Monday, September 28, 2009

Self-Publishing 101: Print on Demand vs. Offset Printing

If you're self-publishing a book, you have a few choices of how to get your book printed: vanity publishing, subsidy publishing, off-set printing or Print on Demand (P.O.D.).

Both vanity and subsidy publishers print and bind books at the author's expense and offer packages of services that include editing, cover design, interior design, distribution, and marketing. Authors maintain all rights to the books. They are essentially clients to the publishers and that's how they make their money. The main difference between the vanity and subsidy publishers is vanity publishers will publish most anything and subsidy publishers are more selective.

Self publishing is more for authors who do everything themselves. When I first self-published my novel, that's the approach I took. I formed my own publishing company. I hired my editor, cover designer, illustrator, interior designer, publicist, and set up my book with a P.O.D. printer. I also ordered the ISBN number and bar code, which your book needs in order to sell it in the market place.

As a self-publisher, you will eventually come to that moment where you have to make a decision between offset printing and Print on Demand.

Offset printing is when you hire a book printer to print and bind a large volume of books, usually 2500 or more. Offset produces the highest quality, however it can be expensive, because not only are you paying for the costs of printing and binding, you also have to cover shipping and warehousing, which usually requires renting a pallet in a distributor's warehouse. You can store the books at your house, but boxes of 2500 or more books takes up a lot of room. A friend of mine went this route and spent over $10,000 up front just for printing and binding. Offset printing has a higher financial risk, because you have to sell all these books to recoup your investment.

P.O.D seems to be the more cost-efficient way to go these days. I highly recommend Lightning Source. They are owned by Ingram, the wholesaler that Borders and Barnes and Noble, and most small book stores order through. When I was using them for my first book, LS had an incentive for P.O.D. publishers: any books set up with Lightning Source would go into Ingram's library. This means readers can go to Borders and Barnes and Noble and order books. Most self-publishing companies have difficulty getting their books into the system of book stores. LS gives the self-publisher an extra advantage. LS also puts your book on and And you decide the retail price. The setup fee is relatively cheap. I paid $100. And the last I checked the fee for keeping your book stored in the LS library is $12 a year. They keep two digital files of your book in their library: the cover and a PDF of the interior. You have your own account and you can order copies of your book to be printed and shipped to you any time. If someone orders the book off Amazon, Lightning Source sends the book to Amazon, and you don't have to do anything except collect royalty checks that are profits from each Amazon sale.

With P.O.D, instead of ordering 2500 books at once, you can order any number you choose. This is perfect for authors who just want to print 50 or 100 copies to sell to friends and family or for a one-time event. This year I am using Lightning Source to print a memoir that my grandmother wrote. We're going to print about 50 copies and hand them out as Christmas gifts to family members. You can even order just one copy at a time, if that's all you need. Or 5 or 10, however many you need. For my novel, I often ordered 40 books at a time. I'd take them to book signings, and when I sold out, order another 40.

The quality of P.O.D. has gotten so much better, and Lightning Source is one of the best. I was very pleased with the ink and binding of my novel. The illustrations on the cover and inside came out perfect. Borders and Barnes and Noble carried my book, and managers I spoke with told me they thought the quality stood up to books coming out of NY publishing houses. Lightning Source now has the capability of printing books with color art, such as children's books.

So if you've reached that point where you are deciding between offset and P.O.D., I recommend considering P.O.D. as a fast and inexpensive way to get your book into print. I was completely satisfied with my experience with Lightning Source. Their staff was friendly and the quality of the finished product met my high standards.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaser Chapters from My Upcoming Novel

I just posted a sneak peek from my horror novel DEAD OF WINTER. You can read the first 3 chapters at my fiction blog Dark Lucidity:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When to Get Advice on Your Manuscript

A friend from Facebook wrote: I've started to write a book but I'm not sure it's any good. How can I get some professional advice?

If you're a beginning writer, I wouldn't seek professional advice just yet. I would write a full draft and revise it a couple of times before getting feedback from anyone. If you receive too much criticism early on, it might discourage you from finishing the book. I made this mistake early on in my career and abandoned some stories that I should have spent more time with before having a critic point out the flaws. There are usually quite a few flaws in the early stages of a book, and it's better to just get the story down on the page first. You can always make it better when you revise the next several drafts.

Even today, when I start writing a new novel, my first draft is always rough. Some of the characters are still underdeveloped and there are many holes in the plot and questions left unanswered. My short stories and novels all go through several drafts before I let anyone read them.

For the first draft, I write purely from the heart. I write for the joy of creating the story, the characters, and the fictional world in which they live. I'm not concerned yet whether the book is polished or good enough for anyone to read. It's just a rough draft. A blue print to the story. After the first draft is complete, I read through it several times and revise it. The revision stage is where the magic happens. Some chapters I may revise 30 times, adding more details each time and improving the description and dialogue. That's just me, though, because I'm a perfectionist. Other writers can finish a book in fewer drafts. With each revision, I add new chapters and subtract chapters that no longer fit. I change character names and introduce new characters. The novel evolves over the course of several drafts. I continue to add depth to my main characters so they come to life on the page. I also write a synopsis, the outline to my story, where each paragraph represents a summary of each chapter. With my 400-page novel condensed down to 40 pages, I observe the pacing of the story, noticing where it may have gone on too long or places where I need to bridge holes in the plot. I can write for months on a novel before anyone reads a single word of it.

Only after I feel like the story is written to the best of my ability, do I seek feedback from others. I belong to a writer's group who I read chapters to each month and get constructive feedback. I also do focus groups, where I'll print out and bind the entire manuscript and have 5-10 people read it (usually friends and colleagues who are avid readers). I include a questionnaire asking what they liked and didn't like about my book. Then with this new feedback, I go back to revising. Once I have a polished manuscript that I feel absolutely wonderful about, I will submit it to an agent or editor. If self-publishing, then I would I hire an editor and proofreaders to give me professional feedback. The book then goes through a final polishing stage so that it's ready to go to print.

Another point I'd like to make is when I was a beginning writer, I was still learning how to write a novel. I spent some time developing my craft before asking a professional if my book was any good. The most encouraging advice they could probably give at this stage is your writing shows promise, keeping writing, keep fleshing out the story.

For any beginning fiction writers who are writing their first novel, I'd read books on the novel writing process and learn about all the elements of a novel: plot, characterization, dialogue, point of view, theme, pacing, setting, tone, etc. Here are some books I recommend:

How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

Plot (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Ansen Dibell

The Art And Craft Of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb

On Writing by Stephen King

Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella

Dialogue (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Lewis Turco

Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger

Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nancy Kress

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card

Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood

Special thanks to Marlon from Facebook for writing me with this question. I'm always looking for blog topics, so if anyone has a question about writing, publishing, or book marketing, contact Author Brian Moreland on Facebook or email

Tuesday, September 1, 2009