Tag Archives: print books

Formatting for Print Revisited

Formatting. The bane of every author’s existence. Whether we’re talking about formatting for print or for e-books, we’re all looking for the one click version, something that will work each and every time. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Why? It goes far beyond the fact we use different operating systems and word processing programs. The answer really rests in what readers expect and how do we, as indie authors or small press authors, make sure our work looks as “professional” as that of the Big 5.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of formatting for print, I want you to do something. Look at print books in your genre, preferably newer ones, and see how they are put together. Look at the order of front matter. What sort of flourishes are used to set off the chapter headings and section breaks. Does the first paragraph of each chapter begin with a special character or is it in some other way different from the other first lines in the section or chapter? Check more than one book and see if you can spot a trend. If you can, you need to seriously consider doing your best to imitate what is being done. NOTE: many times, those special characters used as flourishes at chapter titles and section breaks are specially licensed fonts. So make sure you have the rights to use anything similar.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to decide before we get to the actual formatting conversation. No, it’s not do you need to do a print book. The answer is yes. It isn’t because you are going to make money off of them. In fact, it is best if you look at the print version of your work as a loss leader. But what it does is make your author page and product pages look more “professional”. Readers will subconsciously take you more seriously as a writer if you have both print and digital versions of your work available. And, yes, I know I am not following my own advice right now. The reason is because I am updating my print versions and have taken a number of them off-sale until I do.

So, what is the question you need to ask yourself? It is what service to use for your POD (print-on-demand) needs. There are a number of different versions out there. Lulu, Lightning Source, Createspace, KDP are just some of the more familiar ones. They all have costs involved and some cost substantially more than others.

I’m not going to tell you which service to use. I will, however, tell you what I have used and why. Right now, all my print books are through Createspace. I chose them not only because they are easy to use but because they are cheap when it comes to buying author copies. They also allow you to order a physical copy of the proof and I’ve learned that’s important. What looks good as a PDF file can suddenly look very differently in print. So I want to hold a copy of the proof and be able to check every page before sending the book out into the wilds.

The downside to using either Createspace or KDP for your print needs is their association with Amazon. That means a number of bookstores won’t stock your book. Now, before you gasp and say how much you want your book on the shelves, it’s time for a heavy dose of reality. The chances of you getting into a bookstore are slim, very slim. First of all, most of our bookstores are still chain stores. That means they have their own purchasing agents and those agents are going to stock major publishers over the local indie author. Fewer and fewer chain stores have local buying power. As for the locally owned bookstores, if you have a really good relationship with the store owner or purchasing agent, you might be able to get your book in if you use Lightning Source but that is still a long shot. So you have to ask yourself if it is worth the price difference of setting up your book and getting it printed. Ask yourself if you sell more copies via online sales, sales from physical stores or from hand sales at cons. Then choose which printer, for lack of a better word, gives you the best product for the dollar.

CAVEAT: Do not use a printer that requires you to buy a certain amount of books in order to qualify for their program. That smacks of the old vanity presses that would “publish” you but you then had to buy scores of the book and sell them yourself. There are still authors with boxes and boxes of their books sitting in the garages because of that scam.

The next thing you have to consider is what program you are going to use to format your book for print. You can use Word, or alternatives like LibraOffice. You can use InDesign by Adobe. Then there’s Scrivener. If you are a Mac user, Vellum is also an alternative. There are others programs as well. Some let you write directly into the program. Others assume you will be working in a program like Office or Pages and will then import into the conversion program. Each have strengths and weaknesses.

So, here’s the thing. I could go on and write another 1000 words or so on formatting but this post is already over 900 words. In the comments below, tell me what programs you intend to use to format your work. Ask your questions about where you can go to have your book printed (Createspace, etc). In fact, ask any questions you have about formatting for print and next week I will answer them.

In the meantime, Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order. Publication date is 8/15.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

36 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Publishing’s Bellwether

Welcome to the farm, today, where I’m leaning on my oak crook and feeling the gentle breeze in my hair and watching the lambs cavort. I’m also keeping a weather-eye on the sky, and listening to the animals as they move from place to place. Amanda’s dealing with real life, and I’m lost in a memory… 

A bellwether, in shepherding terms, is the leader of the flock. It would either be a sheep or a goat, depending on the sort of herd (and some weight given to the native intelligence of the animal individually) and it wore a bell on a collar. The bellwether was the critter always out in front, and the rest of the herd would slowly drift in his wake, nibbling and straying, but driven by their instincts to stay with the bell, with the herd. The shepherd (or goatherd. Anyone read Heidi, rather than watching the saccharine movie? Did you know there are sequels?) would follow along after the bell, keeping an eye out for strays or lambs that didn’t know enough to follow the bellwether.

In business terms, the bellwether is the indicator of a trend. In publishing, it currently seems to be ebooks. I posted Dorothy Grant’s post about the implications of the recent Author Earnings report on my facebook timeline, and got a comment: “her article is not correct in its specifics. The graphs are about Kindle ebook sales, not books in general.” My immediate answer, which then led to this post, was ‘That’s because there is NO way to get accurate data on books in general, so the bellwether is ebooks, which are trackable.’

See, here’s the thing. Print books are, in theory, externally trackable through the Nielsen BookScan data, which is notoriously unreliable. In theory, publishers ought to know what their sales numbers are, but there are two problems with that data. First, they aren’t going to release proprietary and sensitive information to the public. Secondly, publishers themselves often rely on BookScan, and as Dorie Clark writing for the Harvard Business Review put it “Shockingly” slow and outmoded: “Publishing through a traditional house? Most of us get weekly Nielsen BookScan reports—courtesy of Amazon—and sales figures every six months from our publisher.” Studies compiling data from both BookScan and the Association of American Publishers have ‘holes’ in their data. “The AAP and Nielsen data, while providing useful information that can point to important trends, does have some holes. As mentioned, AAP data doesn’t cover the entire industry, while Nielsen BookScan data doesn’t cover e-books. And lack of reliable e-book data is the most important omission.”

And here is where the most recent Author Earnings Report comes in. “Here at AE, over the last seven quarters we have steadily built up a comprehensive database of quarterly cross-sectional snapshots of the Kindle store, each of which captures between 45% and 60% of Amazon’s daily ebook sales. And while Amazon’s Kindle store alone doesn’t comprise the entire US ebook market, it does account for 67% of all traditionally-published ebook sales…”

While that might not seem enough, as the report points out, it is better than the claims being made on less data by PubTrack.

“The confusion is worsened by Nielsen’s misleading claims about their new PubTrack data products, which sell statistics about the US ebook market. PubTrack collects ebook unit-sales data from “a panel of over thirty US publishers,” according to Nielsen, who then sells that data back to the publishing industry at large. The fact that those Nielsen ebook sales numbers come from only 30 publishers, however, doesn’t stop Nielsen from claiming that their PubTrack numbers represent “85% of the nation’s eBook sales” and drawing broad and unsubstantiated conclusions from them.”

So if we go back to the bellwether metaphor, and the shepherd trying to keep track of his flock, we suddenly see that print data is like a sheep wrapped up in an invisibility cloak, trying to avoid his annual haircut.

Shrek the sheep, who hid to avoid being fleeced...

Shrek the sheep, who hid to avoid being fleeced…

I ran across an article very recently, and as I was assembling the material for this post about sheep, goats, and books, I knew I had to include the concept of scapegoats. In the publishing industry, the scapegoats are the books and authors that pay for other books and authors to be published. Oh, they aren’t given any choice, not any more than the goat which was symbolically bound with the sins of the people, and then sent into the wilderness to die alone.

Instead, the popular, best-selling books, are bound with the production and promotion costs of the prestigious and award winning books. “Washington Post critic Ron Charles reviews the kinds of books that get nominated for literary awards. These are not the blockbusters, the books written by the likes of Stephen King and Nora Roberts that make millions. Charles knows that. Even so, he was dismayed when he saw a story about the sales figures for the novels long-listed for the Man Booker. The list included The Green Road by Irish author Anne Enright, who’s won the award before. “When I saw that Anne Enright — [who] I think of as giant in literary fiction, beloved around the world — could only sell 9,000 copies in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low,” he says.”

The numbers for the potential Man Booker Prize winners? Tyler’s book has sold 20,102 copies in total across all editions through Nielsen BookScan. As well as being the biggest selling book of the Man Booker Dozen, it is also the book which has seen the most copies sold since the longlist was announced in July – selling 7,680 copies since then. Most of this is down to the release of the paperback last week, which sold 7,115 copies.

Anne Enright’s The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) has sold 2,355 extra copies since being longlisted, for a total of 8,938.

Hanya Yanigahara’s A Little Life (Picador), which was published three weeks after the longlist announcement, has sold a strong 7,542 copies since 13th August. Yanigahara’s book is currently the favourite to win the prize at William Hill, with odds of 2/1 at William Hill, while Paddy Power is offering odds of 9/5.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld Publications) has sold 6,694 copies across all editions in total, more than double (3,471 extra) what it had sold before the announcement.

Andrew O’Hagan’s The Illuminations (Faber & Faber), has sold 457 copies since the longlist was announced, for a total of 3,273 copies.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Virago) has also sold strongly with 12,184 copies total for the hardback, but only 625 copies are from after it was included on the longlist.

Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island (Jonathan Cape) has sold an additional 589 copies, going from 922 before the announcement to 1,511.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador) had sold 413 copies before the announcement and is now on 1,302, an increase of 889 copies and Anna Smaill’s The Chimes (Sceptre) has risen almost as much – from 411 to 1,008.” 

So the books that pay off for the publisher obviously subsidize the books that are published solely on ‘literary merit’ and the scapegoat trots off blithely into the desert to take his chances with the fickle public. With the rise of Indie Publishing, the scapegoat is no longer a necessary thing. No one can force an independent to bear the burdens of his less fortunate fellow authors, who write for awards rather than to sell books and make money.

The flock is hearing that bell jingle, and they are changing their path to follow him toward the good green pastures. “It’s a world where authors with plenty of Big 5 sales experience choose to say, ‘You know what, I’m not playing this game any more.’ Where authors make a positive choice to walk away from the terms offered by good, regular publishers. This new era of publishing is one where authors have a meaningful choice.”

I spent a couple of years as an apprentice shepherdess when I was a teenager. I grew up with a small flock of goats, and I can assure you that not all sheep are dumb, the flock instinct much-mocked is a vital survival tool for them. Goats, kept with sheep, quickly become the trouble-makers, the leaders of the flock, which is why one is usually the bellwether. The goats, in the publishing world, are the early-adopter Indie authors, getting through the fences any way they can to reach the less-worn down grass. The goats know where the noms are, and the sheep will follow them around the gatekeepers. In publishing, we follow that bell to the market.

And finally, don’t stop listening for the bellwether. Today, it’s ebooks and Amazon. But take your attention off the market indicators, and you might lose track of the flock and get too far from the market, getting lost in the process. Amazon might not always provide the greenest pasture, so pay attention to the industry blogs, keep up with the data, and don’t be afraid to move closer to the leading edge. Maybe you can be the bellwether for a while.

 

63 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Is Print Here to Stay?

Yesterday, Sarah pointed out a link that had been posted on Facebook leading to a post on the Wall Street Journal site reassuring readers that print is here to stay. Since I happen to believe there will always be a market, albeit a niche market, for print books, I didn’t have any issues with the article — until I started to read it. So, for good or ill, I feel the need to discuss what the author of the article, Nicholas Carr, had to say as well as some of the responses and their implications for readers and writers.

Don’t Burn Your Books — Print is Here to Stay appeared  online January 5th. It is, apparently, an updated version of an earlier post.

In the third paragraph, Carr comments that hard cover books are showing a “surprising resiliency” and that e-book sales growth has slowed markedly. He goes on to point out that the purchase of e-book readers has also slowed as consumer opt for “multipurpose tablets”. He concludes the paragraph with, “It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.”

So what is his proof of these conclusions? A Pew study he doesn’t link to — so we don’t know the size or make up of the study sample. The study allegedly shows a “modest” increase in the number of adults who read an e-book from 16% to 23%. The study also supposedly showed that”fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.”

Okay, let me count the problems I have with what Carr has to say in that paragraph. First, I have problems with not being linked to the study. We don’t know the ages, locations or even the size of the test sample for the study. Did Pew talk to college students or people over 65? Did they talk to a cross-section of Americans geographically or only in one region? How were the questions phrased? What were the actual numbers? You get the drift.

As for a “modest” increase of 7%, well, that’s not so modest in my opinion. I’ll lay odds that if that had been a 7% increase in the number of people who had read a book, no matter what the format, Carr would have been crowing about how reading was growing by leaps and bounds. Such a declaration wouldn’t fit the message he is trying to get across, so he can only classify it as “modest”. Perhaps it would have helped if he’d included some additional information in the paragraph to explain why this is so “modest” of a gain.

Another indicator that he is, perhaps, skewing the results of the Pew study to meet his needs is how he phrases the last sentence: “fully 80%. . . only 30%. . .  .” Ask yourself this, considering the fact we don’t know who was surveyed in the Pew study, is it any surprise that the majority of readers had read printed books instead of e-books?

He notes that the Association of American Publishers reported a sharp decline in the growth of e-book sales, down from triple digits to 34%. Once again, he doesn’t link to the report. However, in July 2012, e-book sales surpassed hard cover sales for the first time in the US.  As for the fall from triple digits to double digits, that is only natural as more households already have e-book readers or tablets/smartphones capable of being used to read e-books. So the impulse buying that comes with getting a new device will have slowed. But there is another factor Carr seems to have overlooked or forgotten: traditional publishers and cost/reporting of sales. Many people who read e-books will not pay more than $9.99 for an e-book and that means they don’t buy an e-book from a traditional publisher when the e-book and hard cover are first released. So the reporting for those sales is delayed. Then there is the issue of how the sales figures are compiled. Are purchases from small presses and self-published authors reported? On the whole, no. So there is a big hole in the figures.

I think the statement that had me shaking my head the most was when Carr said “the shift from e-readers to tablets may also be dampening e-book purchases.” According to him, e-books lose their “allure” on tablets because they are competing with Facebook and games, etc. Sorry, but no. First of all, there are free apps for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Having a tablet or smartphone that can connect instantly to the e-bookstore of you choosing — unlike some e-book readers that require either a wifi hotspot or side-loading — makes tablets and smartphones good alternatives. The way to combat the so-called allure of games and Facebook is to write entertaining books. It’s the same reason you want a printed book to be good. You don’t want your reader setting the book aside to watch TV, etc.

Then there’s Carr’s comment that e-book bestseller lists have been “skewed disproportionally” toward fiction. WTF?!? How is that skewed? It shows that readers, on the whole, want to read fiction. Reading is a means of entertainment and escape.

But he overlooks another issue. Traditional publishers were slow to jump on the e-book wagon. Let’s be honest here, most non-fiction — at least non-fiction most people consider worth reading — comes from traditional publishers. So, if they weren’t in the marketplace, that isn’t the fault of the e-book reading public or the resellers like Amazon. That lies at the feet of the publishers.

Carr goes on to show his own prejudice about what books should be when he comments that e-books are like those mmpb books we used to be embarrassed to be seen reading. Those guilty pleasures we read once and then got rid of. You know what I mean: fiction. Not literary fiction, mind you, but fiction that told a good story or let us escape into a life we’d never have. According to him, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon wouldn’t have happened without e-books. Of course, he doesn’t mention Harry Potter — which didn’t have e-books until recently — or Twilight, etc. But those, especially Potter, wouldn’t suit his purpose.

As a juxtaposition to Carr’s article, let’s note that print units fell 9% in 2012, according to BookScan. This pretty much matches the decline between 2010 and 2011. According to Publishers Weekly, the largest decline came in adult non-fiction ( – 13%). Mass market paperbacks fell 20.5%, slightly less than in the year before.

Publishers Weekly also reports that the number of people who read a book this past fall decreased 3% over the same time a year ago. Twenty three percent of Americans 16 years old and up read e-books. That is up 7% over the previous year — gee, here’s some of the information I was looking for when reading Carr’s article. PW goes on to report that the percentage of folks who read print books fell from 72% to 67%. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember seeing that reported in Carr’s article. Just like I don’t remember seeing that the Pew report included the information that “33% of Americans 16 and up had either a dedicated e-reader or a tablet, up from 18% in late 2011.”

Let’s be honest, print — especially hard covers — is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. E-books are still in their infancy. People who buy print books are more likely to continue buying hard covers because 1) they come out first, as a rule, and most people want to buy a book when it first comes out; 2) those who buy hard covers tend, as a general rule, to keep the book. They are the collectors, the ones with their own private libraries; 3) cover price aside, most folks are buying their hard covers at a discounted price either through Amazon or other on-line retailers or by using their “club card” for their favorite local bookstore. That makes them think they are getting a really good deal on the hard cover when they can see the publisher marked it at $25.00 and they were able to get it for $18.00 or so. Because of agency pricing, you don’t get that with e-books — yet. That will soon be changing, at least for most of the so-called Big Six publishers.

But Carr needs to remember that our world is changing. Our children are techno savvy. They aren’t intimidated by reading on a dedicated e-book reader or their tablet or smartphone. They like the fact they have instant access to most any book they want. They appreciate the fact they can carry hundreds of books around with them at any one time, more if they have an SD card filled with books as well. Then there are those who are environmentally conscious and appreciate the fact e-books don’t use paper, etc.

What that means, in my opinion, is that time will show e-books taking over a larger and larger portion of the market. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen. The fact that you have major publishers with digital only lines now shows they feel this is the way of the future. Print books will remain, in fewer numbers and more of a niche market in the future. Frankly, I think we are going to see more and more expresso print machines popping up as publishers go to more of a print on demand model: you go into your local bookstore and browse. If you see a book you want, you go to the expresso machine — no, this one doesn’t give you coffee — and program in the appropriate title, etc., and it prints out the book, binds it, etc., right there while you wait. But even that isn’t going to happen quickly. If there is one thing I’ve learned about this industry, it’s that the traditional arm of it hates change more than most do and will drag its heels and kick and scream as it is forced into the current century.

78 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized