#IndieAuthorDay: From manuscript to book

Every writer waits with great anticipation for their book to appear. Turning those pages of words into a real book is not a majorly difficult operation. Getting from manuscript to book, though, does include some elements (keep this as a checklist) that you must do correctly in order for people to want to read your book and for sales to be recorded.

If you are among the lucky ones who have had a book published, this post may be useful as a refresher course. Or you may really not know what those stages of production and preparation entailed. I will keep this as simple as possible, because the process is simple and all writers should know about them. (There will not be a quiz.) The best thing a writer can do for their book is to think like a publisher. Here’s an outline of part of that work.

Every Book Needs a Cover

Yes, we do judge books both by cover and title. All book buyers are enticed by the beauty of covers as well as the typographic display of the title. The words themselves then have some meaning but it is the use of images, colors and typography that make a cover.

I like to use this example of cover production because it struck me how cover art can drive sales . Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance became a cult classic when it came out in paperback. The publisher used typography and color for a book cover that did not automatically suggest an image. But the study of which color (orange) sold best helped them to increase sales for what we might call today a hybrid story, which is still in print and still sells.

Manuscripts Always Need Work

No matter who you are, your pages need several sets of preparation before they can be made into a book. There is the need for design, the font size and type, to fit within the trim size of your book. How the page looks to readers is very important. And how well it reads. The process of the eye moving across the page is a skill we learned as children. We develop methods for reading that are standard for most of us. So, we don’t expect to read errors in spelling or grammar or punctuation or placement of words. In other words, we want that part of the reading process to be simple. Editors and proofreaders are in charge of that process for writers. They have the right and duty to question everything we have put on the page.

Front Matter

Among the more boring parts of book production is the writing of front matter. All well produced books have it. We were taught, when I entered publishing 40 years ago, that Front Matter included the Title Page, preceded by a blank page, followed by a half-title page (both recto pages, meaning on the right) with a verso page called the copyright page where all that wording, ISBN, basic book cataloguing data and date of publication were included. Generally an Acknowledgements Page followed that and a Foreword might be included. Then a Table of Contents. These are the bare bones of Front Matter and must be included in the page count for a printer or for the converter of e-books. This may be the last part a publisher does when assembling the pages of your manuscript but it too is looked at by editors and proofreaders.

Barcodes and ISBNs

We need these two. We need the barcodes on print books and an ISBN. We only need the ISBN for e-books. What are they and what do they do? First, they are a money-maker for an outfit called Bowker that sells them to publishers. Every publisher buys them and they use them to track the sales of books and to record them in Bowker’s Books in Print. Before Amazon and their book site, this tome was what libraries and bookstores used to make sure a book was available. In those days, Bowker offered a very different set of services than they do now. The bottom line now as then though is that without an ISBN, you cannot get your book distributed.

Author Photos, Author Bios and Back Cover Copy

Print books require a back cover which also needs to be designed. On the back cover, generally, we find these main elements. The bar code (which has the ISBN and price encoded in it), author photo, author bio and description of the book. I’d say the back cover gives an author the opportunity to present herself to potential readers in ways that will help to sell the book. On a different basis than what the front cover does, the back cover’s use of a photo, an author bio and description of the book can be a time to create the story of your book. How you will sell it and sell it to everyone you meet. This is a skill all authors should learn.

The Spine

No one talks about the spine of your book. But it is a good thing to know about. The spine obviously shows how thick your book is when it is displayed on a bookshelf spine out. That is how most of us display our books at home. And how most booksellers display books in their stores and libraries on their shelves too. That makes the spine an important, if often overlooked, topic to consider when designing our books. Usually, it displays 3 things: author name, book title and publisher colophon. While the first 2 seem self-evident and what our eyes recall, that colophon, the branding logo for a publisher, is usually found at the bottom of the spine. Publisher information is included in the Front Matter and on the Back Cover of your book, but the logo/colophon on the spine identifies the author with a specific publishing company and whatever mission that publisher has.

Page Counts Matter

My final comments about the manuscript to book process is this: the number of pages in your book matters. First, it matters for cost calculations. Whether printed or converted, costs are based on the page count. E-books are not as costly to convert as bound books are to print. But all those up front costs as are incurred based on the work I outlined above, are a fixed part of every book’s production process. Obviously, the longer the book, the more illustrations, photos or drawings, graphs included also increase costs, as well as paper weight.

Bound books can be printed on demand which is a more expensive and more environmentally conscious way to produce printed books. Large print runs, done on offset presses, require a different set of calculations because the unit cost of a book printed that way is much smaller. E-books are not printed but converted. The same PDF files sent to printers for bound books are sent to conversion houses for translation into MOBI files for Amazon and a variety, now, of ePub files for all other distributors of e-books for both individual and library sales.

I will say again to Indie Authors: The best thing you can do for your book is to think like a publisher.

Remember this: #GoVegan #ReadBooks

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#IndieAuthorDay—The Manuscript

So much of your life as a writer depends on where and when you write. Obviously, nothing happens until you finish your manuscript. That is every writer’s first goal. What I’m suggesting in this post is a more radical approach to writing. My mantra is, if you want to change the world by what you write, change how you write.

Put Away the Computer, Walk Away from the Desk

Let me set this new writing scene for you: You leave the house. You tap your pockets for wallet, keys, phone. These are the essentials of your life. Soon, you’ll be on a train or bus heading to work and will pull out your phone to check for texts or email or to log into social media while despairing that you could not stay home to write. But, you could be writing right then, at that moment and at every moment of your life as you are thinking about your story.

From Finished Manuscript to Published Book

The phone can become your main writing tool for you as it has become for many writers. Why? Because, as I am sure you are now realizing while reading this post, you already use it for everything else in your life.

Speaking from my from my experience, I have written multiple drafts of my novels on my phone. I don’t need Wi-Fi to work. I only require silence and a comfortable spot to sit. I can edit on my phone and send out portions of it to friends for critiquing. I can do a good deal of my research as well as read other writers to study how they solved problems I am having.

Note taking, lists of things to add or remove, or places I need to look at more closely. All of that can be kept on my phone. No matter where I go, the phone is with me and I can write.

Having freed myself from the tyranny of sitting in one dedicated place has allowed for more creative ideas to flow. In effect, I am always at my desk whether on the subway, waiting for a movie to begin, standing in those endless grocery store lines or on a bench in Washington Square Park.

The phone is also my library. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, source material, favorite books to give me support as I write, all of that is right on my phone.

When I need a break, I can put my phone away and watch the world around me. I’m secure because the phone is within reach. My chapters, the outlines, the character sketches, any random notes I have taken are not in a clutter on a desk but filed on my phone in my notes.

Given this new flexibility in my writing life and how I organize my life as a writer, I feel that I have been handed the keys to a magical new world of storytelling. While I imagine many may still be adjusting to e-books as they are sold now, I envision an even more creative future when e-books will create interactive relationships between writers and readers. With the speed with which technology develops now, I am certain this day will be sooner than we may think.

Learning to house my writing and reading life on my phone may seem radical to some, but for me, it is the dream I have been dreaming for many years.

All of us writers want to be telling new stories, inventing for readers experiences they have never had. How can we do that if we are reading and writing in the same ways every year?

Try it now. See what I and other writers have discovered from this new mobile writing life. It will spur ideas in you too about a new future of storytelling unlike anything we have been able to do up to today.

Remember this too: #GoVegan #ReadBooks

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The “We’re Back” Announcements

We were on the road for 10 weeks. It was one of the most magical tours we have ever taken. It was magical not because we did things different but because we were different.

We’ve become a new kind of traveler. We understand the need for connection, for stillness and for sharing. Here are some of the new ways we will be doing business as a publisher due to these new insights.

Connection is everything

Meeting people and learning about how they live rather than racing around trying to see everything all at once has become important to us. For this reason, there will be more blogging about what I do as a writer but also much more about what other writers do to make their writing the center of their lives.

Being still

Every place we visited was more beautiful than the last place we saw. But for me, northern Wyoming was particularly beautiful due to its quiet, the lack of people and the geography which was stunning. The open, big sky, the low density population led to a quiet that few of us get to experience if we live in major metropolitan areas.

Walking in the woods, the hikes we took, also contributed to that stillness which can only be there for all of us if we have woods and clean air and water to experience. We will be extending the commitment to the environment by sharing more information about what is happening to our planet and by writing and speaking more about what I call “Green Publishing.”

Sharing is caring

This publishing company cannot afford to publish all the books it finds of interest and there are so many. Yet, we can help those who come to the website discover the books we have found to be important now whether published this year or 50 or 100 years ago. As long as a book can be bought as an e-book, we will be glad to write about it and help you to order it.

The commitment is to the tag lines we now use every day: #GoVegan #ReadBooks because that is how I have come to understand the world as I do.

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Sullivan St Press on the Road and at Work

Our Itinerant Book Show will be going live soon, which means we’re leaving town. For several weeks (from 7/11-9/25), we’ll be away. We’ll be in our Prius filled with all our gear and hitting many KOAs across the country (as far west as the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park). We will visit as many indie bookstores and public libraries as possible during this summer road trip. We want to learn what goes on there and share with them our books and plans for the future. 

Here’s A Sneak Peek

SSP, as I fondly call my company, has lots of big plans going forward.  

Currently, SSP publishes novels, the Scags Series, and vegan books, the Vegan City Guides. In the works now are two different but ambitious projects based on these two series. What will be worked through over the next months, both while we are on the road and when we return, is a renewed commitment to make SSP an e-book only company. 

What Does E-Book Only Mean?

We’ll stop all Print on Demand. Based on the talks I gave at the NYC Green Festival in June, I worked very hard to lay out the reasons for “Why Publishing’s Future is Green Publishing.” I’ll be sharing those ideas in a series of blog posts soon. The short message is that The publishing industry needs to cut down its carbon footprint and learn to love the e-book. 

Going Forward

The Scags Series will be completed in 2018. Scags at 45 is the final volume. But Scags herself is a new writer for SSP and her first book, also coming out in 2018, Born Loser, Born Lucky will be about the exploits of her character, Sophie, and her work to kill the cancer in our global heart’s soul. We’ll be launching Scags’ books as e-books only. And we’re working on a way to put the entire Scags Series into an app. So, lots to do but all of it will offer much more interconnection with other writers and their books. 

The Vegan City Guides series is also plodding forward. We are talking to and looking for more partners. We want to go 50-state wide. We want to show the entire nation’s vegan footprint well beyond a focus on food but to encompass every aspect of what it means to be vegan. Thus for the animals, for our environment, for our health and for the spiritual well being of those who seek to live compassionately. 

Our goals are ambitious but should even a part of this new work bear fruit, there will be much more of interest to offer readers and writers for years to come. 

#GoVegan #ReadBooks

Why Vegan Now?

I could have titled this, “Why not Vegan Yesteday?” but vegans get criticized for their tone, their lack of sensitivity and their self-righteousness.

I haven’t been a vegan for that long (5 years) and I often kick myself about that relatively short time of aligning my conscience with the fate of this planet. Having been an environmentalist for much longer, it amazes me now how long it took me to connect the dots from caring about this planet and caring about the animals.

Everyone’s story is different. Mine began with working on a vegan book (I am a publisher) and realizing how my author’s journey to becoming vegan opened my eyes.

When I talk about being vegan and about being a publisher, you can hear me here on Saturday and Sunday (6/10, 6/11), I am serious. The Sullivan Street Press website is a carbon-free site. We sell our books as both e-books and bound books that are Print on Demand. This means we are creating as small a carbon footprint as possible to be in this world of books.

But I digress.

My question at the top requires an answer. The planet needs your help. The planet is more than this geological rock we are all attached to. It consists of all that is in and on it. All that grows from it. All that has been here. It is a history machine full of billions of stories composed by all the life forms that have called this planet home. Most of that life no longer exists.

Our actions, human actions, have destroyed these species through both abuse and neglect. Our trajectory is heading towards the ultimate destruction of all life we need to survive.

One of the worst contributors to the death throes of our planet is industrialized agriculture. In particular, humans have taken to the brutal raising, genetic altering and slaughter of beef, pork, lamb, goat and turkeys, chicken, duck, goose as well as all life in the seas (fresh and saltwater). We are trying to to feed too many humans. Our planet will soon be exhausted. We have given it an unbearable burden and then destroyed those elements all life needs–clean air and water.

Give up consuming all animal products.  Find better ways to create books than destroying forests.

You can do this. You can save the planet.

We Need You!

Calling all book lovers, please lend a hand. Sullivan Street Press needs your help to get all our books into all 16,000 public libraries and especially our e-books. We need to change the conversation about e-books. We aren’t paying close enough attention to those who benefit the most from e-books.

A very good reason to support e-book purchases at your library

Not every person who loves to read has easy access to a library or a bookstore. Whether because of age, income level, disability or non-existence, many fellow citizens cannot get to a library or a bookstore or bookstores do not exist. The push for this love of bound books is understandable but not always equitable.

E-books can be downloaded from libraries by anyone with access to a computer. They need not get to the library to check out or return a borrowed e-book. This convenience is a remarkable contribution that libraries make to the communities they serve. Your help will mean a great deal to those not as mobile as you or with easy access to libraries by car or public transportation.

The global village is connected by Smartphones

The same restrictions can apply to even more isolated and distant locales where book lovers live and work but again may have no access to a bookstore or a library. Smartphones have become the means by which these people stay connected to the world. In these ways, they have Facebook accounts and can see what their global friends are reading and recommending.

Helping Sullivan Street Press to push its rankings higher by writing reviews, by discussing our books on your Facebook pages and by reaching out to friends with recommendations of our books, will be a great service to this small press.

Small presses must compete with the large ones without the same resources

Having to compete for everything with the much larger publishing companies for the limited and shrinking attention that books receive almost everywhere is a constant battle for Sullivan Street Press. It is our intention to stay in business but we can’t do that without the help of those who read our books. Word-of-mouth sales are actually among the most effective there are. So, please speak up and show your support for the books we publish. You can download these fliers and take them to your library, share them on your FB pages or you can go to our FB page and download them from there. And we thank you immensely for this support.

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Q and A with Vance Lehmkuhl

“The American Vegan Society appreciates Vance Lehmkuhl’s distinctive voice in Philadelphia and the valuable work that he does keeping vegan views in front of readers throughout the region.”
There you have it, the seal of approval from the American Vegan Society for Vance Lehmkuhl’s work. This past year, Sullivan Street Press had the privilege of publishing two of his books: V for Veg: The Best of Philly’s Vegan Food Column and Eating Vegan in Philly.
I asked Vance to take some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions and here are his answers.
1. If you had 30 seconds to convince me to read your book, not buy it, but read it, what would you say?
If you care about animals, or about vegan eating, or have questions about them or about Philly’s food scene, or if you just like to read fun food writing, this book will satisfy and you will not finish it wishing you could have that couple hours of your life back. I absolutely guarantee it, but not in any legally binding way. It has a lot of good information and a certain amount of attitude, always pushing forward in an animal-free direction.
2. Tell us about how you became a vegan food columnist. (How long, what prepared you for it and why?)
I started out as a vegetarian cartoonist as of about 1992, working my pro-animal opinions into my political cartoon for Philadelphia City Paper, “How-To Harry,” which I drew weekly for 12 years, and also in the “Edgy Veggies” cartoon I did for VegNews Magazine for its first 8 years. In 2000 as I turned vegan I started working as the online editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, and I pitched a vegan story, then another, etc. and for a time I wrote vegan op-eds for the Opinion section. In 2010 I started campaigning for a column and finally got the green light in 2011, and “V for Veg” started that summer with a trip to a hot dog joint that’s no longer there, and a deli that was serving vegan banh mi sandwiches, and which still is. I started the philly.com companion blog V for Veg in 2013.
3. Your writing is both witty and informed–do you think that reflects the vegan community in Philadelphia? Is it sophisticated and fun loving?
Well… I’d shy away from a blanket statement about the vegan community in Philadelphia. Partially because there are a good many vegans here of whom I only know maybe 30-40. Of course there are certainly a good many who are sophisticated and fun loving, but from the big-picture perspective the community, historically somewhat disjoint, is just now growing into a mutually supportive community commensurate with the world-class vegan dining town Philadelphia is becoming, and I think our vegan dining boom that has coincided with, ahem, the run of my column, may be part of that equation.
4. Do you see yourself as a vegan activist or are you reflecting the level of engagement in Philadelphia?
“Activist” is a loaded term both for my fellow journalists and for street activists who don’t want the term tarnished by slacktivism, so I’ll just say I consider myself an advocacy journalist. I’m writing with a clear and transparent mission to advocate for something, but at the same time I have to be held to journalistic standards of factual accuracy. So certainly at the same time I am reflecting the level of animal-free engagement in Philly, which is growing.
5. You have seen a long line of vegan fads, restaurants, activities come and go in Philadelphia. Your book mentions many of them. What are your favorites and why did you choose them?
Kale chips was a fun one because it was like my fourth column and I felt like I recognized this just as it was hitting and before it was considered a trend, so I made a big deal out it with the Drudge-style “Must Credit V for Veg!” On the other end of the timeline, Aquafaba, bean water that can be used in baking, was an exciting thing to find out about and research and try out, and I think there’s still a lot to come from that. I still get a kick out of the Silk almond-milk “Milkman” ad and it was fun to talk to the guy that came up with that. Also, the movie, “Noah” was pretty good and my blog post calling it “vegan propaganda” spent some time as the highest-traffic item of any kind on our site, Philly.com. Lots of fun things I wouldn’t necessarily have encountered if I weren’t watching for column topics, and I am glad to have had a chance to do some of the things, and eat some of the food, that my columnist position has called for.
To find out more about Vance’s two books, you can follow the Facebook pages
@vvegphillysveganfood
@eatingveganin
And order the books through the website: http://sullivanstpress.com/