every suggested change from your editor, but you should make an educated decision. If you don’t know why a change was made, ask for an explanation before overriding your editor. Assuming you have vetted your editor (see step 2 of How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps), you know you have chosen someone with the credentials to help you make your book the best it can be. Avoid negating that expertise by ignoring your editor’s feedback.

Beta readers aren’t editors. They don’t have the training, the experience, or the expertise. And editors aren’t beta readers. They want to get to the solution as fast as possible, and that means revealing aspects of the manuscript you may be hesitant to reveal to a general reader. Beta readers offer opinions; editors offer a professional’s perspective. Each of these roles has something to offer writers on their journey. For best results, do not confuse the two.

 

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

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).

Book coaches

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

Developmental editors

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

Copyeditors

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

Proofreaders

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.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Learn How to Make Your Book Commercially Competitive — Now Save 25%!

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!

Saturday, November 8, 2014, please join me at Kensington Row Bookshop for Crafting a Marketable Manuscript. This interactive workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and includes personalized guidance on how to make your manuscript more marketable.  Registration is required. Visit http://www.popediting.net/ServicesandWorkshops.html to reserve your seat.

This workshop is ideal for:

  • Writers who are interested in selling their books, either to publishers, to agents, or directly to readers
  • Writers who are in the early stages of writing (idea stage, first draft, manuscript development)

What you will learn:

  • How to catch the eye of publishers and readers
  • Why having a marketing plan upfront makes you more competitive
  • Practical advice on how to craft a marketing hook, define your audience, and research the competition

Why take a workshop from me? Read my bio here.

And these are the notes I received after presenting this workshop to the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild:

“Thank you! Loved it!”

“Excellent presentation! Thank you!”

“Thank you, Katherine, for your input and valuable knowledge on Crafting a More Marketable Manuscript! I enjoyed the class and will certainly use the marketing tools and resources from your handouts.”

Kensington Row Bookshop is located at 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895, between Silver Spring and Bethesda. $70.
Now just $50.

The Wrap-Up: Launching Perfect Bound

THANK YOU to everyone who made the launch of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro such a success!  Although not everything went according to plan, we had little to complain about.

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!

Speaking at Kensington Row Bookshop Sept 5, 2014
Speaking at Kensington Row Bookshop, Sept 5, 2014

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!

Speaking at Left Bank Books
Speaking at Left Bank Books, Sept 11, 2014

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,

THANK YOU!

Mompreneur: Writing and Publishing a Book with a Babe in Arms

In December 2012, when I was six months’ pregnant, I began writing a book. In a rare aligning of the stars, three of my scheduled editing projects were pushed back a month, and I found myself with some time on my hands. I had been kicking around the idea of writing a book to help new authors understand the book editing and publishing process so that they could avoid costly mistakes, and the opportunity to actually follow through on that had just presented itself.

The idea was that the book would benefit my clients and other writers while at the same time helping me to grow my established editing company. I had given some well-attended workshops on the same topic, and I knew that there were new and aspiring authors who needed this information. I set to work pouring all of my ideas onto paper. I knew the baby was coming soon enough, and I think being pregnant made me all the more determined. I completed my first draft in a little over three months; it took another 12 to finish my revisions.

After some exploration of my options, I concluded that self-publishing was the way to go for this niche project, and to increase the book’s chances of success, my husband and I decided to start a publishing company.  In March 2014, with our infant daughter at the babysitter’s, my husband and I drove to the offices of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation in Baltimore and officially formed Hop On Publishing LLC. This was a definite complication that we did not have to undertake, but given the glut of self-published books vying for attention, we wanted to let our readers and reviewers know that we were serious about making a high-quality book. Taking this extra step to demonstrate our professionalism was worth the additional work and expense.

Proud of my page proofs
Proud of my page proofs

Our first book, Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, releases September 1. The book has received great advance reviews, we have a number of promotional events lined up, and we are excited about all that is possible.

That’s the “preneur” part. The “mom” part wasn’t so easy.

Although I was able to get a first draft completed before the baby was born, revisions were squeezed in during nap time and after the little one went to bed. Middle-of-the-night feedings were brainstorming sessions for chapter titles and cover ideas. I relied heavily on my husband to keep the house running when I had a full day of work and a full night of rewrites. Adding writing to my busy editing schedule set my work-life balance off-kilter, and I struggled with how much time this project was keeping me away from my new baby.

But when I think about the story of how this book and this company came to fruition, I also think of how proud my little girl will be when she realizes what I have accomplished. She might be 25 years old before she understands what it takes to write and publish a book, not to mention the added challenges of doing so with an infant in the house, but that’s OK with me.

What may be most notable is that I almost certainly would not have embarked on this adventure if I had waited until my daughter was born. Rather, I feel I hit the sweet spot. I built up just enough momentum while I was pregnant to keep me writing through the baby’s first several months of life, and at not quite 18 months, she is much more self-sufficient now, allowing us to charge full-tilt into marketing mode.

As we consider the possibility of growing our family, my husband and I have joked about what my next book would be to go along with a new baby. Just the thought of it makes me sweat. Although I can’t say I would ever again write and publish a book with a newborn at home, I can say I wouldn’t have done it differently this time around.

IMG_2238

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

 

What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

In Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, I take authors through the complete publishing process. Each chapter includes a section on what you can expect and what is expected of you. The following excerpt is from the chapter “Cleaning Up Your Manuscript: Copyediting and Query Resolution.”

What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

Copyeditors tend to be practical, straightforward people, and that’s generally the approach they take to editing. Your CE will be reading the manuscript with the intent of cleaning up errors of punctuation, grammar, syntax, and word choice. That means cor­recting comma errors, fixing such problems as dangling or mis­placed modifiers, rewriting convoluted sentences, and replacing words that have been used incorrectly.

red penCEs also read for flow and style. Correcting flow means fix­ing or querying transition problems, rearranging paragraphs if needed, and adjusting sentences so that one thought flows natu­rally from the one before it. Style refers to either the house style, if the book is published through a press, or an agreed-on style for self-publishers. Quite often editing for style means selecting one of two equally valid options, and it ensures consistency through­out the manuscript. Most trade books follow The Chicago Manual of Style, although there are plenty of others to choose from. If you hire a copyeditor, be sure he or she is familiar with this style guide or the guide of your choice. Points of style to keep in mind include whether or not to spell out numbers between ten and one hundred, whether or not to use the serial comma (i.e., the comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items), and the spelling or capitalization of specific terms related to your field or, in the case of fiction, created universe. Traditional pub­lishers will have a stable of freelancers who are familiar with their house style. Self-publishers should plan to discuss which style to use with their copyed­itor before editing begins.

Finally, CEs read for sense and consisten­cy. Sense, of course, means that what you are trying to say is what you actually are saying with the words you have chosen and that your plot or argument—whatever it may be—stands up to reasonable evaluation. Consis­tency covers a range of problem areas, from consistent spelling and treatment of special terms to consistent characterization and time line in a novel.

All of these changes, from grammar and punctuation to sense and consistency, are key in getting your book ready for publica­tion. To find out whether editing, or a lack of it, affects sales, you need only to read reviews on Amazon to see that readers do notice and will deter others from buying books that contain these basic errors. In your quest for a high-quality book that sells, copyediting is essential.

Your copyeditor will also be on the lookout for passages that may require permission. Ideally you have already secured permis­sion for long excerpts or any quotes from poetry and music. Those who worked with a developmental editor have probably at least begun this long process. If not, you will be asked to start now or else rework the text to eliminate the material requiring permission.

Writers of fiction and creative nonfiction may find the copyedit­ing they receive to be much lighter than what a business, sports, or self-help author may experience. This is due to the creative nature of the work. These writers will still find plenty of changes to gram­mar and punctuation when clarity is at stake, but allowances are made for the author’s voice and the voice of the characters. Some authors are concerned that a copyeditor will change dialogue from pidgin to standard English, for example, or otherwise take out the flavor of a character’s way of speaking. Generally, these fears are unfounded. Good copyeditors understand the difference between what is intentionally incorrect and what is a mistake on the part of the author. And if it is not apparent, the CE will ask for clarifi­cation. For those who are self-publishing, a sample edit from your prospective copyeditor will allow you to determine whether he or she will change the voice of your characters.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettAs mentioned in the previous chapter, editing can be an emo­tional experience. Do your best not to take it personally when the CE changes your words. If you didn’t go through development, it’s possible that the CE has made significant changes: moving para­graphs, rewriting sentences, and adding transitions. If this gets your ire up, be sure to go through the manuscript a second time before returning it, so that you can temper your angry notes to the copyeditor. If you are working with a production editor, or PE, remember that the PE is not the person who made these changes and therefore should not be the target of your hurt feelings. All in all, publishing a book requires a thick skin; use yours now.

It bears noting that for traditionally published authors, the copyediting stage is often your last chance to make major changes to the manuscript. If you went through development already or per­formed the tasks outlined in the Potholes for Chapters 1–3, as well as the two at the end of this chapter, you should have a minimum of large changes to make. Even still, consider any global changes as well as the smaller points you want to fix when reviewing the copyedit­ing. As I told countless authors when I worked in-house, “Making changes later in the process is costly and time-consuming.” If you don’t make the changes now, they likely will not be made at all.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

“There’s Nothing Else Like It”: Why Researching Your Competition Is Essential to Publishing Success

When I ask potential clients about their projects, I often hear, “This is a completely new idea. There is nothing else like it.” This statement brings two thoughts to my mind:

  1. I bet there is something like it, you just haven’t identified it yet.
  2. If there really is nothing like it, why would that be?

Answering both of these points requires thorough knowledge of what your competitors are doing.

To Identify the Competition, You Have to Look for It

Before you determine that there are no other books on the market like yours, be sure you have done an extensive search for competing titles. There are many resources for this: Amazon.com, other online and physical bookstores, Books in Print (from R.R. Bowker), city and university libraries, and more.

Most people begin online. To help make your search as thorough as possible, generate a long list of keywords that relate to your book. You can start with the words in your working title (or titles) and move out from there. You may wish to use one of the many keyword generators now available online, such as Google’s Keyword Planner  or WordStream, to help you. Plug these keywords into Amazon.com, BN.com, Books in Print, and any other searchable book database and note the titles that come up. These are your potential competitors.

Although it may seem passé, actually going to the bookstore can also be a big help in your research. Many less popular books don’t show up in online searches, and what you do find online is dictated by the keywords you select. If you miss the right keyword, you could be missing important competitors. So go to the nearest bookstore, find the section of the store most likely to carry your book, and note those books that target your audience.

As you search, keep in mind that you want to find both direct competition and comparable books — those books that are similar in setup but covering a different topic. If you are writing a children’s nonfiction science book on tuberculosis, for example, your competition would be other books on tuberculosis aimed at kids. Your comparables would include children’s nonfiction science books on other illnesses.

Researching the competition can be tricky. Ideally you will find at least a few books like your idea (to show there is a market for it), but not so many that it becomes clear the market is glutted.*

Comparables in particular are great for determining the size and makeup of the market you are trying to reach. When someone says there is nothing else like their book, often it is because they have not reviewed the comparables.

Still Think There Is Nothing Else Like It?

If you have carried out a thorough search of all the books that might be competing with yours and you still can’t find anything that matches your vision, you may have a problem. Now you have to ask yourself, why hasn’t anyone else written a book like yours? Is there no market for it, or have you identified a niche to be filled?

Niche is great for self-publishing because you can reach a small segment of the population that traditional publishers don’t want to bother with. If you are hoping to be traditionally published, however, you may need to expand your idea or conform to the competition. To do that, you have to know what the competition has done.

Now why would a writer want to conform, you ask?

(c) Kara Harms
(c) Kara Harms

Although there is benefit in being one of a kind, it is also true that readers don’t like to be too surprised. Fresh ideas, a new approach, a revolutionary solution to an old problem — these are all well accepted by readers. But if you look carefully you will see that most often, these new approaches and fresh ideas are couched in the comfortable and the familiar. Readers need to be put at ease before they are willing to accept change.

This is as true for fiction as it is for nonfiction. Even if you take one of the most revolutionary novels around — One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, beloved writer of magical realism — you will discover the book is really just a family saga, told over several generations and including major and minor life events. It is the way it is told that is so extraordinary. If Garcia Marquez had challenged every convention, the book would have been so difficult to read he would have alienated his readers. Instead, he balanced the predictable with the unpredictable to create an astounding work of fiction.

Successful publication of a book requires you to know your competition. Before you go touting your book as something the likes of which no one has ever seen, be sure you have searched high and low for competitors as well as comparables. There is a lot to be learned from competing books — including how you can make your book conform to reader expectations while excelling far beyond what the competition is offering.

*Glutted. I just realized the root of glutted is the same as gluttony. I love etymology!

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Getting a Handle on the Art Budget for Your Book

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork — and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs — adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. Layout artists will charge more to account for the additional time. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced: the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality to be used in a book. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. Self-publishers may have to do it themselves.

What This Means to You

With a large art program, you have to stay organized
With a large art program, it can be difficult to stay organized.

Okay, so having photos and illustrations adds money to your project. What does that mean for you as the author? Well, a couple of things. If you are self-publishing it means having to factor the extra money into your budget. You will use your budget to find the balance between how much to charge for each book and how many books you will need to sell to recoup the investment. The added time must also be factored into the publication date. Copyediting, layout, and proofreading all take longer when a book has a large art program.

If you are seeking a traditional publisher, you need to be able to say why this artwork is needed and why the cost is justified. Some types of books simply require photos if they are going to be successful. For example, a cookbook with photos sells much better than one  without. Depending on the target audience, children’s books usually require artwork also. The publisher may want the author to provide and/or pay for said artwork. (Providing means either creating it yourself or hiring and paying a professional.) Again, your budget will need to be consulted and adjusted.

But never fear, you have options for saving money.

How to Save Money on Your Art Program

When planning the art program for your book, the first question you should ask yourself is, does your book require artwork? If the answer is yes, the follow-up question is how much artwork does it require? Not surprisingly, having a handful of photos will take less time and cost less money than a book with many pieces of art or many kinds of artwork. If you can achieve the same effect with less, then use less.

Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.
Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.

Another question to ask is, do the photos and illustrations need to be in color, or will black-and-white accomplish the same goals? Color photos require premium paper in order for them to reproduce properly. The cost per book for 4-color books is also quite high compared to a 1-color book (i.e., black-and-white). Is the value that color photos add to your book equal to or greater than the expense of including them? In some instances, if the photos aren’t in color they aren’t worth having at all. A thorough check of the competition can help you make this decision.

Finally, ask yourself, do the photos need to be placed throughout the book, or could they be gathered together and placed in the middle of the book? This alternative to a full art program, called a photo insert, is becoming more and more popular. A happy compromise on cost and readers’ expectations for photographs, a photo insert is the 8 or 16 pages of photographs you see dropped in the middle of a book. This feature is cheaper than having photos placed throughout the book because (1) you only have to pay for a few sheets of specialty paper and (2) layout does not have to accommodate the images, yet you still get to have your photos. Perhaps an insert is right for your book.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.