Category Archives: Publishing

Do Readers Want Digital Instead of Print?

magazine publishers

For magazine publishers, there’s a lot of hype and excitement about reading magazines and books electronically. All variety of statistics are being bandied about to support the deluge of digital. Studies are being conducted and consultants are consulting. There is euphoria over electronic reading.

But is it warranted? While digital reading is a tantalizing development and may someday change the way people interact with the written word, that day is not yet here. Consider some stats that I have stumbled upon from the magazine industry:

  • One magazine found that 75 percent of readers would not give up their print magazine. That means, the magazine can’t risk going fully digital.
  • A survey of magazine publishers over the performance of their digital editions found that 38% were “somewhat dissatisfied” and 22% were “extremely dissatisfied.” That means that among publishers, a full 60% are not happy with digital.
  • In another study, 61.5% of magazine publishers aren’t even sure how they can generate enough revenue to cover the costs of digital.

So, based on these stats, the majority of readers don’t want to read digitally, the majority of publishers are not happy with digital, and the majority of publishers don’t even know how they can financially support digital.

Going digital may be exciting, but the numbers are not behind it and the masses don’t support it—at this time.

Given this, shouldn’t the focus be on print?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Why Printed Books Are Still Relevant

Though e-books receive all of the hype, printed books are still important, for both readers and authors

printed books

People like to talk about what is new, what is exciting, and what is fresh. That’s why the book publishing industry has so much buzz about reading digital books and listening to audio books.

I’m not going to dismiss those options—because they’re exciting opportunities for authors—but I do caution against overreacting. While digital and audio are fun, sexy, and viable, print is still king. Seriously.

Printed Books

Printed books have a proven history. Printed books have ardent supporters. And printed books do not require a device or a charged battery. They are always on and always available.

Print still has a role to play. Just look at libraries and bookstores, especially the local bookshops that have figured out how to compete against the national chains, online shopping, and electronic book consumption.

And don’t ignore the fact that Amazon has a physical bookstore. They wouldn’t do that on a lark. Though it may be years before we know why, be assured they have a well-reasoned business strategy for doing so.

Print books do not require a device or a charged battery. They're always on and always available. Click To Tweet

There is also mounting evidence that younger generations prefer printed books. They like to unplug and immerse themselves into a good read. And at colleges that only provide e-textbooks, some students, out of frustration, will actually print their own copy of the text using their PC printer.

While some independent authors shun print and do only e-publication, they miss an important, and possibly growing, market. A success book publication strategy needs to stand on three legs: ebooks, audio books, and print books.

How do you consume books? What is your favorite format? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Just Because You Can Self-Publish a Book Doesn’t Mean You Should

As the price barrier to book publishing lowers, too many books show up with too little quality

self-published anthology of short stories

I once read a self-published book by a “NY Times Best-Selling Author.” I’ll let him remain anonymous. It was a short story anthology of “the best” short stories in a certain genre. I expected much and received little.

A Self-Published Anthology of Short Stories

Perhaps I focus too much on flash fiction (short stories under 1,000 words). Possibly I read too many YA (young adult) books to appreciate writing that is more “serious.” It could be I lack patience. Or maybe I don’t know how to truly appreciate short stories. But just possibly this collection is not all that good, certainly not “the best.”

Here are the good parts: the cover design was okay, the interior layout was professional, and I didn’t notice any editing shortfalls. Failure in these areas is emblematic of shoddy self-publishing. So at least he covered the basics.

I started every one of the short stories but only finished a few. The one that I actually thought was well written and even had a twist at the end, elicited a “so what?” response from me and a stifled yawn.

Just because you can self-publish a book doesn’t mean you should. Click To Tweet

Too often the stories failed to hook me at the beginning—and I always gave them a full page to do so. (I give books the first chapter to grab my attention.) And the few with promising openings that had me turn a couple of pages, failed to establish any reason why I should care about the protagonist. When you don’t wonder what happens to the lead character, there is no reason to turn the page. Ho-hum.

Don’t Bore Your Readers

The book’s introduction was copied from one of the author’s other books. (I tried to read that one, too, but ended up too bored to even skim it.) He may have tweaked a few words, but if so, it wasn’t enough to notice or give it a fresh feel.

He also provided a short preview about the writing of each story, highlighting what he liked about it and the strengths he appreciated. This may have been helpful as a learning experience, had not the stories been too painful for me to read.

I selected this book to learn about short stories. What I learned was don’t bore readers or waste their time. And if you self-publish, it had better be good.

Although a worthy concept, I doubt a traditional publisher would have touched this book. This is likely why the author self-published it. He shouldn’t have bothered.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Should You Be a Writer or an Entrepreneur?

Authors are advised to treat their writing like a business

Entrepreneurial

If you write solely for the fun of it or treat writing as a mere hobby, then don’t read this post. Seriously, it will just make you mad.

But if you want to succeed as a writer, regardless of how you define success, then this post should give you some ideas to consider. Please read on. Then let me know what you think about it.

Writing is a Business

When we treat our writing like a business it means we strategically pursue actions to meet the needs others have. We hope to earn a profit doing so. This need we strive to fill is information, inspiration, or entertainment. Maybe all three. For nonfiction we know things (or can find out things) that most people don’t know. For fiction we tell stories others want to read. We write to fill these needs. When we charge money for meeting the needs of others, we ensure we have the means to write more—and meet more needs.

A Book Is a Product

Yes, our books are creative works. Books are art, but they are also products; books provide a service to our audience.

A Series is a Product Line

If one book is a product, then a series is a product line. This is why beginning authors need to stay within one genre or one theme, so they can develop a product line and build a following around that line.

A Book Proposal is a Business Plan

At its most basic level an author’s business plan is a book proposal. Look at the elements of a proposal. It outlines the theme and purpose of the book (the product), it lays out a vision for what it will accomplish, it talks about the need for the book, and it addresses the competition. It also proposes follow-up books (a product line).

At the very least, a book proposal informs our writing and guides us to producing a marketable book (product). No business will ever produce a product people don’t want. An author shouldn’t either.Writing is a business, a book is a product, and a proposal is a mini-business plan. Click To Tweet

We Need Backing

The purpose of a business plan is to raise funding, to procure investors. When it comes to publishing a book our business plan (our book proposal) is the means to get a publisher to back us, to invest in our product (our book).

In theory an advance is money to live on while we develop the product (write our book). Our publisher will produce the book for us, distribute it, and sell it.

If we self-publish our book, we may go to Kickstarter to raise funds or solicit friends and relatives. They’ll want to see a plan before they fork over cash. Even if we self-fund our book, we would be foolish to do so without treating it as an investment.

Marketing Plan

Our marketing plan—often part of the book proposal—addresses how we will let others know about our book. Even if we go with a traditional publisher, they will expect us to market our book. If we self-publish, marketing is even more critical.

Writing and publishing a book requires thinking like a businessperson; we must become an entrepreneur, especially if we choose to self-publish.

Do you think of your book as a product? What do you think about treating writing as a business?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Do You Believe in Print?

Despite Interest in Audio and E-books, Don’t Write Off Print

printed booksAs writers our books can appear in three primary formats: printed books, e-books, and audio books.

Audio Books

Audio books have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Gone are the days of books on tape. Now it is digital files that readers listen to from their smartphones. This form of consumption has soared in the past couple of years, especially among younger generations. Audible books have also received a lot of buzz in recent months among the writing community. It seems I hear more about audio books than e-books nowadays.

E-Books

Reading books on devices is still popular. I hear the reader of preference has shifted from dedicated reading device to the smartphone. However, many mainstream media have actually reported a decrease in e-book consumption.

Yet indie authors are quick to point out that a significant percentage of independent authors do not use ISBNs. This means no one tracks their sales as a whole. They maintain, though unverifiable, that e-book sales are grossly under reported and are actually continuing their upward sales assent.

Printed Books

That leaves print. For some 500 years print was the only reading option. While prognosticators have predicted the demise of printed books for the past several years, its death has yet to take place. Yes, its market share has declined, but readers still consume printed books and many prefer the tactile, and even olfactory, experience of reading them.

Mainstream media also reports that younger generations are returning to print, apparently preferring to unplug and immerse themselves in the printed word. Besides you don’t need a smartphone to read a print book. You don’t need charged batteries and you don’t need a signal to download content.

Do you believe in print?

Books have three formats: print, ebook, and audio. Which do you prefer? Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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A Book Need Not Be Perfect to Succeed

Book success can occur without it being perfectA few years ago, I finished a novel I was reading, the first in a series.

The first chapter grabbed me, but by the second or third, some of the scenes began to irritate. They were unrealistic at portraying real-life situations. Likewise, some of the dialogue didn’t work too well for me either. It was artificial, contrived. I certainly could have done better.

Yet the plot was intriguing, so I kept reading.

About midway through, some foreshadowing suggested an implausible ending. Surely, this was a ruse. I imagined two other scenarios I deemed more satisfying. Yet, further foreshadowing pointed towards a conclusion I didn’t want. As I raced towards the finish line, the improbable ending unfolded just as I feared. The book left me unsatisfied. I was irked, bordering on mad.

And I wanted to read the next book in the series.

What? Why would I wanted to read another book in a series when the writing of the first one frustrated me?

Quite simply I’ll read more because the author did a wonderful job creating characters I care about. I wanted to see how their stories unfold. I hoped to see them continue to grow as individuals and realize the potential I see for them.

Yes, the writing could have been better, and some readers would not tolerate it. But for light entertainment it was good enough for me; the book was a success.

As writers, we need to make our books as good as we possibly can, while at the same time not becoming paralyzed by the pursuit of perfection—because there’s always something we can improve.

Book success can occur without being perfect. And I couldn’t wait to read the second book.A book can succeed without being perfect. Click To Tweet

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start Writing

Book Length

When pitching my book at a writers conference, one industry person said my length was perfect, while another wanted it 20,000 words longer, and a third said it should have at least 25,000 more words. That’s a huge difference.

Finding the Ideal Book Length

There is no universal answer for the ideal book length, but there are some generalities. To avoid wasting time and effort, we need to be close to industry expectations when we write. Here are some ways to find out how long your book should be:

  • If you have an agent or publisher, start there. What they say, goes.
  • Ask people in the book publishing industry who know.
  • Go to a library or bookstore and look at the length of books similar to yours. (A rough average is 300 words per page.)
  • Search online (like I did) and find a lot of conflicting information, but at least it’s a place to start.

Know how long your book should be before you start writing. Click To Tweet

The main thing is don’t waste time writing a book that is way too short or too long for anyone to ever publish it. The closer our book is to our publisher’s expectations, the easier it is to tweak to meet their requirements.

Have you ever written something that was the wrong length? How are you at editing something to hit a word count? Even if you’re good at editing to hit a target word count goal (like I am), it’s a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor.

That’s why it’s best to make a book the right length to start with.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Researching Competitive Titles

Competitive TitlesA common part in many book proposals is a “competitive works” section. I recently researched competitive titles for one of my book proposals. What I saw enlightened me.

Traditionally Published Books

To research competitive titles, I first looked at books from traditional publishers. They gave me pause. I had to think a bit to determine how my book was different and how it would stand out. This challenged me, but it was a good exercise.

Each book was impressive: an attractive cover, nice title, a great concept or theme where the content flowed nicely, and professional editing and formatting. However, I didn’t think about any of these qualities at first. I expected these characteristics. Since they met my expectations, I gave these traits no thought—until I looked at some indie-published books.Our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously. Click To Tweet

Indie-Published Print Books

Next, in my competitive titles research, I looked at some print books that were indie-published. At first glance, the covers were of similar quality and the titles were almost as good.

The content, however, was not the same. The concept of these books was lacking and their execution, disappointing. Also, the writing wasn’t nearly as good. One didn’t even appear to have been edited, with sloppy formatting and missing words—and that from reading less than one page. The fault in all this is not is a tool they used to publish the book. It is the author. If you put garbage into the tool, you get garbage out of it.

Indie-Published E-Books

Last, in my competitive titles research, I considered a pair of indie-published e-books. They offered no print options.

These suffered even more. Their covers weren’t as good, and their concept was questionable. As far as the writing, the interior layout was so bad that I couldn’t force myself to read it. I didn’t include them in my “competitive works” section because I didn’t view them as competition, merely a distraction.

Takeaway

From all this I’m reminded, once again, that indie-publishing (self-publishing) is an attractive option and an affordable solution when traditional publishers take a pass on our books. While this could be for reasons outside of our control, it might also be that our content is ill conceived or our book still needs work. Sometimes this is hard to determine, especially after we’ve poured ourselves into writing it.

Regardless, if we choose to indie-publish, we need to keep in mind that our finished product must look like a traditionally published book if we hope for folks to take it seriously.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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Do Indie Authors Need to Follow Publishing Conventions?

Indie AuthorsHave you ever flipped through a book and sensed there was something odd about it? Though you couldn’t identify what was different, you knew something was off. It felt wrong. This has happened to me.

Perhaps the feeling was so strong that you opted not to read the book. Again, this has happened to me. Because my reaction to something in the layout was so negative, I have decided not to bother reading it.

When this happens it is most likely because the book deviated from some standard publishing practices. Though most readers are unaware of what these principles are, we subconsciously know when they aren’t followed. That’s when we get this unexplained feeling that something is wrong. If the feeling is strong, we might not read the book.

This is why indie authors should follow all of the time-honored traditions of book design, but there is nothing to say that we must. We can break from tradition. Sometimes we may have a good reason to not follow the rules.

The key is to be aware that the more book publishing practices we break, the greater the likelihood our finished product will produce a visceral reaction in potential readers that pushes some of them away.

As indie authors, we should follow publishing conventions whenever we can. If we do decide to break a rule, it should be for a good reason and with full knowledge that it could hurt readership.

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but they are also there to guide us. Choose wisely.

As indie authors, we should follow publishing conventions whenever we can. Click To Tweet

Have you ever had a negative subconscious reaction to a book? What publishing rules would you like to break?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

Great Article on Book Cover Design

Book Cover Design

Several years ago, Karen Saunders wrote an excellent article “How to Make a Book Cover Design that Flies Off the Shelf!” Today, her suggestions are still just as valid.

However, there is one I would elevate in importance: “Seek the services of an experienced book cover designer.” I don’t view this as an option or a suggestion but as a requirement. Of course, I have no illusions about my graphic design abilities, so it is easy for me to say everyone should hire a professional book cover designer.

The only thing I might add to her excellent recommendations is to create a cover that looks great as a thumbnail. This is because most people browsing online only look at the thumbnail of the cover, not the actual cover. When you shop online, do you judge a book by its thumbnail? Click To Tweet

Instead of judging a book by its cover, they actually judge a book by the thumbnail of its cover. Make sure the title in the thumbnail is clear and easy to read. Next, ensure the reduced size graphics still communicate your intended message.

“Book cover design,” she says in conclusion “is a form of packaging.” Make sure to present your book in the best possible package.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!