Book Trends Blog

December 31, 2012

Book Buying Trends by Bob Spear

It’s the end of the year and time for my wife, Barbara, to sum up our bookstore’s sales. There are some interesting results that I’d like to share with all of you.

First of all, the typical customers are in their forties and older. The younger people are, the less likely they are to buy books. Of course some younger people still do, but overall, the book buying populations tends to be older.

The preponderance of children’s book buyers are grandparents. The parents tend to buy electronics. One interesting factor is how many grandparents want to buy books they read when they were kids. Although a few are still in print, they don’t hold the interest of the younger population.

Another interesting fact: 55% of young adults books are bought by adults who prefer reading that genre. So many adults do not have enough time to read as much as they would like. They find young adult books are easy and quick reads with fast developing plots. They are easier to fit into their schedules.

My last article addressed the trends of ebooks, which are having a definite impact on shopping habits. Internet sales are also taking their toll. The current group of young readers, our potential future group of shoppers, are actually being given tablets or readers by their schools. There are some youngsters who have never read a printed book. This does not bode well for bookstores or major publishers.

One interesting trend has been major publishers who have insisted on charging as much for ebooks as they do for printed paperbacks. To me, that is simply greed, because it costs much less to publish an ebook than a printed version, especially since they are producing a printed version anyway. One device they have invented is the “Agency” model, where they dictate to bookstores a 30% rather than a standard 40% discount rate and no discounting the standard retail price. This has come under fire by the Federal Trad Commission in several court battles.

Yes, the book industry is in turmoil. The only easy prediction to make is that the ways to publish and market books will be changing drastically. It is my guess that the days of independent bookstores are numbered. Oh well, I’ve been trying to talk my wife into retiring for several years now.

May 7, 2012

How to Get Seen and Noticed by Bob Spear

With 500,000 new books being published every year, how can you compete? How do you get seen and noticed? How will independent booksellers fall in love with your book and promote it in their stores and on the recommended reading lists? Relax, I’m about to give away the deep, dark secrets of book marketing.

The American Booksellers Association (ABA)

The book industry trade group has been around for over 100 years. Based just north of New York City in Tarrytown, NY, this organization watches over the business health of over 1,200 independent bookstores throughout the United States. Notice I keep saying independent bookstore and not the giant corporate chains and Amazon. The ABA has many helpful programs and resources for both the booksellers and the publishers who sell to them. The following info will help you know what is available. The link to the following information and costs is http://www.bookweb.org/pubpartner/resources.html:

The Red Box

This is a once-a-month shipment of marketing materials to bookstores. You can get the below particulars at

THE MONTHLY INDIEBOUND RED BOX MAILING PROGRAM

Designed to serve as a monthly “In-Store Marketing Action Kit”, the Red Box mailing (actually a white box with a large red sticker) contains the stores initial quantity of the latest Indie Next List flyers as well as other timely news and information from ABA and IndieBound.

For inclusion in the Red Box,ABA Publisher Partners are invited to provide marketing materials including but not limited

to:

  • Shelftalkers, easelbacks, bookmarks, posters, or other point-of-purchase items to promote those titles chosen as

    Indie Next List Great Reads or Notables, or other recent or upcoming releases

  • Sell sheets and/or catalog copy for any “off-the-list” titles
  • Seasonal catalogs and/or order forms
  • Special offers, notice of backlist promotions, etc.
  • Any other news about titles, authors, tours, confirmed media appearances, etc.

    The Red Box mailing is shipped within the first 12 days of the month to approximately 1100 IndieBound stores. The mailing is prioritized, based on the level of a store’s participation in IndieBound and ABA programs. The minimum quantity for inclusion in any mailing is 450 pieces.

    Effective with the January, 2012 mailing, standard pricing for inclusion in all 1100 Red Boxes is as follows:

• A sell sheet or flyer
• A standard (4” x 6”) postcard • A large-format postcard
• Shelftalker
• Easelback poster
• Standard poster, flat or folded • Pack of 25 bookmarks

$275; $.27 per piece for quantities less than 1100.
$145: $.15 per piece for quantities less than 1100
$180; $.18 per piece for quantities less than 1100
$145; $.15 per piece for quantities less than 1100
$525 and up, dependent on size; $.55 per piece for quantities less than 1100 $425 and up, dependent on size; $.45 per piece for quantities less than 1100 $695, other quantities custom quoted

No galleys,ARC’s or finished books are included in the Red Box mailing. Those items are exclusive to the monthlyWhite Box mailing (please see Appendix B).

We are happy to custom quote on any item you may wish to include in this mailing. If you would like your materials to also be sent to other active ABA Publisher Partners as well as to the nine Regional Bookseller Association Executive Directors, please provide an additional 100 pieces (same pricing as above).

Please contact Carolyn Bennett (carolyn@bookweb.org) at least three weeks prior to the White Box materials due date of a given mailing (please see Appendix D for these dates) with information about the item(s) you wish to include.

All materials should be shipped to:

Transport Specialties International, Inc. (TSI) Attn: Keith Gosselin
9 Joanna Court
East Brunswick, NJ 08816-2108

Phone: 732.698.0988, x 110

Please mark all cartons and/or packing slips:“FOR INDIEBOUND “month” RED BOX” Early shipments are possible, but must be pre-approved.

The White Box Program

THE MONTHLY INDIEBOUND WHITE BOX MAILING PROGRAM

Every month a box measuring 18.5” x 18.5” x 4” is sent to each of the approximately 750 actively participating IndieBound stores, filled with galleys,ARCs and finished books provided by ABA Publisher Partners. As with the Advance Access Program (see Appendix G), this is an excellent and cost effective way to reach the Independent Bookstore market with news of your titles. By collating, packing and shipping all these materials from one warehouse, we are able to offer publishers substantial savings in time, labor, and postage over individual mailings done on their own.

The cost of inclusion in the White Box is dependent on the size and weight of the galley,ARC, or finished book. Standard pricing typically ranges from $1.35 to $2.50 per piece. Upon receipt of the dimensions and number of pages, we are happy to custom quote for any proposed inclusion.

  • The White Box mailing is prioritized, based on the level of a store’s participation in IndieBound and ABA programs. The minimum quantity for inclusion in any mailing is 450 copies.
  • To reach all stores receiving the White Box mailing, please plan to provide 750 copies.
  • If you would like your materials to also be sent to other active ABA Publisher Partners as well as

    to the nine Regional Bookseller Association Executive Directors, please provide an additional 100 copies.

    There is an additional charge for the insertion of any bounceback cards, letters, or any other collation done in our warehouse. Charges for collation will be custom quoted.

    Please contact Carolyn Bennett (carolyn@bookweb.org) at least three weeks prior to the White Box materials due date of a given mailing (please see Appendix E for these dates) with information about the item(s) you wish to include.

All materials should be shipped to:

Transport Specialties International, Inc. (TSI) Attn: Keith Gosselin
9 Joanna Court
East Brunswick, NJ 08816-2108

Phone: 732.698.0988, x 110

Please mark all cartons and/or packing slips:“FOR INDIEBOUND “month” WHITE BOX” Early shipments are possible, but must be pre-approved.

Children’s White Box

THE QUARTERLY INDIEBOUND CHILDREN’S WHITE BOX MAILING PROGRAM

Four times each year a box measuring 18.5” x 18.5” x 4” is sent to each of the approximately 750 actively participating IndieBound stores, filled with a variety of materials provided by ABA Publisher Partners specifically for Children’s book- sellers. As with the Advance Access Program (see Appendix G), this is an excellent and cost effective way to reach the Independent Bookstore market with news of your titles. By collating, packing and shipping all these materials from one warehouse, we are able to offer publishers substantial savings in time, labor, and postage over individual mailings done on their own.

Standard pricing for inclusion in all 750 boxes is as follows:

• A one-sheet or flyer

• A standard postcard
• A large format postcard • A shelftalker
• A pack of 25 bookmarks • A pre-folded poster
• An easelback poster

$190; $.27 per piece for quantities less than 750 $100; $.15 per piece for quantities less than 750 $125; $.18 per piece for quantities less than 750 $100; $.15 per piece for quantities less than 750 $475

$300 and up, dependent on size $400 and up, dependent on size

For galleys, ARC’s, F&G’s and finished books, costs for inclusion usually range between $1.35 and $2.50 per piece, depen- dent on size and weight. The minimum quantity for any galley,ARC, or finished book is 450 pieces. There is an additional charge for the insertion of any bounceback cards, letters, or any other collation done in our warehouse.

We are happy to custom quote on any item you may wish to include in this mailing. If you would like your materials to also be sent to other Publisher Partners and to the nine Regional Bookseller Association Executive Directors, please provide 850 pieces (same price as above).

Please contact Carolyn Bennett (carolyn@bookweb.org) at least three weeks prior to the Children’s White Box materials due date of a given mailing (please see Appendix F for these dates) with information about the item(s) you wish to include.

All materials should be shipped to:
Transport Specialties International (TSI)

Attn: Keith Gosselin
9 Joanna Court
East Brunswick, NJ 08816-2108 Phone: 732-698-0988, x 110

Please mark all cartons and/or packing slips:“INDIEBOUND “season” CHILDREN’SWHITE BOX” Early shipments are possible, but must be pre-approved.

 

IndIe Next List And Shelftalker Suggested Rate Card 2012

INDIE NEXT LIST
Top 20 Listing, #1 Title $ 3,500

Top 20 Listing, Other Titles $ 2,500

this charge includes printing costs and postage for 450,000 fliers; store placement

“Now in Paperpack” (12 titles per month) $ 1,000

A pdf with jacket image, bibliographic information and bookseller quote as well as a shelftalker for each title is available for download at www.bookweb.org.

 Top 10 Listing, Frontlist

Top 10 Listing, Backlist
Regular Listing, Frontlist
Regular Listing, Backlist
this charge includes printing costs and postage for 450,000 fliers; store placement

TEAR-OFF SHELFTALKERS

Standard cost for regular Indie Next List titles, 1100 $2,875 Standard cost for Kids’ Indie Next List titles, 750 $2,175

Includes production and shipment, 5.5” x 7”, with four-color jacket image and bookseller quote, 50 tear-off sheets and printed backer.

Combined cost (to support an Indie Next List title) Kids’ combined Top Ten
Kids’ combined Regular

$4,500 $3,200 $2,700

Combined cost includes suggested rate for Indie next List placement and standard shelftalker production (see individual costs above).

Please contact Mark Nichols at mark@bookweb.org for further information Rates subject to change without notice.

 Advance Access Program
 This is an email alert to member stores where you can offer up free review copies of your book to those stores that request one. The ABA is currently re-doing its rate structure for this, so check back in from time to time to see when it becomes available again.
Snail Mail Lists
These are available for a price; however, I don’t think sending materials direct to the stores is nearly as effective as communicating through the ABA programs, which give them a much more valid image.
Summary

There you have it: the secret to success in book marketing. Yes, it is expensive! Yes, it’s well worth it. Book marketing is a full time job and an expensive undertaking. If you’re not prepared to do this, you might want to rethink the idea of self-publishing. It’s not for everyone.

April 27, 2012

Price Wars and Book Industry Illegal Activities by Bob Spear

This has been a huge issue lately. To better understand it, let me describe a couple of different pricing models or customs which are at the heart of this controversy.

Wholesale Model: The publisher establishes a book’s recommended price and sells it to the booksellers for a percentage off that price. The bookseller can then sell the book for whatever price (sometimes higher) that he wants to.

Agency Model: The publisher sets a price for the book and then discounts it 30% to the reseller, who must agree to sell the book at the price the publisher establishes and cannot discount. The result has been for the publishers to push up the prices of their books because they can.

Impact on E-books: This has pushed up the price of E-books and has resulted in a major conflict between some of the major publishers and Amazon, who wants to keep the prices low for their Kindle market. In their efforts to control the situation in their favor, the major publishers began allegedly sneaking around in a variety of price-fixing activities. Ooops, they got caught at those and the following cover-up attempts. This brought the Federal Department of Justice into the fray with an anti-trust suit against five publishers and Apple. In the meanwhile, E-book distributor Mark Coker of SmashWords has come on record that he prefers the Agency Model because it allows the authors and the publishers to control the prices. This levels the playing field for smaller book retailers and preventing large retailers from loss-leadering their small competitors to death.

All these recent activities are pushing down E-book prices and tying the hands of the major publishers, which may hasten their demise.

Bottom Line: The forces of greed and control battles point to the obvious solution of self-publishing. Once a pariah in the book industry, self-publishing is becoming acceptable, as long as the author does a professional job of publishing his books. The legal fight has an indirect impact on self-publishers in terms of common price ranges. It all points to a much different business model.

March 7, 2012

Latest E-Book Alliance by Bob Spear

It was inevitable. Smaller e-book enablers are striking deals with major companies in order to see their content distributed and sold. E-books are no different from any other valuable commodities; they need economy of scale to be able to succeed and survive. The latest is last week’s deal struck between Smashwords and Blio. Mark Coker, founder and CEO of Smashwords, announced the deal and explained it in an email to all the authors who have e-books on the Smashwords site that they would now also be carried by Blio, a major e-book distributor that provides content from the major publishers. Baker and Taylor, the second largest book distributor in the world, uses Blio to sell its e-books to indie bookstores and libraries. My bookstore, The Book Barn, has its own landing page on Baker and Taylor’s data base. If you go to that page, you can see the Blio connections. You can even download their free AP to turn your computer into a book reader. Blio also connects with Google Books where over 1,000 e-books that have outlived their copyright protection can be had for free. This is a win/win for everybody. It also levels the playing field with Amazon and Barnes and Noble. All this makes good business sense.

February 27, 2012

Recent Trend in the Book Industry by Bob Spear

The following is an excellent analysis of several industries, to include the book industry, in an article entitled:

Creeping Fascism, Part One: Return of the Company Town
By: John Rubino | Thursday, February 16, 2012. I am including only the book portion, but I have personal knowledge of several other industries he used for examples to be right on the money. I think you’ll find this both interesting and scarey:
“Book Publishing
But perhaps the best way to understand the true structure of America’s political economy in the twenty-first century is to talk to some of the people who publish, edit, and write books in America. These days, most articles on the book industry focus on technology. The recent death of the retailer Borders is depicted as a victory of Internet sales over brick-and-mortar stores, the e-book market as a battle between the Kindle e-reader and the iPad. But if we look behind the glib narrative of digitization, we find that a parallel revolution has taken place, one that has resulted in a dramatic concentration of power over individuals who work in this essential, surprisingly fragile industry.
A generation ago, America’s book market was entirely open and very vibrant. According to some estimates, the five largest publishers in the mid-1970s controlled only about 30 percent of trade book sales, and the biggest fifty publishers controlled only 75 percent. The retail business was even more dispersed, with the top four chains accounting for little more than 10 percent of sales. Today, a single company–Amazon–accounts for more than 20 percent of the domestic book market. And even this statistic fails to convey the company’s enormous reach. In many key categories, it sells more than half the books purchased in the United States. And according to the company’s estimates, its share of the e-book market, the fastest-growing segment of the industry, was between 70 and 80 percent in 2010. (Its share of the online sale of physical books is roughly the same.)
Not surprisingly, then, we find the same sort of fear among our book publishers as we do among the chicken farmers of the Sweedlin Valley. I recently sat down with the CEO of one of the biggest publishing houses in America. In his corner office overlooking a busy Manhattan street, he explained that Amazon was once a “wonderful customer with whom to do business.” As Jeff Bezos’s company became more powerful, however, it changed. “The question is, do you wear your power lightly?” My host paused for a moment, searching for the right words. “Mr. Bezos has not. He is reckless. He is dangerous.”
Later that same day, I spoke with the head of one of the few remaining small publishers in America, in a tattered conference room in a squat Midtown office building. “Amazon is a bully. Jeff Bezos is a bully,” he said, his voice rising, his cheeks flushing. “Anyone who gets that powerful can push people around, and Amazon pushes people around. They do not exercise their power responsibly.” Neither man allowed me to use his name. Amazon, they made clear, had long since accumulated sufficient influence over their business to ensure that even these most dedicated defenders of the book–and of the First Amendment–dare not speak openly of the company’s predations.
If a single event best illustrates our confusion as to what makes an open market–and the role such markets play in protecting our liberties–it was our failure to respond to Amazon’s decision in early 2010 to cut off one of our biggest publishers from its readers. At the time, Amazon and Macmillan were scrapping over which firm would set the price for Macmillan’s ebooks. Amazon wanted to price every Macmillan e-book, and indeed every e-book of every publisher, at $9.99 or less. This scorched-earth tactic, which guaranteed that Amazon lost money on many of the e-books it sold, was designed to cement the online retailer’s dominance in the nascent market. It also had the effect of persuading customers that this deeply discounted price, which publishers considered ruinously low, was the “natural” one for an e-book.
In January 2010, Macmillan at last claimed the right to set the price for each of its own products as it alone saw fit. Amazon resisted this arrangement, known in publishing as the “agency model.” When the two companies deadlocked, Amazon simply turned off the buttons that allowed customers to order Macmillan titles, in both their print and their e-book versions….”
Mr. Rubino also commented on industries such as silicon valley, chicken raising operations, micro breweries, and others. Those of us in the book business know the above comments to be true.

January 31, 2012

Building Your Author Platform / Fan Base by Bob Spear

You’ve worked very hard to write your book and submitted it to appropriate agents only to be told they and the publishers aren’t interested because nobody knows who you are. That quickly becomes a dog chasing his tail or a catch-22 problem. How can you become a known and admired author if no one will publish you? The fix for this is to develop a platform or a fan base. The larger your followership becomes, the more books you will sell. The publishers want to use this as a marketing guarantee. It makes their marketing efforts easier and makes them more money sooner. So, how do you build a platform?

It’s not easy but it is doable. Here are some suggestions you may find helpful.

Facebook, UTube, & Twitter—Social networks are a free, excellent way to become known to people who count. Seek relationships with readers, other authors, book publishers, agents, reviewers, genera bloggers, and anyone interested in whatever you write about.

Book Signings—Don’t expect many sales at the signings. Instead, seek positive relationships with owners, managers, and staff who will hand sell your book long after you’re gone.

Interviews—This is a potential treasure chest. Radio interviews are the best because you do them from phone wherever you want to. I did so many radio interviews, that I was eventually offered my own show, which did for two and a half years. TV is more difficult because you must do it from or through a studio. Newspaper interviews can be done from anywhere that is mutually convenient; however, they are getting more difficult to get because of the weakening newspaper industry. Seek a good media booking agent to help you make all these connections. Make the interviewer look good.

Book Fairs—These are good ways to meet the reading public. Some are expensive, so pick and choose wisely.

Industry Trade Shows— These worked very well for me. I would book a couple of adjoining booth spaces, fill them with tables, put colorful table clothes on them, and set up collapsible wire racks. I would fill them with my books and other good books in my genre. I would give speeches and/or workshops and provide my mobile bookstore. I became very well-known for this customer base.

Regional Bookseller Trade Shows— Yes, the Book Expo America is better known, but it’s huge and very expensive. It is worth attending for the networking opportunities and education. If you really want to sell your books, however, go to the regional trade shows. To learn about these, go to http://www.bookweb.org/resources/regionals.html

Book Reviews— These are useful to let book buyers know about you and your book. Even the largest review services have begun charging for their reviews, so use them wisely Reviews make for a good source of marketing blurbs. Never send a book in the blind and expect to get a review—huge waste of money. Be sure to check the reviewer’s submission guidelines and adhere to them.

Book Award Contests— These can get expensive, so be judicious as to how many you register for.

Email Campaigns to Bookstores— Check with the American Booksellers Association for mailing lists at http://bookweb.org/indiebound/indiessentials and at http://bookweb.org/membership/products .

Speaking Engagements— As I mentioned before, this is a wonderful way to become known and respected.

Book Clubs— I went to a mini-trade show for military books, linked up with the editor from Doubleday’s Military Book Club, and sold 25,000+ copies each of two of my titles. They also used my printer and allowed me to participate in their printings of my books at greatly reduced prices because of the economy of scale.

These are some platform enhancing venues I have used to good effect in the past. If you find only one or two that work for you, you’re ahead of the game. Remember, you’re competing against 500,000+ new books a year. You have to work hard to get seen in a crowd like that.

January 21, 2012

Writing Settings by Bob Spear

Filed under: Book Writers,Self-Publishers,Uncategorized — bobspear @ 4:15 pm

One of the most loved and respected authors of western fiction was Louis L’amour.. His fans found his stories to be very realistic because of the accuracy of his settings. If one of his stories mentioned a specific well or spring, you could go to that location and find it. This is because L’amour had done so before he wrote about it. His research was meticulous.

Does this mean you need to become a world traveler to be able to construct realistic settings? Not necessarily. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in or traveled in a number of countries in Europe and Asia, so I could search my memory and describe a particular location I had personally experienced just like L’amour had done.

Detailed, accurate settings make for interesting reading. This is why books are often referred to as armchair adventures. But, what’s an author to do if his story takes him to a place he’s never been? All is not lost. First there are atlases for those of us who know how to read a good map. Second, there are sources of good information in Google and Wikipedia. Most importantly, there are UTube  and documentaries which can give you a look at far away places. Any author who doesn’t avail himself of these resources is just plain lazy. By studying and seeing for oneself the locations you’re writing about, you can produce much more interesting works.

OK, how about science fiction and fantasy? Did you ever notice how many fantasy novels come with an excellent map of the stories’ settings? I always find myself checking such maps as I read just so I’m clear as to where everything is. The beauty of scifi is its settings are whatever the author wants them to be; therefore, detailed descriptions become essential.

Good settings are the sign of good fiction writers. They add spice to your stories. They also add connectivity with your readership for those who have been to the places you write about. Do your due diligence to make what you write as believable as possible.

Writing Settings by Bob Spear

One of the most loved and respected authors of western fiction was Louis L’amour.. His fans found his stories to be very realistic because of the accuracy of his settings. If one of his stories mentioned a specific well or spring, you could go to that location and find it. This is because L’amour had done so before he wrote about it. His research was meticulous.

Does this mean you need to become a world traveler to be able to construct realistic settings? Not necessarily. I’ve been fortunate to have lived in or traveled in a number of countries in Europe and Asia, as well as all over America, so I could search my memory and describe a particular location I had personally experienced just like L’amour had done.

Detailed, accurate settings make for interesting reading. This is why books are often referred to as armchair adventures. But, what’s an author to do if his story takes him to a place he’s never been? All is not lost. First there are atlases for those of us who know how to read a good map. Second, there are sources of good information in Google and Wikipedia. Most importantly, there are UTube  and documentaries which can give you a look at far away places. Any author who doesn’t avail himself of these resources is just plain lazy. By studying and seeing for oneself the locations you’re writing about, you can produce much more interesting works.

OK, how about science fiction and fantasy? Did you ever notice how many fantasy novels come with an excellent map of the stories’ settings? I always find myself checking such maps as I read just so I’m clear as to where everything is. The beauty of scifi is its settings are whatever the author wants them to be; therefore, detailed descriptions become essential.

Good settings are the sign of good fiction writers. They add spice to your stories. They also add connectivity with your readership for those who have been to the places you write about. Do your due diligence to make what you write as believable as possible.

January 4, 2012

Goal Setting for Writers by Bob Spear

So many of us become interested in a fresh start at this time of year. We want to do better, get more done, become more successful, etc. For writers, this can include a number of approaches such as:

  • Work or projects accomplished
  • Entering new areas
  • Improved skills
  • Improved discipline
  • Greater recognition

Work or Projects accomplished– This pertains to getting the work done. Goals in this area are focused on various combinations of word counts, pages, number of articles or projects such as books written. Whatever it is, try not to bite off more than you can chew. Be realistic and plan ahead. In the military, we use a method called backwards planning. If you want to plan an attack for a certain time, start at that time and work backwards as to what must be done before that attack is accomplished in reverse order. For example: Let’s say you want to write a book and submit it to an agent/publisher or begin the self-publishing process. What’s the last thing you’ll have to accomplish in that process. If it is to submit the manuscript first, you’ll need to write a query letter or proposal package. Before that happens, the ms will need a final proofing. Before that, you’ll need a professional edit. Before that, you’ll need to go through the self-edit process. Before that, your final draft needs to be finished. Before that, you will need to write the book. Before that, you should outline the book. Before that, you will need to come up with a character bible/data-base. You should have conducted a good bit of your research before that. Before that, you will need to come up with a problem(s) to be solved or a theme and context.

Note, each one of these steps takes time. Some can be done simultaneously with others. Each takes a finite amount of time and effort. By doing a planning process like this, it will insert a degree of reality as to what is doable. It will also provide a series of sub-goals and steps to be accomplished and you will be forced to consider most of what needs to be done.

Related to all of this is setting realistic work effort goals such as when you will work, how long you will work, and how much you will get done each time you do.

If you’re working on projects of lesser scopes, such as magazine article, you can still use a similar planning process, but do it multiple times.

Entering new areas– Lets say you have been writing mysteries or thrillers but would like to try your hand at a different genre this year, such as paranormal romance. Lately, a number of well-established writers have been doing this when they depart from adult writing, changing over to young adult or mid-grade level writing in an attempt to capture more of a market earlier on. There are several important things which must take place before doing that, specifically: read, read, read. Become familiar with what that new genre or form looks and feels like. What kind of structures and language are used? Who are the big-gun writers in the new field and what are their reputations based on?  What’s done and what’s not done and why? Who in the industry specializes in the new area and how should they be approached, be they agent, publisher, reviewer, or market segment. You probably did something like this when you initially began writing in your specialty. Now you have to do it again.

Improved skills– So you want to be a better writer, then you need to learn to do so through self-study and with help from professionals. Although I have written several screenplays, I knew I wasn’t writing them as well as I could be. I had read “Screenwriting for Dummies” and several other good books on the subject. I had also read a number of screenplays of successful movies. I watch a lot of movies and TV episodes on Netflix. Still, that wasn’t enough. I finally signed up for and took a 10-day intensive internet course in subtext writing. I count the tuition I had to pay as an investment in myself. Do you see a pattern here? I did my due diligence with my self-study at several levels and still paid for professional guidance. I’m not saying I will now write great screenplays, but I know what I write will be much better than when I first began buying formatting software and trying my hand at it back in 1997.

Improved discipline– Be firm with yourself. If you set goals, work toward them on a regular, systematic basis. It’s just like setting weight-loss goals. You have to do it the right way and work at it constantly. The key word here is “work.” Have you ever met someone who is constantly talking about their someday dreams but who do nothing to actualize them? All the dreaming in the world will be for nothing if you don’t make the efforts to make them happen. New Years always puts people in the frame of mind to set goals, but that’s the easy part. The hard and meaningful part is attaining them.

Greater recognition– The most successful writers understand how important it is to gain recognition. They are always marketing themselves through the social media, industry organs, public appearances, and creating a fan base. The book industry is like the music industry. Who knows of you and who will buy your product? As iffy as this business is, the powers that be will always consider someone with a strong fan base or platform before they will consider a complete unknown.

OK, this may not be everything, but hopefully it will give you a few things to consider when setting those New Years goals.

December 21, 2011

Lazy Book Designing by Bob Spear

My eyes are stinging and my brain is dizzier than usual. I just finished reading for my bookstore’s review two excellent young adult books for consideration of including them on our shelves and hand-selling them once we do. OK, so why the physical impacts?

Both books were interior designed using serif-less fonts. They’re OK for ads or internet usage, but they are horrendous for reading on paper. Why? and Why were they used? Ah, here is my best guess. It may all be about laziness on the part of the interior designer/typesetter. Follow along as I explain more:

Text fonts that use serifs are easier to read. The serifs, those little tittles that come to points on each letter’s lines, bring closure to the letters. They let the eye know what the each letter is (try to figure out if a letter is a capital I or a small L in a sanserif font). Reading the text in a book without that help is daunting at best.

The two books I read were The Eleventh Plague and Cinder, and both were excellent, except for the typesetting. I know whereof I speak. I am an interior designer for books and a design judge for the Ben Franklin Awards. Neither books would have made it to the Ben Franklin finals but would have been rejected out of hand immediately.

So, why would a designer use sanserif fonts for his text paragraphs? I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess it was done out of sheer laziness or for a publisher’s cost cutting guidance. Many people prefer using sanserif text fonts for computer screens, where serifs can become too complex for screen resolutions. For this reason, many ebooks are set with sanserif text fonts. OK, so the designer makes the ebook version first thing since they are cheaper, easier, and quicker to publish. Why go back through and change all the text paragraphs to serifed fonts. After all, they are wider (which may add to the page count) and may create some widows and orphans that weren’t there before (again screwing up the layout throughout the book).

It’s my guess that is what happened with these two books I just struggled through to read with my aging eyesight. I think that many self-publishers may fall into this trap as well (both these books were from major publishers). Give your readers a break and design your books correctly. There is a reason for every designing tradition and standard practices.

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