The POP Newsletter

Learning from My Clients: Lessons in Publishing Success

  • By Katherine Pickett
  • 27 Feb, 2017
In the blog series Publishing Stories, I asked several past clients to share their experiences with publishing.
 
There are more to come, but I would like to pause here and think about what we as authors, editors, and publishers can learn from their stories.
 
The four profiled authors — Gary Bargatze , W.K. Dwyer , Maureen C. Berry , and Peter C. Diamond — come from a variety of backgrounds, wrote on wide-ranging topics in both fiction and nonfiction, and were in varying stages of their careers as authors.

  • Gary Bargatze, the author of the 8-book historical fiction series titled Your Winding Daybreak Ways , chose to hire his own editor and rely on a publishing services company to produce his book. Starting in 2015, five of the books have been released with more publishing over the course of 2017.  
  • W.K. Dwyer, whose social sci-fi novel The Killing Flower was just released in fall 2016, arranged all of the vendors — developmental editor, copyeditor, interior designer, cover artist, proofreader, printer, and ebook company — himself.  
  • Maureen C. Berryleft a contract with a publishing house to self-publish her cookbook, Salmon: From Market to Plate , on her own terms and schedule. The book debuted in 2016.  
  • Peter Diamond’s self-help book Amplify Your Career and Life published in 2014. He hired a developmental editor, then contracted with a hybrid publisher for production, distribution, and marketing.
The goals of each author and their expectations for marketing and sales greatly colored their stories. It was educational for me to see where I saw success and where they did or did not.

Have a Vision and Stick to It

Gary Bargatze had a vision for his series before he wrote it, and he followed it through to the end of the project. He was aware of his abilities, crunched the numbers, and found the path that was economical for his time and pocketbook.
 
His use of an editor outside of the publishing services company is one of the key decisions he made. It saved him money compared to what the publishing services company offered, and he received what I know to be a more in-depth edit than most get with a company.
 
Gary also wasn’t shy. He stood up when the production wasn’t right, and he had his book reviewed in the Baltimore Sun online ( twice, actually ). He is strategic and pointed with each decision and the success he has had reflects that.
 
The satisfaction he takes in the journey of publishing is also apparent — and deeply important to the final judgment of whether this adventure was a success.

Make a Great Product and Ask for Help When Needed

W.K. Dwyer shared how much he learned over the course of publishing his first novel, and one lesson is that self-publishing is a whole lot of work!
 
There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes a lot of mind space to keep it all going. He wanted full control over production, especially in regards to the cover, and that is what he got. His book is beautiful and well-crafted.
 
Marketing, as he says, does not happen on its own, and while there is satisfaction in making a great product, it’s more fun when people buy the book. Delegating work can help to alleviate the stress.
 
Indeed, W.K. has since enlisted the help of a marketing expert to get word out about his book. With that assistance, W.K. is set to meet his goals.

Be Flexible and Be Determined

Maureen C. Berry knew what she wanted: a traditional publisher who was going to support her book idea and her marketing efforts. When she discovered that wasn’t going to happen, she changed course. She produced the book on her own to her own standards, and she immersed herself into the marketing the book.
 
More than any of the other authors profiled, Maureen has embraced the work of marketing her book. She has clear determination to give the book its best shot at selling, and it is selling!
 
Maureen’s enthusiasm and drive are palpable, and it’s clear that she enjoys the challenges of marketing. Those two factors go a long way in whether marketing efforts will pay off. Her traditional publisher would have done well to keep her.

Revise Expectations and Focus on the Positive

Peter C. Diamond told us that he enjoyed the writing and publishing aspects of making a book.
 
But like many authors, he underestimated the amount of work involved in marketing the book. Although he had some help with the marketing, he did not meet his sales goal.
 
What I see with Peter, however, is a much bigger success than he may see.
 
His book is both a self-help book that really does help the people who read it — note the 25 reviews on Amazon — and a marketing piece for his company. In this situation, there rarely is a one-to-one return on investment.
 
But for many business people, that’s not the point. Rather, the book offers intangible benefits in the form of new clients, prestige for the author, speaking engagements, and other business-related opportunities.
 
Self-publishing is also very much about the long tail. That is jargon for the amount of time it takes to make back the investment.
 
A traditional publisher will market a book for six months and reap as much profit from that endeavor as possible. That’s the short tail. Self-publishers have to take a longer view.

More to Come

In the coming months, more authors will share their stories, highlighting other aspects of the publishing life. Some do not see themselves as bearing a lesson, but I assure, there is much more to learn!
Katherine Pickett
Katherine Pickett is the owner of POP Editorial Services, LLC, and the author of the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.

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The POP Newsletter

By Katherine Pickett 04 Dec, 2017
Six years of blogs -- NOT LOST!

You can now read archived posts from The POP Newsletter at www.popediting.wordpress.com !  There you will find classic posts like "The Ban on Adverbs," "Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do," "Beta Readers Aren't Editors; Editors Aren't Beta Readers," and much more!

I'm thrilled to have access to these posts again. New material will appear on this blog. For the oldies, you can click "Blog Archive" in the top navigation of this website and read to your heart's content.

Hallelujah!
By Katherine Pickett 28 Nov, 2017

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork -- and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs -- adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • A major contributor to the cost of books with many pieces of artwork is the time it takes to ensure an attractive layout. Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced -- the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. A self-publisher may have to do it themselves.
By Katherine Pickett 10 Nov, 2017

What good timing you have! For my book, I went through Lightning Source because the quality is said to be better, you can set your discount rates (good if you want to be in bookstores), and I am not a fan of Amazon as a company.

 Things did not go as smoothly at LS as I had expected. It took three proofs before we were satisfied that the print quality was going to be all right. We have some shaded boxes, and the shading was uneven. Apparently our proof was the last book off the press before they changed the ink (seriously). I was not impressed. The cover and paper were very good though.

 Over Christmas we learned that Amazon was taking longer and longer to get our books to customers. Cathy Davis reported having to wait 3 weeks! Then they started saying our book was out of stock. We finally decided it was in our best interest to work with CreateSpace and LS at the same time. I wasn't thrilled with that because, if LS has print quality issues, what is CS going to do? Most people order from Amazon and therefore the books would be coming from CS. And I don't want my readers getting crummy-looking books. But, I was over a barrel, so I signed up for CS.

 Turns out the print quality at CS was better than at LS and we had nothing to worry about there. It is clear to someone who is really looking closely that the binding is not as good, and the color match on the cover isn't exact, but only we would notice that. The paper is a little creamier than I would have wanted, but I prefer it to the stark white that is the other option from CS. LS's paper is a very pleasant light cream; CS's is a little darker but still OK. Also, CS charges less per book, by about 50 cents. When you're ordering 150 books for various events, that makes a difference.

 Right now we plan to keep both accounts -- one with LS and the other with CS -- but I do wish I hadn't waited so long to sign up with CS. I hate that Amazon controls everything, but with the quality of printing I saw and the cheaper per unit price, I came to terms with it.

 Given the type of book you are creating, I would definitely consider using CreateSpace. You can sign up for free and get a proof for about $4 (plus shipping). If you hate it, you can move on to Ingram. Or you can sign up with both. If you do go with CS, consider getting a matte finish on your book. I find the glossy from CS to be too shiny. The matte we received looks really good. Since you have a self-help/spiritual book, I think the matte would suit your genre.

 So, there's a long answer to a short question. I hope it helps!

By Katherine Pickett 15 Oct, 2017
Dear Reader,

I have been writing The POP Newsletter for more than six years and have accumulated some 85 posts. Unfortunately, much of that history has been lost. I will continue to add new posts and re-create the old ones, but it will take time. Please bear with me.

Sincerely,
Katherine Pickett

PS. I have purposefully left this beautiful stock photo here for your enjoyment. Don't you feel calmer already?

KP
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