#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.

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

 

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.

You can follow us here:

On FB and Twitter

 

 

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/

Crowdfunding the Sullivan Street Press Way

The story of Sullivan Street Press is this: We began in order to change the publishing paradigm. Our new crowd funding program is part of that paradigm shift.

Writers Need to be Paid

Some things don’t need to be changed. Writers need to be paid and they need to be paid because they have worked hard and created a book that no one else could have written.

Writers Need Supportive Communities

Books cannot live if no one reads them. This is not an issue of if a tree falls in the forest, no, this is a contract that is made between the writer and the reader. She needs for the reader she imagined while writing to become involved in making sure the world is also interested in this new book.

Crowd Funding=Community Support

This is the magic formula for books published by Sullivan Street Press. The friends and family of the writer, the ones she is thinking of as she writes, are the core community we need to engage so we can raise the money to pay for the costs of producing all our books. I know that some writers are frightened to ask for this kind of help, but as a good friend of mine constantly says: “Ask not, get not.”

Paying by PayPal So The Books Are Paid For

Like all publishers, Sullivan Street Press’ contract stipulates that an author will not receive royalties until the costs of production are paid for. If 30-50 people send a minimum donation of $50 to the Sullivan Street Press PayPal account, the entire cost of producing most of our books will be covered.

Your Reward

Each person who gives $50 will receive a signed copy of the book from the author.

What You Will Pay For

Our production partner, Scribe, Inc., has helped us reduce the costs of production. We are asking for the money to cover the editorial and production work on each title, as well as some of the costs for distribution of the books. (The money will never go towards salaries, office space, supplies.)

The Buck Isn’t the End of It

As the book reaches its launch date, we need you to go to your local library. Librarians need to hear from you that the writer’s book should be on the shelves and the writer should be invited to give a reading. You are needed to write reviews on the various book sites and to send letters of recommendations for this book to book reviewers, to ask your book club to read the book and spend time with the author. You are needed to recommend the book to your friends and family.

This type of support is as necessary as money.

Community

I now end as I began. Singing the praises of a book’s inherent community: those people the author thought about when writing the book.  As the publisher, this is the sweet harmony of the book business. When I watch a writer read to the very audience she had in mind when she wrote her book; seeing all those eyes watching her with complete attention, I know that we can ask them, you, to go out and sing the praises of the new book because now you too have come full circle with the writer and made a new book possible.

Here is where you can help us: sullivanstpress.com/help-our-books/

Libraries and Bookstores: Helpful Friends

When I wrote the article about integrating libraries and bookstores in 2014, I realized that what we needed were places where both print and digital and archives and rooms for community could co-exist. The best ways of seeing this integration, in my mind, was to allow the public and the private to blend into one. And while I am not portraying the roles that publishers can play in this new mashup, trust me, I will be writing about that as well.

Mutual Assured Cooperation

Public libraries have their own structures for ordering, processing, shelving, cataloging books. Bookstores too have their own systems for ordering books, displaying them and payment methods for books that also allow bookstores to return unsold books. It is easy for any bureaucrat on either side of this seeming divide to say that for these reasons alone, there can be no integration of bookstores and libraries. Yet, there are ways all of this could be managed in order for us to move ahead.

So Digital

Libraries have an outstanding edge over bookstores. First is they usually have a much larger understanding of and access to e-books. It may come as a surprise to many that you can download an e-book from your library from your home and when it is due back at the library, it will just be deleted from your device. Another thing that may surprise many, is there are currently libraries getting rid of their bookshelves entirely. Seeing the future a bit more clearly than lots of publishers, they know that those who use their libraries are there with a laptop or to use their laptops. Having access to a free wifi site is essential in communities where the cost of such a service is prohibitive and the added benefit is you have trained researchers close to hand.

Libraries now offer classes on how to create e-books, how to code, how to tell stories with digital tools. They provide all these tools for working in the digital world and usually for free and with good teachers who want to share their experience. Having clean, well lit spaces for such work is important and libraries can do this better than anyone else in our communities.

Let There Be Print

That then is not a dismissal of print. Print is still needed in many ways and for many people. It is mostly in this domain where the two, bookstores and libraries, overlap and support one another. Selling books fills a need. Having authors come into our communities to read from and discuss their new books is a pleasure. Book clubs and writing groups like to use bookstores for the ambience as well as the availability of all the newest titles. Print is preserved in many ways by how bookstores function in their communities. I would also suggest that new ways can also be found such as having the sales reps from the distributors come to bookstores prepared to present the books to the community rather than to just the buyer, allowing those interested in what is new to hear the sales speech and to learn more about how books are sold.

We Can Change Everything

Yes, that can all happen and parts of it are happening now. If we integrate the systems and make them work both collaboratively and independently, where they must, we will be saving the book business, expanding the reach of our libraries, giving authors many more venues to speak in and bringing a vibrant book culture into every community. These benefits are not out of reach; they require all of us to advocate for them.