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Preview: Tom's Book Publishing Blog

Tom's Book Publishing Blog

This blog is a companion to the classes I taught for the Community Learning Department at Central Oregon Community College. The classes were involved with various aspects of book publishing, whether self publishing or through a publishing company.

Last Build Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 16:24:43 +0000


Still in doubt about producing an ebook?

Tue, 20 Jul 2010 16:32:00 +0000

If you still have doubts about whether you should produce an ebook, make a note that ebook sales at exceed print books. Read all about it here.

Help for the Self Published Book Seller

Sun, 27 Jun 2010 20:39:00 +0000

I am back! My work on a State of Oregon grant is almost complete.

In case you had not heard, the state awarded a grant to the Business Development Center at COCC to stimulate economic activity in Central Oregon by increasing e-commerce. I was chosen to be the web site advisor on the project. It was a great opportunity to review and recommend changes to many sites operated by local small businesses.

One aspect that I wanted to pass on was that the Business Development Center at COCC is an incredible resource for the small business, to include book sellers. The free service includes advising on financial matters such as loan sources, grants, venture capital, etc., business plan development, legal structure for a business, etc.

Give the center a try if you are in Crook, Deschutes, or Jefferson County: 541-383-7290

Ebooks and EPUB

Fri, 05 Mar 2010 16:33:00 +0000

"To ebook or not" continues to plague many self publishers. Most everyone agrees that ebooks are having a great impact on the book publishing industry. Aptara, an industry-oriented research company, conducted an extensive survey related to ebooks and book publishers in general. The following points, drawn from the survey, are of interest to the self publisher.

  • Most ebooks are distributed through the book owner's website.
  • Using an owner site results in the publisher missing major ebook distribution channels such as Amazon, Apple iTunes, etc.
  • Ebook reader-compatibility is the biggest challenge.
Related to the challenge is an industry-wide move toward using an ebook format known as EPUB. Placing one's ebook in that format means the book can be read by all/most ebook readers currently on the market.

If you are grappling with the issue of format for your ebook, check out EPUB. A free Microsoft Word-to-EPUB converter can be found here.

Ebook Sales and Reader Survey

Fri, 15 Jan 2010 20:22:00 +0000

The following discussion from today's Publishers Lunch sheds more light on the whole "Should I have an ebook or not" question.

"The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) has released headline results from their first survey of Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading, conducted among approximately 550 people from Bowker's PubTrack Consumer panel who said they had purchased an ebook within the past year.

Computers were still the top e-reading "devices," cited by 47 percent of respondents, followed by the Kindle at 32 percent and other e-readers at 10 percent. "Roughly one-fifth of survey respondents said they've stopped purchasing print books within the past 12 months in favor of acquiring the e-book editions."

One question asked how, for a favorite author, consumers would behave if the ebook was not available when the hardcover is released. The responses seem to underscore general consumer confusion in this area (and the replies are guesses....) Thirty percent think they would wait for three months to buy the ebook; 24 percent would go ahead and buy the hardcover instead. Six percent expect they would buy both versions, and over a third weren't sure what they would do.

Not unsurprisingly, the top characteristic driving ebook purchases is "affordability," followed by "easy to download," "readability," "instant access to books," and "portability."

The survey will be repeated two more times this year, at three month intervals, to track changes in consumer attitudes, Angela Bole from the BISG and Kelly Gallagher from Bowker will present and discuss the findings at the Digital Book World conference later this month, and then again at TOC in February.

View the full media release: Release."

Good Deal on Manuscript Editing Software

Tue, 15 Dec 2009 23:33:00 +0000

Last month's post dealt with manuscript editing and software programs, one of which was from Well, I just received the following email from them. Sounds like a good deal and applies only to the first 2000 customers. If you miss the offer, try using the Live Chat function on their website to get a price less than the usual list price.

Dear WhiteSmoke member,Christmas is just around the corner...ARE YOU READY?Check what we've got for you today:EVERYTHNIG AT $25!!!WhiteSmoke is having its biggest sale ever - At such a ridiculous price, no one will be left deprived this year...See what you can get for only $25:* WhiteSmoke 2010 General Version* WhiteSmoke 2010 Business Version* WhiteSmoke 2010 Creative Version* WhiteSmoke 2010 Bio-Tech Version* WhiteSmoke 2010 Multi-lingual Dictionary* WhiteSmoke 2010 English Video Tutorials.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------What are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy, order one for your wife, let your kids try the Video Tutorials -Our new WhiteSmoke 2010 English writing software will make sure your writing is perfect, every time you write, anywhere you write it...Start 2010 with the perfect gift for yourself or loved ones - and make sure you get it at the LOWEST PRICE EVER!!!

Manuscript Editing

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 16:14:00 +0000

A recurring question in class revolves around the desire to have some editing help with the manuscript. Although a bit beyond what is discussed in our Self Publishing and Sell Your Book course, I set about looking at the question. Here is what I would suggest.

1. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of the grammar checker in your word processing program. Daniel Kies provides a comparison of the programs in his article, Evaluating Grammar Checkers.

2. Join a writers group such as the Central Oregon Writers Guild. They can offer suggestions on small portions of a manuscript and there will be a professional editor who you may hire.

3. There are a number of online editing products for checking the manuscript. A popular one is EssayRater. There is a free rater that will look at citations, contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, style, and word choice. One will need to upgrade to a fee-based review to discover how to fix the problems. Its size limit is 20 pages.

4. A software program that resides on your computer is offered by WhiteSmoke. One can choose between different writing styles: general, business, creative, medical, and executive. It sells for $89.95 and can process one chapter at a time. It received endorsements for Yahoo, NBC, and CNN Business 2.0.

The Buzz: Create It With Social Media

Fri, 23 Oct 2009 20:58:00 +0000

Today's topic is about creating a buzz. You may recall from class that we talked about creating word-of-mouth attention to your book by having people talk about any or all the following elements your book may contain:
  • Taboo subjects

  • Unusual aspects

  • Outrageous happenings

  • Hilarious moments

  • Remarkable feats

  • Secrets, kept and divulged
An additional means of creating a buzz is to use social networking sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.

Explore the possibilities in a free ebook written by John Jantsch. Titled Let's Talk: Social Media for Small Business. It is full of ideas and how-to information for the self publisher. Click here to download it.

By the way, I apologize for the long absence. I was caught up in moving--with all that entails.

Target and Book Sales

Sat, 25 Jul 2009 21:01:00 +0000

A recent issue of the New York Times contained an article about the retail giant, Target and the large number of books the chain sells. Extracts from the article are offered here in a manner similar to the discussion about Costco book sales in the post of November 13, 2008.

Target apparently only purchases books from a large publishing houses; thus, self publishers need not apply. However, their experience offers insight into the books they select, their book reader's demographics, elements of the publishing process, and the genre of books that have proven to be good sellers.

In terms of book selection, the titles are usually written by women. The demographics of the book purchasers indicate that:
  • Most are women.
  • They have a median income of $60,000.
  • About one half have a college degree.
  • Some have children at home.

In terms of publishing, the books are:

  • Usually in the 6x9 format.
  • Paperback.
  • A special edition just for Target.
  • The author includes a letter addressed to the Target buyer.

Genre of the books tends to be limited to:

  • Diet books.
  • Children's picture books.
  • Young-adult novels.
  • Romance.

Read the entire article here.

In My Day

Thu, 25 Jun 2009 21:11:00 +0000

(image) Members of the Self Publish and Sell Your Book class have produced another truly wonderful book!

Titled In My Day, it is authored by June Atsuko Martel along with husband Joe Martel and daughter, Sandy Beelmann. June accomplished the marvelous art work. Although designed as a children's book, it goes far beyond the usual story for young people.

The book is actually a cross-cultural comparison and chronicle of the parallel journey taken by June growing up in Japan and Joe, who came of age in the United States. The vivid recounting of their experiences offers the reader incredible insights into a youthful view of the early 1900s in Japan and rural America.

Autographed copies can be obtained from Sandy at (541) 604-0138 or Unsigned copies are available through or

The Straight Poop on Pregnancy

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 16:12:00 +0000

(image) Who would have thought that there were really funny aspects to pregnancy? Well, Natalie Kimmel not only has lived through them, she shares them with us in her new book, The Straight Poop on Pregnancy. Designed to be a memento of the condition, the self published book contains witty dialog and humorous color illustrations.

Natalie accomplished all the narrative and art work herself. An interesting twist was to offer a gift pack version of the book that consist of a onesie (a cute, environmentally-safe garment for the baby), the book itself, and comes gift wrapped. The saddle stitched volume retails for $12.95 and the gift pack for $24.95.

Natalie is eager to share her self publishing experiences with us. She can be reached through her blog.

The Central Oregon Writers Guild

Sun, 22 Mar 2009 16:41:00 +0000

If you would like to participate in a writers group, need help with writing, or are generally interested in networking with other local authors, then the Central Oregon Writers Guild is for you!

The group, formerly the Redmond Writers, offers programs featuring topics related to self publishing, writing contests, conferences, etc. Attendance at their meetings is open to the public and free.

More information? Visit the Central Oregon Writers Guild website.

Saving Money While Printing Draft Copies

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 17:06:00 +0000

Printing drafts of the manuscript requires a lot of ink and resources. If interested in saving as much as 20% of your ink and becoming more Green, continue reading.

The February, 2009, issue of the Sunriver Scene contained an article titled “Less is More When it Comes to Fonts.” It focused on a relatively new font developed by Spranq Web Design called Ecofont. Although there have been several fonts that claim to save ink, Ecofont really does and it is also readable.

Ecofont is san serif, True Type, Open source, and free. For those who do not know much about fonts, focus on the word free. It works best with MS Office 2007, Open Office, and Apple Works. The savings is derived from the individual letters having holes in them. The holes represent the ink savings.

I have been using a font size of 14 to 10 pts and it is quite readable, even with my inexpensive printer set on draft copy. The image below shows the font at various sizes. Downloading the font is easy, particularly if you follow the directions. LOL.

Click here to download.
Instructions for installing the font can be found by clicking here.

Ebooks and Children

Sun, 25 Jan 2009 23:32:00 +0000

Another article on ebooks appeared during the holidays. It was written by Alana Semuels for The Bulletin , appearing on 12/26/08. Titled, "In Digital Era, Kids Books are Jumping off the Page," it addressed ebooks for children.

The author points out that some of the advantages of a children's ebook are:
1. Low cost.
2. Youngsters have a familiarity with digital technology.
3. Ebooks provide greater interactivity.
4. Many digital devices can "read" the book out loud to the child.

Interestingly, the article cited research suggesting that children learn less when parents (emphasis added) read the ebook to them. I wonder if the same applies to the computer reading the book to them?

The article also provides two (of the many) publishers that offer children's ebooks. Check them out and see what the buzz is all about:

Harpercollins Children's Books

Ebooks on the Up-swing

Thu, 25 Dec 2008 22:58:00 +0000

An article in the New York Times on December 24, 2008 by Brad Stone and Motoko Rich has a number of interesting points that the self publisher needs to consider. Titled "Ebooks Start to Take Hold," the authors state:
  1. Ebooks are gaining in popularity due to Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader. This prompts people to feel that the ebook has moved beyond the electronic gadget phase.
  2. Increased number of sales outlets and promotion of the devices, to include the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey among others, accounts for wider acceptance. Hence, greater sales of ebooks themselves.
  3. As many women as men are purchasing the device and ebooks.
  4. Ebooks appeal to those who are heavy readers. This may be the result of an ebook's low price as compared to a print book.
  5. Ebooks are already available for the iPhone and will soon be on the BlackBerry. (Clint Brauer, General Manger for, points out in his comment below that his company carries over 65,000 titles in the Mobipocket format that will work on the Blackberry. He further indicates that none of the titles will play on the BlackBerry Storm. I wonder if the New York Times article simply omitted the "Storm" portion of the statement).

Read the entire article here.

A special thanks to Ron Goebel, self publisher and author of Mata Ortiz Pottery: Art and Life, for the heads up about the article.

Wholeselling Books to a Large Retailer

Thu, 13 Nov 2008 21:20:00 +0000

There is an article by Pat Volchok titled "The Big Little Bookstore" in the November, 2008 issue of Costco Connection. It offers rare insights into the people and process involved with purchasing books for the Costco stores which are one of the top five book sellers in the U.S. Following is a brief summary of the points of particular interest to self publishers.

  1. A four person team decide which books will be sold in the stores.
  2. Two hundred titles are selected at a time.
  3. The buyers are interested in creating local and then national interest in a title.
  4. Selection of titles is guided by the demographics of Costco members, i.e. they are considered upscale, informed, and opinion makers.
  5. Books are purchased from independent authors, small publishers, and publishing houses.
  6. Titles carried on the website are more numerous than in the store. The website has its own buyer.
  7. Guidelines for submitting a title for consideration can be obtained at (866) 678-9390 or online at

Mata Oritz Pottery: Art and Life and I Can't See But I Can Imagine

Thu, 23 Oct 2008 17:47:00 +0000

There are two new websites located in the Important Links and Local Authors section of the blog. The first is the newly released self published title, Mata Ortiz Pottery: Art and Life, by Ron Goebel. The title is found on his website

The second is a children's book titled, I Can't See but I Can Imagine, by Patricia Wilson. Her book website is at While visiting her site, be sure to check out the music that accompanies the book. Pat also has a related blog at The blog offers lots of tips and advice for self publishers.

More on Print on Demand

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 17:05:00 +0000

The buzz about print on demand (POD) seem to become louder every day. When POD is incorporated into publisher services ( an often-seen occurrence), it can become very confusing. Some clarity can be found at, hosted by Angela Hoy .

Angela appears to work very hard to tell it like it is. She is currently involved in a running commentary with Bowkers, the U.S. representative for ISBN, regarding what an ISBN is about. Her previous discussion regarding Amazon and their POD activities gained considerable attention on the net.

Take a look at her site and particularly the comparison of POD/publisher service companies.

Do it Yourself Book Club

Tue, 08 Jul 2008 20:50:00 +0000

There is a new service that provides the means of creating your own book club. Called Booksprouts, it makes available a free platform were it is possible to set up the club, invite people to join, have them buy the book, read it, and then discuss it.

The interesting element for self publishers is that you can select your own book and form a reading group around it. Imagine the response if you posted the book club info on the wall of all your Facebook friends!

For this to work on Booksprouts, your book needs to be available through the usual Internet outlets (Amazon, Abe Books, etc.). So, you make the usual amount on the sale through the outlet and the Booksprouts people make their money as a reseller (usually an 8% commission paid by the outlet). Pretty neat!

Give them a visit at Booksprouts

Media Files:

Book Club Outlets

Mon, 23 Jun 2008 19:28:00 +0000

Book clubs are another outlet for your book. They usually pay royalties of 4% of the cover price if sold at $1 a piece. If sold at the regular book club price, the royalty can be 8% of the cover price. There are many national clubs, most of which specialize in a genre. A Google search can help in making a choice on who to approach about your book and here are a few to get you started.

Book of the Month Club
Children's Book of the Month Club
Conservative Book Club
History Book Club
Progressive Book Club

5 Points of Book Promotion

Mon, 02 Jun 2008 21:55:00 +0000

Here is a nice, concise list of points that the major book publishers use when creating and then working a marketing plan. The points are in their order of importance.

1. Prominent Bookstore Placement. This usually means at/near the front door and/or along the most frequently-traveled isles. Major publishers pay to occupy the spaces.
2. Author Tours. A mainstay of authors everywhere, a tour could include a reading, book signing, short seminar, etc. Contact groups/book stores in a geographic area and schedule the event before hitting the road. Your audience wants to see and hear what you have to say (and the groups/book stores appreciate the attention).
3. Online Marketing. This continues to be a largely unexplored outlet that all publishers are rushing into. Take your book online through your own website or blog. To guarantee more viewers, use an established online retailer such as
4. Appeals to Book Clubs. Whether a national book club or a local one, be sure to let them know that you and your book are available. Read from an existing book, tell of your plans for the next title, offer to help aspiring writers, etc.
5. Community Reading Organization. Local entities such as a public library system, will often hold programs promoting reading. Contact as many as you can and offer your services and book, maybe even help set up such a program for them.

Marketing Your Book

Fri, 02 May 2008 22:02:00 +0000

Free Book Excerpts is another means of gaining more exposure for your self-published book. An easy-to-use, two step process will get an excerpt from your book before Internet-savy readers. Give them a visit here.

Amazon and Print on Demand

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 15:58:00 +0000

Looks like the Print on Demand (POD) option for self-publishers has become more complicated. Amazon is telling self-publishers, among others, that if they want Amazon to carry their title, they must use their POD, Book Surge. However, if the self-publisher uses another POD service, they can still sell through Amazon but must use the Advantage program (with all its associated fees and commissions). Check out the discussion at Computerworld and gain more insight at Writers Weekly.

Book Stores and Book Sales

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 23:16:00 +0000

There has been a great deal of conflicting information in the news lately about book stores and book sales. It appears that a number of long-time book stores are closing--particularly in the East. Meanwhile here in Central Oregon, a couple of new independent book stores have opened. Hurray for them!

Similarly, the news about book sales has been mixed. Some retail chains and publishers are reporting huge losses, often associated with write-downs, while others report a greater-than-expected sales volume and overall profit.

One thing is apparent: many (most) of the big publishing houses are copying the sales strategies used by the self publisher. Good for us!!!

Marketing Your Book

Wed, 27 Feb 2008 17:23:00 +0000

The Indie Book Awards are back! If you have a title with a copyright date of 2007 or 2008, enter it in the contest. There will be cash prizes and lots of exposure; hence, the idea of marketing your book. Find all the details here.

Sell Your Book by the Chapter

Tue, 12 Feb 2008 23:38:00 +0000

Sell you book by the chapter? Might be a good idea--particularly if you have an ebook or book website.

Random House Publishing just announced that they will give it a try. The cost of a chapter will be $2.99. The price seems a bit high but it is a place to start. Let me know your experiences with it.