Saturday, May 28, 2011

Publisher's Game

formatted manuscript

I'm trying to expand Viral Cat Press into a publishing house and so I decided to take on my mother-in-law's children's book, Mirabelle the Duck. It's an adorable story about a round bellied mallard named Mirabelle who lives in Parc Monseau, Paris. My mother-in-law wrote this book for my daughter. Adorable stuff. Anyway, she wants the book personalized with her own, well, personal photography. One of the biggest hurdles I've had with this project is the image quality of the pictures -- they were taken on her cell phone. I think I've done a pretty good job preserving the pictures and increasing the dpi, but purchasing stock photography is really the way to go.

A lot goes into being a publisher that I don't think the general public appreciates. Layout, formatting, cover design, back cover design -- all of these things take a lot of time and effort. Just taking on my mother-law's book, I'm saving her over $1,000. The "starting" rate for formatting a book is $299. Similarly, the "starting" rate for doing a cover design is $299. Then comes the ISBN number, ISSN number, and proofs. Creating an ebook is an entirely different beast. Wow, text can become super unstable. Any time you find yourself feeling superior to an ebook author because two words are inexplicably smooshed together, or periods are missing, or whatever else, check yourself because it's usually some bizarre ebook file conversion shizzle. Marketing, of course, is the most expensive, and a successful marketing campaign could cost $30,000+. I don't have that kind of money, so Viral Cat depends mostly on word of mouth via online social networking sites.

These include, but are not limited to:

book clubs
kindle boards

I enjoy doing this. Still, unless I do a better job marketing, the book is left floating in cyber space. It all comes down to traffic and building a sturdy network of links. The more incoming and outgoing links a book has, the higher its google search rank. Every time a book is mentioned online, it creates a link in the chain. When I look at it that way, it becomes something of a challenge, but one that can be conquered with baby steps.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indie Author Logic

I talked to an older man the other day. He had just finished reading "Jeremy Chikalto and the Hazy Souls," Viral Cat's first published book. He liked it and especially enjoyed the character Lyrna. He told me in private that he rarely reads new authors because he has thirty or so "tried and true" authors whose works are published year round. Why take the risk of purchasing a book by an unknown author when he's guaranteed a decent read by one of his thirty established authors?
As an independent press, Viral Cat takes on first time authors and competes with big publishing houses. But I know that indie publishing is the future. The big publishing houses are crumbling, downsizing is a nicer way to put it. Why? Because people like the older man I talked to aren't expanding their repertoire.
The ebook market is soaring. Big publishing houses want their ebooks to cost $14.99. Indie authors and publishers are charging $2.99. When pressed on the issue, the older man mentioned above insisted that he'd still buy the $14.99 ebook that he knows he'd enjoy rather than buy the $2.99 ebook he might not like. But what about the twenty year old reader? The thirteen year old reader? They are the future, and I'm pretty sure they'd purchase the $2.99 ebook.
And the big publishing houses? Well, they know their loyal clientele won't spend $14.99 on an unknown author, so they just keep publishing established authors. New authors? Well, sure, they publish celebrities with a built-in market. "Lauren Conrad? Well-known reality TV star? Sure! We'll publish your book!" says HarperCollins.
As established authors, er, die off, and their loyal readers enter retirement homes, indie authors will have developed a following all their own and the mystique of being published by a big publishing house will be revealed as illusory.
Quality control will still exist because social media will help great stories go viral. Word of mouth has always been a publisher's best tool. That will never change.
So my message for you, indie authors, indie publishers, is to embrace self-publishing and small press publishing, have faith in social media, and don't fret rejection letters from major publishers; in fact, don't even send them your queries. The publishing world is rapidly changing and indie author success stories are on the rise. You want to ride this wave rather than get caught in the currents. Master social media. Develop a personal connection with your readership.  Understand publishing technologies. These are the tools of the new generation of authors.