Sunday, November 21, 2010

REVIEWS

Reviews are the most important thing you can get.  I sent out LOTS of books in hopes of reviews and have no diea how successful this process will be.  I did two give-a-ways: one through librarything.com and another through goodreads.com (both 35 books each) to members wanting free advanced books in exchange for consideration of writing a review.  Librarything had about 450 people request a copy and goodreads had about 1150 people request a copy. 

The goodreads books were shipped on Friday (2 days prior to this post) and the librarything books shipped about 2.5 weeks ago, and there are already 4 reviews!  The verdit? Three warm and one HOT.  So this is good.  I suppose my mind immediately goes to "well, when will the hater post?"  Naturally, not everyone will like this book.  On the other hand, it's hard not to know what you are getting into before deciding to read it.

The way I see books, movies, music, etc --- is that these items don't need to be great or fantastic...they just need to not suck.  There is a clear line when something is really bad versus ok, decent, good, or great.  Obviously a GREAT book is better than something that is "just ok," but if you can avoid the bad ones, you are in good shape.

So while I wait for the rest of my 70 home-readers, I also wait for many, many reviews from random places: blogs, magazines, publications.  No idea if they will even write a review or not.  Hopefully I get a couple, if not one.

All of these places get hundreds of requests a week so there is not time to read let alone consider them all.  We'll see what happens.

Cover Design (Part 5 of 5)

After my initial drafts of creating my own jacket, it was clear I would have no intention on sending drafts to 1106 design for input.  They already ran me around and produced terrible concepts, so what kind of insight could they provide for me?  Behind schedule and with a bad attitude, I began pondering how I could design this cover myself.
It wasn't soon that everything hit me.  Not only did I need to make the cover, I needed to make the spine and back cover too!  AND... let's not forget to then adjust it exactly to how my printer (not selected yet) would need the file to the EXACT .01th of an inch.  Aye.  I looked more into designs I enjoyed and what would be fitting for my book.  I knew it should be rather simple and a creative use of the "shorts" cartoon.  I decided I would make a series of options and slowly eliminate them by either personal opinion or preferences from family and friends -- after all, the cover image is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a book for the most part, and unlike editing or layout, the book cover is something in that everyone's opinion is 100% valid.
I had too many revisions and ideas to put into this blog, but below were my main ideas of direction in both color and basic pattern - you can see that they are all basically the same aside from color, font and basic layout:
CLICK ON THIS TO ENLARGE!



I have a lot of random concepts in my draft folder, but they all sort of look like what is above.  I slowly narrowed down my selection to BLUE and slowly discovered the space SPECKLE to what evolved into what it eventually became:



This concept humors me because all of my paintings are SPLATTERED and speckled, so the fact that my book cover is similar makes me happy.  It also gives a unique feel of art instead of a bad book cover.  In the end, I am happy with my design and am still amazed I did this myself.  Looking back, would I change anything?  The font gave me the only problems.  I'd still choose it, but make the title a bit bigger (especially the spine) and probably work a different solution for the RED, which "bleeds" a little, meaning, it makes it hard to read when put in different environments.  When holding the book, it looks great and I am happy with the design.


MY FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT 1106 DESIGN
  • Highly do not recommend their cover design services
  • Highly recommend their interior design services (to compensate for the above statement)
  • Thinking about my wasted time and money, I paid them OVER $700 TO SCREW with me regarding this cover image!  It still makes my blood boil.  If I think about it in a positive perspective, I think of it this way:  I paid them over $700 to waste my time, but they undercharged me for other services, such as PROOF READING and book back-cover copy.  ALSO, at the end of everything, they sent me a bill of additional hours spent on additional hours used for interior design.  I asked that since I opted out of the cover design, this saved them hours of work and they work that into the bill.  THEY CALLED IT EVEN!  So, with my thoughts they under-charged for those two services, let's say by $300 and they gave me about $100 or so - thats $400 in savings to some degree, which leaves about $300-$360 in wasted money, which isn't THAT bad...
  • I'm still pissed, but I am happy with how my book looks right now.  It looks GREAT and especially doesn't look like a NON-FICTION book as most cover designers (at least the affordable ones) make books.  Yes I wasted COUNTLESS hours working through not only my problems with 1106 regarding the cover, but then having to design the cover myself.  ALSO, because of 1106 I learned of istockphoto, which is an AMAZING place to buy images for commercial use! Not to say that PAYING THEM over $700 is worth discovering a website, but that is one aspect that makes me happy.  PLUS, competition makes things better.
  • In the end, I do wish I didn't go through them, but I can't help to ponder what my book would look like if I didn't.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A NEW WORTHY BOOK



On a previous post I listed my top 5 books that are a must read.  I have recently read "How to Make REAL Money selling Books" and it was great.  While reading it, i new it was gold.  Yesterday I sat down and copied all of the links I circled from the book.  Some were less appealing that I had hoped, but it's a great resource for new venues and distributors - I already have a new list of contacts to send pitch packets too.  While I re-assess my top 5 list to see if this should replace a book or if I need to make it a top 6 list, consider reading this book, it's great - although it's not a book to read until you understand the marketing a little.  Best you read all other books first and get your hands dirty with your business first.

NO LOVE FROM THE BOOK SITES

Goodreads and Librarything are amazing sites - they are the facebook for books with a variety of links and options (not to mention book giveaway contests).  I am trying for the life of me to have my PUBLICATION company listed as an option to purchase (all boks have the appropriate amazon and BN links).  But for both these sites, there is no option to add an independent seller.  This is problematic since if someone buys a book from amazon - I have to share a profit of that sale.  That profit is %55!  
 
If a buyer buys from my company's website, not only is it the SAME PRICE, but I also include free shipping AND I'm going to include a free goody! So not only does the buyer get something fun for free, they also get FREE SHIPPING for an item under $25!  It's pretty hard to accept the fact that I will get $10 for every amazon sale, which is fine since I love amazon, but because buyers won't know they can buy it from me at all.

PRICE AND COVER FONT

These two unrelated items have been giving me troubles this week, so I thought I would clump them together.  First of all, the PRICE is always a tough decision. 

PRICE
No one likes to spend money, so it shouldn't be too high, on the other hand, you need to break even (or..maybe a profit?) and you also don't want the book to look like a discount box book from the get-go with a price that is too low.  When pricing my book, I looked at similar lengthed Sci-Fi and fiction hardcover books and saw that most were 23.95 or so.  I was leaning toward 24.95 but ultimately went with $22.95.

WHY?  $24.95 made more sense for the production cost, but $22.95 seemed cheaper.  Think about it - isn't it odd that book prices stay the SAME but everything else goes up in price?  CDs, MOVIE TICKETS, DVD, BLU RAYS?  Their production value is NOTHING compared to a book! (Well, movie reels do cost $10k or so per film, so let's exclude that one).  Anyways, you need to price your book at number that you might ACTUALLY made money!  If you sell a book yourself, you make 100% of the profit.  Maybe you book sells for $20.  So, you physically paid $3 per book, but then it cost you $3 for production costs...so that gives you $14 profit!  YES!  But then you remember you are $20k in the hole, so you need to sell a lot of books.  What about if you can't sell books on your own and need professional help?  If you list your book on amazon, they take 55% of you cover price! (so thats now a $9 a book sale!).  What about a distributor that will need a 65% or 70% cut? (they need to make money and their end vendor needs to make money).  Thats $6 a book!  HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE ANY MONEY!?  And let's not forget that you need to pay shipping to vendors, etc.  Thats another $2 gone PER BOOK!  You are making NO MONEY!

So today I received a REJECTION from a very BIG distributor of museum gift shops.  MY book would be PERFECT for science museums and young adult museums, etc.  The reason for the PASS?  The price needs to be under $20 - thats what people spend.  From working in the failed sector of independent film, my mind immediately went "this is the excuse to give to deny the book from the many other REAL reasons."  Whether true or not, it makes sense.  It's easier to sell something that is CHEAPER.  While I don't think this person was lying at all, I did offer to sell it for $19.99.  But at a standard distribution discount, I probably would make $0.50 a book.  The important thing is to remain realistic.  While you need to make money, you need to start a career first.  This is my first book and if there is a monetary goal, its to break even.  The "business" purpose of this book is to get my name out there to make more books and get more creative gigs.

COVER FONT
 I am having a BAD PROBLEM with amazon.  First I found out that they will take 55% of my sales... after I pay to ship the books to them!!  F**K!  I am going to make NO MONEY from amazon sales! MAybe this is why books are $27?  Then again, who buys books for $27?  ANYWAYS - I listed my book on amazon and was mortified for 2 weeks that the image was 100% BLURRY!  See the image below comparing the amazing listing to the listing on GOODREADS.COM

(click to enlarge--- you really need to)



As you can see, the AMAZON image SUCKS!  I emailed amazon to ask what was going on and their response was that they render all images and thats how it goes.  WELL?  All other websites look fine!  BCH, GOODREADS, LIBRARYTHING, why is AMAZON having the problem here? ARRGGGH!  I emailed a few times and never got a response!  For a company I ADORE and especially am giving 55% to sales to a product I have invested years and too much money to admit, I found this DISGUSTING!  I created a list of different things to change every day to see who it would look online once posted.  I FINALLY changed the font of my book and while it still looks a little fuzzy, it looks better.  I chose my font because it's awesome - its unique, and gives a unique, vintage feel and importance and class.  It fits my book perfectly, so it TEARS ME APART that amazon can't post it as such!  I will continuously work to improve this, but last night I finally cracked and ditched the font for a similar one - it looks "OK" but not as nice.

My only regret with this font, while fully knowing that RED bleeds (I learned this in video class in 12th grade) is that the SPINE is too hard to recognize from a distance.  Looking at it now, I should have done something different with the spine so you can read it from afar, but with this font, you can't.  I am not really mad about this, but just something I would do differently.

So in the end, Amazon is pissing me off.  The font is great and it look PERFECT on goodreads, but amazon just can't do it.  ARGH!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review Review Reviews

The most important thing your book can have are reviews.  People don't know your book exists and reviews is how they will not only learn it exists but become exited that it does and maybe buy it.  Ads don't work - people don't like ads.  What people do like are reviews to get them exited about a product.  There are a lot of dos and don't with getting reviews and approaching people to write a review.  If you are interested in a newspaper, magazine, blog, or writer to read your book and write a review, most likely 500+ other people are too, so think of a creative way to get noticed.

While my book is not with a well known publisher, I am doing all I can to get reviews even though I am obviously small-game compared to anything a well-established author can carry.  Sending to big newspapers would be a waste because they don't care.  I emailed a freelance writer who was laid off from a city newspaper about reviewing my book with a very nice email personalizing the book work and my unique title.  This person's response:

"Yes, I certainly know about The ******* decreasing its workforce. They laid me off in 2008...I just freelance for them now. And last year they stopped commissioning reviews...they have to use a prepackaged review page supplied by Tribune Co., which owns the *******.
  
So I cannot review the book, no matter how good it is...."

So the lesson is: any big name doesn't care about you no matter what. Think of a way around the wall.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

INTERIOR LAYOUT

As mentioned before, I chose 1106 Design to layout the interior of my book.  It took a lot of hunting but as I noted, this company offered many options all under one roof, which was appealing.  Plus, looking for a typesetter, interior design, book layout artist (all the same title) was a difficult task.  Internet searching and online postings do not lead to anything ideal, which is very surprising.  In fact, many of my postings online led me to email inquiries from people saying that are "awesome" with designing pamphlets.

While my blurbs about the cover design with 1106 have been rather unpleasant, this process was extremely pleasant and satisfactory.  In fact, this service made the cover design 2x as damaging since I started to see terrific results of the layout first, being amazing and delighted by the company before receiving any cover concepts.

The process was quick and easy.  I sent my WORD file and within a week they sent me two samples.  Each sample was the same random 30 pages of the book, each displaying different formatting options.  It was up to me to evaluate and gives notes: what option of each sample do I like best, and what, if anything else, do I want to see.

This was the first time I saw my book as a real book.  Albeit printed from a printer still on 8x5 x 11 paper, but it was formatted for 5.5 x 8.5 and the layout was in book form.  It was very exciting.  Reviewing the two samples brought up many issues I had not thought about - placement of book title per left page, what should be placed on right page (story title, etc) page number location, chapter intro pages, margins, positions, and everything else.  My comments were minimal and for the most part, laid within choosing between the options presented to me.  I only had three minor comments: I needed the interchapters to look more like interchapters, the font used to display the name of each story was tacky, and the voice of the alien entity in con-science was not CAPS enough to stand out.

The solutions to these three additional notes were simply carried out.  I emailed them SCALA-CAPS, the font for the title of each story.  I gave them a few ideas for the inter-chapters, which were carried out, and the con-science alien dialog was perfectly fixed.


A few more samples were sent to me over the next few weeks until there were no more question and no more comments on my end.  The entire process was nearly flawless and my updating of the illustrations (I found MORE crap on the illustrations that needed fixing) were easy swapped and fixed.

I am extremely pleased with how the interior layout/design was created and completed, which makes my experience with the cover design that much more confusing and depressing.  It would be quite interesting if the same person on their end did both jobs, but I'd guess probably not, but it's always a possibility.

If you are looking for someone to design the interior of your book, I would highly recommend 1106 so long as you stay clear of their cover design department.  My only suggestion for their interior layout is to be skeptical of their chapter font choices, as they were all bad fonts that did not look professional or creative, but as tacky curvy fonts that don't belong in a book.