C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

July 2012

Bookbinding by Hand

A member of my LinkedIn bookbinding group sent me the link to a great video on Neatorama.com showing a pictorial dictionary being made by hand. It’s absolutely wonderful for people like me who love seeing this process in action. There are now machines that print books on demand in no time at all, but this video shows how time intensive, making handmade books can be.

Birth of a Book

I often mention bookbinding in The Library of Illumination, and I found this wonderful video on how a book is created that I want to share here:

Courtesy of: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturevideo/booksvideo/9067569/Birth-of-a-Book-a-tour-of-Smith-Settles-handmade-bookbinding-process.html

Thrillerfest 2012

Peter James, Sandra Brown, David Morrell, R.L. Stine

I just got home from my sixth Thrillerfest Writer’s Conference (there have been seven of them, but I missed the one in Arizona), and like every other year that I have attended, I feel like I learned a lot. I hadn’t planned on pitching this year, but The Library of Illumination Chronicles are so close to completion that I had to do it. Luckily, some agents were interested in seeing the manuscript, even though I was pitching YA fantasy is a room filled with agents looking for thrillers.

The workshops and panels I attended were taught by some of the best thriller writers in the world, including Catherine Coulter, David Morrell, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown, Lee Child, Lisa Gardener, Bob Dugoni, and so many others (I usually subscribe to the rule of threes, but there were so many New York Times best selling writers in one place, that I couldn’t hold back. And I didn’t even mention John Sandford, Joseph Finder and R. L. Stine, and that’s still only the tip of the iceberg. Because it was four days of workshops and panels and interviews involving great writers. OMG! I left out Heather Graham, and Karen Dionne and M.J. Rose. Really, I could keep adding names to the list… Doug Preston, Gayle Lynds, and Phillip Margolin (who should know my auto corrector wants to change his last name to margarine).

I met other aspiring authors, just plain folk, like former FBI agents, doctors, lawyers and navy seals. And journalists, lots and lots of journalists (but, it should be noted, that we were outnumbered by the lawyers). Everybody’s got a story they want to tell, and it seems like they all want to publish that story as a thriller. I even saw a former commanding officer of my local police department’s homicide squad, who is writing crime fiction. It was quite an event.

Once I get my notes organized, I’ll share some of the writing tidbits I picked up. Look for them in this blog and on my Facebook and Twitter pages. But right now, I’ve got to go finish The Library of Illumination Chronicles, so I can write a synopsis of it and send it out.

The pressure is on, but life is good.

iPad mini? Yes, please.

iPad Mini

For weeks, I’ve been following rumors about the possibility of an iPad Mini being released toward the end of this year, and praying the rumors are true. I know Steve Jobs gave it a big thumbs down, with a now-famous quote about how it would have to come with sandpaper so users could file down their fingers. But he was - dare I say it - wrong. If it were true, the sales of iPod Touches would have nosedived. Jobs was a big guy, over six feet tall, and would have naturally had large hands. So maybe a mini would be too small for him. But roughly half our population is women, with smaller hands and more slender fingers. We don’t want to lug around a cumbersome 10-inch iPad, if there’s a smaller, lighter one available that has all the same features.

Everyone is talking about how it could be made at a lower price point to compete with the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7, but that shouldn’t be a consideration at all, especially if it means an iPad Mini would have less features than a full size iPad. I think what a lot of us want is something smaller and lighter to carry around, not something less impressive. I stopped lugging my iPad everywhere just a few months after I got it, because it weighed me down. But a mini would be lighter, would fit in my bag better, would be easier on my wrist, and I’m sure my fingers wouldn’t mind a smaller keyboard at all. Even better, if it has bluetooth, I can always use a wireless keyboard if I want to type on a full size one (just like I’ve done with my 10-inch iPad).

Apple, you’re not just a company that caters to men. Women buy your products, too. Release an iPad Mini. You can call it an iTab. They’ll fly off the shelves.

Ten Steps to Self Publishing

I belong to quite a few LinkedIn writers groups, and I noticed that there are several ongoing discussions about what separates a professionally published book (or what some people call real publishing) from vanity publishing (or what some people call pay-through-the-nose publishing) and self publishing (or what some people call when-am-I-going-to-get-to-see-my-family-again publishing).

All writers dream about being published by one of the BIG SIX publishing houses: Random House; Simon & Schuster; HarperCollins; Macmillan; Hatchette Book Group; and Penguin Group. Some authors are embraced. Most are turned away. If those writers really want to see their books in print, they’ve got to go the vanity press route, or self publish. A lot of writers (especially those published by the big six) consider vanity publishing and self publishing to be the same thing, but there’s a big difference.

When writers select one of the vanity publishing companies like Xlibris, iUniverse, or Vantage Press to name a few, they pay that company big bucks to publish their books. The company supplies a cover, the ISBN number and copies of the completed book for the author. They may list the book on their website and/or in their catalogues. And they may do minimal marketing like sending a press release to a pre-set list of media outlets and providing promotional bookmarks, media releases or one-sheets. Just don’t expect much in the way of follow-up marketing.

Self-publishing is a little different. Those authors are responsible for shepherding their books every step of the way, from laying out the interior pages, to having covers made, to buying their own ISBN numbers, to registering their work with the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress and then getting LCCN numbers so librarians can access information about their books from the Library of Congress. It’s up to self publishers to supply their own bar codes, book trailers and one-page information sheets for the media. And they are responsible for finding printers who charge reasonable rates.

In an effort to streamline the path for someone who is thinking about self-publishing, I’ve boiled it down to ten steps to help put the process in perspective:

  1. Finish the book. This is a no-brainer. How are you going to sell something that isn’t finished? How are you going to get a cover made if you don’t know how wide the spine should be because you don’t know many pages make up your book? How are you going to price out a printer, if you can’t tell him how much printing he’ll actually have to print?
  2. Write all your cover copy and front and back matter. Before you go any further, write everything that will go into your book that is not part of the actual text. You’ll need a short blurb to include when assigning an ISBN number to your work, and a longer description that will go on the book cover. Know what you’re putting on your title page and what information you’re going to include on your copyright page. Are you going to have a dedication page, or an acknowledgments page? Will your back matter include an author bio or a glossary, or an index? Write it now, so you have it ready to go when you need it. You need to know how much front matter and back matter you are including as well as how many blank pages you’ll need, so you will have an accurate page count. You can write a 47-page novelette, but it may be 60 pages long when all is said and done.
  3. Hire a professional editor. Sure, you’re a good writer. You know your story backwards and forwards. Why should you pay good money to someone else? Because you’re too close to the story. You know the backstory. You know what has been edited out. You know stuff nobody else knows, and therein lies the problem. Someone else who knows none of the things you know, may read your book and say, “I don’t get it?” because they don’t know an important piece of information that somehow ended up on the cutting room floor. It always helps to have an extra set of eyes look over your work--a professional pair of eyes.
  4. Have someone proofread your book. Sure, you know all about punctuation and grammar usage, after all, you’re a writer aren’t you? But sometimes when you’re typing and you correct a line that you wrote, the quotation marks don’t always make their way back to the end of the dialogue. Or a letter may go missing from a word. Maybe your manuscript says, ‘he’ instead of ‘the.’ They’re both real words so the mistake won’t show up in spellcheck. Then there are those pesky commas: should I use one here; can I leave the comma out there? And don’t even get me started on the horrors of autocorrect. Plus again, you’re too close to the story.
  5. Think up a catchy name for your publishing company: Tall Tree Books, Blue Sky Press, Brownstone Ink, etc. You may want to stay away from using your own name or initials, if you don’t want to scream “self-published.”
  6. Order an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), or a block of ISBNs (more numbers cost less) from Bowker.com. You’ll need one number for each type of book you produce, even if they all have the same title. You’ll need one for the hardcover, another one for the trade paperback, and another for the mass market paperback. The ISBN identifies the exact book and size and type and publisher, so you will need a new number for every version of your book that you produce. You can also buy bar codes and widgets from Bowker. Once you establish an account with them, you can get what you need, when you need it.
  7. Register your work with the Copyright Office. This is to establish your intellectual ownership.
  8. Get a Library of Congress Control Number or LCCN so librarians can access your information.
  9. Hire a graphic artist who has experience designing book covers, so he can create the right size cover to showcase your work. This will include the front and back covers and the correctly sized spine, and book flaps if you want a jacket for a hardcover book.
  10. Decide on a printer. Maybe there’s one not too far from where you live who will charge you a reasonable rate. Or maybe you prefer a POD printer. I like to use CreateSpace because I do not have to buy one of their packages to have them print my book. I just have to answer all their questions, format the interior of my manuscript according to their template (you can download it from their website) and upload a cover. If you have a lot of patience, and aren’t really picky about the crazy fonts they assign to book titles, you can use their cover creator. Just know that it can be a major pain in the butt because it’s a template and customization is limited.

That’s it. The building blocks of publishing your own book. Walk in the shoes of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Wolff, Henry David Thoreau and Deepak Chopra - just to name a few - who have self published in the past.

The next step is selling the finished product. Marketing a book is a lot of work, but you got this far didn’t you? It’s too late to turn back now. I’ll have more on marketing in a future post.

Unusual Weather

I saw this on Media Bistro and found it amusing.