There is a discussion on Scribophile about Print On Demand, specifically, can you make money with it? Here are some of the comments:

> One entry says:

I formatted and uploaded my book to Amazon paperback format today. I went to price the book.  Amazon informed me that the print cost as about $7 bucks.  I chose 60% royalties.  And the lowest Amazon would let me price is $13.  And at the $13 price point, I make exactly $0 dollars.

Ok, I figured that the missing $6 would go to shipping. I went to order a few copies for myself, and Amazon is charging shipping on top of the base price. Also, I have heard something about “author copies” that cost less.  (Is this a real thing?)

> Re: CreateSpace.

It’s really ridiculous how much they charge for POD. At first it seems very reasonable – they get 40% and the author gets 60% BUT added to their 40% is a “flat charge” of $.85 on books 180+ pages and a per page charge of $.012 per page for 180+ pages. After all is said and done the author only get less than 15% – after US taxes it’s less than 10% – UGH. All of this was based on a price point of US $8.99.

Also I believe the author copies are $4 and change – but I’m sure that people that are more “in the know” can answer better.

> I don’t actually . . .

self pub through Amazon. I use, once you approve your book then they link it to Amazon and couple of bookstores. If you order your copies and sell yourself you can make quite a lot of money.


Does anyone here do POD? It occurs to me that to set up at a sidewalk/school arts/craft fair with copies of your book would at least have your thing seen by a lot of people. Best would be to get yourself written up in your local paper and blow it up into a poster.


> Here are some words of wisdom from Jay, formerly of Book Country:

As someone who has a work available in POD you will be in that great fraternity of the self-published. No one on planet Earth will be aware that you have a book available for sale, other than because you sent them to that Internet sales page. Does my telling you that I have one of my novels available free on Smashwords motivate you to rush over there to read it? Probably not, and that’s free.

Would it make you rush were I to tell you it’s really good (just as every self published novel’s blurb does)? Again, probably not.

How about if I tell you that you can buy a printed copy for twelve dollars, plus shipping? Not much of a plus, when you can buy an award winning author for a lot less in your local bookstore, and pay no shipping fee.

I don’t mean to be discouraging, but my view is that if we can write well enough to be worth the money—professional level writing—we can sell our work to a publisher. And if not…

Well, I disagree with that. Trad publishers are looking for work that is commercial, highly salable, according to their idea of that elusive quality. That method bypasses a lot of good stuff.

> And, a rebuttal: 

That’s a pretty gloomy outlook and incorrect IMHO. I have a friend who has written a series of 6 novellas, no more than 30 minute reads each that sell for $1.99 for digital copies and $9.99 for print, she’s making a cool $60k/yr. Self Published and POD. It just takes a little work. If you’re a midgrade author with a “normal” publisher you’re not going to do any better than that and still have to do 90% of your own advertising and promotions.

Several people on Scrib say that small publishers use POD, CreateSpace, whoever. Is this true? Atthys, you should know the answer to this. I have imagined that POD must have a giveaway lesser quality of materials. But if a legitimate small publisher uses it, that can’t be true.

> Finally, another rebuttal . . .

to the first rebuttal to Jay’s gloomy words: Jay’s post is the cold, hard truth. Sad but true and what aspiring writers need to know.


I want to know if POD is a waste of time or not. Who’s dipped a toe into this fountain? Somebody thinks it useful. I begin to see POD jobs move through our compositor process at work. All but first-run titles are followed by a description, pbk (paperback), rerun, enlargement, create final file (for fully illustrated books set up by the publisher’s designer, tricky text wraps and the like), etc. I see, not often, but more and more: POD.

I suppose these jobs must be from small publishers. Next time I get hold of one, I am going to look at the info to see who the client is. Here’s an interesting thought: can it be that even large publishers are going this route, small runs, to manage inventory and returns?

Why do we label them POD? Is there some technical difference between the set up of  a traditional print run and POD? Are costs trimmed/shortcuts taken in one way or another? Are hawking-their-wares authors the main market for POD? Is this the new generation of vanity press? It seems to me more valuable as a sales tool than anything else. I’m going to pay more attention to our POD jobs, try to figure this out.


> A final Scrib post sums it up for us:

Q: How is a writer supposed to make any money?

A: Day job.


About Writers

And Now, Ursula K. Le Guin

It looks like my time to blog post has come ’round again. Are Curtis, GD, Mimi, Atthys, Sue and I the only writers in regular rotation here? I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say: We’d love to hear from others! (Perry, Tom, Amber, et. al.) You’ve got a ready-made soapbox and a built-in audience here on Writers Co-op; let us know what’s on your mind these fear-fraught dystopian days, eh?

Truth is, however, that I have nothing urgent to communicate at present. Therefore, I’d like to step aside and let Ursula K. Le Guin take the stage. Here is the speech she gave when accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters a couple of years ago. (After clicking on the url, scroll down and click on the embedded video link three-quarters of the way down the landing page to watch this 85-year-old dynamo in action.) Her speech is a marvel of concision, eloquence, truth and power.


book promotion, book sales, Uncategorized

Got You Covered

Never mind any old adages you have hanging around about how not to judge a book, it’s pretty much universally acknowledged that book covers matter. In fact, a book’s cover may be the single most important factor that you, as the book’s producer, have some control over. There are certainly bigger reasons for why buyers buy—author name recognition, word of mouth, personal recommendations—but all of those exist outside your scope of influence. You gabbing about your book on Facebook probably will not create a significant word-of-mouth buzz, and until you actually are famous, your name isn’t going to sell anything.

So covers matter. Granted. But how much? A poll at Book Smugglers of 616 respondents gave an overwhelmingly positive response to the question: Do covers matter at all to you? That is, do covers play a decisive role in your decision to purchase a book? Seventy-nine percent said YES. Twenty-one percent said NO.

On the other hand, when asked whether an eye-catching cover for a book you’ve heard nothing about was enough to make you buy it, only 6% said yes. And only 3% categorized the role of a cover in a purchase decision as “dominant.” And, conversely, about 83% of readers said they will go ahead and purchase a book they are interested in reading even if the cover is “truly hideous”(this figure drops when paying for a trade paperback or a hardcover, naturally.)

Polls like this don’t tend to produce definitive marketing numbers, but they do give us a general lay of the land. A good cover helps your chances of selling a book. In most cases the difference isn’t trivial, but neither is it normally a make-or-break factor.

At its most basic level, a cover is an invitation. Open me up. Check me out. Take me home. It’s meant to intrigue the prospective reader into checking out the blurb, maybe reading a page or two (though it is surprising how few people include “reading a sample” among their decision making tools.) What works for one reader might not work for another, so most cover designers aim for somewhere in the middle, which is to say they tend to be pretty conventional. There are plenty of professional book designers out there with their own list of dos and don’ts.  Avoid clashing colors and elaborate fonts. Keep it simple and eye-catching. Make it easily readable, even as a thumbnail. Beyond question, the one piece of advise they all agree upon? Don’t do it yourself. Hire a professional.

The webpage on book cover design at iUniverse provides this handy list:

Your Cover Should:
1.  Fall within the norms for your genre but visually stand out among other books.
2.  Appeal to readers and convince them to take a closer look at your book with a strong visual presence.
3.  Reflect the content of your book and expose readers to your writing style.
4.  Convince a potential reader to invest in a literary journey with your story.

Yeah, no problem.

Your cover should fall within the norms for your genre… Fair enough. Your book cover probably ought to give readers some idea of what to expect inside. If you’ve got elves in the story, maybe you ought to put one on the cover. But the use of genre tropes can lead to a tired sameness. Generic genre covers proliferate, and while these might be a comfort to the diehard genre reader, they hardly entice anyone else, and certainly don’t make your book stand out in a crowded field.

And so the second part of the quote: …but visually stand out among other books. Great advice—only a little weak on the how part of it. Any decent cover artist is already trying to do exactly that. That’s pretty much the first line of the job description. But there’s no secret formula for success. As John Lennon said when asked why the Beatles excited people so much, “If we knew we’d form another group and be managers.”

When I think about the whole question of how a book cover sets the expectations of the potential buyer, I wonder if I didn’t make a mistake. Here. Have a look at the covers for my two books:   spark   and  ag_flightofthewren_hires

Both were created in house by Lycaon Press (now defunct), specifically by Victoria Miller. Victoria does extremely nice work, and she is very easy to work with. I highly recommend her services. Her covers are polished and professional, easily comparable to books published by major publishers.

But I’m always just a little nagged by the suspicion that they are, ultimately, not the right covers for these books. My audience for both books was assumed to be young adult. Lycaon (a YA publisher) certain saw them that way. So did I. With young protagonists and the fantasy elements, it seemed obvious that my ‘target audience’ was younger readers.

But I don’t think that has turned out to be true. I think the largest part of my readership actually comes from adults who like YA stories. And if so, are my covers a hindrance? Are they too kiddish? Do they, perhaps, turn off some readers who like to consider YA as serious literature rather than simply a fun read? I have no problem with either characterization, but I have a feeling most of my own particular group of readers probably fall in the former camp. And if so, might a more restrained—more mature, perhaps?—approach to cover art be more appealing?

I don’t know. I’d welcome any feedback, either specific or general.

As far as the bigger question goes, sure, a nice professional cover is always a plus. But unless you’re talking a faced-out cover on a bookstore shelf, there’s no guarantee anyone is going to see it unless they go looking for it. I don’t think many people browse online waiting for book covers to catch their eye. Most people still shop based on word of mouth or personal recommendations or by looking for the latest book by an author they already know. If they ever do get to your page, then it’s absolutely better to have an appealing, well-wrought cover. But getting them to that page in the first place?

That remains the challenge, folks.

Comments? Questions? Criticisms? You know what to do.

book promotion, reading

Serials: The Little Engine That Could?


Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo, won’t you choo-choo me home!

Curtis says: “I have written a book that nobody needs. But that’s not just the case of One Green Bottle – you could say it of practically any book that’s published.”

Atthys says: Agents … “didn’t see the potential for the kind of commercial success that would’ve made it worth their time and effort. The bottom line really is the bottom line.”

Serials may be a viable alternative path to publication. Slow and steady wins the race, remember? No stone unturned, I promised that, to you and to myself, a while back.

I’m going to look into it.


Here’s Yael Goldstein Love (of Plympton Publishing) on serialization: (some of this is paraphrased/condensed)

* A serialized novel is a novel delivered to readers in installments over time. Each installment is a satisfying read in itself, but it also leaves you wanting more. Any good serialized novel also reads well as an all-at-once book, whereas the reverse is not true. A slow, lyrical novel, for instance, might make a bad serial. I say ‘might’ because you never know what other charms this book might have. Maybe each chapter is a perfect gem you want to savor.

Charles Dickens was THE famous early serialist, with The Pickwick Papers. Pretty soon, and for much of the 19th century, it was rare for a novel to be published as a book without first appearing as a serial. Most of the great (and not so great) 19th century novelists needed that money to survive, before their full book made its way into stores.

* Time-wise, and cost-wise, a serial has obvious advantages (for a reader) over a full novel. The stakes are much lower. Don’t like the first installment? Don’t get the second.

* The rhythm of the thing: Monthly doesn’t seem to work. A month might as well be a decade as far as serial reading goes. You lose the thread, maybe have to start over. But is weekly ideal? Daily? Release everything at once and let the reader choose the pace? Yael says that works for the library of classics on Plympton’s companion site DailyLit. She doesn’t have an answer for original fiction.

Serials are something of a natural for us today. TV shows with a running narrative have trained us to expect our stories to arrive in bite-size chunks, and there’s real delight to the cliffhanger.

* Serialization may work best as a marketing device—to build buzz before a book is released. This means the format becomes, in part, a gimmick. But, historically, serials have changed thinking, and may do so again.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published as one complete book, wouldn’t have had the effect that it had on thousands of white readers. It would have been easier to read it, put it aside, and forget the uncomfortable fact that something horrific was happening in this country. Instead, readers had to sit with it for months, thinking and wondering as they went about their lives. That made it a lot harder to forget those uncomfortable facts. I mention this mainly because I think it highlights just how much depth and richness the serial experience can add. It’s the furthest thing from a gimmick; it’s an art form.


Entertainment choices were once severely limited. Serialized fiction filled a real need. A popular author under contract was an asset, giving a newspaper an edge over rivals. It was no second-rate way of publishing, it gained you a wider audience than you would have had, and it paid, perhaps not handsomely, but dependably.

Online outlets have proliferated, but there is an admission process, and there are rules. We’re back to a situation in which we deal with a gatekeeper. Some spots are difficult to join, some less so. On those easier to infiltrate, the quality may be less. A few lemons and a reader may move on. There are pastures and pastures, some greener than others.

A handful of sites pay, most do not. The major gain is exposure. You’ll have to fight for it, like anywhere else and, to quote Ringo, it don’t come easy. There’s massive competition.

Plympton is a major player. It’s gotten some great press. I read about them on Salon. (Kindle and Amazon are the biggies, but Plympton is a well-known boutique site.) They handle some big names, and they take on unknowns. But I went to the website and found: No new submissions accepted at this time due to submission overload. I have no idea, as yet, how common this is.

You can go it alone, some do. But you have to promote just as relentlessly as you would for a book. And punchy episodic chapters that hang together as a whole are essential.

Punchy. We’re back to a formula. A few thousand words of fast-paced shenanigans, wrap it up with a hook that entices folks to look forward to the next bit of business. My dense, ambling style may not pair well with the format.

It is easy to believe, and it may well be true, that serials lead to repeat customers and enhanced customer retention. Some sites allow for reader participation. Authors generally welcome the back and forth, saying it gets a reader onboard like nothing else.

The form is appealing on both sides of the equation. An intriguing novelty, a short, self-contained story, read it on your lunch break. The structure lends itself to a test drive for reader and author alike. I expect that readers settle on a favorite one or two sites after a broader try-out.

With an eye-catching title, you may have a better than average chance of being noticed in a table of contents. It’s a form of market research. You may build a committed fan base before you vault onto Amazon, followers who may be Johnnie-On-The-Spot with a review when that time comes.

May-may-may. I’m constructing my castles in the air before I’ve ever set foot into a serial site. BTW, I read that some of them are loath to give out figures on traffic, hobbling an accurate evaluation of prospects. Choose wisely.

Hugh Howey created a serial without meaning to. His initial petite version of Wool proved so popular, readers demanding more and more from him, that he spun it out to a full-length novel. The rest is publishing history.

His story was so successful that he’s the first author ever to negotiate a contract allowing him retention of digital rights. He’s got his big book deal, and he keeps the full proceeds from online sales. Full earnings, not whatever percentage your liege-lord thinks good and proper. They had to do it. Hugh wouldn’t have signed otherwise. He’s making too much money on his own. How’s that for an inspiration?

Check out Tuesday Serial, which offers . . . whoa! . . . one-hundred-twenty-seven pages of listings. I’ll dig deeper into that next time.



Like the Fond, Uncounted Rain, We Fall All the Day.

The doorbell rings.

It’s only the thought that it might be my monthly delivery from Quel Fromage! that gets me out of my chair at all–but of course it isn’t. The green jumpsuit, the white plastic boots, even the multitude of thin wire bands he wears around his neck and wrists, might be a uniform, but it clearly isn’t U.P.S.

He begins without a greeting. “Got the year, Jackie?”


“Sure yeah. Sorry n’all, but the gizmo glitches when it jumps sometimes. Date and time all fuzzled.”

He doesn’t look insane. As a guess, I’d make him in his early twenties, college student type, only with a green jumpsuit. His head is shaved in a wide band up to the crown. Above that, a thick mop sits like a luxurious blond yarmulke.

“The date?” It takes me a minute. “The eighteenth,” I say. “June 18th.”

He goggles at me. “Eighteen? Like twenny-two eighteen?”

Now it’s my turn to goggle. “No. What? Do you mean the year?” His words—Got the year, Jackie?—come back to me. I take a breath. “It’s 2016. What year did you expect it to be?”

He throws his head back in exasperation. “Kring! I knew this wasn’t the when I punched!” He waves the gizmo at me. “Twenny-two sixteen! Meltdown is playing the Iron Lung, last gig ever!” A look of disgust crumples his features. “Instead, I wind up in the stone-age zone.” He gives me a rueful look. “No ‘fense, Jackie.”

“None taken.”

He makes with a deep, soulful sigh. “Well, glitchy tech is glitchy tech. Whatcha gonna do?” He holds up the device so I can see. “UbiQuix 20. Cozy Jon said I shoulda grabbed the Simpiternity, but they’re so old story.”

I play along. “Does this mean you’re stranded here? Can you get back to your own…”

“Oh yeah, no sure. Not even. I’ll just punch the recall circuit.” He toggles some doodad on the gizmo’s control pad. “But it’s going to take some time. The busload’s pretty fragged, I’ll betcha. Just gotta waste some minutes.”

We stand there at the doorway, me in, he out, and an unexpected wave of compassion wells up. Whatever delusion I’m living through, it doesn’t seem to have left me entirely without the social graces. “You can come inside if you want. You don’t have to wait on the porch.”

He gives me a smile. “That’s fond, cousin! I’m onboard.”

Inside, he takes a seat in one of the comfier chairs, glancing around the room, utterly not discomfited.

“Are you sure this is where you’re supposed to be?” I ask. “I mean, there’s no…clubs around here.”

He shakes his head, rechecking some readout. “No. Location is just so. Time is the mess.”

I nod. Sometime—two hundred years from now—my house will be a place called the Iron Lung, where Meltdown will play their last gig ever. Time really is the mess. My guest surveys the reach of my living room. “Nice element,” he says.


“Small,” he says, nodding. “You in a proke group?”


“No scandal either way, Jackie. Just thought, you being old and all, you probably done the whole routine, squeezing out the school.”

“School?” I am not keeping up.

“Little fish?” he offers. “Forwarding the genome?”

“Ah. Yes. Sure. We have three kids, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Only three? Wowza. Didn’t know you twennies were so scant with the offspring. My proke was up to three hundred and sixty-two, last count.”

I gulp. “That’s a lot of…fish.”

“Not all fish,” he explains. “The prime proke group was twenny-nine, plus some lookers. A good group grows in all the ways.”

I take an intuitive leap. “Group marriage?”

“Natch. Course, I’m plenty ripe for my own group now, but I’m not tending to dash. I was in a boot-knock in Amsterdam last summer, great bunch of bed-folk. I was fond. But I’m too young to stumble into the first proke group that comes along.”

“Very sensible.”

“You nailed that one, coz. So, what’s your gig?”

“Gig? As in job?”

“Sure yeah. How do you means and ends?”

I clear my throat. It always sounds so odd to say it out loud. “I’m a writer.”

His eyes widen. “No drossing? Like stories and such? That’s crisp, cousin! I’m rabid for stories. What’s your mode? PsychoRomps? HoodooPeeps? DreamSpex?”

“Uh, yeah. You know, I’m not really sure what you’d call it—”

“Hey, what’s your name? I’ve swiped some of the ancients. Maybe I’ve downed some of your content.”

I tell him. His face remains blank. “Sorry, Jacko. No register. I guess you’re not big in the Twenny-Three.”

“I can’t say I’m too surprised.”

“But I’m smit to down your stuff. Got anything ready to up?”

I frown. “You want to read one of my books? Now?”

Some word or another seems to perplex him. He taps a spot on his left temple, just below the shaved hairline. Something clicks, then whirs. “Standard acc-port,” he says, “Fryline? BitBlur? Even a Transwire, if that’s your techlevel.”

I shake my head, helpless.

“Well how much content do you got, Jackie? I’m gonna wink soon, but I could down a few.”

“Uh, three. Three novels. So far.”

“Three?” He is as aghast at my lack of literary output as he was at my poor showing in the progeny department. “Fring, coz! You gotta get with! My fav, Inkling Fedora? She pops two hundred a year, easy.”

“Two hundred? Novels?”

“Sure, yeah, sure. Gotta keep the current on. Her last psychoromp series knocked up thirty-seven volumes. And Revard Melch? He ups like a book a day. ‘Course it’s all SkinJims, so no great exercise sopping that stuff. You can down two or three between between station stops, if that’s your sort of fare. Hey! You all right, Jack?”

In fact, I’m feeling a little dizzy. Not serious, I’m sure, but standing up abruptly would definitely be a poor choice at the moment. His gizmo gives a tuneful little toodle, and he checks some readout. “Hey, not long now! I’m queued.” He smiles. “You’ve been a kinsman, coz. A real lungful of fresh. I’ll mention you to the future.”

He continues to sit there, looking pleasantly bland. Nothing seems to be happening, as far as I can tell.

“Hey!” I say, experiencing what seems to be a sudden lucid moment. “Do you people do this a lot? I mean, visit the past?”

He nods. “Sure, yeah, yeah. No major.”

“But—what about continuity and all that? I mean, aren’t you afraid of messing up your own timeline?”

He finds this pretty funny. “No, no, Jacks. Not much chance. I mean, certain precautions, sure, yeah, but time is pretty elastic. Bouncy, even. It all snaps back pretty proper. Like, you won’t even remember this.”

“No? I find that hard to believe.”

“Well, maybe a few snips and bits, but nothing certain. Trust me. This is a one-way tumble. It’s all strictly—”

And all at once, he isn’t there anymore. No flash, no shimmer, no bang, no whimper. Just me, staring at an empty chair.

Which is an odd thing to find yourself doing at 11:15 in the morning.

I get up. I check the front door. Maybe I’m getting old, but I would’ve sworn I heard the doorbell. Sure. That’s right. I was at my desk and the doorbell rang…

But there’s no one there. Some ding-dong ditch kid. Or I’m hearing things.

Or maybe just hungry. I am expecting my delivery from Quel Fromage! today. I’m hoping for a nice dill Havarti. And maybe a wedge of Stilton Blue.