1. Does Book Passage act as a book publisher?
No. Book Passage’s new Path to Publishing program is a program designed to help authors learn more about their publishing options and to assist them in pursuing the choice they decide to follow. We help demystify the world of publishing. No matter how authors choose to make their book available to the public, we feel that they need to view publishing as a business proposition. We fell that an author needs to see himself or herself as the “CEO of my book, Inc.”
2. Does Book Passage provide editorial, design, and publishing services?
No, but we will be referring authors to experienced professionals who can provide those services. The San Francisco and Bay Area has a wealth of talented people who are skilled in all aspects of the book business. Our goal is to match those book business professionals with the authors who need their expertise.
3. Does this program cover more than just self-published books?
Yes. A big part of the program is assisting authors who want to pursue a self-publishing option, but we are not limiting the program to that. If an author has a book that lends itself to publication by a traditional publisher or to a collaborative arrangement with a smaller publisher, we will help the author pursue those alternatives. If an author has a book that could be of interest to a literary agent, we can make a referral to one of the many excellent literary agents that we work with. Likewise, if an author has a book that might be of interest to a small publisher on a collaborative basis, we can try to put author and publisher together.
4. When should I sign up for the Mentor Program?
The Mentor Program is an optional choice within the Path of Publishing program that is designed for writers who want to work on a one-to-one basis with an established author. The subjects covered during their meetings are a matter for each author and mentor to decide. Some authors may want to work with a mentor on the direction they should be taking in their writing. Others may focus on the publishing alternatives. Still others may want to get ideas for promoting their book. The Mentor Program is a way of getting personal advice and feedback on each of the choices that an author has to make in the process of publishing a book.
5. What does it cost to publish a book?
The cost of publishing a book varies widely, because there are many steps involved in creating a book and bringing it to the reading public. Except for books that an author only wants to give to a small group of family members or associates, every book involves significant costs. Some costs can’t be avoided. Books need to be edited for style and content as well as for grammatical errors before they are published. Every book needs the services of a skilled book designer to fit the text to the printer’s specifications. Books have to be published and distributed in a way that makes them available to bookstores and other book sellers. Usually the biggest costs are those associated with promoting the book and making the public aware of it. In traditional publishing, many of these costs are advanced by the publisher (which is why an author is usually advised to accept a good offer from a publisher). There are also alternative, co-publishing arrangements in which the publisher and the author may split the costs. But whether the publisher picks up some of the costs or none of the costs, it is still up to the author to decide how much investment he or she wants to make – particularly in the crucial area of book promotion. No matter how the book is published, authors should still think of themselves as “CEO of my book, inc.”
6. Does Book Passage provide editing services for a book?
No, but we will provide referrals to experienced editors who have a good reputation within the local book community. A good author-editor relationship is very personal one. They need to work closely to together and anticipate each other’s reactions. We will work to find experienced editors who can work within the author’s budget.
7. How much editing will my book need?
Usually more than you think! That’s a facetious answer, but it underscores the fact authors are often in no position to judge what kind of editing a book really needs. If a book is not edited properly, it will never reach its full potential with readers. Authors should really view working with an editor as investment. There is no formula for determining whether an author needs to go further after the first round of editing. That’s a question that usually needs to be answered in consultation with the original editor and with unbiased readers who may be familiar with the manuscript. In addition to using editor, authors need to use the services of a good copy-editor or proof-reader. One of our big complaints with on-line publishers is that they downplay the amount of editing that is needed for the apparent purpose of keeping the price of the overall publishing package artificially low. Most of them offer additional editing services for a price. But when authors do pay for additional editing services, they are handed over to an editor that they’ve never vetted and whom they may never get to meet. This does a disservice to the author.
8. Once the manuscript is ready, what has to be done before it goes to the printer?
The file should almost always be handed over to an experienced book designer who can put the file in the format that the printer specifies. This is true, incidentally, whether the book is to be published in print or as an e-book – in each case there is a format that a trained professional needs to follow. There is more to this than meets the eye. Even writers who work frequently with Word, PDFs, or similar computerized documents are surprised to see the expertise that goes into laying out the book, setting the pagination, margins and breaks, designing the front and back covers, merging in illustrations, and hundreds of other decisions that go into a first-class book.
9. Does Book Passage provide this type of book-designer service?
No, but we work with experienced book designers, and we can recommend a designer who will meet the needs of each author in the program. Many of these designers are local. One of our goals is to come up with book-design packages that offer alternatives and provide the best value for the dollar.
10. Aren’t there on-line publishers that offer this kind of service?
There are, but we think authors should be very wary of them. What these companies generally offer are do-it-yourself patterns that you can download from a set of templates. At first glance, the cost of such pre-packaged designs may seem to be cheaper than the cost of hiring a book-designer, but the cost goes up quickly if you start purchasing many of the extras that are offered. The major problem with the on-line book publishers is the quality of the finished design. It is nearly impossible for an author working with cookie-cutter templates to match the work of a good book-designer. Authors need to ask themselves, how is my book going to look on the store shelf in comparison to the books right next to it?
11. Should I publish my book as a print book or as an e-book?
In most cases, you should probably do both. The additional cost of adding an e-book option for readers is very little, if you are working with the right designer and publisher. But in our opinion the print version of the book should have priority. Print books still constitute about 80% of the business, and those are the books we sell the most. But if you can publish both, it is a good idea.
12. What factors should I consider when deciding how my book will be printed?
The cost of printing is naturally a big factor, but it is not the most important consideration. The decisions made at this point go beyond just the printing cost of each book, because they affect how the book will be distributed and promoted. You want to make sure that you are printing the book in such a way that you will maximize its availability to potential readers. Unless you are familiar with how the book business works, the best alternative is not always clear. One of the goals of the Path to Publishing program is to make this process clear to authors.
13. Are there advantages to having a book printed by a local printer?
Yes. This is sometimes a good option – whether done by itself or in combination with another printing and distribution method. If the printing company is local, the author can usually work with the company and make any last minute changes. The turn-around time may also be quicker. If the author is willing to order a sufficient number of copies at the outset to cover the set-up cost – say, 500 copies or so -- the cost per book may be less. Authors need think through their marketing strategy at this point. The strategy they come up with may depend on the type of book they’ve written and the type of reader to which it is likely to appeal. If, for example, the book is about family history or a topic of only local interest, the best strategy may be to put in an order for the number of books the author is likely to sell, get the best cost-per-copy from the printer, and then sell the books on consignment to local bookstores, museums, and the like. This kind of strategy may also make sense if the book is a technical or how-to book on a topic for which the author is well known. If the author feels that most sales of the book are likely to occur as part of a lecture tour or off of the author’s own website, it might make sense for the author to pay for a modest print run, get the best price, and sell the books himself or herself. There’s another situation where working with a local printer is a good idea. Some authors use the initial print-run of the book as a way of interesting publishers and book-packagers in the book and so that they might make an offer for future publication. The idea behind this strategy is to showcase the book in a well-designed format and to secure enough initial sales and favorable comment that will impress publishers. This is a sophisticated strategy that requires authors to be well in control of what they are doing. But there are examples of authors who have succeeded in just that fashion.
14. Are there limitations to working only with a local printer?
Yes, but most of these limitations can be overcome if you combine local printing with another plan for wider distribution. One immediate limitation is cash-flow. Authors working directly with a printer will have to pay for the books at the time they are printed. Although the cost per copy may be less, the overall initial expenditure is something that needs to be taken into account. For some authors, even finding space to house all of those books may become a problem. A bigger problem than cash-flow is the problem of distribution. If you print your own books, the distribution of those books is something you will have to do on your own. If someone orders a book directly from you, you will probably have to package and ship the book yourself. But it’s the lack of national distribution presents the biggest problem. If there is no distributor for the book, the copies are not likely to be anywhere where readers can find them. A customer walking into a bookstore in Chicago or New York, will know nothing about your book if all of the copies are sitting in your garage in San Francisco. For most books, national distribution – or at least national availability – is the essential first step to success. Local printing can be part of this strategy, but a strategy of printing only locally has some important disadvantages.
15. Are there any printing or distribution advantages offered by on-line publishers?
There are none that we can see. The most important thing to remember about such on-line publishers, such as Create Space, I Universe, Author Solutions, and Lulu, is that they operate almost entirely in an on-line environment. These services offer only print-on-demand books. This means that no copies of a book get printed until a customer has purchased a copy through the on-line service. They do not offer books to bookstores on any commercially reasonable terms, so you are unlikely ever to see one of these books in a bookstore. Nor do they offer the books back to authors on terms that would enable the authors themselves to sell them for a profit. The process for selling these books is almost entirely an on-line phenomenon. There is nothing wrong with the use of print-on-demand technology if it is combined with a marketing plan that makes it possible for authors and booksellers to buy and display the books for customers. But that is not part of the marketing of these on-line services, which makes them of very limited value to authors.
16. What about the Ingram Spark plan, does it offer advantages to authors?
Yes. We are very excited about this program, and we are recommending it to authors who work with our Path to Publishing program. To sum it up quickly, it offers all of the advantages of the on-line publishers with none of the disadvantages. Moreover, it meshes nicely with a local printing program in order to expand the author’s options. Ingram Spark is part of the Ingram Company, which has been a major, positive force in American bookselling for over 40 years. The parent company is the world’s largest book wholesaler. Thus, we are confident that the Ingram Spark program is here to stay. Once an author is gone through the steps of preparing the book for a local printer, the book can be uploaded to Ingram Spark for every little additional cost. Some authors may decide to do this as a supplement to local printing, while others may decide to do it as the principal means to printing the book and making it available for wider distribution. Ingram Spark offers both possibilities. Once a book has been uploaded into the Ingram Spark, it then becomes available for purchase either as a print book or as an e-book through every major book-purchasing database. Equally important, it becomes available for purchase on commercially reasonable terms in almost every bookstore in the country. This gives authors a chance for a wide distribution for their books.
17. What comes next after the book is published?
That’s when the real work begins! Authors need to take charge of the promotion of their books -- this is true whether they are published by a big publisher, a small publisher, or published on their own. It is one thing for books to be available on data bases, on websites, or in warehouses. But the real book-sales begin when readers start to hear about the book. That’s when booksellers order a few copies to put in their stores. All of this takes a strong promotional effort by both the publisher and the author.
18. What promotional services does Book passage offer?
We will carry books that are published through the Path to Publishing program for a period of at least ninety days. As demand for the book increases, we will hold the book on the shelf longer. We will also list books from this program on our website and give authors the chance to write a short essay about their for our web-customers to read.
19. What other promotional services are available to generate sales through other stores?
There are many avenues available for book promotion, and the opportunities are expanding as new on-line possibilities open up. Many of these opportunities are free or at relatively low cost. In addition to social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, there are other more focused social media that an author can use. There are also relatively low-cost options for authors’ websites. In addition, there are publicists who specialize in reaching print, video and other media as well as publicists who focus on book bloggers. The Book Passage staff will be passing on tips and ideas to authors in the program as well as expanding the classes and conferences that it offers on this exciting subject. We relish the prospect of helping authors who are working with us on the Path to Publishing program.