Tag Archives: self-publishing

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

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Lightning Source vs. CreateSpace: What I Would Do Differently

Updated February 28, 2015

Lightning Source Inc. (part of Ingram Content Group) and Create Space (part of Amazon) are the two most prominent options for print-on-demand in the United States. They are each enormous and come with their own pros and cons, making it difficult for self-publishers to choose between them.*

lightningsource vs.

CreateSpace-Logo

For my book, I went through Lightning Source because the print and binding quality are said to be better, you can set your discount rates, you are automatically listed with Ingram’s distribution (good if you want to be in bookstores), and further, I am not a fan of Amazon’s business practices.

But I was asked recently, if I were to choose a print-on-demand option for my book today, would I do anything different from just a year ago when Perfect Bound went to the printer. I had to answer yes, yes, I would.

Things did not go as smoothly at Lightning Source as I had expected given its reputation. It took three proofs before we were satisfied with the interior print quality. Perfect Bound includes some screens (i.e., shaded boxes), and the screens were uneven or blotchy. Apparently our proof was the last book off the press before they changed the ink (seriously). I was not impressed.

The cover printing, the binding, and the paper were all very good, however. Once the interior print quality issues were resolved, we were happy to continue with Lightning Source.

Over Christmas 2014, new information caused us to reconsider our choices. That’s when we learned that Amazon was taking longer and longer to get our books to customers. One customer reported having to wait three weeks! I had heard this might happen; because CreateSpace and Lightning Source are direct competitors, Amazon has incentive to make Lightning Source books difficult to get. To make matters worse, Amazon started saying our book was out of stock. We feared that might cost us sales. Who wants to take a chance on a book that’s out of stock?

After much discussion, we finally decided it was in our best interest to work with CreateSpace. I wasn’t thrilled with that because, if Lightning Source has print quality issues, what is CreateSpace going to do? Most people order from Amazon and therefore the books would be coming from CreateSpace. I didn’t want my readers getting crummy-looking books. But, I felt I was over a barrel, so I signed up with CreateSpace.

An example of the blotchy printing in our first proof from Lightning Source
An example of the blotchy printing in our first proof from Lightning Source

Turns out the print quality at CreateSpace was better than at Lightning Source, and we had nothing to worry about there. It is clear to someone who is really looking closely that the binding is not as good, and the color match on the cover isn’t exact, but only we would notice that. The paper is a little creamier than I would have wanted, but I prefer it to the stark white that is the other option from CreateSpace. Lightning Source’s paper is a very pleasant light cream; CreateSpace’s is a little darker but still OK. Also, CreateSpace charges less per book, by about 50 cents in our case. When you’re selling a high volume of books, that makes a difference.

Right now I plan to keep both accounts — one with Lightning Source and the other with CreateSpace — but I do wish I hadn’t waited so long to sign up with CreateSpace. I despise that Amazon controls so much and that the company leveraged its size and reach to coerce me into working with it. That is a huge drawback. But with the quality of printing I saw and the cheaper per unit price, I came to terms with it.

Depending on the type of book you are publishing, I would definitely consider using CreateSpace. Lightning Source still offers better binding, better paper, and ways to get into bookstores.  But with CreateSpace you can sign up for free and get a proof for about $4 (plus shipping). If you hate it, you can move on to Lightning Source or Ingram Spark. Or do as we did and sign up with both. (As an aside, if you do go with CreateSpace, consider getting a matte finish on your cover. I find the glossy from CreateSpace to be too shiny.)

So there you  have it. I never thought I would endorse CreateSpace, but it turns out there are benefits to this behemoth.

UPDATE: Wednesday, February 25, the Independent Book Publishers Association held a webinar with representatives from Lightning Source. One attendee asked about the “out of stock” message and how to correct it. The official response from LSI was to get an account with CreateSpace without signing up for expanded distribution. Why the reciprocation? It seems LSI does some printing for CreateSpace. See this article from Aaron Shepard for more.

* IngramSpark is another print-on-demand company from Ingram Content Group that caters to micro-publishers. Given its close relationship with Lightning Source, the drawbacks I mention here would likely be the same for IngramSpark.

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

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.

What You Can Expect from Your Designer, and What Your Designer Expects from You

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.

The design sample shows you how the interior of your book will look after layout.
The design sample shows you how the interior of your book will look after layout.

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 thoPerfectBound by Katherine Pickettughts 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.

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.