The Business of Words: The Art of Books

Yesterday, I attended the Business of Art event, in Peoria. I knew from the promotional materials that writing was not included as an Art but, as expected, I did learn a few things. In particular, I learned from Jenna Scifres that I really need to up my game when it comes to social media.

I want to whine that it is challenging for a writer to create behind the scenes video of what we do. It isn’t going to be very interesting if I post screenshots of text, right?

Actually, that isn’t true. I can think of all kinds of things I can video, or upload as still photos.

Like someone recently asked me what I do with my thumb drives. I can answer that both in terms of what I store on them and how I keep from losing them. And, I can talk about where I use them and how I organize what is on them. Believe me, I can actually make that interesting.

Jenna photographs her tools and how she uses them. I could certainly photograph the tools I use. I use a plethora of databases and writing techniques that, believe it or now, would photograph well.

My art of Writing was overlooked by the Business of Art event. This year.

I am dying to replicate the event from the viewpoint of the writer. Writers are artists. Writing is an art.

Writers also need art. The writer who can create an artistic dust jacket is rare. I have never found the courage to even try. I opt instead for cookie-cutter jackets, sometimes decorated with my own photographs. Anything to escap

But, when I teach self-publishing, I fill the room with books. We look at books. We examine books. We talk about how graphic artists, photographers and artists of all kinds add value to books. With the exception of the artist who is self-publishing their own work, books need art.

I recently discussed this in my six-part series on the six hats a self-publisher wears. The one place where self-publishers skimp is on the art of designing a book, inside and out.

Nearly every print-on-demand publishing concern offers templates anyone can use as book covers. I have seen artists selling book covers, independently from book content. Yes, even for self-published books. And why not? Jacket designers have long been employed in the book industry.

People who love books love well-designed books. I fell immediately out of love with digital publishing as soon as I saw the original eBook reader. It was as elegant as a typewritten page. There was no style, quite literally. (That’s a pun for anyone who knows that text Styles are the key to creating beautiful books!)

There is room for style, design, creativity in all self-published works. I would even contend there is a dire need for it. A book—any book–is more than words.

The glut of self-published works are creating books that all use the same margins, fonts, headers and footers. Their covers are exactly the same except for maybe a random original photograph. Most self-published books (I venture to say without researching the statistics) are published in monotone black-and-white. With no art, whether it be graphic design or photographs or original art, there is no need for color. Black text on a white background is sufficient.

I cry fowl! I crave beautifully designed books. I crave books with original design.

I crave Art when I look at a book. I expect it to be there. Nay, I demand it.

I was disappointed that my entire area of Art was overlooked by the Business of Art this year. Maybe it will be different next year, or maybe I just need to create the Business of Words.

#Self-PublishingGuru

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Simplifying the technical

Self-publishing requires some technical skill. But, even the most basic word-processing software offers what you need.

I came across this 197-page manual written specifically to teach writers how to self-publish. Not only is it poorly done, this is the third edition.

My goal is to help you avoid this kind of publication. It is embarrassing.

Plus, this type of book gives self-publishing a bad name. If this author knew as much as she claims to know, her own book would not look like that. I will help you avoid these pitfalls.

The other criticism I have with this book is that it is largely a sales tool. The dollar sign appears 73 times in this alleged “book.”

I don’t consider that a book. But, you can certainly make a 197-page advertisement if you want.

Just, please, learn to make it without unprintable characters. Let me show you how. Register now at EventBrite.

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Ethical authors

An Author Program Facilitated by the Alliance of Independent Authors

(“Author” being any writer who has published a long-form work of fiction or non-fiction, either via a trade publisher or self-publishing platform.)

It makes me kind of sad that there is a need for such a banner, but the Ethical Author Code and Banner are a good idea.

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Making self-publishing exciting and profitable

Ages ago, my first teaching gig was at a university. I did not teach students. I taught faculty and staff.

One of the courses I taught was PageMaker. A number of faculty wanted to publish their workbooks and textbooks. But, paying someone to publish them wasn’t practical.

So faculty would attend. Or, they would send their clerical staff who would actually be the people typing, doing layout and actually getting words on paper. At that time, the campus print shop was the usual option. Not pretty, but it got the job done.

I’m excited to see Glasstree Academic Publishing come into being. They offer what all those instructors needed: well-crafted original textbooks.

This is also a boon for anyone interested in creating print products for academia. Your skills are needed. Work with faculty who provide content. You edit. You do layout.

Bonus

There is a bonus to Glasstree. They pay 70% royalties. That’s a LOT.

Academic publishing is going to be a bit different than publishing a novel. There is a different process.

Selling academic textbooks may not seem like an exciting field. But, this is a seller’s dream. The average textbook sells for nearly $100 each. Multiply that times the number of students in your class who are required to buy that textbook. Now calculate 70% of that income. You keep that. Well, the author keeps it. They may have to pay for editorial staff, artwork and other services. But, this still stands to be a higher profit than any other kind of publishing.

And, there is a captive audience. Every time someone signs up for your class—cha-ching. You just sold another textbook.

Time is running out. “Glasstree is currently in a limited free trial period until December 31, 2016. During this time, authors can publish as many titles as desired, free of charge, receiving a range of complimentary services.”

Take a look. Give it a test run. Now, THIS is exciting!

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Self-publishing: hat #6

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

Hat #1: Writer

Hat #2: Editor

Hat #3: Graphics

Hat #4: Technical Layout Designer

Hat #5: Marketing

Hat #6: Coordinator

There is a sixth hat that is more important than the other five. This hat sits on the head of the coordinator.

Someone has to keep track of the details. Someone needs to keep the projects rolling while adhering to print specs.

Work flow

Someone needs to manage the work flow. What is your revision process?

Are you familiar with digital commenting? Perhaps, more importantly, is your client familiar with Track Changes? Are you prepared to teach them?

Meeting print requirements

Each self-publishing company has specific requirements for color mode, pixel rate, alignment, fonts and book layout. Some companies allow for full-bleed, while others do not. There is a myriad of book layouts print sizes, paper weight and cover options.

Someone needs to confirm that graphic resolution is appropriate. If it is not, don’t take short cuts.

Defining Done

Before you begin, define how you will know when you are done.

How many revisions will you make for free? What action marks a project done? What would constitute a new project, versus reasonable revisions of the initial project?

Contracts

If you agree to create a photo book of images you photographed or graphics you created, who owns them? Can your client sell them? Can they reprint them? Can they give them to other people to reprint? Or, do you have a contract entitling you to royalties if the images are duplicated?

Who owns your book? What does the self-publisher say? Do you retain the right to re-publish elsewhere? Can you publish the same book in digital format?

A contract is essential. It can be simple. But, it needs to be thorough.

Sometimes the contract just needs to be with you. You need a deadline. You need commitments to each of the Six Hats whether you wear them all yourself or subcontract to others.

Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.

Register now. I’ll see you on January 26.

Writing. Let’s do this thing.

 

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Self-publishing: hat #5

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

Hat #1: Writer

Hat #2: Editor

Hat #3: Graphics

Hat #4: Technical Layout Designer

Hat #5: Marketing

Marketing begins before the project takes shape. Whether you are marketing your skills to clients or whether you plan to self-publish and sell a book, you need to market.

Who is your customer? How do you reach them? What are their expectations?

You will get lost on the internet. Finding your niche, your customer base, your outlet is a challenge for anyone. Reportedly, a year ago, in February of 2016, it was announced that only 40 self-published authors “make money.

Most self-publishers do not have $70,000, like Meredith Wild, to invest in a full-fledged marketing campaign. Most self-publishers manage their own marketing.

Regardless, you need a marketing campaign. You need a plan. Only in the movies can you build it and people will come.

CONCLUSION

Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.

Next time …Coordinator

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Self-publishing: hat #4

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

Hat #1: Writer

Hat #2: Editor

Hat #3: Graphics

Hat #4: Technical Layout Designer

The technical layout designer is the one who makes it all look pretty and function well for the reader. There are specific parts to a book. Readers expect to see those parts. The designer incorporates text, graphics and photographs to build a book.

The one rule most people break is the rule that stipulates whether the first page of a book needs to be on the right, or the left. Yes, it does matter. One new self-publisher on the scene forces your book to begin on the correct page, regardless of whether you created it to do so, or not.

That matters. That matters tremendously.

Moving the first page, either forward or backward, one page, means all your layout will be in mirror image when the book is printed. Your page numbers will be on the “wrong” side of the page. Pages you have left blank intentionally in order to keep your pagination attractive, will suddenly be on the wrong side.

Graphic Layout

Once you have graphics, put your Designer hat on. Where do graphics go? How do you make text wrap around an image? What graphics resolution does the printer need? What graphics mode do they require?

Page Layout

Publishing companies provide you with a template. But, a savvy designer quickly learns to understand and adapt the template to create a beautiful book. Making those adaptations requires unique computer skills.

Layout includes choosing fonts and embedding them. It requires a keen understanding of fonts and font decoration, deciding what margins to use, how many spaces equal a tab, and so much more.

Never select text and change the font.

Never use menus to apply fonts, font sizes, font colors, font styles, paragraph or alignment, or lists.

Always apply styles instead.

And, then when you are done, save your template and copyright it. Protect your work.

CONCLUSION

Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.  Register today.

Next time …Marketing

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Self-publishing: hat #3

Every self-publisher wears six hats. Six. It’s not an option. That’s how it is.

  1. Writer
  2. Editor
  3. Graphics
  4. Technical Layout Designer
  5. Marketing
  6. Coordinator

Even if you plan to provide self-publishing services for others, you need to know the process. You need to wear six hats.

 

Hat #3: Graphics

Most books need some kind of graphics. If nothing else, the cover needs some sort of visual design. A book should look good, inside and out.

You have two choices. You can create images yourself, or you can use someone else’s graphics.

Either way, graphics need to be copyrighted and that copyright needs to be embedded in your images. This is true whether you create the images, buy them, or use free ones. The copyright information explains who can copy—and reuse–your images. Each image needs to be copyrighted and uploaded along with your publishing package.

This information needs to be embedded into every graphic you use. It is what protects your images, or grants you permission to use someone else’s images.

 

 NEVER copy and paste an image into a document. NEVER drag an image into your book. Always use Place (Adobe) or Insert (Office).

CONCLUSION

Six hats. One book. Let me show you how.

Next time …Designer

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The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything

This from the Atlantic.

“…consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”—maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”

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