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The best time to get professional help before you self-publish your book…

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When I was new at publishing, if you’d have asked me if or when I needed outside advice, I would have looked at you very hard—and stepped back. Why not ask me if I needed professional guidance to brush my teeth, or to drool?

What hubris, what arrogance! Yet sometimes I was right. I had a solid idea well framed and researched, and the book came out fine. No help needed or wanted.

But most of the earlier books (of 40) that I got published (or I published myself) would have been faster, much less expensive, and in the long run created a stronger empire if I’d just found and paid a few extra tostoes for solid guidance and fresh, experienced eyes at one critical point in the process.

Which is why, some decades later, when I now give manuscript help (yes, for tostoes), I only do it at that pivotal point after the manuscript is designed, researched, and written; the final draft is about as good as the writer can make it, and before it is sent to the printer.

Why then?

Much earlier and many of the proposed books won’t materialize anyway. For all the grand intentions, fervor, and heat, those would-be books end up as oral dreams that never get the words needed for structure and life. That is, the to-be-author doesn’t finish them! And I really hate to advise for naught.

There are two exceptions when I think it can be justifiable to advise much earlier:

(1) When the author is at the final organizational stage, has answered the starter questions, has an outline on paper, and knows where she or he will find the answers—before writing. Then it might make sense to review those steps and help strategize a selling campaign around which the writer can create a book with a very specific purpose. (These are the kind of starter questions I’m talking about.)

(2) Or if the petitioner is writing a clearly defined niche market book and, before they compose any part of the contents, they need help creating a market pre-test that will cut their writing time in half and at least double their opening sales. (Even there, they can just follow my book Niche Marketing or a similar CD/workbook example called How to Test Your Niche [Publishing] Market First.)

Still, most of those who need help at all will receive the best return on their investment from guidance given just before they commit to a publisher. Even better, if in their development calendar they allot several weeks between when the “last word” is written and the priceless manuscript reaches any printer’s hands.

That is when a no-nonsense two-hour intervention can almost always make a big difference. It’s when experienced production and marketing eyes can look at the about-to-be-printed manuscript and ask “Is this book ready to go? What is missing to make it super? How can it be adjusted or refined (even the title and subtitle changed) to make it much stronger, better honed, and far easier to sell? How can it be slightly redefined to create a greater must-have buyership? How could a modest realignment or a missing chapter make this book leap from interesting to extraordinary?”

Mostly, the writer already has almost all of the improvements and changes in mind, and all it takes is another to ask the right questions and help subtly redirect the ship of words into a faster and surer tack. Without specific intervention at that moment, too often those last-step changes are lost in the shuffle of formatting and the haste to see the book in any final form!

If the author is thinking of ancillary publishing, my book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days will give them the basics of book prep, then demystify the submission process (as you can see by reading the first 20 or so pages at www.gordonburgett.com/ap.htm).

But if they are thinking of building a life-feeding empire from their book, going full bore with a self-published (or niche published) tome exemplar, then if they need outside guidance that is where I’ve found it by far to be the most beneficial. It helps produce the books most fit and most sought to complete their mission, and the ones also the most satisfying to their writers.

Alas, my thoughts didn’t arrive from afar chiseled in marble, but rather they are one person’s opinion. Mine. If you review manuscripts too and see it differently, please share your thoughts or correct what is plainly in error. We all want the same thing: books that thunder with excellence!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I offer other absurd opinions in my free, monthly newsletter. And sometimes in 140 characters at Twitter as GLeeBurgett.

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Pubit! may be the fastest and easiest ancillary publisher to use

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When I wrote How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days I focused on the “ancillary” (open) publishers that were then functioning and accessible, like CreateSpace, Kindle, Lulu, Smashwords, Blurb, Scribd, and (related) Lightning Source.

Barnes & Noble was just releasing the Nook reader and its publishing component, Pubit!, was still plunk in the middle of growing pains. The most disturbing thing was that once one had uploaded their book’s contents, the contents couldn’t be read on the preview screen. The process was painfully slow and about half way through it just stopped, so you had no idea how the rest of the book would look

A big, pleasant surprise! I’m posting a new book, How to Create a High School Graduation Book, and after placing it at four of the other houses, I did the same, with trepidation, at PubIt! What a breeze. In and out in about 20 minutes, and it’s as straightforward as it could be.

Here’s the process, all on one page after you go to pubit.com and set up an account (email address and a password).

Hit ADD A TITLE, then enter the book title, the list price (they will tell you your royalty, publication date (or it will enter that day’s date), and the publisher (you, with your publishing company name). You will probably list yourself as the author (with city and state), with a total of five contributors possible.

Then you browse to find your interior (book content) file and upload it so it can be converted to ePub from Word (.doc or .docx), HTML, RTP, or TXT. It took less than a minute to convert, and was easy to read from start to finish. (I had already converted the bound version to digital and massaged it to work in Kindle and Smashwords, where I read the latter’s ePub rendition. It was about 98% ready-to-go.)

Next, the JPG cover file can be uploaded. (You only need a front cover but PubIt! requires it to be 750-2000 pixels long. Or it will go out coverless until you can get your cover large enough.)

The rest is predictable. An ISBN number if you have one for your e-book, but it’s not required. They ask if your book is part of a series, available in print, in public domain, the language it’s written in, if the rights are yours, and if you want DRM encryption. (It also explains what each means.)

Finally, it lets you pick five categories for selling, 100 characters of keywords, a 5000-character box for a book description, and 2,000 characters more for an author bio. If you have any editorial reviews, you can post as many as five. Then you tell them to put it on sale!

It simply couldn’t be easier, better presented and explained, or faster. It was worth the wait if the mother company, Barnes & Noble, sells some books! If we can NOOK some buying readers.

(What I didn’t mention is that I had already written the description and bio and cut-and-dropped them in, and I had the interior file, the ISBN, and the cover file ready to go.) That’s the trick. Then you can give all of these new free publisher/marketers a chance to find buyers in Butte, Borneo, and/or sunny Bermuda until your end-of-the month bank deposits start adding up—well before you start running down!

Good luck,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. In my last blog I shared the new path to submitting at CreateSpace. Also check my free, monthly newsletter for more info (and three free reports) about writing and publishing.

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20 steps to submit your bound book to CreateSpace, updated

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When I wrote How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Published Worldwide in Days, I included a non-techie step-by-step to get your book out through CreateSpace. That’s now a bit out of date.

Yesterday I revisited CreateSpace and submitted How to Create a High School Graduation Book. So I had a double-dipping of the process (it’s in this new book and I actually did it myself yesterday–and it worked!) So let me share it with you in this blog, updated, ready to use:

—–

Assuming you will be doing the submission process yourself, the following 20 steps will help you get your book accepted by CreateSpace and printed almost free—without having to learn much about publishing or having to pay others a bundle for printing (usually hundreds to thousands of dollars) to get Ben’s big day remembered in print for­ever. The folks at CreateSpace are also friendly and helpful. Just email them if you get lost.

1. Open http://www.createspace.com.

2. The first page says “Publish your words, your way,” then gives you two paths to follow. One, open an account immediately. The other, take a look-see at what CreateSpace offers and what it needs from you.

3. Duh. Do the latter, although how to do that isn’t obvious. There are three choices at the bottom of the same blue box, below a goldenrod item where it says “Start a title for free.” Select “Authors” to enter the world of explanation before you must comply, then find the link “Learn more” above and open it. What appears is an excellent overview of the process.

4. If you want written explanations of the way CreateSpace will work with you to produce your High School Graduation Book, go to any of the items on this Authors page, including Overview, Cover, Interior, Printing Options, Distribution and Royalties, and Buying Copies. Don’t be frightened by the new terminology or the necessary steps needed to get your book accepted—it’s easier than it looks.

5. Some of the things you will discover are that all book covers are printed in full color and can be done free, you can get a free ISBN (you just saved $225), they will handle all of the orders for you, there is no standing inventory (they produce each book as it’s ordered so you needn’t invest in printing a starting stock), the agreement with them is non-exclusive, and you will receive a bit of royalty [about 30%] on every bound book sold.

6. At the Interior page, in the “Free Do-It-Yourself Option,” click Submission Requirements, where you can find the book sizes that CS offers. (You will probably want 6” x 9,” but there are lots of choices. Whichever you select, your cover must be the same size!) Pick a size and you will see a page template link. That’s a blessing. You will simply type your book on that page and the resulting copy will be ready-to-use, properly sized! (That means that the template has the correct margins and layout directions for a header and/or a footer posted.) 

7. If you want to hear a first-rate summary of what you just read, find the Self-Publishing Video Overview, right above “Distribution and Royalties.” Open the link that asks “Why self-publish your book with us?”

8. Convinced? Now it’s time to “Create a New Account.” Find that link in the blue banner near the top of any page. Fill it in, then log in.

9. We’ll look at the details in a moment, but in a nutshell, you must give your new book a title, like “Ben Barker’s High School Graduation Book.” Then you provide the needed materials for six major categories: Title Information, Physical Properties, ISBN, Interior, Cover, and Complete Setup (the last is a checklist of completion of the previous five.)

10. The core of what you send is the Interior (your book’s contents in one file) and the Cover (in another file). Later, you will see these combined into a mock version of the final, printed book. If it’s acceptable, you will order a proof to be printed and mailed to you (in a few days). That will cost about $25. [My blog comment: it cost $8 yesterday because I had it sent the slowest mail, about a week, but overnight or quick mail, $25 is about right.] If that printed book is what you want, you give an OK and the book is ready to be ordered: as Ben’s gift, as many copies as you want for the family, or for anybody in the world who wants to join Ben’s happy throng. 

11. Let’s go back and look at (or complete) the paperwork. The five sections in “Title Setup” don’t require much explanation from me: Title, Author, Description (very important that it be accurate and concise), Contributors (here you might list your helpers, like the proofreader, photographer(s), illustrator or cover designer, etc.), and a Subtitle (if needed).

12. Remember to save each item and page as you complete it—or you’ll have to do it again!

13. “Physical Properties” is where you pick black and white as your book’s interior type, the trim size, and the paper color (white unless there’s a reason to use cream).

14. What is this mysterious ISBN on the next page? It’s an identifying number that all books must have in some format—and it’s to be avoided when possible because its cost is pretty much a rip-off. You are the big winner here because CreateSpace will provide you with a free ISBN! Check that box. (You can find out about copyright here too.)

15. Now comes the big stuff without which Ben has no gift! You must provide the guts (copy, photos, anything inside the cover). Then the cover.

16. You have your entire book stored in two files, one of interior book copy, the other, the cover. Both should be in ready-to-go PDF format. In the “Interior” and “Cover” sections is where you upload each formatted file in its respective box, for submission.

17. Now check the “Complete Setup” to verify that the preceding five sections have been completed. You can’t get to the file review section until this is done and accepted.

18. When you click “Submit for Publishing,” CS will look it over to see that it meets their submission requirements. In the next day or two they will let you know by e-mail whether it’s okay as is or it needs changes. If the latter, they will tell you how to update (change) the files. If it’s ready to go, it’s time to order your proof! Appropriately, you complete the “Order Proof” and “Print Ready” pages.

19. It takes about a week [or faster] to receive your printed proof in the mail. Read it closely, and if it’s acceptable to give to Ben (and share with your family and the world), tell CreateSpace. If not, send back the corrections. Alas, if you return it, you must buy another proof (which really means you must pay the shipping again).

20. Then, as the book is being prepped and the proof is being sent to you, look at the Distributor and the Sales and Marketing Categories. At the outset, I wouldn’t upgrade to the Pro level, but do insert your book’s list price (you set the price and you can change it later), keep the Amazon and eStore sections enabled, mark the e-book boxes at Public and US and international sales, and, for the present, don’t upgrade to EDC.

Whew! This being an author and publisher is hard work. You wonder why 99% of your friends’ kids will graduate without their own personal High School Graduation Book? But you did it! You are a published author and Ben is one of a million with a lifetime memento of a lifetime accomplishment, thanks to you. Whew again! Giant congratulations!

—–

That’s it. If it helps, great.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. As usual, you get three free reports if you sign up for my free, monthly newsletter. Or you might check our website at www.gordonburgett.com.

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Magazine reprint letter, to resell an article already in print

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When I was much more active selling magazine and newspaper pieces, my hidden moneymaker was the simple reprint cover letter. I averaged about three reprints for each first sale then (though sometimes that took a year or two and a long list of publications that bought second rights).

The process was straightforward. I’d write a full query letter and send it out to top magazines, one at a time, until an editor bought it. Then I’d wait until it actually was in print and on the stands for a couple of months. I’d write a short cover letter (like the one below) and send that out to many second-rights-buying editors (often six or eight at a time), each cover letter accompanied by a clear copy of the original article as it looked in print. I’d include a self-addressed, stamped envelope (a small #9 envelope so they wouldn’t return the package). Sometimes I’d include a short bio too. 

It was a fishing expedition, frankly, but it caught enough fish to be fun. These secondary magazines usually paid 1/2 or 1/3 that I got from the first rights sale, but so what? I wasn’t in any hurry and none of these articles were very timely, so speed wasn’t important.

What follows is a vintage reprint letter I found in a pile yesterday from a book that I wrote a fair time ago. It struck me as a good blog item since few writers mention reprints any more.

Notice that it is short and mostly draws the editor to the printed article accompanying it. I let the main article (and its research) carry the freight here. If the first rights buyer did a good job with it physically, that helped the reprint sale too.

The process is still valid but it’s harder to find second rights folks that buy now on a non-exclusive basis.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett 

—————-

[Editor’s name]

[Title, publication]

[Address]

Dear _______________:

Your readers are my kind of people: history buffs. Dates don’t make them swoon. Then-and-now men­tal leaps don’t give them cramps.

So they should particularly enjoy a fun, fact-filled article about life exactly 100 years ago. The year 1896 provides a perfect mirror to see how far we’ve progressed in a century: the only plane flying then weighed 28 pounds; Ford’s car, his first, was a two-cylinder “quadricycle”; there were three permanent movie thea­ters in the world; I.B.M. and annual stock balance sheets were brand new; Marconi was yet to send his first radio transmission; gold was rumored on the Klondike; a balloon crashed trying to be the first to fly the North Pole while the South Pole remained unseen; the first modern Olympics began that year; radioactivity was discovered, and violins cost $2 at Sears.

First rights to the article attached were sold to ______________, which published the piece two months back. I am offering you second rights to the text as is. Or I can significantly rewrite it to emphasize the historical anomalies and odd similarities for your particular readership between that time and now.  Just let me know.

The photos you see in the article reproduction are also available on a one-time rights basis. Or I can send you some 50 choices to select from, to give your rendition its own visuals.

[This I’m updating to 2011.] I’ll gladly send you the digital master of this article, plus I can show you the 50 photos in thumbnails that you can magnify and just download. Reply by email and I will do the same. I’m at www.glburgett@aol.com.

Me? Some 1,600 ­articles in print and author of a dozen books, including How to Sell More Than 75% of Your Freelance Writing and The Travel Writer’s Guide. Would you let me know if this works for your pages? I hope you and your readers are up for some 100-year magic!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Pseudonyms: when are “pen names” okay?

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I just read a well-turned article by professional writer Donna Albrecht in the ASJA Monthly called “The Reality of Pseudonyms” that probably had all of us reading it laughing, mostly because as members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors we’d probably all had our turn being in print as somebody else!

Since the article is in the “confidential” section of the monthly, I won’t quote it or share the contents except to say that the practitioners didn’t seem to be law-breakers or spies,  but mostly wordsmiths trying to sell a couple of pieces to the same editor simultaneously.

Oddly, that’s perhaps the most asked question I received for about 30 years of giving writing and journ marketing workshops and seminars. “Can I use a pseudonym (which seemed to have a dozen different pronunciations)?” I usually asked back, “Why would you want to?” A blank stare—or because they didn’t want the reader (or editor) to know who they were, presumably because the facts were whole cloth (or is it hole cloth?) or it was so badly written that by any name it was pretty much certain that the editor never would find out anyway!

Of course, if you’re writing porno and you’re the preacher, a pseudonym is a good idea, even in a field short on good ideas.

I once wrote a series of travel pieces for a well-known women’s magazine where every author was Betty or Marylynn. So I used my middle name, Lee.

Ms Albrecht reminded us that Nancy Drew was written by at least six different authors, all with different surnames because they were different people. Ellery Queen had many creators too.

One pen name practitioner I knew wanted to hide her gender because then baseball fiction wasn’t proper for women to admit. Others were well known in a particular field and their publishers didn’t want them to confuse the buyers. Another, I was told, was a romance writer who was a closet racist very eager to come out. I wrote a couple of short items in Portuguese and invented Machado Schooler to take the blame. And I met a reporter for a major Midwest newspaper that had a thing about local gangsters and let its entire staff take them to task under the shared name of Lester Camp, who, although he had a desk, a placard on a wall, and a dozen close friends, he was too insubstantial to be shot or beheaded.  

The article said that the pen-namers had no trouble cashing their checks, mostly because the editors knew what was up. I had no problem either. I just endorsed the checks with my new name—and I wore a bonnet when I cashed them not to draw attention to the mild crime afoot. I’m kidding. No bonnet, no jail time.

My reply? You better have a reason because if you get caught (unless the editor is in cahoots) you’ll be unbought in the future. They’ll suspect that you won’t take your own heat. Or that you don’t want to join them in a lawsuit. Or there’s something fishy. Or the lie goes deeper than a name change.   

Best wishes,

Gordon Lee Machado Schooler Burgett

P.S. Take a look at our free, monthly newsletter. More stuff about writing and publishing.

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Tips about professional speaking, Twitter, publishing advice, and ancillary publishers…

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We just released our June Newsletter (free, monthly) and it contains some inside stuff you might particularly enjoy and benefit from. (You can see it here without subscribing.)

Like Rebecca Morgan’s eight key things needed for a successful speaking business today. This is new stuff, written for us, and Rebecca is co-author of Speaker Net News, serving the core of America’s most successful speakers.

Then particularly interesting advice and directives from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, at a regional publishing gathering near San Francisco in May, like the three big trends facing publishing right now.

Pete Masterson tells about the “largest funding platform for creative projects in the world,” where people pre-buy your product.

A positive, early bias about Twitter.

Nine things you must do if you are using ancillary publishing: CreateSpace, Kindle, Lulu, Smashwords,Blurb, Lulu, Scribd, and PubIt!

And a quick summary of the free magazines or newsletters sent by the ancillary publishers.

If there’s something particularly valuable, share it with your colleagues.

You might even sign up for the newsletter since it’s the right price: nothing–better than nothing, you get three free reports about setting up your own writing or speaking empire! (And it’s easy to unsign up for too!)

Incidentally, later this week I will discuss when (at what point) you can most benefit from a professional “editor” (or reviewer) for your book.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

 

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How to Pick a Topic for a Book That Will Sell Well

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Whether you want to write the book, publish it, or both, you probably want an end product that will be eagerly sought, sell well, and command a price worth the effort.

How do I know? I’ve now written 40 published books and published twice as many written products, mostly books. Like you, I won’t invest time and money in a book that won’t bring back at least three or four times what it cost—often far more with spin-off products and services designed as part of an empire-building strategy.

So here’s the “trick” or the process.

(1) Write down in a word or phrase what you’d most like to write about.

(2) Then list all of the people, vocations, groups, firms, or hobbies that would most benefit from reading those words. Next, by each potential reader/buyer, write the specific kinds of benefits they would receive.

(3) Use Google.com to see if there is a mailing list for each of those beneficiaries, to get a rough idea of your buying universe. (“Everybody” or something else as vague or broad probably won’t work, with one exception: you are a widely recognized celebrity. Then the subject isn’t very important—once.)

(4) Put your list of readers/buyers in some priority order. Criteria for top placement will be the benefits they believe they would receive, the worth to them of those benefits (more money, more fame, more expertise validation, more popularity all improve the placement), the size of the buying universe (this is offset or improved by the uniqueness and accessibility of their niche market), and the urgency of your topic.

(5) Check the top three reader/buyer groups very carefully to see that there isn’t another book available specifically about your topic. If so, is it more than 5-8 years old? Has the topic changed enough recently to demand a new book? Do you have something particularly valuable to say?

(6) Pick the target market and refine your topic to meet its specific needs. Create a book outline that defines those needs and how your book will help meet them. Then find five people who understand your target market well, ask them if there is a compelling need for a book about your topic, and would they be accessible for an interview during the research process? (Imply that you expect the book to be completed and for sale in the coming months or soon. Which indeed it may be with the new availability of publishers—if you get to the writing promptly.) Ask each of them, if they approve of the topic, if they have any specific suggestions or recommendations for you as you finalize your outline? And can they recommend what they think are the best two or three books now in print about your topic or their field. (Read them.)

(7) There is another way to refine topics that need books written about them. Again, find five people leading or particularly well informed about the field that you want to address. Ask them one question: “If you could buy or read a new book about your topic that doesn’t exist now, what would it be about?”

(8) In the steps above hides (in open sight) your to-be-written book topic.

(9) I would go a bit farther. I’d confine the book to a niche field I knew or would be eager to learn about. And once I had a selling title, the benefits defined, and a clear table of contents prepared, I would conduct a quick, limited niche market pre-test. (See Niche Publishing for one path.) By the response, I’d know that the title worked, my contents were appropriate, and I had a rough ratio of buyers I could expect to make my book a sought moneymaker.

In other words, find you book buyer first, figure out what he or she is eager to read, see that it doesn’t already exist, pre-test it if you can, and get going.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. I talk a lot about writing and publishing in these blogs, through Twitter at GLeeBurgett, and at my free monthly newsletter. Welcome aboard!

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