Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step 5 & 6: Pre-Press and Distribution

I'll start off by saying that Steps 5 & 6 overlap in the Writing and Publishing process.  However I separated them in an effort to make each step easier to accomplish successfully.  

Step 5: Pre-Press:  This is the stage where you prepare your manuscript for how you want it to look in published form.  It should start off with a final proof and read-through of your manuscript to ensure that you have quality sentence structure, and no typos present when your book goes to the printer.  Don't rush through the read-through, because once you've submitted your files to the printer it will cost a lot of money and time to get one tiny error correct, especially if you use an offset and not Print on Demand printer.

Once you've completed the final read through then it's time to work on typesetting your document and formatting it to meet the specs of the size book you wish to print.  This can easily be done in the Word formatting tool box.  Just check with your printer or use Google to search for the exact margins and dimensions you'll need for this process.  Remember that you'll need to incorporate bleed-through areas in the manuscript margins.  This is to ensure the print stays on the page and you have enough of a margin when binding of the printed pages takes place.

Here is a helpful link on how to set up a 6 x 9 format in Word 

Depending on how your printer or publisher manipulates the digital manuscript file determines the next step in formatting.  I chose to go with Lightning Source, who required an embedded Adobe PDF file.  Now for those who are new to publishing, it seems like all you'd have to do is export your Word file to PDF format.  It's not that easy.  You'll need to use Adobe Distiller.  

For "Burden of Proof" first I exported the Word document to PDF, then I exported the PDF to PostScript and then I converted that PS file back to PDF through Distiller.  The entire process of exporting and converting takes no more than five minutes, but you have to make sure all the fonts are Embedded, otherwise L.S.I. will reject the manuscript for the printer.  The resubmission fee is $40 - so better to get it right the first time.  To check to see if the font is embedded go to File in Acrobat then hit "Properties" and then "Font."  Scan through all the fonts on the list to ensure they say "Embedded Subset."

For the above if you don't own Acrobat Pro/Distiller you will have to purchase it or use the thirty day download.  If your really serious about publishing though it's worth the $60 for Pro or the more expensive Creative Suite.

Now if you chose to go with a Vanity Press like Authorhouse you can usually just sent in the MS Word document and they'll be able to manipulate it for you.  

ISBN: Before you design your book cover it's helpful to already own your own ISBN so you can imprint the ISBN and bar code into the back cover of your book - A must if you hope to sell in store and even on certain online sites.  An ISBN can be purchased through Bowker who will assign a single ISBN # for $150 or 10 different ISBN's for $300.  By doing so you will be listed as the publisher on the book, and therefore own complete rights to the novel's distribution.  This is where some opt to go with a Vanity Press because they don't want to mess with these Pre-Press costs, however if you do so - you will NOT own the ISBN and distribution rights for the book as long as it's under that ISBN #. 

Book Cover:  You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but everyone does in fact judge a book by its cover.  Therefore it's imperative that you create an eye-catching cover.  If you have the technical skills to navigate Photo Shop, Quark, etc...then this may be a piece of cake, but for the technically challenged it might turn out to be the hardest point of the Pre-Press process.  Don't fret, there are plenty of options for creating an excellent book cover.  

I chose to download Quark, a print media program, to design my own cover.  This was after I downloaded BookCover Pro, another good program for beginners designing their covers.  I liked the cover, but found it easier to deal with the Quark Lightning Source Template than the Adobe Template BCP uses.  The first cover was plain, but looked professional enough and frankly I didn't want too many graphics distracting from the title.  I have recently changed it slightly for the next print by using a picture of the U.S. Capitol.  

For affordable royalty free photos to use on your book cover I recommend  If you use an image make sure it's Royalty Free and that you have a license to use it.  Photos are Intellectual Property and you DON'T want to use an image you don't have permission to reprint.

Over all I enjoy designing covers, but I can understand how it might be a little daunting for some.  I suggest soliciting the help of a graphic designer/book cover illustrator to help you engineer the perfect cover.  This doesn't have to cost a lot of money.  Many student designers are willing to work for a reduced rate and many professional book cover designers only charge a few hundred dollars to design the cover and ensure it's print ready for your publisher.  I know that sounds like a lot of money, but two places you shouldn't skim on book publishing are cover design and editing.  

If you have opted to go with a Vanity Press a cover design is included in your fee.  Create Space allows you to upload your own cover or choose from their prefabricated designs. 

My costs to date for my Pre-Press were $89 for Book Cover Pro (an unnecessary expense since I used Quark - but still a decent program), I used the 60 Day download for Quark (I hope to buy it eventually - a terrific program, which is easy to use and sophisticated at the same time), $37.50 for the Interior Manuscript upload onto LSI and $37.50 for the Cover upload to LSI.  $12 for adding a title to LSI's System. 


As a Music Business and Intellectual Properties major I cannot stress how important a copyright is.  It only costs $35 to file (Don't buy into paying someone $170 to copyright your book - it costs $35 and an envelope and a couple of stamps.).  It's not terribly hard to fill out the forms.  I have posted the link below.  Scroll down to the middle of the page and click on the Literary form.  Print it out, fill it out and mail it in with a print copy of your work and $35.  You'll hear back from the U.S. Copyright Office in 3 to 6 weeks, but they date the copyright on the day your manuscript was postmarked, typically.

U.S. Copyright Office

Pricing:  A major issue is how you will price your book.  Most chains and online retailers prefer and almost require  50-55% discount off the retail price.  Ingram requires at least a 20% off discount.  What I did was figure out the royalty rate I needed to make in order to not lose money per book sold, which was roughly $3-$4 in paperback.  I then configure the printing price per book and then examined the prices of other new releases.  It's better to receive a smaller royalty than set the Retail Price too high as they will in turn decrease over all sales.

I opted for a new release price of $18.95 Retail with a 50% discount, thus making my wholesale book price stand at $9.48 with a $3.64 royalty per book sold.  Most chains have discounted the Retail Price to $13.64 so readers still get a fair price on the book.

Step #6: Distribution/Book Release:  I put this at number 6, although figuring out distribution is vetted in the Pre-Press process.  

Distribution: If you want to have your work available stores you need to stock your work with Ingram and possibly Baker and Taylor.  It's important to note that making the book available to bookstores doesn't mean you'll find it in every bookstore in America.  It just means the bookstore has the title in their system and can order it if they choose.  

Lightning Source is owned by Ingram, which has been an advantage as I was instantly put into their title's catalog, added to Amazon, Barnes and Noble Online, and a variety of other websites.  My book is printed and stocked constantly with Ingram with LSI taking care of all the details.  Baker and Taylor usually opts to add all Ingram titles to their catalog as well, however occasionally they do not or the process takes six months.  B&T  is the primary servicer of libraries and schools so if they don't think a title will be a big seller for their market they might opt not to add it on their own accord (without you paying a fee).  The one store however, which forces every publisher to sign on with B&T is Borders.  They only use Baker and Taylor, whereas other major chains and Independent bookstores use Ingram and B&T.  Considering Borders is a mega chain and the only store in some towns it's important to find distribution with B&T.

To date I have not been added to Baker and Taylor, possibly because I'm not a library type book or perhaps because its only been a month since publication and they haven't added me yet.  However I do plan to sign on with them in the coming months by paying the $125 publishers fee, which will place your book(s) into their system.  It's worth the money, especially if you want to target Borders.

I will note that once you are with Ingram and/or Baker and Taylor you will be automatically placed on Amazon, B&N online and Books A Million online, which means you don't have to become and Amazon Associate member unless you choose to do so.

Other Chains: Wal-Mart, Target, and Grocery Stores are great venues for book distribution.  I personally am working on getting "Burden of Proof" into regional markets via Safeway and Wal-Mart in the coming months.  To do so it's best to go on their corporate websites and look for supplier info.  Most companies have a spot for how to sell "a book or magazine" in store.

Wal-Mart only uses Anderson merchandisers for book and music distribution. Contact info for AM can be found on their corporate website.

Target is very vague in how to attempt selling your books in their stores.  I am probably not going to pursue this route, but I would suggest phoning their corporate number and inquiring that way.  I have also been advised that a mention in the Minneapolis Star might help get a  Target buyers attention, although the paper is not likely to mention your book unless you do a book signing in the area or are local.

Grocery Stores: Phone the corporate and or regional offices and discuss why you think your book would fit in their stores.  Some book stores offer book signings, especially @ Grand Openings so suggest that you promote the book in store that way as well.

The Indies:

Independent Stores are still out there and vital to their communities - they typically only take books on consignment, but can be very supportive to local authors.  You'll have to contact them directly or work to gain Indie attention via IndieBound


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no book store will stock your book or even have a book signing in many cases unless you offer returns through Ingram or B&T.  I've learned this the hard way when attempting to schedule a book signing in my current city of Bozeman MT at the B&N.  The clerk curtly said "Sorry no returns then no book signing even on consignment."  Kind of silly considering I had purchased the books and any unsold would therefore be on my shoulders and not the stores, but a fact of how many stores work just the same.

Some Independents will stock the book, but it must be on consignment, which means you will supply the book out of your own money and then they'll reimburse you once it's sold.  Frankly returns aren't much different it's just the opposite way around.  The store purchases the book, and if they return any you have to pay them back.  The problem with returns in Print on Demand is that you are both paying for the cost of printing, the royalty rate and shipping - yes they won't even ship it back to you for free.  So a book that you earned $4 for you have to pay $11 for in the return.  This could bankrupt many Independent authors, however if you don't allow returns you'll have to rely mostly on online sales.

I struggled with this, but in the end opted to try out returns for a few months, primarily for the purpose of scheduling book signings.  In the second printing I may become more aggressive in convincing stores to continuously stock my book.  I'll go into more detail about this in the next entry.

Digital Publishing (I.E. Kindle, Nook, Smashwords):  I'll really hone in on this subject later, but another must for distribution is via Kindle.  It costs you nothing and can be an effective way to get sales.  The primary concern is the low pricing you'll need to get an Indie Book sold and issues with DRM.  Look for a more detailed discussion on this topic in a later post.

Sorry if this entry was a little long, but it gives you an idea of what's involved in the Pre-Press and Distribution phases of the 7 Steps.

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