Buh-Bye, 2013–Howdy to the New Year

2013 was a helluva year. Lots of personal drama. Evacuated because of a fire, followed by months of malaise from the smoke because the entire state of Colorado was on fire. Massive rains and subsequent flooding that destroyed my basement. Far too many days spent at the hospital with my children and grandbaby. One thing after another and wondering, oh god, what’s next?

QuinnSeatBut 2013 was an amazing year, too. The Amazing Poop Machine is happy, healthy and growing fast. Everyone is healthy now. I got a promotion–Larry Block has dubbed me The Production Goddess. (I’m practicing how to work that into casual conversation.) I worked with some incredible writers this year: Thomas Pluck, Randall Wood, Jerrold Mundis, Julia R. Barrett, Robert Silverberg, Katherine O’Neal, William Arnold, Sharon Reamer, Carole Nomarhas, Chuck Dixon, Steven Ramirez, Penny Watson, Marina Bridges, and far too many others to list. (Heh. I always wanted a job where I am paid to read, and now I have it and it’s the best job ever!)

Burglar_Limited-XmasI took part in a project that tops my Best Of list for all time. Lawrence Block’s new novel, The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, which he decided to self publish. From the first read of the manuscript to receiving the gorgeous hardcover limited edition in the mail, it was The Dream Job. I ended up producing four editions, including a print-on-demand Large Print edition. (You can find the ebook and trade paperback here and the special limited edition here.)

The best part of the year was learning new skills. I’ve learned tons and tons about ebook covers. (And bless you brave folks who have allowed me to do my on-the-job-training with your books!)

Cover montageI’ve learned to format fiction for CreateSpace print-on-demand editions. It’s way different than ebooks and a lot trickier, but it’s well worth the effort. (Pay no heed to the bald spots where I ripped out my hair in frustration. Heh.) At the risk of annoying the Hubris Gods, my book designs are pretty darned good.

pod montageIn the coming year, I’ll be stretching way beyond ebooks. I want to do concierge publishing for writers who’ve reclaimed their back lists and need to bring them back to life. I’d like to offer troubleshooting and production consulting for do-it-yourselfers. I can even do graphics for ebooks–wouldn’t your ebook look delicious with something fun like this for your chapter heads and title page?

titleSo buh-bye and sweet dreams to you, 2013. 2014 is here and it’s going to be a good one. I can feel it! And as a very special treat for all you writers out there, here it is, hot off the production line, available at CreateSpace, and soon available at Amazon and LB’s Book Store, the brand new print edition of Write For Your Life: The Home Seminar for Writers.

wfyl blog

POD Books. Is Everybody Doing It? Why Not?

LB collectionIt’s no secret that I love books. I’ve been a voracious reader since age 4, when I discovered there were worlds within covers and I could visit whenever I liked. Since acquiring my Kindle, my book hoarding tendencies are firmly under control. (At least on the surface)

Here is what I dislike about books–the waste. Do you know what happens to mass market paperbacks nobody buys? The covers are ripped off the spines and returned to the publisher for credit while the books themselves are discarded. Remainders are stacked on the “nobody loves me” tables, with ugly stickers marring their jackets, or gathered up by remainder companies that push them cheap in warehouse-like environments. Publishers guess at how many books will sell, and if they guess wrong (which is most of the time) a lot of books go to waste. Not to mention what all that overage, warehousing, shipping and stocking and unstocking does to book prices.

Enter Print-on-Demand, which I happen to think is the best invention since the printing press. Granted, I wasn’t impressed when POD books started showing up in my local library. Many looked little better than bound manuscripts and they had a cheesiness about them that offended my bibliophilic sensibilities.

That’s changed. A lot. On the outside, POD trade paperbacks are indistinguishable from trad pubbed books. In the hands of a skilled designer, the interiors are just as good, too. The technology has caught up to the medium and it’s getting better all the time. Even better, no waste. No warehousing. No printing a thousand to sell a hundred. No stripping. No endless cycles of overbuying and returns.

For indie writers, offering POD editions is becoming less a “perhaps” and more a sound business strategy. Amazon will be launching a bundling program called Matchbook. Buy the print book, get the digital edition for cheap or free. It’s a way to get your books into libraries. As B&N declines as a major brick-and-mortar presence, indie bookstores are regaining market share. They need stock. Sure, they’re (in general) hostile to indie books, but reality has a way of intruding into even the most deeply held prejudices. Plus, current distribution models are not sustainable. It didn’t work all so good when it was a closed system and it works even worse now that it’s opening up. POD could prove to be a boon to smaller bookstores.

In light of all that, that is where my newest obsessions are leading me. I’ve been up past midnight for days now, figuring out print book layout. I’ve been sorely tempted to use one of Joel Friedlander’s templates. He has decades of experience in book design and I’d trust anything he produces. But I can’t learn by filling in the blanks. I have, however, been devouring the articles on his website. If you’re interested in learning how to design and layout print books, that is where you can start.

Ebooks are so simple by comparison.

In any case, if I’m quiet for a while, it’s because I’m immersed. I have a grasp on the basics, and I certainly have enough good role models on my bookshelves. I have hope that I can someday produce beautiful print books, too.

 

Print on Demand Books

I have to say, the Espresso Book Machine is cool!

When I win the Powerball lottery, after I remember to buy tickets, I’m getting one of those.

Having gone through the process of producing a POD book, I am very impressed by the quality of the finished product (I used CreateSpace). I am impressed with the cost. Especially the part about only paying for copies I needed right then, and not having to worry about warehousing. I think one of the things I like best about POD is the frugality of it. Waste hurts my heart. When a publisher does a print run of 10,000 copies, and only 6,000 sell, that means 4,000 copies end up pulped. What a waste.

And one must not discount the sheer pleasure, the wonderful thrill, of holding in your hands an object you’ve created.

Where does one manufacture a print on demand book? The three biggest companies are CreateSpace, Lulu, and Lightning Source. (I’ve used CreateSpace–user friendly, relatively painless process) Before you decide which one to go with, do your research and weigh the distribution options.

What do you need to make a print on demand book? A cover file and a book file and some time.

I’ve had several people query me about formatting a print book file, and I’ve had to say no. Print layout is a whole ‘nother animal from ebook formatting. Having screwed around with templates from CreateSpace, and thoroughly muffed them and made big messes, I realized that templates or no templates, there is a learning curve. So learning how to make professional looking print books would take some time. Time I haven’t had time for.

Now! I can stop stressing over it. Now I have Jayne.

pod batf sample

pod batf sample2Meet Jayne. A talented designer with an eye for typography and layout. She can do covers, too, including taking an existing ebook cover and turning it into a cover for print.

(If she gets annoyed by me standing over her shoulder, watching her work magic on the computer, repeating, “Oh geez, how do you do that?” well, she is much too nice to mention it.)

Random pages from a book, just to show them off because they look very nice, don't they?

Random pages from a book, just to show them off because they look very nice, don’t they?

pod sfa sample2Not only is Jayne wonderfully talented, she has the same philosophy about book production that I do. She loves books. She loves beautiful books. She’s proud of her creations and wants the authors to be proud of them, too.

It’s fun working with her. We’ve done some projects where she does the cover and I do the ebook. (In the above samples, she modified the existing Beauty and the Feast ebook cover for print, and did the original for the Spirituality For America ebook and print cover) It’s much easier to do a cohesive package when the two of us can consult on font choices and tone and images. (Added bonus, she’s a terrific proofreader–and that’s a chore I don’t mind sharing in the least!) Below is a sample of a cover she created and the graphics I made based on her work for the ebook interior.

pod dample3So, if you’re thinking about print on demand, and wish to discuss your project, give us a shout. I no longer have to say no.