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.

MORE FUN WITH MY ILLUSTRATOR

It was a complete pain trying to get Antonio to send me things on time.  And by on time, I mean at least one a week.  Initially with our determined deadline I was aiming at 2-3 a week, which after several weeks of not hitting that demand, escaladed to 5-6 week.  It would vary between getting a complete illustration without need of any further editing to ones that were bad pen drawings that needed to be traced and completely re-done.  It was really getting on my nerves.  Either he would send me an amazing sketch...but a sketch and nothing more.  It was 72dpi (not 300) and 3" x 3" (not 8"x8") and it was an obvious scan and not a finished digital illustration.  Plus, to make matters worse, they were also all flattened images, most of which had distinct borders. 
 
To clarify, I needed the backgrounds to be transparent (non-existent) but many of the images he sent me were off-white, which would show up when printed.  This meant that the majority of images sent to me I had to zoom in 400% and trace them, then delete the background.  This became even more problematic when I wanted to use the background, but needed to edited both the background and subject - but since they were flattened, it turned it into a timely editing challenege.
 
I also requested that the illustrations be borderless, which means that they would be free floating on the page vs. something that was cut off by a border.  Below are some of the many furstrations I dealt with when preparing the illustrations I received verse the final rpoduct after hours of editing.
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH OFF-WHITE BACKGROUNDS
(with ALL PICS, please click to enlarge)
 
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH LOW-RESOLUTION FILES
 
 
 
 
 
PENCIL SKETCHES VS FINAL DIGITAL IMAGES
 
 
 
 
 

PROBLEMS WITH BORDERS
 



 
OVERALL PROBLEMS IN MOST ILLUSTRATIONS

 
 
 
 
Lastly, I want to point out one of my last frustrations - wasting my time with pointless humor.  While I don't regret for one second Antonio doing these illustrations, he really pissed me off, and this final pointless act really tested my patience - adding stuff as gags and for his own amusement, knowing that they could not be used in the book.



While some were funny, some where not.  In fact, some were damaging, which might be funny if they didn't take an hour of detailed design to carry out.  So while adding a McCain Palin sticker to the hillbilly farmers outfit was a funny gag (and only took me 5 minutes to delete) he decided to add somepletely insane crapthat not only took him a long time to do, but took me even a longer time to erase.  And it only got worse when he didn't follow my directions to begin with and after me asking him to go back and get me what I originally wanted, came back even worse. 





 While I could go through each of the 37 pictures and explain what additional work I had to do to complete them, I think the above sums up my frustrations.  I truly think I spent more time cleaning up the pictures than he spent making them.  ON THE OTHER HAND, yes... it was worth it.  I am SO HAPPY with the illustrations in this book.  Antonio is a true talent and while I have plenty of things to complain about, I have more things to rave about:
1 - He did this for very little money upfront
2 - His illustrations look amazing
3 - His illustrations gave my book exactly what I needed and will surely help it sell
4 - Any other artist would not have produced such neat illustrations and surely would have cost a LOT MORE

Going in to this process, I knew it would be a struggle to get things in on time.  I did NOT think I would have to heavily edit 25+ of the 37 illustrations.  I knew the entire time it was worth it, and it was.  Amazing Stuff.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cover Design (Part 4 of 5)

I was pretty torn given the last few emails.  Either way I was out of luck and trying make sense into all of it because either way I was going to lose.  To justify the service, I decided that as long as I get three somewhat tollerable concepts that would at least complete what the package description was.  I sent them an email:
 
[Rep] -

Below and attached are my notes for the cover - please let me know if there are any questions.  I enjoy the back copy and am currently making slight changes to it and will have that back to you shortly.  I will also have my headshot, illustrator bio, and additional flap/back cover information soon.
 
Thank you,
David

COVER
Attached is a file called 'cover notes.zip'  This contains my original ideas that I already sent.  I have also included additional notes: together, this is a lot of information so please let me know if there are any questions.
 
 
Again, I want to stress that all my concerns with the existing concepts is that they look too amateur, like too many self-published POD books riddled with design red flags. (it is not that they don't fit my instructions - I didn't say I wanted anything specific - I just want new, different ideas done well and not just the title in a tacky font in the middle of the page).  I am excited to make a decision between multiple covers options that I like.
 
I look forward to seeing another attempt at this. 


The attached files to this email were materials I had already sent them, 90% of which was ignored thus far.  Hopefully now they would get me something not embarassing. Five days later I received the new concepts:
 
Good Afternoon David,
 
Attached please find a low-res PDF of Cover Comps 8-11 for your consideration. Numbers 9 and 10 are the same except for the color used for your name. Please let us know your thoughts.
 
Thank you and enjoy the day,
[Rep]
 
 
 
 
My blood began to boil yet again.  Of the four concepts attached, only one was new.  And GREENBERG!?  Are they kidding me?  What an insult on all levels.  Not only did the designer make the same terrible mistake, but the REP failed to even notice, that is, if the proofs were even looked at before sending to me. 
 
So what else is there to say?  Three of the concepts were not new, with only minor changes implemented and therefore, nearly useless. And the new "greenberg" design looks like a cheap, McDonald's flyer (if made by an 8-year-old).  What was the point in sending me a new concept of things already sent to me?  What was all this talk about marketability?  Is there no conceptual aspects to design in their minds? Like changing the color of the background would change my thought on any previous concepts? (especially when changed from girly pruple to blood red).
 
I was at a loss as to what to do.  On one hand, I couldn't use anything they gave me.  I didn't even have three options to choose from as pathetic of a hope that was.  Everything was terrible.  Thinking logically, my options were simple: 1 - go with them and have an absolutely horrid book jacket, or 2 - do it myself and make sure it's good, or 3 - hire someone else.  Going with them was suicide and hiring someone else would be way too much money - I had to do this myself, which wasn't a bad idea.  I am an artist - I do have a BFA.  I know photoshop and have regularly made graphics for a variety of projects.  And I have a wide variety of resources for help and support.
 
In my next email to 1106 with multiple updates, I included the following:
 
"I will be designing the cover.  I will create a near-complete layered TIFF with the design to be used for you guys to add layout/information to the back/spine."  
 
And that was that.  I would create the jacket myself and send to them for any additional tweaks and that would be that.  What a waste of my time and money.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SELECTED SHORTS: THE FEDERAL TRADEMARK

Little did I know that the title of my book would create a concern to another company.  In this case, SymphonySpace wrote me a letter letting me know that they own an incontestable United States federal trademark registration for the mark "SELECTED SHORTS" in connection with 'entertainment services - namely, the production and performance of live and recorded readings of literary works.'


While I could bore you with the legal requirement lingo they sent me, it appears they own the rights of the term "SELECTED SHORTS" and sent the letter telling me that while they noticed the entire title of my book to be "Selected Shorts and Other Methods of Time Travel," I should not use the short phrase "SELECTED SHORTS" in connection with the production or performance of live or recorded readings of my book because...it would confuse consumers.

While I doubt that consumers will be confused, seeing how countless book titles and movie compilations (let's not forget every single film screening ever conducted) uses these same two words, this is a legitimate issue and concern.  I have nothing to worry about since I have no plans for making a live performance of my book and therefore, have no legal border to cross.  On the other hand, I will never refer to my book as "SELECTED SHORTS" solely, as it confuses consumers because it means millions of things.

As I mentioned earlier, when you create the name of both your book and publishing company, do your research.  Not only do you want a unique title, you don't want to cross the line of a company that has a serious problem with you and a means to shut you down.  Luckily for me, this was both a friendly letter and one of which was meant to do no harm, just a means to let me know of their registered trademark and not to get too close to their product line.  Who knows, maybe one of my stories will wind up on one of their CDs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cover Design (Part 3 of 5)

I don't know if I was excited or scared-nervous to receive the next update on my book cover.  This was the end all, be all sign if this was going to be a complete bust.  All I was hoping for was something NO TERRIBLE.  It was a difficult decision for me to pay this much money for something I would do a good job by myself.  I really began kicking myself on this.  First off, I sort-of knew what i was getting myself into.  The 1106 website has samples of their work (albeit their best samples) so I knew what to expect.  While the majority are non-fiction and the covers all look-it (even for the ones that aren't), there were plenty of good ones.
 

 
While these designs are basic and the majority of them are non-fiction, they are usable and acceptable.  Some much better than others.  Either way, eons beyond what was given to me, final draft or not.  Secondly, something I soon found out after my contract signing and receipt of the first drafts of the cover is that 1106 is an "advertising" company.  No, they don't help you with ads, but they sure do put a lot out there.  I was very late into the game in becoming a member of the IBPA which is a MUST for any small publisher.  I was taken aback to find ads for 1106 within all of their publications. All companies need to advertise, but these just increased my concern.
 
But soon, the email came.  AN UPDATE!
 
Good Morning David,

Attached please find two additional cover comps for your consideration.  We stayed closer to your suggestion and used an eye catching background treatment and interesting, yet simple, fonts.

Please let us know your thoughts.

Thank you and enjoy the day,

[REP]







 
Hmmm. Two new concepts, both nearly identical and mere copies of the "EXAMPLE" I had sent.  I am still missing something new and based off the ideas that I originally inquired about and asked for.  At least they spelled my name right this time.  The first concept was another awful, terrible concept.  The second, while actually looking professional, was someone problematic because it was purple (looking like Danielle Steele) and with the thin text, would be almost unreadable as a thumbnail, which is imperative in a book's cover design.

After letting this stew for a bit, I replied with the following email.  I was pretty upset and saw this going nowhere.
 
[REP]

I analyzed the new concepts and ultimately I am upset that, out of the six concepts created for me, only two of them are not riddled with red flags. While I realize that design and conceptual ideas are subjective, once eliminating the unacceptable concepts, I am left with two similar concepts (#3 and #6) that are worthy of consideration.

It's disappointing that the second round of concepts you sent me last week (#5 and #6) are essentially the same concept with different fonts (only one of which is presentable).  Besides that, both are merely variations on what I created and therefore, do not present any new ideas. When different concepts are produced, they should be different layouts and ideas for creating a different cover.  Instead, I am left with variations of the same concept.

I am truly upset that the choice I have to make is between a concept that I created and a concept that you created, the latter of which is a spitting image of my concept. The six concepts that were sent to me had very little design to them - they were merely font and clip art compilations with no rhyme or reason to their creation or purpose.

Had I known I would have ended up with 2 concepts to choose from, both having the same template, I would not have chosen 'cover level 3.'  I would have designed the cover and layout myself to send over for completion (cover level 4). Overall I have found this process to be extremely time consuming with little advancement. I was hoping for variation in the choice in selecting my cover and all I was given were detracting concepts and variations of the same conceptual layout and design.

I am extremely dissatisfied with what has been presented to me. This process has proven to be stressful and frustrating, as I have spent hundreds of extra dollars (nearly $600) to receive additional concepts, most of which were unacceptable. In addition, I have been forced to spend much of the last two weeks solely on analyzing these images and creating my own designs.

I have decided that I will submit one of my own concepts for the cover to be laid out.  Please let me know how to proceed.

Thank you,
David Goodberg


The next day I received an email from the head, the very same person who did a poor job of closing my sale when I spoke on the phone before deciding what to do.  I obviously sent a heavy email and it needed a proper reply:


Hi David,

I'm sorry you're not pleased with the latest concepts.

As you probably know, there are hundreds of ways to design a cover, and finding the direction that pleases the client is always a process.

When we received your feedback on our original concepts, it seemed as though you were asking for simpler designs, so that's what we did.

We want you to be pleased with the final result, of course. If you can give us more specific direction, perhaps by pointing us to covers on Amazon that are rendered in a style that you like, we'll have another go at it. Covers are subjective, so the only way for us to truly understand your wishes is through communication.

Thanks,
[LEADER]
 
 
Wow did this piss me off.  Yeah, I didn't like the original 4 concepts because they were too intense.  They were too jam-packed with conceptual ideas that it almost made my brain explode.  My reply:
[LEADER] -
  
I appreciate the email but your response is not catering toward my concerns.
  
It's not that you aren't fitting my perceived image of what I want, it's that the majority of what I have received is artistically and professionally unacceptable. As an artist I realize that layout and design is subjective and that there is no one right answer - however, the majority of options that were sent to me were cluttered with taboos and red flags, subjective concerns aside.  I did not ask for additional concepts that were spitting images of something I already created - the fact that this occurred was completely unnecessary. My concerns have nothing to do with my wishes for a particular genre, layout, or concept. 
  
You are asking me for covers and ideas that I enjoy from Amazon.  I already did this: when I sent in my materials I included graphics of sample layouts/themes/images I enjoy as well as half a page of ideas and notes for the cover concept. 
  
I am eager to move forward and continue the development process - I am extremely satisfied with the interior layout so far and am confident that the dust jacket layout will come along smoothly, but I still wish to move forward with my own concept.  As per my concerns, I recognize that two of the concepts I received are worthy to consider and are acceptable concepts: #3 and #6 (albeit identical to my design but with a different font and a purple background more reminiscent of a Danielle Steel novel than a science fiction book aimed at teens). 
 
The Level 4 cover option that I didn't choose includes one cover concept.  Level 3, which I selected, includes 3 concepts.  It would be fitting that we move forward with a cover layout I provide and we change my cover 'level option' to be a mixture of level 3 and 4 and I be compensated for the difference in my remaining balance.
Level 3 = $761 (discounted 15%)
Level 4 = $255 (discounted 15%)
Difference = $506 ($253 for each additional 2 concepts).
 
Level 3.5 = $508
This level change is more than fair considering I am not using your concepts and I only received two accepable concepts. Please let me know your thoughts and how we can move forward.
 
Thank you,
David
The Leader's Reply:


David,

We charge for the time we spend to develop concepts, and then work closely with the client on whatever revisions they would like. Since I can’t know what’s in your mind, your participation is necessary to bring one of these concepts to completion.

I’ll repeat my offer to revise any of the concepts as needed until you are satisfied, if you can provide specific direction. This is not an unusual occurrence at all, and we have done this thousands of times for our clients.

If you don’t want to continue in that manner, we’ll be happy to take your concept, and finish the back cover and spine for the Level 3 price.

Or, we can stop now for $650 (which is the amount of time that we have into the job, as stated under “Cancellation” in the agreement) and you can finish the back cover and spine and submit the files to your chosen printer yourself.

Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

Thanks,
[LEADER]
 
 
My Reply:
Again, my concern is that what has been presented to me has been unacceptable because they look like a high-school flyers - not book covers, let alone utilizing boxers as the primary design.  This has nothing to do with my ideas or wants...what I have been given is unusable. The fact that concepts 5 & 6 were copy-cats off my own concept and they were billed as part of the time utilized is unbelievable.
 
Your alternative option of paying $650 to quit and finish everything on my own offers little relief. I will get back to you with my thoughts on how to proceed given with what you are presenting.
 
david
 

WHAT TO DO WITH 3,000 BOOKS

Much of this blog is talking in the past tense so I suppose this post is one of the few current, unanswered ponders of real time.  My printer sent me their final invoice and should be shipping my order of 3,000 books soon.  This shipping process entails a freight delivery of probably 65-85 boxes.  AYE!
 
It's a good thing I have a large storage garage behind my apartment, I would surely be out of luck without it.  That and the print overrun was 200 books, so there are a few additional boxes for me.
 
I don't know if I have my math right (considering I didn't do any) but I should be able to fit the majority of my books in my storage.  If not, hopefully the spill-over will be minimal and housing those boxes in the apartment won't be troublesome.
 
But now I need a shipping center - a place for my books (or the open box of books) by stickers, stamps, tape, mailers, etc.  Lots of random things I need to do.  Oh, let's not forget the wooden floor easles/palettes for the ground.  I think the last thing I want is to receive me entire shipment and have a simple rain ruin everything.

Last night I took a trip to Home Depot and bought wood to create two large palettes to act as floors for the boxes of books that I receive soon (162 boxes!).  But I figure they will be small since doing the math, is only 18-20 books per box.  Considering I am not constructing boards for a warehouse I don't need to fit regulation dimensions with these palettes.  Three 2x4's with a bunch of thin pine strips connecting.  WALLAH!
 
 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cover Design (Part 2 of 5)

What a shock it was to get that email.  After viewing the 4 draft-concept images for roughly 20 seconds I threw up a little inside my mouth and closed the images.  I knew the more I looked at them the more I would become irate and irrational.  I had to cool off.

I decided to wait a day to look at them again.  IT would give me time to cool down and assess what my initial problems were with the concepts.  After all, they were merely concepts and nothing more (despite being high-school flyer equivalents filled with boxers).  I collected my ideas and replied to 1106 Design with this email:

[1106 Rep] -

I have thoroughly reviewed the cover concepts over the past few days
and I must say I am disappointed in what was sent to me.  While I
realize the priority in a marketing standpoint, these concepts do not
appear to be at the professional level with which I want to represent
my book.

First and foremost, BOXERS are placed everywhere.  This isn’t a book
about underwear (shorts if anything, hence the double meaning title).
On the other hand, I acknowledge that these are concepts and concepts
only, being works in progress and I anticipate things improving from
here.  As of now, 3 of the 4 concepts not only do not match the book
conceptually, they are simple clip-art images of underwear thrown on
to the design and do not fit what I believe to be objective
requirements. These concepts do not resemble professional graphic
design etiquette and look like fliers you would see for high school
events.

Attached are my notes and concerns with what has been presented to me.
 I also created my own concepts over the past few days for
consideration to use – I feel these are stronger aesthetically and
conceptually than what was provided to me, and present a stronger
message to what the marketing design needs to be.

Regardless of the marketing strategies incorporated, they need to look
professional and not like jumbled fliers.  If anything, they look to
be cheap non-fiction covers at best.  Without having read the book,
how do your designers know who to target? What is the marketing design
based off of? Your email described that marketing strategies are key
in selling a book, regardless of subjective changes.  I value all
aspects you have in mind to finalize a cover, but much is lacking. The
concepts as is, are not presentable.

Please review my notes and concepts and let me know the best way to
proceed from here.

Thank you,

David Goodberg

I then attached two documents the email (both below)
1 - A word doc of my comments
2 - Simple concepts (that MIMIC what I already sent them)


WORD DOCUMENTATION NOTES

OVERALL THOUGHTS ON ALL CONCEPTS
  • Goodberg is misspelled.  While this doesn’t affect the design, the fact that it was misspelled and reached me without being corrected is disconcerting.  You mentioned a lot of thought going into these concepts.
  • 3 of the 4 concepts utilize boxer shorts as the primary image and selling point, which has nothing to do with my book (Underwear vs. time travel).  This leaves me with very little to consider of these concepts.
  • I wish that some of my design requests that were sent with my information were incorporated in these concepts.
  • Regardless of the boxers displacement to the concept of the book, they are basic clip-art photos merely pasted onto the cover – this looks very cheap and amateurish and can only hurt the book when considered by a viewer (or distributor or review).
  • These give off a feel of collages of pre-designed images and concepts.


CONCEPT 1
  • Beach and underwear themed (nothing related).
  • Distortion of boxers and clock make this look worse (never distort!)
  • Very bland – no lights or darks in the concept, everything is blurred together in the same murky tone.
  • Nothing is engaging in this concept.
  • I am disappointed in this concept and am surprised it was sent to me.

CONCEPT 2
  • Boxers ruin this – even if they were shorts, it would be a silly means to decorate with – this is just a bunch of clip art photos placed about.  This isn’t a birthday party decoration.
  • Main font is too simple and basic for what is happening around them–looks like a cheap flyer.  Shadows behind font are too distorted and are distracting.
  • Spacing around text compared to boxers is jumbled and make the viewer feel trapped. (Bad use of space).

CONCEPT 3
  • This concept is OK – this is the only one in the right direction.
  • Why is the cartoon blocked off by the text?
  • Text/Font is too jumbled – needs to be simplified (make “and other methods of” smaller, example).  The entire cover is text that is all the same size and will not be read by the viewer because it looked like a gigantic page of text.
  • What is the moon cookie cartoon floating and half blocked off by the text?  Why is it here and what is it doing?
  • White BG is not ideal

CONCEPT 4
  • “Boxers in a tornado” (bad)
  • The font/design is pretty good, but looks identical to most rock bands and is not helpful
  • White BG is not ideal

GOODBERG SAMPLE CONCEPTS 
(click to enlarge)





RESPONSE FROM 1106

Hi David,

First and foremost I’d like to apologize for the misspelling of your name. When I sent the information to the cover designer, I typed the last name of a previous client by mistake.

The purpose of concepts is to get us heading in the right direction; first concepts are a bit of a shot in the dark. We went in the direction of humor in order to tie in the double meaning of the title as well as the fun illustrations in the interior.

We’ll use your feedback to generate additional concepts that are simpler and more in line with the samples you attached. This is also a common way to design a cover.

Will be in touch shortly. We want you to be delighted with the cover design and we’ll work with you as a team to create a cover that is pleasing to you and also meets the criteria of the book industry.

Please let us know if you have any other questions or comments.


Thank you and enjoy the day,

[1106 Rep]

 

I read this email and calmed a little.  I replied with a thank you, saying "Thanks for the reply - knowing how smoothly the interior changes were made I am confident the cover will improve," and they responded with "We’ll get right on the revisions and send another PDF as soon as possible."  OK, well see what happens from here...


Merchandise!

I created a cafepress store and while the "free" shops have annoying restrictions, I am happy with what it will be in the near future.  I recently listed a few shirts and purchased one for myself. The shirt came and looks great.



Yesterday was the first time I wore it in public (and the voyage wasn't anywhere in particular in crowds of people- it was a short walk around the neighborhood).  2 houses down, about 30 seconds from stepping outside my apartment, a little girl told me she liked my shirt. "Thanks!" I said, without stopping or trying to make a pre-pre-order sale.  Just comes to show that if you have something that appeals to people (adorable cartoons) people will want to do something about it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

COVER DESIGN (Part 1 of 5)

(Click pictures for full-size viewing)

A week or two after my glorious interior design went full-gear into production, I received another email from 1106 Design, my interior layout masters. "Selected Shorts Cover Comps 1-4." Yes...YES! My heart began to pound as I opened the email, I was incredibly anxious to see the concepts for the cover of my book. I was excited to see what they did with my thoughts and recommendation of different things I would like to see on my cover (I uploaded a variety of Antonio's illustrations and a few posters that depicted the atmosphere I wanted to portray):


I opened the email to find a very lengthy letter:


Email Highlights
  • We took several different approaches to give you plenty to choose from
  • The original contract stated three cover concepts, but the cover designer had an additional idea to share; there is no charge for the additional comp.
  • Please know that much thought and consideration has gone into these concepts.
  • We have applied our many years of book cover design experience to create a cover design that will compete well in the marketplace and make the best possible impression on the buyer.
Alright! Looking good! But then there was more and more in the email....


Email Highlights (cont.)
Please keep in mind that any cover design is really not about what we like or what you like, in the end. It's about SALES. We have just 7 seconds to establish credibility with the buyer online or in the bookstore, and the competition is brutal. Big, simple and bold gets sold, because the cover has to look good not only in it's full size, but also about 1" tall when displayed online. A book cover has one simple job...to make people LOOK.

When soliciting cover feedback from others, you'll discover that there's an irresistible urge to change something... anything... about the cover, no matter how trivial the change may be, and that everyone you ask will suggest something different. It's important to distinguish the subjective from the objective comments you may receive.


Objective "musts" include a clearly visible title, an engaging graphic, and an overall design that grabs the eye and also looks good in small sizes. There are many right ways to do this and all will sell your book. The four (4) covers attached meet these objective requirements.

Subjective comments may include "I don't like the background texture or color", or "I don't like the font." No matter how the cover is designed, some people will like it and others won't, so there's really no such thing as a "perfect" cover. The important thing is to keep the goal of selling books in mind.


If you have colleagues in the book publishing or marketing industry, then their experienced comments about the cover design should be given the most weight.


We have put a lot of thoughtful attention into the designs presented and experience shows us that changes from others do not necessarily strengthen the design, but actually can weaken the concept toward the ultimate goal — selling your book.


All of the above being said, rest assured that we want you to be delighted with the final design, so that it not only meets, but exceeds, your expectations.

Woah...OK. This last novel-esq section of the email was pretty thick (and seemingly like a release form waiver that read like a big 'don't complain because we know you will want to' note). Needless to say I was very excited to see my concepts! This is what it is all about. While the book needs to be good, the cover is the vital icing on the cake. A bad cover means a bad book, no questions asked.

I have been obsessed with movie posters since my childhood - always analyzing them and considering the many options they had to deal with them deciding what to place for their official bill. I have also been wary of "B" movies and direct to DVD covers, let alone what major studios do to their movie posters once the film is done in the theaters and need to sell rentals and DVD. It's interesting that really cool movie posters change from something like this:



TO THIS:




What is this? Why do they turn cool posters into to pictures of faces (or bad genre stereotypes) for DVDs?  It's like they BELONG in the bargain bin!  I know, I know, consumers only care about who is in the movie, right? So just faces work?  While my lifelong obsession is in the movies, I read a good amount of books too - plus, the martketing is somewhat similar. While there are many tricks of the trade, there is one aspect of movie posters and book covers that is constant - something that looks professional and something that looks amatuer (IE, something that belongs in teh $1 bargain bin right out of the box). It's easy to look at a book and know where the line is drawn:

Good Book Covers:


Bad Book Covers (very amateurish):



My heart pounded as I waited a few seconds before pressing the PDF cover sample PDF. This was it! This is what it comes down to! My book is nearly complete and now it's time to add the icing to this sweet, delicious cake I made all by myself....



OH....
MY....
GOD....

What.. were... these...? My jaw sank and my heart stopped for a few minutes. Not only did these look like the most amateurish things I have ever seen, but UNDERWEAR? Plus, what was all this talk about sales and expertise? You can't say all that if you haven't read the book! (let alone understand what it's about or who the audience is). "We have applied our many years of book cover design experience to create a cover design that will compete well in the marketplace" MY ASS!

What had I gotten myself into? Right then and there I knew I had made a big mistake. Regardless of these being draft concepts created for improvement, it was clear they were going nowhere; I could list off 20 major problems and I was only looking at this for mere seconds. No regard for my requests to implement my ideas and horrid, absolutely abominable skills involved in both concepts and aesthetics, and easily the simplest, worst aspect...spelling my name wrong!

Only one concept doesn't have underwear dancing around the cover and the cartoon's face is cut off! (Never mind the mysterious space/moon cookie floating in mid-air)

I think I may have just wasted $760.

My God...

(to be continued)

POSTCARDS

It's vital to have printed material for your book. Bookmarks, postcards, business cards - anything and everything. I was just about to design and order a slew of postcards but am holding off. The book comes out in 6 months - I don't need to do this that early. My main reason is that it would be IDEAL to have testimonials or quotes on these postcards, so I think I'll re-try this process in a few months, hopefully with more marketing lingo.

WEBSITES

I took an introduction webdesign class in college in 2003 which was amazing. Ken Fandell was my instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and was a very, very helpful class. From there I've learned even more and am at a good stance to be able to accomplish anything I want. This is a good thing because of how important a website is. It's vital - it will hurt you not to have one. And not just have one, you need it to have EVERYTHING. Buy the book, links, all information, Q/As, fun, excitement, etc. You need to have 100% of information on this site - from boring mudane data to exciting, adventurous entertainment.

Your website is a calling card and your method to close the deal - you are naked and worthless without one.

INTERIOR LAYOUT & TYPESETTING

At a somewhat quick turnaround I received a set of proofs from 1106 Design, my layout/design company dealing with a variety of tasks from interior layout to proofreading to cover design. This was really exciting. An email was sent to me with two PDFs, each of the same 30 random pages with different options placed within. This was pure bliss to say the least - my first glimpse of my book as a real, professional looking book.

The differences between the two PDFs were minimal but catered toward different interests and got me thinking to all the different things I could ask for on top of it. the only thing I didn't like from either was the choice of font for the title of each story. Each seemed amateur and not a font to be taken seriously (think comic sans or worse). This stuck in my head as an off thing since everything else looked great.

I quickly printed the two PDFs and analyzed them carefully and sent my requests to which sample held the best placement of random things: placement of book page number, style of listing the current chapter, margins, chapter layout, etc.

This was truly exciting...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ARTWORK & ALL THE EXTRA WORK

I knew getting into it that Antonio would not complete things on time. But this was ok, I had no idea when I needed things done. All I knew is that I wanted the artwork 100% complete by the time the book was 100% complete, so I did have time.

Once his new wave of illustrations came out I was excited and prepared to keep it organized. Once a week I emailed him with his total illustrations received and numbers still needed. He fell behind very quickly. The deadline was November 2009 and the weekly updates soon escalated from needing to complete 2 to 3 a week to 5 to 6. He went weeks without a single illustration sent to me. And the ones he did send to me were not usable. Everything was always changing. Sometimes he sent me a near complete digital illustration and sometimes he sent me a bad, blurry scan of a drawing with a pen. Yes, a PEN.

PROBLEMS
*never the resolution I needed them at (always VERY small - often too small for printing)
*would add ridiculous gags in them for amusement only (something telling me to keep them in)
*never sent original PSD or layered files - only final JPG
*over the top suggestions (especially with sexual or present day references)

Knowing that I could trace and digitally complete any bad illustration I knew I could do anything provided I got the drawings. What was worse is when he finally did send me "complete" digital illustrations, they were BOTH not the correct dimensions (wayyyy to small. I asked for 300dpi AND 8" x 8" and he was sending me 200dpi at 1" x 1"). He also refused to listen to my constant notes asking him to send me a LAYERED file and make sure the illustration was border free: so what did I get? Images that were not only touching the borders of the canvas, making it not look nice in the book, but also images that were flat and un-editable. I had to trace every illustration just so the back ground was white. Completely ridiculous. And if I only had to do that for it to be complete I was happy.

Why the tolerated insanity? For one, the illustrations are fantastic. Secondly, not only was it 100% what I wanted, it was cheaper. As a friend, I can offer him hundreds of dollars instead of some crack-pot person I don't know requiring thousands. I was extremely frustrated by most of what he sent me, but I had to calm down and take a breath: this is better than anyone else for this project and you can afford it. It's better than some lesser artist costing you more money.

Interior layout

Much like finding an editor, I had no idea what to do with my interior layout. I own Indesign so I contemplated doing it myself. I opened it up and created a new document. Bad Idea. I hardly know this program and playing around with it for 20 minutes got me no where. I needed to hire someone.

So the search began for an interior designer (typesetter is the official but often unknown and outdated term) for my book. Like finding an editor, I was out of luck when I came to knowing what to do. I created a list of companies from my books and did a few google searches and came across a few companies to contact. Immediately the one company that stood out was 1106 Design. Unlike most companies, this website described in detail their services and offered tips to publishers and authors. They also provided detailed PDFs on what they do and how they do it.

If you've ever hired a contractor for a specific service, especially creative, it's a pain in the ass when you have a list of people and the majority of them have no information about their services. No website and if they do have one, it has little to no information about themselves or their services. why should I waste my time to get the basic, intro and information/FAQ that you should be eager to give me before I even make a phone call? What a waste.

I don't remember how many places I called but it wasn't that many. My search was down to three companies. 1106 still looked great because of their expansive website and as an added bonus - they did the whole shebang. I could hire them for the interior and ALSO a final proofreading, book marketing copy, printer selection, and more. Plus there was a discount for 4+ packages. I scheduled a phone call and was ready to make the decision.

The phone call wasn't that great. The woman was un-enthusiastic and said a couple dumb things. The first dumb thing was that she said hardcover books don't sell and I should do a paperback. First off, that's an ignorant statement. Is she in sales or is this coming from her friends in the industry who are hired by big companies who needs to sell a few ten thousand copies to break even? With a hardcover book you sell less because its more expensive but you don't need to sell that many. Plus, if you want to make the whole preference schbeal, you concern should be in ebooks and not the hardcover/soft debate. Not to mention that if you want someone else to buy the right to your book, they will take you more seriously if you have a hardcover (let alone the smaller interest in re-publishing a paperback...).

In a nutshell, it was a quick conversation and I got little out of it. Also, considering we already emailed and I was close to a final decision, it should have been more welcoming and shown some sign of excitement to talk to me and learn about my project. (She did get a little excited when I mentioned I wanted to send files in a week, so at least she was excited to get my money).

A week later I decided to go with them. The price was good and with the other services I needed, i would get a 15% and overall, despite the un-enthusiastic phone call, I had all the information from the detailed website and the informative email responses. I was happy.

So what did I order?
1 - Interior Layout
2 - Galley Cover Design
3 - Author Bio and Book Marketing summary
4 - Book Cover Design
5 - Proof Reader

It was difficult for me to narrow this list down. If I traveled back in time I would SURELY change this list but will wait for all my experiences and details for another post. Ultimately I thought about doing the cover myself, but figured to leave it up to someone else, especially a professional. While I can come up with some great ideas, it would be best to get a few concepts from a company. They images on their site were pretty basic, but with my own artwork and notes, I was excited to see what they could do. Especially knowing they would do all layouts aside from the design it was a seemingly good move.

I sent in my signed form with the packages I ordered and send payment or 50% of the order. Production had just begun!

Finding an Editor

Once the drought ended and I re-read my book (yet again) I was ready to have this edited by a professional. It was very exciting and terrifying. I had no means to know how to pick an editor and what to look for. Sure, I read my books and they said the good and bad, but really, I know there are tons of people who would do a great job and I would never be able to find them.

My inquiries:
1 - I emailed a slew of people from the recommendations from the 'Self-Publishing' Manual
2 - I emailed people on craigslist
3 - I did google searches and emailed a few people

The response was very minimal. I was hesitant toward anyone for the most part. the self-publishing manual is a great resource, but for recommended editors? As great as they are, they probably only have experience working with editors who worked on non-fiction.

Once I started getting a few responses, the first thing I noticed was the extremely high cost in it! One woman I spoke do not only charged $60 an hour (granted, any professional in any field is going to charge a living wage, so I acknowledge it's not a rip off) but this very woman said she would edit my manuscript by hand (pen/pencil) and ship the manuscript back to me. Seriously? MS Office came out a really long time ago and I am supposed to re-type my own manuscript from your 'notes?' Your and editor, you are supposed to edit it, not mark it up. If you aren't familiar with this, there is a function in Office called "track changes" and when you select this and mark-up a document, it makes the changes to desire, but then markes up the page to show what you did, thus, the digital editor. When the author gets the notes, they look at it and go "yes...I like this" and with a click of a button the mark-ups are finalized.

It was frustrating emailing the few people I did. From the self-publishing manual list, I only had three companies I was looking forward to hearing back from. Of the three, my top pick emailed me back! Unfortunately, this person said she was too busy on projects and would not be able to start a new book for 3 months. Yikes and ouch. But, she said she worked with another editor who was great and also a fan of science fiction. She gave me the name and email of this editor and we quickly had a very positive exchange.

After a few emails back and forth I was excited to give it a test run. The best advice that I read from the books is to hire a potential editor for X amount of pages and determine out it works. Her rate was a good rate - still pricey when it comes to spending money but at a good rate for what the job called for. I emailed her 3 chapters and waited to see what would happen.

A week later I received the three chapters back. Skimming through chapter 1 I was very happy with the notes - lots of simple things and also a number of sentence restructuring, which is what my writing really needed. Then I flipped to the second chapter. NO NOTES. There was a comment that said since my book was about time travel and this story (a mere 2 paragraphs) described a conversation between space alien and school children and not touching on the subject of time travel it should not be included in the book. she also said the meaning of the story isn't clear. WTF? I was a bit irate and really should have taken this as much more of a red flag than I did. Back to that in a second - on to chapter 3. This chapter, like the first, looked good. I was happy with everything... except this omitted chapter. Refusal to edit it?

What was I supposed to do here? My month long quest to find an editor led me to this one person with no other option - not that I should go with the default but everything was lining up except for this ridiculous comment. First off, she only knew what my book was about from my 3 sentence description, so the fact she is telling me that it has no place in my book is a pretty bold, ignorant statement. So there are two concerns here, one that she didn't edit it and assumed it doesn't belong, and two, she didn't understand it at all. Awww damnit. What to do. Not that it was then a work of art and simple, but not understand it at all? Kids are eating lunch and a space alien walks up to them. He is offered their lunch and takes a bit until realizing there is a dead animal in his sandwich. He knocks one of the kids to the ground and steps on him until death. He looks up at the remaining kids and tells them that killing animals is wrong. In a nutshell, that was the story (imagine it expanded into about 15 more sentences). I emailed her and told her that while it doesn't involve time travel, the entire book isn't 100% based on time travel, it's just the reoccurring theme and while this story doesn't instill the nature of traveling through time, the fact that school children had an encounter with a space alien, it was a fitting exception and worthy to be included. She accepted my explanation.

So from here I hired her and divided the book into three editing installments and three editing payments. Overall the editing was great considering the sloppy manuscript that it was. When I received the marked up digital file I printed it out and circled any edits that I did not approve of. This varied from a missed 'invented reference' to basic structure to prove my point. I didn't object to much and was very happy that every page was filled with notes. The entire process was very helpful and improved the manuscript greatly.

I let the manuscript sit a while to finish artwork. When I returned to the manuscript I had friends and family look over some of the chapters I was less confident with. Still lots of errors and problems. Not to put the entire burden on my editor - she truly turned lots of this books around but didn't not pick up every single detail. In don't know whether this is from the fact she didn't take every single word in the manuscript and just re0write the damn thing, or because what I gave her was riddled with errors and sloppy writing. It's hard to say. I had family and friends edit the long stories and I even found a student masters student in NY to cheaply proof-read a few chapters to make sure I didn't do anything stupid.

Overall, I'm happy with my editor and the choice I made. It still needed work once the editing was done but as it was was unacceptable and I am very happy I did this pricey process. Without my resources otherwise and a day-job to cover the editing expenses (plus the additional for my NY proofreader) nothing would have been possible. It's amazing to think back to all the errors I made in writing and all the dumb repeated mistakes that where in there and that are now gone.

A professional editor is a requirement regardless of how well you think your skills are. Be careful of anyone who won't do this process outside of Microsoft Word as it will be a gigantic burden to you. While I should have been more upfront with what I wanted (and possibly strengthened my manuscript more before the final hire) this process was nothing but positive.

Galleys

Another item i didn't plan to far in advance for was galleys. With my print order in place, I will be getting all my books more than 4 months prior to the publication date, so I am set for advanced copies and the standard 4-month buffer. However, some places REQUIRE a galley otherwise, no dice. This is not pleasant since galleys cost more than your book (unless you are going to order a few thousand of them) so there is no interest in paying $500 for 50/100 books when you REALLY only need to send out 10-30 or so. Advanced books are the way to go (well see when I do this).

However, I still needed galleys and have no desire to pay $500 for them. I'd rather print them myself, which is more expensive per copy and they don't look as nice, but in the end would be cheaper. A friend of mine who published prior to be gave me great advice when I asked her what to do (being on the fence to just forgetting everything). The advice was brilliant:

"Ask your printer to make some 'dummy copies' (books with no cover - jut the bound innards"

Perfect! It's the same thing and it's already being made. The verdict? I emailed my rep at my printer and asked if this was possible. YES. So 50 of my 3,000 books will be turned into cover-less galleys for my use. A minor additional cost for the extra handling and an additional 50 dust jackets to have as extras.

This is perfect: a tiny added fee for a box of galleys and the only downside is that I will only have 2950 books instead of 3,000. Seeing how I will be able to ship the galleys out with the 4-month bubble, I am all set.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's all about the Money, Honey

It's been an interesting month and I've learned a great deal about money in regards to both funding a book company and trying to get a loan. The loan was a total bust. If you want a small business loan you need one of two things: 1 - lots of collateral and securities or 2 - an existing business of 3+ years with lots of already earned success. Most likely you don't fit either, as I surely don't. Since I don't there was only one loan I could logically apply for: an express small business loan with Superior financial Group. Verdict? I filled out the pre-qualification loan and was immediately given the lingo "CONGRATS! You may qualify for a small business loan!" It then went on to tell me to download the PDF application and send it in. Great! So I filled out the application and the day before I was going to send it in I got a rejection letter. DENIED! Why? "insufficient lender matrix score." WTF? I looked this up and it pretty much means that while I have good credit, it's not enough. The reason it's not enough is because I have no legal business experience. Again, if my business was registered a year prior and the bank account was opened back then, this would probably not be a problem.

The main problem is that I didn't know any better going into this. A small business loan is nice, but why do I need a small business loan? I have a day job, make good money and shouldn't have to defend my start-up business? After all, I am entering the field to sell a risky product and should I fail (regardless of having a day job and still being OK) my books are for the most part worthless (I mean, what's a lender or bank going to do with a stack of books).

Sort of a run-around and waste of time. In the end, luckily, my parents are loaning me my minimum to keep things moving. And my minimum I don't mean anything close to small change. While I have put and will continue to put up money for this book, galley and books cost a lot of money and if nothing went through I would be screwed.

I looked into a personal loan through one of my college's credit unions. 18% APR! WTF? But they have a credit card that goes as low as 7.9%! WTF? Most credit cards give 1-3 year deals better than this, which in turn,. is a better loan.

I don't think I'm going to look into this any further. If not for my parents I would be forced to, but this was a total waste aside from the educational value which is debatable. Just another reason to register your business and open your business checking as soon as you possibly can.

The Drought

As mentioned, I had what I refer to as a drought when working on this book. Ultimately, I'm glad it happened. Many months passed that I didn't even touch the book, let alone think about it. I was in a complete financial struggle and working as many random gigs as I could to stay afloat. In July 2009, I got a real job with a real salary and security and immediately re-started Selected Shorts full-time. It's been one years since I got this moving in full gear and now it's done and will be sent off to the printer in a few weeks.

Talking about the delusion of greatness, I was ready to finish this book and "self-publish" it early 2009. What was I thinking? I cannot stress how embarrassingly bad the book's condition was back then. No way would I have gotten Antonio's artwork in by then and should I have published it, it would only look like a pathetic amateurish attempt at making a book. Luckily I did a number of things. I took months off not thinking about it. When I returned I read through the book again and couldn't believe the number of mistakes and poorly written sentences. That was gigantic: to take a step away from the book and then be able to re-read it through another est of eyes. I then found an editor, which I will discuss further, who really took all the embarrassing things out of it. I then had my father re-read a few stories and then also have fiance read the stories (mainly the long ones) I had problems with. THEN, as the book was being laid out, had a final proof-reader mark down the major problems. Where there major problems? YES! Not many, but there was a lot of little things (perfect grammar) and then a few terrible things caught (maybe 10 really bad things).

In the end I re-read this book countless times. My father read through it 1.5 times, my brother read through it one, an editor re through it once, and proof-reader read through it, and my fiance read through the 8 longest stories. All of this takes time. The more time the better. Of course it's a creative project and it's never really "done" but there is certainly the lines between embarrassing, bad, good, and very good. Make it the best you can- I am surely glad this drought happened. Not only is the book 10x better, but it's also a real book and not a POD or "self-published" book that I pay profits to some lame company for no reason.