O.K., so here’s the reality for anyone interested in becoming an author, or for just whoever might want to know about the process involved when finally getting that tome of yours self-published.  Is it a harsh reality? If I let you think that way…you may never want to try the self-publishing route at all…so let’s just continue to consider it.  You’ve written a story, collection of poems, essays, or the like. You would like to share your work with the world, and thus would like to see it published.  However, despite that want and your gut feeling that your body of work is well-worth being appreciated by the rest of the world…you can not find it a traditional publishing house.

This is what this post is about then:  self-publishing.  Maybe even you are a wayy big-baller, and you don’t want to go the normal route, because you know the drill, and you want your own control over your project.  My first book is a children’s picture-book…and I know since I’m not Jim Carrey, or Spike Lee, who both have recently-published picture-books out right now…the likelihood of me scoring a publishing house, especially because I have my own friend/collaborator who is the artist/illustrator of my project…was pretty slim.  So I didn’t bother going there.

But let’s get to the heart of this post.  I found a printer.  Ingram/Spark.  Best outfit, in my mind, of having the best offerings.  Things like quality printing, fairly inexpensive finished products, and their highly touted global distribution network.  Their claim is 39,000 distributors:  like libraries, on-line retailers, and schools/universities…who if they were to choose your title out of Ingram’s catalogue, could then order as many copies as they would like to carry and or sell.  Which sounds SO exciting! All of those people, able to consider your work!

But…and isn’t there always that one big butt-head thing that stops us? The thing is, even though Ingram, unlike CreateSpace, allows an individual author to publish in a hardback format (aka Case Laminate) and that might be what you would like to see aside from just a paperback (definitely what libraries need) the cost, including an upgrade to a premium color package (for me, or for cookbooks, heavy graphics, etc. which includes a heavier stock of 70#)…is just too prohibitive.  My base price, plus shipping, plus allowing for the traditional ability for retailers to have a “return policy” on their orders, would totally negate any profit I could make, along with a truly horrifying thought that if a retailer could not sell my precious book — I would be on the hook for the return charges!

So, here’s what I have done:  I left my book listed with Ingram/Spark at a premium package.  I disallowed any return policy.  This alone, supposedly and most definitely, will preclude me from being on anyone’s must-order list! I priced it as high as I could to allow for the 55% discount (also supposedly such a tradition, no one will order unless you have allowed this deep cut)  and to allow just the base printing price to be covered.  I think there was something like a $1.80 or so, left-over as profit for myself and illustrator to share.  Because that’s our shared business-plan.  For any on-line retailer, there was still room to make a profit…but not without the gamble of first buying the product outright.  So I know that’s never going to happen.

What is going to happen now is that I am going to still have a very nice place to print off books, one at a time, or as many as I choose to have printed and shipped to me…at a very affordable price; and receiving, for that price..the best quality, professional book I can be proud of.  Then, I am going to continue marketing the eBook version, while at the same time promoting sales of a hardback version, through my own website.  The next marketing move for me, after I can see if I can work out an agreement with any major stores/chains, etc., will be to do just like the big-boy publishers are doing:  print it overseas.  During a recent foray into Barnes & Noble, I found almost every picture-book to have been published (no matter the famous publishing-house) in either China, or Malaysia.

Now, definitely, you may be able to score sales from the global network program, if you are just merely looking to have a paperback listed on Amazon, and hopefully other retailers.  You will be much luckier than I in that regard, as your book will be much less costly to produce, and therefore can be picked up by other retailers! Yay for you! :)

Also, do not forget to produce your book in an eBook format!   If you sell it primarily on the internet, you will need to focus all of your attention on marketing it on the internet where you feel your core group can be found. The business (and it is a business) of marketing is almost full-time, and can take very valuable time away from what you love best:  writing! You may then consider, if your finances allow for it, a marketing team to boost awareness of your product.

When I decide I have some buyers for bigger venues, and I am ready to commit time to local fairs, shows, etc., I will order the minimum shipment allowable (like $3,500 worth) of books from China.  Meanwhile, I am happy to sell them one at a time through word of mouth, or like last week, one copy to a nearby lunch patron who was at the same bistro where I was holding a signing!

The true excitement and value comes when just that one person tells you they like your book.  It’s even better when they are a sweet, loveable child and the story reached them innocently, without that child worrying about how the story came by them and what marketing strategies the writer had to employ…it just came to them.  And they tell you they loved it! My book is titled ‘Spoiled Pink’, and the little girl dressed herself (she was 7) all in pink, to meet me! And what was even cooler, is that she and her mom already had a copy of the book, but just wanted to meet me and have it signed! That, to me, is what it’s all about!

 

 

 

 

A-hunting we will go…

A-hunting we will go….

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Now that it’s spring and house-hunting is under way, I wanted to give a few tips on how to handle your home-buying experience.

1)  If you are in an area of rapid appreciation (due to limited supply…and pent-up demand) perhaps you should just do this one tip for right now:  Sit this one out.  That’s right.  Screw it.  Resign yourself to waiting for next winter, and see if things have calmed down by then.  Take a nice vacation instead, or if you’re frugal, put more money towards paying off other things, such as cars, bills, etc. and put any leftover monies towards that future mortgage.

2)  Still wanting to forge ahead…you’ve been doing all of the above already, and you are one of the lucky few to still be in a good position to buy? Alright then, first – please get pre-approved! This is different from merely getting qualified.  This means not only are you pre-qualified, but you have begun the loan process, and are just waiting for the right home to come along.  If you skip this very vital first step, you will not even make it to first base.  Too many serious buyers are out there, and right now, this is a very serious game.  Sellers want a real buyer, and will choose accordingly.

3)  An interesting fact right now:  there are a lot of cash buyers on the scene.  Buyer’s from different countries are making moves into the U.S., the aging population are leaving inheritances, and there’s that one or two lucky lotto winners! Whatever the reason for it, it is happening a lot! I’ve not seen the latest stats – but I’m going to guess that over 50% of all real estate transactions are now cash sales! That’s O.K., a lot of these cash buyers are investors looking for rentals and the like, and so are not necessarily buying up all the inventory.  Think beginner homes, and rentals.  So tip number three then, is about being ready! What’s that mean? It means be pre-approved and be ready to jump when your Realtor says to! You can not say, “Can I see it tomorrow, or this weekend?” The answer is, NO, it will be gone by then.  (In a Hot Market/area.)

4)  Find a competent agent.  They have to be a hustler.  They have to know what you want.  Right off the bat if you tell them you want only a single-story, and they just send over (usually via email) every listing, not paring it down to the select few, and they send over two-stories anyway…keep looking! If you notice that some homes are not showing up, and they are sold by the time your agent gets around to telling you about them…get a new agent! This person, right now, must look at the Multiple Listing Service all day long, every day.  They must be as willing to jump to show you the listings, at lunch time, evenings, weekends, holidays, as you are.  If not, the other hungry agent’s and their clients will beat you to the punch.

5)  You’ve got your agent.  You are pre-qualified.  You are submitting offers…but not winning at the bidding wars.  What to do?  Is your agent supplying you with the comparable sales prices on each home you bid on?  Is he/she advising you that you must meet the sales price, or better it to currently beat out other home buyer’s?  Are you asking for too many things?  You don’t ever, for instance, want to negotiate on any of the homes’ amenities that don’t normally come with the home…you may ask later for the fridge, fountain, etc. to stay (at a negotiated price!) but asking for them to be thrown in at the beginning will get you the worst response.  Also, if you are pre-approved, you need to reflect that in your closing time.  They might need more than 30 days to close the deal, and move on, but by asking for a shortened escrow period, you show them you are a willing and able buyer.

O.K., are you still thinking that it’s not that easy? Everyone thought that becoming a Realtor was the next best thing to panning for gold! Ha! Alright, you need more tips! That’s right, it’s been a real bitch to get anyone’s offers accepted these days, even cash buyers! So here’s a few more:

6)  You’ve found the house! Write up the offer at the house, leave it in a sealed envelope, along with a quick note (and your pre-approved letter!) to the sellers that you love their house. (Yes, good idea to leave in discreet area away from other snoopy agents) If your agent tells you the house is worth full-price, and you know it is going to have a lot of offers, you can maybe safely stay close to over the asking price, at least to possibly net a counter-offer, if not an outright acceptance.  It’s very hard for a Seller to get a full-price offer, and then say, hey, we really wanted more…and then be total hold-outs.  So you can go over by a moderate amount, to show you really liked their house, without having to go too overboard! BUT, and it’s a big but…performed by butt-head Realtors everywhere, some are pricing their homes way too low to attract such a feeding frenzy! This agent is an idiot…and a lot of times, wants to control the listing, be able to sell it to his friends, family, etc..because you will come along, tell your Realtor, “Oh, wow! See deals still DO exist! Yeah, we will offer the $99K they are asking!”  And your smart agent will tell you “–umm, he/she underpriced it because he/she is an idiot! This house is worth $220K!” But you won’t offer $220K, because you are convinced there is a good-deal fairy, and so you think about it, and offer $110K the next day, only to find out that Mr. Listing Agent, AKA butt-head, sold it to one of his flipper buddies, or drinking buddies, or whatever, for $210K!  They got a deal and saved $10K…just because everyone else wasn’t even playing in the same game! (This is where I feel compelled to say I dislike a lot of Realtors;  which is why I am now a writer :) )

Are you really still reading? I don’t want to break this into 2-3 parts, so I’m going to keep going.  Oh, you’ve heard all this before…and there must be more you can do besides throwing all you’ve got into buying that farm…and don’t forget…that can be a bad thing, when you’ve “bought the farm”.  O.K., let’s go for more:

7)  Those afore-mentioned hated Realtors are going to hate me right back for saying this one, but too bad…here you go:  In a very heated market, where there are at least 10 offers on every good property, and you are missing out, no matter what your devoted, dogged, good-guy realtor can do for you…it’s time for a little change-up.  You need more Realtors! Explain kindly to your Realtor that you have heard about listings only being held “in-house”…this means that Realtors, knowing they hold all the cards, are holding their listings back from ever having to go into MLS.  This happens for a few reasons, and sometimes they are good ones.  Sometimes they are just for bad ones.  It all depends.  Bad reasons:  The Realtor just wants to double-end it.  This means more $$$ for him/her. It also means that they again, provide listings only for themselves, and their own offices to share…and no other agent outside of that office can show it, much less sell it.  They know that eventually you will wander over, abandon your Realtor who has been hunting for you for the last two years, on every weekend, rainy night, and even during his kid’s birthday party.  Because you were desperate! It happens, I know…and the more that Brokerages experience this, the more they join in on this practice.  It can be for good reasons, too though…as in, when it’s a fast market, my husband and I don’t feel it’s fair to charge a full 6% commission, especially if you are also going to buy from us as well.  This way, we can lower our commission, but we have to exclude other agents, or else this plan does not save the Seller money.  We sometimes already have a buyer, so that commission for another agent is not warranted.  In any event, tell your Agent you need to just remain competitive, and you are going to work with other agent’s (in addition to him/her!) so you can be privy to everyone’s in-house listings.  Be upfront and honest with everyone, that you will only offer on a property with an individual, if that property is not listed in the MLS.  And that you already have a “family agent” but that if you can be shown something he/she hasn’t or can’t…then you will write it up with them.  Please do be careful.  (If you have signed a buyer’s agreement with any one particular agent for a certain time period, please do not violate this agreement, and continue working diligently with your agent!) If not, bring any address you see, a sign… first to the attention of your main agent, and ask them about the availability.  If they can not show it to you, only then please proceed.  Realtors, believe it or not, work very long hours, and for relatively low pay, after shared broker’s fees, our CAR/NAR/MLS/desk fees; our almost $4.00 a gallon gas fees as we cart clients around all day…and repetitive paperwork costs and valuable time as we write up offer after offer, to find you the best home possible! Well, I think I’ve hit most everything in regards to how to present offers in a hot market.  If anything else comes to mind I’ll post a Part Two.  Cheers, good luck, and happy house-hunting! (Information obtained whilst working as a Realtor past twenty-some odd years.  My husband/partner (Cliff Lloyd) is still one of the best in town and can be hired at London Properties in Fresno, California @ WeWillSellTeam@yahoo.com.

 

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

PWLATimesPublishers Weekly whipped up a storm on Wednesday with news of a deal between Amazon and the LA Times Festival of Books , resulting in calls for the publishing community to boycott the event. But Publishers Weekly is ignoring the real scandal.

Amazon isn’t listed as a sponsor or scheduled to appear. The “deal” in question pertains to the LA Times Festival of Books signing up as an Amazon affiliate so they can earn a percentage from sales made through their website. Mary Williams, of Skylight Books in Los Angeles, complained that sales will be “siphoned away” by Amazon.

I’m not so sure that charge sticks. Either someone at the event buys the book in front of them or they don’t. I can’t see how the festival website being an Amazon affiliate changes that. If readers are going to spot a book, then check the price on Amazon (or wherever)…

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It’s a beautifully overcast day, so I’m going to keep with the mood, and write a mellow account of my foray into the world of electronic publishing.  To make it even easier (for myself, as well as you, dear reader) I am going to recommend, right off the bat — that you buy this wonderfully inexpensive, informative eBook:  Laura Shabott’s 2013 title, Confessions of an eBook Virgin:  What everyone should know before they publish on the Internet.  It is only .99! You can purchase it directly from Amazon; even download a kindle-type reading device that will allow you to read it on most tablet devices.  And there you will begin to learn all about eBooks!

I then looked into Smashwords, BookBaby, Google Books, Amazon/CreateSpace, and finally settled for having my eBook converted by ConvertAbook…mostly because they were inexpensive for doing the actual conversion of my printed file, and also because everyone else was busy in November, with a huge number of authors looking to get their works converted and on online retailer’s shelves for the Christmas (2013) holiday buying season.

ConvertAbook has a customer service team who answers calls and emails readily, and looks immediately at any issues you may be having.  They are very inexpensive to use…but if you need more assistance, BookBaby or Smashwords claim to offer more.  I do believe they charge more for this assist…ConvertAbook for instance does not upload your finished file to your eBook retailer’s, such as Amazon and the iTunes store.  This, only by the enduring persistence and intelligence of my web designer guy, was the only way that happened for me.  And even with that, it was a frustratingly long experience.

Why frustrating? Because my title was a picture-book…yep, apparently I chose the most difficult genre to produce…as the pictures and the story have to be in a fixed-format style, for most eReaders.  Once it was on-line though, the split between Amazon/iTunes and myself was 70/30.  Not a bad split.  Evidently, with everyone rushing to get an eBook out these days, and pricing them at free, to 99 cents and up…the online retailer’s are trying to hold the line at quality, and hoping to get author’s to price their product’s a little higher as to avoid just a garage-sale type atmosphere.  If you price them higher then, you are able to retain a higher percentage from sales.  Makes sense to me!

You can also google Digital World, and join up to receive on-going information about the eBook world.  If you have your heart set on a certain timeframe by which you want to see it up and on on-line retailer’s eShelves…best give yourself some time, explore a book such as the one mentioned above (I do not know Laura S., nor, as you can tell by my huge following, accept any paid advertising!) and do look into what the afore-mentioned companies have to offer you…and then, based on who you choose to go with…get in line! Because the eBook market is getting busier every day!

Above information learned while converting and uploading my children’s picture-book, ‘Spoiled Pink’, into both the Kindle version on Amazon, as well as for Apple’s iTunes’ book store.

http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com

 

O.K., so I had been waiting to hear back from IngramSpark in regards to a problem I had encountered upon opening the remainder of a shipment I had received back in December of 2013.  The problem was that out of 100 hardback (known as Case Laminate) books in said shipment — roughly 75% were damaged.  They had wrinkled, wavy pages due to what looked like a too-tight roller during production…was my guess.  The order had cost me roughly $600.00 and some change, and I was not about to try to peddle books which had any type of flaw.  

Being as how I had not opened the last two boxes till I had sold the contents of the first box (TIP:  Always inspect full order immediately) it was sometime in late January that I discovered the rejects.  As there is no immediate customer service, as mentioned previously, I left an email I knew I could only wonder as to when it might be answered.  Maybe three or four days later, I received a reply, and an actual name, including a more direct email with which to correspond. I was asked to forward box info, as well as pictures of damage, so it could be forwarded to the print techs for them to substantiate damage, and perhaps figure out it’s cause.  The customer service rep explained that I would most likely have to rip all of the covers off, and send just those back.  I replied that that seemed like a bad jinx to subject my “babies” too…and besides that, I didn’t want to waste the time of doing all of that work to almost 70 books.  Shipping labels were emailed, printed out, and the shipment sent back.  

I next sent the tracking notice of when the shipment had been received at the Tennessee plant, and left an email with the customer rep.  That was February 14th, 2014.  Not hearing from said rep for almost another whole week, despite another reminder email, and a phone call…I again went back to the main email system and left a generic message for the company as a whole — stating of course, my displeasure with the companies attention, or lack thereof.  The rep called back finally, and stated he had sent me an email the past week.  I asked him to resend it, but he had some excuse as to why he could not generate that “sent” email.  He said they had decided to reship me a whole new batch…really? Wow, how nice! But then went on to say that if I ever received a shipment like that again, they could not guarantee that they would reprint my order again for me, as they were so graciously doing for me now…as it may just be that the color saturation was too much for the fast presses to handle, they surmised.  This sounded ridiculous to me. I asked, how can you offer a service/product, with no guarantees as to it’s quality?  He suggested perhaps I needed to move up a notch to the “premium color package” which really was nothing more than going from like a 50# stock, up to a 70# stock.  The cost? A mere extra $3.00 + per copy.  

O.K., I said, let me ask you a few questions.  I asked, how many picture-books do you print? Tons he answered.  And what type of package do they order? The standard package, he admitted. (Which is what I had ordered). O.K. I said, and final question, have you ever seen this happen with any of their orders? He answered no. I asked, why was an earlier order I had received fine, and why could they not then guarantee the quality of any future orders? He explained things about end rolls (paper) and how you might get variations in stocks depending on what orders piggy-backed on other orders.  But he kept returning back to the argument that any large order I may place, which suffers some type of printing disorder…would be subject to approval, and would not be guaranteed a do-over by the company.  I asked why would the company offer such a service if it could not back the quality of the printing order? He mumbled something about color saturation again…and picture-books being the problem.  And variations.  And variables.  Before he got off the phone, he promised approval for this one time at a do-over, and said he would send an email confirming shipment of my new replacements.  Almost a week passed, before getting that particular email, and at this point, it is now March 08th, and I am still not in receipt of any replacement books.

So, two things to consider:  1:  Picture-books, cook books, and anything laden with extra color, graphics, etc., may have extra problems.  2:  If you are just printing standard paperback, I am sure you would receive a quality product, and would encounter few problems.  Also, they have excellent shipping practices, and charge a very nominal fee for setting up your file, and only charge $12 per year to keep said file in their database, which is then available for printing year-round.

The only big set-back, especially for fledgling authors, is the stress and tension induced by not having any type of customer service.  DO NOT EXPECT ANY HAND-HOLDING! They do not even know they are dating you! You are one of many…and you can only be grateful for what they can deliver, when they deliver, and nothing more…as they very much play on a very large field.

It is nice to get quality printing, affordably delivered right to your very own door…and they do distribute case laminate books to online retailers (such as Amazon) which CreateSpace does not do.  So if you really want to see your book carried this way…IngramSpark is the only way to go.  They also advertise that they have 39,000 on-line affiliates, book-buyers/retailers, librarians, schools, etc., which you may catch the attention of, by having your title listed in their catalogue.  As of yet, I do not know whether this will be an advantage I will ever fully appreciate!

Many people, on finding out the particulars of creating an actual “print version” of their work, are choosing to solely go the route of eBook publishing–what my next blog will be about!

The above information was learned while producing the book ‘Spoiled Pink’, a picture-book for children 3-8.  More info can be found at http://www.thespoiledpinkbook.com or on Goodreads.

 

 

Laura Sidsworth:

Since a bit of time elapsed between this ongoing article, decided to repost Part One as a refresher….ongoing unanswered issues with IngramSparks led to inconclusive data insufficient to continue at the moment…

Originally posted on squeezedfresh4u:

This past November, I self-published my first title, a children’s picture-book…’Spoiled Pink’.  In learning several things regarding the publishing world, I decided perhaps if anyone were to read this, they could pick up a few tips, and perhaps spare themselves some of the angst I experienced in my first foray into self-publishing.  I will try to keep it quick, and to the point.

1.  I’ve been reading different people’s blogs to both motivate myself, and to glean the tips they freely provide.  I used to think it would be nice to connect to people as well, but I know that with a purported 77 million bloggers world-wide, the chances of me finding and connecting with people who could become friends is very limited.  Even with those odds! 77 million users! A serious writer must of course eventually realize that this is very much a solitary pursuit…and while becoming educated…

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