I field nearly 100 inquiries a year about writing a book. People want to know predictable things, like whether they’re ready, how much it costs to self publish, how to market the book and how to get started.
I can speak from my experience, but here’s your chance to hear from a panel of experts on the subject, including Fabi Preslar, whose firm, SPARK Publications designed my award-winning book, Live Full Throttle.
Join me at this workshop
The Year of YOUR Book is a real world conversation about professionally custom-publishing your book. SPARK Publications will share the basic steps and processes toward becoming a self-published author.
This 90-minute session, held in Charlotte, NC, will include an interactive panel discussion with successful self-publishers (including yours truly) who will share their experiences with you and answer your questions. After the formal presentation, we’ll sign books and mix-and-mingle.
We’ll address these and other questions and concerns:
- What are the steps and costs involved in custom-publishing your own book?
- Fears of publishing a book on your own, without a “publishing house.”
- How to make a custom-published book succeed.
- Confusion with the differences between P.O.D (online) publishing, digital printing, traditional publishing and eBooks, (and choosing what’s best for you).
- Using a book as a business builder: best practices.
- How a book will help you land more and better speaking and media opportunities.
- Choosing between hiring a ghostwriter, writing coach, editor, copy editor, proofreader… and determining which one your book needs.
- Design, production, distribution, marketing, promotions, PR – how do you get your book “out there?”
Get answers to these questions and more during this 90-minute presentation. Cost is just $65 per person, plus the chance to win an autographed book from one of the panelists. I am not being compensated for participating, in case you’re wondering.
Meet the panelists
Chuck Inglefield: Author of the National award-winning book: Holy Cow, You’re Retiring! and President of Inglefield Retirement Solutions.
Tamela Rich: Author and recipient of two National publishing awards for Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons from Friends Who Faced Cancer. Tamela is also a financial ghostwriter.
Peg Robarchek: Ghostwriter, professional book editor, writing coach, and novelist.
Lou Solomon: Authentic Communication Coach, Founder of Interact and Author of Say Something Real.
When you’re publishing your own work, you’re taking on all the departmental responsibilities of a publisher: editing, design, printing, financing, distributing and marketing. Unless you’re publishing an e-book you’ll have to choose a book binding.* Deciding between hardback and softcover lies at the intersection of finance and marketing.
Readers are in transition, not just from print to electronic books, but also in our thinking about hardcovers and paperbacks. We’re accustomed to seeing first editions in hardcover for a premium price, followed by softcovers at a discounted one. Some genres have been running first editions in softcover for some time now, but we have been conditioned to believe a hardcover will eventually come out in paperback at a lower price.
*Disclaimer: throughout this post I’m going to interchange hardback with hardcover as well as softcover with paperback.
Social conditioning and the hardcover
Intrinsic beliefs about hardcover books are best summarized by the equation Hardback=Quality. We’ve been conditioned to believe hardbacks are more valuable. They are keepsakes. A hardcover gift says the giver is a person of discriminating taste.
Then there’s the matter of cost, which is easier to discuss rationally. A hardback is printed on cardboard, not paper. Cardboard and stitches have to cost a lot more than a glued-together paperback, right? Believe it or not, at a low quantity the hardcover may cost LESS to print than the softcover. That was the case with Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer because it has front- and back-cover flaps (see below).
But the cost analysis shouldn’t end with printing and binding. No matter the quality of the paper, the sturdiness of the cover, the earth-friendly inks that were used, the content is the same. That content originated in the author’s brain, passed through an editorial process, was designed and illustrated, and then sent to the printer. I’ll post on the intricacies of costing my book in November.
I had always intended to publish in paperback with flaps but caught a big case of second thoughts when I learned that a small run of books would cost less in hardcover than it would in paperback. I called my friend Karen, who owns The Bag Lady here in Charlotte, NC. Karen’s long career in the book trade includes years as a book rep (selling to bookstores), a bookseller, a librarian and the proprietor of a book and gift store. I asked her to tell me about consumer behavior to hard/softcovers and her response fascinated me.
She told me that when people see a hardcover book priced at say $25, they may think that’s a good price but will immediately wonder how much LESS they can get the paperback for if they wait a while. Because people are willing to WAIT for a paperback to come out, but won’t tell the bookseller that’s what they’re waiting for, the bookseller can’t tell them there is no forthcoming softcover (if that’s the case) or WHEN that paperback is due on the shelves. By the time the paperback comes out the reader probably forgot about it and everyone walks away a loser–the author missed a sale and the reader missed a book.
Here’s how I decided to go with paperback
Live Full Throttle is a combination memoir, photo essay and self-help book. The book is supposed to be written in, like a journal, because I included a set of exercises at the end of each chapter to help readers apply the information to their own lives. Keep this in mind as I walk you through my decision to go with a softcover.
- Some people prefer softcovers for their portability.
- Many readers say they don’t want the pressure of preserving something so valuable as a hardcover.
- A lot of self-help books are published exclusively paperback, which means buyers are accustomed to that form.
- I called a couple of self-helpaholics who said they’d rather have a paperback for the journaling and portability.
- Journaling and highlighting in a paperback is easier because the binding isn’t as stiff as a hardback.
- My book has 13 photos that span the gutter (the centerfold of the book). I was concerned about losing parts of the photos in a tightly-bound hardcover with 112 pages.Yes, photography books are usually produced in hardcovers, often cloth-bound with a dust jacket, but those books usually have more than 112 pages. While Christina Shook’s photos are worth staring at (the pictures in this post are in the book), it’s not a true coffee table book for the eyes; it’s ultimately a book to be handled.
So many considerations for self-publishers, eh? Do your homework.
Go with flaps to re-enforce a softcover
I hate when the edges of a paperback bend and tear, as they inevitably do. Flaps greatly reduce this possibility. If you’re printing a paperback, get a quote on cover flaps for protection.
I also like flaps for Live Full Throttle because they let me wrap the cover photo, taken in a Wyoming canyon, onto the back and not cover it up with a bunch of copy that I could instead place on the flaps. Flaps give the author more room for marketing messages.
I think that’s enough for now. Next up is that financial discussion I promised. If you have other topics to suggest for this series, please ask in the comments section below.
After writing about how to roll blog posts, newsletters and articles into books, self publishing, writing book proposals and what a book can do for you professionally, I invite you to walk with me down the path of self-publishing a book of my own.
Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer will go to press some time in November and I should have it back by January. Between then and now I’m working with a book design firm, printers, and my marketing intern, Alex Boss.
Live Full Throttle’s back story
In 2010 I learned to ride a motorcycle, then joined a group of women bikers dedicated to raising money and awareness for breast cancer causes. After hearing hundreds of stories about facing the ultimate sink hole—death–from women doing it with grace, humor, moxie and joy, I decided to share what they taught me in this book.
I decided to publish the book myself after walking through the list of questions I would pose to a client trying to make the same decision. Here’s a recap of my thought process.
I saw no reason to wait 12-18 months in light of the people I had waiting to buy it. I’ll be riding with the breast cancer fundraising group again in 2012 and they want to see this book NOW. Not taking into account the time required to get an agent and then a contract with a publisher, which is considerable, publishers have production queues that I have no means to influence.
Greater profits for savvy marketers
Even if a publisher picked up the cost of designing, editing and distributing the book, the hard costs (and hard tasks) of marketing it would be up to me. With the extra margin that publishing gives me, I’ll reap more of the financial rewards from hard-won sales than I would have realized with a publisher in the food chain. In other words, for the same amount of effort on my part I’ll make more money.
As my own publisher I can cut deals to consign the books with shops, vendors and speakers. I can co-brand the book with like-minded organizations and work out creative fundraising opportunities for nonprofits. I even can run a personalized edition for companies that would like to offer it to their stakeholders. Authors with total control over their P&Ls can do this; authors with publishers have to go hat in hand.
Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer is a hybrid of memoir and photo essay. At the end of each chapter I provide exercises designed to help readers apply the life lessons. An experimental format is difficult to sell to publishers, and I knew there was a strong probability that they would change the concept anyway, whether I was on board with their changes or not. Who needs that kind of creative castration? That’s why I’m freelance in the first place!
Publishers want authors with strong “platforms,” which is jargon for how many people already know about you and are waiting with bated breath for your book to roll of the printing press or to finish downloading. An author platform is gauged in a variety of ways, including the number of social media followers and blog and newsletter subscribers, speakers bureau representation, and so on.
For a first-time author planning use a book as a means of building or growing a platform, the whole “come back and see us when you have a big platform” line is like telling a teenager they can’t take the car out at night because they’ve never driven in the dark. In the time it would take me to convince a publisher that I have enough book buyers to warrant publishing it, I can just start selling the book.
Choosing a designer
I believe in putting out a quality product. Research shows that even ebooks with attractive “covers” sell better than those with cheesy ones. I’m not a designer and don’t aspire to be. Yes, ebooks can be formatted in Word and converted, but my book is full of beautiful photos by Christina Shook and needed real design expertise. I wasn’t about to skimp on design.
I also believe in the power of tribe. It’s always nice keeping dollars in your own community but that’s not the only reason why I chose Spark Publications, headquartered here in Charlotte, NC, to design my book. I wanted to work with a design firm that KNOWS BOOK PUBLISHING, and Spark has designed a raft of successful book projects. The president of the firm, Fabi Preslar, knows how difficult it is to be a self-published author, since she wrote a book of her own this year. Finally, Fabi is well regarded in business and professional circles in this region, meaning she has a great platform for promoting her clients’ projects; I wanted to benefit from her network and pro-client passion.
Choosing a cover
Spark began the project by suggesting different cover ideas. Scroll through to see the first round.
Next, I put the question out to friends and social media followers. On their feedback, I went back to Spark for iterations on the first layout. Here’s what I got.
And finally, here’s where we landed. I adore it.
Next up: Mission, Goals and Cover Guidance.