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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Gimme a pipe

One unresolved self-publishing issue is pipes. Browse an old copy of PC Magazine from 1993 and you’ll see that the pipe concept has been around for a long time. Basically, for those who don’t want to click-and-read, it’s a method of moving digital information from one place to another.

Whether you are self-publishing for someone else, or hiring someone to self-publish for you, pipes matter. How do you get your information into the cyber bookstore?

The person who will receive the royalties needs a self-publishing account. That person sets up their tax information, designates what account should receive the royalties, and a host of other bits of data.

The person who actually uploads the content of the book and the book cover needs access to that same account.

So if you hire someone to format your file for any kind of a book, they need to have access to your account. If you are an author, do you really want to give your Createspace or Lulu password to someone you hire? The author’s account contains credit card information, which is actually pipe in from CyberSource.com.

Once a client accesses an author’s Createspace account they have full access to edit the account so that all royalties are deposited in the client’s account, instead of the author’s.

Someone needs to invent a way for editors and layout personnel to access a self-publishing author’s account without giving them full credit card, and other payment, access.

As editors and design staff, we need to inform authors that they need to help us advocate to protect their payment data.

No client has ever asked if I am bonded before giving me their passworded information. They don’t ask for legal contract wording to protect them.

I am concerned about the liability on my part. How do I protect myself? If uploaded data is less than perfect, I need to see the online viewer only accessible via passworded access.

All self-publishing companies need to address this issue.

How do you handle this? As an author, do you give out your password to editors and layout providers?

As an editor or designer, do you log in with authors’ passwords?

#pipesmatter

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It’s About Us

I edit nonfiction more often than fiction. There are rules for editing both and not just because some people like rules. The rules exist to make reading easier.

I was recently editing a book for a writer who frequently mentioned the names of companies. Part of the rationale, no doubt, is to capitalize on SEO. So many Short Reads, in particular, are thinly-veiled advertisements. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But, if you are going to namedrop, you need to drop the correct name, spelled correctly. The easiest way to know if you are using the name correctly and whether you are using it legally is to refer to the company’s website.

No S

Comb through the Nordstrom website. Does it look like I spelled that name wrong? I have meticulously combed through the Nordstrom website and the company never uses the spelling “Nordstrom’s.”

It’s simple to find this information. It’s on the company’s About Us page. If you’re still not sure, look for a Press Release section. Nordstrom always says Nordstrom.

05/16/16 Nordstrom Brings 1,600 Jobs to Toronto for Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Stores
05/15/16 34th Annual Nordstrom Beat the Bridge Race Results
05/12/16 Nordstrom Reports First Quarter 2016 Earnings
04/28/16 Nordstrom to Report First Quarter 2016 Financial Results on May 12

How do you spell Ray-Ban? The company hyphenates it and capitalizes each word.

Book layout

Speaking of Ray-Ban, if you need a photo of sunglasses, it is illegal to copy one from their website and print it in your book.

How do you know? Well, first of all, you should assume that it is illegal. But, Ray-Ban makes it perfectly clear on their terms of use. Copying images and citing the source is not sufficient. Don’t do it unless you have permission, in writing, from the company. The company often doesn’t own the artwork. They have likely purchased it or hired the photographer and have a legal agreement with the photographer or artist not to give away the artwork for other people to use in for-pay publications.

There may be exceptions, for educational purposes. But, be sure to read the copyright permission, as posted on the website or available directly from the company.

copyrightInfo

Give credit. How do you know how to credit artwork? The website often explains the rights and cost of use, for how long, in what kind of publication and in what part of the world. In the above example, the rate varies based on use.

upclose

That seems like a lot to keep track of but it isn’t. Photographers and artists often embed the ownership inside the image. It is your responsibility to know that and to give credit where credit is due.

hack Need to copyright your images? Need to know if an image is copyrighted and by whom? Open the file in Photoshop and open File/File Info. No, I didn’t stutter. That’s really the menu option. There is a Copyright section where the owner or creator can add as much copyright info as they need or choose.

tonyFrench

Play nice. You wouldn’t like it if someone made money or a reputation on your words without compensating you. Support the arts community.

#thinkfastwritefast

 

 

 

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Self-publishing: Who’s watching the store?

Growing up, we went to my aunt’s house for every holiday dinner. She loved hosting and every holiday was the same. Great food, gentle jibes, funny reminiscences and invariably my uncle would wait for the inevitable lull in the conversation.

Then here it would come. “Ramblers are the best car ever made.”

There it was. Every holiday dinner. I believe the last Rambler rolled off the assembly-line in 1969 so chances are pretty good that you have never even heard of the Rambler. It had its heyday. There was a time when only Ford and Chevrolet were more popular.

Today, when I think about holidays, I think of Ramblers. They are charming memories right up there with the 8-track player in my first car or the curb feelers my friend’s dad put on her car when she went off to college. Yes, she was humiliated but dad was helping pay her tuition.

It has mystified me for quite some time that writers find it so difficult to consider an alternative to Createspace for their publishing needs. It would be like talking about a Rambler when everyone is driving a Prius or a Tesla.

Yes, there was a time when the Rambler was cutting edge. And, there was a time when Createspace was the only game in town.

Today—just today–I had a conversation with a writer about the advantages of publishing books through Lulu when I finally understood the confusion. It’s about the store.

As consumers and producers, we can’t see the store for the publisher.

…we can’t see the store for the publisher.

Traditionally, if you wrote a book, you sent the typewritten pages to a very large company where someone decided whether your words would ever see the light of day. Oh, a typewriter was a machine that was just a keyboard that printed characters directly onto paper. And, you used these little bottles of white paint to correct mistakes.

There were a limited number of publishing companies and they could only create a limited number of titles. The vast majority were discarded and hearts were broken.

That’s not to say they were bad books. Partly, there was a limit to how many books editors had time to read and were willing to take a chance on publishing.

I worked for a very, very, very brief time for a major bookstore. I was mortified that there was a special dumpster out back where, every single day, it was our job to dump books that weren’t selling. It would cost too much to even sell them on eBay. Obviously, traditional publishing has its issues.

The old-fashioned solution was vanity publishing. A writer—any writer–could pay a vanity publisher to print books. Yes, they paid to have their words published. Vanity publishing was very popular with family histories. If you wanted to print out 17 copies of your family’s genealogy, you could do that.

You paid. You paid to have them printed. You paid to have them shipped to you. Then, you schlepped the books to the family reunion and handed them out or, again, paid to have them shipped to Uncle Bob and Aunt Margie.

You can still pay to have your books printed. It’s a charming method, kind of like the Rambler sitting in my uncle’s driveway.

Paying to print still exists. You can actually pay to print through Createspace and even Lulu. You can hire someone to do the layout. You can hire someone to create a cover. You can hire someone to edit.

But, you don’t need to. And, you shouldn’t have to.

I predict that, as time passes, we will see fewer and fewer people paying for publishing. It’s a dying tradition. You will even see fewer instances of writers paying for layout services.

Right now we are in a mystifying time. It is overwhelming to many writers attempting to get their words into reader’s hands.

Part of the issue will solve itself. Part of the issue is age. (Let me just mention here that I am 59 years old, as of this writing.)

I used to be a software trainer. There was a time when I could literally not remember the last time I saw anyone under the age of 30 show up for a computer class. Even the youngest thirty-somethings already knew most of what was covered. Sometimes they would actually tell me they were only there to give moral support to someone who was really intimidated by Microsoft Word. Someone older.

The world had changed. You couldn’t give away a manual typewriter. Everyone was growing up with the opportunity to learn ever more sophisticated uses for computers and learning to do amazing things easier and faster than we expected.

Enter Amazon.

Where is the store?

If you knew the basic Styles process, you were lightyears ahead. Suddenly, you could create and sell your own books and it cost you nothing. In fact, you got paid just for doing it.

That’s where the confusion first arose. Where was the store? The store was inside your computer.

But, where?

Amazon is not a publisher. Nor are they a printer.

Amazon sells books. That’s are a store. They sell things. They don’t produce things. They sell things. There are a number of stores. Just like any store, they sell products from various producers.

They do own Createspace. But, they carry books from a myriad of both traditional and self-publishing sources.

Where is the printer?

The printer is not the store. But, the printer can sell books.

The printer is Createspace or Lulu or a handful of others. I just Googled “Self-publishing.” The top four hits were paid advertisements for companied that will print anything you want—if you pay them enough money. The first unpaid entry is the Wikipedia definition of self-publishing.

Lulu is the top hit for any self-publishing company. So why do so many writers not know that?

It’s a dizzying world and it moves fast. So, let me help you understand it.

Lulu prints books. You pay nothing. You earn royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Createspace prints books. You pay nothing. You earn (lower) royalties when readers buy your books. They assign a free ISBN. It is a legitimate ISBN required by brick-and-mortar and other stores and libraries.

Then there are the printers who, for a fee, will print books. Royalties? It’s all a little foggy.

Again, where is the store?

Createspace is a store. Createspace sells books, film and music directly from the artists to the public. Go to http://tinyurl.com/BuyCreatespace and you can chose from 518,980 books, 2,730 videos or 1,385 works of music. Createspace has existed since 2007 and actually dates back to a conglomeration of companies dating back to 2002. That’s almost 15 years. And you didn’t know? Yes, they are a printer. But, they are also a direct-to-the-public store. But don’t worry about that for now.

Amazon is a store. Amazon owns Createspace. You can buy Createspace books, videos and music through Amazon. Or, you can buy from Createspace.

Think of Amazon like this. Walmart is a store. But, Walmart is also Sam’s Club. They are just different flavors of the same company. Amazon is a store and so is Amazon’s Createspace.

Barnes & Noble is a store. They may publish your book, if you send it to them in the right format and leap nimbly over hurdle after hurdle. You have to buy your own ISBN number. According to their website, you will be competing with 100,000 submissions annually just to be considered. B&N prefers that you sell your book to them through a wholesaler. “Wholesalers normally expect a 50-55% discount, pay in 60-90 days, and expect books to be returnable. Some expect free freight.” But, primarily, B&N is a store.

Lulu is a store. We already said that Lulu is a printer. But, they also sell books. You can go to Lulu.com and buy books. Since, they are a printer, as well, they also offer volume discounts.

And, Lulu distributes their books to—Amazon. And, Barnes & Noble. And, more.

So what does this all mean to a writer?

As a writer and a self-publishing guru, I recommend printing through Lulu and distributing, from there, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, in addition to Lulu. And more.

Lulu offers free print and eBook distribution options that will get your book into the global marketplace. This network reaches online print book retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and retailers in the Ingram catalog network. Lulu also provides eBooks distribution (English content only) for Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and all online eBooks distributors associated with the Ingram network.

There really is no competition. Literally.

Lulu is your best self-publishing option precisely because it is  not in competition with that list of distribution sites.

Lulu charges you nothing to print your book.

Lulu distributes your books to the stores.

Lulu is not an alternative to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Lulu is a supplier to them (and more) and actually offer you a better chance of getting into B&N and Ingram than if you submit your manuscript directly to them.

So…what was your question again?

The answer is Lulu.

#thinkfastwritefast

P.S. Your blog host, Judy Rosella Edwards, is likely to appear as a top hit if you Google “Self-publishing.” See below.

imIt

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Make your self-published book attractive

Ask your self-publishing guru what is included in their fee. If your guru offers to “format and upload,” be sure to ask what that includes.

One of the most precious things about books is uniqueness. There is absolutely no reason not to create a beautifully unique design for self-published work. Your words deserve to look good.

A fiction book, that is straight text with just some chapter headings and page numbers, fits the bare minimum of “format and upload.”

But, would your book benefit from a little style? How about artwork and design? Textboxes. Callouts. Page borders.

Can your guru create custom page numbers, that still function and are searchable and understood by the Table of Contents and Index? They should. Otherwise, you just have words. Make your words sparkle!

hack

Use a transparent gif to decorate page numbers. Decorative page numbers are a cinch to create and they add interest to your book.

oce   Page-7

Every book needs a cover, including eBooks. If your guru is going to do the book design, are they going to charge extra? Can they create art for the cover? Are they going to buy artwork and pass the cost on to you? If you select artwork, do you have the necessary copyright license to use it for cover art? For interior art? For both print and eBook?

If not, talk to us. We can make it happen.

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Platforms and Sizes and Bindings, oh, my!

Mention self-publishing and most people instantly think “Amazon.” Why? Because they were the first of their kind, they are the largest and everyone knows them.

 

But, there is the rub. Everyone knows them. What they don’t know is that Amazon is merely the tip of the iceberg.

 

My personal favorite is Lulu.com. They pay higher royalties to customers who buy directly from them. So, all that effort you are putting into social media and other marketing efforts might generate more income if you drove traffic to your Lulu site and had them buy directly from there.

 

Plus, Lulu does distribute to Amazon, in most cases, and to Barnes & Noble. Remember that, if you publish only through Createspace, your book will not be published on Barnes & Noble for one very simple reason. Amazon owns Createspace.

 

So, in terms of sheer distribution, you are better off with Lulu. Probably.

 

The most important thing to know about making choices is that many terms are not literal. For instance, Kindle offers a new Textbook Creator and a Kindle Kids Book Creator. Obviously, these are digital books but think outside the box.

 

Kindle doesn’t actually recognize a textbook. It’s just a term. I am experimenting with it because the Textbook Creator recognizes layers. That means you can create a digital book with an art background, with text that remains text. Since you do not have to flatten layers, the text remains searchable.

 

Ah, now I see the lightbulb going on.

 

Textbook Creator can also be used for designing digital coloring books. As is. Although, if I were creating a coloring book for kids or for adults, I would use Lulu’s spiral bound option.

 

Now, we’re back into print text. The spiral bound option is just one of the things I love about Lulu. Some things just need to lay flat, especially manuals. Or cookbooks. Or coloring books.

 

You can print them with Lulu. But, Amazon won’t carry spiral bound books. From anywhere, as far as I know.

 

That’s still not a problem. You can sell directly from Lulu. Like I said, use the same marketing approach. If people are already finding you on Amazon, you don’t need to be marketing anyway. Right? Of course, if they are finding you by the hundreds, it probably means you are already a best-selling author who is doing press junkets and living out of a suitcase.

 

The other thing I love – and I mean absolutely adore – is that Lulu will print books with dust jackets.

 

Oooh. Makes me swoon. Don’t you just love a hardback book with a beautiful dust jacket? Is there really anything quite like it?

 

I can’t find anyone else who offers self-publishers the dust jacket option. That alone makes me biased in their favor.

 

Lulu has some other options that Createspace doesn’t. Createspace, according to their documentation, farms out their printing to different vendors. In fact, if you read the fine print, you will learn that they work with multiple vendors and different runs of your book may look different. But, the same, because they will always be shiny with a “paperback” cover.

 

Lulu may, or may not, sub-contract their printing services. But, my experience has been that my books are always identical, regardless of the run.

 

Because of Lulu’s flexibility, they offer things like “calendars.” I put that in quotes because a calendar does not have to be a calendar. All Lulu calendars are available in full color, spiral bound. The small, landscaped letter-size calendar is available for documents ranging from a mere ten pages all the way up to 470 pages. That’s a big spiral. I’d kind of like to see one.

 

They also offer what they call their Premium Calendar. That page range for this one is between seven and 73 pages. But, it is a color printed documented 135” x 19”. Oh, my. Doesn’t that just make you want one?

 

hack Lulu will let you create custom-size documents. Pretty much any size. Just talk to them. If you plan to sell directly from Lulu, go for it! Amazon won’t carry your book—but it doesn’t matter, because you’re going to market it the same anyway.

 

Regardless of which size “calendar” you choose, BREAK THE RULES. Lulu does not actually check to make sure there are dates and days of the week on your calendar. They don’t care as long as your document fits the print dimensions.

 

If the size fits, apply it to your project. Lulu is so incredibly flexible. They will print “Comic Book” size documents. That just means a 6.25” x 10.25” document, perfect bound, between 32 and 740 pages. But, again, put your thinking cap on. If you’re going to flatten layers anyway, consider a saddle-stitched book. It’ll be more like a comic book. Amazon won’t carry it. But, again, that’s okay.

 

There are more options coming. Watch for Glass Tree text books. I’ll keep you posted!

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