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September 05 2012

00:00

Aerbook Maker, Kwik Help E-Books Come Alive with Multimedia

In the two years since I wrote a "A Self-Publisher's Primer to Enhanced E-Books and Book Apps," the development of user-friendly tools for authors to build rich-media books has boomed. Aerbook Maker and Kwik are two easy-to-use tools for authors of graphically rich enhanced e-books and apps. Mimetic Books is developing a tool for photographers and artists. The founders demonstrated these Corona-backed tools at the last meeting of the Palo Alto, Calif., Corona SDK Meetup Group titled "Bringing Stories to Life - eBook Development with Corona SDK."

Before I go into more detail, it's worth noting that these are really today's only options for authors who are not programmers to easily create picture books and games. Aerbook Maker is a browser-based, drag-and-drop tool that works much like presentation applications like Keynote and PowerPoint. Kwik is a plugin that extends Photoshop CS5 to create pages of a book and even animations. Mimetic is at work on a plugin to Adobe InDesign.

AERBOOK MAKER

Ron Martinez

Aerbook Maker was founded by Ron Martinez, an inventor with a long resume including the impressive title of vice president, Intellectual Property Innovation for Yahoo. He was there to demonstrate Aerbook Maker, talk about an upcoming Corona partnership, and give a sneak peak of projects in the pipeline.

If you're writing an illustrated children's' book, a book of photography, art, or any other heavily graphic book, Aerbook Maker is for you. Martinez demonstrated how easy it is to drag and drop your files into a window in the web browser. You can drop in photos, audio, video, text boxes, scene animation, and interactivity, then rearrange them and apply styles, colors, and frames.

When you're done, export your content to all the major e-book formats -- to HTML5 for viewing on the web -- and soon you'll be able to print.

A built-in social media feature lets readers share any page of your book on Twitter, Facebook, and other networks. Like Kwik and many other tools for authors, Aerbook is evolving, and though books are not fully or officially supported until iOS 6, your book will probably already work on the iPad today.

The tool is cloud-based, so whether you're just one author, or partnering with a designer or an entire team, the project is scalable and centrally available.

Aerbook Maker's pricing structure is based on export credits at $29 each or $99 for five exports. This removes the Aerbook watermark and generates a final version to download directly to devices and place with e-book retailers. Their services include book and app distribution, and they will help you build your book for a reasonable fee.

KWIK PHOTOSHOP PLUGIN

Kwiksher Book Floating FunKwik is now in release 2.0, and founder Alex Souza showed off some impressive cross-platform e-books: "Fire Cupid" (featured in the Wall Street Journal, TIME, the Washington Times and others), Frederick "Spin" (which soared to the No. 2 e-book in the Dutch App Store), and "Sparky the Shark" (a beloved, award-winning children's tale).

Kwik's capabilities allow much more than creation of a simple color book. You can add audio, sound effects, buttons, timers, actions, drag and drop objects, linear animation, sprite sheets, movie clips, even path animation. Children's book authors will be interested in the ability to sync audio to text so that the words are highlighted during playback. If you have items for sale in the iTunes App Store or Google Play, you can insert in-app purchases. Output your book to a universal app or iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Nook Color or other Android device.

Kwik's creator, Alex Souza, holds a master's degree in Digital Design. In 1995, he was the first developer of a Shockwave game in his native Brazil, and in 2000 was a runner-up for the iBest Top 3 award, Brazil's most important Internet award. Later he worked for IBM and Microsoft, creating applications and marketing Microsoft Office, Expression and Silverlight.

"There are too many updates to 2.0 to list, but physics is a major thing in the new version," said Souza, "so the game-making capabilities have improved." Kwik 2 costs $249.99 for a new license and $149.99 for an upgrade but at launch. Look for it in late September and get introductory pricing at $199.99 and $99.99. The free trial version will allow you to export up to four project pages. For ideas on what can be done with Kwik, take a look at their showcase.

Mimetic Books

Golden Gate Bridge E-Book / AppPhotojournalist David Gross of Mimetic Books presented some of his recent e-books including App of the Week winner "A Wild Flight of the Imagination: The Story of the Golden Gate Bridge," a project he put together for its 75th anniversary. The free e-book weaves interactive photographs, artwork, letters, and newspaper clippings together with music, audio recordings and video.

Gross is a photographer who can code, and he invented his own way of importing his projects directly from Adobe InDesign (the tool that book designers use) and exporting the results to XML. Gross says that Mimetic Books plans to offer an InDesign plugin so that photographers and artists can create books to publish to the iPad and Nook. In the meantime, they do it for you. You choose from a number of designs, then send Mimetic the picture files. They can create a chapter from a properly captioned collection of photos in Lightroom or from captioned JPEG pictures. Or you can hire them to do full-service graphic design, photo-editing, copywriting, editing, animation, and custom programming.

Gross said that as well as using InDesign, "I am working on ways of using Google Apps, WordPress, and a custom browser-based editor to create books. As well, I am investigating whether Kwik can create plugins for books -- Kwik excels in making complex animations, so why should I?"

Regarding pricing, Gross said that "I was offering book apps starting at $850, but I found that clients did not have enough experience in graphic design to deliver 100% complete materials. The extra work I have to do to prepare clients' pictures, sound, and video, and the multiple changes clients make during the creation of the book, I have found a book project generally costs between $5,000 and $15,000. In addition, custom "interactive" pages also raise the price. But, I can produce a basic book app relatively cheaply using my system."

Mimetic plans to have some products ready to go near the end of October.

By now, you might be wondering, so what's an e-book and what's an app? Yes. The lines are blurring as content becomes portable among a variety of devices.

"Book apps are different from e-books," Gross explained. "E-books are data files which are displayed with readers. EPUB is one of the best-known data file formats designed for books of text (not fixed-format). A 'book app' is an app -- a stand-alone program -- that is a book. It's a weird idea, actually, a temporary effect of the state of publishing software and the market. In a rational world, it wouldn't exist, and I don't expect such things to exist in few years. Instead, we will have a few e-book file formats that the different devices can read and display."

Why the Corona SDK?

If you're geeky enough to know that SDK stands for Software Development Kit, you might be interested in the reasons these e-book and app platform developers chose the Corona SDK to power Aerbook Maker and Kwik export-to-app capabilities. They pointed me to David Rangel, COO of Corona Labs, to provide details, and here's what he told me.


"Corona integrates a number of advanced technologies such as OpenGL (widely adopted 2D and 3D graphics API), Box2D (a 2D physics engine for games), physics and more, to allow developers to create great mobile content," Rangel said. "If e-book platforms wanted to replicate these features on their own, it would take them loads of development time and expertise. By building to Corona SDK, they save a great deal of time and get to take advantage of our platform's offerings."



Adding to the previous point, Rangel said, "Corona allows developers to build apps for both iOS and Android, from a single code base. If e-book platforms want to support both of these operating systems, they would need to spend a lot of time and energy building in that support. As we add in more features and platform support for Corona SDK, Kwik and Aerbook Maker automatically reap the benefits."

Designers and illustrators are attracted to the SDK's core engine because of its popularity in the mobile space. Kwik and Aerbook Maker provide the added advantage of allowing e-book authors to create impressive content without the need for code.

Watch the YouTube Video

The folks at Corona Labs recorded the event.



Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Find her workshop schedule and buy the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors on SelfPubBootCamp.com.

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August 16 2012

09:23

February 28 2012

14:00

How Social Media, E-Books, Self-Publishing Change Writers Conferences

At first, you came to the San Francisco Writers Conference to learn the craft of writing, to hear famous writers describe how they became famous, to learn the secrets of how to create a winning book proposal, to become enlightened by publishers about what they want and, most of all, to pitch literary agents, those elusive creatures who seem always to be heading the other direction.

Today, it's a different story. Today's conference is about all the traditional basics, but also about topics from blogging and tweeting to e-books and self-publishing. I asked four longtime participants in the 2012 San Francisco Writers Conference earlier this month to describe how this and other writers conferences have morphed to include technical content relevant to today's writers.

You can listen to their takes below.

I started with San Francisco Writers Conference co-organizer Laurie McLean, who told me that the core teachings are still there, but two entirely new tracks have been added to handle tech topics relevant to writers today, and the previously unmentionable option, self-publishing.

Laurie McLean
lauriemclean.jpg

For more than 20 years Laurie ran a public relations agency in California's Silicon Valley. Then she became an agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents representing adult genre fiction and children's middle grade and young adult books. As Agent Savant, she works with authors to create their author brand, then develop a digital marketing plan to help them promote that brand online via social media, blogs, websites and more. Laurie is dean of the new San Francisco Writers University and on the management team of the San Francisco Writers Conference. In 2012, Laurie started two e-publishing companies: Joyride Books (for out-of-print vintage romance novels) and Ambush Books (for out-of-print children's books).

Listen to McLean on adding two new tracks to the conference offerings here.

Listen to McLean on still sticking with the basics here.

Kevin Smokler
kevinsmokler.jpg

In 2007, Kevin Smokler founded, with Chris Anderson (editor in chief of Wired Magazine), BookTour.com, the world's largest online directory of author and literary events. Kevin now serves as the company's CEO, regularly speaking at industry conferences and book festivals throughout North America on the future of publishing, books, reading and legacy media in the 21st century. His regular topics include print and digital publishing, legacy media, social media and the web for writers, and business skills for artists and creatives. In April of 2008, Amazon purchased a minority stake in BookTour.com.

From Smokler's vantage, despite all the changes, there are some things that are still, and always will be, basic to publishing -- namely, the need for a quality book and connecting that book to readers.

Listen to Kevin Smokler talk about that here.

Patrick von Wiegandt
patrickvonwiegandt.jpg

Patrick von Wiegandt is a musician and sound engineer in charge of making each session at the San Francisco Writers Conference available in audio formats for sale immediately at the conference and online after the event.

He's seen big changes "backstage," as in the transition from tape to CD to MP3, but because he also hears all the sessions, he has some interesting insights about how the content of the conference has changed since the Internet came to be important to writers.

Listen here to Patrick von Wiegandt talk about the changes he's seen.

Joel Friedlander

joelfriedlander2.jpg

Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and a book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.

One of the biggest changes Friedlander sees is the massive shift in how books are being publicized (authors now being asked to do promotions themselves) and how writers conferences are adapting to reflect that change.

Hear Friedlander talk about that change and others he's seeing here.

Carla King is an author, a publishing consultant, and founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website. The newest version of her e-book, The Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, was released in August 2011 and is available on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and for the B&N Nook.

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October 08 2011

20:56

Can self-publishing online be a viable business? - SplatF’s first quarterly report

SplatF :: It’s already been three months since Dan Frommer started publishing SplatF. Among other clichés: Time flies when you’re having fun. Dan Frommer: "As I’ve noted all along, one of the reasons I’m doing this is to see if self-publishing online is a viable businessSo how about a quarterly “earnings” call?"

Shared experience in self-publishing - continue to read Dan Frommer, www.splatf.com

December 29 2010

17:30

2010: The Year Self-Publishing Lost Its Stigma

birds 2010 small.jpg

For over a decade I've been speaking at conferences about self-publishing to audiences of dejected, rejected authors. There was always a stigma associated with self-publishing, with many people considering it lower quality vanity press.

But this year, new faces appeared in the crowd: agents, editors, and publishers eager to understand self-publishing. Why? Self-publishing books has finally reached the mainstream, with enough success stories to make it a legitimate part of the publishing world.

Here's more about this and other trends in 2010, plus some crystal-ball gazing into what's coming in 2011.

  1. Self-publishing lost its stigma
    rinzler.jpgIn today's tight traditional publishing market, agents, editors, and publishers are now encouraging authors to test market their book by self-publishing. Yay! Self-publishing has finally lost its stigma. So if you've been dissed by agents in the past, 2011 might be your year to try again. Alan Rinzler is a longtime acquiring and developmental editor at major publishing houses and an independent editor with private clients. "Literary agents have been the missing link for self-published writers trying to break through into mainstream publishing," he states in Literary agents open the door to self-published writers. "But new attitudes are taking hold, especially among younger up-and-coming literary agents."
  2. Ease of tech attracts traditionally published authors to go indie
    Technology companies have been wholly responsible for providing tools that let authors easily publish in print and on e-reading devices. "Many of our indie e-book authors are outselling, outmarketing and outpublishing the traditional publishers," says Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, who in 2010 helped indie authors publish and distribute over 20,000 e-books. "Self-published authors are finally gaining much-deserved respect, not only from the industry, but from readers as well." Coker adds that the 60-80% earnings from the retail price of their books "has caused many traditionally published authors to go indie." I like a core group of proven e-book creation and distribution solutions, but keep looking to technology companies and partnerships. Just a few to note are Issuu, BookBrewer, and Monocle with its associated Bookish reader.
  3. The social graph makes conversations and recommendations easier
    Social_Media_optimization.jpgAuthors conversant with social media tools will get even more of a leg up in the coming year from technology services. "There's a lot of buzz about reading moving onto digital devices, but people don't talk as much about the consequences of such a shift," says Trip Adler, CEO and co-founder of Scribd. "It's much easier to share what you are reading if you are already reading on an Internet-connected device with your whole social graph right there. Over the next year, you'll see a lot more books, short stories, poems, and other written material recommended to you by your friends and through your likes and interests." Authors who understand this will cultivate relationships with bloggers and other curators who can make their voices heard above the fray. Among interesting offerings here is BookGlutton, which lets readers and reading groups converse inside a book via a widget. Possibilities are vast: authors can upload and discuss them with a virtual writing group. Reading groups, classrooms, and book clubs can discuss books uploaded from the web or from Feedbooks.
  4. Online communities and curation continue to grow
    storify.pngOnline writing groups and communities like Red Room and Figment are increasingly valuable resources for authors testing ideas and looking for input. For readers, they can provide much-needed recommendations. Twitter and Facebook are also venues for recommendations from trusted bloggers, blogs of peers, famous people, or sources in vertical markets. For literary books, Goodreads provides a really nice social media platform":http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2010/goodreads-takes-next-step-in-social-reading/ in their community of more than 4 million readers. Their iPhone/iPad app (over 30,000 downloads) has an integrated e-book reader, rating system, buying, progress reports. They also launched a free author program that lets you upload, sell, and even promote e-books. Look for sites that offer similar services in niche and genre, and more product innovations that make curation easier, like the ones MediaShift's Roland Legrand mentions in his recent post on Storify.
  5. Content-rich, relevant tools for marketing are still emerging
    Karen LelandIn addition to participating in communities and wooing bloggers, Karen Leland, president of Sterling Marketing Group notes that "one of the most exciting developments in 2010 was the expansion of multimedia into the everyday promotion of books and businesses. YouTube has become the biggest search engine outside of Google. In 2011 I think driving book sales with content rich, relevant video placed on YouTube and embedded in blog posts will expand as a leading source of driving awareness of a self-published book." This kind of marketing also improves book discovery with the proper use of metadata.
  6. But book designers are still frustrated
    Joel FriedlanderJoel Friedlander aka The Book Designer has been frustrated in 2010 by too many competing formats and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time design technologies and standards. "My biggest hope and expectation is that we will get better tools for creating e-books in 2011. Great strides are being made in EPUB and other formats but the device engineers and software coders need to finish developing and hand the tools over to the designers. We are eager to use them to create beautiful books and quality experiences for readers." Good news for Friedlander and other design warriors, EPUB3 is scheduled for review and approval in May 2011, and it's got lots of bells and whistles.
  7. Out-of-print titles continue to be revived, shared, and sold
    bookscanning.jpgFor authors with a stack of out-of-print books, 2011 will be the year to get them into e-book format and recreate an income stream. Among others, the non-profit Internet Archive will scan and run OCR across texts, convert them to the various formats for use in their library for the print disabled (blind, dyslexic or are otherwise visually impaired), and in the free archive. Or, for a reasonable fee, you can exclude them from the archive and get the files to sell them yourself in all the usual places on the Internet.
  8. The single-purpose e-book reader phases out
    ereaders.pngThe iPad was the first multi-purpose e-reader (besides the web browser). More than one pundit thinks that single-purpose e-book readers are transitional devices, and that, in the future, we'll be reading comfortably on book size-and-weight versions of the iPad by a galloping herd of makers including the ones making devices today. Expect some to fail.
  9. Transmedia "immersive" books and apps become more common
    Transmedia, enhanced, and multimedia e-booksAuthors who can think "writing" and "movie" and "gaming" are going to love transmedia storytelling. Especially when multi-use devices and books in browsers become the norm. 2010 saw enhanced e-books and magazines, learning materials, and apps based on books on the rise. Watch for continuing growth in the number of startups, a la those Multimedia Gulch CD-ROM development days, to help produce these "transmedia properties."
  10. Oh yeah . . . print books
    Author services companies will continue to serve up Print On Demand (POD) books for multi-book authors and the masses of people who just know they have a book in them. It's a great business. Who knows, maybe the Espresso Book Machine will make it into the few bookstores left standing in 2011. But bookstore distribution will continue to be a less viable option to any publisher's income stream as mail-order from Amazon and the other major retailers continue to usurp brick-and-mortar bookstore sales. The new smaller, lighter, better multi-use devices will encourage e-reading. That leaves the rich and privileged to order special limited print editions of books by authors they love. Okay, that may be gazing a few years too far into the crystal ball, but look, some authors are already finding it a trend, nonetheless.

Did I catch them all? What do you think were the most important developments in self-publishing in 2010, and what do you see in your crystal ball for 2011? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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December 17 2010

17:48

Books in Browsers? Google, Amazon Bring E-Books to the Masses

For authors and publishers already overwhelmed, last week's news about the Google eBooks store and Amazon's Kindle for web only added to the waterfall of controversy pouring into an already raging river of e-book and publishing hype. The big takeaway from these two announcements, and a recent "Books in Browsers" event that I attended, is that the web browser is an important player in e-books.

Self-publishers can benefit from adding browser-based e-book options to the services they should already be using to sell their books, such as Smashwords, Scribd, and Amazon DTP. This best-of-breed group will get their books in all the dedicated e-book readers, mobile, and multi-use devices, and now, delivered in the browser.

Now here's why browsers are so important, and how to get your books in them.

Browsers: The Forgotten Platform

In the frenzy of formats, platforms, and devices, awareness of the web's importance as a e-publishing platform simply faded into the background. But the Books in Browsers conference in October brought the browser to the attention of many publishing insiders. BIB10 was an astonishingly high-level gathering of 120 people from nine countries, including publishers, librarians, and toolmakers (many of whom were notable and even famous names), for a two-day working meeting. It was hosted by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, who is largely concerned with building a digital library and providing universal access to books, music, movies and, via the WayBackMachine, its billions and billions of archived web pages.

One of the advantages of the web

birdbook.pngbrowser is that it does not constrain text inside a container. With proper formatting, HTML can provide a beautiful reading experience on a 19-inch flat-screen or a three-inch mobile device. The browser even gracefully delivers transmedia books with embedded audio, video, images, and graphics -- something today's e-book readers are hard pressed to do. Even if a book is enclosed in a container (providing discovery, sales, and downloads), the browser delivery system lets book buyers access their downloads from the cloud -- using any device they happen to be near that has an Internet connection, as long as it has an HTML5-compatible browser. It's worth noting that computers and smartphones are able to take advantage of books in browsers, but many dedicated e-readers can't.

Rise and Fall of Dedicated E-Readers

ereaders.pngWith over a billion browser-friendly, web-enabled devices worldwide we are suddenly back to the future with e-book publishing. One has to wonder, why did all the device and e-book publishers feel like they had to create e-book readers?

One answer is because multi-use devices are simply not as light and comfortable as a book. That's going to change, and when it does, your Kobo, Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader will become inconvenient and redundant -- or get smarter and lighter and do more things. Today's versions are pretty dumb and are considered "transitional devices" by people who gaze into tech's crystal ball. For example, Craig Morgan of Publishers Weekly and Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired, talk about this in an interview about Kelly's book, What Technology Wants.

Big Name Game Changers

sony-ebook-store-google-books.jpgThe launch of Google eBooks last week has put books in browsers in the headlines. Hours after the announcement, Amazon announced Kindle for Web, making browsers even more relevant. Kahle saw this coming a long time ago.

"Google's promised Google Editions [rebranded Google eBooks] are going to be available in browsers," he predicted in his Books in Browsers 2010 keynote speech back in October.

Kahle also told us, "Amazon is putting its toe in the books-in-browser world with its recent beta. Then there's Starbucks and LibreDigital's recent announcement that they will make bestsellers readable in browsers while at a Starbucks. Ibis Reader, Book Glutton, rePublish, sBooks, and the Internet Archive BookReader are other emerging technologies for reading in browsers."

Readers can now buy hundreds of thousands of e-books from Google, or download over two million public domain titles for free. They can access their downloaded books on any device with an HTML5-enabled browser from their computers or via apps for iPhones, iPads, and Android-powered smartphones. Buyers can access the books they purchased on any e-reader based on an open platform, like EPUB, which includes the Sony Reader and the B&N Nook. (The Sony Reader Store is the search, purchase, and download engine for Google eBooks.)

Self-Publishing Strategy

If you're self-publishing, you should add Google eBooks to your list of places to sell books. This will get your book into the largest number of e-tailers and devices, not to mention brick-and-mortar bookstores like Books Inc. and Diesel, who are helping their customers buy digital. In order to make this happen, here are your tasks:

Upload your book to Google eBooks and promote it through their partner program.


• Upload your book to the Amazon store through Amazon DTP. (If you publish your POD book through CreateSpace they'll give you a DTP formatted version.)


• Upload your book to Smashwords for sale in their store. Distribute in their catalogs: Their Premium Catalog aggregates your book to major retailers and their Atom/OPDS Catalog gets your book in major mobile app platforms. They also provide HTML and text formats easily read in browsers.


• Upload your book to Scribd for social media attention, previews, sale, and distribution to the customer's device or for display in their browser-based reader.

If formatting is not your forte, or you just don't have the time, you can throw about $250 at a service like eBook Architects who will do it for you.

Ignore the Hype

The above covers the vast majority of sales outlets, but that doesn't mean that other products, services, and programs aren't also begging for attention. I try them out as they come along, but mostly give up in frustration due to their difficult, buggy, and largely beta interfaces.

This is a profitable marketplace -- self-publishing is seeing three-digit growth! -- so there is lots of activity and the hype is not likely to die down anytime soon. Meantime, best practices for self-publishers include sticking with the above best-of-breed products and services, and focusing on quality. Participate in membership organizations and communities (like the Small Publishers Association of North America) that can help separate hype from truth, and concentrate on getting your book to (virtual) press, which means paying attention to writing, editing, design, and marketing.

Carla King is an author, a publishing and social media strategist, and co-founder of the "Self-Publishing Boot Camp" program providing books, lectures and workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994 and has worked in multimedia since 1996. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and as diaries on her website.

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October 18 2010

16:11

BookBrewer Makes Major Self-Publishing Deal with Borders

This has been one of the most amazing, rewarding and surreal weeks of my life.

Borders has chosen BookBrewer -- the first product of my startup, FeedBrewer, which grew out of a News Challenge grant -- to power the engine for its e-book self-publishing service. You can read about our partnership in the official press release, or in media coverage from a variety of sources including Fast Company, Publishers Weekly and PC Magazine.

Bordersgetpublished_small.jpg

We made the announcement at BlogWorld Expo, one of the largest confabs of bloggers and new media enthusiasts in
the world. The response at our booth was enormous and even overwhelming
at times, with people lined up to talk to me, my team and Borders' e-book manager Kelly Peterson about how they can turn their content into sellable e-books. Their response is not surprising, given the explosive growth in e-book sales in recent months.

About BookBrewer

So what is BookBrewer? It's a web-based tool that helps you turn content from your blog, or Word or PDF documents on your computer, into e-books that can be sold on your through multiple online e-book stores, own through your own website. After importing your blog, you then add posts and organize them into chapters, edit and enhance content, and push a button. BookBrewer then turns your content into an e-pub that most e-book stores require. You can pay one fee to have it published to e-book stores we work with, or another fee to just get the file to do with as you wish.

This video shows how it works:

BookBrewer Help: Building Your Book from Dan Pacheco on Vimeo.


Some highlights on our partnership with Borders:

  • On October 25 the same technology and user experience will be surfaced on a separate site called "Borders Get Published, Powered by BookBrewer." You can enter your email address on the form on Borders.bookbrewer.com to be notified as soon as the service launches.
  • Books published through both BookBrewer and Borders Get Published will be available for purchase on Borders.com and viewable in Borders-branded apps (such as Kobo), but will also appear in other eBook stores that BookBrewer has relationships with. Those include Amazon.com and KoboBooks.com, with more on the way.
  • Borders will use its marketing muscle to encourage thousands of new authors to get published, and will promote promising new authors in its weekly emails and on its website. This is a huge boon for self-published authors because Borders reaches more than 30 million people per week in emails alone.
boothteam.jpg



Our booth team, from left to right: Todd Levy, Laurelie Ezra, Kelly Peterson, Dan Pacheco.

BookBrewer, which only launched last week, will operate as its own entity. We will serve customers through both sites and will roll out more strategic "Powered By BookBrewer" services throughout the year that benefit our company and partners, in addition to other services for authors and content providers. With one of the largest bookstores in the world on board, we're now shifting our focus to companies with content or content relationships.

Given my news background, I know that a lot of newspapers and magazines have "evergreen" packages or investigative reports that would stand the test of time as e-books. I will be reaching out to some of you about that at the Online News Association conference later this month. And you freelancers/entrepreneurial journalists out there? This is a fantastic opportunity to pay for freight while also building your brand.

Borders' Open Publishing Stance

Some people are surprised that Borders would want "their" e-books to show up in competitors' stores, but it makes sense when you think about  the self-publishing customer. They want their content to be everywhere  that people want to buy it.

I can tell you from spending two days in a booth with Kelly Peterson and talking extensively with others at Borders that they're one of the  most customer-focused companies around. They understand that authors -- a category that now potentially includes each and every one of  you -- don't want their content to be defined or confined based on which service or programs they use to create it. The customer always comes first for them, and with self-publishing the book always belongs to the author.

I heard Kelly put it this way: "If you buy a piece of clothing at a store, you expect to be able to wear it everywhere, not just in the store where you bought it." You can see that evidenced with the wide variety of e-book readers and apps Borders promotes, beyond the Kobo reader the company invested in last year.

I'm also excited to work with Borders because they, and bookstores in general, are part of the fabric of local communities -- that rapidly disappearing third place that has been so important in the history of civil life. Other types of third spaces exist online, but at a local level physical meeting spaces are still important. Digital community engagement is the common thread  in my most meaningful endeavors (Bakotopia, Printcasting and AOL Hometown as just a few examples), and as a previous recipient of a Knight News Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation I'm a proud  public champion of helping the news and information needs of communities in the digital age. I see BookBrewer and Borders Get Published being strongly connected to those goals.

No Man is an Island

On that note, I want to once again thank the Knight Foundation for its role in the Printcasting project, which evolved into my company FeedBrewer, Inc., from which the Knight Foundation will one day benefit thanks to a voluntary 6 percent gift to the Knight Media Innovation Fund. While the Knight  Foundation didn't provide any funding for our proudly "bootstrapped" BookBrewer (and we did not ask for any), BookBrewer is an example of how non-profit seed funds can light a spark that continues to burn later.

It's my sincere hope that future successes from BookBrewer will go to help fund other startups that help local news and information.

The technology for BookBrewer is all new and distinct from Printcasting, but the thinking, methodology and customer insights evolved from it. In fact, thinking back, the biggest thing we learned from Printcasting was that even first-time print publishers really wanted to be multi-platform digital publishers. They just didn't know that until they got their feet wet. In the space of a few weeks after publishing a PDF magazine, they would start asking us if they could publish the same stories into Facebook or as a blog, and they would tell us that they saw print as only a small part of their future business.

They also started asking about e-books as the Kindle and, later, iPad grew in popularity.

The feedback we're getting with e-books validates that. People occasionally ask us if we can provide print-on-demand paperbacks for their books, but when we say we're currently focused on digital books they're fine with that. Most just want to make sure older readers who don't have e-reading devices, iPhones or iPads to have a print option. (And we will be looking into that, by the way).

What I've learned through this process is that when you have an idea that you're passionate about, people will step in at the last minute to help you out. I think the BookBrewer product engenders a desire to reciprocate after authors see how much it can do for them. We even had the leader of a writer's group in Florida buy an ad in a conference program for BookBrewer with her own funds -- a first in my 15 years of working on digital products.

I also want to thank Jon Nordmark, the co-founder of Wambo.com and founder and former CEO of Denver-based eBags. He facilitated Denver's inaugural class for Adeo Ressi's Founder Institute, an intensive technology and mentoring program. For four months, I would spend every Tuesday night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. with him, other startup CEO mentors, and founders of 17 other companies. We would sound ideas off each other, refine them, give and receive brutal feedback, and delve deeply into the business behind our businesses. While I had a lot of ideas before, I can safely say that without the Founder Institute program I never would have been able to create this product at this time and get it in front of Borders. Nordmark also helped with the Borders introduction.

Fellow Founder Institute graduate Todd Levy, co-founder of BloomWorlds, and his girlfriend Laurelie Lee Ezra also stepped in at the last minute to man our BlogWorld Expo booth and talked to hundreds of people about BookBrewer as if it was their product. I will never forget that, and can't wait to talk more about BloomWorlds once it launches.

Then of course there's Don Hajicek and Andy Lasda, my amazing team of co-founders, who have worked tirelessly on this alongside me with no pay other than generous equity. You learn a lot about people when you're down in the trenches with them, and these two are solid. In addition to their incredible development and product design skills, they've shown incredible faith and dedication. And a big thank-you to our advisors, especially Kit Seeborg from BumperTunes.

Last but not least, there's my family. My wife Kendall Slee and two daughters have given up many nights and weekends with me, and also helped with ideas and feedback. (My 7-year-old Lauren even published an e-book that was for sale in Amazon, and she's now perfecting a second edition.) My mom and dad even pitched in at the end to handle the logistics of ordering last-minute t-shirts for our BlogWorld booth.

Start Brewing Your e-book!

...But I guess you should expect that from a community-focused product. BookBrewer is and will continue to successful thanks to the community of people behind it. Hopefully that also includes you. Start brewing your e-books so we can help you get published and featured by Borders!

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July 22 2010

08:00

June 10 2010

19:14

Want Your Self-Published Book in Stores? Weigh the Options

The rise of online book retailers means that self-publishers have better access to customers than ever. But many authors still want to be on bookstore shelves. The good news is that you don't really need traditional distribution to get into bookstores.

The Databases

logo_bowkerlink_220x103.gifWith your ISBN and bar code from Bowker in hand (read my previous post that told you how to get control of your own ISBN), it's time to register your title and your contact information in their Books In Print and Global Books In Print databases. Registering with BowkerLink is the first step to enabling the industry to discover your book, and it's free.

Ingram is the largest book wholesaler and distributor in the world and if your book is not listed in their ipage ordering system, it's simply invisible to booksellers. You must have 10 titles a year to be accepted into their program, but this article shows you three ways to get in through the back door.:

  1. Create a relationship with a traditional distributor whose titles are listed with Ingram, and send them an inventory of offset-print books.
  2. Print your book on-demand with the Ingram-owned company Lightning Source, and you're automatically in.
  3. Use a self-publishing services company to list your book with Ingram.

No matter whom you distribute with, a 55 percent discount is standard. (You can offer less, but expect few takers.) When calculating your profit margin, factor in printing, shipping, postage, returns and start-up costs like editing and design -- all the costs of doing business. Don't forget ongoing costs like marketing and publicity, giveaways, promotion and accounting. Direct sales is certainly more lucrative than traditional distribution and you give that up when you sign an exclusive distribution deal. So why bother?

Traditional Print Book Distribution

In traditional distribution you (the publisher) prints a large number of books with an offset printer. The books are sent to a distributor who wants to sell mass quantities of your book to wholesalers and retailers.

Unfortunately, your book isn't really sold until it's bought by a consumer, so when -- not if -- your books are returned (a sad fact about the industry), the distributor then returns them to you.

distributors.jpgThe well-respected Independent Publishers Group has a new branch called Small Press United (SPU) and, if you're one of the fewer than 20 percent accepted into their program, they will present your book to resellers next to offerings from the mainstream press. Also consider Publishers Group West (PGW) and Baker & Taylor (B&T), the most important distributor to the library market.

Big distribution companies have not been eager to work with self-publishers, but that's changing. Still, it's easiest to get in through membership in the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) or the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN). Both are worthwhile organizations for self-publishers thanks to their seminars, advice, discounts, and community.

But don't rule out a smaller distributor who specializes in your niche or genre, especially if you need help with design, editing, e-book conversion, and other tasks in order to publish your book. They may be more dedicated and more effective in providing you with personalized service over the years. As with the self-publishing services companies, you pay these distributors; but since they must maintain a good reputation with booksellers, they carefully vet their authors. Check out IPBA's Distributor/Wholesaler Directory and this list of Top Independent Book Distributors to start.

The downside? You relinquish the opportunity to sell your print book and your e-book direct to the consumer. Measure that benefit against the potential benefits of having hired a sales force, paired with your ongoing promotion efforts, to make your decision to go this route.

POD Distribution With Lightning Source

ls_logo.jpg

The newer print-on-demand distribution model works like this: If a brick-and-mortar bookstore customer asks for your book, the bookseller finds it in the ipage Ingram database and places an order. Lightning Source prints it and sends it to the store, where the customer picks it up.

These days, customers are more likely to order from an online reseller, which cuts out the middle step. In this model, the customer orders a book from the online reseller, who sends the request to Lightning Source, who mails the book directly to the customer on the reseller's behalf.

Along with many other advantages, there are fewer returns because booksellers don't have to order several and wait to see if they sell. You don't have to worry about returns with print-on-demand.

POD Distribution With a Self-Publishing Firm

lulucswc.jpgEven the most basic, do-it-yourself self-publishing services companies -- think Lulu, CreateSpace and Wordclay -- offer services that includes an Ingram database listing for your book in your publishing company name. But since booksellers are definitely not flocking to what they consider the vanity presses in order to stock their shelves, make sure the publishing house name on the spine is your own. (See my previous article, The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Book Packages.) They may -- invisibly to you and the customer -- use Lightning Source or another POD subcontractor to print and send it, which is fine, but realize you're paying a little more for this service.

A Middle Path

Before you seek out traditional distribution, you might ask yourself if you really need it. Many authors are more easily served by direct sales and POD distribution of print and e-books. Think of these options, for example:

  1. Using your website for direct sales via an online store.
  2. Back-of-room sales at personal appearances.
  3. Consignment deals with local booksellers and retailers in your niche.
  4. Using Lightning Source for both printed books and PDF-formatted e-books sold to stores and online retailers in U.S., Canada and Europe.
  5. Using Smashwords and Scribd for e-book sales in many formats for many e-readers (See my previous article for details on How to Pair Scribd and Smashwords for an Ideal E-book Strategy.)

You may be one of the many authors who missed the news that you can get into the Ingram database by printing on-demand with Lightning Source, or the newer news that self-publishing services companies now include this in their packages, too. (Yes, do keep looking for even newer news in this quickly evolving industry.) But do not miss the fact that you are responsible for the marketing and promotion that will create a buzz and sell your book.

The defining fact about traditional distributors is that they vet their work, whereas POD services companies will print and distribute almost anything. A traditional distributor will have opinions. Their reputation is on the line and they want to work with like-minded independent publishers dedicated to success. You should consider them a partner. Until then, an on-demand distribution solution should suffice.

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

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May 03 2010

21:25

How to Pair Smashwords and Scribd for Ideal E-Book Strategy

Self-published authors are in a unique position to benefit from the increasing consumer acceptance of digital books. The challenge, however, is that so many companies are popping up to offer conversion, distribution and sales. It's tough for authors to know which vendor to choose for which services when it comes to their e-book. The truth is that it's wrong to look for a single vendor for your self-published e-book.

After spending time examining the options available, I've hit upon a combination of two vendors that stands out for ease-of-use, breadth of offerings, and fair pricing structures. The magic combination that works right now is to use Scribd for social publishing, marketing and sales, and Smashwords for sales and aggregation to e-book retailers. Here's a look at how -- and why -- it works.

Scribd

Scribd is an easy place for authors to make finished works and works-in-progress available online to the public, to converse with other authors, and to start collecting a reader fanbase. Scribd does not deliver books to e-book retailers; rather, it offers authors a sales and marketing platform via the growing Scribd community. Scribd is all about "social publishing."

Authors upload documents in any format (PDF, doc, PowerPoint, etc.) that readers can then buy or view free. The documents can be read on the Scribd site in slide, single-page or book mode. Additionally, the reader can download the document to their computer or send it to their mobile device.

What makes it social? A widget lets anyone embed the document on a website. Members add notes to each other's documents, subscribe to each other's documents and posts, and "readcast" what they're reading to friends on other social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Members can also become curators by collecting documents on a topic, from the "Best Fiction of 2009" to "Chinese History," for example. These features and functions can help an author spread their work, interact with readers, and build relationships with other authors. All of which can help promote your e-book.

Tool for Promotion

Author Helen Winslow Black uploaded an e-book version of her paperback, Seven Blackbirds, to sell on Scribd and found it sufficient to use the service as her main tool for book promotion.

"Instead of a blog, I publish articles and then people comment on them and I get feedback," she said. "I have conversations and interchange, and since I signed up [in May of 2008] I have over 58,000 subscribers. Scribd is where everybody goes to read me."

Another reason why Scribd is becoming a good option for authors is that it recently partnered with Blurb, HP MagCloud, and Mimeo to provide a print service for documents, magazines and color books. The book printing service isn't yet ready for prime time -- creating covers is awkward and book sizes are limited -- but the company rolls out new features fast, so don't be surprised to see it improve. You can now turn your e-book into a printed product, should the need arise, but not at the same quality that print-on-demand services like Lightning Source or Lulu provide.

Trip Adler

Scribd, which has about 50 million unique visitors a month, has published more books than the entire U.S. publishing industry last year. Their send-to-device service lets readers view documents on the Kindle, Nook, iPhone, Android and other devices, but unlike Smashwords, they are not an official aggregator to e-book retailers. That's why Scribd alone won't fulfil your e-book needs.

Scribd wants to be the hub of publishing. Founder Trip Adler told me their goal "is to make it dead simple for anyone to publish original written works and for readers to discover and share this content." They want "authors to use our social platform as a place to share what they are writing and to connect with other writers and readers, and to get their works in front of consumers when and where they want from any device."

Smashwords

smashwordslogo.pngSmashwords is the fastest and easiest place for self-published authors with text-heavy books to distribute their e-book in all formats. You simply upload the text of your book -- no page numbers, no headers or footers -- as instructed in their simple formatting guide.

Mark Coker created Smashwords when he and his wife spent two years attempting to get their own book published. They discovered that "the publishing industry is broken." A longtime Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Coker joked that "the solution to all the world's ills can be solved with technology, so wouldn't it be cool if we created an online publishing platform that would instantly let authors upload and sell books directly?"

markcoker.jpg"The service works best right now for the vast majority of books -- that is to say, the straight-form narrative," Coker told me. The book needs to be in Microsoft Word format with all the headers and footers stripped out. When you upload your book, you choose the formats to which you want it converted and the Smashwords "meatgrinder" churns them out.

But what if you spent a lot of time and money with a designer to format your book with drop caps and special fonts and dingbats?

"As technology evolves we'll be able to bring back some formatting," he said. "It's hard to ask people to devolve their book. Yes, your print book is gorgeous and that 17th century font you chose is perfect. But in the digital realm you need to liberate your words into reliable, reflowable text that can shape-shift easily across all the different devices."

He said it's important that readers be able to customize a book to match their preferences.

"Readers want to maximize fonts, change fonts," Coker said. "They might prefer pink Ariel font against a carved stone background -- they can do that and they are. It helps to remember that people buy your book for your words. When you give the reader the flexibility to murder your book like that you are actually increasing the value of your book."

There's no cost to sign up with Smashwords' Premium program, but your book formatting has to be just right and it has to have an ISBN. They are an official e-book aggregator (distributor) to many retailers including the Amazon Kindle, and they are the 6th largest aggregator to the Apple iBookstore. (Note that if your book is already for sale with an e-book retailer, for example in the Kindle bookstore, it's best not to offer it via this channel, too. There's no current "rule" but if you confuse Amazon they're likely to drop you.)

If you want to print your book you can use Smashwords affiliate Wordclay, an author services company that competes with Lulu and CreateSpace. It's easy and free, but you'll have to format using their templates or upload a PDF. (See my previous article on self-publishing packages.)

As of April 2010 Smashwords has published over 10,000 e-books. So what's next? "We're just getting started," Coker said. "The next three years will be exciting because we'll see e-books breach 25 percent of the U.S. book market. We want our authors and publishers to get a chunk of that."

Where's the Money?

While Smashwords seems very focused on independent authors and publishers, Scribd clearly has bigger fish to fry. They're wooing that market, too, but are also going after traditional publishing, the general document sharing market, and document management systems for the enterprise.

Both companies take a percentage of book sales: Smashwords 15% and Scribd 20% with a 25-cent transaction fee. When Smashwords aggregates a book to a retailer like Amazon or Apple, the author ends up with about half the cover price. In both cases, a much better financial split than traditional publishing.

Scribd recently made a deal with Author Solutions -- the self-publishing service company that owns iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, and Wordclay -- to sell their customers' books for 50% of the cover price, and have partnered with over 150 traditional publishers for e-books distribution. They're also giving Issuu and Docstoc a run for their money in the business document sharing space.

In both cases, authors get a better deal than with traditional publishing (not counting the fact they have to do all the work), and since their services don't currently overlap, it's a great pairing for indie authors.

The Indie Author's Strategy

Both of these services are non-exclusive and very easy to use, so you don't have to worry about locking yourself in. If you want to combine them to create your e-book strategy, here's a breakdown of when and how to do what:

  1. Sign up with Scribd.
  2. Start contributing to the community, post some works-in-progress, comment, "readcast," curate, and collect subscribers.
  3. When your e-book is complete, upload it to Scribd for sale.
  4. Then go to Smashwords to convert your book into all the available formats.
  5. Join the Smashwords Premium program to aggregate your e-book to the Kindle, iBookstore, Sony, Nook, and all the other readers.
  6. Subscribe to the mailing lists of both companies to stay informed and take advantage of new features as they roll them out.

Photo of Trip Adler by Spencer Brown

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

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March 25 2010

16:52

The Pitfalls of Using Self-Publishing Book Packages

The rise of self-publishing has made it possible for anyone to be an author. Now, some people are also choosing to outsource their book project by hiring an author services company.

On the surface, this seems much easier than finding and hiring a half-dozen professionals to create your book. (For background on the self-publishing industry and author services companies, please read my previous MediaShift article.) But is it worth it? Below are some of the potential danger zones of working with these services, as exposed by authors who were seduced by the promises of quick and easy self-publishing packages. I also offer some advice about avoiding these pitfalls.

Beware the ISBN Acquisition

Larry Jaffee wants his book back.

"Albert Square & Me: The Actors of EastEnders" is based on 18 years of interviews with actors from the popular BBC show. eastenders.jpgHe chose iUniverse to publish his book because "I was looking for a one-stop shop that would run the interference I needed." He bought their Premier program for $899 (on special from $1099), which included the ISBN and bar code acquisition, and distribution in the U.K. Getting into U.K. wholesalers Bertrams and Gardners was an integral part of his marketing plan, as the 25th anniversary of the show was coming up.

"They even talked me into an additional $699 for a program to handle bookstore returns," he said.

The only problem?

"The U.K. bookstores didn't order it because it was a [print-on-demand] book."

Jaffee is planning a second edition of the title, and he intends to do things differently this time.

"I have over 30 interviews that didn't make it into the first edition, so I'll create a second edition with my own ISBN," he said. He'll probably design the book himself in QuarkXPress, and will hire one of his editors to edit and proofread the work. He is considering an offset printer because he fears that printing with Lightning Source will tag it as a POD book, which the U.K. wholesalers reject. (Jaffee need not worry: Lightning Source is a publisher services company whose business model is based on print and distribution. They do not have the same stigma with resellers.)

How to buy your own ISBN and bar codes: Visit Bowker Identifier Services to purchase a block of 10 ISBNs for under $250. Why 10 and not one? barcode.gifBecause they're a lot cheaper in bulk (a single ISBN is $125), and you'll need a new ISBN for each form of the book: print, e-book, audio, new editions and, of course, your next book. Also, if you buy just one, booksellers might figure out that you're a self-published author. You can purchase EAN Bar Codes for each ISBN for $25 on an as-needed basis for your print editions. With your own publishing house name on the book, you can print and distribute offset or print-on-demand or short runs, and booksellers won't lump you in with Lulu, iUniverse, and other POD services.

Great Distribution, Paltry Profits

It's important to realize author services companies do not make their money from selling books -- they make money from convincing authors to buy their services. An author services company sells your book through their program to online resellers like Amazon and in their own online store, and they allow you to buy an inventory of your own book for a set price.

For example, when Jaffee sells "EastEnders" on Amazon, he gets about $2 per book after iUniverse takes their cut. That's an incredibly small payout for a book with a list price of $25.95.

On top of that, author services companies rarely receive orders from brick-and-mortar booksellers, unless a customer specifically orders the book.

grassroutes.jpgWhen Serena Bartlett published the first "GrassRoutes Travel Guide" with subsidy press Lulu, she was impressed that it immediately appeared online everywhere.

"Lulu is really deeply embedded with the distribution companies," she said, "which I thought was great until I wanted to take my book off Lulu and create my own company, maximizing profits with a 'real' distribution deal." (Bartlett eventually made a deal with Sasquatch Books.)

How to get great distribution and a nice profit margin: Get a DBA name and publish your book with your own company name and logo. (Be sure to choose a name that doesn't scream "self-publisher.") Booksellers, distributors and readers are not likely to notice, or care, as long as your book is produced professionally and you have a great website and social media presence. From there, join the Amazon Advantage program to sell your book directly through Amazon.com, or sign up with Lightning Source to get listed in the Ingram database. Sign their print and e-book distribution contracts for U.S., U.K., and Canadian online and brick-and-mortar resellers. If your book is of very high quality and you have a great marketing plan, you can apply for bookstore distribution with a reputable company like Small Press United. You will ship a large number of offset print books to them (the best price breaks occur at 1,000 and 2,500 copies), and they will handle all domestic (U.S.) distribution for you. These channels will all take a 55 percent cut on the retail price, but when you sell your book through your website and personal appearances you receive 100 percent of the cover price.

Print-On-Demand: The Proof is in the Price

Many POD author services companies outsource their printing jobs to the lowest bidder. The result is a lack of quality control. When Bartlett published "GrassRoutes" with Lulu, she was delighted with the ease of the process but said "the print quality was awful. Guidebooks are used -- they're opened and closed and bump around in backpacks. Pages fell out, bindings cracked, covers curled."

Lisa Alpine, a member of my Wild Writing Women group, is a book-birthing coach and author of the upcoming anthology, "Exotic Life: Laughing Rivers, Dancing Drums and Tangled Hearts." She advises using Lulu or CreateSpace only for printing cheap proofs.

"Proofs can cost up to $75 from print companies, but I upload my latest PDF to Lulu, click the print button, and get a copy of my latest experiment in the mail for under $10," she said. "It's an affordable way to learn, to play with the design, fonts, even the order of my stories."

How to print a proof, a short run, get a good POD contract, and a quantity in offset: Use POD author services companies with no upfront costs like Lulu or CreateSpace to print proofs only (do not include the ISBN and barcode). When you're sure of your product, print a small inventory with a reputable short run printer like 48HrBooks (100 minimum), and sign up to print and distribute with Lightning Source, which can take a while, as a representative will need to walk you through the process. When you're ready to print 1,000 copies at a time, find a reputable offset printer. Both Alpine and Bartlett chose Transcontinental. "They're printed on 100 percent recycled paper, have great service, excellent quality, and are priced very competitively," said Alpine. Jaffee may go the same route, but in the meantime he's stuck with the iUniverse contract: He pays $10 per book for a minimum quantity of 500 books.

Marketing and Publicity: More Than a Press Release

Many author services packages that include promotion and marketing cost between $1,500 and $15,000. Karen Leland, a San Francisco Bay Area book publicist and president of Sterling Marketing Group, said clients often come to her on the verge of tears after paying an exorbitant amount of money for just one press release sent to traditional media channels with no results.

karenleland.jpg

"While the best publicist in the world can't guarantee which publication, blog, radio or TV show will run with a review of an author's book, or interview them as an expert, there are certain things a dedicated publicist can do to customize the PR campaign and improve the odds the writer will get picked up by media," she said. "The problem with the generic approach author services companies take is that it's 'one size fits all.' That rarely produces the best results."

How to build your platform and choose a promotion professional: Leland recommends you start promotion activities as many as two years before your book is published. This builds your platform. These activities include getting a website, blogging and taking advantage of social media and networking tools. If you're going to hire a publicist, request a detailed plan that includes the specific projects that will be part of the campaign, the timeline for delivering on these projects, what you as the author are expected to provide to the publicist, and the process by which the publicist will keep you updated on the progress of your campaign. And be sure to ask them to provide other authors as references.

Editing and Design: Big Investment, Big Payoff

The book interior and cover design tools author services companies provide are very easy to use, but they're also proprietary. You have to start all over again if you want to move your book to another company. Also, if you're paying for their design and editing services, remember that their business model is to sell services to authors, not to make your book the next big bestseller.

joelfriedlander.jpg

"It's a crapshoot," said Joel Friedlander, a professional book designer who has spent time correcting bad book covers and interior designs that suffer from poor font choices, inadequate margins, and poorly thought out images. "I have a book from CreateSpace on my desk with the odd page numbers on the left, the even ones on the right, set completely in Times and Times Bold. What a disaster! These companies lead you to believe that you're getting a professional-looking book when all they are selling you is a paint-by-the-numbers standard template that may be completely inappropriate for your book's intended market. It brands the author as an amateur, or worse, incompetent. Find a designer who will respect your work, treat you as an individual, and give you a book that you can proudly sell against the best books on the shelf."

Lisa Alpine's search for a copy editor turned up many who replied to her carefully spelled-out requirements with an email stating, "I'd love to take a look at your book!" and no details on pricing or process. The editor she hired was "the only candidate who professionally returned a price sheet with clear descriptions of the various levels of editing with prices clearly stated for services from proofreading to conceptual editing."

She hired her to edit one chapter to see if their personalities fit.

"The working relationship between editor and author is so close," said Alpine,"that it's essential you're on the same page, so to speak." This is also true for working with designers. Alpine hired Lyn Bishop to consult with her on the cover for "Exotic Life," though she also did part of the work herself since she's competent in Photoshop.

How to get great editing and design: Take a look at Friedlander's articles about book design to get an idea of the complexity of design. For cover design trends, peruse the Book Design Review blog, (though be aware that it was recently put on hiatus). Find an editor by asking around at local writing and publishing organizations, and by asking online groups. Get recommendations and clarity on pricing, and start with one chapter to make sure you're compatible. Print proofs and commit to perfection.

More and more people with serious ambitions for their book are realizing that author services companies aren't necessarily the place to go. More people are starting their own businesses and professionally producing their own books.

In terms of working with consultants, remember that paid professionals are as proud of their work as you are of your own, and they're a joy to collaborate with. For book authors this is, luckily, the more rewarding choice.

"I really savor each step in the process, and getting involved so I don't have to be stressed out and mystified," said Alpine. "You know, we used to throw manuscripts to a publisher and hope for the best. I think it's a real privilege to be able to have control of your own book."

Carla King is a publishing and social media strategist and co-author of the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Workbook, which grew out of experiences leading workshops for prospective self-publishers. She has self-published non-fiction travel and how-to books since 1994. Her series of dispatches from motorcycle misadventures around the world are available as print books, e-books and on her website.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

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Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl