Tagged: Lightning Source

Self-Publishing: Q & A

Photo: Sherron Burns

Righteous Blood slowly creeps toward publication.

Susan, who’s been handling my interior layout, has delivered a text file for Lightning Source and is currently working on Kindle and ePub versions (to be read on tablets and other devices).

Chris, as you saw from my previous post, has devised another wondrous cover.

Both text and cover files were submitted to Lightning Source two days ago and the book remains in “pre-media”. If there are no glitches (there usually are), a proof of the book will be printed and dispatched to me via courier for close examination. At that point, if all is well, I give the go-ahead for publication, order however many copies I want to sell to booksellers and friends…and from then on, Righteous Blood is officially back in print.

But we’re not quite there. I mentioned previously that the folks at Lightning Source are more than a trifle finicky; their system has very strict specifications and that can be maddening. With previous books, I’ve had to re-submit either the text or cover files two or three times before I got it right. Crossing my fingers I’ve nailed it on this occasion and should know for sure in the next day or so.

Since I began posting about the process of publishing Righteous Blood, I’ve received a  number of queries from individuals regarding various aspects of indie/self-publishing. Thought I’d post those questions and my replies for the benefit of all:

Q:  You’ve complained various times about the difficulty and complexity of using Lightning Source as your printer—why stick with them when there are other platforms available?

A:  Well, you know that old saying about the devil you know…but, really, I suppose I continue to do business with Lightning Source because they produce such lovely, professional looking books, plus they’re the platform that, in my view, promises the best potential access to booksellers around the world. As long as I pay my $12 annual fee, my books remain in Lightning Source/Ingram’s vast catalog, available to anyone who wants to order them, anywhere on the globe. I also like the fact that many mainstream, commercial publishers use Lightning Source as their printer—with over 30 years as a professional writer under my belt, I want all the benefits of high-quality services and standards. My books are created and designed to look identical to (or better than) any title released by traditional publishers. That’s my goal and Lightning Source helps me achieve it.

Q:  Have you had any experience with Amazon’s CreateSpace or Lulu.com?

A:  No, I haven’t. My understanding is that Lulu is more geared to beginners and amateurs. It’s where you should go if you want to print a few copies of your family history or a collection of your grandmother’s poems (or whatever). CreateSpace seems to produce a lot of stuff I have little use for: fan fiction, erotic shapeshifter romance, the silly shit produced by wannabes and sub-literates. Much of it only available digitally (because it’s so cheap and easy to set up). Both CreateSpace and Lulu are less costly and more user-friendly than Lightning Source, which is why certain kinds of “authors” are drawn to those other platforms. With Lightning Source, there are more hoops to jump through and that tends to discourage non-professionals. I guess that’s yet another reason I use them.

Q:  I find the self-publishing process confusing and labor-intensive and I have limited computer skills. Your advice?

A:  There is a learning curve and you can expect a great deal of frustration along the way. There are agencies like Upwork, who can provide you with connections to skilled men and women who have extensive experience typesetting and designing books.  For a relatively modest fee, they can prep your manuscript so that it is printer-friendly, even set up a cover for you. The more services and help you require, the more expensive it gets. Again, if you’re only publishing a vanity book, something of questionable literary or commercial merit, go to Lulu, get it done on the cheap. You don’t need an ISBN, you’re not looking to get on bookstore shelves, you just want a couple of copies of a title for sentimental reasons.

Q:  Even after all this time, do you find there is still a stigma toward self-published books?

A:  Undoubtedly, and in my opinion that stigma is well-deserved. Technology and print-on-demand is allowing far too many people to publish their godawful, inept scribbling. It has empowered the wannabes, convinced them that for a few hundred bucks they can be SERIOUS writers. The cult of the amateur has done lasting damage to literature, reducing authors in stature and cultural importance since, after all, “everyone has a book inside them”. That kind of twaddle has enriched creative writing programs (and instructors) for decades.

Q:  How much can I expect to spend publishing my book?

A:  That varies. If you’re computer-savvy and can handle the set-up yourself, it saves a lot of time and money. Finding and purchasing cover art is another expense—again, if you have some design background, perhaps you could cobble together an eye-catching cover without having to resort to using someone else’s work. My books usually range from $1200-1800 (each), depending on if I’m using my own cover art, the length of the book in question and the number I want printed to sell or send out as promo copies.

Q:  How do you promote your books?

A:  Short answer: badly. I send out review copies but that’s usually a waste of time. Book reviewers are a dying breed and most of them have a dim view of self-published books, regardless of the quality. Last time I heard, something like a quarter million books are published in North America every year, and self-publishing has only contributed to that deluge. So much crap being printed and so many different forms of entertainment and distractions available to our potential audience. How do you draw attention to your work in that maelstrom? If you figure that one out, you’re on the fast track for a Nobel Prize…

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That’s it for now. If you have any further questions about self-publishing or indie writing in general, drop me a line at blackdogpress@yahoo.ca.

Write on…

Photo: Sherron Burns

In the crazy, hazy month of May

Fort MacCooler weather in these parts of late, which has at least partially subdued the massive wildfire (dubbed “the Beast” by one clever wag) raging near Fort MacMurray. A number of mornings we woke to hazy skies and a smoky miasma…and Fort Mac is a significant distance from us, hundreds of miles. Gives you an idea of the scale of the conflagration.

Twenty per cent of the city is destroyed, according to the latest reports. Terrible news but not as horrific as it might have been. And despite the scale of the evacuation, there were no serious snafus, no loss of life, which is a credit to everyone involved. Let’s hear it for those first responders and emergency crews!

Our prime minister insists that now is not the time to lay blame for the inferno, that we should keep all this talk of global warming and climate change on the back burner until the folks of Fort Mac return home and have some sort of rebuilding scheme in place.

So, Mr. Trudeau, we can’t examine the past (yet), but how about the future? How about re-envisioning Fort Mac not as an industrial, fossil fuel hub, but a northern centre for alternative energy? How about factoring in a “green” component to the reconstruction of Fort MacMurray, transitioning it from a polluting, bituminous holdover from the past into a sustainable city of the future? A federal-provincial partnership, an infrastructure project with an actual purpose and end game, rather than merely throwing taxpayer money around. Imagine that…

* * *

Sporadic blog posts for the past month and while some of that was work-related, there were other distractions and developments to annoy me like, for instance, health and dietary adjustments after I was diagnosed as a Celiac. Lousy, shanty Irish genes. So no more gluten for me (farewell Guinness beer, sob). And since I was cleaning up my act anyway, I decided to ditch coffee drinking (strong and over-sugared) and pledge myself to more exercise, a healthier life regime. Which has totally screwed up my daily routine and since I am an obsessive-compulsive this, naturally, led to quite a bit of upheaval and teeth-grinding. Really just starting to come out of it now.

And about time, too. Didn’t I promise I’d be posting about the process of bringing my book Righteous Blood back into print? A rebooted version of one of my most popular efforts, with new cover art, as well as a specially written introduction and notes on each of the novellas.

Step 1:  Finally completed edits/proofreading and okayed the final draft last week.

Step 2:  Chose my cover art (a recent acrylic painting of mine, titled “Red Skies”).

Step 3:  Contacted my cover designer Chris and let him know there was another project headed his way.binder

Step 4: Signed on to Upwork and advertised for a person to handle the interior design/layout of my book. Upwork is a company that allows thousands of freelancers from around the world to post their resumès and hire themselves out on short term jobs relating to their area of expertise. Out of twenty-two possible candidates, I selected Susan, who has had extensive experience with layouts and typesetting, and hired her. She’s already impressed me with her communication skills and her promise to have something to show me later this week. That’s fast work.

Some blokes are lucky—they have the computer and graphic art background that allows them to do their own cover and book design. I am not so fortunate.

And not only that, the publishing platform I use, Lightning Source, is, to my mind, overly complicated, their parameters and specifications very precise. There is no room for error. If you submit text and cover files that fail to meet their inflexible specs, the files are rejected and you have to try again. This will be my ninth project with Lightning Source, I have a long history with them and in the end they do deliver fine-looking books, but they also drive me ’round the bend at times. I’m sure other folks have their own horror stories with Createspace or Lulu…the grass is always greener and all that. My advice is unless you have computer savvy or the resources to hire someone who can do the job, give Lulu a shot first. They’re much more user-friendly and oriented toward service and assistance.

Once I hear from Susan and have a firm idea of the page count of Righteous Blood, I then go back Lightning Source, download their cover template and send that to Chris. He’ll upload his cover design on to that template, tweak it, zip it to me for my approval.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve got my cover art, hired my interior layout person.

The book is now officially “in the pipeline”.

Further instalments to come…

Black Dog Press news (March Madness)

Awhile back I noticed that sales of the e-book versions of So Dark the Night and Of the Night had really flattened.  No growth, which meant my best marketing device (word of mouth) wasn’t having much of an impact.

Then I came across a blog entry from a gal who had read the e-book of So Dark the Night and complained that its formatting was funky and created a number of annoying glitches.  Not good news.

Not long afterward I learned about the ePub format, which supposedly renders text compatible with most tablets and reading devices.  So I contacted my chum Daniel at Scribe Freelance and had him whip up ePub versions of both my “Ilium” novels and dispatched them to Lightning Source, instructing them to replace the old files with this latest batch.  Now we’ll wait and see if this helps re-ignite sales.

My e-books are available through places like  Powell’s (among others)…and, yes, there are Kindle versions of all of my titles.

I admit (eyes cast down) I’m a very poor self-promoter.  As a publisher, I complain bitterly but as an author I won’t be moved.  I leave it up to readers to discover my work and I’m absolutely convinced that once they do, they become fans for life.  And only too happy to spread the word about this whacked out Canuck writer who defies all conventions, tackles every genre and has carved a different path for himself, independent of the mainstream.

I’ve sent out some review copies of The Last Hunt to some western-themed magazines but, honestly, does anyone read book reviews any more?  In those few publications that still deign to leave some space for something as retrograde and uncool as books

It can be disheartening.  How do you draw attention to one particular title when the media is flooded with thousands of new releases (books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, games) every day?  You begin to feel like a tiny, insignificant figure lost amidst all the others in one of those Where’s Waldo? books.

On the other hand, this tiny press has been responsible for some pretty fine books over the past twenty (+) years and my readership is growing, albeit very, very slowly.  My wife reminds me that I’m always been a late bloomer…let’s just hope it’s not too late.  At some point, I’d like to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Instead of getting pelted with them.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to make the “Grand Tour”—see all the great capitals of Europe, capping things off with a long-anticipated visit to Thermopylae.

Sigh.

But will it ever happen?  Will my workaholic nature and bouts of agoraphobia allow such a scenario?  I’m dubious.

If nothing else, it’s a helpful, distracting fantasy.

A possibility, however remote, that some day all this craziness will lead to better, happier times.

A golden age, yet to come.

The Latest Poop

What can I tell you, it’s deja vu all over again (with apologies to that immortal sage of the baselines, Yogi Berra).

God bless the people at Lightning Source (our printer), they turn out a fine product, the look and binding of the volumes they produce of consistently high quality.  But the hoops you have to go to to make your text and cover files conform to their rigid parameters will, eventually, drive a teetotaller to drink and a man of faith into the arms of the Great Dissembler hisself.  We had similar problems with our first book with LS, So Dark the Night, and it seems experience hasn’t made us any wiser.  I give Sherron credit for not throwing up her arms in frustration on at least a dozen occasions…her patience is one of her greatest virtues.

We’ve submitted the interior (text) files twice now and, thanks to the Columbus Day holiday, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday (October 12th) to find out if we got the formatting right this time around.

Still hoping to have the proof in my hands and ready for approval in 10 days.  Is that merely the errant wish of a terminal fool?  We shall see.

In the meantime, I checked out prices with my chum Les at the local Canada Post outlet and got some figures re: shipping costs for Of the Night.

If you’ll recall, the book retails for $11.00 (USA & Canada) and postage is as follows:

Canada:  $3.00        USA:  $7.00           Europe/Overseas:  $14.00

First Class airmail.  From my door to yours in the time it takes you to say “UPS”.  And, natch, there will also be Kindle and e-book versions available, likely for around $3.99.  Yesterday I posted an excerpt from Of the Night on my Novels page, the first 30 pages or so, just to sink the hook in.   Those who read the previous incarnation of this book (I posted it as a free e-book until a few days ago) will notice the improvements I’ve made.  It’s a leaner, meaner effort.

Feel kind of bad leaving things so up in the air in terms of the book’s release date and availability.  I’m already getting inquiries…hang in there, folks, it’s coming.  In the meantime, here’s another one of my Garageband efforts, an instrumental number I’ve dubbed “Uncertainty”.  Give it a spin:

Uncertainty

“Of the Night” (Cover art & design)

Well, here it is, unveiled for the first time.

The cover of the next novel in the Ilium “cycle”, Of the Night.  Coming soon to a bookstore near you (we hope)…

Our pal Chris Kent completed work on the cover this weekend and I have to say he’s come up with another beauty (Chris also executed the cover for my previous book, So Dark the Night).  Australian visual artist Adrian Donoghue created the original image and Chris, as designer, supplied the fonts and conceived the “look” of my book without damaging Adrian’s wonderful work.

(Click on the cover if you want to see a larger version)

Final edits on the text will be complete this week and both the text and cover files will be sent to our printer, Lightning Source, by the weekend.  Then we get a proof copy, check it out and if everything looks A-okay, Of the Night will be available for sale.  I’m anticipating an official release date somewhere around October 20th.  Keep checking back for the latest updates and news.

My deepest thanks to Chris, Adrian, and my wife, Sherron, for combining their talents and visual acuity to give me the loveliest cover an author could ask for.  Folks, you’re the best!

The Waiting Game

The latest communication from Lightning Source indicates the proof of my novel So Dark the Night will be printed tomorrow (Tuesday, April 20th) and, if there are no obvious glitches, sent off to me a short time afterward.

(Sound FX:  Fingers drumming anxiously on desk top.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to post more of my strange, ambient music—it’s on my “Audio” page, just scroll down past the spoken word stuff and you’ll get there.  Really love these pieces, which I’m calling (collectively) Intervals.   There’s been a big progression since my first offering and one tune from this latest batch in particular stands out for me:  can you guess which it is?

Busy days around here:  Sam, Liam and a number of their friends (shout out to Sean, Dylan, Jess and the rest of the crew) are deeply involved in a short film project that keeps getting bigger and bigger.  I applaud their ambition.  Sherron has her own film on the go, an abstract bit of business for which I’ll be supplying music.  But the deadline for the local, library-sponsored film short film competition is looming, so I hope their post-production efforts go well or they’re gonna be scrambling.

Meanwhile, I’m fretting over the impending arrival of the proof, beating my brains out trying to find ways to better promote and distribute my independently produced books.  I welcome your input and advice on both these points.

Let me know what you think of Intervals too.  And keep watching these pages for more info on the release of So Dark the Night, a supernatural thriller with a heart of gold.  Your summer reading is on its way.  And I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Coming Soon…

Another long interval between posts and, again, all I can do is mutter, “sorry, busy” and then get on to the matter at hand.

First of all, the cover and text files of my novel So Dark the Night have been uploaded to Lightning Source and we have been told to expect a bound proof of the book in the next week or so.

The process of prepping the book, getting the files formatted properly, meeting Lightning Source’s very complicated and detailed specifications, took some doing.  Honestly, the folks at Lightning Source are great, helpful and quick to respond to questions.  Full marks to them for that.  But their process is so amazingly convoluted it would scare the living bejesus out of anyone with little or no tech savvy.  Fortunately, my wife Sherron is fearless and possesses endless reservoirs of patience.  She needed every last drop.  She worked for hours on consecutive nights, trying to make sense out of the printed guide supplied by Lightning Source and then, God help her, doing her best to master Adobe Pro 9, which we needed to complete the process.  She was a trooper, I tell you, plowing her way through while her husband (that’s me) had to take frequent “time outs” to maintain his composure and rein in his well-known impatience and incendiary temper.

And let me also single out our cover designer/graphic artist Chris Kent for praise, salute him for assistance and tolerance above and beyond the call of duty.  When Sherron finally had to throw up her hands, he graciously agreed to meet with her and help her get those &$#@ing files sorted out.  Chris, you da man!

So now it’s wait for the proof and see if there are any glitches that need correcting.  This is computers we’re talking about, after all, semi-sentient creatures showing the first stirrings of consciousness.  God knows what that proof will look like.  Lightning Source has a promotional offer on right now–for the next month they’re waiving their set-up fee of $75.  So I guess I should consider this, my initial shot, a freebie.  Nothing to lose, right?

But if all goes well, we’ll get the proof, it’ll look fantastic and production can begin immediately.  I’ll put in an order for 100 books and we’ll arrange a launch, peddle the books to Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton.  Send fliers to the indie bookstores still out there (damn few of them) and prevail on friends in far-flung places like Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles to flog the sample copies I send them.

What else can I do?  Newspapers have slashed their book review pages–and, even so, indie/self-published work constantly had a hard time getting any kind of acceptance from the mainstream media.  No one in Canada reviewed Righteous Blood, despite the review copies publisher Peter Crowther supplied at my insistence (sorry, Peter!).  Should I try my luck with their on-line counterparts?  BookNinja and Bookslut, places like that?  What think you, Readers?  Where do you go to get your reviews, information on interesting new releases?  Let me know…

I’ve checked into shipping and, hoo boy, have prices ever skyrocketed in the past few years.  Mailing out copies of So Dark the Night is going to be a pretty costly proposition.  Tentatively, here are the numbers we’re looking at:

So Dark the Night—$17.95 per copy (U.S. & Canada); £13 (U.K.); €14.75 Euros (Europe)

E-Book:  $9.95 (U.S. & Canada); £6.50 (U.K.); €7.50 Euros (Europe)

Shipping:

$12.00 (Canada)

$8.00 Surface (USA)  $9.50 Airmail (USA)

$16.50 (Air)  Overseas

I’ll be making half the book available as a free PDF and I’ll also be recording the entire book, which you’ll be able to hear (free) as an MP3 download or podcast.

And there you have it; you’re now completely up to date.

Besides getting the book ready, I’ve had to register Black Dog Press as a business ($110.00) and check on my PST and GST status (thankfully, neither applies to a micro press like mine).  To keep myself sane, I’ve been creating more music, which I hope to post in the next few weeks.  For those of you who liked my “Soundtrack For A Science Fiction Movie Never Made” (thanks for the kind words, by the way).  Anyone who hasn’t popped over to my Audio page for a whole buncha free stuff to listen to and download should check it out.

I’ll drop a line or two when the proof arrives, maybe even include a few pictures.  We’re on pins and needles around here.  Nervous as expectant parents.  Counting the hours and hoping for the very, very best…