#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

http://sullivanstpress.com facebook.com/sullivanstpress twitter@sullivanstpress

#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

http://sullivanstpress.com facebook.com/sullivanstpress twitter@sullivanstpress

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.

http://sullivanstpress.com  facebook.com/sullivanstpress  twitter@sullivanstpress

 

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/

Scags as character and author

It is time to start writing about two novels that will be published in early 2018. One is about Scags, the character I created for the Scags Series and will be the final volume of the series. The second book will be by Scags and it will be the start of a new set of stories, written by Scags.

On the face of it, this may seem like a bit too much of the same thing. The final volume, Scags at 45, is a memoir, Scags’ story of her life with its own ending to the series. In the midst of “writing” that story, she is given a set of stories to tell that are not about her but about a different character, Sophie, who is a new kind of super-hero: a lesbian, angered by a lover’s betrayal who receives a packet of papers that reveal the secrets of the most successful businesses in the US, which are also involved in sex trafficking, drugs and money laundering. Sophie, being pursued for these papers because of who they expose, becomes involved with a group of women, many of them clergy, who are engaged in destroying this tumor at the heart of the American soul.

As Scags at 45 advances, Scags shares her early attempts at writing this political thriller that becomes the novel, Born Loser, Born Lucky (BLBL). These writings, embedded in the e-book version of Scags at 45, will link to a separate landing page on the Sullivan Street Press website. For those reading the book in paperback, the links will be available too.

I’ve been asked if writing two novels at once is really possible. One trick I found for keeping track of each story is to talk about them. As counter intuitive as that seems, I am getting help in two ways. First, by repetition, I remember more of the story. Second, which goes concomitantly with this, by watching the faces of those I tell the stories to, I see if they are bored, confused. So far, no one has been either bored or confused.

This process of writing has made me think that perhaps I am a story telling trail blazer, which is a great motivator to write every day.

Follow some of my progress here: www.facebook.com/scagsseries

Buy books here: http://sullivanstpress.com/

I Choose Every Book I Publish

No slush pile, no agents calling me up, no advances, no time spent reading manuscripts because the books I publish have not yet been written.This is a very risky way to publish but it is also the most creative way.

New ideas and new authors

It is also a very exciting way to publish. Each and every book becomes, in a way, a shared project and I am aware of how all the decisions were made.

Occupy This Book

When I learned about all the books that Mickey Z. had published, I went to the bookstores and began looking at his body of work. Then I read his blogs and articles. Then I went to his talks and watched him as he shared vital information and created teaching forums, all with a great deal of laughter and good cheer. To me, this all indicated he and I could work on a book together.

Screw ups and Missed Opportunities

I messaged Mickey on Facebook a few times but he kept telling me had a dentist’s appointment and could not meet. I backed off because I knew my wife and I would be leaving town soon and badgering someone to write for the press didn’t work anyway.

When we returned from our summer tour, I began the same process again, reading what Mickey wrote, going to hear him talk and then making myself known.

Eventually we sat down to talk at a restaurant in Astoria. It was a beautiful fall day, the weather was warm and we had the first of our 5-hour lunches. Talking to Mickey helped me to understand what kind of book he and I could put together and he, as always, was full of creative suggestions and ways to make these ideas happen.

For example, he was worried about Occupy this Book being too text heavy. He thought it needed to be opened up, so he had me reach out to a cartoonist, Rick Cole, who had worked with him on another book and Rick agreed to do the ‘toons for Mickey’s book and to draw the cover image.

Structure, Form and Titles

Mickey is a fast worker. He always asks for a deadline and then he beats the deadline by days. But I also wanted someone to write a Foreword for his book and I had no ideas at the time who that could be. Mickey reached out to his good friend, Cindy Sheehan, and she gladly sent us a wonderful Foreword with a great tag line that we have used to promote the book: “It’s a pleasure to be in the struggle with Mickey Z.”

It was a pleasure to struggle with Mickey to figure out the best ways to organize the text, where to put Rick’s ‘toons and how to title the book.

Occupy this Book, when it was finished, was all that I had hoped Mickey would produce. He was at ease on the page, teaching and sharing experiences, creating a format that was almost like a self-help book but was so much more. Every page, he encouraged activism in ways that matched precisely the talks he gave and the blogs he wrote–aware of the importance of being an activist and at the same time, aware of the amount of self-criticism and self-care that are required to make this a life time’s work.

It is a pleasure to be Mickey Z.’s publisher.

For more information on where to buy Mickey’s books (Occupy this Book and Occupy These Photos, both published by Sullivan Street Press) go to this link.

E-Books for Every Occasion and Reader

Sullivan Street Press began life as an e-book only publisher. Caught up in the excitement of a new publishing paradigm that would allow for a democraticization of the publishing process, the company and I began to test out new ideas for ways that all writers and readers could benefit from this marvelous technology.

I began my publishing career in 1978 and learned how to produce bound books at my first job for a now defunct publishing company that was more interested in creative financing than was healthy for them.  Yet, their creative ways allowed them to publish translated works of real value that would not have seen an American audience or been found on bookstore shelves because of the ways in which the business was structured in those days.

Fast forward to the 1990s when major publishers were not open at all to the idea of e-books or what they were in those days, pdf files on your desktop. An inventive and far-sighted publisher was put out of business by the major publishers for daring to suggest that out of print books, in other words, books no publisher was interested in any longer, might find a new market in the digital realm of our computer screens. But, as I said, this individual was driven out of business and litigated to death over a format that we now all find old fashioned, yet was the very format that Barnes & Noble used in their early versions of the NOOK.

Today, we read constantly that e-books aren’t doing as well as the predictions of analysts who seem to be more concerned with turning profits than reading books. Yet, one company has been allowed to post deficits for years, until just this year in fact, because Amazon of all the players in the e-book world has not been tech adverse in its business model. Its business model is based on a much deeper understanding of the technical world in which we live (with the attendant bad and good that means) and has profited from the sale of e-books in ways that publishers never can. It takes a moment to understand why Amazon has invested so much money in their book business.

If you stop for a moment and think more about what it is that Amazon knows about you, you will begin to comprehend just how their business is predicated on being a one-stop purveyor of all things you need. Over the 2 decades that they have been in business, Amazon has been collecting data on all its customers and creating a data bank that allows them to know how to sell almost anything we want. No one except them has access to this data, oh, except the government of course, and even publishers who could do a much better business if they had this information are not allowed access to it.

Their technology for e-books, which is theirs alone, no other e-tailer can use or does use the proprietary software that Amazon designed for the e-books that they distribute (Mobi) and while we are speaking of their unique practices, you also don’t own the e-books you download onto the Kindle, they do. And at any time they can delete it from your devices.

Yet, for all these problems and the complicated history of how we arrived at this moment of e-books and their place in our libraries, I am still a huge fan of them for practical reasons (I can take a library with me when I travel and I travel a lot) and I think environmentally, we stand a better chance of preserving the resources we have, given though that we understand what resources are necessary to manufacture our devices and how they are obtained. (I will write further about this issue in coming posts.)

We are all called upon to take seriously our libraries and bookstores, to support the writers and publishers who are producing the literature we need to make better choices and to lead more informed lives. Books are treasured by so many for these reasons but also because within the process of reading them, we are transformed as the writer who wrote them was also transformed in the process of building those stories and finding the words to say exactly what she meant to say.

E-books aren’t as some would like you to believe all that cheap to produce. The same, very same, efforts to make the text the best it can be is necessary for both bound and e-books. What is different is that e-books can be produced more quickly and made available across a variety of markets in ways that bound books cannot be.

Ride the wave of e-books and experience the freedom to read anywhere at any time almost any book you want to read. Share almost all content with your friends, quote it directly into your emails, your FB page, onto a Twitter post, however the words move you to share them; that too is your new ability given the ways in which e-books are formated.

All the books I publish are available as e-books and you can find out all about them here.