Thursday, January 28, 2010

Using Lightning Source

Well, we're deep into winter. I don't know about you, but visions of daffodils are dancing in my head. OK, maybe not literally, but you know what I mean. To distract us from the dull month of January, let's see what Michael Marcus can tell us about the experience of using Lightning Source to print his books.

Lightning Source serves many major publishers when they don't need to print lots of books, but the company will also work with self-publishers – IF you know what you are doing.  They are not set up to provide much hand-holding, and expect to deal with knowledgeable publishers, not just writers.

To do business with them, at a minimum you'll need a credible business name (not Sally's Book Company) and will need to know how to produce (or pay someone to produce) PDF files of your book's cover and interior text. It's not difficult to master the process. I've done it for six books so far, and I'm getting better all the time. There are various programs (some free) for producing PDFs. The most dependable is Adobe Acrobat Pro. New version (#9) costs up to $699 depending on version and discount. With the "education discount" you can pay as little as $159.

Older version #5 is now available on eBay for about $100. Version #8 sells somewhere between the prices for versions #5 and #9. Keep checking for the best deal, and be careful not to buy an upgrade if you need the full version.

You can have someone produce your PDFs but I strongly recommend that you get your own software. It's common to produce several versions of the PDF of your book's interior, and you'll waste a lot of time if you keep having to ask someone else to do the work, and then wait for it.

When you are satisfied that your PDF is ready to become a book, it takes just a few minutes to upload the separate cover and interior files to the Lightning Source website. Before doing this, you must register and become a customer. There are no tough questions to answer.

When you are ready to upload your first book, you will pay $87 plus $12 per year to maintain the files for one book. The fee for a proof shipped for next-day delivery is $30.

Two or three days after you uploaded your files, the man in the brown truck will deliver your first proof. You'll be thrilled and proud to hold the book in your hand and see your name on the cover.  Then you'll start flipping through the pages and your mood will quickly change as you are horrified to discover all the stupid errors that you and your editor had missed.

No book is perfect, and first proofs — especially from new self-publishers — are less perfect than others. The bigger the book, the more errors there will be. You should expect to go through from three to six generations of proofs (at $30 each) before you decide you are ready to start selling your books. Even after you start selling, you will discover more errors, but with POD you will not face the horrifying knowledge that there are 5,000 defective books sitting on the shelves of an expensive climate-controlled warehouse. With POD, you can make repairs or updates any time you want.

The cost to print a 300-page paperback book via offset would probably cost about $1.50 - $2.50. With POD from Lightning Source, you'll pay  $5.40, but you won't have inventory unless you want it. The price includes the charge to ship a book to a bookseller or to the seller's customer. will accept a "discount" of 20% off the cover price. If your book has a cover price of $20, Amazon will pay $16 to Lightning Source. A few months later, Lightning will pay you the $16 less the $5.40 cost or printing, or $10.60 per book. Now you are a professional self-publisher.

(Michael N. Marcus is now completing his fifth and sixth self-published books. His "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't Be a Victim of a Vanity Press" has been on two Amazon bestseller lists for business books. He recently founded the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance. His blog about writing, editing and publishing is Book Making Blog. His publishing company website is Silver Sands Books.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Options for Printing My Own Book

Wow! It's really bustling in the coffee shop, today. Everyone pull your chairs closer to the table so people can get past it a little easier. Now that we're having a break in the frigid weather, we all want to get out of the house while we can enjoy it.

Speaking of enjoying, I brought Michael Marcus with me, again. Michael is breaking our trail through the confusing jungle of rumors, facts, deceptive practices and unknown pitfalls for those of us considering self-publishing. Sit back, sip your café au lait and enjoy Michael's words of experience.

Electronic "eBooks" and the compact readers that store and display them are efficient, exciting and "green." A hundred years from now, paper books ("pBooks") may be as obsolete as parchment scrolls are now. But for the foreseeable future, traditional printed-on-paper books will continue to be the dominant format. Any writer who publishes only with electronic media will miss many potential readers, and substantial potential income.

In self-publishing paper books, there are two printing methods to consider. First, I'll discuss the one that's least important to self-publishers. Most books produced by "traditional" publishers are produced on offset printing presses. These huge machines can rapidly print many thousands of books at low cost.

Offset printing is the right choice if you think you can sell at least 500 books in a year. Price-per-book decreases as printing quantity increases, and it can be tempting to order a large print run to boost the potential profit on each book you sell. Keep in mind, however, that you will have to pay "up-front" to print books that may not generate revenue for a year or longer, you'll pay to ship them and store them, conditions may change that will make your stored books obsolete or inaccurate,  and if you don't sell as many books as you plan, the entire venture may be a money-loser. It's much safer to use print-on-demand (POD).

As the term implies, POD books are printed after demand has been demonstrated. They don't exist until the publisher (maybe you) or a bookseller or bookseller's customer places an order. Unless the publisher specifically chooses to do so, there is no inventory of obsolete unsold books that can deteriorate into moldy mouse food because nobody wants to buy them and read them.

A POD printing press is like a giant photocopier. It uses digital technology, and toner rather than ink, to produce a printed book from a digital file at the rate of hundreds of pages per minute.

The vast majority of POD books are printed by Lightning Source, even if you use a pay-to-publish company such as Outskirts Press.

Lightning Source is part of Ingram Books. Ingram is the largest book wholesaler in the United States, and the connection between Lightning and Ingram means that all books printed by Lightning Source are available to bricks-and-mortar booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and the shrinking number of small, independent stores.

More important for self-publishers, however, is that books produced though Lightning Source are AUTOMATICALLY listed on the websites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and dozens of other online booksellers worldwide.  A self-publisher using Lightning Source doesn't have to do any work to have her book available to millions of potential readers."

Next time, Michael will go into detail on using Lightning Source to print your book.

(Michael N. Marcus is now completing his fifth and sixth self-published books. His Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don't Be a Victim of a Vanity Press has been on two Amazon bestseller lists for business books. Check it out at He recently founded the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance. He blogs about writing, editing and publishing at Book Making Blog and his publishing company is Silver Sands Books.)   

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Proof Reading or Copyediting?

Winter is in full swing and even though the days are gradually getting longer, spring seems an endless time away. I am determined to make good use of this too-dark-and-too-cold time of year. Since we are all trying to make progress on learning about the craft of writing, take a sip of your favorite hot drink and follow along with me to learn from our friend Sunny Carney the difference between copyediting and proof reading.

"I was thrilled and terrified when the package from the printer arrived. I opened the box carefully, to avoid damaging the contents. I closed my eyes, almost afraid to look, and slowly pulled out the book. I half-opened one eye. The cover looked good, so I opened the other eye. I pulled it out and skimmed through the interior, and was very satisfied—no, thrilled—with the appearance of the first proof of my first book.

I began with the proofing I knew was necessary from the course I took, first checking the front matter, then confirming that the chapters all started on the pages listed in the contents, and that they started on the right (recto), odd-numbered pages. Then I checked the placement and alignment of the headers and footers, and their consistency and accuracy. I was ready to start a read-through to catch previously missed typos and awkward phrasing that should be corrected.

If the book had been a formal, scholarly work with a bibliography, citations, and end- or footnotes, and an index, I would have checked those as well. Fortunately, my memoir didn't require those steps.

Next came editing. In traditional publishing, there are various levels of editing. Brief definitions are available on the Web site on the Services page, with a link to the longer Chicago Manual of Style definitions. What many writers are looking for when hiring an editor is Light (or Mechanical) Editing: punctuation and spelling errors; grammar, syntax, and usage errors; and making sure the author's word choices appropriately convey his or her message.

Moderate (Substantive) Editing includes more remedial actions, such as rephrasing awkward sentences and reorganizing or tightening the writing.

Heavy/Rewrites (Developmental) Editing is more intensive (and expensive), and can include both light and moderate editing, as well as substantial rewriting. If your book needs this level of attention, make sure you request a sample edit of a chapter from your book before signing a contract or paying a high price to someone who could make your book unrecognizable to you.

Proofreading can include light and moderate editing, as well as checking the final details before the manuscript is sent to the printer for publication. While it can include more, it should make sure citations refer to the correct reference in the bibliography or endnotes; verify that pages numbers in the index are where the topic actually appears; and verify the accuracy of everything from figure numbers and captions to the placement of images. If corrections have previously been submitted to the printer, the proofreader verifies that corrections have been made—correctly.

This is a brief, simplified explanation of what can be a long and occasionally contentious process when working with traditional publishers, so it's important to understand the differences, if only to know what stage in the process your book is at. If you self-publish, you need to be able to define exactly what you expect from a freelance editor or proofreader, get a sample before signing a contract, and maintain control over what a total stranger is doing to 'your baby'."

Monday, January 11, 2010


Welcome! Welcome! The sun is shining in a sky so blue that I want to swan dive into its depths. A brisk walk over to the coffee shop got my blood flowing and turned my cheeks almost as red as my nose. I'm ready for another cup of that European Sipping Chocolate. (I told you I was addicted.)

I came over, today to share some news. By now, most of you must have learned that the Federal Trade Commission has written new rules for bloggers and people who use other forms of social media to talk about products or services. It amounts to a full disclosure for being sure that the one who reads the information understands whether they are getting an opinion or an infomercial – or both.

I am sure all of you know that complying with FTC rules can be cumbersome. It is, after all, a bureaucracy "looking out for our best interests." Before you could finish reading all the fine print in the rules, someone saw the compliance issue as an opportunity and turned it into a business; an internet business, of course. You can go to to see one way of complying with the requirements of the FTC rules. You may see one of their badges from time to time on our community blog.

Michael Hyatt suggested an alternative to this method on his blog at "Five Ways to Comply with the New FTC Guidelines for Bloggers." He has prepared templates to be used at the end of each posting, or as a footer, depending on the blog provider's capabilities. Most of the time I plan to use Mr. Hyatt's method, here.

Before I leave this subject I want to quote a comment Randy Bosch made to Michael's article: "Well, then, there IS another ramification to consider:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have or will compensate the United States Treasury and the State of ___ Franchise Tax Board for writing this post since I have received income in the free market system elsewhere. I have a material connection to services provided by same including use or receipt of public safety, infrastructure and various intrusive and intimidating tactics they use to keep me in control. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." It helps to keep a sense of humor about all this, even if it is slightly cynical…

Now on to something I consider more interesting. When I was brainstorming about a blog community for nonfiction writers, I mentioned sharing the information on where our readers live. I use a stats counter that tells me the location of the service providers being used. It's a free service and I delete the contents every three or four months. Here's the data on what I deleted today. People wander into the coffee shop from all over the world. Most of them are from the U.S. (74%) and Canada (12%). We also get a number of visitors from Great Britain (6%) and India (2%). However, people have popped in from the Philippines, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, France, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Iran, Germany, Indonesia, the British Virgin Islands, Mexico, Slovakia, Nigeria, Morocco, and Colombia. I think it's cool the way we can share our interests in writing nonfiction books with people all over the world. What a fascinating time to be alive.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Hard Work Begins

Wow, what a surprise to see you here! Didn't anybody tell you the weather is rotten out there? I know, I know, if it's so bad, then what am I doing here? Well, probably the same thing you are, I'm running away from cabin fever and dirty dishes. Someone pull up a chair for our guest while I order us the latest in hot chocolate drinks, European Sipping Chocolate. The craving for that totally, outrageously sensual chocolate drink is what truly brought me here, today. After only one cup, I'm addicted.

OK, now where was I? Oh, yes. Let me introduce you to Sunny Carney. Sunny is self-publishing her family history. She's here to share some of the things she's learned. If you can tear yourself away from the European Sipping Chocolate, Sunny, tell us what you've learned so far in your adventure.

"To learn about print-on-demand (POD) publishing, and preparing to publish my memoir, I read a great deal about how to write a query or proposal; how to increase and track sales on Amazon; and more.

Most of the books had one thing in common, something I only learned about when every one of them told me about it. I was already on overload at the prospect of having to find an agent, nervous about the slim chance of a publisher finding me, and overwhelmed by the amount of work yet to be done.

Then I got to the chapters about marketing. Traditional and POD publishers do some marketing before and after books are published. They make sure their books are on the lists that librarians, brick-and-mortar and online booksellers, and others read to see what's new. However, none of them continue the marketing for long unless you're a high-profile celebrity or have written THE BOOK of the century!

Initial sales might be strong: family members, friends, and coworkers will probably buy copies. However, don't get too excited about those first sales. A few months or a couple of years down the road, sales may drop off enough that your book is suddenly out of print.

How could that happen? The most obvious answer is that your book simply isn't as great as you've been told (or believe) it is. The people who bought it initially are people who love you and want you to succeed, even if the book is less than a masterpiece. There may be good reasons why all you got from agents and traditional publishers was rejection notices.

Some POD publishers read manuscripts submitted to them. Some simply accept anything a writer submits, if the writers are willing to pay the price. However, if they reject your book too, consider taking writing classes and/or hiring the best editor you can find and afford.

If people stop buying, most publishers will eventually drop your book from their lists: they can't afford to continue to support it if nobody buys it. Bookstores return unsold copies and get their money back.

Here's the hard, cold truth: assuming you've written a really good book, the only way to ensure that sales remain at least steady is to either hire a really good book marketing consultant for a pile of money, or become your own marketing expert.

If you don't market it, promote it, talk about it to everyone you meet... if you don't send out press releases and requests for interviews and book signings... if you don't contact book clubs and ask to do a presentation, no one will do it for you!

Without becoming your own advertising department, your book will stop selling. No sales, no point in spending the time and money required to keep it in print. Once you've finished writing, the hard work begins! Just redirect the determination and creativity that pushed you to finish your book, and use it to keep it in print and selling!"


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Community Spotlight 2

Hello, friends!

I don't know about you, but I am sooo happy to be back in my normal routine. I love having company, preparing for and celebrating holidays with family, and participating in special events. Nevertheless, when January comes and the pace slows down, I heave a big sigh of relief. January is my month to remember. From the week before Thanksgiving until last Sunday night, I was in celebration mode, now I'm ready to sit here with you in the coffee shop and talk about what happened while we were gone. If this runs a little long, today, please bear with me. For once, I'm not in a rush and I have lots to share.

The first order of business is to tell you the name of the winner of Michael N. Marcus' book, Become a Real self-Publisher. Berta Dickerson is the winner of our December 2009 drawing. Congratulations, Berta!

Some of you may remember that when Berta joined our community, I didn't have much to share about her. Since then, I've learned much more. Berta was in an accident that severed her spinal cord at C-4 yet, miraculously, has function at C-5/6 and sensation far below that level. She's independent; which is a good thing since she spends most days alone writing and preparing for her ministries. She's an active pastor's wife, an adult Sunday School teacher, and a Women's Bible Study leader - as well as a Christian speaker and author. Her website is at Why don't you drop by and sign her guestbook?

Meet Our New Community Members

What a pleasure it is to see that we've had to pull up three tables so that all of us can sit together. Let me (officially) introduce you to the new members of our community.

Please welcome "Lounge Daddy" (LD has this thing about extraneous quotation marks, so I couldn't resist…) I don't know his real name, but he is a libertarian Catholic with nine children, so I doubt that he has much time to "lounge." :>D (OK, OK, I'll quit.) You can read his thoughts about politics and other things at

I also want to introduce Patty Sherry. Patty hails from New Jersey. She and her partner are co-authoring a self-help book. (They do seminars and personal coaching.) Patty blogs about love and life at

Next, meet CM (Caroline) Pointer. Caroline is a geneologist who lives in Texas. She maintains three blogs about families and family histories. Check out my favorite one at Welcome. Caroline.

Other Personal Notes

Matilda McCloud, (aka Mary Jo Marsh for those who read her articles on this blog) has a revamped blog at Stop by and congratulate her on winning one of Rachelle Gardner's prizes. I was much amused by her essay about winning.

Also, take a look a J Lopez's new blog at He's taking New Year's resolutions to a whole new level. I'm sure that he could use some encouragement along the way.

If anyone else started something new since you were in our community spotlight, please leave a comment so we can celebrate with you.

Last note:

Patty Sherry, you may want to query the latest person to be added to our N-F A-List. Jennifer Lawler joined The Salkind Agency, last year. Her website is at She blogs about the writing life at She is seeking: "Self-Help and How-To books, including books on personal growth, sports, crafts, self-care and home-care. Jennifer also has a lively interest in history and narrative nonfiction, including memoirs."

Now, why don't you share what's up with you or tell us one of your New Year's resolutions. We've got lots of time, today.