Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What will your book look like?

This is Part 2 of a seven part series that addresses what every writer must ask themselves before publishing. It is derived a set of questions asked at the Book Passage Publishing Workshop hosted by Bill Petrocelli. See Here for Part 1.

The look and feel of a book is timeless. For the last two hundred years (at least) books with rich covers of leather and colorful paper were the norm. Hardback books, as they are now called, have a permanent tactile and visual feel unique and warm. These are the books collected and passed down, it was only in the early twentieth century that paperbacks made a serious impact, primarily driven by price and subject matter. The pulp fiction market then, as now, didn’t really justify the feel and size of hardback book for their subject matter. So many choices are out there today: Hardback with colorful dust jacket, paperbacks in large and small formats, ebooks, PDF formats, and even some proprietary formats such as iBook. And each has a market segment.

Authors want their first book in paper of one form or another. Its something they can hold and place on the shelf next to every author that's gone before. Its an equalizer of sorts, "See, I did it, here it is." There's evidence and self-satisfaction between those covers of your hard work and perseverance to get the damn thing done.

If you are self-publishing there are choices to be made. Here are a few questions you need to ask just for the paper version of your book:
  • Who will format the manuscript into a layout and design that can be used by a printer to print and assemble the book?
  • If photos or graphics, who will do the formatting?
  • Who will do the cover art?
  • Will I publish a hardcover book?
  • Will there be paperbacks?
  • Will I contract with a Print-On-Demand printer (POD) to print the book?
  • Will I subscribe to a POD publishing service such as CreateSpace or Ingram Spark (more on these later).
I do a lot of this book formatting myself, but I have experience using Photoshop and InDesign software. I suggest caution here. There are competent services that provide this for a set fee, but remember they are not editors. They take your final manuscript and literally build the book around it. Critical issues to think about are: hardback/paperback, size, fonts, and paper weight and color. Each is critical to the final design and will affect price, shipping weight, and "feel." Look at the books on your shelves; these decisions were made for everyone of them. Take your time – it is very expensive to do a do-over.

Photos and Graphics:
Much has changed with electronic publishing. Photos and graphics are handled differently than even fifteen years ago. Again a good book builder and designer can help through this process.

Cover Art:
Book covers and their design are a series of blogs in and of themselves. All I can say is hire the best cover designer you can afford. They bring an understanding of genres and style that is worth the price. Remember that every genre carries a style represented in their book covers; thrillers are a lot different than romances. The cover should draw the buyer to it, tease them and by its look, and hint at what to expect. And it should look professional – check out the self-publishing shelves of Amazon, you will see what I mean. A picture is worth a thousand words and hopefully a thousand sales.

Hardback or Paperback
The traditional route was hardback, then six months to a year later a small format mass-market paperback. And for many traditionally published books it still is. But with the advent of the self-publisher, the book almost always goes to a hybrid form; this is the large format paperback with a color cover. The sizes are generally in the 5" x 8" range, but can straddle this number by up to an inch either way. Most POD printers have size standards based on the printing equipment, which is, by the way a copier type duplicator that uses an electronic file to produce the book. Hardbacks can also now be done with PODs but are pricier. Costs are critical here as well as shipping so be careful. Most readers still want paper so keep this in mind in your planning.

It goes without saying that you will publish an ebook concurrent with your printed book. Again there are choices to be made. Do you use Amazon, Smashwords, or other independent consultant that will help you format and put the book into the right ebook distributor. The largest ebooks sellers are Amazon, Kobo, iBook/iTunes, and Barnes and Noble/Nook. But this is a changing landscape; Sony just dropped their retailer site and now use Kobo. Again lots of information out there, my suggestion is to place your book on as many as possible.

CreateSpace and Ingram Spark
These are two (of many) POD printers that work closely with self-publishers to print and distribute your books – and the key here is distribution. There is a lot of info on there respective websites to tell you how to use them. But remember that CreateSpace is Amazon and everything there is to support the sale of books through Amazon. Ingram is the largest distributor of books in America and using Spark will get you into large and small bookstores and Ingram's catalogue. I suggest using both.

When you are lucky and have lived right you will be selected and anointed by an agent and then a traditional publisher. Much, if not all, above the above will be done by them, but also remember this: that book you had in your head as you spent those hours writing and editing may not look like what you wanted. It will reflect a committee's taste and a marketing plan. You will give a lot to get a lot.

More Later . . . . . . . .

Next week: Who are your readers and where will you find them?

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