Webinar Recap: What Every Self-Publishing Author Should Know About Print-On-Demand

In our recent webinar, What Every Self-Publishing Author Should Know About Print-On-Demand, we discussed considerations to keep in mind when preparing Print-on-Demand (POD) books for sale. Among these were presentation, interior formatting costs, cover design hints, CreateSpace™ and Ingram Spark / Lightening Source set up fees, trim size and standard formats, and pricing your POD correctly.

In case you missed it (or want to watch it again!), you can catch the full webinar below.

Are you considering a POD book sale or have questions not addressed in the webinar? Let us know in the comments below.

2014-01-29 11.00 WaveCloud Wednesday Webinar_ What Every Self-Publishing Author Should Know About Print-On-Demand

New Features News!

Faceted Search: A simple, yet important means of discovery.

It’s been nearly a month since WaveCloud launched in “beta mode”. We knew that launching in beta meant that every feature we wanted wouldn’t be ready, but the one thing that really drove me crazy about our version of beta was the fact that it was not possible to narrow down search results. Seems simple, doesn’t it? According to our developers, it’s easier said than done.

The good news is – the faceted search feature is now available! And while it has been tremendously helpful with discovery, it has become apparent that there may be another issue at hand. We, as a retailer of e-books, can only do so much with what we’re provided. The metadata that is used for the search function is important. If the metadata is weak, then the search is weak.

Filling out the metadata for a book is such an easy task. A task that should be performed for every book made available, yet we’re finding that it just isn’t being done very well. There are fields that are missing and genre categories assigned haphazardly. As Bill VanOrsdel, Chief Marketing Officer at WaveCloud, pointed out in another blog post earlier this week, if we were being graded, the industry should receive an F. Publishers want their Author's books discovered, yet the one simple task of assigning the metadata is not always done as well as it could be.

WaveCloud is still working hard to “build it bigger” and discovery is one of our primary goals. We will make your books easier to discover by providing the tools for you to make your metadata discoverable.  Stay tuned, our next release is less than a month away!

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E-book Readers Read More, Buy More

Have your reading habits changed since you started reading e-books? If you’re like me and have just recently started reading e-books, you can probably detail the changes fairly well.
According to a recent PEW Internet survey e-book readership is up. One-fifth of Americans over the age of eighteen have read an e-book in the past year, that’s about 21 percent of respondents.

Thanks to a successful 2011 holiday season and increasing sales in 2012, more Americans are becoming proud owners of e-readers, which certainly factors in to this upward trend. Since I got my e-reader in May, I’ve already read three e-books in addition to a print book.

One of the more interesting findings in the PEW survey was that those who read e-books not only read MORE than those who read print only, but they also read a VARIETY of formats.

“Those who read e-books report they have read more books in all formats. They reported an average of 24 books in the previous 12 months and had a median of 13 books. Those who do not read e-books say they averaged 15 books in the previous year and the median was 6 books.”

Another interesting discovery is that those of us who read e-books are more likely to purchase the book, rather than borrow it from a library. What they don’t mention is that there are a variety of factors at play here. Most notably, the fact that some publishers won’t even allow libraries access to their e-books. Those that do create so many restrictions on libraries, be it pricing or lending limits, that for these cash-strapped public entities, e-books are difficult to make available for their patrons.

Patrons find a very limited selection in libraries due to the contingencies publishers are putting on the lending of their books and therefore find purchasing to be the easiest option.

So again, how have your reading habits changed since discovering e-books? Do you find yourself reading more than you did when you exclusively read print?  Are you reading a variety of formats?  Do you find yourself buying your e-books more often than not? Let us know!

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Summer Reads – Follow Up

How is your summer reading going? Are you already in need of some new options? We have scoured the Best Sellers and Must Read lists to find you the “Top 10 Summer Reads” that are now available on WaveCloud. Enjoy!

Final Judgment by Joel Goldman (2012):

“A man's body is found decapitated. Wrapped in plastic. Stuffed in the trunk of a Fleetwood Cadillac parked outside a federal courthouse. The car's owner: a sweet-natured con man who's on trial for mail fraud–but innocent of murder. Kansas City defense attorney Lou Mason has no idea how a corpse ended up in his client's car. But when the victim is identified as a criminal defendant in a sexually charged lawsuit, Mason is forced to team up with a woman from his past–a brilliant FBI agent who may be playing head games of her own.”

Private: Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and the Biggest Exposure of Official Secrets in American History by Denver Nicks (2012):

“Bradley Manning perpetrated the biggest breach of military security in American history. This intelligence analyst leaked an astounding amount of classified information to WikiLeaks: classified combat videos and hundreds of thousands of documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and from embassies around the globe. Almost all of WikiLeaks's headline-making releases of information have come from one source only: Bradley Manning.”

Trapeze by Simon Mawer (2012):

“A fascinating blend of fact and fiction, Trapeze is both an old-fashioned adventure story and a modern exploration of a young woman’s growth into adulthood. There is violence, and there is love. There is death and betrayal, deception and revelation. But above all there is Marian Sutro, an ordinary young woman who, like her real-life counterparts in the SOE, did the most extraordinary things at a time when the ordinary was not enough.”

Implosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic and Spiritual Challenges in Time? by Joel C. Rosenburg (2012):

Bestselling author and international political expert Joel C. Rosenberg tackles the question: Is America an empire in decline or a nation poised for a historic Renaissance? America teeters on a precipice. In the midst of financial turmoil, political uncertainty, declining morality, the constant threat of natural disasters, and myriad other daunting challenges, many wonder what the future holds for this once-great nation. Will history's greatest democracy stage a miraculous comeback, returning to the forefront of the world's economic and spiritual stage? Can America's religious past be repeated today with a third Great Awakening? Or will the rise of China, Russia, and other nations, coupled with the US's internal struggles, send her into a decline from which there can be no return?”

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877):

You might wonder how this novel has come to find its way on our Top 10 list. Found on a variety of “’must read” lists this classic has recently been redone into a movie due out in November. If you have already read Anna Karenina, this is a great opportunity to refresh your memory before the movie and if you have never picked it up? Well, you should always read the book before watching the movie!

“'Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,’ writes Tolstoy in his literary masterpiece Anna Karenina. Commonly regarded as one of the greatest realist novels ever written, Tolstoy himself saw it as his first true novel. The novel was not well received by critics when first published, but Tolstoy's fellow Russian greats all considered it a great work of art.”

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011):

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.”

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2007):

Although this novel has been out for a while and the movie was released last year, it still has a solid spot on Best Seller lists. Perhaps it’s finally time to check it out?

“As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.”

The Winner by David Baldacci (2011):

“LuAnn Tyler is an unwed mother striving to escape a life of endless poverty. Then a mysterious Mr Jackson makes her an offer he thinks no one can refuse: a guarantee to be the winner of the $100 million lottery. But LuAnn won't do it. Less than twenty-four hours later, she is fighting for her life and running from a false murder charge. Jackson's offer – and its condition that she leave the country forever – seems her only hope. However, ten years later, LuAnn secretly returns to the United States to begin a new life with Matthew Riggs, a man whose origins are as murky as her own.”

Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller (2012):

“The illegitimate son of a wealthy rancher, Sheriff Slade Barlow grew up in a trailer hitched to the Curly-Burly hair salon his mother runs. He was never acknowledged by his father…until now. Suddenly, Slade has inherited half of Whisper Creek Ranch, one of the most prosperous in Parable, Montana. That doesn't sit well with his half brother, Hutch, who grew up with all the rights of a Carmody—including the affections of Joslyn Kirk, homecoming queen, rodeo queen, beauty queen, whom Slade has never forgotten.”

The Amateur by Edward Klein (2012):

No matter what your views, you can’t argue that this work of non-fiction has found itself squarely on the Best Seller lists. If you’re looking for something a bit political and controversial for your summer pick, check out The Amateur.

“It’s amateur hour at the White House. So says New York Times bestselling author Edward Klein in his new political exposé The Amateur. Tapping into the public’s growing sentiment that President Obama is in over his head, The Amateur argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance have run our nation and his presidency off the rails.”

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Author-Reader Relationship

Whether brand new to the industry or a seasoned veteran, if you’re an author one of the most time consuming aspects can be the navigation of your relationship with your readers. While the internet has made communication easier, it has also broadened it greatly. Not only are you attending book signings and conferences but you are monitoring social networking and review sites, responding to emails, etc. in the hopes that you can somehow connect with those who matter most, your fans. It can stretch you thin and still leave you confused on how to best contact the people buying your books. Most of the time, you rely on the reader to be the one who makes first contact. Wouldn’t authors have an easier time selling books if they were able to directly market to, and communicate with, the people who have already purchased their previous work? To gain an idea of what authors are currently using and would like to see in the future, I have asked best-selling author, Reid Lance Rosenthal to tell us a little about his own experiences with the author/reader relationship.

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Kari Stevenson: In what ways are you currently communicating to your fans?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: Through websites, blogs, magazines, Facebook, social media, and direct email.

Kari Stevenson: Is there a way to contact readers who have purchased your earlier books using the sites you currently sell through?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: Not well. The best contact with readers is through my website. It would be great to have a third party site that facilitated author/reader communication.

Kari Stevenson: Through which of these options do you find readers contacting you the most?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: It is a cumulative effect. Perhaps Facebook a little more than the others, followed by direct email.

Kari Stevenson: Does this process work well for you?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: There are always improvements to be made. It’s always nice to be focused on one effort rather than many.

Kari Stevenson: Based on what you currently do to communicate with readers, what would you like to see change?

Reid Lance Rosenthal: I’m looking for a third party site that sells books as well as has a decent landing page for the author AND allows author/reader communication directly.  If contact is just through the site, it is just like any other (social networking) site out there. Whatever the medium and message, any interaction with the reader should be respectful, helpful and give a service.

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After my conversation with Reid, it seems clear to me that the greatest challenge in the author/reader relationship is, as I mentioned previously, the fact that you have to monitor so many sites and mediums just to interact.   There is not a “one-stop-shop” currently available to enable authors and readers to communicate on the level that is needed. Here at WaveCloud, we are very aware that this is an area awaiting development and are hoping to cultivate this type of author/reader relationship. Providing this missing link to make life a little easier and communication that much greater, is just one of the few things we’re working on.  We hope you’ll check it out!

About Reid Lance Rosenthal

Reid Lance Rosenthal is a multiple #1 best-selling author of the “Threads West” series: a sixteen book saga being compared to the great American sagas Lonesome Dove and Gone with the Wind. This breathtaking series spans four generations over 170 years, from 1855 – present day.

Find out more about the first three books: Threads West, Maps of Fate (recently released April 17, 2012) Uncompaghre (due out November 13, 2012)

Also look for Reid’s work of non-fiction: Land for Love and Money due out this Tuesday, June 26, 2012. The first in a three volume set (plus companion workbook Green for Green) providing an anecdotal look at how one manages the purchase and upkeep of owning land in this day and age. “Reid’s generational land and cattle heritage, long-standing devotion to wild and remote places, intense love of the land and extensive $1.5 billion personal experience with land of all types and sizes (in multiple states, Canada and South America), uniquely qualify him to pen the true, instructional stories of lessons learned, great successes and abject failures found in each volume.  These are the first and only comprehensive books of their type—one of a kind composites of four decades of unduplicated success and failure experience, written from the ground up. Millions will find the wealth of insightful information in Land for Love and Money not only invaluable, but inspiring.”

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“As an industry, we need to innovate…”

I met up with Brian Feinblum, the creator and author of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, at BookExpo America in New York. Brian, who is the chief marketing officer for the nation's largest book promotions firm, Media Connect (www.Media-Connect.com), has been involved in book publicity and marketing since 1989. We had a great conversation about the publishing industry, WaveCloud and the future of books.  Read a bit of our discussion on Brian’s blog and let me know what you think!

Our “media loungers” were a huge hit at BEA last week. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth to say hello and learn about WaveCloud.

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Digital Natives and DRM: Why You Should be Paying Attention

The issue of DRM and DRM-free is not something that I was too familiar with before looking into it for this post. I understood the basic ideas of DRM but I was unaware as to how much it affected readership. In case you are not clear on DRM yourself, Digital Rights Management (DRM) is what publishers use to keep tabs on their digital content. Many readers find it limiting and want to get rid of it while proponents say it’s necessary for combating piracy. However it doesn’t take an expert to know that in this day and age, no matter what limitations you put on something, it will still be pirated.

Interestingly enough, there has recently been a move by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) to create a middle ground as a standard across the industry. This would be a lighter version of the traditional DRM, something closer to the “watermarking” that some publishers such as Pottermore.com have started to use. Watermarking is even less restrictive than the newly proposed version of DRM – it only adds a mark of sorts (through coding or an actual digital watermark on the e-book’s pages) that can be used to trace the work back to the publisher. If the work is found on a pirated site, the author or publisher has proof it belongs to them and can have it removed.

So why, other than the obvious, should this matter to you as the author? Well, how long do you plan on staying in the industry? Are you hoping to still be writing 15 years from now? If you answered “yes” to the last question I have some slightly shocking news for you: Teens don’t read e-books. Yes, you read that right; the digital natives of today prefer print over digital.

RR Bowker’s PubTrack Consumer survey, conducted this past fall, determined that a surprisingly low number of teens read e-books over print:

Teens lag behind all other age groups in e-book adoption. Sixty-six percent of 13- to 17-year olds say they prefer print books to e-books, 26 percent say they have no preference and only 8 percent prefer e-books.”  (Source: http://paidcontent.org/2012/01/23/419-new-stats-kids-find-e-books-fun-and-cool-but-teens-are-still-reluctant/?goback=%2Egde_1515307_member_116431505).

Why would this be? Surely the digital native would be one of the largest groups reading digital, not the smallest. Yet teens are social creatures and social technology is their forte. They are the first to embrace anything in this realm and to put it simply; they do not view e-books as a social. Which, really they aren’t, are they? DRM restricts books to a point where teens are discouraged by them.

Looking at this, if you are trying to target your market audience of 30 year olds, it’s apparent that you need to think ahead. What is going to happen when these teens become adults and they still aren’t reading digital? Have you done all you can do to attract them? Do you want to be the author that allows full DRM on your work or the one providing a simple watermark? What do you think will hook the digital generation and provide you with an audience for years to come?

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For more details on the new ideas for DRM, check out the following links: http://paidcontent.org/2012/05/18/a-kinder-gentler-drm/ and http://idpf.org/epub-content-protection.

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In the future, will print books only be available at the furniture store?

The question might sound crazy since “the book” has been around for nearly 2,000 years and has held its place on our bedside tables, backpacks and libraries for as long as we remember.  Even so, there may come a day that the print books we have in our house are mostly being used for decorating.

The act of writing – in one form or another – dates back 5,000 years.  Of course the method at the beginning was much different. The form was not that of a book, but of an inscription on stone or clay tablet.  It then slowly changed to papyrus or a parchment page and then onto the form of a book that we recognize. So, couldn’t the e-book be the next form of writing that dominates our day-to-day lives?

What I find interesting is the amount of emotion you find when these questions are raised.  There are people who fell asleep as a child reading books, they studied using books, they love the feel and smell of books, they were a librarian in their past life…they just love books.  Books are comforting to them.  Because of their history with books, the thought of e-books becoming more “popular” is very uncomfortable for them.  I wonder what is so upsetting really. Is it the loss of how it is made or the loss of the writing?  The art of bookmaking may be lost (or lessened), but the content of the book still remains and to the reader, isn’t that what matters most?

I believe that we will always have books because they are so special, but maybe it’s not such a crazy idea, that someday the traditional print book will only be found at your local furniture store; its purpose to decorate your coffee table and well-designed book cases.

Book formats continue to change.  The current e-book format won’t be around in a thousand years.  Men plan and God laughs.

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This. Is. Business.

I read a rejection email posted by an aspiring writer yesterday and thought these words attributed to Hillery Borton (then at Penguin) were precious:

“Dear Mr. Jones: I very much enjoyed the freshness of your work, however, I find that there are two kinds of writers, those that want to write and those that need to write. If your story is as thinly disguised as I suspect, Mr. Jones, then you are one of the latter, and I count you in good company. Those who want to write, generally, want to be published and rewarded for their efforts. Those who need to write are primarily concerned with the product of their labors, recognition being an afterthought.  In light of the current hard cover fiction market, I see no way in which your work will be published in its current state. Whether or not you wish to subscribe to the parameters of popular fiction in order to alter the fate of your work is up to you. In the end, you may be happier with the job at McDonald’s. Warm regards, Hillery Borton”

Which kind of writer are you?  Do you want to write or need to write?

If you want to write, and in corollary, want to be rewarded for your efforts, then you need to think in a business-minded way about how to bring your work to market.

Many writers, unless they are specifically writing a book about business, claim no business experience and subsequently leave critical decisions to the whims of fate.

Here is your real competition:  Every day in the United States, more than 800 “serious” books are published.  These books have the backing of an experienced team of editors, producers, marketers and salespeople.  These professionals do their best to knock the current books off the bookshelf and replace them with their books.  They do their best to fill the airwaves with messages about their books, working tirelessly to crowd out the words of their competitors, new and old.  If you want to know how big the ocean of competition is, and how your work has as much chance as a fresh-hatched baby turtle, take a look at The 10 Awful Truths about Book Publishing.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to seek help from a traditional publisher, or bring the work to market yourself.  You still need to bring a business sense to the journey.  If you “want to write,” This. Is. Business.

You don’t need an MBA to think about your work in a business context.  Apply your everyday experience and answer these questions:

  1. What is my business plan for bringing my work(s) to market?
  2. What is my production schedule?
  3. How much of the work will I hire out, versus execute personally?
    1. Will I seek to employ a traditional publisher?
    2. Will I seek to employ independent contractors, and act as the producer myself?
  4. Do I know what the parameters of popular fiction (or non-fiction) are?
    1. Which “rules” am I “breaking” and am I breaking them for a purpose?
  5. Do I have a budget and plan for marketing?
    1. And if I’m self-publishing, do I have budget for editing, cover design, interior layout, et al?
  6. How do these plans change if I plan to bring more than one work to market?
  7. How do these plans change if I attain the success I am hoping for?

There are key indicators of success in this market.  If you are working toward these, you have a better chance at joining the small percentage of writers who generate enough sales to pay back the expenses of bringing their work to market:

    1. Write a great book, and get an objective opinion about it.
    2. Have your work edited, professionally
    3. Get a professional cover design and interior layout for your works
    4. Budget and plan to market your work, whether self-published or traditionally published
    5. Create your distribution strategy for your e-book, print book, and audio book versions
    6. Educate yourself on this market and the pros and cons of each major decision

If you want to write, then treat this like a business.  You don’t need a business degree, just perseverance and educated decisions at each step of your journey.  There are so many authors who have generously shared their publishing experiences for free on the Internet.  There is no good excuse for not doing research and arming yourself with the best, current thinking in this market.

To Print or not to Print?

So, your book is almost finished and you are starting to think about how you are going to turn your manuscript into something that Readers want to buy.  Some book designers I’ve talked to suggest working on the book cover while you are in the editing phase.  Having a book cover can give you some focus for your writing work.  After ALL editing is complete, you’ll start on the interior layout phase.  Your book cover and interior layout will have a big impact on your marketing and reader satisfaction, respectively.

One of the considerations in building your cover and your interior layout is whether you plan to sell your book in a print version.  If you think you’ll want a print version of your book in the future and if you are engaging a professional service to create your cover and interior layout, then it is worth asking the designer(s) to design both the e-book AND print versions of your book cover and interior layout at the same time.  This will cost more now, but less than re-engaging your designer later to do the print version as a stand-alone project.  Even if you are doing the cover design and interior layout yourself, it is a good idea to tackle them at the same time.

Still not sure you care about print? Here are a variety of reasons an author might want to consider printing their book:

  • Depending upon your genre, 50% to 90% of sales are typically print books
  • Print-On-Demand (POD) is a low-cost way to make your print book available on Amazon.com
  • Position a book for bookstores and other bricks-and-mortar distribution possibilities
  • Print books for book signings and promotions
  • Print books for reviewers/bloggers that prefer print versions
  • Print books for keepsakes (families/friends/personal use)

If you are going to design a cover and interior layout for a print version of your book, then you may want to consider choosing a target book size that is ready for several different printing services.  Creating one book-cover file and one interior layout file that can work across multiple platforms (and look good on any of them) will save you money and keep you flexible as your sales and distribution evolves.

I recommend creating one set of files that can be used on any of these platforms:

  1. Lighting Source
  2. Createspace
  3. Espresso Book Machine
  4. A digital web press (hopefully a shop with the latest commercial HP printers)

There are plusses and minuses to each of these print routes, but at the very least, you should be able prepare your book files once and be ready for any of them.  In an upcoming blog post, I will ask one of our book designer friends to give us some advice on which format targets (book sizes) are common and available across all four platforms.

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