From blog to book(let): thinking through the process…

What can one do with 227 blogs that will let readers permanently share their content and help you (and me) organize the blogs into logical categories, become repackaged and revised as “blog book(let)s,” earn a few bucks, and perhaps coral some of the better updated info into full paperbacks or some kind of oral product?

I know, it sounds vain to want to recycle your own words just to read and recycle them again. But there you are. There’s a purpose to every blog I have written and posted (often it describes a currently applicable process): many are key points now updated (usually using newer technology), and others are practical how-to examples or new ways to do exactly what I propose that the reader to do, which is recombine usable information into components of an empire that one wants to establish and grow.

So I tediously extracted all 227 blogs, marching backward through the Word Press files, saving the digital blog and printing it out at the same time. The search for: ____ function doesn’t work very well and while it’s easy to find the 10 newest blogs (they are listed on the right side of the top blog, as “recent posts”), to dig out an earlier blog pretty much entails going to the “older” link at the bottom of those 10 current blogs and doing that repeatedly until you found the batch of 10 you are seeking. Buried brilliance. (If you knew on which page your sought blog was hiding, you could get there much faster by typing in the blog’s general address and the page, like, in my case: (or the actual page number).

I then took the pile of 227 blogs and put them into piles by a general topic that the blog addressed. That gave me 13 piles. The least likely to see print again were the 18 “odd blogs” in the “not worth resharing” pile.

Some of the blogs were a complete surprise. I had no memory writing a word of them—and I have a tenacious memory about my writing!

Yet I knew in the piles were two topics on which I had dwelt at great length, even including a numbered series of about 15 blogs each. All along I had in mind rewriting and upgrading one book, my best seller to date. It concerns freelance writing. The second series addressed niche product pretesting before one actually writes a book or creates a product, to see if there are enough (easily accessible) buyers willing to pay enough money to justify the research, writing, and marketing. So in these two piles is the heart of two books I will write in the next year or two, major books with fancy paperback covers and the usual professional layout and the rest.

That leaves 10 more piles of blogs from which I will probably compose about six or seven “blog booklets.” I envision each of them including the earlier blogs (updated when possible) and a running, italicized text that integrates or explains how each blog fits into that booklet’s general theme. (I may write a few new blogs that fill in key gaps in the booklets.) I see these as ebooks, maybe 20-50 pages long, costing about $2.95 each. I’ll probably publish each booklet simultaneously through Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. I will have a bright front cover designed where I can simply change the title. At some point I will create a wee catalog of all of the blog titles, or a listing by booklet, so a buyer will know where the items sought can be found (and bought).

What are the themes of the other booklets? Ancillary publishing, blogging, manuscript evaluation, querying and interviewing for articles, empire building, niche publishing, publishing one’s own book (self-publishing, paperbacks, and/or ebooks), paid speaking, finding ideas for articles books, empire building, and travel articles.

Why wouldn’t a bright soul just find and pluck out what they wanted, free, from the blog contents at my website? Go to it! My time would be worth more than the cost of digging into the earlier pages. And, heavens forfend, they wouldn’t be mesmerized by having their own copy of my magic new ebook covers.

Why am I poking along here explaining my plans in more detail than all of this deserves? Because many of you probably also have a trove of glittering blogs that you also want to resurrect and actually sell! So you’ll be wandering along this compilation trail and asking the same questions I more or less answer here.

So if this blog helps you make latter-day sense about what you might do with your own blogs, the price is right—nada! Then if you want to see how the converted blogs look in a booklet, pop for $2.95 and they will be there, again.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

How do I evaluate a submitted nonfiction book?

I’ve been a publisher since 1982 (and had 41 of my own books published) so when mostly my National Speaker’s Association buddies asked if I did any professional book evaluations, I said yes. That was about 15 years ago. Let me tell you mostly what I look for or the questions I try to answer. (Here’s where I send every new client at the outset so they know what I need to do a good job and what they will get in return.)

First, they send me a completed questionnaire (see link above) and usually a copy of the book and its cover. They can mail or email it, with attachments. (The text is almost always in English, though I’ve done a few in Portuguese or Spanish.) I don’t do fiction or children’s books.

Most of my clients want to self-publish their book, though a few want to submit it to a big house. Those in the latter group send several chapters and a proposal.

For the big housers, I try to respond as if I were the editor, or I specifically point out what the editor must know but isn’t adequately covered in their proposal. I also look at the book contents to be certain they are professional quality and well proofed.

Some of the self-publishers only want to have their books released by the ancillary houses, like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, iPad, Lulu, or Blurb. That despite the fact that nonfiction ebooks at best sell modestly published that way. Ebooks only need a front cover. (I also send them a copy of my how-to-step-by-step book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.)

Most of the rest have a paperback or even hardback (cloth) book in mind. They will need a full cover (front, spine, and back) that will compare favorably with their competition on library and bookstore shelves.

At this point I suggest that the client seriously consider preparing their book as if it were a paperback (they can get the full cover later) since the ebook can be the same file with modest digital conversions. That way, they can easily publish both ways with very little extra work.

First I look at the book’s title and cover. Does the title work? Or does it need more work? What’s missing? Would I buy that book because of that title? Does it contain or suggest the benefits the buyer will receive? Does it need a subtitle? Or should the title be preceded by its target market (like Investors: Don’t Lose Your Cents with Penny Stocks.) I suggest Dan Poynter’s back cover example in the Self-Publishing Manual for the paperbacks, which includes a testimonial or two and the bar code (with a specific ISBN).

Then I compare the title with the table of contents. Are they about the same thing? Does the process followed seem logical? Is the table of contents too cutesy or cryptic? What isn’t listed that logically should be? Why not? Is it loaded with irrelevant material? Is the artwork included (which includes graphs and charts) high quality and easy to comprehend?

I usually read the first chapter, one that beckons me near the middle, and the last chapter. (I’m not proofreading the book so I needn’t see every word, though I do thumb through the entire book to see if anything is missing, upside down, or clearly misplaced.)

Here, I’m reading the chapters to check the writer’s skill. Do the sentences read well? Do they vary in length? How are the word choices? The spelling? Do the paragraphs fit well together? Do the sections dwell on one theme or their subtitle? Does each of the chapters adequately, or better, convey the information in a similar style? Does the humor work? Is it scattered to the same degree throughout the text?

What about the book’s style? Is the layout consistent? How well is the table of contents presented? Do the chapter heads match, and are they spaced the same? Is there ample space at the top, bottom, and sides of every page? Are the odd number pages on the right? If footnotes are used, are they consistent? How attractive is the header or footer?

I read the Introduction closely because it’s often the first thing a reader reads. Does it grab your attention quickly, and does it somewhere include the working question—what the book is about?

How professional does the artwork look? (That includes line drawings, photos, graphs, charts, maps, and so on.) Is there anything in the book that looks out of place, too amateurish, or less than ready to go? Is there an index in the paperback version? The author’s bio?

In short, I look at everything, and closely read three chapters plus the Introduction. The client has asked me, “Is this ready to submit or print?” I’m the court of last resort, so I don’t hesitate to tell them, in detail, if I see a slant or section that needs reworking—or deleting.

There’s an important second element. Often, in their questionnaire, they have asked me to look at and give thoughts about whether the book is salable as is. Alas, most often this is the weak spot. I sense that the writer hasn’t had a specific buyer in mind so somehow the book’s purpose (to sell to fourth-grade teachers) never was mentioned! Related to that purpose, the writer should have in mind the readers’ sex and age and the book’s cost, and accessibility.

Do I ever give a total thumbs-down to a book? Frequently, but then I tell what is usable as is, what can be salvaged, what can be done differently, and what, minimally, must be mentioned or addressed to keep specific buyers informed and satisfied. Often, parts of a book stray, or are far less researched, or just don’t fit. The most surprising thing is when I ask in the questionnaire “in summary what is the book about?” they can barely answer that at all.

Having said all of that, most books are at about an 85% (or B) level. I focus on removing the weaknesses so the end product is seamless and much sought.

In closing, probably the most frequently asked question is, when I see the book in print later, did they pay any attention to my suggestions? In every case I see real improvements, though it may be that those who rejected my suggestions didn’t publish the book at all.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Will the editor or publisher rewrite your article or book?

I suppose if it’s utterly unintelligible, they might—but even if only a part of it is senseless, you’re far more likely to get a rejection rather than a rewrite.

Let me tell you what I do, and did, regarding rewriting since my actions seemed to be about par for what my colleagues were also doing. In other words, the devil himself speaks: I was that dreaded editor or publisher. (I’ve also had 1700+ articles and 42 books of my own in print, all subjected to the same indignities.)

Articles first. In the short spurts when I bought articles for magazines and newspapers, I already knew for the magazines what I could expect because the writers had sent query letters and we had given “go-aheads.” (We never bought unqueried items.) We had fairly rigid expectations, and we had given the writer an approximate article length and deadline.

So it was straightforward. If the copy sent didn’t do what was promised, or was half or twice as long, or arrived a leap year late, we simply rejected it, (sometimes) with regret—and wrote the errant writer’s name on our no-buy list so we didn’t accept their future queries. Would we play with the words we did accept? Sure, but seldom and never willy-nilly. Sometimes we’d replace a flabby noun with one more robust, or we’d tighten up the flow. Leads were where we’d most likely edit, and that often to match the title (which we provided or usually changed). The only other thing we did somewhat regularly was shorten the text to fit the available space. That usually involved pruning an example or (rarely) reducing the body from four points to three. We bounced those major changes off the author for magazine pieces.

Newspaper submissions just flew over the transom, most likely for travel, food, opinions, and letters to the editor. So we usually ran them as they were, unless they had to be condensed to fit. (Egregious words or phrases were usually replaced; unsubstantiated fact or guesswork were cut.)

A book is a different critter, and since I was usually the editor and publisher I was directly involved in the book’s creation at the key stages, so we at least influenced the way a book was organized. (Most of the books victim to my interference were niche books.)

A book began with a two-page query letter asking if I (my firm) was interested… (Or I contacted the potential editor and asked him/her to submit the equivalent information, to see how they thought and wrote.) I had three relies: (1) no, sometimes delicately; (2) maybe, and this is what would make it far more acceptable, and (3) a tentative yes, on speculation until the whole book was submitted.

For the “go-aheads,” we then discussed in depth the outline the author had proposed, where the contents were coming from, what examples would be used, what permissions we’d need (very few, usually), and when might I expect to see the first three chapters—and the entire book. That’s usually when I named the book—title and subtitle. (Author’s titles were usually painful, particularly from academics. They were also unsalable.) Once we had the title and contents, plus a bio and jpg of the author, all that was missing was a clear list of the benefits the book would bring its reader, the problems it solved or the frustrations it met, and a list of the 5-10 key words the buyer would respond to. (Since these were niche books, at this point I used that information for a limited market pre-test to see if the book would sell—before it was written and published. Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time explains this process.)

After that, the author would send in the first three chapters so I could see any content or style corrections to apply to the rest of the book. Then they would submit the rest of the book.

As a dutiful book editor, I then red-penciled every word, phrase, or section and sent it back. The writer would modify, add, or rewrite, and out would pop a winner! (Before it went to print, it also got a professional proofreading by a professional proofreader. Those corrections were also made. Both the author and I, independently, skimmed the final text closely before printing. Off it went to get etched in marble ink (while in house we converted the final paperback text into an ebook for almost-instant sales.)

That’s a quick reply to whether anybody dares challenge or change a writer’s gilded words. I’d guess that 90% of the words remain as they are (though sometimes in different locations). And the writer has some input into the revised text, but not much. Of course, he/she can finally say no to the last draft text. I can’t remember that happening because by then the new book is so much better than the original they are eager to see it out and selling!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publish your book as POD, short-run digital, or full press?

Let me explain the situation more fully.

We’re a small publishing firm (since 1982) and for a new nonfiction book we usually bid out a run of 1,500-2,500 copies (or what our niche pretest suggests would be a reasonable buy rate, minus about 30%; if it says 5,000 would might buy the book from direct mail, we will print about 3,500 copies.)

Conversely, once printed, our books will eventually fall into one of three categories. living, dying, or dead.

Call quickly, our dead books are going at a huge discount, in lots of 100 please! I’m joking, but we try to keep all of our books available in modest quantities, unless we update them, in which case the earlier edition dies and is replaced by the update. We get the small reserve by ordering in batches of about 25 copies, POD, usually from Lightning Source, which delivers them at our door in just a few days. (We don’t order individual ink-on-paper paperback books POD.) That takes care of the dead books, which means the demand is so low we sell our reserve stock down to 2-3, stop listing the book, and put a RIP sign in front of the bin.

The living books I mentioned above. They are the first-print version, and if there is robust life in the sales, we might return five or ten times for full press runs.

The issue is usually the dying (or not-so-living) books, where we need to occasionally stock 50-100 or so more books. Those we buy from a short-run digital press (often just a different branch of the full press) in what we guess to be about six-month quantities. We keep doing that until it’s obvious that the book really is dying, when the POD printing kicks in.

The smaller the run, the more it costs per book—and we rarely increase the cost to the buyer once the book has been around for a year or so. That’s why you might get a solid first run, a lesser short-run digital quantity, and you keep the PODs to a number you think you can sell (but no more).

Looking at various bids, I’d guess the books from the full press first run of 2,500 cost just under $1 each, shrinkwrapped, plus shipping (about 25 cents each).

The short-run digital cost for 250 books, shrinkwrapped, was $3.55, plus shipping (about 35 cents each).

And the POD order, for 25, not shrinkwrapped, with the original fees included, was about $4 each. The shipping was high: about 65 cents each.

That’s it. Our printing process designed to produce the same book (same cover and contents) to sell at various stages of the book’s inevitable demise, while keeping our warehouse totals as low as practical.

I hope that helps those of you who asked. And the rest too, particularly if you’re new to this.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter