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All the news that's fit to print--or not.  Check in here for our latest articles and updates about anything in the ePublishing world.

 


Kids Book Authors, Please Stop Screwing Up!

Hey, guys!

Young boy eating ice creamYou may be thinking that my title for this article seems a bit...well, harsh. At the KDP forums, (where I've been donating time for the last 11-12 years, to help DIYers), I have in fact been called harsh, lately. Why? Because I'm losing my mind with the endless parade of would-be kids' book authors, that just can't seem to find anything better to do than to screw up their books, particularly in print.  If you want to write a successful book for old Albert, over there, with his ice cream cone, let's talk about it, right?

Why does this occur, over and over and over?  Let us count the ways in which those would-be publishers (yes, that's you, prospective kids' book author--now you're a publisher, not "only" a writer!) constantly screw up their books:

  1. They draw their illustrations, or have them drawn, on the paper that's available--so, we see book after book that's 11" x 8.5" or 11.27" x 8.64".  Great, except, guess what? Those sizes are not printable with POD at Amazon. Not even close. The widest that the Amazon POD machines can print is 8.5" wide.  So, if you draw your illustrations on 11" wide paper, you've wasted both your time and your paper. Sure, you can print it (11" x 8.5") at Ingram, but that entails upload fees and other challenges and it's only available with their high-end premium color printing. You can research your trim size options, for Amazon, by clicking here to go to their HELP pages--I've made a link that will take you right to the correct page.  
  2. The publisher chooses a trim size--but doesn't bother to check on KDP to see if the size that they chose is eligible for Expanded Distribution in the paper of their choice. Don't know what "Expanded Distribution" is?  Then get thee to KDP's Help pages and find out!
  3. They don't bother to figure out what else they need to know--like being aware of "live element margins." Live Element Margins (LEMs) are areas into which important elements, like text, dialogue, or even page numbers, are not allowed to go.  We see book after book that shows up on our doorstep, that cannot pass intake at KDP or Ingram, why? Because the illustrator hired off of Upwork or Fiverr didn't know that; the publisher didn't bother to learn it, to tell the illustrator not to work in the LEM, and of course, she's hand-drawn page numbers there.  That's not "fixable," either.  Click here to go to the section at KDP for print books with BLEED and LIVE ELEMENT MARGINS.  Scroll down, they even have images!
  4. The illustrator drew the illustrations to the size specified by the publisher--and left no room whatsoever for the narrative or dialogue, on the images. Surprise--the text has to actually go somewhere!
  5.  The illustrator drew the images, as instructed by the publisher--but the publisher forgot to think about  the binding, the "gutter" and all the character's faces are in the middle of the page--yup, right in the binding.
  6. The illustrator drew the illustrations precisely to the page size.  In other words, didn't draw the illustrations slightly larger than the page, to account for BLEED, which is necessary on any and all printing jobs in which the images or illustrations go to the very edge of the paper, rather than inside white margins.  (Reference what I said above about bleed, above and how there has to be some overlap, on the 3 outer edges of the layout, for printing purposes.)
  7. The illustrations were all delivered at 72DPI or 96DPI--not appropriate or suitable for print.  Those illustration resolutions are only appropriate for on-screen viewing--not print.
  8. The illustrations are all rendered in RGB color (for digital use) not CMYK, so when printed, the publisher won't be happy with the printed colors--which won't look exactly the same as the on-screen images s/he approved.  
  9. Or, the publisher decides to use images, instead--and simply goes out and downloads images "from the Internet" as if those are free to use.  They're not.  Worse, they'll download images from stock image sites and try to publish the book with the not-yet-paid watermark right on the pictures!  Don't do this--you don't want people stealing from you, do you? Then don't steal from illustrators and photographers and artists.  
  10. The publisher gets the illustrations--and then starts to try to figure out how to actually make the book itself,  rather than thinking about this before s/he ordered the illustrations.  If you're thinking that you'll just slap your illustrations into Word, and then use Word's built-in tools to put the text atop the pictures, you can try it--but woe be to you when you go to make your eBook version!  Kids' illustrated books should be made in a proper layout program, like Microsoft Publisher, InDesign or Affinity Publisher.  And no--Powerpoint is not a suitable print layout program, if for no other reason that it doesn't output high-resolution print PDFS for print.  
  11. The publisher gets their book together--and it's 14 pages, total.  KDP has a minimum of 24 pages, so you need to plan on not less than 10 illustrations, at the least and that's if you're doing illustration or image on one page and narrative on the opposite.  
  12. Along that vein, make sure you budget for what illustrators actually cost.  Plan on a budget amount of ~$150/illustration and more, so a 10-illustration book would cost you $1500 or more in illustrations alone.  That mythical teenager or student that will illustrate your book for $10/picture doesn't exist and stop with the magical thinking.  
  13. The publisher manages to stumble through all of the above, does a layout (or has it made), and then keeps outputting a PDF, on his/her computer, that keeps coming out at 8.5" x 11", or 11" x 8.5", even if the actual original trim size was meant to be, say, 8" x 10" or something else. This is because the publisher doesn't bother to learn his or her tools. Learn how to export PDFs in custom sizes!  
  14. The publisher manages to finally get the interior laid out and exported, ready for upload--and only has a front cover.  A print book requires a print wraparound cover--front, spine, and back, all in one piece, in PDF format. It needs to look like this, so make sure you figure out what you're doing before you find yourself with a publishing deadline that you've created, in two days and no cover.  
  15. Learn about cadence--about rhythm and rhyme and beats (cadence) in kids' prose, that's meant to be similar to, day, Dr. Seuss.  For example, "From there to  here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere."  5 syllables (sounds), then 4,  then 6.   It has a rhythm that is carried throughout the entire book. If you're going to write rhyme,  make sure you read up on how to do  that successfully.  Sending  someone like us, (or even if you're DIYing) and having a mishmash of beats or syllables, that change constantly from line to line, doesn't work.  Rhyming couplets MATTER.   You need practice and practice and practice and you should start that by reading rhyming books. If you don't want to do that and rhyming doesn't come naturally to you--then don't. Just write the story without using rhyme.  This is a great  article as  a jumping-off spot: https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/01/how-to-write-rollicking-rhyming-stories-pip-jones-squishy-mcfluff (if the first link doesn't work, I've archived the webpage and article at The Internet Archive, so use this one instead:  https://web.archive.org/web/20211022175133/https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/01/how-to-write-rollicking-rhyming-stories-pip-jones-squishy-mcfluff 
  16. Lastly--try to have some fun.  Yes, I know, after reading this, you feel that perhaps, you don't want to undertake it. I know, you thought, "writing kids' books, how hard can it be?" and now, it seems a lot harder than you wanted to tackle.  If you don't rush, it can be a blast.   If you do rush, you can find yourself in a corner, or with a book you can't publish. So...don't rush. Take your time, do it right and happy publishing!

I genuinely hope that helps somebody.  No matter how cranky I may sound, honestly--I'm trying to save YOU time and money.  Not me! You. 

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KDP, Print on Demand and Printing books in Color

Through the Looking Glass xoloe illustration, Tweedledum's fuss by John Tenniel

"But, but...what do you mean, that it will cost THAT MUCH?!"

Thus begins a discussion that I get to have, repeatedly, with new-to-it self-publishers that have come to us, with a manuscript that they've tended lovingly, worked on, slaved over for months--and have chosen just the perfect image--in color--for some element or the other. A frontispiece, let's say, or just a small graphic detail for the title page.  (You remember the icon-ish graphics for The Hunger Games books, right?)

And what this means is that I get to explain to new publishers that color printing is expensive. I don't care if you're doing traditional publishing (more on that below) or POD (print on demand)--color costs. And it costs a lot.

Color costs. And it costs a lot.

What most new publishers don't realize is that there isn't any way, in POD printing, to only print the color pages (or that one hotly desired color image) on the color machine.  Unfortunately, in print on demand, the entire book interior, start-to-finish, is printed on one machine and one machine only.  

In traditional publishing, you can pay a bit more for design and layout, and your book designer can design your book so that it lays out in 'signatures,' which means that s/he plans the pages for printing together. S/he can lay it out in such a way so that all the color pages can be printed easily, together, and then cropped and included in the final book, with the bulk of the text printed on the regular Black ink printer.  (You can read more about how signatures work, here:  https://pressnostress.com/impositionwizard/tutorials/imposition/booklet/ and you can then envision how book designers can manage to make color-only sections work, for a printed book.)

But, in POD, nobody is doing signatures, nobody will print the pages separately and then collate, combine the book.  That's just not how that goes.   That means that you either pay the freight for 100% color, or you live without.  (On a bright note, you don't need the level of expertise that signature design takes, either, for your book designer.)

 If you're like most would-be self-publishers, you're thinking, "oh, so what?  How much can it really be?"  So, let's run the numbers, shall we? Let's take a typical, 300-page novel, laid out in 6" x9". (n.b.--the trim size is  not taken into consideration when the costs are calculated, so you pay the same for a 5" x8" page as you do an 8.5" x 11" page.)

  • 300-page book, Black ink printing:  printing cost, $4.45. Minimum list price on Amazon.com: $7.42. If the book is on sale for $10.00, your royalty from .com would be $1.55; the book would not be priced high enough to qualify for Expanded Distribution.
  • 300-page book, Color ink printing:  printing cost, $21.85. Minimum list price on Amazon.com: $36.42. If the book is on sale for $10.00--well, it can't be.  If you price your sales price at $40.00, your royalty from .com would be $2.15; the book would not be priced high enough to qualify for Expanded Distribution.  for ED, the book would need to be priced not less than $55.00, and you'd earn a $0.15 royalty from ED. (And $11.15 from Amazon, if anybody was nutty enough to buy it, of course.)

 I know, I know, you think I'm crazy.  No, you think, she can't be right!  Five times as much? (Believe me, the arithmetic multiplier goes up, too.) So, here's the link to Amazon's Royalty Calculator:  https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200735480#royalty_calculator .  Download it yourself; it's an Excel spreadsheet with built-in macros, so if you don't have Microsoft Office/Excel, you probably won't be able to use it, sadly.  Ask a friend to use it for you if that's the case.

We all love color--humans are built that way.  But before you set your heart on that sunset, that icon, that fleuron in pink--be aware of just how much that love will cost you.

Until next time!

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Holiday Closing Alert!

Independence Day (July 4th), 2020 

(And a notice about phone calls.) 

4thJuly2020 smaller

As amazing as it is, this year, for the first time ever,  we're going to be closed for the 4th of July!

That means we're going to be closed, Friday-Monday, July 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2020.

And please, don't forget why we honor Independence Day. 

A notification about phone calls:  due to the COVID-19 plague, we've significantly increased our incoming inquiries--nearly double our usual volume--and the number of incoming inquiries by phone has been literally overwhelming.  Although most writers will say that their call "will only take 15 minutes," the truth is, that after 10 years of doing this, most author inquiry calls take an hour.  45 minutes at best. I'm currently receiving 7-10 calls/day, and due to that, I've had to stop accepting incoming phone calls, which my voicemail will tell you. You can leave a message--I can't call you back without one--and if a call is needed, I will of course call you.  But we have very complete and extensive email replies, handouts and our website is very informative. Almost all the questions that I receive during a call are actually already answered on our site, or are, in fact, publishing questions, not questions about our services, what we do, what we offer, or the like.  I already handle between 90-130 emails/day, as it is. I can't handle that many emails and take 7-10 hours of calls each day. I can't. So, in order to be able to answer this huge email volume, to help the greatest number of people, with my time, I've had to stop accepting calls.  I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. I'm in the process of setting up a call-appointment function, for free 15-minute calls to answer questions from new prospective customers and longer paid sessions for folks who generally want consulting on "publishing," generally (and for prospective kids' book publishers, as a special category of paid consulting).  But that functionality isn't yet set up. I hope to get that working the week of the 5th July, sometime.  

Thank you for your understanding.  

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Phone Call Alert! 

(Please read, thanks.) 

Old Timey Switchboard Operator Cartoon

 

Due to the COVID-19 onslaught, we currently cannot take incoming phone calls.  

And since nobody reads anything, I've simply removed the phone number from the site.  

A notification about phone calls:  due to the COVID-19 plague, we've significantly increased our incoming inquiries--nearly double our usual volume--and the number of incoming inquiries by phone has been literally overwhelming.  Although most writers will say that their call "will only take 15 minutes," the truth is, that after 10 years of doing this, most author inquiry calls take an hour.  45 minutes at best. I'm currently receiving 7-10 calls/day, and due to that, I've had to stop accepting incoming phone calls, which my voicemail will tell you. You can leave a message--I can't call you back without one--and if a call is needed, I will of course call you.  But we have very complete and extensive email replies, handouts and our website is very informative. Almost all the questions that I receive during a call are actually already answered on our site, or are, in fact, publishing questions, not questions about our services, what we do, what we offer, or the like.  I already handle between 90-130 emails/day, as it is. I can't handle that many emails and take 7-10 hours of calls each day. I can't. So, in order to be able to answer this huge email volume, to help the greatest number of people, with my time, I've had to stop accepting calls.  I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. I'm in the process of setting up a call-appointment function, for free 15-minute calls to answer questions from new prospective customers and longer paid sessions for folks who generally want consulting on "publishing," generally (and for prospective kids' book publishers, as a special category of paid consulting).  But that functionality isn't yet set up. I hope to get that working the 3rd week of July, sometime.  

Thank you for your understanding.   

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Waiting for a reply to your inquiry? 

(Please read, thanks.) 

Man standing in the dark next to his computer holding a candle, like Diogenes of Synope

 Due to a Spambomb attack, our contact form is having issues!  

A notification about our contact form inquiries:  A few weeks back,  we endured a spam-bomb attack.  We received literally tens of thousands of emails, via our contact form on the CONTACT page.  Our web guys leapt into action, and put in a "ReCaptcha" element, to try to stop the spam bombs.   And it worked, hooray. However, it apparently also caused a glitch, in which we have NOT received all the submitted inquiries, from real customers and prospective customers. We apologize for this and we're in the process of fixing it. In the meantime, if you do not hear from us same-day, or at the absolute latest, within 24 hours, please email us directly, not using the CONTACT form, but the email address on our CONTACT page in the "How to Reach Us" column, thank you. We apologize for any inconvenience and we hope it's all resolved shortly. 

Thank you for your understanding.   

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Phone Call Alert! 

(Please read, thanks.) 

Old Timey Switchboard Operator Cartoon

 

Due to the COVID-19 onslaught, we currently cannot take incoming phone calls.  

And since nobody reads anything, I've simply removed the phone number from the site.  

A notification about phone calls:  due to the COVID-19 plague, we've significantly increased our incoming inquiries--nearly double our usual volume--and the number of incoming inquiries by phone has been literally overwhelming.  Although most writers will say that their call "will only take 15 minutes," the truth is, that after 10 years of doing this, most author inquiry calls take an hour.  45 minutes at best. I'm currently receiving 7-10 calls/day, and due to that, I've had to stop accepting incoming phone calls, which my voicemail will tell you. You can leave a message--I can't call you back without one--and if a call is needed, I will of course call you.  But we have very complete and extensive email replies, handouts and our website is very informative. Almost all the questions that I receive during a call are actually already answered on our site, or are, in fact, publishing questions, not questions about our services, what we do, what we offer, or the like.  I already handle between 90-130 emails/day, as it is. I can't handle that many emails and take 7-10 hours of calls each day. I can't. So, in order to be able to answer this huge email volume, to help the greatest number of people, with my time, I've had to stop accepting calls.  I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. I'm in the process of setting up a call-appointment function, for free 15-minute calls to answer questions from new prospective customers and longer paid sessions for folks who generally want consulting on "publishing," generally (and for prospective kids' book publishers, as a special category of paid consulting).  But that functionality isn't yet set up. I hope to get that working the 3rd week of July, sometime.  

Thank you for your understanding.