Seriously, It’s Time to Get Serious!

It’s time to get serious about being a storyteller.

Please let me preface this by stating a few things up front.

First, I am a professional. I get paid for telling stories. Oh, not much. Yet. But it’s what I do. It’s who I am. I’m trained to be one, too, holding a BA in English an MA in Creative Writing (and I graduated with a 4.0 GPA, thank you very much — not bad for a guy whose grandfather was an illiterate sharecropper). I use both the language of the word and the image, because one conveys a story better than the other. It all depends on the story. The difference between an amateur and a professional is the amateur does it for love while the professional gets paid. I’m lucky. I get paid for doing what I love.

Second, I have a personality disorder. Some of you know that. I’m schizotypal. That’s just a clinical way of describing an eccentric kook. I don’t try to hide it. Heck, I consider it a personality order because diagnosis explained why I’ve had eighteen different careers in my life. Yep. Eighteen. Failed at all but two, and one was unceremoniously ripped out of my grasp. Why try to fit into an office cube when my brain isn’t wired for that? You would think I would have learned that at 25, but that was the 1980s, when a college graduate was supposed to be a successful businessman. I’m dense at times. Anyway, that fact isn’t just important to the ultimate goal of this post, but to say that if you have a “mental illness,” you aren’t alone. I have friendly ears. Talk to me before doing something rash, okay?

Third, schizotypal, unfortunately, comes with a host of nasty side-effects. In my case, it’s chronic depression and crippling social anxiety. The depression is managed. It isn’t controlled. It likes to slip by my doctor and kick me in the head. Anxiety has a mind of its own.

Fourth, I had a severe breakdown in May, 2013, from which I didn’t exactly come back. That was when anxiety decided to move in with me, and not pay rent. I’ve been apartment-bound ever since, unless my wife is home and can go out with me. You don’t want me alone in a crowd! You just don’t. Hence, the job that was ripped from my grasp. I’m also trained to be an English teacher at the community college level. Darn, and it was fun, too.

Fifth, I have hyperfocus. That means the room could be on fire and unless you tell me, I won’t notice.

Those are causative agents. Where am I going with this?

I’ve been working with Aura Lockhaven since 2010. To say she’s my favorite character is an understatement. She isn’t just my favorite character that I’ve created, she’s my favorite character of all time. I feel like Aura is a real woman, just invisible.

In January, 2013, after graduating with my MA, I decided to turn a tawdry, rather awful comic into a written novel. That was the Aura graphic novel that ultimately became A Path of Stones. If you want to read the entire process, it’s here on my website. A Path of Stones was published this past February. It took me four years to finish it and publish it because of that breakdown, depression, and hyperfocus.

The breakdown interrupted my efforts in 2013. It left me numb for the rest of the year. In January, 2014, I finally felt like doing something creative. But I was too depressed to write. So, I worked up a render that became “Barbarian Wall.” That led to the creation of the Sarethian Seven, and 200 pages of short stories. Because of hyperfocus, and seeing only the project at the end of my nose, the S7 took up two months. After that, I still didn’t feel like returning to Aura, so I wrote treatments for two novels that you don’t know about. One is an epic fantasy that reached chapter twenty. I’ll probably eventually finish that. The protagonist is a man (don’t faint!) who is a middle aged burnout of a college teacher. Gee, think he’s a bit of an avatar? The other is a horror story based on my render “Leopard Girl.” I told you that I based novels on renders! By the time I moved on from those, it was a year later. Hyperfocus.

In 2015, I finally forced myself to work on Aura again, and finished A Path of Stones by the end of that year. I got it to my beta reader, who read it and gave me her feedback. What happened? Depression again. Around April, 2016, I created the comic Dandelions. It was a pretty powerful story and I’m proud of it. That consumed most of my time until August, when I shook myself and finally got back to the novel and revised it. By February of this year, I had a hardback in my hands.

What have I done since then? Well, the sequel, The Fires of Tallen Hall is essentially where it was in March; three quarters finished. What happened? Depression again. Distraction again. Hyperfocus again. I became bogged down with a few new 3D characters. They threatened to create yet another storyline. Somehow, I found the discipline to say no to that idea (but it’s still lurking around in my head). Then came my latest, the superheroine comic, Valkyria. I have no complaints about that.

The thing is, between depression, distraction, and hyperfocus so extreme that I ignore everything except the project right in front of my eyes, I forget far too often that Aura Lockhaven is my main lady. She has a story for me to tell that spans sixteen novels. Only one is written. She’s been counting on me for five years. Now, we can add Katie, Stephanie, and Jessica Ashe to that, and Allyson and the Dandelions are still pacing in the corner of the room.

I can’t really speak for the total impact of Valkyria and Dandelions. Others know that better than I do. I can speak for the impact of A Path of Stones. Everyone who has read it and told me of their experience has dumbfounded me. It brought tears to one man’s eyes. Another is demanding the sequel, saying “We need that book right now!” It caused one young woman to realize she could still have faith after suffering extreme spiritual abuse. That’s heavy. I have a gut feeling that Valkyria and Dandelions can have the same level of impact, but in a different direction. In 2017 and probably next year, it is important to know, as Katie says, “the good guys can win!”

I’m sitting on three atomic bombs and I’ve been treating them like firecrackers!

That changed this morning. Is this my job or not? Is it more than a hobby? Is telling stories that entertain, educate, encourage, and edify my reason for existence? Yes, it is. Therefore, I am setting up a schedule. My desk will become my office. That isn’t easy for a guy who pretty much lives organically, but it has to happen if The Fires of Tallen Hall ever sees print, Valkyria advances to Book Two, and Dandelions is actually finished. At the moment, the Sarethian Seven is the project on hold. Besides, I don’t want to release it until I publish Aura Book Five as it’s tied directly to the Auraverse.

So, here we go.

Monday: Aura Lockhaven. This is primarily the novel but includes an Aura 3D art collaboration series I’m halfway into, as well as one-off art pieces. My goal is to write 2,000 words per day. That isn’t unreasonable. Most blogs are 1,000. This journal post is 1,600 words and I wrote it in an hour. That’s easy for a guy who has struck 10,000 words in one day.

Tuesday: Aura Lockhaven. 2,000 words per day, for two days, is 208,000 words per year. That is one novel, people! At my voracious output (when I actually work), and with that schedule, I should average two novels in one year.

Wednesday: Valkyria. This is primarily the comic, but also includes one-off art pieces. I figure two pages per week. Not a bad pace. I’m planning for a full tower comic production computer next year that should increase the page output per week.

Thursday: Valkyria. An planned Aura-Valkyria crossover will go here.

Friday: Dandelions. To start, one-off art pieces to refamiliarize myself with the characters, and also refont the comic so I can post it again.

Saturday and Sunday: Nothing Aura, Valkyria, or Dandelions related. If I do anything at all in DAZ while my wife is working on her jewelry-making, I’ll render something totally different.

At no time on the weekdays, do I work beyond 6 when my wife comes home. I do have a wife. I do have a life. It’s time to talk to her, play with the cats, and read something called a book. I’ve also been ignoring my spiritual practice, which isn’t healthy for a member of a minority, alternative religion. My heart is telling me that I’ve been sedentary for six years. Wow, time to actually exercise. And perhaps staring at a computer screen until 11 PM is why I have insomnia.

I’m building in permission to not write if depression strikes. However, instead of doing something totally random, I’ll focus on the subject of the day. That will keep things moving forward. It will also keep me from getting lost for another four months in yet another storyline.

This doesn’t mean that Aura, Katie, and Allyson will cease being fun. It just means I get more done that is fun, and actually has a purpose.

Now, the question is, can I keep this schedule? Well, we’re all about to find out.

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Reader Reviews of A Path of Stones

What readers are saying about A Path of Stones:

A Path of Stones is a marvelous testament to the human spirit and the ability to overcome one’s past. Filled with heart racing adventure, wondrous magic, and danger around every corner, it truly reflects the creativity and boundless imagination of the author. This book has led me down my own path of stones.” — L.J.

“This is not your basic genre book, a rehashing of the same story with different characters as so many of even my favorite series have become. This is uniquely well written. I like that it moves well, and especially that the main character is one I can relate to. It tells the story of a young girl who loses everything and is then betrayed by the only family she has left on top of that. It follows her self-discovery and how she learns to go from powerless to powerful, and then on to learn to control that power. There are a lot of layers beneath the surface of the story. If you like stories of the “supernatural” or “otherworldly” written for readers who like a story to teach as well as entertain, this might just be for you.”  — K.L.K.

Check it out at www.njbmedia.com.

 

 

St. Patrick’s Sale

St Patricks Day 2

St. Patrick’s Day is the day that all Americans think they’re Irish, and my Irish wife avoids restaurants and bars like the plague. In honor of the day, I’m holding a sale on all eBook editions of A Path of Stones. They will be 25% off, for March 17, 18, and 19. So, tell all your friends that they can get in on the fun of A Path of Stones for only $ 2.99, both Kindle and ePub editions.

Visit www.njbmedia.com for details.

Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day, and don’t drink any watered down Guinness.

Starting 2017 Right!

The first thing I did in 2017 was wake up. The second thing I did was get a cup of coffee. For the third, I bought a new website URL. Then, I bought an ISBN.

Holy cow! I’m officially a publisher now!

Coming soon to a browser near you is NJBMedia. com. It isn’t active yet. When it is, I will be transferring this blog from dot com to dot org. From what I understand, I can migrate all my posts and readers.

Well, it’s time for a champagne mimosa with my wife. So, I will leave you with the back cover to the hardback of A Path of Stones, with its ISBN and barcode in place.

A Path of Stones

Thoughts on Crowdfunding

My Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to self-publish A Path of Stones is seven days old. It has had twelve views, and two backers. That is disheartening. As the greatest momentum for a crowdfunding campaign occurs within the first 48 hours, this project was essentially stillborn.

I am reminded of two sayings. The first is, “When you reach the last page, close the book.” The second is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No point in being stupid about it.”

So, on December 1, I will suspend the campaign.

My two backers will still receive their goodies. Why not?

It was an interesting experience, and one I’m not likely to repeat.

Crowdfunding is a Millennial Generation concept. Those crazy kids are highly communal, and share everything. Crowdfunding is their way of saying, “Hey, come get involved in this cool project I’m doing!” They flock from one campaign to another, but that is their thing. It’s their way. I’m a Baby Buster. We’re far more individual, and are the loners of the named generations. I was raised with the belief that if I couldn’t make it on my own, then I didn’t deserve to make it. To me, crowdfunding is begging from my friends. I know it isn’t! But that’s what it feels like. I don’t like begging, much less from my friends.

Most of my friends don’t have $ 2 to donate to a crowdfunding campaign, much less $ 10. One close friend on Facebook was contemplating a crowdfunding campaign of her own, and felt a bit guilty. She mentioned a friend who was raising funds for an artistic project, and she felt bad that she couldn’t contribute. It doesn’t take much to realize she meant me. I won’t make my friends feel guilty! What kind of friend does that?

The campaign did force me to analyze budgets far more closely than I have, so it was not a total waste of time.

So, what are my alternatives now?

I only need $ 700, but it’s $ 700 I don’t have. The publication date for A Path of Stones will need to be moved from February 15 to June, 2017. I may have the funds by then. That is assuming we get a tax refund this year. Considering I can’t afford to buy health insurance, it is highly likely that the Obamacare opting-out tax will eat up all our refund. That may mean pushing the publication date back to 2018.

If that is the case, then I could forego Self Publishing, and pursue the Traditional route. Rapid accessibility to the book by the reader was one of the main reasons I wanted to Self Publish. 2018 would be the expected release date should I find an agent today who can find a publisher tomorrow. Given our current political landscape, and all the craziness that goes with both ends of the spectrum, Traditional Publishing opens a new kettle of worms. I’m not sure I want to peer inside that kettle, much less stick my hands in it.

The Universe wants this book written. It appears the Universe doesn’t care if it’s published or not.

 

 

Self Publishing: ISBN and LLC

Mom always said, “To make money, you have to spend money.” She referred mostly to the investment world, and real estate. It’s true of Self Publishing, too. Self Publishing offers full artistic control. With that, I want as much legal control of rights as possible. That requires an extra expenditure of money, but it will be worth it.

First, and foremost, I am going to buy my own ISBNs. That isn’t required, nor is it standard practice. CreateSpace and Lulu will assign ISBNs to your titles for free. An ISBN costs $ 99, and I will need three for each title: the hardback, the paperback, and the ebook. Why spend $ 300 I don’t need to spend?

Control. Whoever buys the ISBN is listed as the Publisher of Record (PoR). For the free ones, that would be Lulu and/or CreateSpace. The ISBN stays with the publisher, so if I moved A Path of Stones from CreateSpace to another printer-distributor, I’d need to file for another ISBN, and that would create a new edition of the book. Not so if I buy the ISBN. If I buy it, I’m the PoR, and CreateSpace is merely the printer. I can take A Path of Stones to whatever printer I wish. It would keep its original ISBN and still be the first edition.

I want that option. IngramSpark has the potential to dethrone CreateSpace and Lulu in the Self Publishing world. IngramSpark a subsidiary of LightningSource, whose quality is by far the best in the non-traditional publishing world. LightningSource is owned by Ingram, the largest distributor of books in America. There is the possibility, then, that self-published books, sourced through IngramSpark, could appear on shelves of bricks-and-mortar stores. At the moment, IngramSpark seems to be just a user-friendly interface for LightningSource, although that could change in 2017. Unlike Lulu and CreateSpace, LightningSource is not exactly a PoD system, either. They print and distribute (through Ingram) for publishers only. So, I’d have to be a publisher. Well, if I own the ISBN, I am a publisher! You can see why I’m keeping an eye on IngramSpark and want the option of being a PoR.

If I do become a PoR, then I want to be an actual Publishing House. That’s easy. I’d file for either an LTD Partnership or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), under a fictitious name, such as NJB Media. It helps that my wife is a legal assistant for a law firm specializing in contract law, and filing LLCs is routine. That’s $ 350 in Texas. A bit of pocket change, but it gives extra clout and protection to my copyrights. It would keep other people’s fingers out of my pie, and mine out of theirs. An actual publishing house listed as an LLC would also give me the ability to act as the publisher for other people, in case my wife decides to write a book.

This all does change things. As I started this examination of non-traditional publishing, I thought about Self Publishing. Now, I’m looking at becoming an Independent Publisher.

Book Formatting for Self Publishing

In this post, I hope to cover all the standards of print book formatting, to help the self-published author produce a high-quality professional looking book.

It is far too easy to spot a book that has been self-published. Opening it is like being smacked in the face with a wet towel that has been in the dirty clothes hamper for a week, underneath your old gym socks. The margins are too narrow, it is printed in fourteen point Arial, single spaced, and there is no consistency to the overall layout. This may be the most common complaint readers have with self-published books, even moreso than sloppy editing and terrible cover art. That can all be avoided if the writer follows a set of standards, and companies like Lulu and CreateSpace are more than happy to provide many of those standards.

A self-published book that has been formatted correctly looks professional. Nothing stands out about it, except that you enjoy reading it. Formatting a book is like Dress for Success; you don’t want them to remember what you wore, just that you looked darn good.

A little about my qualifications. My first real job out of college was for an old-fashioned typographic studio, where I was the proofreader, typesetter, and later, the operator of the lithocamera. I have also been a reporter for two small town weekly newspapers, where we writers also performed the layout. Furthermore, I have been a professional book editor and designer. I know a little bit about it.

More than that, however, I did something I recommend all of you to do. I pulled the traditionally published books of ten separate writers within my genre, and studied how they were formatted and laid out. My particular genre is fantasy, and there does appear to be some variation of standards from one genre to another. So, study your own genre to make sure.

The critical keys to formatting are these: first, the book should be pleasant and easy to read, and second, it should not be fat because of the formatting. Cost is determined by page count, and price is determined by cost. A fatter book costs more to print, and that means a higher price at point of sale. I will explain more about that as I get to the factors that can make for a fat book, and increase your cost.

These standards are for the traditional 6×9 hardback and the 6×9 quality paperback. Those are the most prevalent sizes for self-published books, as well as traditionally-published. I won’t cover ebooks, as I don’t know those standards yet.

I assume you are using a version of Microsoft Word to write and prepare your book for publication. If not, Open Office and even Wordperfect should have similar methods.

 

THE STANDARDS

Paper Size: Before you do any formatting whatsoever, change the paper size of your book to 6×9. Do not just change the margins to 6×9. If you do, the paper size will still be 8×11. The printer will shrink that page to fit a 6×9 sheet, resulting in print that is too small to read and margins that are ridiculously enormous. Word doesn’t offer a 6×9 size, so set your paper size in Custom under Page Setup. That is 6 inches wide and 9 inches tall. Apply it to the whole document.

Margins: There is a lot of variation within margins. Some of the books I studied have margins that are half an inch, while another was a full inch. Half an inch is too little to look good, while a full inch is absurd. The half inch margin should be reserved for a book with more than 300,000 words, solely to keep the page count within reason. My speculation is that book with the full inch margins was a wee bit short, so the publisher decided on wide margins. In the industry, we call that “creative white space.”

Your margins should result in a nice, symmetrical look to the page, providing a uniform rectangular box. Top and outside margins can, and should, match. Bottom margin should be a bit bigger to allow for the page number, but retain that symmetrical look with the other two margins. Inside margin must be wider to accommodate the binding and the spine. There is nothing worse than having to bend the book to read the first letter of the line.

A good average for your margins is:

Top: .65 inches

Outside: .65 inches

Bottom: .75 inches

Inside: .85 inches

To get Inside and Outside margins, as opposed to Left and Right, select the Mirror Margins option under Multiple Pages of Page Setup. The margins I suggest are ballpark figures to get you started. Experiment with them for the best possible readability.

Under no circumstances should your margins be any smaller than .5 inches. If they are, your text will be too close to the edge of the paper and could be cut off in the printing process. The exception to this would be full bleed artwork that extends to the edge of the page.

Font: Always use a serif font. Serif fonts are easy to read. Sans-serif fonts, such as Helvetica, are hard to read in the block text of most books. Monotype fonts, like Courier, are designed for the typewriter, and result in odd spacing of letters. The most popular serif fonts are Baskerville, Bookman, Century, Garamond, Goudy, Palatino, and Times New Roman. Choose a font that is pleasing to your eye, but does not increase the page count too much.

In my particular case, after experimenting with eight different fonts, I chose Goudy for A Path of Stones, set at eleven points and 1.15 line spacing (more on point size and line spacing shortly). That font has a slightly old world look that adds to the charm of the story, without distracting the reader. It is also compact enough to keep a 160,000 word book at 450 pages. The same book, when tested in eleven point Palatino, stretched to 490 pages. It looked good, but would have cost more to print. Eleven point Baskerville, while still my favorite font, increased the page count to an astronomical 530 pages. Just a change in font added 80 pages to the same book.

If you don’t have fonts such as Baskerville, you can find them at 1001fonts.com. Make sure the font has a free for commercial use license.

CreateSpace and Lulu require that you embed the fonts into the PDF file you provide. That lies outside the scope of this post, but it is important to remember. Lulu will not accept a font for an uploaded Word document that is not included with Word. That means they reject Goudy or Baskerville, substituting something like Times New Roman. That will affect your formatting. For a PDF, you may use whatever font you wish, as long as it is embedded. I am not certain about CreateSpace, but assume the same for them.

Save fancy fonts, like Carolingia, for the title of your book on the cover and Title Page, and chapter titles. It isn’t just permissible to use a fancy font for the titles, it is almost expected.

Point Size: This is all over the place. One of the books I studied was set in twelve point type. Oddly enough, it was also the same book that used full inch margins. Sounds like someone padded the story to increase page count to increase price. On the other hand, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is set in ten point size. But at his word count, anything larger would have resulted in books that are as thick as they are tall. The mass market paperback versions require a magnifying glass.

Point size should be determined by the font. Eleven points is a good place to start. See how it looks. Most fonts look great at eleven points. Times New Roman and Goudy look good at ten points, but Garamond and Palatino fade into the white of the page. Garamond and Palatino look phenomenal at twelve points, but Times New Roman and Goudy are almost obnoxiously large.

Changing point size even by one point will lengthen or shorten your book, sometimes to drastic extremes. It all depends on the font. In my experiments mentioned above, I was able to reduce the page count using Baskerville to 480 pages from 530 by lowering the point size to ten, but then it was difficult to read.

For chapter titles, increase the point size by at least two. For instance, if the text is eleven points, set the chapter title in fourteen points. If you choose twelve point text, then increase the title to sixteen points. The idea is to make the title stand out from the body of the text.

Line Spacing: Like font size, this is determined by the font. This is not freshman comp, so there is no reason to use double space. The book will be too thick and the reader will feel cheated. Even 1.5 line spacing is too much “creative white space.” Single space looks good for some fonts, like Garamond, but Times New Roman demands a bit more. The ascenders of a line will run into the descenders of the line above if Times New Roman does not have a bit more spacing.

Two of the best line spacings I’ve found are 1.15 (standard default for Word 2007 and thereafter) and 1.25. The latter is a custom line spacing, and to set it, use the multiply option in paragraph, and type in the size.

Paragraphs: This is the downfall of too many successful bloggers who just copy and paste their posts to a page. The internet has different paragraph standards from books, and the two are not interchangeable.

Always indent the first line of every paragraph. The default first tab setting in Word is half an inch. That is too much. Set yours for a quarter or one third. You want to give the reader just enough of an indentation to let him know a new paragraph has started.

Do not include any line spaces between paragraphs. Read that sentence again. You won’t need them with indentation. In other words, the paragraphs of your book should not look like the ones in this blog post. That extra space isn’t just the wrong standard for print media, it will also increase the page count and increase the cost.

It is up to you whether to use full justification, where left and right are perfectly parallel, or rag right, the uneven right hand side. That is also called left justified. Personally, I prefer rag right. Not only does it look better, but it avoids some of the common problems with full justification. Full justification can stretch a word to force it to fit the line length. It can also split a word within a syllable, instead of between them. Your job editing your book is difficult enough without having to look for improper word hyphenation.

Page Number: Always include page numbers. Usually, they go at the bottom of the page. That way, they are unobtrusive but the reader can easily find them. Most readers look there for the page number, so why not accommodate them? It is your choice to have the page number in the center, or at the edge of the outside margin.

Page 1 is always on the right hand page. Always. Odd numbers on the right, even on the left. The page numbers on the page never match the page count given you by Word, so don’t let that freak you out.

Some books do not include page numbers for the first page of a chapter. Some do. I like them. If I need to refer back to a page, I’m going to want the page number. Page 137 is much easier to find that the first page of chapter 21.

Most page numbers are just the number. There is no need to include the word “Page” before the number, unless you just want to. Most readers find that distracting.

Headers: It is standard practice to include headers. The contents of the header is a matter of personal choice. Some are just the author’s name. Others are the book’s title. Some are both, with the author name in the header of the left hand page, and the book title on the right. If you title your chapters, other than Chapter One, feel free to make that the header.

The header contents always go to the outside of the page.

It is standard to not include the header on the first page of a new chapter.

Now, if you think about everything I just said about headers, you realize just how many special section breaks you are going to have to set up. Such is the nature of the beast.

Chapter Titles: I’ve already mentioned that chapter titles can be in a fancy font, and are usually larger than the text font point size. They are almost always centered to the page, but there are exceptions. To separate the title from the text, include at least two line spaces between the title and the opening paragraph. You can include one line space ahead of the title, if you wish. The old practice of beginning a new chapter title a third of the way down the page has fallen out of favor. That was too much “creative white space.”

The actual title is up to you. Some writers give the chapter a name, such as “Drop Your Gun.” Others just use Chapter One. Still others just use the number, such as Four. Use whatever you wish, as long as it is clear that it is the start of a new chapter.

Italics and Bold: Italics has its place in a book. Feel free to use it for headers and chapter titles. Italics replaces the single quotation mark to denote quotations within dialogue. It is also common these days to italicize memories, or character thoughts in exposition. If you open a new chapter with a quotation between the title and the first paragraph, use italics instead of quotation marks. You may also use italics to denote emphasis within dialogue, but use it sparingly.

Bold is best reserved for titles alone. The same can be said for all caps.

 

THE ORDER OF PAGES

The pages of a book are set in a certain order. There is very little room to change this, although at one point, I am going to do that very thing. The following is for fiction books, so I won’t cover Endnotes, Glossary, or Index. If you write non-fiction, you probably already know how to format those and where they go.

Half Title Page: This is the first page of the book with any print on it. It contains the book’s title and nothing more. The title is usually in the same font as the cover, and often is a mere copy of it, but some get downright artistic about it. This page is always on the right hand side of the book. It does not receive a page number.

Occasionally, the title is replaced with blurbs for the book, although those are usually saved for the back cover.

The Next Page: I don’t know what else to call it. It is the backside of the Half Page. Usually, this is where the publisher lists other books by the same author. Until you have three books for sale, I recommend you leave this page blank. Otherwise, that is going to be an awfully short list. This is also a good place for blurbs. It does not receive a page number.

Title Page: This page contains the book title, the author’s name, and the publisher’s name and/or logo. It contains nothing else. The information on this page must match exactly the information given for the ISBN number and the first page of the Lulu and CreateSpace setup wizards. The Title Page goes on the right hand side of the book. It does not get a page number.

Copyright Page: This page contains the legal boilerplate of ownership. There are plenty of guides online about what to include, but if in doubt, copy the format of any recent book. This is a good place to mention your website, and to credit the cover artist. The Copyright Page goes on the backside of the Title Page. It also does not get a page number.

Dedication: You’ve seen things like “To Mike, the best hamster ever.” That would go here. The backside is blank. No page number here, either. I recommend that you merge this with Acknowledgements for reasons I will cover shortly.

Table of Contents: Most fiction writers don’t have one. Some, however, do. It seems silly to include one if the chapters do not have individual title names. If you include one, it goes here. It starts on the right hand side, and goes on as long as it needs to. The Table of Contents does not get page numbers.

Acknowledgements: This is the page of thank yous. It is pretty much standard. Don’t do it! Diana Minot, a highly successful self-published author on Amazon, recommends dispensing with this page. She said that Amazon has a book preview, allowing the reader to look at the first ten to fifteen pages of your book. You want the reader to see as much actual book as possible, and not lose two pages to a list of thank yous that no one will read, and the blank page that follows.

I recommend moving the Acknowledgements to the end, just before Deliberately Blank Last Page.

If you must include the Acknowledgements here, and you have a Table of Contents, then Acknowledgements receives a page number, denoted by a lower case Roman numeral, usually i. If you do not have a Table of Contents, this page is not numbered.

Maps: This is mostly for fantasy writers. If you include maps, they should go here. Or put them at the very end, as an appendix. They do not get page numbers, even if Acknowledgements did.

Forward: The forward is written by someone other than the author. It isn’t common in fiction, unless the book is a reprint of a classic, a translation, a collection of short stories, or a special edition. The Forward always begins on the right hand page. The Forward receives a page number in lower case Roman numerals.

Introduction: The introduction is written by the author, and usually only appears in fiction for the same reasons as the Forward. The Introduction always begins on the right hand page. The Introduction continues page numbering with lower case Roman numerals.

Half Title Page Again: Yep. Again. Now, if you have a Table of Contents, a Forward, and an Introduction, I can see including this. It also makes sense if you include Acknowledgements together with Maps. It tells the reader that on the next page, she will plunge into the book proper. It serves much as the opening of the curtain to start the play after the overture has concluded.

But for some odd reason, I see it in fiction books that don’t have sections between Acknowledgements and Chapter One, Page One. There is no rhyme or reason to this page, even within the same series, so feel free to include it or discard it. It does not get a page number.

Chapter One, Page One: The book proper. The first page of the first chapter always starts on the right hand page. It is always Page 1, in Arabic numerals. The number is always assigned. Whether it appears or not is up to you. In either case, the following page is page number 2, and that number is visible.

Until about thirty years ago, it was standard practice for every chapter to begin on the right hand page, with an odd page number. That has fallen aside now, and for good reason. The result was too many blank pages between chapters. Nowadays, chapters begin where chapters begin, even if it is on the left side of the book with an even numbered page.

If you include a Prologue, it will be Page 1. In that case, the first page of the actual Chapter One gets whatever page number it gets.

Blank Pages: You may find yourself with a needed blank page in the book somewhere. If you do, then do not leave it blank. Even the page number won’t be enough. The printer will see that blank page as an error, and kick the book back to you. So, put something on that page, such as three pound signs. Get fancy with dingbats. You could type “This page left intentionally blank,” but that looks cheesy.

Appendix: This is for a glossary of words, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Elvish, maps if not included at the front of the book, and other information the reader may need to understand your book. It is used mostly by writers of fantasy and science fiction. The page numbering is the same as the regular chapters.

Afterward: This is for information the author thinks is important, but not important enough to warrant an Introduction. It is totally archaic now, as most writers have blogs and websites where they can discuss things like this to their hearts’ content. You may have a need for it, so if you do, it goes here. It begins on the right hand page, and numbering is a continuation of the previous section.

Deliberately Blank Last Page: This is different from the Blank Pages mentioned above. This is the very last page of the book. It must be left totally blank. Don’t even give it a page number. This goes for the page and the backside. It is a blank sheet. I’m not sure why it has to be there. Something to do with printing. If you do not include it, Lulu or CreateSpace will kick the book back to you and tell you to fix it.

Page Count: The total number of pages, from Half Title to Deliberately Blank, must be divisible by four. In other words, 340 pages or 344 pages, not 342. If it is not, the printer will insert additional pages to reach that number. If he does, your cost will rise slightly. So, keep this in mind. If your page count isn’t divisible by four, then add the extra pages yourself so you have a firm idea of cost.

I hope this guide of formatting standards helped. If you notice something I omitted, please leave a comment so I can add it. If you have questions, please feel free to leave a comment. I will do my best to answer you.

 

 

 

Self Publishing: Practical Economics

When compared to Traditional Publishing, Self Publishing does not offer much in the way of financial security.

That was what I said to myself last night. But was I correct? This morning, I don’t think so.

Last night, I was definitely thinking like someone who grew up in the 1970s and came of age in the 1980s. Those were the last decades of the “work for the same company for 40 years, earn a steady paycheck every week, and retire with a pension” model of economics. That model was born in the 1920s, and began dying with the globalized megamerger economics of the post-1988 Bush-Clinton years, suffering its fatal blow in 2008. For better or for worse, it appears that globalized megamerger economic model will continue until at least 2020.

In that light, then, the same financial security exists currently for the corporate CEO that does for the file clerk that does for the store owner that does for the stocker that does for the computer programmer that does for the school teacher. It is the same for the writer who publishes traditionally and for the writer who self-publishes. In other words, none. Even the much vaunted (or despised, depending on your point of view) 1% is not as secure as we at the bottom of the ladder might think. Most of their fortunes are not cash or liquid assets. Their money is tied up in assets, ventures, and holdings that are subject to the vicissitudes of volatile forces outside their control. They could end up just as bankrupt and impoverished as the rest of us overnight. That happened to them in 1929, you know.

Such are the waves on the economic ocean in 2016 and the foreseeable future. I cannot change the tides or the waves. However, I can learn to surf them with some level of competence.

If that is the case, what do I have to lose financially by Self Publishing? Not that much, really. In fact, I stand to gain.

Certainly, I would lose the coveted advance that comes with Traditional Publishing. But that could be the only cash I ever see from a publisher. If A Path of Stones only sold 20,000 copies, that publisher would definitely not take a chance with the second book, The Fires of Tallenburgh Hall. While Self Publishing would not offer the immediate security of the advance, I would exchange that for the security of continuing the series regardless of the sales of the first title. I could consider sales of 20,000 copies a success, publish Fires, and the third book, the fourth book, the fifth, etc. Even a mathematically challenged mind like mine can see that five titles for sale yields greater financial returns than a mere one.

Self Publishing is pure free market. I make it or break it based on the quality of my wares and customer service, or how well I write and how well I publicize. It’s the same way with Traditional Publishing, really. Self Publishing simply eliminates the middle men, forging a direct relationship between the reader and myself. In many ways, it is much like the ancient bartering form of economics, simply without the haggling over price. It is a dynamic, visceral face-to-face conversation between customer (reader) and merchant (writer), made more so by the elimination of the professional book critic.

More than financial security, however, I value financial freedom. In their extreme forms, security and freedom are diametrically opposed. The purest form of security is a prison. As long as someone obeys the rules, he gets food, shelter, clothing, and probably sex and drugs. Not very enticing, is it? The purest form of freedom is anarchy. One does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and probably won’t survive the night. Again, not very enticing, is it?

In financial terms, the United States is deluged with people clinging to the elusive concept of financial security, although it is that prison metaphor. These poor folks are wage slaves, and won’t even take a lunch break out of fear of losing their jobs. They can’t afford to, so they won’t run the risk of finding more lucrative employment, much less pursuing their dreams. At the other extreme, we have the homeless, who are financially free. They don’t make car payments, insurance payments, mortgage payments, or own a lot of stuff. They are also one rainstorm, missed meal, or encounter with a whacked out meth addict away from death.

In between absolute freedom and absolute security is a thick fulcrum that can take quite a bit of play in either direction, and still deliver balance. I prefer it on the side of freedom. What I mean by financial freedom is the ability to afford to do what I want when I want. As a modest man with simple tastes, it won’t take that much. That may sound like financial security, but financial security comes with a steady paycheck. Traditional Publishing does offer a higher level of security, through its marketing and publicity teams that help generate sales. If I do my job, and they do theirs, I should expect sales of 100,000 copies, guaranteeing a contract for a second book. Sales of that level of a $ 30 hardback at the standard royalty of 6.5 % would net me $ 195,000. That is nice, but that is not as firm in reality as it appears on paper.

If that same hardback sold 33,000 copies, I would net $ 65,000. That is more than enough for me! It is not nearly enough for the publisher, and I would never see a contract for the second book and have to return to teaching freshman comp at a community college while suffering anxiety attacks. It’s a different story with Self Publishing. Self Publishing puts more power in my hands, and power translates into both security and freedom.

While the cost to print a book through the print-on-demand system of Self Publishing is greater than the cost to bulk print through offset printing of Traditional Publishing, the Self Publishing system comes without much overhead. So, the price at point of sale can be much lower, even if I do build in the standard 6.5 % royalty (roughly $ 2.00, an aggressive profit margin in the world of Self Publishing). That means, I can sell the $ 30 hardback for $ 27. People will buy more copies at $ 27 than at $ 30 because most shoppers look at the first number of the price. It is an axiom of retail that an item sells better at $ 19.99 than at $ 20, even though there is really only one cent difference. Self Publishing gives me the power to set that price, where it is out of my hands through Traditional Publishing, and quite often, out of the publisher’s as well.

A traditional publisher like MacMillan wouldn’t like sales of 33,000 copies, but I would. That’s $ 65,000. Without the need for a second contract, I could publish the second book six months later and earn another $ 65,000 within the same year. Three books selling that well, I could buy a house, and stop paying rent. That translates into a net gain in income because monthly expenditures drop significantly. A fourth title at that sales level, and my wife can quit her job and become a stay at home artist. That is financial freedom, people.

That is also assuming modest middle tier sales, too. The people who have read A Path of Stones tell me that I’ve written something special. That remains to be seen with a larger audience. It could be a phenomenon. It could be a total dud.

If I write prolifically and proficiently, then I have the power to achieve those middle tier sales. If I market competently and price aggressively, then I have the power to move the books toward phenomenon status. Power becomes security and security becomes freedom.

Self Publishing: More Thoughts

After all my research, there stands a  75% chance that I will self-publish A Path of Stones and The Fires of Tallenburgh Hall. Availability to the reader and total artistic control are just too tempting. Dana Kaye makes marketing look like something even this introverted hermit can do. So, why not.

Of the major self-publishing companies in the business, I’m considering splitting the job, and giving the ebook and paperback to CreateSpace (Amazon) and the hardback to Lulu. Now, that may raise some questions in your mind about ethics, as well as the obvious one of why split the job between two rivals? Let me answer the first part first.

In self-publishing, the writer is the publisher of record. The company producing the book is the printer. Read those two sentences again. Let them soak into your mind. That is critical.

It isn’t true if the writer publishes through Traditional Publishing, and the book is handled by Putnam or Tor. In that case, Putnam and Tor are the publisher of record. The term publisher of record is critical. The publisher of record is the one who controls the book’s ISBN. Now, with both CreateSpace and Lulu, the writer can get free ISBNs from the companies, in which case CreateSpace or Lulu are the publishers of record. I’m not doing that. If I self-publish, I will buy my own ISBN numbers (99 dollars per number, and each title will need three; one for the hardback, one for the paperback, and a third for the ebook). I will also, eventually, file as a LLC, to add extra rights protection to my books. It helps that my wife works for a law firm specializing in contract law.

That seems like a lot of work, but it boils down to this: the ISBN stays with the publisher. If CreateSpace owns it, and I decide in 2017 that IngramSpark is superior (a real possibility if Ingram plays its cards right), they keep the number and I have to get a new one. But if I own it, it stays with me and the title, and can move from company to company. In the scenario I described, I am the publisher and CreateSpace and Lulu are the printers, and it is perfectly ethical to hire the best printer for the job.

Why split them? Simply because CreateSpace does not have a hardback option. Let me rephrase that. It does have a hardback option, but it is for the author only, and it is expensive.

A hardback option only makes sense. Ebook sales have topped off at 35% of readership. The remaining 65% opt for print books. There are snobs like me who prefer the longevity of the hardback. Not only that, but the ebook has launched a renaissance of hardbacks. Many people fall in love with an ebook and want a permanent copy. They bypass the paperback and go for the hardback. I want to make that option available to them.

At the moment, there are three companies (that I know) who print hardbacks: Lulu, Blurb, and Lightning Source. I dismissed Lightning Source immediately as too Byzantine, although their subsidiary IngramSpark may change that, if it is expanded. Blurb is best for artists and photographers. In fact, it was set up by an artist to print portfolios. However, Blurb only distributes through its website store. Lulu distributes through its store, and can be found through Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Not only that, but I have experience with Lulu.

I’ve published five books through Lulu, the last was a hardback. For the first, a memoir about my parents, I expected sloppy printing and a spine that broke half way through the first printing. Nope. That book was bookstore quality. The print was laser printed, but it didn’t show signs of pixelation. As for the hardback, it is traditional stitched and glued.  I am confident that Lulu can handle the Aura Lockhaven books.

I apologize for the fuzziness of the images, but here are some photos I just took of the hardback.

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And from what others have said, CreateSpace can handle the ebook and paperback with aplomb.