A New Renaissance in Literature by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

One of the hallmarks of the Renaissance of the 15th century was that new voices were heard in the areas of art, literature, religion and basically all aspects of cultural life, touching and influencing thought from the highest levels of power down to the lowest, allowing the common man to finally realize his potential.  William Tyndale, who translated the Bible to English, was key in this transformation. He captures its essence in these few powerful words to a noted clergyman:  “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

For the past five decades, the publishing industry, represented by what is commonly known as “the Big Six,” have been the ones controlling what books were available in bookstores and libraries. When the offerings were the best literary voices of our time, nobody complained; but when it veered to commercial garbage that sold in huge numbers (think Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann and their copycats), then people wondered where all the good books had gone.

Small niche publishers emerged to offer books not available through the large publishers. The self-publishing movement is often seen as a backlash, not only to the power held for so long by the big publishers, but also to these small independents  with their choosy submission guidelines. By self-publishing, you can write what you want, how you want, publish it immediately, and avoid the gatekeepers altogether. This movement is quite accurately referred to as the “self-publishing revolution” because its proponents are revolting against all the old rules of publishing.

Although William Tyndale revolted against the rules of the Pope in his day, and subsequently gave his life for his principles, I believe his role was more Renaissance than Revolution. The word renaissance means “rebirth,” the word revolution according to Wikipedia is “from the Latin revolutio, a ‘turn around’, a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.” The Renaissance took centuries, a revolution happens quickly.

There’s no doubt that a publishing revolution has occurred, and it has been a very exciting time indeed.  However, I believe it is time for writers and publishers to use these opportunities to create a literary renaissance, not just a publishing revolution. How to do that?

Think of men like Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Michelangelo Buonarroti. Were they simply revolting against the status quo, or were they contributing knowledge and truth through the medium of their art? Scientists like Copernicus and Galileo Galilei were first and foremost seekers of truth in scientific knowledge and methods.  Religious leaders such as Tyndale, along with Thomas More, Martin Luther, and John Calvin fit into the same category—not simply part of a revolution but because of their devotion to truth and the good of mankind, were part of something much more than a tirade against the Pope or the Church of England.

Millions of books are now available that could never have made it through the gatekeepers of old. To name just a few types: poorly written, barely edited “novels” written fast and published even faster;  10 or 20 page ebook summaries using widely searched keywords, like how to simplify one’s life or write a Kindle bestseller; erotica, basically pornography masquerading as romance for women.

In other words, if you can write it you can publish it; whether it’s any good or contributes to the literary culture is beside the point. The focus is on the selling rather than on the writing. Really, how is this any different than the era of The Valley of the Dolls? The publishers may have changed names from the Big 6 to one million ebook writers, but if the focus remains on churning out stuff for the mass market, where is the revolution? It’s just a whole lot of people now trying to get in on the action.  What the self-publishing revolution has done for writers is what the state lotteries have done for gambling. Remember when people had to go to Vegas to gamble? Talk about the old days! Now you can go to your corner convenience store, buy a lotto ticket and hope to win big.

As writers, why not turn this revolution into a renaissance? Let’s contribute to the literary culture, not just churn out stuff as quick as we can. Let’s write stories that are true, with characters who are “real,” using language that transcends common everyday speech. Let’s write books that, using the very best of our skills, polished and practiced, will carry our readers to a greater plane of understanding as we enlighten and entertain.

It’s time for writers who care about books to contribute to a re-birth of literary excellence. Opportunities abound. Let us take advantage of the many ways to make our voices heard as we do our best work, write meaningfully and well, and become part of a new renaissance in literature.


About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction. Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com. WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

E-Books in a Public Library? by Natalie Giauque

I’ve been asked frequently how a writer goes about getting their print books into a library system. If a writer approaches the library, they’re often turned down. Donated books frequently go straight into the library’s bookstore. What’s an author to do?

If you’re published by a large national publisher, they should take care of this for you. If you’re with a smaller, regional publisher, they may or may not have the pull to get your books in. If you’re self-published, it’s nearly impossible.

The best way is to have card-carrying library patrons request the book. If a library gets enough requests, they’ll actively seek out the book.

But what about e-books?

Yes, some libraries have an e-book catalog that allows their patrons to check out e-books. Here’s what Natalie Glauque from the Salt Lake County Library has to say:

Interested in getting your LDS e-books into the Salt Lake County Library System’s E-book OverDrive Catalog? If you are a self-published author and have the rights to your books and would like us to purchase your books, please read the following:

Self-published LDS Authors: OverDrive works with Author Solutions and Smashwords for self-published titles. If authors make their titles available through these platforms, they can be expected to be available via OverDrive.

There is no action needed for Smashwords and Author Solutions. The authors just need to ensure that their distribution partner includes OverDrive as a distribution channel.


Have any of you tried this? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

When the Publisher Says No by Kristen Nelson

[I know of several LDS authors who’ve been dropped—sometimes mid-series—not because their new manuscripts weren’t well-written, but because their books just weren’t selling quite enough for the publisher. What do you do? Digital publishing gives you options. Here’s what a national agency did for one of their authors.]

Maybe a metaphoric “thumbing one’s nose” at a previous publisher? I’ll let you be the judge. In 2005, NLA client Shanna Swendson debuted with a wonderful fantasy chick lit novel called ENCHANTED INC. It was the perfect hybrid between the two genres and the world was introduced to the charming Katie Chandler who is trying to make it in the Big Apple but is so ordinary, she’s extraordinary. She’s so ordinary, magic doesn’t work on her.

Consequently, the small town gal from Texas is recruited by a magical company called Magic, Spells and Illusions, Inc. to be their secret weapon.

Brilliant concept!

Three more novels in the series quickly followed to very solid sales. It used to be you could build an author’s career from there. Nowadays, sadly, it’s known as the dreaded mid-list and authors are often dropped by their publishers.

Much to our dismay, Shanna’s publisher declined to continue buying new books in the series. But get this. Shanna had a foreign publisher who loved the series and it had fabulous sales abroad. So Shanna’s foreign publisher contracted to have her continue writing the series. And she did. Meanwhile, for years I’ve been trying to convince her U.S. publisher to get back on board. No luck. The series still sells well but not well enough for the publisher’s bottom line.

I get it. It’s a business decision on their part. But hey, it’s 2012 and the whole publishing climate has changed. Just because the publisher said NO, doesn’t mean we have to stop. These books are amazing. Shanna can digitally publish them herself. Even have a physical edition available as well.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing!

The long awaited book 5, MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC, releases on August 15, 2012.

Rock on!

Kristen Nelson is President and Senior Literary Agent at  Nelson Literary Agency. This article was taken from their recent newsletter and posted with permission. To get more great industry news, subscribe to their newsletter.

Jessica Park’s Take on Traditional vs Self-Publishing

I just read Jessica Park’s recent blog post featured on Amazon.com’s front page on June 19th. Among other things, it lists her reasons why she would choose self-publishing over any traditional publishing deal nowadays. She also talks about publishing houses being out of date with the changing market. In your estimation, is the publishing world changing? How are publishing houses keeping up with the newest trends and writers being able to self-publish so easily?

Go read Jessica Park’s article and then come back and let’s talk about it.

In my opinion, Jessica Park is absolutely correct. Going with a traditional publisher has its down side. The marketing department carries a lot of weight in the decision to accept a book. You don’t have control over your title or your cover. Unless you’re an established name, an author has to do a lot of their own publicity. And by the time expenses are covered (yes, salaries, buildings, and other overheard are legitimate expenses), there’s not a lot of money left for the author.

When you self-publish, you have full control over everything. And the only salary you pay is your own.

However, what Park fails to mention is that while you may be able to sell your first book on hype alone, additional books are going to be a harder sell if you don’t invest some time, energy—and, yes—MONEY in the PRE-press development of your book. This is where a lot of self-publishers fail and why indies have a bad reputation.

You can’t just slap an ebook up on Amazon and expect to experience the sales levels that Park mentions in her article. Here are the parts of a successful book:

  • A good story
  • Good writing
  • Tight editing
  • Memorable title
  • Eye-catching cover design
  • Intriging back copy (with optional blurbs)
  • Professional typesetting for print (generally, NOT Word)
  • Professional e-book coding (generally, NOT Smashwords)
  • Distribution—online &/or brick & mortar stores
  • Reader interest (letting readers know your book exists)
  • Sales (getting those readers to actually purchase the book)
  • Maintaining reader relationship for future book sales

In traditional publishing, the author is only required to do the first two, throw in some online buzz to generate reader interest, and have an online presence and/or do book signings to gain personal reader loyalty.

If you decide to go indie, you’re either going to have to learn how to do all these other things or pay someone to do them for you. It’s not a question of whether traditional or self-publishing is better. They both have their pros and cons. There are some excellent indie books out there and there are some traditional dogs. It’s a question of resources—do you have them?

Want another take that is very similar to mine? Go read Nathan Bransford (former literary agent & current author).

Readers, what are your experiences and opinions?

[Oh, and to answer your question. Yes, the industry is changing. How are publishers adapting? Some are burying their heads in the sand; some are adjusting their policies.]

Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy by Nathan Bransford

I really like Nathan’s take on this. Go read it!

Us vs. them is fun. It gets people’s blood boiling. It instills fear. It’s thrilling to be on a team, especially when you feel like your team is winning.

These days it seems like traditional and self-publishing are increasingly pitted against each other on blogs and forums, as if one side or the other is the bastion of all that is good and pure in the world and the other side is the bastion of all that is horrible and evil.

This is insane.

There is no “us” vs. “them.” Traditional vs. self-publishing is a false dichotomy. It’s an illusion created by people who either have let their frustrations get the best of them or are trying to sell you something. We’re all writers trying to figure out the best way to get our books to readers. We’re all on the same team.

Read the rest of the article here.


So what do YOU think?


Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, March 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media manager at CNET. He lives in San Francisco.

Musty Writing by Michaelbrent Collings

When considering self-publishing on Kindle, there are four things you must do (“Must”y writing – get it?  Ha!).  They are like the mustard on my hot dog: a non-negotiable element.  Without it, you may as well not even try.  ‘Cause I won’t bite.

Now, before I dive into what those elements are, I should probably tell you how I know about them.  So y’all know I’ve got street cred.  And mad skillz (part of having street cred is always spelling “skillz” with a z).

I’ve been writing for most of my life.  I sold my first paying work when I was fifteen.  Going to college, I won a bunch of creative writing scholarships and awards.  Then I became a lawyer, where my job involved mostly (wait for it!) writing.

Oh, yeah, and somewhere along the way I became a produced screenwriter, member of the Writers Guild of America (which is statistically harder to do than it is to become a professional baseball player), and a published novelist.  Throughout all this, I had a book that I really liked, called RUN.  And though I had done all the above, no book publisher would touch RUN with a ten foot cattle prod.  Largely, I suspect, because it was very hard
to figure out how to market it: it was a sci-fi/suspense/horror/thriller/apocalyptic novel with romantic elements.  There is no shelf for that at Barnes & Noble.

But I believed in the book, dangit!  So I researched around, and discovered self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle service.  I decided I didn’t have much to lose, since RUN was just sitting on a shelf anyway, so decided to try my hand at self-publishing an e-book on Kindle.

Within a few months, RUN became a bestseller, topping Amazon’s sci-fi chart, and eventually becoming the #61 item available for Kindle, out of over ten million books, games, puzzles, and blogs.  I also published a young adult fantasy called Billy: Messenger of Powers which has hovered on various genre bestseller lists on Amazon for the better part of a year now.  And followed those up with another e-book, and another, and another.  Some of the others became bestsellers, some didn’t.  But all have made money, and all have increased my fan base.

Now I don’t say this to brag, but I want you to understand I know a bit whereof I speak.  Through the process, I have learned the ins and outs of Kindle publishing (and e-publishing in general), learning as much from what didn’t work as from what did.  And that’s why I’ve come up with these four important things to do:

1)  Make a kickin’ cover

This is one place where approximately 99% of self-published authors get it wrong.  Look at most self-published books, and they look less professional.  And like it or not, a lot of people go strictly off the cover.  You have about ten seconds to wow them with your cool cover before they click the button and move on to another book.  For the Kindle edition of Billy: Messenger of Powers, I spent days upon days designing the cover.  Everything from the cover image, to the typeface, to the composition of the elements.  It was critical.  And it paid off.  Same for RUN, and another of my books, Rising Fears,
all of which have been praised for the fact that the covers are interesting enough to “hook” readers.  Some of my other covers aren’t as effective, or as professional looking, unfortunately.  And guess what? They also don’t sell as well.

2)  Market yourself

Here’s a fact of life in general: people generally don’t give you things for free.  You have to earn them.  And that includes getting people to read your work.  When I wrote Billy, I spent over a month designing a website (www.whoisbillyjones.com) that was interesting, conveyed a message about the book, and had a look and feel that I felt would intrigue people and make them want to find out more.  Same with the website for RUN (www.seehowtheyrun.net).  And my own website, michaelbrentcollings.com, took even longer.  But that was only the start.  I also had a Facebook “fan” page, a Twitter feed, and did the rounds of book and genre conventions.  Not to mention doing interviews, podcasts, guest blogs, and generally talking to anyone and everyone who would listen.  You have to do more than write a book.  You have to create an event.

3)  Have a grabby description

”What do you do when everyone you know – family, friends, everyone – is trying to kill you?  You RUN.”

That is the description on amazon.com for my book RUN.  Two sentences that I spent an extremely long time writing.  Like the cover of your book, the production description is something that has to grab people, reel them in, and not let them go.  Some self-published authors think the best way to get someone to read their work is to describe every jot and tittle.  But in reality, the secret isn’t information, it’s captivation. You have to intrigue your (prospective) readers.  You have to leave them with serious questions that they want answered.  Describing what your book is about is less important than creating a specific feeling in the mind and heart of your audience: the feeling that they will be better off reading your book than not.

4)  Write something worth reading

This may seem obvious, but the fact of the matter is you have to have something pretty darn special.  I’m not saying this to depress anyone: I firmly believe that most people have great stories in them, and have the potential to learn how to tell them.  But make no mistake, it is something that takes practice, dedication, and perspiration. Writing is a skill.  It is a discipline.  Anyone can knock out a sentence or two.  But getting those sentences to grab a complete stranger to the point that he or she is willing to fork over hard-earned cash to read them is another matter.  Let alone getting them to like
the sentences enough that they want to tell their friends to spend their hard-earned cash on them.  Again, I really do believe that most people have it in them to do this.  But I also believe just as stridently that to get to that point takes practice, practice, and more practice.  I have spent thousands of hours learning how to write … and I continue to
learn.  Any author who wants to charm people into buying his or her work has to be willing to put in the effort to make it happen.  Because without the skill to back up your work, no matter how good your basic ideas are, they probably won’t sell.  There are exceptions (that’s right, Twilight), but for the most part a book has to be extraordinarily well-written in order to get people to buy it.

That’s not to say that everyone will like your book.  Some people don’t like RUN, or Billy: Messenger of Powers.  Or Harry Potter or anything by Stephen King or even the bestselling book of all time (the Bible).  But if you don’t care enough to develop your writing skills in service of your storytelling, you can bet that few (if any) will like it at all.

And so…

… there you have it, folks.  Again, I think most people have interesting stories to tell.  But without doing the four things above, the great story will probably sit quietly in a dark corner of your closet.  And that, my friends, is no fun at all.

Michaelbrent Collings is a bestselling novelist whose books RUN and Billy: Messenger of Powers have been amazon.com bestsellers. He is also a produced screenwriter and member of both the Writers Guild of America and the Horror Writers of America. His blog is at http://michaelbrentcollings.com/blog2.html, and you can follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michaelbrent-Collings/283851837365 or on twitter @mbcollings.

Is Your Book Really Ready for the Public Eye? (or Your Turn to Tell Me I’m Up in the Night)

I read a lot of books.

And by “a lot,” I mean I easily read 100-150 complete books a year (first page to last), and probably twice that in sample chapters, which I then do not finish because I can tell in the first few pages that the book is not my thing.

I have a Kindle, which makes reading so easy. I can carry an entire LIBRARY of books with me wherever I go.

When I got my first Kindle, back when it was newly released and one of the coolest gadgets on the market, eBooks were somewhat limited. It was a frequent experience to go to Amazon looking for a title, only to find it wasn’t available for Kindle yet. This was especially true with LDS fiction.

Now, though, eBooks abound and I can often find the digital book available before the print version. eBooks have also become the low-risk way to enter the market for small publishers, indies, and self-publishers.


Well, not always.

What I’m finding (based on a lifetime of reading and years in the publishing industry), is that the easier it is and the less expensive it becomes to produce a book and bring it to market—and let me tell you, compared to the “old days,” print-on-demand and eBook production is E.A.S.Y.—the lower the overall quality of that production.

See, if it’s going to cost someone $10,000 to produce a title, they are going to make sure it’s as close to perfect as they can get it! A manuscript will go through multiple readers before its accepted for publication to make sure it’s a viable story and that a reading market exists. It will be read carefully by professionals who edit books on a daily basis, and who are up on what’s selling and what’s not. It will be edited for content and for grammar, multiple times. Professional artists, graphic designers, and typesetters will be hired to create an appealing cover and interior design, to encourage a browsing reader to pick it up and give it a consideration. And then, before going to press, it will be proofed again. Once it goes to press, those files will be coded for digital readers—usually hand-coded by professionals who know how to customize the code for individual e-readers. The end result is a beautiful product that enhances reader enjoyment.

But, when things get cheap and easy, and a book can be brought to market for $100 or less using print-on-demand and one-size-fits-all eBook coding, an attitude of casualness sometimes creeps into the production process. I’m seeing this attitude most in smaller indie presses and self-publishers. People who have no idea of design try to create their own covers. They “typeset” their books using Microsoft Word, trusting that the grammar and spellcheck will catch their mistakes. (Impossible!) Others hire their aunt who teaches English in high school. (Entirely different skill set.) And they use Smashwords to create their eBooks.

While some authors also have a great eye for design, and Word and Smashwords can be used successfully if you really know what you’re doing, and some aunts who teach high school grammar actually have professional editing skills—99%* of the books created this way are never going to reach their full potential. They will end up in people’s “books to finish reading someday” pile. And the second book by this same author or small press is going to get a pass.

Yes, yes. I know all your friends are buying your eBook and telling you honestly that they absolutely love it. But think for a minute… Do they really love your book or do they love you? And do their feelings for you color their perception of the book? (If they’re human, it will.) Do they have the skill set to accurately assess your writing? Are they mediocre readers who are satisfied with a less-than story? Can they produce something with impeccable grammar and tight writing themselves?

Unless you are getting lots of sales and rave reviews from people who have no idea who you are—they’ve never met you, don’t follow your blog, aren’t your friend on Facebook, have never tweeted you, aren’t participating in a contest about you or your book, and do not have any other vested interest in your success—then you cannot fully trust the feedback you’re getting.

Authors. I’m not saying don’t self-publish and I’m not saying don’t go with a small indie press. Just please, please, please have your manuscript professionally edited before you offer it up to the public. My heart just breaks with the number of authors I’ve seen lately who have gone this route and had AWESOME ideas, that just weren’t ready to be released to the general public.

And the end result for me? I’m actually purchasing fewer books. Where I used to buy a book with an interesting backliner, feeling that even though I may not love it, it will be a decent read and I can trust I’ll get a quality, professional product, now I hesitate. Now, I download the sample chapters on my Kindle and if they don’t grab me, that’s it.

Readers, are any of you feeling the same way or am I just entirely too picky in my reading habits?

(Feel free to comment anonymously if you like, just be polite)

*Okay, I admit this statistic was pulled out of the air and completely based on personal experience rather than scientific data.

Where Can I Self Publish?

I am trying to find a good company to self-publish my book. I have used Lulu.com in the past but am not happy that their finished products are not professional looking. They used to be, but have changed. It is also hard to get them to respond to errors as they are getting so many clients.

Do you offer self-publishing? If so, what are your prices, and how do you go about publishing books?

I haven’t used Lulu in a long time. I wasn’t aware that their quality had decreased. That’s too bad because they were a good resource and I’ve recommend them in the past. Anyone else used Lulu recently? Can you confirm that their quality is less than it used to be?

More recently, I’ve used Amazon’s CreateSpace. That is who I used for Stolen Christmas. I was very pleased with the result. Like Lulu, you must send them print-ready files.

One thing to remember is that these companies are automated. They do no editing or design work, unless you pay extra. The quality of what you get back is determined by the quality of the files you send them.

If you’re going big time small press, you could check out Lightning Source. They do a good job.

There are also places like AuthorHouse and iUniverse who make self-publishing fairly easy. I don’t recommend them because I have not been at all impressed with their editing services (which cost extra). They are inconsistent in their quality.

No, LDS Publisher does not do self-publishing or any type of publishing, other than the story contests. This persona is a publishing advice columnist. Period.

There is an ad for LibrisPro running over in my sidebar. I make no endorsements or claims for this company, only point out that their ad gives you a link to explore.

Readers, if you assist self-publishers and would like to toot your own horn, or if you have used the services of a company you can recommend, feel free to leave info in the comments section.

The Self-Publishing Bias

Is it factual that book reviewers will not review a self published book? Or that some bookstores won’t carry them at all?

It depends.

Once upon a time, there was a huge prejudice against self-published books. The idea was that if they were good enough, a publisher would pick them up. If no publisher wanted them, then they weren’t very good.

While there are still a multitude of examples of books that support that prejudice, there are also many self-published books that are absolutely wonderful—but that just couldn’t find a good fit with a traditional publisher.

If you self-publish, you generally are going to have a harder row to hoe when it comes to getting attention and shelf space. Self-published fiction is very difficult to get into bookstores; non-fiction is a little easier. If you’re planning to go this route, I strongly recommend you do your research, starting with these books:

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing

Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual

Jump Start Your Book Sales

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers

I’d also suggest you talk to some people who have successfully self-published and get their input.

And have your distribution avenues set up BEFORE you spend a lot of money designing and printing your book.

So to answer your question: Some reviewers will not review self-published books, some will. Some bookstores will not carry self-published books, some will.

A Case Where POD is a Good Option

Dear LDSPublisher,

I’ve been following your blog for several months now and have found your posts to be knowledgeable and very helpful.

I am hoping to get your insight on an idea for distributing a young adult novel. The novel is my way of sharing the basic beliefs of the LDS church in a story form. My goal in writing it was not to be famous or make money (although either is welcome), but to share my testimony with others. That being said, my thought is to create a website where I would post a chapter a week for anyone to read freely and also offer the option to purchase a hard copy of the full book from an on demand publishing site, like lulu.com.

Being in the publishing business, what are your thoughts on such an idea? Pro’s/con’s?

Are there legal issues to be considered?

I don’t have a problem with that at all. I think it’s a great idea, given your reasons for writing it and your stated goals—as long as you understand that if you do this, a traditional publisher will most likely not pick it up for publication in the future. (Although, I worked for a publisher once who did just that, but the author had to agree to take the posts down.)

You should still have it edited. This is a must if you’re going to have it available for purchase.

You may also want to have it typeset and a cover design done by professionals—or not, depending on how much you want to invest and how important it is to have print sales. Personally, I think it should look as nice as books of similar content and style that you’d buy in the store.

Lulu.com is a good place. As is CreateSpace (Amazon). If you want to make ebook versions available, Smashwords is easy to work with. I’ve worked with all three of these companies and had good success with them.

There are a variety of other POD publishers out there. Just make sure you read their contracts carefully. Make sure that you retain the copyright and the ability to republish elsewhere at any time. Also, make sure their prices are competitive.

And good luck!

Blogs Into Books

I am a senior in college who is working on her capstone project. For this project I want to take some of my writing (blog entries) and make a book. I don’t know what is involved in the process of getting a manuscript ready to print, so I was wondering if you could tell me what the process is.

From your website I’ve been able to glean that there are the following stages involved:
Graphic design, layout, typesetting, other areas of pre-press work (I don’t know what this covers, getting files ready for press

Could you explain this process either to me or on your blog?

Also, could you recommend anyone who could perhaps mentor me through my project?(please, please, please?)

Thank you for your time and attention.

One option is to explore the various companies that are set up to turn your blog into a book. I haven’t used any of them myself, but I know some bloggers who have done it. Just Google “blog into book” and you’ll find lots of information.

If you want to go the self-publishing route, the stages of publishing are:

  • Write the book, rewrite, polish
  • Have experienced readers take a look at it and give feedback
  • Rewrite more and make it as good as you can.
  • Editing—get a professional (see more here)
  • Typesetting—this includes layout, internal design in a REAL typesetting program (not Word); getting ISBN, LCCN (if needed)
  • Book cover—cover design and layout (there are specific dpi and image types to use for press)
  • Proofing final files from a print copy
  • Preflighting—getting files ready for the printer
  • Sending book to printer (POD or traditional printer)
  • Press check—making sure the files are correct
  • Print book
  • Sell book (if applicable)—distribution, marketing, promo, etc.

Those are the basic steps. Only they’re not really “basic” as some of them require unique skill sets that take time and training to develop.

As to finding someone (or several someones) to help you with this, readers? Chime in again, please.

Very, Very Basic Self-Publishing Tips

I want to talk a little bit about self-publishing. This is becoming more of an option with publishers accepting fewer titles.

First, before jumping into it, get yourself an education. Read up. I recommend The Complete Guide to Self Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. It’s complete, it’s thorough, and it’s balanced.

There are also some good books by Dan Poynter. He has solid information, but he’s a little too pie in the sky. It’s not quite as easy as he makes it seem.

Here are some basic self-publishing tips:

  • Non-fiction is easier to self-publish and sell than fiction.
  • Before you print anything, get a distributor. If you’re targeting the LDS market, you need a distributor that can get your book into the bookstores. If you’re going national, you need to get your book into Baker and Taylor and/or Ingram, and on Amazon.
  • Hire a professional editor.
  • Hire a professional typesetter who has experience with books (if they use Word or Word Perfect, they are not professional).
  • Hire a professional book cover designer. (A good graphic designer may or may not know anything about designing for books.)
  • Yes, you need an ISBN number and the correct type of scannable bar code on the back.
  • Yes, you need to register it with the Library of Congress.
  • Create a publishing company with a professional sounding name and list that as the publisher. Do not use your own name. In most cases, advertising that you’re self-published is not a good idea.
  • Plan to do a LOT of marketing. Your distributor may or may not actually market your book. Find out what they do and don’t do, and then make up the difference. (What’s “the difference”—read one of the books I suggested.)
  • Plan to do a lot of hand-selling of your book.
  • Lower your sales expectations. Do not print 10,000 copies at first. I recommend starting with a POD printer. The per book cost is higher, but you won’t end up with 2,000 copies sitting in your garage.

Dumped at the Prom

Does everyone feel weird writing to a pseudonym? Hahaha. [You’d be surprised at how many advice columns are written under pseudonyms.] I have a difficult situation and a colleague at LDStorymakers suggested I contact you.

I’m writing a historical fiction series. Books one and two are out but [my publisher] pulled the plug on the series. I took it to [other publishers who] passed. [They don’t want] to own four books while [my original publisher] owns books one and two.

The series illustrates the generation being prepared to receive the Restoration, so while the LDS influence is not overt, it is woven through the books which makes it challenging to take it outside the LDS literary market. It was set to be a six book series, timed so the last book’s release coincided with the bicentennial of [a historical event]. So I’m pressed for time and need to make some hard decisions.

I am tentatively planning to self-publish through Booksurge, an Amazon company. I’ve made arrangements to contract the editor of books one and two to do the edit and maintain a consistent quality between the books.

Are there any other options I’ve missed besides the self-publishing option? Do you know anyone who has published through Booksurge? If so, I’d love to know what their experience was.

Thank you for offering a listening ear. Any advice would be very appreciated.

It is so disappointing to be dumped mid-series. It’s kind of like being dumped at the prom and having to find another ride home. Don’t take it personally. It’s happening to others right now too, not just you. One of the effects of our wonderful economy.

If you can’t get another publisher to finish your series, or get your original publisher to release the rights to the first two volumes, then your only other option is self-publishing.

I do know people who have used BookSurge successfully. The Reckoning by Tanya Parker Mills is published through BookSurge. Another company you might look at is Lightning Source. Be sure to have it edited and typeset professionally. Try to capture the feel of the first cover designs and you should be fine.

The biggest drawback is going to be distribution—getting the books into the bookstores. You may want to talk to a distributor and get that lined up before you put much money into the project.

Another issue is making sure the profit margin is there so that you can offer the standard industry discounts to stores without having to overprice the books.

Readers—if any of you have used BookSurge or Lightning Press or another of these types of programs, let us know in the comments about your experiences and which company you’d recommend.

Rebel Without a Cause

Why are there so many rules for submitting and publishing a book? It seems I can’t even keep track of all of them. So I’ve decided to rebel. I’m going to write the best book I can and submit it however I want. What do you think about that??

If your book is really, really, really, really, really, good (to the nth power), then eventually, someone will probably publish it.

But it probably won’t be me. And it probably won’t be your first choice(s) in publisher.

Here’s the thing–we get so many submissions that DO follow the rules that when we get one that doesn’t, it usually doesn’t even get a serious look. What a submission that doesn’t follow the rules tells us is that either 1) you don’t know the rules and you can’t be bothered to do the basic research to discover what they are–in which case, publishing your manuscript will take a LOT of instruction and hand-holding on our part; or 2) you do know the rules and you think you’re too good for them–in which case you’re going to be a pain in the neck to work with and it’s going to be a fight on every point. Either way, an editor will probably decide that your book will just take too much time, energy and frustration to publish.

If you’re going to keep this attitude, I’d suggest submitting to a publisher who also doesn’t follow the rules. Maybe you can win them over with the force of your personality, or kindredness of spirit. Either that or self-publishing. But you’d better look for a distributor who doesn’t follow the rules too.

Self-Publishing: Black Mark or Gold Star?

Hello, LDSPublisher!

Hope your holiday was great! [It was, thank you.] I have another question for you.

I’ve heard conflicting opinions of self-publishing. When I first began seriously considering publishing a novel, I was advised that self publishing was tatamount to professional suicide. And yet, I’ve also heard of several authors who have made a real go of the do-it-yourself route.

What do you think? As a publisher, is a self-published work on a resume a black mark? Or a gold star? Or something in between? Would you be more apt to publish someone who had a self published book, supposing it sold moderately well, or would you be more inclined to avoid them? What about publishers outside the LDS market – is there a difference of opinion there?

I guess the real gist of the question is: Is this a road that I might look into, or would I be better off staying on the main publishing highway, so to speak?


Here’s the thing with self-publishing. If you know what you’re doing, or you have good advisors, you can be successful at it. If not, it can be a financial disaster. The majority of self-publishers fall into the disaster category. That is why self-publishing has such a bad reputation.

There is also the bias that if it was any good, a “real” publisher would have picked it up. That’s not necessarily the case, but people still believe it.

Self-publishing does not have to be professional suicide or a black mark on your career, but it’s not an automatic gold star either. It depends on the quality of the finished product, how many and how fast you sold them, and the method you used to sell them (ex: bookstores, personal appearances, online marketing, etc.).

For self-publishing to count with me, it would need to be professionally created so that I could not tell by looking that it was s.p. — and I am picky. I’d expect to be able to find something about the book by googling the title. I would need verified sales of over 2,000 in the first year. Outside the LDS market, sales would need to be higher.

This is definitely a road you might want to look into, but you need to be very, very careful. The first step is to find a distributor. Do this before you print anything. If they like your manuscript/idea, they should be willing to help you find professional editors, typesetters, printers, etc. Not all distributors will help you like this, but many of the smaller ones will.

I also recommend a couple of books by Tom and Marilyn Ross, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing and Jump Start Your Book Sales. Those two are my favorites. Dan Poynter also has some books on self-publishing, but he’s sometimes a little unrealistic about how easy it is to do it yourself and how much money you can make from it.

If you’re writing for the masses, avoid POD because that usually prices you out of the market. If you have highly specialized info, you can sometimes get away with the PODs. Also, be prepared to do a LOT of marketing. Another book I like is Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Levinson, Larsen and Frishman. They have some good ideas and they try to keep it within a budget.

I know that these are superficial answers. This is a huge subject that can be debated from lots of different angles. There are pros and cons to both traditional and self-publishing. It all depends on what you goals are and the size of financial risk you’re able to take. If you have more specific questions, I’m happy to answer them.

Small Press Treated Like Ugly Step-Sister

I consider myself a small press, even though most of the books I publish are my own. Several of my titles sell well; in fact, one of them sells really well. My books have been in Deseret Book and Seagull stores, as well as in a lot of independents. I’ve had an LDS distributor for years, but I recently decided to self-distribute. Now Deseret Book won’t even talk to me. They tell me I’m not big enough for them to bother with–even though they were ordering almost weekly from my distributor. I don’t understand that. I’m starting to feel like the ugly step-sister.

This happens to a lot of smaller presses and self-publishers. As with so many other issues, a lot of it boils down to economics and the “economy of scale.” There are certain overhead costs that are the same regardless of how many books are ordered–for example, the man-hours it takes to fax an order. Let’s say you’re ordering 100 titles. If a bookstore had to order all 100 titles straight from the author or publisher, that means 100 purchase orders, 100 faxes, 100 incoming invoices, 100 checks, etc. If they can order all 100 titles from the same distributor, that means 1 purchase order, 1 fax, 1 bill, 1 check.

Shipping costs are another example. The more you ship at one time, the less you pay per pound. So if a small bookstore orders 2 books from you, the cost to ship is about $1.25 per book. If they throw those 2 books on an order of 100 books, the cost per book to ship can be as low as 10-20¢ per book. Big difference in profit margin.

Many bookstores have a set of conditions that an author/publisher/distributor must meet, otherwise no matter how good the book might be, it isn’t cost effective to deal directly with them. These conditions vary between stores, but a MINIMUM is usually 5-8 titles that “sell well.” What “selling well” means varies from store to store too. Some bookstores will work with smaller companies, but will ask for special terms, such as a 50% discount or free shipping or both.

It’s an uphill climb for the small publisher. I wish I had some better news or suggestions for you, but I don’t. You could try expanding your product line, but that’s going to increase the time you need to spend in your business which will take you away from future writing projects. And even if you have 40-50 books, you’ll still have bookstores calling and asking “Why don’t you go with a real distributor?”

Or you could do some concentrated marketing to boost the sales levels of your current books. If the public is going into the bookstores demanding the product, then the bookstores are usually going to work with you on some level. But advertising can be expensive and the most widespread is through the DB catalog (catch-22). Books ‘n Things covers advertising through the independent stores. (I don’t have contact info handy for them. Go into your local LDS independent bookstore and see if they have a Books ‘n Things catalog you can look at.)

Last option, reconsider your decision to self-distribute.