Author Learning Center, authors, book marketing, book selling, Hollywood, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

The good, the bad, the scary and the future of book publishing

Recently I had an opportunity to participate on a panel and I loved the title: The good, the bad, the scary and the future. It caused me to reflect on the state of the industry both in terms of where we are now and what can we look forward to in the near future. Here are my thoughts from that panel. See if you agree. If you have any other ideas you would like to share, use the comment section to do that.

The Good

Publishing options—there continue to be more ways for authors to publish books and get them into the hands of readers. Services, formats and distribution opportunities all continue to increase.

Connecting with readers through social media—savvy authors are taking advantage of social media to find potential readers and have them share about the book with their connections. Technology like Meet Edgar and Bookgrabrr have made it much easier.

Authors aren’t as isolated—writing a book is a solitary activity, but the journey doesn’t have to be. Platforms like The Author Learning Center help authors get connected with others who can provide help and encouragement along the way.

Still Alice

Still Alice started as a self-published book and became an Oscar winning movie.

Hollywood is more interested in ever in books—I think I read somewhere that there are 28 movies being released in the near future based on books.  That means more opportunity for authors no matter how they publish.

The Bad

Anybody can get published—with self-publishing still growing, it means almost anyone can become an author. That means there are more books available to readers than ever before so it has never been more important to have a well written book and compelling story.

Competing for attention is challenging—there are so many things vying for our attention that it is more important than ever to have a targeted marketing campaign.

The Scary

How hard it is to write a good book—I think people who start out with an idea underestimate how much work and skill it takes to write a good book. That is why it is more important than ever that a writer be committed to the craft and business of being an author.

….it is more important than ever that a writer be committed to the craft and business of being an author.

Reading for pleasure in some countries is declining—studies have confirmed fewer people are reading as a leisure activity. There are still some exceptions. Book clubs create power readers. Emerging countries seem to be cultivating more voracious readers, but in a number of established countries, the potential customer base could be shrinking.

Opportunities with bookstores and traditional publishers are waning in some markets and genres—As operating bookstores becomes more challenging and traditional publishers consolidate, there can be fewer opportunities for authors. That is not always the case depending on the market and type of book, but there has definitely been a decline in opportunities from even 10 years ago.

The Future

Self-publishing will continue to grow—since we first drew pictures on a cave wall, we have always wanted our ideas and stories to have permanence. Because of that I believe self-publishing will continue to expand to more people and more countries.

Hollywood will find more first time and self-published authors—as the demand for new ideas and stories continues to grow to feed the number of cable and streaming channels, Hollywood will expand where they look for ideas.  Movies like The Martian starring Matt Damon and Still Alice for which Julianne Moore won the Oscar started as self-published books which I believe opens the door for other authors who have not published traditionally.

Book shops that become a community focused will thrive—while bookstores have been challenged in some markets, we have also seen a number of retailers flourish who use their store as a place to gather people around ideas and events.

Author Learning Center, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

6 Tips on How to Fulfill Your Publishing Resolution

It’s that time of year when many people make resolutions and set goals they want to accomplish in the coming year. For some, that includes writing and publishing a book, but they are not sure where to begin or how to realize their dream.  Simply put, many people don’t have an idea or plan on how to get from idea to manuscript to holding a copy of their book.

From my own experience and from the thousands of conversations I have had with authors at book fairs, trade shows, and writer’s conferences, I’ve found that there are six things that successful authors do to get published. So if publishing a book is on your resolution list, here are six tips to help you get that manuscript off your computer and into the hands of readers.

“The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book.”

  • Set a date when you want to hold the first copy of your book. The first and most important thing you need to do is set a date when you want to hold a copy of your book. That’s because research shows that people who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them. Your date can be just a point in the future you choose, but it may also be an important event, such as a speaking engagement, holiday, or even birthday party. In fact, one author I worked with had the goal of getting his book done by his 50th birthday so he could give a copy to everyone who attended the party. That date became one of the key motivations for him to finish his book.
  • Create a timeline with the milestones you need to pass to reach your publishing goal. The second thing you need to do is create a schedule with the tasks that must be completed to meet your deadline. In other words, you need to understand what is needed to get from where you are to where you want to be and set appropriate milestones along the way. If you already understand how to get a book published, you may be able to do this on your own, but most authors need to work with someone who knows the publishing process to make this happen. Your timeline should include important steps like completing your manuscript, editing your manuscript, submitting your manuscript, and allowing time for both the cover and interior design. Of course, the timeline for the book will depend on the type of book you are writing. For example, a children’s book will take less time to edit than a lengthy historical fiction novel, but you would need to make sure you allocate the appropriate time for illustrations.

“….most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write.”

  • Determine the best time for you to write and make an appointment on your calendar for that time. My third tip is to determine the best time for you to write and block out that time on your calendar. What I’ve learned from my own experience and conversations with multiple authors is that most of us can write more in one good hour than in three hours when we are not ready to write. I recall one conversation with an author who has published more than twenty books, some traditionally and some self-published. I was having lunch with she and her husband and I asked her if there was a time that was better than others for her to write. Before I could finish the sentence, her husband blurted out, “five thirty in the morning.” By his own observation he had noticed that was the most productive time for his wife to write. If you want to get work done, it’s very important to know what time of the day you write most productively and make sure that time stays available for you to work on your manuscript.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone. The fourth recommendation I have is to be accountable to someone. Share your goal and milestones with someone who will encourage you and help you stay on task. It could be a friend, a spouse, an editor, an agent, or a publishing consultant. Fact is, most of us work better when we have someone checking in and reminding us of our deadlines and research proves that out. In the same study I cited earlier, the researchers also concluded if you share your goals with another you increase your odds of reaching them. They call it having a “partner in believing”.


    Setting a date when you want to hold a copy of your book is a key to getting to your goal.

  • Start planning your promotion before you finish your manuscript. Now, this may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but with the advent of social media and the other opportunities we have to communicate, you can have people anticipating the launch of your book long before you finish your manuscript. One of the key things you must do to promote your book successfully is identify your audience. For whom is your book intended, and who might actually enjoy reading it? This is a seemingly small thing, but it’s very important, because it lays the foundation for promoting your book. I asked an author one time who the audience was for his book, and he very seriously looked at me and said, “Every man, woman, and child living on this planet.” While his ambition is admirable, he is setting a completely unrealistic goal. Defining your audience is the foundation to a good promotional plan.
  • Plan an event to celebrate the publication of your book. Many people start writing a book, but far fewer get to the goal of publishing, so when you do, it is time to celebrate. It’s actually quite fun to think about it when you’re doing the hard work of editing and revisions and proofreading. You might want to mark the occasion by holding a book signing at a bookstore, but you can also be creative. Depending on your book, you may want to host it at a kitchen store if you have a cookbook, or a church if you have a spiritual book, or a school if you have a children’s book. Just be sure you take time to celebrate your accomplishment no matter the venue.

If you found this information helpful, I would suggest you also look at The Author Learning Center to help you on your journey. There are tools and expert advice at your fingertips to help make 2018 the year you become a published author.

Author Solutions, authors, creativity, helpful hints, self publishing, writing

Writing advice –“First you buy a wood burning stove.”

A few weeks ago my wife and I paid a visit to an Amish craftsman who is known for building unique dining room tables. We have always wanted one of his tables since we first enjoyed a dinner around one of his masterpieces a number of years ago. However, he does not have a web site or even email so if you want to order one, you have to schedule an appointment and pay him and his bride of nearly 60 years a visit.

It is more than a two-hour drive from our home, but it was well worth the trip. When w we arrived,  I was surprised to learn he was 80 years old and is still building tables and clearly enjoys it.  He explained that by saying, “I would rather wear out than rust out”. Our conversation also caused me to see writers could learn from him.

I confess I love spending time with craftsman of all types.  I mean people who are really good at what they do and are clearly passionate about it. So when I have a chance to spend time with people like that, I take advantage of the opportunity to learn what they do to be so good and what keeps them motivated.

Writers can learn from wood working

Wood burning stove

Who knew a visit to an Amish craftsman would inspire a blog post to help you in your writing journey

Once we went through the details of ordering the table, I asked him a few questions to see what I might learn from him. The first thing that became clear is writing is a lot like wood working. It is a craft that requires practice and you will make mistakes, but that’s OK.

In fact, when I asked the table maker what he would he tell someone he was training, he quickly said, “buy a wood burning stove so you have somewhere to put your mistakes”. Writers can learn from that. You must work at it, but sometimes you will write something and realize it is not that good.  That is OK and is actually part of the process. However for some of us that feels like failure. Instead you should you look at it as a learning opportunity.  What did you not like about the current version that you would do differently with your next draft?

It is a craft that requires practice and you will make mistakes, but that’s OK.

Sometimes you can see it and admit it to yourself or sometimes it requires an editor to show you the rough edges. Either way, you may have to throw it in the “wood burning stove”, learn from the mistakes and get back to writing a better draft.

Author Solutions, authors, book selling, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 reasons why a book is still of the utmost importance in a digital world

As digital media has expanded at a dizzying pace and social media outlets have grown, certain pundits have suggested books would diminish in importance.  Mobile devices and shorter attention spans would create an environment where books would not matter as much as the onslaught of information and innumerable choices available at our fingertips every moment.  Certainly reading habits have morphed as digital options have increased, but despite these changes, books are as important as ever because their very form enables them to impact lives in ways no digital media can. Here are four reasons why I believe that is so.

A book is permanent

With so many media forms today, like Snap Chat or Instagram, the information or images conveyed are instantaneous, but soon forgotten after the next tidbit fills the feed. Not so with a book. The very form of a book means it can be preserved and revisited with ease. In fact, the presence of a book shelf in a home or an office points to the fact that books are meant to be a fixture, not fleeting. The information in a book is enduring and has a different importance than the latest click bait.

A book is transcendent

Because of its form, a book is able to cross time, geography and even language. Certainly in a digital world, blogs and Facebook have the ability to do this to some degree. But you can’t lend or give someone a blog in the same way you give someone a book. Books are carried across continents, translated into local languages, given or shipped or lent to people who the author has never met or will never know.

Author Susan Norris, who wrote the book Rescuing Hope, talks about this idea in the video below. She points out that one of the reasons she wrote her book is because if she speaks to a group of people, she impacts those people in the room.  But with a book she has the power to impact people who she will never meet. Having a book drastically changed her scope of influence.

A book is a complete thought or story

Digital media is a collection of sound bites and image snippets, but a book gives you a full idea or story. And there is something satisfying about that just like it is often more satisfying to eat a meal than a handful of snacks. Books allow for authors to complete their arguments or story because they are not bound by the limits of most digital media. They can take as many pages as needed to finish the job without concern about how long the scroll will be.

The title “author” still commands respect

A number of years ago a writer said to me, “there is a certain cache that comes with being an author”. At the time, I did not fully appreciate what he meant, but now I think his statement was very insightful. While being known as a blogger is certainly something to be proud of, it does not carry the same social weight as the title, “author”.  I think that is because even if we have never written a book ourselves, we respect anyone who has made the effort to finish a manuscript and put down their ideas or story in this permanent, transcendent form.

Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

4 Reasons Why Attending a Writer’s Conference Is a Really Good Idea

GLAWS presentationOver the past few years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to attend and speak at writer’s conferences in the US and abroad. I find it to be one of the more enjoyable activities I perform as part of my duties.  I think if you are in the midst of a manuscript, or trying to understand what it means to be an author today, attending a well-run writer’s conference can be a good investment of time and money.

It can be overwhelming, but worth it.

If you have never been to a conference, or if you are new to the publishing world, or if you have been previously published through a traditional publisher, attending a writer’s conference can prove very helpful for a number of reasons.

You will be inspired and encouraged by like-minded people.

Writing a book can be a lonely process. Many times, it is you and your notepad and keypad, working through the excitement and doubts of finishing a manuscript. While in most cases, you can find support with friends and family, it is not the same as sharing the experience with someone who knows the joys and struggles of writing a book. But at writer’s conferences, you will find people who know exactly what you are going through. They can provide tips and suggestions. In fact I am always amazed at the relationships, connections and even friendships that can be built in a weekend at a conference.

You will learn about all the options you have as an author.

Speaking at GLAWS

Always enjoy the Q&A at conferences. Spoke recently at the West Coast Writer’s conference. 

It is the best time in history, but it is also the most confusing time to be an author because you have more choice and opportunity than ever before. So it is important you have a clear understanding of what options you have and what publishing path is the best one for you to pursue for your book or project. That’s why it is important to check the keynote and breakout sessions for the conference. If they are only focused on one area of publishing, such as agents, I think that is less optimal.  Look for a schedule that includes a variety of perspectives and experiences. I think that is most beneficial.

You will hear tips on how to improve your skill as a writer.

Writing is a craft and it is work. So it is important to learn from those who have experience and success. As with any skill, you can learn from others and they can help you get better at what you do. For example, one of the best tips I ever heard at a writer’s conference was a successful author shared that she took acting classes. Not because she ever wanted to become an actress, but because she thought doing that would help her write better dialogue in her books. I thought that was brilliant when I heard it and showed what type of commitment it takes to improve your skill.

You will develop a better understanding of marketing.

Most first time authors do not always understand what part they will have to play in marketing their book. In fact for many authors, marketing is a mystery. I personally enjoy speaking about marketing to authors so they can better understand what they need to do to build a platform and a following for their book. Good conferences will include a variety of workshops on marketing so look for those in the schedule in the mean time, I have written a whitepaper titled, The 3 Phases of an Effective Book Marketing Campaign that many authors have found helpful.

So which conference should you attend?

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend and speak at a number of conferences. I am sure there are more than what I have listed and linked to below, but I can say each of these offers writers  a great opportunity to improve their craft, make some great connections and be inspired to get to their goal. If you plan to attend one of these let me know. I have already committed to speak at some of them and look forward to meeting you in person.

Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, book marketing, book selling, Ebooks, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing

3 critical design ideas to make your book interior look great

If you search, you can find lots of information on how to design a killer book cover. In fact, I have written a number of blog posts on the topic.

Six tips from wicked good book cover designers

How to make your book cover attract readers: A conversation with book designer Adam Hall

While your cover is certainly vital, you do not want to neglect the importance of the interior of your book. As one writer put it, “It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

So what should you keep in mind as you design the interior pages of your book.

Make it readable

While it is tempting to get “creative” with your type face and try to be different for the sake of “standing out”, the most important thing to remember is your book must be readable. Readability depends on a number of factors.

The Oscilating Brain by Timothy Sheehan M D title page

A clear title page is a good start for any book.

First is the font style used for the body text. There are many good options, including popular fonts such as Garamond, Caslon, Electra, Palatino, Fornier, ITC New Baskerville, Bembo, Futura, Myriad, and Helvetica. The main font used in a printed book is typically a serif font. However, san serif fonts are easier to read on a screen so they may be preferred for e-books. Serif fonts have little ‘serifs’, or feet, at the ends of the letters and san serifs do not.

Another factor in the readability of the text is the font size. A typical novel uses a ten to twelve point font, depending on the font style, genre, book length, and audience. You may choose a larger font if your book is targeted at an older or a very young generation. Line spacing, or ‘leading’ as it’s called in the design world, impacts readability too. Generally books are spaced slightly more than single spacing, about 120–125 percent of the font size. For example, a twelve point font would have a line spacing of about fourteen or fifteen points.

“It’s your cover’s job to flag down readers, but it’s the interior’s job to put on a show.”

A third factor that affects readability is the presence or absence of white space on the page. The margins (the white space that exists between the text block and the edge of the page) vary from book to book. Reducing the margin size condenses the book to fewer pages, but it can also make the book feel more claustrophobic and difficult to read.

I always recommend you start to collect sample pages of books that have very readable designs to use as a guide when designing the interior pages of your book.

Be consistent

Another key element that makes a great book design is consistency. From chapter starts to dashes and ellipses, maintaining a consistent style throughout the book helps the reader flow through the book more easily. Remember the design is not to draw attention to itself, but rather help the reader move through the book. When there are jarring, out-of-left field design elements introduced on the pages of the book, it can actually interrupt the reader’s enjoyment of the story.

Follow industry standards

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript. There is an order to things that tell readers this is a professionally designed book. Even more important there are certain standards that readers, book buyers, retailers, and librarians expect in a professional book.

Chapter start

An interesting opening page can draw readers into the story.

The inside of your book is divided into three main sections: the front matter, text, and back matter. Front matter introduces your book to your readers. Appearing before the main text, front matter is comprised of pages that include information about the book, about you, and about the publisher. Next is the text, which is the main narrative that makes up the meat of the book. The back matter falls after the main text and includes any supportive material to the text, such as the glossary and index. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Front matter

The front matter is found before the main text of the book and may include the following sections. Your book should at minimum include a copyright page and title page.

Half title page: The half title page is the first page of your book and contains only your title. This page does not include a byline or subtitle.

Series title page: Use the second page of your book to list any of your previously published books by title. It is customary to list the books chronologically from first to most recently published. Listing the title only is standard, but in nonfiction works, you may also list the subtitle if you feel it is essential. A common way to begin this page is, “Also by [author’s name]…” For authors who do not have previously published works, this page may be left blank or feature a frontispiece, which is a decorative illustration that is opposite the title page.

Title page: The title page is the part of your book that displays your full book title, subtitle, author, and any co-writer or translator. The publisher’s logo is featured on this page as well.

Copyright page: The copyright page contains the copyright notice, which consists of the year of publication and the name of the copyright owner. Depending on your publishing path, the copyright owner may be the author, an organization or corporation, or your publisher. This page also lists the book’s ISBN, and if applicable, the book’s publishing history, permissions, and disclaimers.

Table of contents: A table of contents lists the chapters, pertinent front and back matter, and the corresponding page on which these sections can be found. Typically, only nonfiction books require a table of contents. Additionally, all e-books must include a table of contents regardless of the genre.

List of illustrations: If your book includes several key illustrations that provide information or enhance the text in some way, you may need an illustrations page. However, if the illustrations are simply for comic relief or visual aid, the listing may not be necessary.

List of tables: Similar to the illustration listing, this page provides you with the opportunity to list any important tables and the page on which they can be found.

Foreword: The foreword contains a statement about the book and is written by someone other than the author who is an expert or is widely known in the field of the book’s topic. It is most commonly found in nonfiction works.

Preface: The preface usually describes why you wrote the book, your research methods and perhaps some acknowledgments if they have not been included in a separate section. It may also establish your qualifications and expertise as an authority in the field in which you’re writing. Again, a preface is far more common in nonfiction titles.

Acknowledgments (if not part of the preface): An acknowledgments page includes your notes of appreciation to people who provided you with support or help during the writing process or in your writing career in general. This section may also include any credits for illustrations or excerpts if not included on the copyright page. If the information is lengthy, you may choose to put the section in the back of the book, as the first section in the back matter.

Creating a professional book layout takes more than simply throwing a title page and some page numbers on your manuscript.

Body Text

Within the pages of books, you commonly find elements such as page numbers, running heads, and chapter-start pages. Here are some of the standards related to these standard design elements.

Page numbers

Unless you are publishing a very short children’s book, it’s essential to include page numbers. E-books do not require page number since the idea of a “page” isn’t static from one e-reader to the next device. Page numbers are most commonly found at the top of the page on the outer right or left corner, but can also be found at the bottom of a page.

Running heads

Many nonfiction books include running heads, which is the text at the top of pages that identifies the author, the book title, the section, or the chapter. Novels rarely use running heads unless there is some helpful purpose to the reader. There is some leeway in how the running heads are used, so there are many combinations of what the running head features. Some examples are: part title, chapter title; chapter number, chapter title; and chapter title, subhead.

Chapter starts and subheadings

The treatment of your chapter starts is a chance for your book design to be more expressive. While the font of your main text should be highly legible as its top priority, the chapter starts can be a bit more creative. It is common to see chapters that start on a new page from where the previous chapter left off, and the chapter starts one-third to halfway down the page.

Nonfiction books also use subheadings to further divide chapters. While the chapter starts can be more stylized, the subheads should be rather straightforward, although they can play a complementary role to the font used in the main text. 

Back Matter

The back matter of your book includes sections that support the main text but are outside of the main narrative.

Appendix or Addendum: An appendix includes any data that clarifies the text for the reader but would have disrupted the flow of the main text had it been included. It could also include information that was gathered too late to be included in the main body of the text. Some items included in the appendix could be a list of references, tables, reports, background research, and sources, if not extensive enough to be included in a separate section.

Notes: The endnotes section allows you to amplify or document certain passages throughout the main text. Endnotes are typically divided by chapter.

Glossary: A glossary comprises alphabetically arranged words and their definitions. Many nonfiction books include a glossary if terminology is used that is not generally known to the average reader.

Bibliography or reference list: The bibliography section, typically used in works of nonfiction, lists the sources for works used in the book. For samples and guidelines on proper layout, refer to the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Index: The index is an alphabetically ordered list of words and terms used for referencing your text. Indexes are important pieces to a nonfiction book.

Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, Indie book publishing, iuniverse, Publishing, self publishing

3 Big Reasons Why Hollywood Wants Your Self-Published Book Now

For the past five years in my role at Author Solutions, I have been working with our team to build relationships and partnerships in Hollywood and help create events like the Book-to-Screen Pitchfest to expose entertainment executives to self-published titles and give our authors unique opportunities to put their books in front of people who are making decisions about what makes it to the screen.

Now more than ever, producers, managers, directors and even studios are looking more closely and intentionally at self published titles. In fact, I have noticed a significant change in the past year in terms of how many entertainment industry people are calling us, wanting to attend our events and get access to our author’s books. What’s created this increased interest? Here’s what I think has changed

1. The number of scripted shows being produced has nearly doubled in the past five years.  

The rapid expansion of media outlets including cable channels and streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have led to explosive growth in the number of scripted shows being produced. In a widely quoted study from FX Networks Research, Variety noted this past year the number of scripted shows totaled 409, which is nearly twice as many as were green lit just five years ago.  Scripted Series 2002, 2006-2015 as of 12-14-15 for Press - with

Julie Piepenkotter, exec VP of research for FX Networks commenting on the report said, “This was the third consecutive year that scripted series count has grown across each distribution platform – broadcast, basic and pay cable, streaming – led by significant gains in basic cable and digital services. This statistic is staggering and almost unimaginable from where they were a decade ago.”

2. Two significant movies from this past year started as self-published books.

Books have always been a source of inspiration for movies, and self-published books have been a starting point for a number of films in the past. In fact, People magazine recently ran an article highlighting seven films that first came to market as self-published titles. One of the more widely known examples is Legally Blonde. The book, originally self-published with AuthorHouse, became a starring vehicle for Reese Witherspoon and spawned sequels and even a Broadway show.

Still Alice book cover

An Oscar winning performance started as a self-published book

However, this past year, I believe two things happened that have caused entertainment executives to look even more closely at self-published books for ideas. First, Julianne Moore won the Oscar for her performance in the movie Still Alice.  An international best-seller for Simon and Schuster, Still Alice began as a self-published book with iUniverse.  Second, the movie, The Martian was a box office success and it too started as a self-published work.

3. These two developments have made the hunt for fresh ideas more critical than ever.

With so many time slots to fill on the small screen, producers and writers are looking for new ideas more than ever before. Self-published books can be a vast source of inspiration and often they can find these books before they are widely known to the public. That makes the acquisition of the material more feasible because they can typically avoid bidding wars, but still reward the authors appropriately.

On the big screen, successful sequels are still a focus, but movie studios are also looking for the next franchise movie, like The Hunger Games or Twilight, plus they are looking for great stories they can produce for a reasonable amount and recoup their investment.

While Disney had great success with The Force Awakens, lest we forget they lost millions on flops such as Tommorowland, The Lone Ranger and the infamous, John Carter.  From a business standpoint, each of these movies cost $200 million or more to produce, which means their breakeven point was well above that amount. That is why they are also looking for movies they can make with a much more modest production budget, which tells a great story and make a profit, which is still the goal for studios.

Now, while I believe this is all very good news for self-published authors, I have also seen these new opportunities squandered. In my next post, I am going to share 3 Key Reasons Why Hollywood Will Reject Your Self-Published Book.