3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital Publishing

The form that a published book takes doesn’t matter as much as many people think

3 Perspectives on Print Versus Digital PublishingPublishers, authors, and readers each approach the print versus ebook debate from different perspectives. Among these three points of view exist an array of opinions. Consider:

Publishers are in business to make money. Never forget that. They aren’t philanthropists, seeking to advance authors’ work or serve the common good (though both are laudable secondary goals). They can make money in print or with e-books. While the outcome is not guaranteed, the potential for profit is there. Some focus on the printed word and others, electronic output, while most do both. For them print versus e-book becomes a strategic decision with a financial outcome.

Authors often enjoy the tangible feeling of holding a book, their book, in their hands. For them, there’s an emotional attachment to the printed word. As such, they may view e-books as a second-rate, unacceptable alternative. However, the underlying desire of authors is to have their words read. So does it really matter if it’s on paper or through a device? Like publishers, authors also want to earn money for their work. Each medium offers the opportunity to do that.

Readers may be the most passionate in their opinions about print and electronic reading. I use both, and I enjoy both. So do many readers, though some insist on a book and others will only use a device.

As long as the public consumes books both ways – which, I suspect will be for years to come – the print versus e-book debate will remain unresolved. And, I’m okay with that.

What’s your preference, print or electronic?

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9 Keys to Self-Publishing Success

It’s never been easier to publish a book, but that doesn’t mean we should

9 Keys to Self-Publishing SuccessI once read a self-published e-book, a novella. I read it for several reasons: it was recommended (which turned out to be a bad reason), it would be a quick read, I’d never read a novella, and it was free (I got what I paid for).

On the plus side, the opening captured my attention, the story line was intriguing, and the ending was a delightful surprise. On the negative side, the book did not flow smoothly, was poorly edited (or not edited at all), contained many errors, and was poorly converted into e-book format. Overall, the great ending did not overcome all the negative elements.

For a self-published book to be successful, it needs what all great books need:

  • A Promising Idea: If you don’t have a great story idea or theme, don’t start writing. This novella did, but its implementation fell short.
  • A Compelling Opening (a Hook): The opening didn’t grab me, but it was sufficient to make me want to read more.
  • Great Writing: I felt I was reading a rough draft. Elements of good writing were present, but they were too sparse to be effective.
  • Professional Editing: The novella may have been self-edited (never a wise idea) or done so on the cheap, but the result wasn’t even close to professional. While publishing perfection is hard to achieve, the goal should be to get as close as possible.
  • A Satisfying Ending: The ending of the novella was superb. It was the most notable element of the work. But one good line does not make a good book.
  • A Memorable Title: Some titles are hard to forget and others are hard to remember. I can’t recall this novella’s title.
  • An Attention-Grabbing Cover: The cover didn’t hurt the book, but it didn’t help either. If I were judging this book by its cover, I would have passed.
  • A Pleasing Layout: In print, the book shouldn’t look self-published. (We can’t always define it, but we know it when we see it). In electronic form, the formatting should flow smoothly with no glitches, misplaced text, bad alignment, or floating words or titles. In any good book, the interior design should be innocuous. When people notice the layout it becomes a distraction.
  • Effective Marketing: The above items all relate to the quality of the product. (There are more elements to consider, but these are the main ones.) A quality product requires effective marketing. A stellar book with no sales will not be a success, nor will great marketing of lousy writing work out.

If you’re considering self-publishing, be it in print or e-book, make sure you cover all nine of these items before proceeding. Your book’s success will depend on it.

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What is the Future of Book Publishing?

Will book publishing follow the path of the music and movie industries?

What is the Future of Book Publishing?When people look at the future of book publishing they often draw parallels to music and video. In many ways this is instructive, but not in all cases.

Look at the history of music. With music there were 78-rpm records, cassettes, 8 tracks, vinyl records, CD, and iTunes/iPods.

Next consider the progression of video. With video there were Beta tapes, VHS tapes, video disks, DVD, and Blue Ray.

Both show a user progression of format and consumption to the digital realm. One might conclude, therefore, that printed word will give way to the digital word, that print books will cede to digital books, be it e-books or audio.

I don’t see that happening, at least not completely.

To say that e-readers will completely replace printed books is like saying iTunes will replace concerts or Blue Ray will replace theater. It’s not going to happen.

True, e-readers may one day dominate the reading public’s preference, but just as there will always be demand for concerts and theater, so too for the printed word. The key for authors and publishers is to embrace both options, not pick sides.

As a reader, do you prefer print or digital? As a writer should you care?

Digital Publishing Pros and Cons

Consider both publishing options for your next book

Digital Publishing Pros and ConsFor the past few years, there has been a great deal of press — and hence a great deal of excitement — about e-books.

Correspondingly, there is also significant debate about the relative merits of each option. The purists insist that the printed version is the way to go, nearly sacred. While the technologists say that e-books are where it’s at, declaring that paper is passé. Of course the diplomat insists that there is room for both.

The price of e-books spans a wide range, from free to matching their printed counterparts, so it is hard to know their true demand. After all if something is free or costs next to nothing, why not “buy” it.

Regardless of sales numbers, print is still driving the market. Author Annette Ehrhardt, in writing about e-book pricing strategies, once noted that, “It seems that many readers value the printed word more than the digital word.”

While there may be viable instances where a book should only be in digital form or only in print, the vast majority of books need to be in both.

However, if for some reason you can only do one, go with print. Readers will apparently value it more — and what they value, they will buy.

Which book format do you prefer to read? Why? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

A Salute to Print Books

On The Media discusses books in their March 11 podcast

A Salute to Print BooksThe March 11 episode of On The Media, titled “Print is Back, Back Again” shares an array of interesting segments on books. It’s too good not to share.

Here are the topics covered:

These segments give those who read books and write books and publish books things to celebrate, things to make us smile, and things to shake our heads over. Yet put together they salute books, book writing, and book publishing. Long live printed books.

You can listen to the entire show or select specific topics using the above links. (It is also available through iTunes.)

If you love books, you’ll love this episode of On The Media.

How do you view the future of printed books? Which of these segments most intrigues you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Do You Believe in Print?

Despite interest in audio and ebooks, don’t write off print

Do You Believe in Print?As writers our books can appear in three primary formats: print, ebook, and audio.

Audio books have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Gone are the days of books on tape. Now it is digital files that readers listen to from their smartphones. This form of consumption has soared in the past couple of years, especially among younger generations. Audible books have also received a lot of buzz in recent months among the writing community. It seems I hear more about audio books than ebooks nowadays.

Reading books on devices is still popular. I hear the reader of preference has shifted from dedicated reading device to the smartphone. However, many mainstream media have actually reported a decrease in ebook consumption. Yet indie authors are quick to point out that a significant percentage of independent authors do not use ISBNs. This means no one tracks their sales as a whole. They maintain, though unverifiable, that ebook sales are grossly underreported and are actually continuing their upward sales assent.

That leaves print. For some 500 years print was the only reading option. While prognosticators have predicted the demise of printed books for the past several years, its death has yet to take place. Yes, its market share has declined, but readers still consume printed books and many prefer the tactile, and even olfactory, experience of reading them.

Mainstream media also reports that younger generations are returning to print, apparently preferring to unplug and immerse themselves in the printed word. Besides you don’t need a smartphone to read a print book. You don’t need charged batteries and you don’t need a signal to download content.

Do you believe in print?

As a reader which is your go-to format? As a writer what option do you prefer? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Let’s Make the New Year Your Best Year Yet

Happy New Year!In The Book Blog we talk about writing books, producing books, and marketing books. Successful writers must do all three. Neglect one element and your book will fail to meet your expectations and reach its full potential.

Even if you find a traditional publisher they will only handle the second requirement: publishing your book. Unless you are an A-list author they will do little marketing for you and expect you to put forth most of the effort.

And if you self-publish you must master all three: write a great book, produce an excellent product, and sell it effectively. Few authors naturally excel at all three. These are learned skills.

What do you shine at? What do you struggle with? Look at your weak area and commit to improving it this year.

The first step is writing a great book. Without compelling words, the rest doesn’t matter. Not really.

However writing a great book is just the first step. Next is producing it. This includes careful editing by skilled editors and a professional cover by an experienced designer. I’ve seen otherwise good books fail because of sloppy editing or an amateur cover.

Last, and perhaps most critical, is telling others about your book. We call this marketing. And though some artists think of marketing as the dark side of their craft, it is essential if you want to make money from your book and put food on the table.

Marketing starts with a great website, an email list, and an engaged social media following. Then there are ads, promotions, and pricing strategies.

Whether it’s writing, producing, or marketing, look to round out your skill set for this year and make it your best year ever.

Where are you at in the book publishing process? What will you do this year to shore up your weak area? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

A Year in Review: Top 10 Book Publishing Posts in 2015

As 2015 winds down and we get ready to boldly move into 2016, here is our annual year in review list. The top ten posts on The Book Blog for 2015 are:

  1. Get Ready For the New YearWhy We Need a Book Proposal for Every Book We Write
  2. Five Steps to Write Back Cover Copy For Your Book
  3. What Do Readers Care About?
  4. The Two Extremes of Self-Publishing: Both Are Wrong
  5. 7 Reasons Why Books Are Rejected
  6. Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To
  7. What Email Open Rates Mean
  8. Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To
  9. Becoming a Hybrid Author: A Case Study of Author Robin Mellom
  10. The Three Parts of Book Publishing

And here are two more that would have cracked the top 10 list, but they were actually written in 2014. Even a year after they were posted, readers continue to find and enjoy them:

  1. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  2. WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion

Which of these is your favorite? Are there any you would add to the list? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start Writing

It seems many writers start writing a book without knowing how long it should be. Often they end up with a length that lacks marketability, can’t be economically produced, or will require substantial edits to make it the right size. It may be too long; it may be too short. Both problems take time to fix – if they can be fixed at all.

A friend recently finished writing her “book.” It was 8,500 words, she said with a smile; she hoped that would be okay. She was dismayed to learn it wasn’t even close. It even fell short of common length expectations for a novella. Most would call her book a short story.

Of course everyone can point out exceptions to “standard” book lengths. But invariably these come from established authors who have name recognition. New authors seldom receive such latitude.

Know Your Target Book Length Before You Start WritingWhen pitching my book at a writers conference, one industry person said my length was perfect, while another wanted it 20,000 words longer, and a third said it should have at least 25,000 more words. That’s a huge difference.

There is no universal answer for the ideal book length, but there are some generalities. To avoid wasting time and effort, we need to be close to industry expectations when we write. Here are some ways to find out how long your book should be:

  • If you have an agent or publisher, start there. What they say, goes.
  • Ask people in the book publishing industry who know.
  • Go to a library or bookstore and look at the length of books similar to yours. (A rough average is 300 words per page.)
  • Search online (like I did) and find a lot of conflicting information, but at least it’s a place to start.

The main thing is don’t waste time writing a book that is way too short or too long for anyone to ever publish it. The closer our book is to our publisher’s expectations, the easier it is to tweak to meet their requirements.

Have you ever written something that was the wrong length? How are you at editing something to hit a word count? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Do You Want People to Buy Your Book or Read Your Book?

We all want people to buy our books and then read our books. That’s the ideal. But what if we can realize only one of these two outcomes? Would we rather have people buy our book or read it?

Do You Want People to Buy Your Book or Read Your Book?In the first scenario a lot of people would buy our book but they never actually read it. It sits around unread and later moves to a book shelf and later still ends up in the trash. No one ever reviews the book or lets us know how much they enjoy it.

In the second scenario readers download our book for free, read someone else’s copy (that wasn’t paid for either), receives an advanced copy, or finds a pirated version. We receive a boatload of positive reviews and everywhere we go it seems someone says how great our book is. A lot of people read our book and love it, but we never make one penny from it.

Both these situations are extreme, but if we had to select one, which one would it be?

If we pick the first, then our primary goal in writing a book is to make money. If we pick the second, then our primary motivation to write is for the love of the art. Neither one is wrong, but by themselves, for the long-term, neither one will fully satisfy.

We need people to buy our books, and we need people to read them. The first need is practical and the second need is emotional. We must have both to sustain ourselves as writers. Without the money we starve physically; without the feedback we starve creatively. Don’t be caviler about either; we need both and shouldn’t dismiss one as unnecessary.

We must write books that will make money and that people will want to read. The money doesn’t have to be a lot, but we need to make something. Our readers don’t need to be many, but we need to have at a least a few.

Of course we’d prefer to sell lots of books and have lots of readers. Isn’t that what we all dream for – even if we don’t say so or are afraid to admit it?

If you had to choose which would it be? Which of these two outcomes should you take more seriously? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below