Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This Is It, My Final Blog On Self-Publishing

I started this blog as a self-publisher. There's no doubt about that. I didn't know what I didn't know.

As I write this final blog entry I can definitely say I'm not a self-publisher anymore, I'm an Independent Publisher.

People in the traditional book industry would dispute that because that's how they are. But I'm about to put my fourth book into bookstores. The largest book wholesaler in the world - Ingram - will sell these books to its customers.

The traditional book people could say that I'm the author or co-author of all four books. That's true. But in several book stores in the Northwest - including B & N and Borders - my books sit in the shelves right next to books from the big publishing houses.

I won't sell as many books, obviously. I won't be in business as long. But the independent publishers are slowly changing the publishing business. Depending on whose stats you believe, small independent publishers combined sell more books now than the traditional publishers.

The traditional book publishing business is breaking down. Improved technology will eventually force them to change or quit the business. The independent book publishers will only get stronger.

But the main message of my blog has been there's both a thin line and a large canyon between self-publishing and reaching the independent publishing stage. To jump that canyon to independent publisher many self-publishers need to get their act together.

Here's a checklist.

Do you take short cuts to save money in the production of your book?
Are you under capitalized?
Do you routinely reject criticism of your work?
Do you assume the market is there for your book?
Do you think you know everything you need to know to publish books successfully?
Do you believe your book is so good it's going to make you a lot of money?

If you say yes to any of these you're going to have a problem and I recommend you reconsider your options. Otherwise, good luck in your endeavors.

Michael LaLumiere

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Change Of Plans On Printing Book

Last time we chatted I was resigned to having our new children's picture book printed in China.

Never mind. The book designer put out a few bid requests and I'm taking one that came from that hot bed of U.S. printing - Minnesota. For 2,000 books they came in at about $500 more than China which was close enough for me to pull the trigger.

For that $500 I expect to get much, much better communication, a significantly quicker turnaround and no shipping/container ship issues. On the surface, that's well worth $500. Of course, who knows how it will all turn out.

I am also hoping that the experience gained in already publishing two children's books and a novel will make the process on this book go much smoother. Dream on. Anyway, the biggest hope of all is that the book will be the best book we've done because of everything else we've gone through.

A lot has been learned.

Michael LaLumiere

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Had Hoped To Avoid Overseas Printing This Time

I printed our first two children's books in Korea. The end result was good. Excellent production values. But I didn't like the experience. Communication was sometimes difficult even though I worked with an in-country printing broker.

Still, I'd do it again if I had to.

But I didn't want to. Good communication makes life so much easier. It's worth a lot.

However, it's not worth $1,ooo per thousand books. We got several quotes from U.S. printers and unfortunately there's just too much disparity in cost. I'm sure the quality is fine but in the thin-margin children's book business that's just too much. So, we'll just put our helmets on and go with an overseas printer again. This time probably Hong Kong.

Many people in the small independent book business will say just go with digital printing. That way you don't have to print a lot of books. Everybody is doing it so save yourself some money in case you don't sell many books, etc.

Wise advice if only it were true. Talking to the wrong guy. Been there, done that. I swear I hear that quite often on the publishing lists. Maybe if you were galloping by on a horse and someone uncovered a digital book for a second and then covered it back up, you could think the quality is the same.

Not yet folks. Just not true. People want to save money so they do it. Maybe it's OK for a how-to book but it's the kiss of death if you're doing a children's picture book.

Michael LaLumiere

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Three Most Important Things About Designing A Book - Cover, Cover, Cover

We've been working on the cover of the new book for what seems like weeks.

This will be my fourth book cover and each time it gets harder because I increasingly realize how crucial a successful cover is. I get nervous.

My angst boiled over in an email to the book designer. This is what she sent me to calm me down:

There are two levels on which to evaluate any cover design, objective and subjective. In the objective area, you need an eye-catching graphic and a title that can be easily read in small sizes online. The font should be appropriate and the type should be set skillfully. You have a great illustration, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Subjective considerations are an ever-moving target that cannot be hit, so there’s no such thing as a “perfect” cover. But I can’t imagine anyone not liking your illustrations (what kid doesn’t love a giraffe?), and that’s going to be the main draw. No matter what type font is chosen, some people will like it and others won’t. You’ve probably seen the covers that people “like” on the Yahoo forum. It makes me want to jump off a building. We’ll show you some options. :)

Did her message make sense. Yup. Did it make me feel less nervous. Nope.

Michael LaLumiere

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hopefully What I've Learned So Far Will Make A Difference On This New Children's Book

We're just starting production on our third children's picture book - "Song for a Giraffe.'' I think the culmination of putting together two previous children's books and releasing a novel should be a better book from end to end. Maybe we'll have our act together now.

The first two books have been pretty good. But there have been minor issues. With this one there shouldn't be any newbie mistakes. The whole package should turn out to easily be the best book all the way around.

Anyway I hope so.

The illustrations are excellent. We're having a professional format the book. We're taking extra care with the cover. Looking hard at a lot of the little things. The story is strong.

This will be our best shot. We also now have a track record with some people. How good it turns out will probably determine if we do any more.

Michael LaLumiere

Thursday, August 2, 2007

More Reasons Why Beginners Shouldn't Publish Books

As you know I'm on the record as saying, do your own book publishing if you're doing it for fun or a family project. Or just because you want do.

Don't do it because you're taking yourself seriously or you think you're a great writer or because you want to make money. Why? Because failure is waiting for you - with a big club - just around the corner.

There are a few highly qualified book pros that sometimes comment on the various publishing lists. A lot of beginners haunt these lists thinking they're the next big deal. I've got to know one of these experts via email. She's worked for a couple publishing houses and now is a consultant.

She swatted down some newbies on a list the other day. And I must admit these particular realities escaped me also when I was a newbie.

One of the reasons we beginners use to justify self-publishing is we know for sure if we make a book and get it out on the market there's no way a publishing house won't see it and buy it from us.

Here's what the expert says. You must sell 10,000 books minimum to get the interest of a publisher (I for one can tell you how hard it is to sell 500 books). And then only if the book has a gigantic market. Her summation: self-publishing probably hurts you more than helps you with a publisher.

Self-publishers are forever trying to cut financial corners so that they can get the book on the market. They're under-capitalized. They do something cheaply when they needed to do it professionally. A sure fire disaster waiting to happen.

Here's what the expert says. It costs $20,000 to launch the average (bookstore-ready) trade book (paperback). If you don't spend the money you're done before you started.

Good luck everyone.

Michael LaLumiere

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today's Very Annoying Development In My Little Book Publishing World

Last time I talked about showing our children's Book - "Birthday Snow'' - to book buyers in place like Barnes & Noble and Borders Express in the recent mini-book tour. And the good news was they liked it.

Unfortunately, I just got the bad news. The publicist was doing followup calls regarding the book tour and asked the buyers about "Birthday Snow.'' They said they'd buy it except it's listed in their data base as "Non-refundable.''

That's just not fair. In the book store business returns are an ugly reality. A lot of stores send books back that don't sell and the wholesaler subtracts that from any profits there might be. If a book store can't get rid of it if it doesn't sell they can't afford to buy it. That's the law in chain store book land and most everywhere else. A buyer or manager could get fired for it. So standard operating procedure in the book trade is all books going out from wholesalers are returnable no questions asked.

So why is "Birthday Snow" book listed as "Non-refundable.'' I don't have a clue. Partners/West, a wholesaler that handles our books, says it isn't them. They said it looks like it's a chain store corporate decision problem. They don't have a clue, either.

I emailed a distributor that handles our books. They sell to Ingram. Which is a very important channel for us. They haven't got back to me. So a chain bookstore wants to buy our children's picture book but they can't. Great.

Michael LaLumiere