Monday, October 17, 2005

Beneath the cover: The importance of book interior design 

(By Michael Morris, Partner / Senior Designer, Pneuma Books)

Here is a conversation that I have had innumerable times:

“What do you do for a living?
“I’m a book designer.”
“So, you design the book covers?”
“Yes, and the interiors too.”
“What do you mean you design the interior? That’s just type, isn’t it?”

It’s a common misunderstanding that design is just making things look pretty, and book interiors don’t need to look pretty, so book interior design is nothing. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Design is visual communication. It is the ambassador of your ideas to those you are trying to reach. Whether it is a book cover, a book interior, an advertisement, or a business card, it is the design’s job to get your point across to the reader.

Books are meant to be read. But not all books are created equal. Some are easy to use. Some make you want to shut them immediately. Some are easy to read. Some are difficult. Some seem information-rich even though they’re not thick. Others seem to have no useful information even though they’re as hefty as a phonebook. Sometimes the reason for these differences is the writing of the books in question. Quite often, however, the reason is the design.

How important is a book’s interior design? To answer this question, think of how important road signs are. Road signs must communicate useful information quickly and clearly. When driving, you rely on road signs for guidance. If a road sign does not get its information across to you immediately, you could pass it and find yourself confused or misinformed. If this happens repeatedly, you could find yourself on a very confusing and annoying road trip. Reading a book is like taking a road trip.

Some road trips are straightforward and don’t have lots of intersections and turns. All you need is a smooth road that is wide enough to accommodate your car, and maybe a few road signs to let you know distances. A novel or biography is like this. The interior design of such a book needs to facilitate reading in long chunks, much like a highway is made for long drives.

Some road trips involve big cities and complicated directions. There is so much going on inside a big city that if the roads are not clearly marked and the key destinations are not easy to find, then that city will be unpleasant to navigate. Many non-fiction books are as complex as a city. If your information is not clearly presented, then it won’t be easy to navigate and your book is going to be unpleasant to read. If your information is buried in long blocks of text, then readers might not find it. If your information is presented with tons of bells and whistles, then the readers will be distracted.

It is the job of the book designer to make your book a pleasant ride. Book designers know how to make the road smooth and wide. They know how to make road signs easy to follow. They know how to lead readers to the hot spots. They know where intersections and rest stops should be.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Doesn’t the writing of a book affect how smoothly it reads?” Yes, it certainly does. A designer can present your information in the best way possible, but your manuscript needs to have the right information in the first place. For a truly excellent book, you can craft the content of your book with design in mind. We call this Writing Backwards, and you can learn how to do it with our Writing Backwards seminar. Just click here to get your copy!

Friday, September 23, 2005

No Surprises: Color Managing Your Book Project 

(By Jane, Production Artist)

It's not the first time that this has happened. You're sitting at your computer, checking your email and drinking a good cup of joe. Then, the doorbell rings and you spill the coffee in your lap. But it doesn’t matter. It's THE package! The advance copies of your book have finally arrived! You slice through the twelve layers of packaging tape, tear off the bubble wrap without even popping a single one, and gaze down at the book you created with blood, sweat, and tears in dismay.

Is this my memoir? Why is the cover BLUE?

Nothing’s much worse than being surprised by your book’s cover. You might say to yourself, “So what if the color is a little off? No one is going to notice. It’s the content that matters.” In truth, a book cover generates first and lasting impressions. If the cover is unappealing, no one will pick up your book — and, most importantly, no one is going to buy it. Colors do more than just look nice. They set a mood and send a message to the buyer.

For example, let’s suppose that oh-so-elegant faded sepia color you’re using on your cover is printed with a bit too much red. Not a big deal, right? Wrong. Now the color is pink, and you’ve just alienated 50 percent of your buyers.

Here are some tips to make sure you prevent surprises and receive accurate color when you go to print:
1) Talk to your design team
2) Have your design team get you color proofs before going to print
3) Talk to your printer

Every computer monitor represents colors differently and has different profiles assigned to it. Talk to the team doing your cover and marketing materials. Ask what the colors are. If you’re looking at online proofs from your team, it’s possible that the proofs you are seeing look different than the colors they are actually using. I know it sounds crazy, but there is a good reason for it.

Your design team has been working with printers for a long time. They have printers they normally work with because they are happy with the end result and quality. They know how to prepare their colors in order to get a certain color on press. Because every printer calibrates their presses somewhat differently, production artists will often modify their colors on screen in order to get the intended color on the finished product. They do this from experience.

So, what can you do? Before the job is expedited, you could have your design team send the cover file to a service bureau for a color proof. This gives you enough time to see what the finished production will look like and to modify the color if you so choose. This can also be used to compare with the proof the printer sends.

Printers send out high-resolution proofs that are supposed to show accurate placement and color; however, the paper they use for proofs is not the paper they use on press. Believe it or not — though not as exciting as Ripley’s — even the lamination on the cover stock can affect color. For example, black appears more black with a gloss lam than a matte lam. So, just imagine how this can alter other colors. But, a good design and production team knows this and will alter these colors for you so that they look correct after the lamination is applied. This level of quality service happens behind the scenes. It’s their job.

The point is this: ask questions and do your homework. Why? So you’ll know exactly what you should be getting. And if you don’t get that, you’ll have the proof you received from the service bureau to back you up. Don’t get stuck with 10,000 surprises.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Covering Your Assets: Creating Great Covers 

(by Brian Taylor, CEO/Creative Director, Pneuma Books)

I want small press and independent publishers to succeed. There are so many worthwhile books being published by small publishers that never see the light of day because their covers are inadequate. Producing a book is a labor of love and an expensive task and I am weary of seeing publishers shoot themselves in the foot by creating bad covers or the wrong covers for their books. Our firm has created hundreds of covers and we’ve produced 24 award-winning books for publishers in just the last 4 years alone.

So let me help you by providing you some professional guidance below. Alternatively, if you would like me to provide you a paid critique of your cover, call me at 410-996-8900 to arrange an appointment, or email me your cover JPG at brian@pneumabooks.com.

Here is what I'll "cover" in this article (pun... hee hee):
1. Cover Imagery
2. Hardcovers vs. Softcovers
3. When to Use a Dustjacket
4. Gift Books / Children's Books (and a great seminar on selling them!)
5. The Vital Info Required for the Booktrade and Where It Should Go on the Cover
6. Cover Copy
7. Further Resources

Become a Pro
The first thing you should do is your homework. Research your competition thoroughly to benchmark quality and design. Note how concepts are communicated. Here are four obvious places to begin: (1) Amazon.com (2) Books In Print (3) Google it! (4) Publisher’s Weekly. I also recommend going to the bookstore to “experience” books in your genre. This is your marketplace. Ideally your cover should be better than the books on the shelf. At the very least, your cover should emulate them in quality, effectiveness of concept and design execution.

Picture Your Cover
We receive many requests to use author-supplied artwork on the cover. Often the quality is not usable or the concept is too literal or too abstract to effectively communicate the book’s benefits or what the book is about. Photos and artwork must be integrated into the overall design to work in concert with the titling. One of the most common mistakes in self publishing is to use cheesy snapshots or clipart. If illustration or photos are used, they must be quality, hi-res prints and they must work as whole within the design.

If you are considering illustration or photography for your cover, the stock-art website Photos.com has high-quality photos and illustration at reasonable costs. You can search by topic. Consider how you might be able to integrate these images into your cover like the pros do.

The Hard Truth About Softcovers
Business books, biographies, fiction, and trade books intended for libraries, education, and retail should have a hardcover, otherwise known as casebound, with sewn bindings. For many business books, it is a matter of prestige. A hardcover book is more attractive and more authoritative in the marketplace. The information is thus perceived as more persuasive – and that can position a book (and its author) on top of the heap. For books that might be used as supplemental curriculum or be purchased by libraries – books on sociology, trade practices, economics, history, etc. – durability is a huge issue. Those books should be casebound hardcovers so that they can be used and abused by the masses. How long would a glue-bound softcover last in a frat house? Maybe longer than a student’s beer-soaked college career, but not long enough to be resold 10 times in the college’s used book store.

Softcovers work just fine for how-to books, health and fitness, guide books, and self-help.

Covering Your Assets
When creating a book for crossover markets, you want to be sure that your cover and binding are appropriate for each sales channel. Let’s say you’re publishing a book suitable for consumer retail and supplemental course work. Retail stores really dig dustjackets on hardback books. But colleges and universities dislike dustjackets because they become dog-eared easily, and so they prefer a printed case, like you might see on a textbook. Here’s a trick.... TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF HERE...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This Little Piggy Went To Market 

(by Brian Taylor, CEO/Creative Director

Let’s face it… I’m piggy. I want more marketshare. I want my business to do well. Don’t you want that too? Don’t you want strong positioning for your business and the information you have? Don’t you want to sell more books? Of course you do. So let’s explore this idea of marketing…

I like to say that there are 1,000 ways to spend $1,000 on book marketing. The problem is that your budget is probably not that big and that type of effort is usually ineffective if it is not targeted.

So how DO you know where to spend money on book marketing? The answer becomes more clear when you identify your Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary markets.

Primary Markets
Every publisher’s Primary Market should be their own sphere of direct influence. For instance, if you are a consultant, speaker, or workshop presenter, you want to sell your books or other information at your session or event for full retail price or for a small conference discount. Additionally, as you collect contact information from prospective customers who participate in teleseminars, workshops, or conferences, you will want to direct market your information product to them. Your Primary Market is captive. It is direct. Those are the prospects who are most likely to buy right away. And… there are no middlemen to gouge the price.

If you have no plan to reach consumers and B2B directly, then you cannot expect to make any money selling information products. Develop a plan to deliver free snippets from your info through blogs, ezines, teleseminars, workshops, and speaking events. And participate in your business peers’ blogs, ezines, teleseminars, workshops, and speaking events.

You must have a strong ecommerce shopping cart. Not a big deal – they are very easy to set up. (Take a free test drive at Tom Antion’s KickStartCart.) Shopping carts do a lot more than simply process payments. You can use them to deliver FREE products to your prospects while capturing their data. Why would you want to give away free, valuable information with knowing who is getting it?! That is your Primary Market.

Secondary Markets
This is what I hear when I ask publishers who their Primary Market is: “Oh, I want my book in every bookstore in America!” Good luck! The bookstore is a really tough place to sell books and make any money – but that is a different blog! So after I explain what a Primary Market should be, I am usually asked: “So the bookstore is my Secondary Market then?” With all due respect, wrong again!

There are thousands of buyers in nonbookstore retail and nonretail markets. Consider this: there are 13,200 library buyers out there. There are over 4,000 colleges and universities, not to mention junior colleges, community colleges, and trade schools – and they have bookstores! There are associations and organizations – and an Association of Associations! (We lived one block away from it in Wash D.C.) They buy books for their online bookstores. They review and recommend books. There are over 14,000 mail-order catalogs with over 850 subject categories! Book clubs, Military, Government, remainders, museum or hospital stores… the sales channels go on and on. So how do you find them, reach them and sell books to them? Read on... TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, DOWNLOAD THE FREE PDF HERE...

Is Online POD Publishing a Good Way to Self-Publish? 

(by Brian Taylor, CEO/Creative Director)

Not if you are planning to sell books! Let's look at the issue...

We run into many new "publishers" these days. With the proliferation of digital printing technologies and Print-On-Demand (POD), many new companies have sprouted up (anyone remember SPROUT?) These companies offer many different combinations of book creation services that can confound and trap an eager writer. Some of these companies offer to publish books for writers by producing the book cover and layout, digitally printing the books, and filling orders; others offer production and POD fulfillment services without publishing the book; still, others offer just the POD fulfillment without the production or the publishing; and others offer just short-run digital printing without POD fulfillment production services or the publishing. There is a lot of confusion and misnomenclature out there! Furthermore, it's a tangled jungle of new and different types of publishers, producers, printers, and, most importantly, predators. Let's distinguish between the various entities...

Who Is a Publisher?
A publisher is any company or individual who owns the International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, of a book. The owner ascribes one of their ISBNs to a given book title and becomes the "Publisher-of-Record" for that title. If you are "published by" a traditional royalty trade publisher, or "pay to be published" with a vanity press or an online publisher who assigns your book an ISBN, then, obviously, you are not the publisher. They are the publisher and you are the author.

Who Is Not a Publisher?
We hear many authors today claim they are self-publishing because they have personally paid to have their written work put into book form and sold by a service. This understanding might be incorrect. The truth lies in who owns the ISBN for that book. If the author applied for and paid for the ISBN in his or her own name, then no matter who produces and sells the book, the author has become the publisher of record -- an authentic self-publisher. If the author paid a vanity press or online publisher to produce and sell the book and that service issues one of their own ISBNs to the title, then that service is the publisher.

Who Cares?
The ISBN is used to track a book title throughout the book industry from publisher to seller and everywhere in between. The ISBN identifies the title and who published it. This is why it matters.

In today's book industry, there is a stigma attached to self-publishing that must be overcome. The stigma comes from the proliferation of poorly developed, poorly edited, and poorly designed books that are being produced by vanity presses, online publishers, and sloppy self-publishers. The key to overcoming that stigma for self-publishers is to produce a quality product that is indistinguishable from any other book produced by trade publishers. If a vanity press or online publisher is publishing your book, there might be a stigma associated with that particular company and there is not much you can do about that. There are very few vanity presses and online publishers that do not have a recognized stigma within the book industry. What can happen to your book if it is recognized as being published by one of these companies? Mainstream book reviewers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers may ignore your book. If you have self-published, there is at least an opportunity for your book to NOT be recognized as a vanity press or online publisher. In such a case, the onus is on you as the publisher to prove quality and beat the stigma associated with self-publishing.

More P's in the POD
Online publishers produce books for writers and print them using on-demand or short-run digital printing technologies versus larger-quantity traditional offset printing. This is usually called "Print On Demand" -- printing one book to fill an order. This is great for the writer because POD means no inventory, and the cost to print books is incurred only when a book is ordered. This may also be an adversity for the writer to overcome commercially. Because each book is printed per order, they usually cannot be returned. The book industry typically does not wish to order books that cannot be returned. And, sadly, the quality of many or most online publisher's books is often poor -- another reason for the book industry to reject books produced in this way.

But let's not throw the all the P's out on their A's... there are very good uses for short-run digital printing and POD..... CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reinvention in NYC: Prosperity through new independent-publishing trends 

(By Brian Taylor, CEO/Creative Director)

As the guest of Rick Frishman at Planned Television Arts and Fred Gleeck at Publishing Seminar preceding BEA in NYC last week, I confirmed what I have been trying to teach all our publishing clients: Diversify your information for maximum profit.

Fred, Rick, Sean Roach, Phil Huff, and all the other great speakers affirmed that experts with good information – like you (and me!) – can make a million dollars selling that information to an audience eager and waiting for it.

Using the web as your primary delivery system, you can easily create different forms for your information – audio interviews, CDs, DVDs, teleseminars, blogs, etc. Remember… your audience learns in different ways… so you will want to provide a variety of formats for them. So before you become a one-book publisher and limit your opportunity, you will want to know how to create derivative products for backend sales.

Too many publishers today are focused solely on the book and on the booktrade. I hear complaints of slow sales and difficulty marketing or bad deals in distribution. All of these problems do exist, but they are minimized if publishers focus on PRIMARY sales and marketing channels for the book instead of just the trade. Add some backend products in the mix, and you can maximize the revenue you seek from your information.

A primary channel is your immediate market, your own sphere of influence. It is the audience within your specialty area. These folks are just waiting for your book or seminar or CD. Thus, your goal is to build an email list from your specialty area and/or partner with other professionals serving the same prospect base. This way, you will be able to write brief expert articles (like this one), and capture interest by broadcasting them on your site, via email, blogs and through your partners media. It is a forum for you to market and promote your expertise.

Once you have the captive audience, you can sell books to them. If your book is not moving, then why not create an alternate format? Try a smaller, less expensive white paper. Or create a special, higher-priced offer to provide consulting with a book purchase. Or try breaking out your chapters to smaller, cheaper e-books or pamphlets. You get the idea.

When the new product is created, offer affiliate sales to your partners. Give them a small commission to promote and sell your products. A good shopping cart, like Web Marketing Magic will enable you to create affiliate codes and tracking devices for all your partners. The process is easy and automatic. For more information on this shopping cart, see:
Web Marketing Magic.com

Of course all of this takes time to plan and produce. Pneuma Books can help. As long as you have good content, we can work with you to create salable books and products and help you get them to market. With consultation, great resources, and award-winning talent, we can make it happen.

Watch for my new e-book, “Going All the Way: Publishing Prosperously and Not Looking Back” This e-book will provide a structure for planning a successful publishing line of products – from branding to content to developing new formats to creation to manufacturing to setting up the website to sell it to getting distribution.

Email me for an advance 50% discount on the list price! Put “50% OFF NEW BOOK” in the subject line and send your email to:orders@pnuemabooks.com

[For Fred Gleeck’s info on Self-Publishing success, see:
Self-Publishing Success.com. But watch out for his “do-it-all-yourself” approach… leave the editing and design/layout to experts.]

Publisher Registration Toolkit V6 with ISBN-13 update
Save $10 for a limited time only

Pneuma Books has updated and streamlined the Publisher Registration Toolkit for the ISBN-13 switch.

We have also added a detailed questionnaire to help you collect all your info FIRST in anticipation of filing your forms.

What is it? A detailed explanation of publisher logistics… ISBN. LCCN. CIP, BIP, UPC, SAN, etc… with live URL hotlinks for filing your forms online!! This things will save you hours of research and get you registered quickly.

Save $10 (normally $79) and get it immediately at:
Publisher Registration Toolkit V6

FREE TeleSeminar June 22

Stay tuned for our free teleseminar hosted by Planned Television Arts coming up June 22.

Join Creative Director Brian Taylor of Pneuma Books to learn how stronger, branded book development can win you new business! Pneuma Books has produced over 20 award-winning books for publishers in just the last four years alone.

Brian Taylor will teach you:
1. How a book is a salable, branded information product that you can use to win new business.
2. How to plan and build the parts of a book that buyers in your sales targets won't turn down.
3. How to plan a branded information product line that will keep your buyers coming back..

To register, please email your name and email address to orders@pnuemabooks.com and use the subject line “JUNE 22 FREE TELESEMINAR”

In Good Company…
RTIR Bill Harrison’s Million Dollar Author Program

A recommendation by Brian Taylor

Whether you're on your first book or your 40th, my colleague Steve Harrison (of RTIR) can help you.

Over the last 18 years, Steve has worked with more than 9,300 authors and he's sponsoring the "Million Dollar Author Program," a unique three-day conference (July 6-8 in Atlanta) which will help you achieve more fame and fortune as a non-fiction author.

In Atlanta, you'll learn from Steve & Bill Harrison, marketing guru Dan Kennedy, Internet guru Jim Edwards, former Oprah producer Michelle Anton, top publicist Rick Frishman and several major literary talents.

Want to sell your book to a major publisher? You'll also get one-on-one meetings with 14 top literary agents plus editors from John Wiley and Simon & Schuster -- all of whom will be there looking for new authors. Maybe you're a mere handshake away from getting a book deal.

After the live event, your education continues with ten teleseminars with other experts including super-successful authors Deepak Chopra and Mark Victor Hansen, co-creator of the 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' series.

For info on Steve's Million Dollar Author Program, go here now:
Million Dollar Author

Thank you. Remember, the most successful publishers are the smartest publishers. Be a Smart Publisher and visit http://www.pneumabooks.com for great links, resources, and services from the industry’s leading providers.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Editor -- Not Enemy 

(By Nina Taylor, Editorial Director for Pneuma Books)

In the next month or so a book that I have assisted an author with for the past two years (on and off) will go to press. First, this author received one of our free manuscript reviews. Later, she spoke with me as her consultant. Eventually, I gave her book a content edit; later one of Pneuma’s editors copyedited it.

This author has received her edited manuscripts with grace. It’s tough for most authors to face the sea of red ink on the pages they have labored over. In this particular case, I cut nearly one hundred pages of the original manuscript. Ouch! When she received the edit, I didn’t hear from her for a while. She wisely took some time to digest my comments and consider my expertise in improving manuscripts. Then she came back to me. She argued that some of my suggested deletions should stay. “It’s there for a reason,” she said. “It’s the part people relate to,” she said. “It’s what I experienced,” she said. Like I said, ouch.

It’s hard to watch your beloved passages get the axe. As an author/publisher, it’s even harder not to overrule the editor that you’ve carefully chosen to help you. It’s so tempting to think that you, as the author, know best. I always say that writers edit with themselves in mind. They remember their labor. “Oh, but I love that phrase.” “Oh, but that’s a great sentence.” “Oh, but I can’t touch that, I spent an hour on that paragraph!” Fortunately, editors carry no such baggage. Editors edit with the reader in mind.

So how do you face that sea of red ink? First, remember why you hired the editor in the first place. Remember your readers and then get real with yourself. Were you secretly hoping that you didn’t really need editing or that the editor would fix some commas, prune a few run-on sentences, and report back that you’re a brilliant writer? Come on. Finally, remember this: Your editor is your friend.

Your editor is laboring to make you look brilliant. Readers don’t think about editors. They rarely consider that every word on the page may not be what you originally set down. Fortunately they never see the sea of red ink. They don’t know that there was a time the manuscript didn’t flow logically. They don’t know that the last half of chapter two used to be the first half of chapter four. They don’t know that your editor removed the tedious introductory phrases you like to start half of your sentences with. They don’t know you have a horrible tendency to use it’s when you mean its. They don’t know a full fifty pages have been pruned out. But, you know this, and it hurts. Few writers like to see even a word go. Fewer still like to see sentences or, heaven forbid, entire paragraphs and pages marked for deletion.

So, back to my author. I meant it when I said she received the edited manuscript with grace. Most self-publishing authors would have said, “No way.” She took her time. She discussed the issues with me. She believed me when I said that the excessive detail was slowing down the story. And she did her best to believe me when I told her that some passages had to be sacrificed to keep the story moving. She did choose to leave some of them in, but remember, after all the changes and corrections were made, I cut one hundred pages, nearly 30 percent of the manuscript.

Last week she returned some of her page proofs, and she wanted to cut about ten paragraphs out of her prologue. She finally understood. Previously, she had simply trusted my judgment as her editor. Now, looking at her prologue with fresh eyes, she could see that less is more. She could see that sacrificing paragraphs she once thought vital would better serve the story and the reader. Alas, the page proof stage is a little late – and too expensive --to be making such changes, so the paragraphs will remain, but we talked about it and agreed that, yes, her next book will be better for having braved the red sea.

Nina Taylor, Ed. Dir.
Pneuma Books

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