Category Archives: Book Printing

Word on the Street with Bob Megantz

Through my years in publishing, I have worked with some really great authors.  All of these authors approach self publishing with their own agenda and expertise.   Since the whole point of my blog and book is to look at the reality of self-publishing, I thought it would be nice to do a series of author interviews.  Welcome to ‘Word on the Street’.

My author interviews will consist of 6 questions about them, their book and their experience.  You will get the good, the bad and the ugly.  Not all real self publishing stories are full of rainbows and butterflies – it can suck sometimes too.

Tell us about it, Bob Megantz:

IMG_0248

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

Bob: I am a musician and audio engineer, and I have a great interest in tube guitar amplifiers.  I found no reliable, accurate information in published books or magazines on the topic.  In fact, I found lots of misinformation, so I wanted to produce a clear, correct, and concise resource for interested musicians and equipment designers.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

Bob: Designing and Constructing Guitar Amplifiers. This is the only self-published book I have written.  Two other books I wrote (How to License Technology and Technology Management: Designing and Implementing Effective Licensing Programs) were published by Wiley.

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

Bob:  I currently sell directly from my Web site and through Ebay, and indirectly through several vendors and through the Amazon Advantage program.  Most of my books are sold through Amazon.  I advertise in two guitar-related magazines (Guitar Player and Vintage Guitar), and participate in several related forums.

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

Bob:  Several useful related resources are listed in the bibliography.  There is a great deal of useful information on this topic available on the Web.  If you are referring to resources useful in marketing my book, Amazon has been the most useful (and also takes the biggest cut).

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

Bob:  Fulfillment.  While fulfillment services are available, they are expensive (and labor-intensive), so I have been handling fulfillment myself.  I make many trips to the PO.

 RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

Bob:  Write about what you love.  Don’t worry about commerciality while writing.  I say this because writers will in all likelihood gain modest (at best) financial rewards.   Figure out for whom you are writing, and ways to contact those people.  If you want to sell books, promote and advertise. The world will not beat a path to your door.

AUTHOR BIO

I’ve been involved in music and electronics since the 60’s, when I electrified my ukulele.  My parents had a Magnavox record player, whose ceramic cartridge plugged into the amplifier via a RCA jack.  I bought a contact microphone from the local electronics store, attached it to my ax, plugged in to the Magnavox, and counted off “Memphis.”

That seemed to get my parents’ attention, so they bought me a Heathkit shortwave radio kit for Christmas, along with a Weller “pistol-grip” soldering iron.  I assembled the radio, attached the antenna, turned it on, and it started howling.  I couldn’t get it to work right until I resoldered every joint in the radio.

By this time we’d moved to Jersey, and I started buying my own equipment.  First up was a Lafayette amplifier, which, if I recall correctly, used two 6BQ5’s in its push-pull output stage.  I connected the amplifier to the 12” speaker in the console TV in my bedroom, and plugged my uke into the phono input.  I had no idea why it sounded so bassy…

I upgraded to electric guitar in ’67, when my folks bought me a used Fender Jazzmaster.  I joined a band with my friends, but I needed an amp, so I emptied my savings account and bought an Ampeg Gemini II at the local music store.  Luckily, it included the dolly, since I had to push it all the way home.

I took that rig to Cornell University, where I studied Electrical Engineering, including a couple of courses on electronic music taught by Robert Moog.  I also took every music class I could, and worked part time as an electronics technician at the Cornell Synchrotron.   My guitar never sounded quite right to me, so I started by changing the speaker in the amp, and then, in ’70, I sold the Jazzmaster and bought a Gibson ES-335, which I still play today.   The Ampeg went next, first for a Marshall Major, then a long string of other amps.

After graduation I headed out to Santa Barbara, where I worked for a couple of years testing integrated circuits for Burroughs.  I was still playing in bands, and I started building my own equipment, both amps and speaker systems.   I then moved to San Francisco, where I eventually ended up working at Dolby Laboratories as an audio engineer.   I learned much of what you will read in Chapter 1 at Dolby.

In the last decade or so I have been taking a more orderly and comprehensive approach to amplifier design.  I began, like most designers, by repairing and modifying various Fender, Ampeg, Marshall, and other designs.  Later, I began constructing new amplifiers, first using existing units, such as Fender Bassmen, as platforms, and then designing and constructing all electrical and mechanical parts of the amplifier.  Each amplifier was used in performances with various guitars, speakers, and effects systems.

This experience has provided the basis for the book you are about to read.

BOOKS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE

www.amazon.com

www.tactec.biz

 

 

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Word on the Street with PJ Cowan

Through my years in publishing, I have worked with some really great authors.  All of these authors approach self publishing with their own agenda and expertise.   Since the whole point of my blog and book is to look at the reality of self-publishing, I thought it would be nice to do a series of author interviews.  Welcome to ‘Word on the Street’.

My author interviews will consist of 6 questions about them, their book and their experience.  You will get the good, the bad and the ugly.  Not all real self publishing stories are full of rainbows and butterflies – it can suck sometimes too.

My first author is PJ Cowan.   I chose PJ first for many reasons.   She is one of my longest standing clients to date.   An amazing Grandma who has made all her stories come to life for her grandchildren and great-grand children.  PJ has 33 titles published with us.  She also pays for these books to be printed and then gives them away to shelters so the children there can have something special to read and share.  That’s pretty cool!

Here we go.  Come on down, PJ.

PJ Cowan

Real Answer Real Authors: Why did you decide to publish?

PJ: I love writing; I have great-grandchildren I had never met, so I decided to write for them.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

PJ: PJ’s Bedtime stories, Corner Cupboard, The Giant Question, Giggle-Grump-Gurgle, I am-It,  What do you Feed an Imaginary Dragon, Michael O’Brien and The Magic Hat, The Adventures of Neddy and Teddy Fairy, Penelope Pilkington Had a Dream, Popcorn and Wild Nightmares…there are actually 23 more titles but for the sake of space…

RARA: How are you currently marketing your book and what has given you the best results?

PJ: I market through my web site which is directly connected to www.mirasmartshop.com.  My books are also listed for sale on Amazon.  My best results for sales has been getting out there, arranging book signings and meeting the folks who may be interested buying my books.

RARA: Are there any books or websites that you have found the most useful?

PJ: “How To” books were pretty scarce back then. I got advice through a successful fellow author.  I started with www.mikemotz.com while looking for illustrators and found Mira Digital Publishing when I was ready to go to print

RARA: What has been your greatest challenge in self publishing?

PJ: Finding a decent site.  When I first started out, the only self publishing sites were Vanity press and sites like Lulu.  Vanity press was a joke.  They wanted $10,000 to publish one book, and they retained the copyrights.  Lulu was better, but the printing was expensive and they retained the rights for a period of time.  Then, one day I answered a mailer from Mira Digital Publishing, and was, and five years later still am, thrilled with the results.

RARA: What is the best advice or tip you can give a new and aspiring author?

PJ: That is no brainer. Find an up to date “How To” book and a reputable  self-publishing site.  One that will charge you a fair price for their services, advise and guide you through the process. One that will help protect your copyright, and give you a product you can be proud of.

Author Bio:   My writing is inspired by two things, Family and experience. My mother wrote poetry. After she died, a collection of poetry and two short stories were found in a notebook. I thought at the time it was a shame she had never been published.

I made up stories for my kids when they were little and my oldest son Mike encouraged me to write them down. After mom died, I decided that now was the time to do that.

I had great grandchildren whom I had not met, and decided to write for them. Thus, Pricilla Jean, PJ to my friends, began “writing them down.

Books available at: www.mirasmartshop.com and www.amazon.com.  Just a glimpse of some of the books available…

Backward-Billy-CoverBe-My-Friend-CoverOgres,-Fairies,-and-Butterfly-Wings-CoverGrandma's-Garden-Cover

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The Nitty Gritty on Press Releases

So now that my book will be launching very soon (August 1), I need to let everyone know about it.  How do I write the release?  Who is going to care about my little book?  Where do I send it?   Well, as it turns out – there are tons of places to send it…and for FREE!   Did I mention FREE!?!  I don’t know about you but that makes me happy.  I always stick to doing free first.  Make a few bucks and then look at investing it back into your business (your book).  I did quite a bit of research on press releases and found some good info and templates to help guide me.

WHAT?  A press release is an official statement of a news story intended for newspapers, journalists and other media.  The media uses this release and makes it known to the public.

WHO?  You – yes, you the author must do a press release.  You can also hire someone to do it and the cost could range from $100-500.  I think it is a good idea to have a professional review this for you.  Journalists will be turned off immediately if there are misspellings, etc. and it appears unprofessional.  At least have a professional editor take a glance.  Your printer usually has someone on staff or go to a local writing chapter.  There are ALWAYS editors there.

WHEN? It is best to distribute the release when the book is ready to launch and then periodically after that for more exposure.  Maybe re-write and try it again 2 months later.  Some would argue there is no good time of day but most of the research says that early in the week and early in the day. Don’t send at 8 am on weekdays – make it more like 9-10 am.  Your release will get lost in the email abyss if it is sent too early.   Don’t send over the weekend for obvious reasons.

HOW?  I discovered quite a few good samples and templates online.  There are 4 major parts of a release: 1) Headline, 2) Summary Statement, 3) Main Body, 4) Biographical Info.  I liked the simple layout of this template: Press-Release-Template.  Also search online for sample book press releases if you need to brainstorm and get ideas or motivation.

WHERE? Again, always start with free first but don’t think that quantity is better than quality.  No one wants to be a habitual spammer of releases.  Personally, I will send to all the free sites but then dig into local media and send to appropriate
sources and get the quality too.  This will take time and effort but will be worthwhile.  Tweak the release to fit the personality of different journalists, maybe a personal note as well wouldn’t hurt.   Let them know why the release is important to them – but only in 2-3 sentences (not paragraphs).  Plan to email this and put the release in the body.  Don’t attach a pdf.  Journalists will not open because of time and fear of a virus.  If you plan on faxing it then you need to put your floppy discs and Jane Fonda VHS tapes in the trash and join us in 2013.

Here is a list of places to start:

  1. Your website – FREE
  2. Local Newspapers/Radio channels – FREE
  3. PRLog.com – FREE
  4. Link to 50 other places to distribute release – FREE http://www.avangate.com/community/resources/article/press-release-distribution.htm
  5. PRWeb.com – NOT FREE (I did start an account to inquire and they have contacted me by phone and email since – good follow up.  Also heard they are good to work with)
  6. Mass Media Distribution – NOT FREE
  7. 24-7 Press Release – NOT FREE

WHY? Uh, so people know about your book and you sell more copies.  That’s pretty much it.

So in a nutshell….

DO’S

  1. Do have it edited or a professional help you.
  2. Do make it newsy – bring out the expert in you and be the source they need to talk to.
  3. Do send it out amongst all free release sites.  Also be specific and target certain journalists that will be prone to writing about your topic.  Tweak your press release to fit that journalist or publication.
  4. Do seek out newspaper/radio media – start with local media first.
  5. Do get to the point.  Keep the release brief and no longer than one page.
  6. Do follow a template to make sure your release is done correctly and you provide proper info.
  7. Do keep it in the 3rd person.
  8. Do try and try again.  Sending out releases is like going fishing – sometimes they bite and sometimes they don’t.

DON’T’S

  1. Don’t use crazy fonts.
  2. Don’t start release with headline in all caps/bold/underlined.  Capitalize the heading like you would a title for a book.
  3. Don’t send pdf attachment of the release.
  4. Don’t just send the release to any person you know with an email.

I hope that helps everyone with press releases.  It is not something you have to hire a big expensive PR firm to do.  It can easily be put together and be cost efficient.  It is an important step in self publishing your book and letting the public know.

Check out my previous blogs on prelaunch marketing, cover/manuscript setup and working with a printer.  If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

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Working with a Printer can Suck

Yes, I work with a printing/publishing company and have for 7 or so years.  I think of all my blogs, this one I can really give my two cents on and feel more like the ‘expert’.  However, I can still empathize for my authors because printers can be tough and very hard to understand.  I get it ….and hopefully you will too once you read my blog.

The very first thing(s) you need to decide are the following:

  1. Budget – how much money do you have to spend and have you really thought about all the expenses (setup, editing, proofing, printing, shipping, marketing materials….)?
  2. Commitment – is this something that you want as a side gig to show a few friends or do you plan to hit it pretty hard with signings, speaking engagements, marketing, etc?
  3. Expertise – how much do you really know about marketing your book?
  4. Motivation – have you had your towels in the washer for 4 days now?

There are different types of printers as well and they all serve different purposes:

  1. POD – This stands for print on demand.  Digital printing equipment is used.  Digital printers are just fancy copiers with way more bells and whistles.   It is awesome that people can print just one book at a time these days – who would of thought.  POD printers are normally all online.  You do not usually get to speak to a live person.  They can often be higher in price and there can be limitations on what you can do.  You will get super frustrated with POD if you are unfamiliar with getting files ready to print and if you are not too computer savvy.  POD is great if you are the type of person who gets things done at 3am and you know what you are doing.
  2. Short Run Digital Printing – POD also uses digital printing equipment but there are companies that specialize in more of the ‘short run’ digital printing.  These are the mid-level market guys and are perfect for first time authors.   Short Run Digital Printers require a minimum order of books like 25 or 50 and will print up to 500 efficiently.  They can usually give you a better price per book since you are ordering more than 1 at a time.  You will have a more personal connection to the company.  They will review the files and come back to you when there are issues and some setup is required.
  3. Offset/Traditional Publishing – this type of printing is only efficient for runs of 1000+ typically.  This is the old timey method where plates are made and the plates ‘stamp’ the paper.  Offset printers use ink.  Digital printers use toner.  Most people don’t care about this but some do.  The presses take time to setup which is why it does not make sense to do a short run.   You will still get a personal connection with the company.  You will receive a much lower cost per book.   They will also review your files and come back with any issues, etc.  This is what authors will graduate too once they are successful in marketing their book.  Just be sure and have space for storage.  A good space that is BIG and not damp or humid – 1000 books can be like 30-40 boxes.  That’s a lot of boxes.

So once you have decided on the above you want to start connecting with that type of printer for estimates.  Printing companies can be intimidating because we have our own language.  We start to throw terms out to you like perfect binding, duplex, trim size, bleed and you start to feel dizzy and want to hang up.  Personally, I can tell instantly if an author is new to the process by the first things they ask or say.  That helps me to steer the conversation in the right direction.  It will be important to connect to the sales person or printer so you fully understand what you are buying and they fully understand your expectations.  This can be difficult.  I would suggest the following:

  1. Review or google print terms you do not understand.  I have put together a list here: Printionary.
  2. Send or give the printer a physical sample of what you want.  This could be on paper type, a design, layout or binding style.
  3. Talk to more than one printer.
  4. Talk to other authors on their experiences.

When I gather information from an author to get an accurate quote, these are the specs I would ask for:

  1. Title of Book:
  2. Quantity to print:
  3. Trim size (height and width of finished book):
  4. Number of pages:
  5. Is the interior b/w or color:
  6. Any paper preference or standard:
  7. Binding style (click here for sample images)
  8. Will you require an ISBN or barcode:
  9. Do you need layout or formatting:

From this information, I can get the most accurate proposal together.  When you go to several printers for estimates, be sure and have the same specs quoted so you can compare apples to apples.  Granted, I do not believe that the lowest price is the best option.   When you buy cheap – you usually get cheap. There are many other things to consider like customer service, turnaround time, additional services available, location etc.

90% of files are sent incorrectly!  Ask the printer how they need files setup to print and what their process is.  Every printer should give you some guidelines on this.  I have attached a sample here: MIRA Preparing Files.   Authors often get annoyed when printers come back with issues and need to have them fixed or charge a small fee.  Unfortunately someone has to do the work and if they are on payroll – we have to charge the customer.   It can get rather expensive to make a lot of changes and send new files throughout the proofing stages.  All files have to be setup a certain way so to avoid extra charges – make sure you are at a stopping point.  The good thing about digital is you can print a small amount, find mistakes and correct them, and then print another small amount.

I hope that you have learned a bit about the ‘Other Side’.  Printers are not so bad I guess.  Check out my previous blogs on prelaunch marketing, cover/manuscript setup and social media.  If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright – Do I or Don’t I?

I received the online proof for my book today so I thought now would be a good time to get my copyright. I strongly urge all the authors I work with to copyright their work. Technically, when you put an original thought down on paper, you own it. But what if someone steals something you did? You have nothing to back it up – which is exactly why it needs to be documented beforehand. The copyright document will hold up in court if it ever came to that.

It is a good idea to get a new copyright every time you make significant changes or maybe a second edition. You can get a copyright at anytime and it is fairly easy so there really is no excuse. Of course, if you change a typo or two – it may not be necessary then. It costs $35 every time you do it online. It is more costly and very slow to mail it in.

I went to http://www.copyright.gov and did it in about 30 min. Granted, I tend to graze pages quickly and only read a portion of what I am supposed too. I guess that is what comes from living in such a fast paced society these days. With that said, you will notice that it is a govt website because it is boring, not very advanced and not pretty at all. I went through a series of pages where I seemed to enter the same thing over and over. Maybe I’m an internet snob but I like auto fills and big ‘click here’ buttons. They did have a nice (very long) pdf tutorial on every step which I have available here: eco-tutorial

Once I went through the process of all the info, I had to pay the $35. Once I paid the money, they had me upload the files. I uploaded and expected a ‘yay congrats on uploading the files’ but nothing. So I waited and then went and watched an episode of Mad Men and then came back and had an email that they had uploaded. The email just said thank you for submitting – w/o any timeline as to when I will receive the certificate in the mail. I will be sure and keep everyone posted on that. If you have not already copyrighted your work – go and do it now. I will wait…….….no, j/k – but seriously go and do it asap!

Now, for a Library of Congress #. Can someone tell me why I would want to do this? It seems very old school to get an LOC. Maybe it is just for the recognition or status perhaps? Any help would be awesome. I will be looking into this as well but interested to know what you all think.

Check out my previous blogs on prelaunch marketing and cover/manuscript setup. If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted. My next ones will be a biggie on social media, yikes.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

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ISBN# and Barcodes – Never pay for a barcode again!

I guess I have to blog about boring stuff like ISBN#’s and Barcodes too. They are not nearly as fun to talk about as cover design and marketing – but I got to do it. Most people will need to buy an ISBN # for their book. I say ‘most’ because I have seen people who only want to print 25 books for a family reunion or something and I don’t think it is necessary in that situation. Some people may disagree. If you want to sell your book in a retail setting, you definitely need an ISBN. Most places will not accept your book w/o one and it will look unprofessional.

Bowker is the US ISBN agency. They are the source for ISBNs. You can purchase the # at www.bowker.com. Just go to Products and Services/Identifier Services/ISBN. You can buy one for $125 or a lot of 10 for $250. If you do more books, it makes sense to invest in the 10. It is super important to have a different number for each format too. So if you have an eBook, a printed soft cover and a hard cover – that would require 3 ISBNs.

An ISBN is a 10 and 13 digit number for your unique book. The reason it is so important is because this is how your book is cataloged in the thousands and thousands of books out there. Once you purchase the ISBN#, you will need to register it correctly. When Mira Publishing provides ISBNs to authors, we have asked for a form like this (ISBN Registration Form) to be filled out. The registration is essential because it places you properly in www.booksinprint.com. This is a database of all books – where libraries, publishers, bookstores, etc will go to search the marketplace for titles. You want to make sure you are on there and that your book is registered properly. Be sure to register each # for each format – eBook and print. You will also need an ISBN for other products such as audio books, DVD, CD, etc.

Bowker seems to have jumped on this author services bandwagon like every other Joe on the street. I noticed a service for submitting your manuscript to publishers for $99. I have seen services like this numerous times and I think they are bogus. I don’t have the money (like most new authors) to try every single one of these services from various publishers/printers so I guess you have to decide if it is worth it yourself. If you find one that works, definitely let me know! In my opinion, once they have your money they don’t give a crap. You have to consider the return on your investment too. ROI is a real thing and now that your book is your business, then you have to consider – If you spend $400 on some product to get exposure or whatever then how many books do you have to sell to break even at best? After printing cost, editing, and the service fee – maybe you have to sell 150 books. Well, that doesn’t sound very appealing to me. We will talk more about this with marketing blogs but cannot stress enough good old fashioned grass roots.

Anyway, so on to barcodes. The barcode is generated from your ISBN#. When you have your book in a store, they will scan this barcode and it will keep track of inventory and sales. You can also put a price in the barcode if you wish – some people leave price blank if they are unsure. The barcode needs placed on your back cover. The proper size of a barcode at 100% is 1.469” wide x 1.02” high. This can fluctuate a little smaller or larger if needed. The proper placement of the barcode would be 3/8” from the bottom and 3/8” from the spine. This is recommended but not mandatory. In the self publishing world – I have seen barcodes all over the place and every size. Being a self-publisher, you can really do whatever you want with your book. If you want to appear more professional though, I say stick to what is recommended.

Barcodes usually cost about $25. This is my gift to you for reading this whole boring blog on ISBN#’s and barcodes. Never pay for a barcode again! Here is a super easy link to get a barcode yourself online: http://bookcovers.creativindie.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/. All you do is put your ISBN# in and a price (if desired) and BAM – you got yourself a barcode. They will ask if you want a pdf or an .eps file. You can send this barcode file directly to your printer and they can place on book cover – usually for no charge. Be sure to scan and test barcode before printing!

Check out my previous blogs on cover and manuscript setup. If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted. My next ones will be about social media and getting your copyright.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

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