Mailbag

by | Mar 26, 2011

Part of making yourself available in social media is that you are available. Quite a few people read the blog on a daily basis, and many people thinking about getting into self-publishing are confused, looking for answers.

Not surprisingly, they write to me. I help out where I can. I’ve often invited people to leave questions in the comments, but I get emails too.

Want to take a peek at what people are asking? Here’s your chance. Here are several letters I’ve received in the last three days. I’ve changed all the names and obscured details. Below each letter is a response. I hope the authors are well on their way to their goals.

Letters, We Get Letters . . .

Hello Joel,
I have a book that’s part fairy tale and part the author’s husband’s color photos and other memorabilia. What do you think of this project? Can you work on it? How much would it cost? I need to get books out in a hurry and I want to use print on demand for sure.

Hopefully,
Clarice Starling

Clarice,
Unfortunately, you have described a book that’s impossible to print and sell commercially. Certainly you can design, layout and print a few copies at Blurb.com but they will be very expensive on a per unit basis. Digital color is not yet capable of both great reproduction and competitive prices. Sorry!

Joel

Hello Jeff,
I just wrote and printed a cheap children’s book. By Cheap I mean cheap looking. The cover is white, and what child likes looking at white? none. I have made every mistake you could possible make and then some. I know color is a must now. I am wondering on sizes of book. What sells ? what sells the fastest? what is a good price for a 12-16 page book? I want to publish 10 books of stories. Any way, any advice at this point before I pull my hair out and waste any more money on mishaps ,would be wonderful.

Frustrated,
Sylvia Plath

Sylvia,
I’m sorry you have printed cheap looking books, which don’t help anyone. Instead of trying to do 10 books, do one book that’s the absolute best it can be, and hire people if you don’t have the skill to do that yourself. Ten bad products will not help you, but one terrific product can.

Hopefully,
Jeff

Joel,
My question that you can help me with (please let me know your costs) is: I want to add some text to a book that’s already for sale online. I also want to slightly change the cover. Can I do that and still have the same title and will it qualify for CreateSpace’s Library distribution? Important! If I do that, will it stop sales of the current edition while I am getting the expanded version approved? Please let me know the answer and how much you charge.
Gratefully,
Gerald Ford

Gerald,

You can change up to about 10% of the book without creating a new “edition.” Changing the cover doesn’t count, you can change that all you like. If you change more than 10% of the text, call it the “Second Edition” and put the original edition out of print. You’ll have to check with CreateSpace for their policies, I have no idea about their Library distribution and I’m a little too busy today to look it up. Hope that helps.

Joel

Hey, Joel,
My name is Holly Golightly, and a friend of mine who says he knows you told me to contact you for suggestions on how to proceed with my first book that I’m preparing to print. It’s black and white photos along with some short stories. I want one or two copies with the images exactly as I lay them out, then I’m going to find a publisher or a distributor. Do you have any words of wisdom?

Thanks,
Holly

Holly,
A book that combines short stories and photographs would be very difficult to sell. In addition, you would have to figure out how to produce it so the photos looked good, but photo books are very expensive and time-consuming to produce. Perhaps you should do a little research on the difference between book publishers and book distributors? I’m sorry I can’t offer you much hope, I think this book may be a tough sell. But let me know how it goes!

Best,
Joel

Mr. Book Designer.com,
I am an amateur I have written a children’s story. I thought I might like to publish it but I have no clue how, or who to send it to.

The name of my story is “How The Mighty Pumpkin Lost His Grin.” Here is an excerpt from it: (. . .) I don’t know if it is good enough to print or not, but I thought I would give it a try. Never know until you try, I would appreciate some input. Thank you for your time.

In faith,
Oscar Robertson

Oscar,

In my work as a book designer and publishing consultant, I’ve avoided working on children’s books, which seem like a real specialty to me. In any event, I wouldn’t have a clue about whether your book is good enough to publish, but I admire your perseverance. Best of luck!

Joel

What Does It Mean?

These letters, and the dozens just like them I get every month are part of the reason I write The Book Designer. All that most of these authors need is a little education. There are many of us trying to get that education to the people who need it the most.

So if you know someone like these authors, thinking about publishing but not sure what to do, show them some of the great resources, like this blog and the others on my list of 52 Great Blogs for Self-Publishers. Tell them about some of the great books on self-publishing (A Self-Publisher’s Companion will be official on Monday, but it’s on Amazon right now.). Get them some learning, and they’ll be good to go.

Photo by Marcin Wichary

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

6 Comments

  1. Roemer McPhee

    John Houseman’s opening remarks to his first-year law class, in “The Paper Chase,” seem relevant: “Welcome to the Harvard Law School. The Admission committee has seen reason to admit you. Here we will begin to take all of the mush out of your heads, and turn you into lawyers!”

    Reply
  2. Roemer McPhee

    The marketplace will crack the whip, as it always does.

    Reply
  3. George Angus

    Hi Joel,

    This is fascinating. From this sample it would seem that a bazillion folks from all walks of life have a book idea they want to see in print. On one hand I’m heartened, on the other, a little frightened. I guess because of the way the publishing industry has changed over the past few years, publishing a book is within everyone’s grasp. Yikes.

    George

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      I’m pretty much in the same place with all this as you are, George. On the one hand I celebrate the endless blossoming of the human spirit and its expression in the written word. On the other hand I wonder just what has been unleashed. On the whole, I think it’s very much a good thing.

      Reply
  4. Roemer McPhee

    Joel, this isn’t entirely off-subject, because it’s about learning from you. When I took your cue (last fall) to use Find-Replace and get rid of extra spaces in my manuscript, I got 4,700 corrections at once! The mss. shrank 10%–20 pages! I’m glad I read your blog.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Roemer, that’s amazing, most manuscripts won’t shrink nearly that much. Thanks for the feedback.

      Reply

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