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April 2010

Searching for a Book Publisher? Use This 20-Point Checklist

Post by George Kittredge

If you have decided not to self-publish your book, finding the right book publisher can be a daunting task. Book publishing companies come in all shapes and sizes, and can offer a variety of services. When interviewing publishers (yes, you should interview them), it's a good idea to have some sort of game plan - like an authors checklist. The checklist below identifies 20 specific service areas you should ask about. It will help you determine what services a publisher can offer you, and it will also help you compare one publisher with another.

As a publisher, does your publishing services include the following? (Y/N)

Continue reading "Searching for a Book Publisher? Use This 20-Point Checklist" »

The Importance of Your Book's Cover - And a Great Rule to Follow

Here's a great rule to follow when creating your book. Draft your book's cover before your write your book. To focus on who your customers are (or will be) and what you plan to share with them, draft your back cover sales copy first.

Does that sound backwards? Think about it. Everyone initially judges a book by its cover. Like it or not, no one reads a book before making a buying decision. Such decisions are made on the illustration, design and the sales copy on the outside of the book. Yes, packaging is everything. And as Paul Baumann points out in his article on The Importance of the Book Cover When Self-Publishing, "when people buy books, the quality of a book's content is represented by the quality of its package."

Stores display tens of thousands of books. With all this congestion, it is hard to get attention. Add to the fact that, on average, the bookstore browser spends just eight seconds on the front cover and 15 seconds on the back cover. And because many books are displayed with the spine out, this assumes that the spine was good enough to get him or her to pull it off the shelf.

Here's another great article on book cover design that I recommend for anyone planning to write and publish a book.

10 Secrets of Professional Book Cover Designers by Cathi Stevenson.

In a future post, we will present some specific ideas regarding both your front cover and back cover. But for now, remember that spending time on developing a successful book cover will pay dividends when it's time to start selling.

[This post was created from excerpts from Writing Nonfiction by Dan Poynter.]

The "Greening of America" Through Print-On-Demand Publishing

A few years ago, Brenda Rollins wrote an excellent article on how print-on-demand (POD) technology was creating new opportunities for writers. And it's no wonder that today, POD is the hottest trend in the world of publishing.

Surprisingly, the basic concept isn't new - retailers of household goods like Walmart have used "just-in-time" inventory management for years. When a customer buys an item, a replacement is automatically ordered from the warehouse. POD simply takes just-in-time to the next level, both manufacturing and shipping the product as it is ordered by the consumer.

Before the advent of POD, the old traditional publishing industry engaged in a series of inefficient, wasteful business practices - namely:

  • routinely overprinting new books,
  • overstocking warehouses and bookstores, and then
  • returning unsold books to the publisher for a refund.

People outside the book world are often shocked to hear that bookstores don't actually buy books. Instead, they take them on consignment. Returns often amount to 20% or 30% of the total inventory shipped to bookstores. This inefficient and environmentally unfriendly system makes it hard for conventional publishers to break even financially, and it drives them to focus on commercial rather than literary factors.

The POD business model reverses this vicious cycle. Instead of printing thousands of books first, then hoping that readers buy them, the opposite of true - readers order first, then the books are printed and shipped (often within 48 hours) to the buyers. The number of books printed is only as many as are really needed, with few (if any) unsold copies left over.

The good news is that the philosophy of POD is driving the book world toward a leaner, meaner, greener future, and one that is more equitable to readers and writers alike.

[The post was created from excerpts taken from U-Publish.com 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.]

SevenTerrific Tips for Creating Winning Book Titles

Creating a title for your book is the single most important piece of copywriting you will do for your book. A great title will not sell a bad book, but a poor title will hide a good book from potential customers. Here are seven terrific tips to help you create that winning book title.

1. Make your title short. Your title should be easy to remember and easy to say, and the words should relate well to each other. Books in Print uses a 92-character computer field. So make sure your title (and subtitle) tell your story, and do not go over the 92 characters. There are some exceptions, but take a look at today's best seller list and see how many books have short, snappy titles.

2. Do not start your title with a number. My apologies to John Kremer on this one (he perhaps is the exception). But titles that begin with a number (such as "1,001 ways to...") are hard to catalog, and then hard to find. Catalogers have to decide if the "1" goes above the letters, under the word "one" or somewhere else. Nat Bodian, author of How to Choose a Winning Title, believes that "authors, as a rule, are poor judges of titles and often go for the cute or clever rather thatn the practical."

3. Think of the image being conveyed. The title should project a warm, successful, positive image. It must grab attention and make a promise. Good book titles are the best teaser copy in an ad or on the shelf. Think of good teaser copy and try it for a title.

4. Make your title specific. We live in an age of specialization. Today, each book and magazine is aimed at a tightly focused, highly targeted audience. Customers buy the specific over the general. Put your number one benefit in the title and subtitle of your book. A good title example: The Art of Kissing. It sold over 60,000 copies.

5. Beware of using a working title while creating your book. Working titles are dangerous because they can become too familiar while being misleading or meaningless to potential customers.

6. Use generic, not proprietary names. Remember, some titles may be part of a trademark. For example, Checkerboard Square. So, avoid trademark infringement problems by steering clear of proprietary names. And speaking of legal issues, be aware that titles cannot be copyrighted. One reason is there are too many books and too few words in the language. Check Books in Print and Forthcoming Books in Print for competing titles.

7. Don't be slavishly imitative. That is to say, make sure your title does not sound like the title of an existing book. Do not waste your efforts competing for attention with a book with a similar title. However, a play on words may aid recognition.

Here are some great examples of winning titles. I am sure you can think up many more.

So what makes a great title? One that attracts a reader and can sell your book.

[The above post was created from excerpts taken from Writing Nonfiction, written by Mr. Dan Poynter.]


Just How Big Should My Self-Published Book Be? - Part 2

Post by George Kittredge

Last week in Part 1 of this post, I wrote about how you can determine how many pages you book will be from the size of your book manuscript. However, there are also several other factors that can affect the page count your finished book will have.

Be aware that the number of pages in your published book will be more than just the content from your manuscript. There will be additional pages - what we call front and rear matter. Front matter could include a title page, copyright page, dedication page, testimonials, table of contents, etc. Rear matter could include an index, author bio, order information page, etc. So keep in mind, that the peripheral pages around your core content could add another 10-20 pages, depending upon what you want to include.

Another factor in page count is if there are going to be any photos or illustrations in your book. Obviously, the larger and more illustrations you have, the greater the final page count may be.

So now that you know how many pages you book currently has, how many pages should it have?

What kind of book is your book? Fiction? Non-fiction? Poetry? Short Stories? Children's book? Unless you are writing a lengthy textbook or a large book that contains lots of photos and illustrations (often called a coffee table book), you most likely should be thinking of a smaller page size (something like 7 or 6 by 9 inch or 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch). A good suggestion is to talk to a book printer. A printer will be able to give you an idea of what the "optimum" page sizes or dimensions should be that will minimize paper waste (and can lower your book production costs).

Also, check out your local bookstores. Go to the sections that have books similar to your genre and see how many pages those books have and what their page size dimensions are. But beware, some of the books have been printed using offset presses (traditional publishers) that allow greater flexibility in what paper size can be used.

Finally, ask yourself these questions. Does my book hold the reader's attention, interest and enthusiasm through to the last page? Are there places where I could shorten or that I could eliminate, that would improve my book? If you identify some spots where the interest factor may wane, or the pace you want to maintain slows, some editorial "tightening" may be in order.

If you are looking for more information about determining book sizes, Susan Daffron has an excellent short article that is worth a read.

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing - What Are the Advantages?

Scott Hayden writes in his Suite 101 blog that "the odds would be stacked against an unknown writer who wants to sign a contract with a (traditional) publishing company." Wendy Keller, in her article "What Are the Odds of Getting Published?" states that typically 99.5% of all book submissions are rejected. But before you dispair, take a look at some of the pluses of your alternative - self-publishing.

Self-publishing offers many benefits to writers. These include more control of content and rights, a bigger share of profits and faster publication. In addition, self-publishers enjoy greater potential to tap markets beyond bookstores and libraries.

More outlets: Books are now sold almost everywhere: in gift shops, supermarkets, airports, truck stops, and most importantly, in vast numbers of stores with specialized product lines that are compatible with a particular book's subject. In contrast, the traditional publishing industry supplies a few specialty outlets as a sideline, but sells the majority of its books through major chain bookstores and libraries.

Higher profits and fewer returns: Mainstream booksellers also expect big discounts, a long time to pay, and the right to return unsold books on a routine basis. The sad fact is that bookstores rarely BUY books; instead, they take them on consignment!

On the other hand, non-traditional outlets are far more numerous, easier to identify, often pay more, pay faster, and return fewer (if any) unsold books.

Tighter targeting: Suppose you've written a book about a relatively narrow subject like fertilizers. How many casual bookstore customers are interested in this subject? Probably very few. But now imagine the customers of a tree nursery or gardening supply center. Nearly all of them are potential readers...and buyers!

Traditional publishers generally don't even try to sell books in outlets like these, but self-publishers can take advantage of specialty markets that more closely match the subject matter of the book with the outlet where it is sold.

Several years ago, Brian Judd wrote an article for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IPBA) titled, "Three Steps for Creating a Special-Sales Plan." If you are planning to target a niche market, it's worth a read.

So, aspiring authors should keep this in mind. When you combine the benefits of self-publishing with the advantages of exploiting non-traditional markets, you have a solid one-two punch that can knock the socks off of old-fashion publishing.

[This post was created from excerpts taken from U-Publish.com 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.]

Just How Big Should My Self-Published Book Be? - Part 1

Post by George Kittredge

This is a question I have been often asked, and it is one with no clear, specific answer. Like most questions in the book publishing business, the answers usually begin with, "It depends." However, there are several issues that a soon-to-be author may want to consider when determining how big (i.e. how many pages) his or her book is or should be. Here are some ideas to think about.

The first thing you may want to determine is how big your book currently is, based on the size of your completed manuscript. In other words, how many pages will your published book be, given the size and length of your book manuscript?

Most manuscripts are developed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch size paper and doubled spaced. This is done to make it easier to proofread and edit. With this in mind, the following information may be helpful. But keep in mind, that even these numbers will vary depending upon the font and type used and the border size.

  • an 8 1/2 by 11 inch page, double spaced can accomodate about 300 words per page.
  • an 8 1/2 by 11 inch page, single spaced (double column) can accomodate about 500 words per page.
  • a 7 by 9 inch page, single spaced can accomodate about 320 words per page.
  • a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch page, single spaced can accomodate about 225 words per page.

So, using these numbers only as a guide, a 200 page, 8 1/2 by 11 inch double spaced manuscript (about 60,000 words) would create roughly a 270 page book published in a 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inch size, and  a 190 page book published in a 7 by 9 inch size.

Another way to determine how big your book will be is to cut and paste several pages of your manuscript (say 10 pages) onto a page size of what your finished book is going to be. Be sure to adjust to a correct border size and gutter. Then see how many pages are created in the book size layout. If ten manuscript pages creates eight book size pages, then a good estimate for the book length generated from a 200 page double spaced manuscript would be about 160 single spaced pages.

To learn more about how to format your manuscript, you may want to visit some of the following resources:

A Guide to Manuscript Format by Moira Allen

Manuscript Preparation by Durant Imboden

How to Format Your Manuscript for Submission by ehow.com.

Now that you have some idea as to the number of pages your book will be, next week in Part 2 we will share some additional thoughts regarding other factors you may want to consider regarding book length, including how many number of pages it SHOULD be.