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Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Self-Published Author Opening New Doors

Today's guest post is by Patrick Ross. Patrick is an award-winning journalist and artist advocate in Washington, D.C. He is chronicling a cross-country trip in which he interviewed creatives of all stripes on his Artist's Road blog.

Patrick, you have the floor.

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A Self-Published Author Opening New Doors

There are lots of ways to measure success as a self-published author. I saw that was true with one such author I met in Madison, Wisconsin, while driving across the country interviewing creatives of every stripe for a video documentary series.

Bill Aicher is a twenty-something marketing executive for an online music publisher of sheet music and guitar tabs, MusicNotes.com. When he started working there as a young college graduate he didn't know much about the inner workings of the music business. Through his job, however, he got to meet composers and musicians, and saw how his employer helped these creatives get paid for their labor.

That experience forced Bill to reflect on unauthorized file-sharing he had engaged in as a college student, and what he saw as disrespect for creatives' works once digitized and distributed online. His own company, after all, was selling sheet music online in competition with pirate sites.

Unbeknownst to his employers, Bill began writing about his frustration with the disrespect he saw for creatives, and that writing turned into a short book. Uncertain of the market for such a work but determined to put his message out there, he self-published. He took great care selecting the cover art, an image he licensed, and soon enough his book Starving the Artist was available in paperback, Kindle, ebook or online.

His book's sales haven't tempted him to quit his day job, not that he really wanted to. But the book has raised Bill's profile in his industry, increased his exposure online and in social media, and given him a level of professional respect to be admired for someone not yet thirty. It also put him on my radar, and led to him being one of the forty or so creatives I chose to interview on my road trip this summer.

Bill has a bright future ahead of him, and it wouldn't surprise me if Starving the Artist opens some doors to that future down the road.

JOHN: Thanks, Patrick, for sharing this enlightening multimedia presentation with us today.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Is Print on Demand Really a Bad Idea?

Back in May, 2010, I blogged this post about POD printing. At the time I had just read an article mentioned below that was extremely critical of POD printing. I wrote some things back in May's post that I re-read the other day and I think they're worthy of another mention for my new followers.

Here's the post. I hope you find it useful.
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May, 2010

I just read this article, the title of which is "7 Things to think about before you go with Print on Demand."

http://bookcoaching.com/wp/advice-before-print-on-demand/

I'm all for thinking before leaping. In fact, there are those who would accuse me of over-preparedness.

But my reading of the "7 Things" article is that its author doesn't believe there is ANY good reason to POD publish. I disagree.

Let's look at a few realities that are, indeed, important to consider before you self-publish -- whether POD or via a traditional printer:

1) Don't be guilty of "author discrimination." POD publishing has made it possible for ANYONE to publish a book. The natural result is a dilution in the overall quality of the books being published -- when taken in aggregate. But let's not practice author discrimination by generalizing about the quality of writing in POD books. There are some POD's out there that would compete on every level with many NY Times Best Sellers. They just tend to get lost among the rabble. There are actually MORE GOOD BOOKS out there right now then ever before. Don't discard a book just because it's POD.

2) Publishing costs. "7 Things" says:

"These [POD] companies aren’t really publishers just because they take your book and create digital copies for you. They are printers.

"If they are printers, then they are really charging too much. And, they have control of your book and can charge you 40-50% commission before you get multiple copies of your book. If you go Print on Demand, it’s much better to go with a POD printer such as Deharts.com where you maintain full control of the book."

I'm not familiar with Deharts.com. But I have researched various traditional printers and their costs. Traditional printing is not cheap. And you really need to order AT LEAST a couple thousand dollars worth of your book before you know if you'll be able to sell any. The per book cost will not be cheaper than a good POD service. And the quality will not be better than a good POD service. The commission the author mentions should only be charged when your POD printer also markets your book. I don't pay a commission to get author copies of my POD book. My book has a color cover and is a 300 page 6 x 9 perfect-bound trade paperback. I pay $4.37 each -- in ANY quantity. Average shipping cost for my book is $.56 per copy.

Once your book has been printed and shipped to you, a traditional printer is out of the picture. But my POD printer also offers me sales connections. They're not mandatory. But they do cost something by way of commission, should I choose to pursue them. Usually my net take on books sold through my printer is about 30% -- twice what a large publishing house would pay me.

Even when my book is resold through wholesalers like Ingram, my take is still over 15% -- and I have no up-front costs in those sales. I don't need to worry about order-taking, or fulfillment, or non-paying accounts. That's what I pay the extra commission for.

If I want to take my $4.37 books and arrange my own sales channels, I am welcome to do so. And in some cases, that is a part of my sales strategy. But what I typically find is, retailers want a 40% discount off of list. Now with my upfront book cost of about $5.00 including shipping, and the retailer's 40% discount off my book's $15.95 list price, I make less than the 30% I would have made through some of my "printer's" wholesale channels.

So POD gives me choices I wouldn't have otherwise had, with less initial investment, less risk, and less hassle. Huh . . . imagine that.

3) Book Sales. "7 Things" cautions us to "make sure you can sell this book before you spend time and money with Print on Demand."

Personally, I don't find this admonition very helpful. If we KNEW we could sell our book, wouldn't that mean that we already had a contract to sell it? It's sort of cart-before-the-horse thinking.

I would respond that, since we don't know that our book will sell, we should minimize our upfront costs and not spend thousands (or tens of thousands) on traditional printing, when we could spend only a few hundred on POD.

I have a good friend who tells me about his experience self-publishing his book using a traditional printer.

"It's a million seller," he says. "I've got a million in my cellar."

I don't know about you, but I'd rather stick my toe in before I throw my whole self into the pot.

In summary, please go read the above article to receive it's author's unedited sentiments. Then you can for yourself decide if POD makes sense.

Disclaimer: I get no remuneration whatsoever from any POD company and will not benefit financially in any way from the content of this blog. It's all just my humble opinion.

Best regards.

John

Monday, November 22, 2010

Virtual Book Tour - Progress Report

Hello All.

Just checking in to give you an update on my November/December Virtual Book Tour for The 19th Element.

We're almost at the midpoint of the tour. I'm not ready to pass any judgments. I want to see the full benefits of the tour strategy and the order of appearances before I do that. But I do have some observations to share.

Scheduling SNAFUS.

First of all, shortly in advance of a Virtual Book Tour, you post a "Tour Page" that contains a schedule of your appearances, so your followers are able to . . . well . . . follow. So far, my book tour schedule, although professionally organized by Pump Up Your Book, hasn't exactly helped my followers as much as I would have liked.

I'm not blaming anyone. I think it's just a reality to be recognized. Out of 16 originally scheduled and publicized blog stops thus far, my posts have failed to appear as per the schedule three times. Emails to my tour guide were not able to keep these appearances on schedule. To be clear . . . my appearances either were or will be posted sometime -- just not per the schedule.

Blog Selections.

In my opinion, some of the blog tour stops were not very well matched up with the thriller genre of my book. I make this observation based on other books recently appearing on these blogs. For example: If the blogger constantly reviews chick lit, she may not appreciate a thriller. And her audience may not appreciate one either. Moral: I would recommend that, if you're planning on touring, you might ask for the reasons why each blog is appropriate to your genre.

Other Technical Difficulties.

-- On one occasion, a blog book reviewer lost my book. I had to prove convincingly that it had been sent. Then she managed to find it. Okay. Nobody's perfect. Moral: It's a good idea to keep records of when, where and how you sent off your materials to the bloggers (or the tour director).

-- On another occasion, my tour director asked for posts for four different blogs in a single email. I managed to not notice one of them. As a result, even though I had subsequently asked whether my director had received all the needed posts, the omission resulted in a missed post. Moral: Double check all your assignments and don't expect the tour director to catch them for you.

-- On another occasion, my Author Interview was posted on the right site and on the correct date, but the introduction to my interview indicated that I was going to tell about the time I met Stephen King. Since I've never met Stephen King, my post was obviously on a differing topic. I didn't catch this one until later in the day. So the blog post was incorrect for the majority of the blog's followers. Moral: Check your blog posts early on the day of posting and look for errors.

What About Results?

As I stated at the outset, I'm going to allow my tour director to complete her job before I pass any judgments on results. Sorry. That'll have to wait 'til then.

Thanks for hanging with me during this Tour. I will be posting more frequently when we get into December.

Happy Holidays!

John

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Tour Stop at PUYB

Here's a link to my blog interview, while touring to promote The 19th Element, at Pump Up Your Book. Learn a bit more about me and the roots of my writing and publishing career.

The 19th Element at Pump Up Your Book.

I'll probably continue to link posts from the book tour when they have value for Self-Publishing Central Followers.

All the best!

John

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Guest Blogging This Month

Hello Friends.

As some of you may know, I'm on a Virtual Book Tour this month. I've been writing furiously to meet my obligations for guest posts and author interviews. When the tour is over in December, I plan to report a detailed description of the VBT experience and its value to a self-pubber.

In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would join my tour and learn a bit more about me. The tour schedule is here.

Today's stop is at Writing Daze. The best way to get a sense of the tour is to follow along.

Thanks much and all the best!

John