Marchbooks' Blog

March 15, 2010

Life Interrupted Presents New Possibilities

Boy, it doesn’t take much to throw me off my mark. I have had a bear of a cold for 3 weeks – yes, 3 weeks and it’s not over yet. I feel as though the dog has been dragging me around for 3 weeks and then someone threw me in the wash cycle – wash, rinse, repeat.

Needless to say, my focus has been less than lazer sharp. But, if that wasn’t enough, my computer decided to reek havoc on me as well. A crash necessitated the replacement of both my hard drives – egads! Fortunately, I live in constant fear of losing files so I have backups everywhere. But, that does not mitigate the hassle: 3 days without my laptop and another 3 days spent reinstalling files and software programs.

In the midst of all of this, I continue to work on merging my two lives (insurance advisor by day/writer-publisher by night). Sigh! What ever made me think this would be a good idea? Trying to switch back and forth between the left and right sides of my brain has proven to be quite a challenge.

I enjoy helping people to evaluate their financial situation and formulate a plan that will help them hold onto the money that they work so hard to earn. However, it is so vastly different from writing fiction. It is more than just putting on a different hat, it is like becoming people. The author, the publisher and the insurance agent, all vying for dominance.

In an effort to resolve this conflict, I have set aside my fiction writing (for the time being) in order to work on my first nonfiction project. The working title is ‘The Cardinal Sin of Capital Gains – Leaving a Better Legacy for our Children’.

In these tough economic times, perhaps I can help, in my own small way. Let’s see how it goes.

elizabeth marchand
author/publisher/insurance professional

January 13, 2010

Pricing eBooks

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 11:37 pm
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Recently, the question of eBook pricing came up in a forum that I follow. It was suggested that the publisher should set one price for all ebook formats. I disagree. This is my response.

I have not done it yet, but my understanding is that a Kindle conversion entails more than just throwing my PDF up on Amazon. Such a file, although it could be read on a Kindle would not allow text flow or change of font sizes, etc.

For me, it is very simple – a new file requires a conversion and that requires effort – some conversions require more effort, some require less. I am currently converting my novels to flipbooks. They are not suited to the ereaders. There is no text flow as with the ereaders. Surely I could, and some publishers do, just import their text and throw their books out there. I’m not willing to do that. Whatever format I choose for my books, I want the end products to look as clean and aesthetically pleasing as I can make them. That takes time and effort.

If I chose to make my PDF book files available on Smarshwords, I would not charge the same as I would for a flipbook that required hours of formatting and design, nor would I charge the same as for a proper Kindle or Nook version that I paid a service to convert for me.

Likewise, I think that the venue’s percentage should be a consideration. It is one of the many things about the publishing industry that I think is outdated. Why should the intellectual property holder be the last one to have a say about the end cost to the consumer? Big companies like Amazon and Wal Mart want to have it all. They want to tell you what % they will take up front (LSI exceptions noted), they want to decide how much of that percentage they pass on to the consumer – something that can change on a monthly basis, and they want to dictate what you sell to other vendors for.

The thingamajig maker who needs widgets does not go to the widget maker and tell them what they will pay for their widgets, nor do they dictate who and what price that company can sell widgets to other companies for. As authors, we are the supplier (the widget makers). As publishers, we are the manufacturers (the thingamajig makers), so why are we at the sales venue’s mercy? I am just saying that the author/publisher should not be at the bottom of the food chain.

In the end, it becomes a question of ‘buyer beware’. At any one time, you will find most books available for a wide range of prices on the internet – most often, none of that is the function of what price the author/publisher has set for their book.

I’ll end this little tirade with a personal example of how business is being done these days. I recently bought carpeting for one of my properties. I requested quotes from two nationally recognized chains. Both reps came out to the condo, took their measurements and gave me their quote. Quality of the carpet was comparable for both companies. The first company quoted me a price of almost $7500 – a price that I knew was grossly inflated, but I did not know how much as it had been over 10 years since I had carpeted this property. A week later, a member of their capture team, supposedly a supervisor, called and we talked at length. At the end of the call, this man offered to do the job for $2600. I declined. (I, personally, will not deal with a company that does business this way). The second company’s rep came out and went through the same machinations before tending his quote of $2945. We talked for a while about installation, padding, furniture moving, etc and ultimately settled on a price of $2600 for the job.

The first company is a thriving, although unethical, business so there is no question in my mind that there are customers falling prey to their blatantly userous tactics. The seller does not always do their due diligence, if they don’t they have no one to blame…Had I ignorantly accepted the $7500 quote I would be outraged, but I would have no recourse and no one to blame but myself.

I am not offering this to suggest that two wrongs make a right. What I am saying is that I am not going to undercut my contributions, significant as they are, to my end product when there is so much blantant gluttony both in and out of the industry. I believe that I can comfortably defend any price discrepancy that I might choose to impose.

I sincerely hope that some day we can see all authors elevated above their current position at the bottom of the food chain. Then, perhaps, more than just the top 5% could actually make a living in this business.

Let me know what you think.


December 28, 2009

Striving For Balance

Wow, I just realized that the last post may have sounded a tad bit negative – just a tad bit. Let’s add a little balance. This year has been very exciting and we have accomplished a lot. I’ll recap – two books (one adult fiction, one YA fiction) were written, edited, designed, formatted, proofed and published. The groundwork has been established and we will never have to be called ‘novice’ publishers again. The flipbook for both titles will be fully edited and laid out (if not ready for sale) by the end of the month. Editing has begun on our next titles ‘Rain’ and ‘Bigelow Hollow Revisited’ – both are YA titles. Our books have broad online distribution channels, including the two biggies – Amazon and B&N. We have had some talks and some books signings resulting in enough sales for us to give back to some favorite causes.

So far, in our holiday book promotion, we have been able to donate copies of ‘The Little Insanity’ to our soldiers overseas and copies of ‘Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow’ to the WE ARE THE CHILDREN Christmas party in Hartford, CT. We have also had book signings for animal advocacy groups that have allowed us to contribute a portion of our sales back to the groups.

Whew, and we’re not done yet. With at least two more titles slotted for publication in 2010, we still have much on our plate. Marketing will be ongoing but as one author said (I wish I could remember the source) ‘marketing is front-loaded. It is like pushing a snow ball up a mountainside. It is tough going in the beginning. But, eventually, if you are persistent, you will reach the peak and the snowball will have a momentum all its own.’ Understand, this was not verbatim. I paraphrase, because, heck I can’t even remember who said it. Perhaps when our marketing takes on its own momentum I can go back and reread all of the great resources I have used and credit the authors properly.

I hope everyone’s holidays were safe and happy,


December 22, 2009

I Have Been Remiss

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:08 pm
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Sorry for the long absence. Things have been absolutely INSANE here and the month has flown by on the wings of a hummingbird. Three days from Christmas and I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that it is no longer September. Have you seen that commercial, you know the one, the BING commercial that shows different people in the grip of information overload? Well, that is my life these days.

With a to-do list that seems to grow exponentially every time I cross something off of it, the holidays bearing down on me like an uncaged panther and another ‘real-world’ job that is making greater demands on me by the day (the bills have to be paid until this publishing gig takes off, after all), I find myself frantically wondering if I have made a mistake. Something (or a couple of somethings) had to give. One of them was the blog – I hope you understand.

It seems that I am losing the ability to prioritize. There are so many things vying for my attention these days. There is networking to be done; writers’ groups, publisher’s groups and the occasional talk to groups of those aspiring to be one or the other. The next two titles on the March Books list are banging louder and louder for attention – ‘edit us’, ‘format us’, ‘proofread us’, ‘get us some covers’ and ‘GET US PUBLISHED’. Meanwhile, I work on one of the half-dozen eFormats for our first two releases. Gone are the days when we could just hand over the PDF file and be done with it. Now Kindle needs a version, the Nook needs a separate version and I (insane as I am) stay married to the idea of offering a flipbook version from our website. But, this is all the fun stuff.

Then, there is the marketing. God save me from the marketing. But, if he did, what would be the point of publishing? If no one knows about the books, why even bother? And so, I continue to look for new ways to market our books to bookstores and libraries, to wrap my head around SEO and the power of the internet (Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Blog Spot, Book Blogger, WritersCafe, and about two dozen others – heck, who am I kidding, I can’t even remember all of the writing, reading and blogging sites that I have joined) and keep putting our name out there until the magic number has been reached when our audience will take the step of buying our books. Then, of course, there is the grass-roots movement – actually getting into local businesses and hawking the books, talking to local groups and scheduling book signings – Yikes! Let us not forget the reams of ongoing research on how to design, how to format, how to edit, how to market, publicize and sell your book. The intricacies of dealing with Amazon alone would keep me busy for a month.

Is it any wonder that I have found myself paralyzed by indecision? What to do next? I don’t know the answer to that question. For now, it is enough to be blogging. Then the holidays and the hope that 2010 will bring a new calm and sanity to an otherwise insane endeavor.

Wish me luck,

The Little Insanity
Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

November 30, 2009

Putting A Price On Your Masterpiece

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 5:19 pm
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I have participated in many discussions about how to set pricing for your book. There is much talk about ‘crunching the numbers’. Certainly that is an important part of setting a price for a new title. Any publisher (unless they are publishing out of purely philanthropic motives) must look at the cost of the book, discounts being offered and expenditures to date, to know what they should charge for their book. At the end of the day, the numbers must work so that there is adequate compensation for your efforts. If not, you have basically embarked on a fool’s errand. I don’t know of many people who can afford to be upside down on their figures, to the point where they are losing money on each sale. However, if you don’t look at the numbers, that is exactly what might happen.

If that were the only factor, pricing calculations would be easy enough. Unfortunately, that is only part of the equation. Once we have an idea what we WANT to get for our book, we need to look at what the market will bear. This is not an easy task. With prices running the gamut from Wal-Mart discounts to small indie stores that can only survive by charging full retail, it is not always easy to get a grip on the quickly changing market.

But, that isn’t even the end of it. Add the unpredictable nature of discounting (will Amazon discount my book or not?), a buyer’s perceived value of what you are offering and economic fluctuations, you have got yourself a herculean task. After all, short of a crystal ball, some of these variables are beyond our grasp. For instance, is the current economic situation helping or hurting the book trade? Will a person think twice, or more, before laying down a twenty dollar bill for a book or will they consider it a sound alternative to a much pricier video game or iPod? How much of a price incentive does a publisher have to offer to get a consumer to take a chance on an unknown author? Not to mention the obvious difficulty a small publisher will encounter while promoting a new author. It is not easy to be price competitive with big names which warrant huge print runs by large publishing houses.

Discounts pose another inscrutable mystery. With similar discounts, we see these differences in pricing between Amazon and Barnes and Noble on our first two titles; The Little Insanity – B & N  —  The Little Insanity – Amazon  and Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – B & N  —  Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow – Amazon  Go figure. As you can see, Barnes and Noble offered significant discounts where Amazon offers none. There is no way of predicting how a vendor will, or if they will apply discounts to your title.

Is it an impossible task? Difficult, but not impossible. As with most things, you have to do your homework. Crunch your numbers, check your competition and get as much feedback as you can from your intended readership. If you can overcome a reader’s reluctance to open their wallet for a new author, I personally do not believe that a dollar or two difference will make or break the deal.

October 30, 2009

What Do New Price Wars Mean To Self-Published Authors?

An interesting article by the Washington Post A close read finds hope in the madness of book-price wars (be aware that if you follow this link, you will probably have to create a membership before viewing the article) discusses some drastic changes to the industry with WalMart’s move to greatly lower prices on best selling hard cover titles. I can’t help but wonder what effect this will have on small publishers and self-published authors that rely on POD technology.

It is already difficult for these publisher to compete with the pricing of large publishing houses that can take advantage of huge offset print runs. It is currently a challenge to meet a $9 price for a good sized paperback, never mind a hard cover title, when using POD technology. As much as I would like to believe that this will result in an overhaul of the payment structures in the publishing industry, I think that it might instead lead away from the wonderful new POD technology and back toward the wasteful practice of larger and larger offset print runs. I won’t reiterate my arguments about the impact of this practice on our environment, but I think it is an unfortunate turn of events.

Perhaps though, the result might surprise us. It may be the push that some publishers need to force them into the epublishing arena. If so, it will be a great thing for our environment. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how this new turn of events plays out. I think the parting message is this – if you are involved in or thinking of being involved in this volatile industry, be ready to respond to an ever-changing playing field.

Do You Need A Full Service Publisher Or A Printer?

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 2:48 pm
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Many writers are confused by the plethora of choices available to them when it comes to publishing today. Having gone through the decision-making process not so very long ago, I know it is not an easy one. Like most major decisions, this one is far from cut and dried.

To begin with, it is essential to know what you want out of publication and what your goals are. Do you want to publish the next great American classic, a N.Y. Times Bestseller or do you just want to have your name in print for your family and friends to see? Once you have honed in on your objective, you can proceed to the next step and that is learning the basics of the industry.

Novices continue to refer to POD as a package deal. POD is a technology, nothing more, nothing less. There are companies that utilize this printing technology, combining it with a totally turn-key product (or package deal) which can provide everything from editing, formatting and marketing to book covers and other design features. Then there are companies like Lightningsource and Createspace who are essentially just printers that offer POD technology. Although CS is now beginning to offer an expanded service, when I signed on with them both companies were only interested in receiving print-ready files. You would submit your completed files, check the proof and you were off to the races.

Sounds great, but this avenue is not for the faint of heart. Most people, especially those who only have one title to publish, are not interested in going through the learning curve that is required for the proper publication of a book. Believe me, it is much more complex than just uploading your Word file, at least if you intend to do it properly, so that your title can be competitive with traditional trade paperbacks.

Self publishers have a choice; they can either front load their cost by putting the time and labor into designing and editing their books themselves or they can pay someone to do it for them. Keep in mind that many of these service companies will get their money in more than one way. Many of these custom publishing companies, like Outskirts Press – which is the company that I considered before signing on with CS and LS, will collect money up front (usually in the form of a flat fee for different book design and marketing packages). Then, they will also collect money by inflating the cost of the book (thus reducing the author’s share). Outskirts Press charges almost twice as much, for author copies, as CS or LS. This can add up quickly, especially if you are planning on mailing out large numbers of review copies as part of your marketing plan.

Again, if you are only planning to publish one title, it may not be worth it to go to the effort of learning all of the intricacies of publication or to invest in a block of ISBN numbers. If your intent is to continue to write and publish, it WILL be worth your effort to go through the learning curve because it will mean significant savings for you in the long run.

Just keep in mind that if you do decide to wear the hats of publisher, editor, copyeditor, proofreader, book designer and marketer, don’t plan on being able to get back to the business of writing any time soon. Publication efforts can absorb most, if not all, of you time and can suck the life out of the creative process.

Consider yourself warned, weigh all the factors and then make a decision. Exercise due diligence before you open your check book, you’ll be glad you did. I think that there are many people who signed on with Publish America who wish that they had taken more time to research the facts before making a commitment. Don’t be one of those people.

Good luck,

October 3, 2009

If You’re Not Willing To Edit, You’re Not Ready To Publish?

I have been participating in an interesting discussion about self publishing

To self publish, or not to self publish, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

It is a big question, not to be taken lightly. For some, this may be the biggest endeavor of your life. Fortunately for us, even if the big publishing houses have closed the door on you, fate has opened a window. That window is POD. Self Publishing is now available to everyone, but that does not mean that it should be availed of by everyone. If your intent is to simply dust off your old manuscript, run your spell check program (I’m sorry to say that some people even omit this step), generate a Word document and slap a generic cover on it before sending it the printer, do the readers of the world a favor and put it back in  your sock drawer.

That might sound a bit harsh, but I think the world needs a little protection from substandard prose. Ever since the Gutenberg press, mass marketing of books has been recognized as an excellent way to exchange ideas and share stories. Everyone has something to say, but not everyone is willing to invest the time and effort that is necessary to make their words palatable to the public.

As I am sure I have mentioned, there are a multitude of steps involved in publishing a manuscript, not the least of which is the editing process. Unfortunately, that is often the step that new authors seem to omit, or skrimp on. Believe me, this is not the time to be miserly, with your time or money, if your intent is to have your publication compete with those put out by the big boys.

There are traditions which have been passed down in publishing that no longer have the relevance they once had (large print runs, blanket return policies and inequitable royalty structures). Editorial practices do not fall in this list.

Every publisher should have the benefit of a twelve person editorial staff. Few of us do, but that does not mean you should throw up your hands and refuse to do the step at all. Your attempts may not be perfect. Things may still slip through the cracks, but believe me, your effort will be recognized and appreciated.


September 23, 2009

All is Good in the Land of Words

If you have been following, you have probably noticed the absence of any new gripes about the publishing industry. I suppose that is because we are basking in the afterglow of the publication of our first two novels.

The Little Insanity
and Nightsweats in Bigelow Hollow

Sure, sales could be brisker and there is certainly no abatement of entries on the publication ‘to do’ list. However, the first hurdle has been met and conquered. The books are beautiful (alright, I’m biased). They are a pleasure to look at and feel good in your hand. So far, we have only discovered one small blip, in The Little Insanity, that was missed by editing. I won’t tell you where, you can find it yourself – I challenge you, lol.

We have gotten some good reviews on Amazon and M.J. had her first book signing a week and a half ago. It went very well. Although she did not sell out, she made a respectable showing for a first time author and we were able to donate a healthy percentage back to the charity that hosted the event. It was a wonderful win-win for everyone involved.

Work still continues on the website. Our shopping cart is still having issues. There are still numerous review copies to be sent out and marketing to bookstores and libraries continues unabated. Promotional materials must be designed and updated. We continue to look for new opportunities for signings and we are plunging, with both feet, into the editing of our next two titles – both by M.J. Claire, ‘The Invisibles and Bigelow Hollow Revisited (if you didn’t guess, this is the second in the Bigelow Hollow series). And, of course, we occasionally find time to blog.

So, yes, we are not bored, but we are infinitely happy. Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life. I wish the same for all of you. Until next time.

BothCovers copysmaller

September 1, 2009

Revolutionizing the Publishing Model

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 3:37 pm
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Viva la Revolucion. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I believe the publishing industry has some catching up to do. It seems as though they have been napping for the past hundred years or so. The current publishing model. The result is a very wasteful industry that offers less and less for their non A-list authors. Change has to come, even if it comes kicking and screaming. Has it arrived? Are publishers finally starting to see the light. This wonderful article by Bob Miller gives me hope that the revolution is upon us.

What a wonderful concept: a fifty-fifty split. The author brings his creative work to the table and the publisher brings his bank book, they then split the profits. Now, each party is completely vested in the publication, marketing and promotion of this book. I can hear the nay sayers screaming and beating their breasts from here. ‘It’s not fair. Publishing is expensive. We’d be losing money hand over fist. It’s just not fair!’

What is not fair is asking an author to hand over the rights to the product of their labor for a meager 5-10% royalty.  Even without layering promotion/marketing money and time by the author, this does not seem equitable. The author is at the bottom of the totem pole as the bookseller takes their 35% and the publisher distributor takes the lion’s share after printing costs, leaving precious little for the author. That author has become a second class citizen in the sale of his own book, despite the fact that he is essentially creating jobs for everyone in the food chain. So why are there only scraps left for him?

This model presented by Harper Studio is overdo but very welcome. Congratulations on your creativity, responsiveness and bravery in beginning changes in an industry that is entrenched in the past – kudos to you. I hope that more publishers will follow your lead.

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