Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ebooks, Authors and Musicians--a Special Link!

Today I welcome a friend from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA), travel book author Lee Foster, an energetic practitioner in the ongoing ebook publishing revolution around us. Lee is a veteran and award-winning travel journalist whose work has won eight Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest awards in travel journalism.
You can see more about Lee’s articles, photos, 10 books, and 4 apps on his website at Beyond ebooks, Lee has been a pioneer in app publishing.
In this article Lee focuses on “The Ebook Publishing Revolution.” Lee has just released his independently-published print book as an ebook through BookBaby and will keep 100% of the net sales.
At the same time, one of Lee’s traditional print publishing partners has released ebooks of two of his earlier books, with Lee getting 20% of the net sales.
What will be the future of independent author/traditional publisher relationships? Lee has many insights into the current publishing scene, including the debt that writers/photographers owe to musicians, who led the way in digital publishing. Lee is impressed with the simplicity of ebook publishing files and has a perspective on the price of ebooks, always a controversial subject.
Here’s the first half of Lee’s article. Look out tomorrow for the conclusion.

We are in the midst of a fast-developing publishing revolution in ebooks. The most revolutionary aspect of the current scene is that I, as a travel writer/photographer, can publish an ebook of my work and keep 100% of the net sale.

I have done just that, publishing my travel literary book, Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time, for $2.99 in the Apple iBook Store, the Amazon Kindle Store, and the other viable stores for Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader. The book also sells as a printed book for $14.95. The book won a Best Travel Commentary award from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.
The deal sounds too good to be true. When things sound too good to be true, they usually are not true. But this is an exception. My partner in this venture is an entity known as BookBaby.
Simultaneously, one of my traditional print book publishing partners, Countryman Press, has released two of my books published through them as ebooks in the same stores. The titles are The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco and The Photographer’s Guide to Washington DC.
The Countryman price for these ebooks, which sell as print books at $14.95, are $9.95 in the Amazon Kindle Store and $10.95 in the Apple iBook Store. They pay me 20% of the net sale as my royalty.
A careful reader will already detect some issues with all the conflicting figures presented. What is the basis of price? What is the share of royalty? Where is this publishing drama headed? How will author/traditional publisher relationships evolve, given the revolution in process.

To understand what is happening, I present three aspects, which may at first seem ironic and tangential, but are, in fact, central to the discussion:
  1. The Ebook Publishing Link Between Musicians and Writers/Photographers
  2. The Layout Simplicity of Ebooks
  3. The Pricing of Ebooks
Let’s get started:

The Ebook Publishing Link Between Musicians and Writers/Photographers

Ironically, there is a special link between musicians and writers/photographers in the new publishing world of ebooks and apps.
Musicians have led the way in the publishing of digital files, meaning downloadable files or files on a CD product. Now writers/photographers are beginning to benefit from the publishing of digital files, meaning ebooks and apps, either downloadable or on a CD. Most of the activity and benefit is in the downloadable sector.
Writers/photographers owe a great debt of gratitude to musicians, who have created the ground-breaking relationships for selling in this manner in the new digital age.
An interesting expression of this relationship can be seen in a Portland-based company that started with the company named CDBaby and has now expanded to include an ebook-publishing branch called BookBaby.
CDBaby claims to have published music from more than 250,000 independent musical artists, paying them about $200 million in royalties. BookBaby hopes to do the same for writers/photographers who want to publish ebooks.
BookBaby, like CDBaby, has an unusual business model. They charge a small up-front fee of $199 for formatting and placement of the ebook in the main store structures (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBook, B&N Nook, and Sony Reader). There may be further charges for graphics-intensive layouts, cover design, and ISBN assignment (if the author doesn’t have his or her own ISBNs).
They also charge a longtail fee of $19/year to keep the ebook in their system for every year after the first year. Beyond that, they return to the creator 100% of all sales.
Ed: Readers of The Book Designer get a discount from BookBaby: simply use the coupon code jfbookman2 at checkout!
It sounds almost too good to be true. However, these people have vast experience with handling digital files and setting up automatic bullet-proof accounting systems in CDBaby, which has a similar revenue payout. So they can now make this same offer to writers/photographers. CDBaby/BookBaby describes itself as a “non-predatory” publisher.
I used BookBaby for my book, and it worked. My book looks great in both its Kindle and Apple versions. I will use BookBaby for two future ebooks I plan to do.
Joel has conducted two fascinating interviews with the CDBaby/BookBaby CEO, Brian Felsen. The most recent is at:
Brian Felsen of on the Future of e-Books
and the earlier one is at:
e-Book Distribution with BookBaby’s Brian Felsen
Felsen comments that they have had so much success with musicians that it is easy for the company now to branch out to writers/photographers who want to market their products as ebooks. After all, digital files are digital files.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Advance Reader Book Review -Closing The Gate

Book Review by Teresa Belardes

“Closing the Gate” by Deb Simpson
For most of us, the headlines regarding the Mass Suicide of the thirty-six “Heaven’s Gate” cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, Ca. in 1997 was a sad curiosity. For Author Deb Simpson, it became up close and personal when her now adult, baby brother Jimmy, became collateral damage, his dead body discovered five weeks later in Atlanta Georgia. This, his second attempt to follow “those who went on ahead’, at last for him, successful.

This is a page turner of a story that manages to show clearly, the many facets of the characters who shaped the author’s life and that of her brother. It is a testament to their grandmother with whom she spent a few early years, that she was able to come away with enough tools to enable her to make different choices than the narrow possibilities that would inevitably be all that were available to her brother, after a childhood of loneliness and neglect. It paints a vivid case picture for the argument gauging  ‘Nature versus Nurture’

This author has managed, through her grief, to tell the poignant and tragic story of a childhood bereft of the safety and security of the traditional family at the hands of a mother and father who can only be described in hindsight as wholly unfit to parent, but whose journey is as fascinating as it is doomed. With these two, the dynamics that are at play are as intricate as the voices are strong, and everyone in their orbit comes away with at least a partial ticket to their ship wreck.

Deb’s detailed and appraising effort to sort out the path of a life that would lead to such a tragic end, results in a book that is at once a tribute and memorial to her brother, a soul search for the reader, and a call to arms for recognizing the utter importance of the early childhood years as a foundation for a well-rounded and fully formed adulthood. Might it also be a conscious or unconscious attempt to protect all the young and innocent souls that come after?
I hope so.

Closing the Gate is simply and frankly written. The author pulls you into her story and doesn’t let you go. In fact, you will be thinking about this one long after you close the book.

ISBN Paperback ;978-0-9848968-0-6
ISBN Hardcover 978-0-9848968-1-3
Available March 2012 -bookstores and online booksellers 
from Piney D Press 

Why Book Cover Design is Challenging!

Do You Know Your Own Book Too Well?

One common cover design error you may not have thought of is particularly difficult for many authors to overcome: they know their own books too well.
What I mean is that when you wrote the book, you invested it with lots of meaning, and perhaps you wove in symbols throughout the story to make it that much more enticing. But when it comes to the book cover, professional designers know that usually, “less is more.”
The problem is that authors are so attached to their own symbolism or to an image they have lodged in their mind that would be “perfect” for the book cover, they lose sight of the role their book cover is intended to play. One of the quickest ways to kill any good effect of your book cover is to include too many elements. In fact, this is one of the most common failures of amateur designers.
Let’s say a book has scenes that take place near the pyramids in Egypt, in Trafalgar Square in London, and atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The protagonist is an expert at martial arts and a vial of some secret compound plays a central role in the book.
Okay, here’s my message: you don’t have to assemble a picture of the pyramids, the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square, the Eiffel tower, two men in a fight, and a glass vial and put them all on the cover.
I’ve seen book covers with as many as 12 separate elements crowding into the space. What’s the result? Confusion. And when people are confused by what they’re looking at, they just move on. With all that stuff on the cover, there’s no one element that stands out or is emblematic of the book and its central themes.
Of course, the author may be quite unwilling to let go of all these pieces, and will fight to keep them. After all, there’s great symbolism perhaps, in the red roses the heroine stops to admire in the book, or the bridge the lovers met on and where the story reaches its denouement.
It really doesn’t matter. When you tie yourself—or your designer—into the presentation of your symbolism on the book cover, you’re tying your hands at the same time.

In Book Covers, Simplicity Works!

Book covers work best when they combine simple yet powerful elements together in a unified whole that tells, at a glance, what the reader can expect from the book. If you try to tell the whole story on the cover, it will fail. If you try to load up all the symbolism that’s in the book, the cover will fail.
What readers are looking for is an indication of what kind of book it is, what genre, and a sense of the tone.
Is it dynamic, fast-paced and exciting? Is it a contemplation on our own mortality? Is it a romance? This information can be delivered to the potential book buyer quite easily.
One of the best ways to find out how book cover designers achieve this is to go to a bookstore and look at the book covers in your genre. Stay within your genre and look at lots of books.
You will see exactly what I’ve talked about in this article. Simple graphics with a clear message about the type of book it is, and a very limited amount of type. Although nonfiction books have a lot more copy on the covers than fiction, it’s still precious real estate and every word needs to earn its place on the cover.
The only exception you might find is in historical romance, where the convention sometimes includes sweeping panoramas with details from the story on the cover. So if you write historical romance, go ahead and give it a try, but remember those beautiful illustrations are done by professional illustrators who are paid quite well by the publisher.
Take this advice and keep your cover simple. Pick one element that gives a good idea of what’s in the book and use an appropriate typeface, and you’ll be much closer to avoiding that dreaded “amateur” look.