Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why Print?

What I'm reading: Dick Francis's Gamble by Felix Francis

I'm continuing my "All About Characters" seminar at Coffee Time Romance with a discussion of the various types of characters today: Stars, Supporting Cast, Extras, Walk-ons and Spear Carriers. Please drop by. But don't forget to come back.

The big switch in publishing is into digital formats. Whereas a couple of years ago, people wanted to know if they could walk into a bookstore and buy my books, today I'm more likely to hear, "Is it on the Kindle?"

Side note: As a NOOK color owner, I don't really like the idea that everyone assumes an e-book reader is Kindle, but I think it's slowly becoming generic…kind of like Kleenex. But there ARE other readers.

When I decided to bypass the publisher for DANGER IN DEER RIDGE, another Blackthorne, Inc. novel, I formatted it for every digital outlet I could handle. Barnes & Noble, Amazon All Romance eBooks, and via Smashwords, also Sony, Apple, and more. I did it all myself, and I didn't find it too complicated, perhaps because I've been involved with publishers who required digital submissions. I knew enough about formatting a Word doc so I wasn't intimidated by the Smashwords formatting guidelines. And I definitely recommend starting there. Once you've mastered Smashwords, the rest is easy.

I also recommend the free program, Calibre, which will convert a document to most formats, since All Romance eBooks doesn't do the conversions the way the other shops do.

But I've digressed. I meant to talk about print books. I know there are still readers who want to read print. My mother, for example. Even though I know sales of my print version will be minuscule when compared with digital, the more formats, the more readers I can reach.

I chose Amazon's Create Space, which had a relatively easy learning curve. They have an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process. You decide what size book you want, the color of the paper, whether you want your own ISBN or use the free one from Smashwords (I chose that option because I don't really see this book as something that bookstores and libraries will be clamoring to purchase. I don't mind "Create Space" being listed as the publisher.

The cover art posed a minor challenge. Since it's an actual book, there has to be a front AND back cover, as well as a spine. Since I had a front cover, all I needed was a back cover and spine. But the dimensions are determined by Create Space (the longer your book, the bigger the spine will have to be), and they want a pdf file. I could handle that, but when they talked about layers, the cringes hit. However, thanks to my daughter who knows enough about Photoshop to deal with things like aspect ratios and creating a document from nothing (all I can do with Photoshop is crop images, resize them, and adjust things like color and contrast. Adding stuff that wasn't there, or taking out stuff that was isn't in my skill set), I got a cover for the perfect price. She ended up having to tweak the front cover a bit (that aspect ratio thing) but she kept it very close to the original. We went through a couple of trials before settling on the final cover.

Test #1 - just getting the feel of things:

Making the spine and back more distinctive:

Decided blue looked better on the spine - final cover image:

Next step is determining distribution which determines price. Since this is my first print endeavor, I didn't need to set up my own bookstore. Since I don't expect huge clamorings from bookstores, I don't need the "extended distribution." I don't need to deal with warehousing and shipping. All I wanted was to be able to say, "Yes, go to and you can buy my book."

The cost for this was $39, but the perks were higher royalties and lower price potential for both readers and authors. So, I can have a supply of books for book signings, AND I can keep the price at the Amazon store competitive. I decided to price DANGER IN DEER RIDGE at $10.99, which is low for a trade paperback, and only a little higher than a mass market paperback. Will I make a huge profit on each sale? No, but that wasn't my objective.

The last step is to purchase a proof (and, stupid me didn't remember that the welcome email I got when I first thought about Create Space and set up an account included a code for a free proof), I did pay a nominal fee to get a proof copy of the print book.

And, all in all, the quality is excellent. I sent a proof copy to my mother (thereby eliminating my one guaranteed sale). She called when it arrived, telling me she loved the crisp black ink on the white paper saying it was much easier to read than "regular" books.

So, that's why I chose to go print as well as digital, and a brief look at Create Space. If you have questions, I'll try to answer them.

How about you? What's your favorite format?

Tomorrow: Gnarly Things. You'll have to come back to see what I'm talking about.

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Sharon Potts said...

Hey Terry:
Thanks for all your terrific posts about your e-book adventures. I also went the e-book and Create Space route with my contemporary humor novel, SOUTH BEACH CINDERELLA, and was very satisfied with the results on Create Space. My biggest frustration has been getting the formatting right for the 'See Inside the Book' option on Amazon. I love your final cover. Really first class.
Good luck!

Terry Odell said...

Sharon - I think they did a great job on my book, but gadzooks, I never even considered the 'look inside' feature. Another task for my to do list. Thanks. And thanks to my daughter and e-book cover designer who did the original ebook cover, (and the wonderful cover model who posed in our front yard). A collaborative effort.

Misty Dietz said...

Fantastic post, Terry. I've been wondering about this aspect because I have a lot of people who keep telling me to make sure I have print copies when I go digital too! Thank you!

Loretta said...

I really enjoyed this post, Terry. Being a writer, of course, I want to see my work in print, but at the moment, I'm just with digital.
I have one piece though, that I simply will not just go digital with, so it was interesting to hear your opinion on Create Space:)
I guess because I write, a print copy will always be a part of me, but I'm finding more and more that I love using my Nook.
We'll have to come up with a name for a person caught between both worlds won't we?:)

Cindy Sample said...

Hi Terry. This was a very concise post. I'm going to forward it to several of my friends who want to try the self-pubbed route. And hopefully they'll buy some of your wonderful books.

That cover is so gorgeous I may have to purchase a print book even though I already own the e-book version. Congrats.

Terry Odell said...

Misty - Create Space doesn't cost much, so I figured more formats couldn't hurt. If it were a pricey undertaking, I'd probably not have gone that route.

Loretta - maybe someone else will come up with a term for those of us who are in both camps.

Cindy - thanks! I hope so too. Word of mouth is still the best advertising.

Kathy Bennett said...


Excellent post! I didn't go to print with my first book, but will probably do so with my next one.

My apprehension is with the formatting. Even though I followed the Smashwords guide to the 'T' for my e-book, I had some formatting issues. I had to hire someone to re-do it. They said my copy was really clean and didn't know what the problem was.

I guess with book two (Deadly Blessing), I'll hire someone to do both. I just don't have the time or patience to struggle through it.

Terry Odell said...

Kathy - I think that you can format your book perfectly, but the various e-reader devices have their own quirks. I've got the NOOK color, and I've noticed little glitches and it doesn't matter if it's a professionally publisher-published book or an indie published one.

I'm still doing it myself. One less mouth to share my income (what there is of it) with.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Your books look fantastic, Terry!! I loved seeing the process of how you adapted your ebook cover into a print cover. I found your post very helpful because I'd love to go to print soon.

Terry Odell said...

Vonda - all the credit for the adaptation goes to my daughter. We had a few discussions about color choices, but ultimately, she did all the work.

Diane Capri said...

Thanks, Terry. Very helpful. I had no idea how Create Space worked. Good to know!


Carol Burnside aka Annie Rayburn said...

From the time you're 'done' with the formatting process, how long does it take to get a proof copy, and if it's okay, get a supply of books to your door?

Terry Odell said...

Carol - a lot depends on the speed of the mail and if you want to pay for express type delivery. I opted for the basic, standard mail, and my author copies were shipped yesterday and are scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. I think the proof took about 4 days to arrive.

All in all, I'd say the process from upload to books for sale is about 2 weeks, and then the shipping time will vary. Buyers also have the choice of express shipping, so if they want a book faster, they can order it that way. I don't know how long it would take a buyer to get the book (but if you'd like to try and let me know, that would be fine!) :-)

Craig Faustus Buck said...

Hi Terry,

Since you went to the trouble of formatting for Kindle, did you try using Calibre to format for all the others? I haven't used it yet, but the video intro on their website claims that Calibre can be used to convert from one ebook format to another.

Great post!


Terry Odell said...

Craig - yes, when I decided to publish on All Romance eBooks, I had to do all the conversions myself, and I used Calibre to do it.

Nancy Cohen said...

This is very helpful, Terry. Thanks for posting!