Sunday, July 17, 2011

How Print on Demand Could Save the Environment

   The Traveler's Companion is now available in print form from Createspace. I have a real book for sale, which means I'm a real author . . .  er, whatever. I have to thank Createspace for providing this opportunity, it's pretty awesome and its nice to know I'm helping to save the world. It's proof that the market is just as good a tool for protecting the environment as a tree hugger, of which I'm one. Is it possible to be for the free market and a tree hugger? Now it is. We'll call ourselves Free Huggers.
   How are Free Huggers saving the world? POD is one example.
   You've heard of pulp books? After WWII, pulping was a term used for mass market books that were destroyed or returned to the publisher because they weren't selling. Books were sometimes "remaindered" which was when the publisher sold the book at a reduced price, but this was usually reserved for hard cover books--not to say that hardcover books weren't destroyed as well; they were and they still are, and more often than you might think.
   Why did they do this? Back in the forties, there were no Free Huggers and paper was cheap and plentiful--so cheap in fact that it was cheaper to just destroy a book rather than try to keep selling it. Today it's cheaper to destroy the book rather than store it somewhere. If they wanted to keep every book that didn't sell in its first printing, they would need a very big warehouse.
   The pulping process survives to this day. It's now called "stripping." If a book isn't selling, book stores tear off the covers of mass market paperbacks, destroy the book, and send the cover as proof to the publisher that the book was destroyed. (Sometimes the books end up in used book stores or thrift stores, but they aren't supposed to.) To be fair, sometimes destroyed books are recycled for cardboard products, but more often than not they are burned like a Nazi s'more party. If you bought a book without a cover, the author and the publisher received none of the revenue, and no, you can no longer be a Free Hugger.
    How many books are destroyed in this fashion these days? For mass market paperbacks it can be as high as 50-55 percent of books. WOW! For trade imprints, it’s a little lower, more like 35 percent, and for specific imprints like tech books it's about 25 percent, which is still a lot of books.   
   Publishers budget for a certain amount of returns, but one would think, with this much waste, publishers would be quicker to embrace eBooks. What other business plans on destroying more than half of its unsold products? It doesn't make sense!
   With that many books being destroyed, it's just a matter of planetary health that we embrace eBooks or POD. I submit to you that every POD should also come with a Free Hug.
Get your physical, printed, pulpable, and environmentally friendly version of The Traveler's Companion today!

Check out Dave Taylor on the subject:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How To Get a Book Review When Nobody Knows Who You Are

Getting a review seems painful. Like going to the dentist. What if they hate it? After submitting the book, waiting for the outcome is like waiting for the results of a biopsy.
We've all seen books with nothing but 5 star reviews. We assume that the author had friends and family write those or the authors wrote them themselves. Readers are skeptical, so it's important to get as many real reviews as you can. Writers almost hope someone will give them a three star review just so it looks real, that someone not related to them actually read it; but then again getting that "unbiased" three star review kind of sucks. You want at least four stars. The book is easily worth four stars! 
So where does an author go to get reviews?
You could pay Kirkus Reviews $425-575. Boy, I would hate to pay that much for a three star review. Imagine if it was two stars, or one? Ouch.
J.A. Konrath swears by, but it costs $49.
Sites like only take physical copies of books and they also require a press kit, which isn't difficult, but it does take time, maybe time well spent, but time away from writing nonetheless.
You might want to try the networking sites first. Goodreads has a giveaway program, but only for physical books and only if its a new release. I've found that the Librarything Member Giveaway Program is by far the best. For just basic book talk, as far as I'm concerned, Goodreads is the best, but Librarything's Member Giveaway Program is really impressive. Authors are allowed to give away as many copies as they like, as often as they like. Readers sign up to a sort of lottery, receiving free books only if picked at random by Librarything associates. The winners can either receive physical books (authors are responsible for postage costs) or they can get ebook coupons sent to them via email. When the giveaway time is over, the author is sent a winners page with all the home addresses and emails of the winners.  
For my first giveaway, just to test the waters, I put up 10 copies of my novel, The Traveler's Companion. There were varying amounts of books being offered. Some authors offered 10, some offered 200. Almost every book had more requests than books being offered. When the giveaway time had ended, I had more than fifty requests for my book. I decided to contact the ten winners one at a time, rather than a mass email, but if it were more than fifty, I would have sent one email with a Smashwords coupon code. If you're sending a mass email, make sure to address the email to yourself and then put all of the reader's email addresses in the BBC field. This ensures the privacy of the people you're emailing.
Out of 10 free books, all were downloaded. A few weeks later, I received one review. 1 out of 10. Not great, but better than nothing.
Still waiting for the other 9.
For my next book, I offered 50 books. So far, out of about 14 downloads, I've received about 7 reviews.  Some of the readers posted their reviews on more than one site, bless their hearts.
How was the experience overall? Awesome. The reviews have been fantastic. Getting feedback keeps us authors going. Best part, it's free.
What if you get a bad review?
Often what's in the review is more important than the number of stars. Some reviewers are star happy, others save their stars for the second coming of Dostoyevsky. Tastes vary, of course, but it's more important what they put in the review. They may say something like, "I really don't like funny action adventure stories . . . I wanted literature, not popular entertainment." This would be a great review, because, guess what, most people want to be entertained. Also, the three star reviews say to potential readers that it's not just your family reading the book--someone actually read it and kind of liked it. Fantastic.
Another important thing about using a networking site is that you are given a chance to connect with your readers. I mentioned in my email that they should feel free to contact me or to request me as a friend. It's an opportunity to build a fanbase. You should make your email as interesting and as personal as possible, but keep it quick. Make sure to include links to everything. Think about inserting a picture of the book. Make it look professional. Just remember to never argue with anyone about over a review. Take it on the chin and move on.  Who knows, they could read your next one to see if you've improved. If you're lucky, you might make a fan for life. Maybe even a friend.   

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Too big to fail

I'd like to officially announce the release of my new book cover for The Traveler's Companion. One of the great things about self-publishing is that if you don't like something about your book, you can change it. I wonder how many traditionally published authors had covers they hated but couldn't change. What if the printer made a mistake? What if your name was spelled wrong? Like Chatter instead of Chater. Everyone could be calling me Chris ChaTTer like my teachers always did in role call. Really used to annoy me.
I was also advised to not be afraid to try a different cover if one wasn't working. I liked the old cover, but after putting it up on a critique site, there were several negative comments.
I made this new cover using Gimp and it cost me nothing, only time. The handsome devil on the cover is yours truly. I borrowed some luggage from a friend, put on a suit, and Jessica and I went to the park to take some pictures. I think it came out pretty good.

In other news, the Big Kitty gave us quite a scare the other day. We rushed him to the vet and the doctor told us he might have a tumor in his lungs. They ran a variety of test and it turns out it was nothing; we'll be bringing him home tonight. I've always known Big Kitty is too big to fail.

What do you think of the cover?