What’s next after the end of Tricolor Books?
More books, of course! Just from a different angle. To be precise, I’m switching gears from writing and bookselling to writing and freelance editing and book design/formatting.
Publishing has evolved enormously in the past ten years. Massive technological changes and disruptions in traditional publishing—the lightning-fast rise of eBooks and quality print-on-demand trade paperbacks—have made self-publishing much more practicable and appealing for writers who are ready to take on all the non-writing aspects of publishing a book. My new publishing ventures will include offering editorial, design, and formatting services for other authors—including busy academics—who want to self-publish but who simply don’t have the time or inclination to do the non-writing part themselves. (Academic self-publishing? It’s happening! Check out links to articles at the very bottom of this page.)
Perhaps you have a book—one that’s offbeat, like advice to aspiring grad students, or entirely out of your academic field—that deserves an audience, but isn’t what you’re known for among your peers or appropriate for a traditional university press. Perhaps you have something less academic and more mainstream that isn’t quite mainstream (i.e. popular) enough for a commercial press to invest in. Perhaps your scholarly book is an awkward length—too long for a journal article but too short to qualify as a traditionally printed book in the eyes of most publishers. Perhaps you want to get a time-sensitive work published long, long before a traditional publisher spends one or two years getting it into print. Perhaps you’re a secret novelist or writer of stories for your kids! Or perhaps you simply have a book that’s already been published and has gone out of print—one that you think could still sell copies, maybe in an updated edition, to a wider audience than just other academics, or as a course text if it were made available in paperback and eBook and priced far lower than the usual (insane) price of university press hardcovers today.
The answer to any of these situations has become “publish it yourself.”
Self-publishing has at last become efficient, cost-effective, and respectable. It no longer automatically means “vanity press.” And it certainly should never mean working with a sleazy “author services” company whose chief objective is to separate starry-eyed, clueless wannabe authors from their money (with outrageously overpriced, and often shoddy, “publishing packages” that involve paying for hundreds or thousands of copies that the author now has to store and sell himself).
The top-rated eBook and Print-on-Demand distributors, on the other hand, will never charge you a penny up front to manufacture and distribute your book—they merely keep their percentage of the price of copies sold. YOU get the rest in a generous royalty—usually about 30% of a print book’s list price and up to 70% of the eBook’s price, neither of which will a commercial publishing house ever pay even in your wildest dreams.
If you’re a busy working academic or other professional with no time to spend on designing or formatting a self-published book, what do you need to self-publish an affordable, professional-looking, good-quality print (trade paperback) edition and a digital (eBook) edition?
Assuming that you, and/or someone you trust, have already acted as content editor and polished your book’s argument and structure to perfection, for a new work, you’ll need:
• A copy editor, who finds typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, clunky sentences, and factual errors and/or inconsistencies that you missed (sometimes interchangeable with a proofreader, who checks over the final proof pages of your book for the above, plus layout problems)
• A book interior designer, who creates the page layout of your print book to make it look clear, crisp, easy on the eyes, and professional—especially important for books with many footnotes, illustrations, or charts
• An eBook formatter, who re-designs the book’s text according to the specific demands of digital text and makes sure that your book file won’t get garbled in electronic translation or look sloppy and unprofessional when it’s read on a Kindle, Nook, tablet, smartphone, or other e-reading device
• A cover designer, who creates an appealing and appropriate cover to be used on both your print and digital editions
(For a reprinted work, you’ll need all of the above except, possibly, the copy editor.)
I’ve been self-publishing since 2011 and I have been all of the above—copy editor, designer, and formatter—for over a dozen books that I’ve published or re-published myself in both paperback and eBook formats. Long before that, I worked on another dozen books as a freelance copy editor for a couple of big traditional New York publishers. Now I’m ready to provide these services (and plenty of free self-publishing advice) to other authors who want to self-publish but who don’t have the time to do the design part themselves.
Check out the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) below, and/or contact me at my usual email address, for more information.
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Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Susanne, you’ve been published by major New York publishers and have had great reviews from Publishers Weekly and other trade journals. Why do YOU self-publish?
A. After having five novels published by major commercial presses, I will probably never again choose to have my work published by others. Why?
• Because I like to keep control of my work in a way that a contract with a publisher, especially a big corporate publisher, will never allow me. Which includes:
• Because I feel strongly about keeping control of the price and offering my book’s electronic edition at a reasonable price consistent with the new business model of eBooks—a price at which it will actually attract new readers and sell well. Because I and many other writers feel that the outdated and inefficient pricing model that commercial publishers are still clinging to—of ridiculously overpricing their eBooks as long as a print edition is available—discourages potential readers of your work instead of growing your readership.
• Because I enjoy the freedom of being able to publish any book that I can conceive and write and complete to my satisfaction, whether or not a traditional bean-counting publisher thinks it’s salable and worth investing in—this way, the only investment is my own time and skill.
• Because I enjoy doing the non-writing work of book interior design and cover design and would rather do it myself for a book that I know intimately, than let a publisher assign it a (perhaps totally inappropriate or incomprehensible) cover from a designer who hasn’t even read the book and who probably has very little specific knowledge of the book’s subject.
• And, of course, because I enjoy earning more money per book and eBook sold than any publisher in the traditional system with its middlemen will ever pay me!
Q. I’ve heard that most bookstores, like the one down the street from me, won’t stock self-published or Print On Demand books. Where, then, would my print books be sold?
A. Mostly at Amazon.com and many other online book retailers worldwide; but any bricks-and-mortar bookstore, such as your local or college store, can order copies if they choose to (perhaps with a little persuasion from a local author) at standard wholesale rates via standard distribution channels (although Print On Demand books are not returnable). Or, if you come to an agreement with them, often a local store will stock books on consignment from local authors. And, of course, your book will sell as an eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and several other major eBook retailers.
Q. What if I want copies of my book to have on hand to give to friends or reviewers?
A. You, as the author-publisher, can order copies of your own paperback books at an enormous discount from CreateSpace, the Print On Demand manufacturer, and have them shipped to yourself, to do whatever you want with them—supply a local bookstore on consignment, give them away in promotions, sell them directly to students in a survey course, etc. If you go the selling route, your discount will be large enough to enable you to make a good profit on each copy and still sell each copy for less than the list price. You can buy one copy at a time, or two, or a hundred, or any number you like—with Print On Demand, it simply doesn’t matter.
You can also have unlimited books shipped directly to other addresses worldwide. Want to send a single copy of your new book to a reviewer in another state? Order the copy at CreateSpace at your discounted rate, add about $4 for shipping, and have it mailed directly to him/her. Want to send one copy of each of your eight books to your best friend in Paris or Berlin or Australia? You can order one copy of each at CreateSpace, add shipping charges (fairly reasonable for four or more books shipped together at surface rates), and have them sent directly to him without any additional effort on your part, and at a considerably lower price than you’d pay when buying them at retail.
Q. To be honest, I expect to sell no more than a couple of dozen copies a year of my very esoteric book. Why wouldn’t it go out of print? How can it “not go out of print unless I want it to”?
A. “Going out of print” is one more outdated aspect of the traditional publishing model, in which a publisher prints a run of several thousand paper copies and then tries to sell them. Once those copies are sold, the publisher has the option of doing another print run of several thousand paper copies. But unless you have a bestseller, the initial print run usually doesn’t sell out and the publisher never does another; once they’ve remaindered the last of the stock (i.e., sold off the remaining, non-selling books that are taking up space in the warehouse to a “bargain books” dealer), your book is officially out of print.
With Print On Demand publishing, on the other hand, the publisher (you) doesn’t invest a penny in a print run; your paperback book is never printed until someone—a consumer—orders it. With none of the mass manufacturing, storage, or freight costs that are associated with the old publishing model of printing 5000 copies at a time, your book can be available indefinitely, to be manufactured one copy at a time whenever someone orders one through Amazon.com or other retailer, including by order at a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, or even in front of your eyes in an Espresso Book Machine (basically a high-tech all-in-one printer that also binds and trims paperbacks). Now your book never needs to go “out of print” unless you choose to take it off the market—perhaps to replace it with a new edition. Otherwise, as your book is “warehoused” only as a computer file, taking up no more than a flicker of digital space, it costs nothing to keep it ready-to-print forever—or at least until Amazon.com goes out of business along with the rest of us in some future world-ending apocalypse.
Q. If eBooks are so hot these days, why do a print edition at all?
A. eBooks are hot, but print books are still 90% of the market, or so they tell us (and cheap genre fiction is a huge part of eBook sales—the eBook has pretty much taken the place of the mass market paperback). People also have specific tastes in format. I, for example, now read almost all of my “pleasure reading”—i.e. fiction or non-research nonfiction—on my Kindle, mostly to save shelf space; but I still prefer my personal research library in good old-fashioned paper books that I can riffle through, and the more likely I am to consult that book for my research, the more likely I am to own it in hard copy. But some other people like it the other way around, presumably so that their research library is portable. And some people want their most-used books in both formats.
If you do only an eBook edition, you’re probably losing some potential readers. About 1/3 of my own self-published monthly sales total comes from print books, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Q. If I self-publish, who or what is going to be the “publishing imprint” that readers expect to see on the book’s spine and/or first pages?I’m not a publishing company!
A. You can make up your own imprint for the book’s title page, if you wish; there’s nothing stopping you and there are no legal issues in doing so. If you, Dr. John or Jane Smart, want to publish your book under “John Smart Books” or “Jane Smart Press” or “JSmart Publications,” there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Or you can name your imprint after your kids (“MaryEdithSybil Press”) or your dog (“Fido Books”) or your address (“Smith Street Books”) or anything you like (“Tarantula Press,” “Chow Mein Books,” “Voltaire Press”—oh, the possibilities!). I chose “Spyderwort Press” for my own books* because the stuff is trying to invade my back yard and, as it says at the website, “Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is a plant with cute three-petaled blue flowers and a cool-sounding name. It seeds itself like crazy and is very tenacious once it’s rooted itself. We hope our books will spread as fast and stay around as long as spiderwort does!”
If you’re really serious about it and especially if you plan to self-publish several books (and if you fear you might run into some copyright, plagiarism, libel, or other legal issues that could cost you serious money if you’re sued), I believe you can copyright your books under your imprint after registering your imprint as a business (an LLC – “Limited Liability Company”) in your state, although this will cost you a few hundred dollars up front for legal and registration fees; and the above legal issues are far less likely to be relevant with historical topics a hundred years old or more.
* A few years ago I created Spyderwort Press, an imprint that publishes my own work (both new books and reprints of my several traditionally-published novels that went out of print); books by my grandmother originally published in the 1960s; and reprints of classic historical works from the 19th and early 20th centuries that deserve a wider audience. (Visit Spyderwort Press here: http://spyderwortpress.webs.com/about-us )
Q. How much will your copy editing/design/formatting cost me?
A. I’m just starting to dip my toes into these waters, so I can’t give you a lot of specific information yet about how much my editorial/design/formatting services would cost for your book, although my hourly rate for services is about $25 per hour. Contact me and tell me about your project and let’s discuss it. In fact, I’m ready to offer a significant discount in the price of services to the first couple of people I work with, in order to firm up details, like hourly or per-page rates that depend on how complex the book is. Fiction, for example, is far simpler and faster to lay out and format for a print edition—it takes only a couple of hours to do a fast format of a novel—than is a highly academic work with dozens of illustrations and hundreds of footnotes.
Q. My computer expertise extends only about as far as writing a manuscript and reading my e-mail. How computer-literate do I have to be to self-publish?
A. It helps to know the essential rules of word processing (as in, never use your Tab key to indent a paragraph!—and several more), and to be comfortable with uploading files to a website. But a page designer and eBook formatter is there to help you through that—s/he cleans up the electronic file and gets rid of the errors and unwanted garbage that have crept in and that will garble your print layout or eBook. Finally, when the time comes and your book is ready to publish, I can walk you, step by step, through the (fairly simple) process of creating accounts with the three highly reputable, top-rated digital and Print On Demand distributors* that I work with and recommend, and uploading your completely-ready-to-go files to them.
* CreateSpace for print books (trade paperback); Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon.com) for eBooks for Kindle and Kindle apps; Smashwords.com for distribution to all other sellers of eBooks and eBook readers (Nook, Kobo, etc) that aren’t Amazon. These three are easy to work with, produce an excellent product, pay high royalties, provide online assistance and advice, and treat their self-publishers fairly and honestly.
Q. I’d like to get my book Many Sentences and Footnotes About a Fascinating Topic, published in 1987 and long out of print, back in print. What do you need in order to do that?
A. First and foremost, I need an electronic copy (i.e. a computer file) of the most up-to-date version of your book’s manuscript, preferably in Microsoft Word. I also need a hard, physical, bound copy of that book, for reference, OR—if you don’t have a published copy—the most up-to-date, marked-up-with-final-changes-and-corrections, paper manuscript or page proof that you have, as there are always last-minute editorial or authorial changes that go into the final published book. (Your book copy will be returned unharmed to you if you wish, or donated to a local library sale if you don’t need it back.)
Q. I think I lost the files, long after the book was published, when my old computer imploded! Now what?
A. If you wrote that book on a computer back then, you haven’t deleted or lost the manuscript file in the intervening years, have you?
Or was your book written so long ago that you never had a word processor file of any kind? (Yes, I, too, got through college with an electric typewriter.)
If you don’t have an electronic copy of your published book, you will need to get your book scanned using OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This is not something you ever want to do yourself with a desktop scanner unless you have a lot of time and are prepared for an astonishing amount of tedium (or unless you have a teenager who needs to earn his allowance).
By far the simplest and cheapest option is to use a service that can scan your book with high-speed scanners in a matter of minutes. Blue Leaf Book Scanning ( www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com/ ) is the top, go-to service out there and is highly recommended by many, many writers. All you have to do is fill out their online order form, choose form of payment, and mail them the book(s) to be scanned. They provide your choice of “destructive” scanning (they cut the pages from the binding for faster processing; your book will not be returned to you) and “non-destructive” scanning (your book is unharmed in the scanning process and will be returned to you; best for rare, valuable books). “Destructive” is cheaper and will cost you about $20 for a 150-page book, about $30 for a 300-page book, depending on the actual number of pages. If you intend to eventually have several books scanned, send them all at once and save a little more with a multiple-copy rate.
Once you’ve had your book scanned and are the proud owner of a Word file and a PDF file containing your entire text, email them to me and the copy editing (mostly checking for OCR errors) begins. (Please note that OCR doesn’t distinguish between the body text on a page and the footnotes at the bottom of the page; reformatting footnote text back into actual footnotes will add extra, unavoidable time necessary to correct and format your book.)
Q. I’ve been scribbling a novel in longhand on the train and my manuscript consists of 37 yellow legal pads, handwritten in pencil. (Or I wrote an unpublished novel, in 1979, that is still in a box, on three hundred 8.5 x 11” pages that were typed on a manual typewriter with a faded ribbon.) What do you need in order to get it ready to publish?
A. Oh, no! I have to start with a word-processor file (ideally in MS Word), no exceptions. What YOU need to do is get that book transcribed. No OCR scanner can handle handwriting or poor-quality print or typed characters, so someone is going to have to type (or dictate, using voice recognition) your book into a computer and a Word file. Ideally you have a spouse or friend who will do this for you because they love you (or else that cash-poor teenager, mentioned earlier, is still hanging around). If not, people will do it for pay, but it won’t be cheap. On the other hand, transcribing it yourself, little by little, becomes an excellent opportunity to make any changes you want along the way.Dictating your entire manuscript, using speech recognition software like Dragon, is certainly easier and faster than retyping it into a Word file. I’m still using a version of Dragon from about ten years ago, so if you want to try this, get a used older copy of the software cheap (under $10) on eBay or something (be sure that whatever you get will work with your current operating system) and don’t sink a lot of money into the current version.
You WILL have to dictate every single punctuation mark into the computer; that’s just how it works.
“Thanks, Mary,” John said, “I knew you’d come through.”
must be dictated as:
Open-quote cap Thanks comma Mary comma close-quote John said comma open-quote I knew you’d come through period close-quote.
It does become quite easy with a little practice. Your final result will be about the same as OCR text, 95% accurate, and must be proofread. Or else you’ll end up with something like this that turned up in a piece of mine, when Dragon turned “Harrisburg News Company” into “Paris Bird Abuse Company.”
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Academic self-publishing? Yes, it’s happening:
(Take note that the formatting costs quoted by his academic publisher—and passed on to the author—that Mr Harfield mentions are ridiculously overpriced!)