Tag Archives: publishing

Word on the Street with John Moore

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.

John Moore and I will be speaking at the O’Fallon Writers Guild Writers Workshop on Saturday September 7, 2013 starting at 8:00 A.M.  The event will be held at Lindenwood University Belleville Campus.  For more information on the event, click here.

….Come on down, John Moore

John Moore pic

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

John:  This is a bit of a long story; nevertheless it answers the question.  Several years ago, after my daughter divorced, I became a de facto father to my grandson who was twelve at the time.  Over the course of the next few years, I did my best to help him straighten his life out and emphasize his education.   Starting Junior High he didn’t like English.  Even though he was good in math and science, writing and reading the English language seemed like a waste of time to him.  So, I looked for ways to subtly change his attitude.  One night when we were camping along one of the Missouri “float” rivers, he asked what kind of CDs I liked when I was his age.  (We’re fifty years apart in age.)  He was surprised when I told him we didn’t have such things then, along with a lot of other things that are around now.  That discussion led to our contrasting a great many areas, then and now.  Then, I asked him what he thought would be different for his grandson fifty years away.  His imagination of the future was phenomenal.  Together we’d pick a subject—TV, world affairs, petroleum, war, lifestyles, etc.—and imagine what life would be when he had a grandson in fifty more years.  We began a list.  The list grew and we agreed to put it in a time capsule and open it in fifty years to see how right or wrong we were.  However, that wasn’t satisfying, nor did it do anything for his enthusiasm about English.  So, I suggested we work the material we’d listed into a short story.  It would be a story with his yet to be born grandson as the hero.  I wrote some and he wrote some and what started out to be a short story got longer.  In fact, it became a novel, which we self-published.  My family nick name is Poppies, so he thought that would be a good name to be called when he become a grandfather too.  So the title of the story became, “A Journey with Poppies.”  It is a story of him and his grandson fifty years into the future.  When he went into Eighth Grade, he felt a lot different about English.

RARA: What titles have you published to date?

John:  A Journey with Poppies, The Head of Khalid Salaam, Frigby’s War.

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

John:  I have tried book signings, e-mails to friends and family, meeting with book clubs, advertising on Web Sites related to the book, word of mouth, and prayer, hope, and hand-wringing.  Some work.  Some don’t.  Unless lightning strikes, most self-published authors struggle to earn back what they paid to publish.

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

John:  Not really.  However, I believe there is a business out there for someone with the savvy and audacity to take self-published books and market them.  Too many self-published authors are reluctant to spend the time and/or endure the pain of rejection to market their stuff.  If it is truly blither, it won’t sell no matter how skillful it’s marketed.  However, a third party not emotionally involved with the title and with the experience and moxie to push it on to the reading public (targeting the right sector) could be successful.

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

John:  You can guess from the above.  It is marketing my work.  I enjoy the writing; even the proofing.  However, when it comes to my own creation, I’m a reluctant salesman.  I believe I’m not alone in that respect.

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

John:  Expect to work as hard at promoting both you and your book as you did writing it.  It’s a jungle out there and survival of the fittest is the rule.  Being fit in the writing business means (1) cranking out a well-written product about a subject people are interested in and (2) becoming the epitome of the door-to-door sales person who won’t take no for an answer.


Twenty-eight years spent in the military during the prime of life cannot help but influence one’s ideas and opinions on everything from national defense to how people are treated.  I didn’t start out to be a career military officer.  It just sort of happened.  Coming from a lower middleclass background, the opportunity to attend a service academy solved the problem of how to pay for a college education.  A subsequent graduate degree in engineering added to my commitment to the Air Force, so by then I was hooked.

Through it all, however, the pressure to be a good soldier was always pitted against a renegade attitude which was sometimes suppressed, but more often not.  Growing up in the Midwest, I blended the solid WASP values I learned from my family and friends with the melting pot of attitudes and conduct I found in the military.  Following my military career, I saw the other side of the coin by spending fourteen years in a private sector engineering firm.  The result is that I am somewhat of a hybrid—neither a straight-laced, conservative, retired military officer nor am I a laid back, liberal Midwesterner.  I have read On War by Clausewitz but I prefer Canterbury Tales by Chaucer. Writing came along in my life well after my two engineering careers had faded into the sunset.

I write because I enjoy the challenge of telling the story and revel in making it all come together.  So, while I have paced the agitated halls of the Pentagon, I prefer a solitary stroll on the beach.  I have seen the fervor and excitement of battle but it pales in contrast with the glimpse of a newborn baby.  I write because there are stories that need to be told. Those who knew me once might say I have mellowed some.  They would be right.

John Moore                                  

918 Indian Springs Road

O’Fallon, IL 62269





A Journey with Poppies – Available as an e-book at Authorhouse.com

The Head of Khalid Salaam – Available in paperback or e-book at Authorhouse.com

Frigby’s War – Available at Createspace.com/3563818, Amazon.com, and Kindle.



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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…


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Still Don’t Have An eBook?


When I started working in book publishing, eBooks were not around just yet.   When they did come around, everyone was very curious and maybe a little scared (especially those who rely on people buying print!).   What exactly is an eBook and how is it different than a regular digital file – like a pdf?

Well, first off – eBook is short for ‘electronic book’.  You would create an eBook to be read on electronic devices like computers or eReaders (Kindle, Nook, iPad and so on).   This works best with text based documents.  The conversion basically puts all this text into one seamless page.   Your end user will have the freedom (on their reader) to adjust the text to their liking – big, small, blue, whatever.

You can have a document with charts, graphs, images etc converted to an eBook file too.  These elements are usually captured as a ‘flat image’ in the document.   This is to prevent things from being jumbled on a reader.  For instance, a chart has to be an ‘image’ otherwise it will look all funky when someone is minimizing or maximizing on their eReader screen.   You don’t want loose text in the chart just running all over the page and looking wonky – now do you?    Jumbled, Funky, Wonky = BAD.

When eBooks started to gain popularity, everyone wanted to invent an eReader device – it was the hot new item.  This caused a problem because they all required different formats – which was a super PITA when trying to do the conversion on your book.  For instance, you couldn’t open the same file on an iPad as you could the Nook.  Eventually, everyone got smart and the ePub file emerged as the universal format to these readers.  Except for Amazon of course…  They like to be special and require their own format – mobi.


There are companies out there that can do the conversion for you.  You provide a file (like a word or pdf) and they will send you the ePub and Mobi format – for a small or large fee.  Your price will depend on how many pages, images, links etc – basically the complexity of the book determines the price.   I had my conversion done by www.eBooks2go.com.    If you have a more complicated file, it would be best to let a professional handle this for you.  They will create a nice TOC and have everything link back and forth and make the eBook file very user friendly.  Professionals like eBooks2go also offer distribution to various online stores like Amazon, iTunes and B&N.

For the sake of comparison (and for my blog), I tried Smashwords to convert as well.   An author mentioned Smashwords in my book and once I learned more about it, I was intrigued – mostly because of their distribution options.   I was not too impressed with the look of their website.  It is very easy to navigate and self explanatory but it was a bit plain and ho-hum.   The creator of Smashwords also published books relating to the site.  These books are tutorials on using the site to the full extent, setting up files correctly and marketing your book through Smashwords – genius.

Anyway, this site has a free converter.   I would only recommend this for basic docs with just text.   Although the conversion is free, it can garner up some frustrations.  I have my doc uploaded to their site now and it is currently being ‘reviewed’ for their premium catalog.   The premium catalog consists of numerous distribution channels and libraries.   This is what I find fascinating about Smashwords.  The more wheels you have out their cranking away, the better – especially with little to no effort from you (the author).  Some people call this lazy, I call it efficient.   You want to have as many channels as you possibly can feeding the beast because that is what it’s all about – exposure and sales.


Many people ask me what to price their book.  Honest answer – I have no idea.  It is up to the author to research similar books and see what people are paying and why.  Always leave room for discounts and promotions to build interest and always have a call to action (2 days only – 25% off).   On Smashwords, you have a personal dashboard and can add coupons and do sampling.  A sampling would be letting people download 15 or 20% of the book at no cost.  This can get them to buy the book when they otherwise would have not.  It is a good idea to play around with this and see what works.  I will have mine on Smashwords for 99 cents at first.   Personally, I will always buy something I find the slightest bit interesting when it is just a buck – most other people will too.  It is much easier to get $1 from 5000 people then $10 from 500 people.

Unfortunately, everyone will want a piece of the pie and why not – you are using these channels to sell the book so they want a cut.   And yes, they are all different.  Here is an example of some fees.  The company distributing it (like Smashwords or eBooks2go) will also take 10-15% for managing the accounts.  Not a bad deal really when you do nothing.  Hopefully it results in a check coming to you every quarter.

           Amazon B&N Apple
$1-2.99  65%   60%   30%
$3-9.99  30%   35%   30%
$10-199 65%   60%   30%

As a publisher, it is important to provide your readers with options.   The printed book will never go away but the younger generations are all about the devices now.  I can’t really judge – we have plenty lying around the house too.

Check out my previous blogs on press releases 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.









Filed under Book Printing, Self Publishing Author

Jumping In

Today I realize how important it is to involve other authors in the beginning stages of my self-publishing journey.  I was going to only blog about my book and how to market my book but I thought – that would be silly.  Why not start at the VERY beginning.  That way you all can see the trials and tribulations I encounter with preparing the manuscript, doing my cover, copyright, LOC, uploading to POD, printing, distribution, eBooks….the list goes on and on.  Boy it is overwhelming.  I find myself constantly thinking about everything I need to do and the order I need to do them.

The first thing to think about obviously is what are you going to write about and who is going to want to read it?  Well, I was a little lucky because my audience was right in front of my face the whole time.  I went out and asked all my authors what their best piece of advice or selling tip would be for a new author.  I received a great response from my authors and they were so supportive.  So I poured over many of these responses and picked 60 for the first volume.  The next blog will be about putting together my manuscript and dealing with Microsoft Word…Ugh.




Filed under Self Publishing Author