Avoid Using “Hard Returns” in your Manuscript

A few weeks ago, we told you to why you shouldn’t allow your publisher to format your book. As a matter of fact, we gave you 3 good reasons for this. However, neither of those reasons were relevant for you, so you decided to forgo formatting the book yourself.

Formatting a book is not a task to be taken lightly. If your book is poorly formatted, it can mean that you aren’t taken seriously. That’s why most self-publishing companies include interior formatting services in their fee. It is understood and accepted that authors usually don’t have time to learn the nuances of interior layout. When you allow your publisher to format your manuscript, there is one piece of advice you should keep in mind:

Don’t use hard returns.

A hard return occurs when you use the “Enter” key to break the line instead of letting it wrap naturally. Most word processing programs automatically take text that won’t fit on the current line to the next line.  Because your publisher will most likely be copying/pasting the text of your manuscript into their book design program, those hard returns can often throw off the formatting considerably. Because of this, publishers normally don’t accept manuscripts with hard returns. The only exception here is poetry books and using the “enter” key to go to the next paragraph.

Other than hard returns, can you think of any other things you had to change in order for your publisher to accept your manuscript?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

The 5Ws of Trade Discounts

To get the best understanding of your book’s price, you have to first understand that there are many individual entities that make up the pricing equation. One of those entities is the trade discount. That term can confuse authors at time, though the concept is not as difficult as it may initially seem. To give you a snapshot view of what trade discounting is, I’ve prepared a list of the 5Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) of Trade Discounts:

  • Who sets the trade discount? Sometimes the publisher sets the trade discount. At Outskirts Press, we allow authors to set their own discount.
  • What is the trade discount? The trade discount is the discount you extend to a retailer that is carrying your book. The discount you offer can range from 0% (no distribution) to 100% (highly unlikely).
  • When do I select my trade discount, and can I change it later? You select your trade discount before your book publishes, and while you can change your discount at any time, we don’t recommend it. Some retailers may not recognize the change for a while, and most likely you will incur additional costs for revising your book. It’s important to research trade discounts beforehand in order to make sure you are making the best decision for you and your book.
  • Where will your book be available when choosing certain trade discounts? The minimum trade discount is 20% for online-only distribution. If you want to penetrate most retail stores, you will want to offer a discount of 40-55% (your book must also be fully-returnable). If you’re targeting wholesale clubs (Sam’s Club, Costco, etc.), you will want to offer a discount between 60-75%.
  • Why do I have to offer a discount at all? Your discount determines the price retailers pay for your book (wholesale price). They then sell the book for more (in most cases) and keep the profit. If the retailer can’t make any profit, what’s the benefit of carrying your book? Keep in mind, though, the higher the trade discount, the lower your royalties. In order to make the transaction go smoothly for both parties, you must choose a happy medium from both perspectives (the retailer and you).

What trade discount have you set for your book? Has it allowed you to penetrate your target market?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Some Reasons Why Authors Need to be Copyright-Savvy

As a copyright clearance professional and trainer in copyright basics for creatives in the publishing sector, the arts, the public speaking arena, and the music industry, I often see the consequences in the new self-publishing and independent-publishing paradigm of a lack of knowledge about even the basics of copyright. The Internet, for example, offers a wealth of content, some of it serving as a resource and some as material that we can directly incorporate to enhance our own work. In today’s global marketplace, it is important to know how to locate and use copyrighted content while keeping the risks of infringement to a minimum.

Authors who are unaware of the consequences of plagiarism and infringement may find themselves facing some unpleasant decisions regarding their work.  If they are accused of either activity, they may have to defend their reputation and struggle to diminish the damage such an accusation can make on their career. If they have to defend themselves in court, they may face costly attorney fees. If they lose, they may have to remove all their books from the sales mechanism they have chosen and discard them. They may have to pay damages of as much as $30,000 per work infringed and, if the infringement is found to be willful, they could have to pay damages of up to $150,000 per work infringed.

Three common misconceptions about using copyrighted content follow:

Misconception 1: A small amount of copying is always OK.

This is not true.  There is no law that states a specific amount of words or lines are a fair use. Even a line or two of lyrics or a line or two of poetry can be an infringement, for example.

Misconception 2: Giving credit for a quote excuses its use without permission.

This is not true. Giving credit for a copyrighted work only makes its use free of plagiarism. The use of a copyrighted work accompanied by a credit, but lacking a permission, may still be determined an infringement.

Misconception 3: It is always OK to publish a photograph if the physical copy is in possession of the user/publisher.

This is not true.  The possessor of a physical copy of an artwork or photograph is not necessarily the owner of its copyright.  Another consideration with the use of a photograph is the use of the images within the photograph. For example, there can be problems related to copyright ownership with publishing even a family photo if permission hasn’t been obtained from family members included in it and from the photographer who took the photograph.

 

Joyce Miller is co-founder and co-owner of Integrated Writer Services, LLC. She does manuscript assessments, copyright clearance, and advising on instances of plagiarism, infringement, misquoting, and improper citing. For more information about Joyce and the services she provides, go to www.permissionacquistion.com or contact her directly at joycem@writerservices.biz.

The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

There are pros and cons to any endeavor. Though we’d all like to say that our solution relieves the end user from making any of the wrong decisions, that’s simply not the case. However, there is a good and bad side of each coin. Here are a few related to self publishing:

Pros

  • Freedom of expression — you write your own words. You don’t have to change what you’ve written or even edit your manuscript.
  • You control how your book looks — everything from the cover to the interior formatting is in your hands.
  • You set your own price — it can be a low or high as you would like.
  • You receive 100% of your royalties — there’s no middleman stealing your profits.

Cons

  • No one critiques your manuscript — how can you be sure your story is “worth reading”?
  • You don’t have to edit your manuscript — a messy manuscript turns into a poorly-written book that very few people (if any) will want to read.
  • You control your book’s design — this is great if you’re a designer but not so great if you have limited graphic skills.

The best route to take is to choose a reputable self-publishing company. Interview several of them until you find the one that best suits your needs. That way, you can be given much of the same guidance you’d receive going with a “traditional” publisher, but you’ll enjoy many of the same freedoms that come along with self publishing.

What other pros/cons can you think come along with self publishing territory?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Your Book WILL Be Judged by Its Cover

Today’s post is by publishing industry expert, Cheri Breeding.

Readers will judge your book by its cover — and quickly. Statistics show that the average person will decide to buy your book within 8 seconds of  seeing your cover. That’s an expensive piece of real estate! It helps you get noticed and is usually directly correlated to sales success.

My book is well-written and packed with intriguing content. Doesn’t that count for something? Of course, but if no one ever sees your book’s content because of a boring cover, how much will that help your sales? Have you ever heard the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? This is especially true for books. Your cover should be 10x better than the content on the inside. So, if you have AMAZING content, you must have an EXTRAORDINARY book cover.

To put it in another perspective — when you go shopping for clothes, how do you pick what to wear? Do you pick the best-looking shirt? Or, do you blindly choose a shirt off the rack irregardless of looks? If you’re like most people, you choose based on aesthetics. This example was about clothes, but books are no different. People are drawn to things they find attractive. There’s very little attraction to a Plain-Jane cover. People like to see pictures and text intertwined in a visually pleasing way. Some books can get away with text only covers, but the layout must be creative in some way to get people to read it.

If you saw the two covers below (for children’s books), which would you choose to find out more about?

One Wacky Wasp book cover

If you’re like most people, you chose the top book. Don’t you see just how important a “pretty” cover is to your book sales?

A professionally-designed cover is important for online sales, but even more important if you plan to “sell” your book to the brick-and-mortar booksellers. A buyer will also apply the 8 second rule to your book before making the decision to purchase it. They see many books every day. If yours doesn’t stand out, they likely won’t be interested.

Getting a custom cover design is expensive! What if I can’t afford to pay for it? Maybe now is not the best time to publish your book. Continue saving and set aside enough money to do it right the first time. That way, you won’t have any regrets later. Think of your cover design as an early investment in your book promotion strategy as a lame design can affect the overall “saleability” of the book.

DISCUSSION: Did you pass on a professionally designed book cover? How do you think you think your sales have been affected?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

 

Is Your Back Cover Copy Driving Away Potential Readers?

Today’s post is by publishing industry expert, Cheri Breeding.

When I’m looking for a book to read, the first thing that catches my attention is the front cover — whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between. After that, I flip the book over to take a peek at what’s said on the back cover. After roughly 10-15 seconds of reading, I know whether I want to buy that book. That’s how crucial effective copy is to the success of your book.

Are you making rookie mistakes that are pushing readers in the opposite direction of your book? Here’s a quick test to be sure:

  • How much time did you put into writing the copy for your book cover? You should spend a good amount of time here. Of course, you don’t need to spend as much as you did writing the book, but you must put some serious thought into crafting the “right” back cover copy.
  • Did you include a hook? A hook is a brief (possibly 5-7 words) statement that “hooks” the reader into wanting to read more. A catchy hook is second only to a strong title (and a well-written book). It usually appears at the top of the back cover.
  • Can your reader get intimate with your book’s topic or characters in the synopsis? Your synopsis should be to the point yet interesting. Ideally, you should introduce one or two (or more) of your main characters/topics in the synopsis as well as provide a bit of background for the story.
  • Does your potential reader know what to expect from your story by reading  the synopsis? If I don’t know what I’m getting myself into with a project, I’m hesitant to get involved. The same is true for books. If you haven’t given me a “sneak peek”, I will be less likely to move forward with the purchase.
  • Are you introducing yourself in your author bio? Make sure to include an author bio that allows people to get to know you on the level you prefer. Your bio should read as if you’re a real person — BECAUSE YOU ARE!

If you find yourself stuck on any of these, it’s better to hire a professional writer to compose these pieces for you. Your publisher may be able to point you in the right direction. For example, at Outskirts Press, we have  service called Cover Scribing where one of our writers compose your back cover copy for you.

DISCUSSION: Do you have any experience with back cover copy gone bad? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

Is Your Ineffective Book Title Costing You Sales?

Today’s post is by publishing industry expert, Cheri Breeding.

Did you know that a strong book title can many times translate to more sales for the author? Or that a weak (or ineffective) title can many times mean lackluster sales?

Not only do readers judge a book by its cover, but they also find books based on their title. For instance, if you’ve written a book about the battles of the Civil War, you surely want readers to find you using the term “civil war” or “civil war battles”. If your title is not reflective of the subject, you can miss out on readers. The title Love Lost, for example, would not be one I would click to if I’m looking for information about the war. Your title, while catchy and creative, just cost you a sale.

You should consider ALL of the following when choosing a book title:

  • How catchy is it (will people remember it)?
  • Is it unique/original (search bookstores for other books with the same title)?
  • Does it include the keywords/phrases you want to be found for?

Remember your title doesn’t have to stand alone. A strong subtitle can help a title that may not be descriptive enough alone. Referring to the example above, Love Lost: Short Love Stories of the Civil War is much more descriptive and would encourage a reader searching for “Civil War battles” to at least take a peek (provided you have an attention-grabbing cover).

While a subtitle is not required, you can see that many times it can make the difference by adding a few additional keywords, etc. that are related to the title.

DISCUSSION: What tips do you have for authors choosing a book title?

Cheri Breeding ABOUT CHERI BREEDING:
Since 2005 Cheri Breeding has been working as the Director of Production for Outskirts Press. In that time, she has been an instrumental component of every aspect of the Production Department, performing the roles of an Author Representative, Book Designer, Customer Service Representative, Title Production Supervisor, Production Manager and, Director of Production. She brings all that experience and knowledge, along with an unparalleled customer-service focus, to help self-publishing authors reach high-quality book publication more efficiently, professionally, and affordably.