Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Publish in Print or on the 'Net? Part 3

Just a little history of sorts.

One day I was watching my daughter using a website called Facebook and was intrigued by the thought that she could maintain contact with not just her present classmates but old ones as well. She was also regularly chatting with our relatives and friends in other provinces in the Philippines and also in the US. I decided I would try this for myself.

While exploring the features of this new trend, I found something called Notes. It was being used by a few of my friends to share quotations from famous and not-so-famous people. I didn't want to be a copycat so I thought I'd share stories instead. I decided I would write about my travels to the few countries I'd been to. I didn't really care much about whether people would enjoy them. I just wanted to write.

Several notes later, I began to have a small group of followers, people who read the stories and commented or liked them.This little band grew to 18 whom my wife jokingly referred to as my "fan club." Encouraged, I began writing in more detail. I cut the stories into little parts since I couldn't write all day or night. After writing one part, the comments would say, "Can't wait for Part 5," or something similar. It was very rewarding. Then a chance conversation at the canteen at work jolted me.

There were six of us at the table and the conversation turned to Facebook. I discovered that all five people at the table were following my stories. They had not posted any comments or even clicked the "like" button. Soon, it became evident that quite a number of people on my friends list were reading my notes and were enjoying them. A germ of an idea began to form.

I only have three international trips under my belt so when those stories ended, I started writing experiences from my local travels. One story, a ghost story, garnered the most number of comments and that germ began multiplying and infecting my entire being. When the series ended, I copied everything into a file and began rewriting. I was going to write a book version.

My first attempt at getting published was by mailing my manuscripts to print publishers. In the Philippines, the choices are very limited. Most of them only worked with text books, some specialized in Christian or Catholic books, while others only took self-help, poetry, inspirational in addition to text books. Hardly anyone wanted non-fiction which was the genre where my book  fit into. I was also spending too much money sending my 120+ pages, double-spaced, single-sided manuscripts to publishers. I tried to find solace in stories of authors who had to make 20 or more submissions before being accepted.

I also made inquiries to subsidized publishers. These are print-book publishers who will take your book and publish it but you will have to pay for the proofreading/editing, the making of the cover, and the printing. It's sort of half-way between using a regular publisher and self-publishing. The only problem was that I couldn't afford their prices the least of which would have cost me over six months salary.

So, I began considering self-publishing. I started checking around for requirements to register as a business and gathered names of printing companies as well as asking for names of budding artists who could do my cover. My English is not bad but I was seriously thinking of hiring someone to proofread my book. I was getting ready to print two copies of my manuscripts and downloaded application forms for copyright and the ISBN. In the back of my mind was the thought that I might be putting my family's meager's resources in jeopardy for a dream that might not pay for food on the table. Then, a post on Facebook changed everything.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Publish in Print or on the 'Net? Part 2

Publishing via the 'Net

We've touched on the expensive way of getting published so now we'll get into the cheapest or “freeiest” (I know, there's no such word) method of publishing.

The World Wide Web offers budding authors a chance to get their works published and possibly reach more people than is possible with print books and there are several ways of going about it. Let's explore them:

a.) Make your own website - This is probably the most expensive way to get published on the 'net. You purchase a site or pay to obtain the rights to a site and write your books/articles there. One advantage of getting a website is the freedom to design the site as you want it. As with a book's cover, how you design your website may influence if people will visit or pass it by.

You can write your book so that anyone can read them for free or you can offer people a short glimpse into your books and have them buy the whole book if they find it interesting enough. There are also other ways to make money from these sites other than selling. If your site draws in a lot of visitors, you can have businesses advertise on your site and you can earn from either the mere posting of the ad or get a small cut whenever someone clicks on an ad. Some people have earned enough from blogs that they can afford to leave their regular jobs. Be warned, however, these people are usually the exceptions. There are lots of bloggers out there and quite a number are interested in making money out of their postings.

b.) Create a blog - There are lots of blog sites where you can post your stories or whatevers for anyone to read. If you're only interested in sharing your work and not in earning from them, this is probably the best way to go. If you're still interested in earning a little off the side, you can put advertisements on your blog. You can get Google Adsense to put ads in your site and pay you a small (and I mean "small") fee whenever someone clicks on an ad. As the site owner, you dictate where these ads appear. You can put them where they don't interfere with your writings or you can put them where they can easily draw the visitor's attention.

c.) Contribute articles to a webzine - This is a magazine on the web. One advantage of contributing to a webzine is that you have ready access to their readers. This is where I first got published...sort of. An editor asked for people who wanted to provide answers or insights to certain matters and I responded. I did this several times before the editor moved on to other things. Seeing my comments on the web and print version was a very satisfying experience.

eBook Publishing

There's one other method of getting your book to readers that I'd like to share and it's ebook publishing. An ebook publisher is similar to a regular publisher except that they will produce an ebook out of your piece instead of a print book. An ebook can be read on a computer or electronic reader like the Kindle, the Apple iPad or other similar tablet computer. Potentially, an ebook has a larger reach than a print book because millions of people access the internet at any given time whereas maybe a few tens or hundred thousands of people are inside bookstores at the same time.

There are two types of ebook publishers: full service publishers and you, the independent publisher (aka: indie publisher).

A full service publisher will proofread and edit your book, create an electronic cover and format it for reading on a number of readers. They'll also take care of distribution. Since they provide some service, ebook publishers tend to give smaller royalties though it's still more substantial than print book publishers, in the order of about 50%.

Now we're into what I call ebook self-publishing. Similar to self-publishing print books, you do everything or you hire someone to proofread and format the book and design the cover. The only advantage to doing it yourself is that it's free. Lots of authors do this and if you're a good enough English writer, a fair graphic artist and knowledgeable with formatting, this is the preferred way to publish.

A word about formatting. There are several formats out there that are designed to work with specific readers. A .doc file works with MS Word though this is not the preferred reader for ebooks. There's pdf for Adobe Reader (or any other pdf reading software), txt for Notepad, epub for the Apple iPad, and a few more.

Once you've gone through your book with a fine toothed comb, acquired or created a satisfactory cover and formatted your book, you're ready to distribute. This is done by submitting your ebook to a distributor.

Publish in Print or on the 'Net? Part 1

Several people have asked me questions about the difference between getting published on the 'net vs getting published in print. While I don't consider myself an expert, I guess a little experience will have to suffice as credentials.

Getting published in print:

There are two ways to get published in print: a.) via a regular publisher, and b.) via self-publishing.

Regular Publisher

This is the usual way to get your book printed. You submit your manuscript to a publisher and they read it. If they like it, they'll contact you for further discussions or, if they don't like it, they'll send you a nice rejection letter. I'm an expert in the latter but I took the time to learn what happens if they do the former.

So they like your book and want to publish it. They'll call you to set up a meeting to discuss things like: number of copies to print,copyright, royalties and other things. You both agree on an initial quantity of books to print. If the book sells well enough, you can decide to increase the quantity later. You also agree on how long the publisher will keep the book in print (usually two years). They apply for the copyright for you except that they will license it for a time. Essentially, you both own the book. The sharing of profits, however, is anything but 50-50.

Royalties range from about 5% to 15%. If you're wondering why, think about it from the publisher's point of view. He's going to pay for the editing, the printing, the marketing, practically everything except write the book. You, the author, just sit and wait (not exactly but close enough). The publisher's doing all the work and taking the chance that your book will sell well enough to give him a decent profit.

So, assuming you both agree on the essentials, your book goes through the process. First, it has to go through proof-reading. After an initial proof, your manuscript goes back to you with proposed corrections (spelling, grammar, different way of saying this or that or even a change in title). If you're not okay with it, you make your comments and the editor looks it over again. Once both of you are satisfied, they make a trial print. Again, this goes to you for approval/suggestions and back to the printer for corrections. This part doesn't go through more than two iterations since making those trial prints costs money with no profit. Parallel to this is the creation of the cover. An artist coordinates with you on a suitable cover, going through the same back and forth consultations. When everyone's happy, the book goes to the printer.

Okay, now your book's printed and ready to be sold. The publisher takes care of marketing but you need to participate too. This is done through book signings, radio and television interviews, public appearances, and any other method of getting your book known to the public.

Now, you're probably itching to know about when do you get paid. I was a little disappointed to learn that authors get paid on a quarterly basis instead of monthly. I've since found that expecting to make enough sales to merit monthly payment is terribly unlikely. Indeed, every article I've ever read says that you probably won't be leaving your day job to concentrate on making a living out of writing.

Self-Publishing

If you don't like the idea of getting less than 15% of the sales for your book, you might want to look into self-publishing. As the name implies, this is where you do everything—or almost everything. This way you keep all the profits to yourself. Famous authors who've done it this way are:

John Grisham
Mark Twain
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Allen Poe
Benjamin Franklin
Beatrix Potter - The Adventures of Peter Rabbit

So what do you need to do to self-publish?

You've already got your manuscript but you need to make sure that it's as near perfect as it can be. This means proofreading. If your grammar and spelling skills are good, you can do it yourself. If you're not so sure, you can hire someone to do it for you. Looking for someone who's that good will be a bit difficult, not to mention, expensive. If your old English teacher will do it for free, then lucky for you.

Next, you'll need a nice cover. If you're a decent artist, you might do this yourself, otherwise, you pay someone to do it for you. This early, you need to decide on the dimensions of your book so that you or the artist can arrange everything as you want it. The old saying, "don't judge a book by its cover," only works on humans. In the real sense of the phrase, the first thing that will attract a potential buyer is the cover. I have no idea what works and what doesn't. I'll have to research on that but don't count on my reporting about it anytime in the next year or so.

We haven't gone into printing yet. There's a few things you'd want to do before going ahead.

Apply for a copyright with your local copyright office. In the Philippines, that would be the National Library. In the U.S., it's the Library of Congress, I believe. For other countries, it will probably be a similar government institution.

You need to send two copies of your manuscript along with an application, affidavit, documentary stamps, and a postal money order as payment. It's not terribly expensive, in fact, in the Philippines it's just P200 plus P10 worth of documentary stamps. Of course, the cost of mailing the documents is an additional expense. Note that the requirements may be different for other countries.

Next, you'll need an ISBN, that's International Standard Book Number. This number is a unique identifier for every book sold. Bookstores, publishers, libraries, universities and the like use this number to track books. Book titles aren't good for tracking since titles can't be owned. If you ever publish a new edition of your book, you'll need a separate ISBN for it.

They're not expensive either, just P120 per title. If you plan on giving your book away for free, as a gift perhaps, or if you're planning to sell it direct, you probably won't need an ISBN, but if you plan to sell it, most bookstores require it. Also, when you apply for an ISBN, you'll have to register as a business. That involves taxes, permits, and all the evils that having a business entails.

Okay, let's leave the unpleasant things and go on to printing. In this modern age, printing is faster and easier than it used to be. All you need is a computer, some software and a good quality printer. Again, you can do this yourself or hire a professional printer. Your choice will be dependent on quantity. If you're only printing a few copies as gifts, or print-on-demand, you can't go wrong with good ol' do-it-yourself. Be warned, however, that you have to do your own cutting of the book to size, and bookbinding. I've actually printed and bookbound my own books for personal use and it's difficult if you do it with ordinary tools. Depending on how long your book is, you'll probably be able to make between five to ten books a day.

If you plan on mass producing, a professional printer will be more cost effective. You agree on a quantity of copies, give him the software file, the cover art and wait for him to deliver your books.

I've never marketed my book so I can't give much info about it. If I had gone the self-publish way, I'd have to learn from scratch. Again, you can have a professional do the marketing or do it yourself. Personally, I shudder at the thought of lugging my books around bookstores and negotiating with the owners/managers. Selling has never been my forte. Of course, if I plan on giving the book away for free, or sell it on-demand, it'll be easier.

So that's self-publishing. You can go the full monty and do everything yourself or hire others to do all or part of the work. The essence is you're in charge and you keep all the profits.

Next we'll look at publishing on the 'Net.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Howdy!

Hello everyone!

I've just opened this blog and will be adding content in the next few days. God bless everyone! (",)