It’s Been a Good Run

Times change.

At the time I started my publishing business, Good Oak Press, print books were still king, and it was a good fit. I’d been an award-winning graphic designer before I became an author, and I was designing books that looked like they came from a major publisher. I was happy, and my authors were happy.

Then came the Amazon Kindle. To call it a game changer would be an understatement. Instead of having to wait for books to be shipped, readers could instantly download them onto their tablets. And, at the same time, anyone could become an author. All you had to do was upload a file and your book was available on Kindle. After Kindle came CreateSpace, which allowed authors to typeset and create a cover for their printed books for little or no cost.

While this new technology has given authors more publishing options than ever before, it’s also made it increasingly difficult for small, indie publishers, like Good Oak Press, to remain competitive. So, after much thought, I’ve made the difficult decision to close shop. I’m currently in the process of going from an LLC back to a sole proprietor, as it’s simply more cost effective than trying to maintain it as an LLC. Not to worry though, as I’m still publishing my own titles, and I’ll still keep this blog running.

You all didn’t think you’d be getting rid of me that easily, did you?

Stay tuned,

GM

 

 

Stock Photos and Book Cover Design

Reunion Loew Cover NookI recently read an interesting discussion in one of my online forums about book cover design, and some of the authors were talking about how easy and convenient it was to use stock photos for their book covers.

BAD IDEA!

The biggest problem with using a stock photo is you don’t buy exclusive rights to it. This means other people can use it too, including other authors for their book covers.

eventide-cover-kindleHaving been a professional graphic designer for many years, I can certainly attest that designing a good book cover requires a good eye and a certain amount of skill. It’s no easy task, and even I get stumped at times.

My advice to any author is don’t skimp on your cover. It doesn’t matter how well your book is written and edited, a poorly done cover will make readers pass it by.

 
hoodfprints-kindle-coverI honestly can’t comment on cover design templates, such as those offered by Createspace, because as a professional designer I don’t use them. My best suggestion would be to hire a professional designer. However, if your budget won’t allow it, then consider hiring a graphic design student. Virtually every community college offers courses in graphic design, so you should be able to find someone who can create a book cover for a reasonable price.

I’ve posted a few of the covers I’ve created for some of my authors. Each includes original photos or illustrations.

GM

 

Is This the End of eBooks?

KindleIt wasn’t that long ago that eBooks were the rage, and if you didn’t offer an eBook edition of your book, your sales would suffer. Now the popularity with eBooks seems to be waning, but I wouldn’t call them dead. People are still buying them, they’re just not buying them as often as before.

Like any fad, eBook popularity was bound to change, and I think it’s due to a number of factors.

1) Kindles are a fun toy, but as with any new toy, people eventually get tired of it and move on to the next new toy.

2) eBooks gave many first-time authors an opportunity to write and easily publish their books. Problem was, too many of these books were poorly written and badly edited, and readers got tired of crappy books.

3) Kindles, just like any other battery operated device, run out of power, usually at the most inconvenient times. It’s annoying to have the low battery warning pop up just as you’re getting to the most interesting part of the book, or, worse yet, have the screen suddenly go black. I’m getting more and more annoyed myself because it seems every time I open my Kindle, the battery is dead. This never happens with a print book.

4) It’s difficult to go back and reread a Kindle book, and when I really enjoy a book I like to go back and do a second read later on. Loaning a book to a friend or relative can’t be done if they don’t have a Kindle, but it’s a non issue with a print book. I can also easily go back and reread a print book.

5) And, finally, some people, including yours truly, simply prefer the feeling of holding a printed book in their hands. Electronic tablets can feel heavy after awhile, but most paperback books weigh less than a tablet.

This is why it’s important to publish both print and eBook editions of your book. Amazon even offers a product called Kindle Matchbook, which gives buyers a discount for the eBook edition if they purchase a printed book. Yes, eBooks will always be with us, but I, for one, am happy to see print books becoming popular again.

GM

 

P.S. The content on the Kindle photo is a page from The Deception, one of my Marina Martindale novels.

 

Lessons Learned from Self Publishing

cookbookebaycoverThis week marks the end of an era.  I’ve finally sold the last remaining copies of my first self-published book, Anna’s Kitchen. I learned a lot from the experience, and since that time I’ve done my best to share what I’ve learn with the rest of you.

I produced and published Anna’s Kitchen back in 2005. I was such a little smart-alec at the time that I thought I knew everything. Okay, maybe being a free-lance graphic designer helped, since I was able to produce something that looked really cool, but I didn’t know squat about editing, distribution, or marketing. So, here are some of the lessons I learned.

  1. A spell checker is not a substitute for an editor, or a proofreader.
  2. If you want your book to be distributed, you really need Ingram.
  3. 500 books really does take up a lot of room in your shed.

Ah, I was so naive at the time, but looking back, it was still a good experience. I learned a heck of a lot, and I have no regrets.

Will I republish Anna’s Kitchen? Not at this time, although I did consider it. A couple years ago I started up a food blog called My Timeless Cuisine, as a tool for promoting the book. What I discovered from that blog is that food, like fashion, seems to follow trends, and right now old-fashioned home cooking doesn’t appear to be in vogue. But then again, I may change my mind someday.

In the meantime, many of the recipes from Anna’s Kitchen, are available on My Timeless Cuisine.

Bon appetite

GM

 

Rejection Letters are not a Badge of Honor

No SymbolI enjoy spending time with fellow authors, but one thing really does make me wonder, and that is when someone starts bragging about all the rejection letters they’ve received while their manuscripts sit collecting dust for months, even years. It’s not necessarily a badge of honor. While they’re collecting their rejection letters, my books are on the market and being read.

As I often tell people, the six-figure advances, and all the fame that comes with it, is more myth than reality. Unless you’re a celebrity, the odds of a traditional publisher, particularly one of the major publishing houses, buying your manuscript, especially if you’re a first-time author, are about as good as going to Hollywood and landing a role in a feature film.

That’s why I’ve never bothered playing the game. Frankly, it’s bullshit. I too have had literary agents express an interest in my work, and it never went anywhere. Experience has taught me that most literary agents are full of more crap than the Thanksgiving turkey. I rank them right up with used-car salesmen. Yet I hear, over and over again, “I sent an email to an agent, and they got back with me right away and wanted my manuscript, so I sent it to them, but it was months ago. When are they ever going to get back with me?”

Um…they’re not.

As I mentioned before, while you all are being jerked around, my books are being published and people are reading them. That’s because I started out doing something called partnership publishing.

Partnership publishing is when you take control and you pay someone to publish your book. Is that “vanity publishing?” No. It’s a business decision. It means that you believe in your work enough that you’re willing to invest your own money in it. It also means that you get to retain the rights to your work. It’s really a form of self-publishing, only this time the publisher does all the formatting, printing and distribution, which is something most writers don’t have the time, or the skill, to do.

With both traditional and partnership publishing it is up to you, the author, to do the marketing. With partnership publishers, however, you won’t have spend years of your life begging and pleading and jumping through hoops. You get your book published, in weeks instead of years, and a publishing partner won’t drop you if your book fails to meet their expectations.

Just like anything else, there are good and bad partnership publishing companies out there, so it’s best to shop around. The typical price is $2000 to $5000. That may sound like a lot, but please keep in mind that producing a quality book is a time-consuming process that requires special skills and special software. Most importantly, find out about distribution. That’s the key. If they aren’t distributing through Ingram or Baker & Taylor, or both, you’re going to have trouble getting your books in bookstores.

So, it’s up to you. Do you spend the next few years collecting rejection letters while your book remains unread? Or do you want to control your own destiny and get your book into the hands of readers? The choice is your. If you decide to take control, please come visit our website at www.goodoakpress.com and find out how we can create a book you’ll be proud of.

GM

Why Writers and Artists Need a Signed Contract

I was a graphic designer before I became an author, and book design and publishing is a service Good Oak Press offers other authors. However, from time to time I get rather, shall we say, unorthodox, requests from people who simply do not understand how the business works.

The other day someone e-mailed me, wanting to see some samples, so I sent him a some examples from my portfolio. Then he wanted me to create a “sample” for him, designed at his specifications, and oh, by the way, would he actually be expected to pay me for my time and effort if he decided to hire someone else?

I wonder if he goes to several different income tax preparers, has each of them file his return, but only pays the one who got him the biggest refund? Probably not. So why is he treating people who perform creative services any differently? I have my suspicions.

I politely explained that under no circumstances do I work on speculation, (it is highly unethical and unprofessional), and that services are only performed with a signed contract. You’d think that would be the end of it, but no. He contacted me a week later. He found other people, who were (stupid enough) to give him his free samples, but if he didn’t like any of them he’d get back with me.

I explained I run my business by the highest ethical standards of my profession, as defined by the Graphic Artists Guild. I then thanked him for his interest and declined his project. I had his number.

There are people out there who think they’re entitled to get something for nothing. They’ll approach an artist, or a writer, and ask about their services, but seeing your work samples isn’t enough. They want you to do the project, or a portion of their project, as a “sample.” They’ll say they just aren’t sure about you, and they want to make sure that you can really do “their” job. Of course, once you’ve done the work, gratis, there will be some reason why they don’t want to hire you. Next thing you know they’ve copied your work. This is why working on spec is unethical, and good luck on that one, since you didn’t have a signed contract.

This is why writers and artists need a signed contract. If you’re a writer, a book designer, or an artist, only give a prospective client a sample from your portfolio. Never, ever do something on spec, unless you want someone to steal your work.

My tip for the day.

 

GM