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Posts tagged ‘print book’

Too little, too late

I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t make up stories. When I learned how to write, I started putting my stories down on paper. When my cousin Clarice discovered I loved writing, she told me about her father. Uncle Herb had been a playwright but, raising a family during the Depression, he had given it up to make sure there was a roof over their head and food on the table. Uncle Jack had been a newspaper man like his father before him. Others in the family he written for enjoyment. It was Clarice’s first step toward encouraging me to follow my dream to be a writer.

For years, I dreamed of seeing my books in bookstores, of being able to sign my books at author events and of making my cousin proud. What I didn’t realize was that between those first few days of encouragement from Clarice to when I finally got serious about writing — yes, Sarah has very pointy boots — the publishing industry would change dramatically. Now, I can hold my books in print. Yes, there is a little thrill of excitement when a new proof copy comes in and I finally pull the button to put the print book on sale. But the reality is that the vast majority of my sales — just as the vast majority of my purchases — are e-books.

 

I have long accepted that my books would never grace the shelves of Barnes and Noble. After all, their feud with Amazon is well-known. B&N had made it clear it won’t stock books published by Amazon or made available through Createspace. So when I saw news that B&N was finally going to stock indie print books, I sat up and took notice. Could the bookseller finally be admitting that the indie market was large enough to take it seriously? If so, what did I have to do to get my books into its 640 stores?

The initial press release filled me with hope. Nook Press, B&N’s alternative to KDP, was going to offer a print side. Better yet, it would allow for hardcover as well as soft cover print books. Cool. I kept reading and that is when I started realizing there was a big “if” to it all.

Through the new print platform, eligible* NOOK Press authors have the opportunity to sell their print books at Barnes & Noble stores across the country on a local, regional or national level, and online at BN.com. Authors can also qualify** for the opportunity to participate at in-store events including booksignings and discussions, where they will be able to sell their print books and meet fans.

Oops. I’m not out of the first paragraph of the press release and there are already two asterisks that tell me the fine print is going to be anything but warm and welcoming.

The rest of the release talks about how wonderful the Nook Press platform is and what an opportunity this presents to those who take part. But those damned asterisks to look at.

Let’s look at what you have to do to be eligible. “Opportunity available for those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.” Okay, does that mean you have to sell 1,000 units of a title before that title is eligible for the print program? (That is my take) Or is it if you sell 1,000 units of any title and all your titles can be eligible for the print program? I doubt the latter, figure the former.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that those 1,000 units of sales have to be on the Nook platform. So that is a big hurdle right there. I know there are some authors who have had success on the Nook platform selling e-books. But from personal experience, as well as talking with other authors I know, those who have sold 1,000 units of a single title in a year on B&N are few and far between. The reason I left B&N in the first place was because I was making very few sales there. My Amazon sales ran more than 10 to 1 and, with the start of KDP Select and then KU, well, there was no reason to go anywhere else. Not when I compared the numbers.

But, maybe it is time to reconsider if I can get my books onto BN shelves. So, I tried to keep an open mind and kept reading down to the second asterisk. Again, it leaves more questions than it gives answers. An author can qualify for in-store events if they sell fewer e-books (single title) in a one year period than is required to be eligible to be placed on the shelves. Does this mean the author or store will order print versions of the book and have them on hand to sell at these events? If so, what sort of hit will the author take for returns? Does the author have to buy the books outright or what?

All in all, it is something that looks good on the surface but that really isn’t doing anything to help win the average indie author over to BN. First of all, unless I keep my prices und9er $2.99, my royalties will be less from BN than they are from Amazon. With Amazon, I get 70% for my books, all priced between $2.99 to $4.99. With BN, I would receive only 65%. That isn’t much per unit but when you consider I would be giving up my Kindle Unlimited reads, which make up at least 1/3 of my income each month and is always in a minimum of the 3 digit range, it turns into a very big hit.

More importantly, I don’t see a guarantee that my print book would be stocked — or for long — in stores if I did have the magic 1,000 units sold in a year.

Oh, one more little thing I guess BN thought we would miss. To be eligible for this, it means your book has been out as an e-book for months, or years, before it will make it onto the shelves. Remember, you have to have sold 1,000 units in a year before it is eligible. We don’t know what the steps are from there (Full disclosure. I did a quick search of their site and didn’t find more information. It might be there but it shows another of my complaints with BN. Their sites are not well designed.) So, by the time the print comes out the initial push for the book is done and the author is on to writing another book and pushing it.

Timing, they say, is everything and in this instance BN is badly out of sync.

It will be interesting to see how this falls out over the next few months. I wish those taking part luck but I will not be moving away from KDP Select and KU anytime soon. Not on something that I have so many questions about. It really is, in my mind, too little, too late. And that is too bad.

 

 

 

Get a Blurb

Blurb always sounds to me like an onomatopoeia. This is a word that should mean something like the last sound you make as you are drowning, as the bubble of air leaves your lungs and breaks to the surface… blurb. Instead, it’s not that bad but it feels that way. I can’t count how many times I have been told by my fellow authors that creating a blurb is so much worse than writing the whole darn book (coming up with a title seems to run neck and neck with this). However, a blurb is essential to a successful book. We’ve written up blurb workshops here at the MGC before, you can find one here. There’s another one here.

A blurb for an ebook goes onto the sales page for the book (and many other places). On a print book, it either goes on the back of a paperback (whether trade or mass-market sized) or the inside flap of a hardback. Since I’m dealing with trade paperbacks in this post, we will concentrate on the back cover blurbs, but there is no real difference from the hardback book requirements. A blurb is your second chance to hook a reader. The first was with the cover art, which for my purposes includes the first text they read, the title. In fact, if we are talking about shoppers in a bookstore, sometimes the title matters more than the cover art as it’s the first thing they see. Remember, spines are important too, as we discussed last week. So once you have intrigued them with the title, attracted them with the art, now is the time to sell the book.

No pressure. You have about, oh, 50-150 words to pitch your whole idea that took you a thousand times that many words to express in full.

I’d suggest you go look at the links above, and remember: no passive voice here. Also, you can put your blurb-in-progress in the comments, and I will try to help, as will your fellow commentors (gives them the mom-eye, you will share, right? Ahem…)

Now that you are working on the blurb, let’s move on to the rest of the layout of a back cover.

Guidelines

 

As you will see on the back cover for Dragon Noir, I have a tagline, a blurb, pull-quotes from reviews, an author photo, a call to visit my blog, a graphic element, and a QR code. I know, that is a lot of stuff going on in a small amount of real estate. All that, and you will note I avoid the barcode location, which is inserted by the printer, not you.

A tagline is a short, catchy sentence or sentence fragment you can use to catch the reader’s eye and pull them into reading the rest of the blurb. Think of it as a headline for your blurb. Writing headlines is an art unto itself, but if you have ever done it, then you are all set for this. If you haven’t, take heart. Headlines need to be punchy, but also say something about the content. Look at the headlines I used for this mini-series. Get a Spine, Get a Blurb: they both play off “get a life” but they don’t say that, and when a reader sees something unexpected, they look further. You want to keep this short.

Pull-quotes from reviewers is tricky if you haven’t got any. In my case, I’m using pull-quotes from the release of Pixie Noir, the first book in the series, and making it clear next to them. I sent Pixie Noir out to a number of places and people for review, but in general you don’t do this with every book in the series and it’s acceptable to carry the quotes through the series. Don’t, for goodness sakes, use Amazon reviews on the book cover for pull-quotes. I took some photos of back covers, and as you will see, some books later in a series, or non-fiction, eschew a blurb altogether in favor of pull-quotes.

Book Backs

Book four in John Ringo’s zombie series, and a non-fiction book: both are hardcovers.

I wouldn’t recommend this approach. Hardcovers as I illustrate above, have the inner flaps, where convention places the blurb at the front, and a short author bio at the back. We’re only working with the back cover to get all that in.

book backs

Don’t leave the cover blank.

If you leave the back cover blank, not only are you wasting all that lovely real-estate that could be promoting your book, you are making it look like it’s not a sale-ready copy. The black cover you see above is an uncorrected page proof that was sent to advance readers. I picked it up in a used book store along with several others like it – someone was cleaning their shelves off, and I made out! I wanted to show you the back of Pixie Noir, because I did a couple of things here. I used the graphic elements of the two guns to visually separate the blurb from the pull quotes. They also create a bit of negative space that reduces clutter and eyestrain. You do not want to pack your back cover full of stuff, the readers will go cross-eyed and put the book back down. I also put each quote in a different color to separate them, but this is not necessary, and can go very wrong if not done right.

Moving on to the final but very important elements: Author promo.

books-3

You do not have to put a photo of yourself on the book. There is no rule that says you must. However, if you do, then choose a professional headshot, well lit and with good contrasts, or a crisp photo as I have chosen above, with a little action in it. I will be changing this out on the next book, but I wanted it to be consistent through the series. Do not use a cell-phone shot, something that is blurry, dark, or full-length. Just your face is usually best (again, the one I’m using pushes that). You are talking about an image that will be a mere 1 1/2″tall. Do not use a photo of a pet, unless this is a book about your pet (or by your pet!) and then, if you do, same rules apply. If you don’t have a good photo, leave it off.

I don’t think you can read the text for my author promo, but it simply reads: “Find Cedar at her blog. Scan the code or go to http://www.cedarwrites.com” A QR code, that square futuristic-looking thing, is a very handy tool. You can generate them for free and very easily. I’ve been using QRStuff for mine recently – and make sure you check the graphic file, I was using another site and discovered it wasn’t rendering correctly. All you do is type in a URL and download the graphic file. Then your reader can scan with a smartphone app, which zooms them right to your website, Amazon Author page, or what-have-you (I use one on promotional material like bookmarks and postcards as well, and sometimes send the scanner code straight to a book for reading sample and buying).

Whew. Long post today! Ok, questions and blurbs in the comments, and I will talk to you all there.