Common Mistakes of Self-Published Authors

  • Agent / No Agent – One of the first dilemmas an author faces. Typically, an agent steers authors to traditional publishers. However, there are a number of smaller independent presses that do not require agents. The big publishers deal almost exclusively with agents. Only hire an agent if you really believe you have a shot at a big publisher.
  • Vanity / Subsidy / Partnership / Collaborative Publishing – Lots of authors are pulled into publishing opportunities for which they pay for services or agree to purchase a certain number of books up front. These scenarios come in a number of flavors and rarely benefit the author beyond getting their book out. These entities are rarely focused on selling books to the book trade, and instead make their profits from author services and sales. Traditional publishers do not charge fees and make their money by selling books.
  • Editing – Quite a few self-published authors use friends and family to assist them with editing. Many times, their friend, the English teacher, has helped to edit their book. While it is always a good idea to edit before publishing, a traditional publisher typically has a multi-round process that looks at much more than just grammar and spelling.
  • Cover Design – Contrary to popular wisdom, customers do judge a book by its cover. It’s important that a book looks like it is expected to – similar to other books in its category – and that it conveys compelling messages. I can’t tell you how many self-published books have a nice photo on the cover – probably taken by the author – of ocean waves crashing at the beach or of a sunset or a lone tree in a field. Fonts matter. Imagery matters. Use a graphic designer experienced in book cover design. A traditional publisher has people on staff to do this, or hires out to experienced professionals.
  • Book Design – Besides a bad cover, few things are more annoying than bad book design. The front matter should contain the expected elements. The margins should be set correctly. The pages should flow properly – right / left. I have seen hundreds of poorly designed books that scream “I was self-published” when I started to thumb through them. Quality in design is very important. There is a minimum expectation among book buyers – especially with the chain stores.
  • Format — EBook vs Print – Many self-published authors stick with ebooks only. Many stick with just the opportunities through Amazon. Recent trends have seen a decrease in ebook sales, and an increase in print. However, authors should have both. It’s very important ebooks are well-designed too and function as expected. It is not as simple as just loading up the paperback format and allowing a converter to generate an ebook.
  • Distribution – This is often the biggest challenge for self-published authors. How do I get my book into as many stores as possible. Unfortunately, distributors require deep discounts from the cover price in order to process your inventory. Often this is just a small percentage about print cost. As soon as return fees hit from an unsuccessful book signing, all profits for the author/publisher are wiped out. It is important to be in the right distribution channels at the right cost. Do not overreach and put yourself into a negative cash flow situation.
  • Marketing – Self-published authors are faced with marketing on many fronts – how to sell to the book trade through distributors, how to sell directly to independent stores, how to sell directly to readers, how to sell online, etc. Each channel requires a different strategy. It is important to know who the target reader is, and where they are likely to be found.
  • Advertising – The vast majority of advertising – especially print – does not work. There is a negative ROI. Web advertising is almost as bad, unless you hit the target perfectly. Direct email campaigns are low cost and yield weak results. How do you build buzz without breaking the bank? The answer to this question is evolving.
  • Author Publicity – Authors often confuse this with book marketing. Author publicity involves promoting the author as a brand – in addition to the books they’ve produced. It’s important that authors engage with their public, whether in person, in the media, or online. Publishers tend not to be involved with author publicity. Publishers focus on book marketing and merchandising.
  • Reviews – Word of mouth is a great way to get attention. Good reviews on Amazon and GoodReads can garner attention. However, bad reviews can be the death of an author. It is so important to be sure you are putting out a quality product – well designed – as expected. However, that doesn’t mean the content itself is well-accepted. Regardless, don’t let a bad review about poor design or editing be the end of your writing career.

Meet Sunbury Press’ Owner Lawrence Knorr! by Tammy Burke

http://glvwgwritersconference.blogspot.com/2014/03/meet-sunbury-press-owner-lawrence-knorr.html

LvK by Tammi KnorrHow delightful having you back at the “Write Stuff” conference again! And wow! Is it coming up fast. Anything new and exciting you can share regarding you and/or the Sunbury Press?  
 
Lawrence Knorr: Yes!  It is an honor to be asked back. It is hard to believe two years have passed since the last time! Sunbury Press just completed its best year ever from a sales perspective. We continue to grow and succeed in a very tough, competitive environment. We are celebrating our tenth year in business in 2014 — but I can tell you it feels like 100 years! We’ve transformed ourselves twice in that span — caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly — what’s next? Most recently, we have seen ebooks peak, their growth rate slowing, while independent bookstore sales have picked up. While our Amazon business has continued to grow, other channels are growing faster. We have dubbed 2014 our “Year of Collaboration” focusing on ways our 120+ authors can experience better results by helping each other and by working together in teams. So far, there has been a lot of positive energy. We also opened, February 1, our first company bookstore in Mechanicsburg, PA, where our headquarters is located. Our goal was to provide a storefront for all of our books — and a venue for our authors to meet the public. We really want to be an important part of the local community for our local and regional authors — and provide another option to our more far flung partners. It’s a great place to meet prospective authors and to talk about books with the general public.
Based on your webpage, I understand the your company holds a “Continue the Enlightenment” mentality from the 18th 3609278century and the “Age of Reason.” Could you expand more what that means to you and to the Sunbury Press?
 
Lawrence Knorr: “Continue the Enlightenment” is a motto that represents our mission statement. Simply put, we are a publisher of diverse categories, but we are always seeking to bring new perspectives and voices to the marketplace. The Enlightenment was about a new order of things — not unlike what is happening in publishing today. The old order governed by a strong center of control is being challenged by more democratic ideals. This is what the independent publishing movement is all about — whether doing it yourself or with an independent publisher. We are experiencing an era of rapid democratization of the publishing industry. If only Hugh Fox had lived a little longer! I’ll never forget the day he called me – Hugh Fox – one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize. He revealed he was dying of cancer and offered me the opportunity to publish his remaining works. He said Sunbury Press was exactly the kind of publisher he was looking for. I was very grateful for his offer, and encouraged him to spread the dozen or so works around to other presses, keeping two of them for ourselves. Hugh liked the motto, and we think it is very appropriate at this time.
What was the motivation to start the Sunbury Press? What makes it different than other publishing companies?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I started the company in 2004 because I wanted to publish some family histories. I didn’t want to pay someone else to do it, so I Ambit_Island_Series.inddembarked on figuring out how. While this was only ten years ago, it was when vanity presses were a cottage industry and print on demand and ebooks were in their infancy. I just wanted to sell some books at cost to family members. But, I really enjoyed it and realized I could publish other books — not just my own. Two hundred and twenty titles and one hundred and twenty authors later, we have really grown thanks to our business model and our philosophy. We are different for several reasons:
1) We are very tech-savvy. My wife and I both have long careers in IT and understand the Age of Content and the importance of search engines, ecommerce and mobile commerce.
2) We do NOT charge for services. Many publishers are experimenting with vanity, hybrid or subsidy models. We refuse to go in this direction, instead making our money by selling books.
3) We have editors working for us as employees of our company. We take quality very seriously.
4) My wife and I are also photographers and digital artists, able to design book covers, marketing materials, graphic designs, web content, etc.
5) We are “generalist opportunists” — working in a broad number of categories. We understand the advantages of breadth and scale to the economic sustainability of an enterprise.
6) We love what we do. I really enjoy working with authors to bring their work to the marketplace. It tickles the soul.
 
tsarr_pubI was wondering…Is there anything in particular you are looking for in an author and his or her manuscript?
 
Lawrence Knorr: Quality Manuscript + Motivated Author + Publisher = Success
We are always looking for high quality manuscripts — in a variety of fiction and nonfiction categories. Quality is more than just well-written / grammatically correct. Quality is about fresh ideas, new found truths and entertainment. We like material that brings value to our readers.
We like to gauge an author’s motivations. Gone are the days of sitting at a typewriter, mailing a box of paper to a publisher and then waiting by the door for the checks to arrive. Authors need to be involved in their success. While we provide editing, design, formatting, ebook creation, printing, distribution, marketing, etc., we do best when authors are out and about advocating their work and promoting themselves. We are an ideal option for authors whose work is good enough not to have to pay to publish — who want to be writers and not start their own publishing businesses. Most writers are not business savvy. We bring the business expertise to the mix.
 
Anything you’d like to see more of? Anything you’d like to see less of?
 
ktcw_pubLawrence Knorr: Thankfully, the vampire craze has past. There’s probably a metaphor somewhere in that regarding the publishing industry! We are always looking for more history and historical fiction — more clever YA and more entertaining police procedurals and mysteries. We like good literary fiction too! We’ve had a lot of inquiries about poetry — something we rarely publish.
 
Do you work with authors to help them increase sales? Or do you allow them to do that for themselves?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We generate our revenue exclusively from selling books. So, we are ALWAYS looking for ways to sell more books — whether a new channel to open, a new retailer to call upon, a new country to access, or an author’s activities. As I stated in the opening, we have dubbed 2014 the “Year of Collaboration” and are seeking new ways to collectively leverage our scale. There are opportunities for Sunbury Press authors to go beyond our activities and their individual efforts — to work together within a category or region.
 
I understand you have authored eight books on regional history. Could you tell us more about them? What were their inspiration.  
 
JFR_fcLawrence Knorr: Where did I ever find the time? My early books: “The Descendants of Hans Peter Knorr,” “The Relations of Milton Snavely Hershey,” “The Relations of Isaac F Stiehly,” “General John Fulton Reynolds,” “The Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower” and “The Hackman Story” were family history / genealogy focused. I wanted to write about my relations — a very deep and rich history linked to important people and events in Pennsylvania and the nation. While researching at the Lancaster County Historical Society, I also stumbled upon the journal and letters of my great uncle David Bear Hackman, describing his adventure to California for the Gold Rush. I edited and contextualized this treasure into the book “A Pennsylvania Mennonite and the California Gold Rush.” My more recent works have been collaborations:  “Keystone Tombstones Civil War” with Joe Farrell and Joe Farley — about famous people buried in Pennsylvania who played a part in the Civil War and “There is Something About Rough and Ready” about the village in the heart of the Mahantongo Valley at the center of that region’s Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I have several other projects under way for release in the coming years: “The Visiting Physician of Red Cross” – about the career of Dr. Reuben Muth of Red Cross, PA (I have his collection of visiting doctor records from 1850 to 1890), “Palmetto Tombstones” — about famous people buried in South Carolina, “Scheib of Shibe Park” — a biography of the former Philadelphia A’s pitcher — and youngest American Leaguer ever — Carl Scheib of Gratz, PA.
 
Being born and raised in the Susquehanna Valley myself I was wondering if you’ve done anything regarding Sunbury, particularly the Hotel Edison or Lewisburg?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We borrowed the name Sunbury from the town in Pennsylvania because it was near the Mahantongo Valley — and I liked the name. But, that’s about as far as it goes. We have yet to publish anything about Sunbury, the town in Pennsylvania or nearby Lewisburg. However, our book “Digging Dusky Diamonds” by John Lindermuth is about Shamokin, PA and the nearby coal regions. Our best-selling “Prohibition’s Prince” is about the famous moonshiner Prince Farrington from Williamsport, PA.  Our “Keystone Tombstones” series spans the entire state and often touches on historical figures from the Susquehanna Valley.
 
Do you have favorite time period and place regarding history?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I teach Comparative Economic and Political Systems at Wilson College once a year. I really enjoy teaching this class because it allows me to span economic history from classical times to present. My favorite time periods / places are the Roman Empire in the first few centuries AD and 19th and early 20th century America. I am intrigued by our industrialization in the early 1800s — and the entrepreneurship and personal responsibility that was present. Most of the people living today would feel very insecure without their comforts, insurances and government safety nets. I long for that time when individual hard work and creativity could amount to something tangible — and when we relied on ourselves, our families, our religious institutions and our communities.
 
What did you like best about holding the office of president for MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)?
 
Lawrence Knorr: I was honored to be elected the President of MBPA for one year. I met a lot of great people, including my predecessor Mary Shafer. My goal was to make sure our organization survived the struggles it was going through and could become sustainable. The new team that formed was very motivated to do so, and they continue on without me. Unfortunately, the demands of my growing business prevent me from volunteering at this time.
Your digital photography is quite beautiful. I particularly enjoy your vibrant use of color. How long have you been practicing this art and I’m curious…how many book covers have you designed?
 
Lawrence Knorr: Thank you! I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 years old. I began showing my work in 2006, after a local gallery liked my attempts at “Photo Impressionism.” I was one of the pioneer artists who was trying to make photographs look like paintings. My work has been shown around the country and has won awards — and is in collections and even a museum or two. While I have not been as active at showing my work, I have designed over 100 book covers over the last three years. My wife says they are getting better!  I really enjoy doing it, and most of the authors are very pleased with the results.
 
What are your thoughts on selling internationally? Do you find that foreign bookstores cater to the same reading choices as here in our area?
 
Lawrence Knorr: We sell our books in at least a dozen other countries — UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, India, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan … even Lebanon! We’re developing expertise in foreign rights as well as foreign distribution. We have found the rest of the world lags the US in eBook adoption — and still have a very strong book retailers. We’ve had the most success in the UK, for obvious reasons – but have also broken through where our titles touch on target markets.
 
I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview, Lawrence. We look forward to seeing you soon!
————————————————-
Lawrence Knorr has been involved with book publishing for fourteen years. His  company, Sunbury Press, Inc., headquartered in Mechanicsburg, PA, is a publisher of trade paperback and digital books featuring established and emerging authors  in many fiction and nonfiction categories. Sunbury’s books are printed in the USA and sold through leading booksellers worldwide. Sunbury currently has over  120 authors and 200 titles under management.
Lawrence has taught business and project management courses for ten years, and is the author of eight books. He is also an award-winning digital artist, and has designed dozens of book covers . Lawrence is the former President of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)
Most interested in U.S. & World history and other nonfiction (sports,
professional, hobbies) — also historical fiction, mystery/thriller.

Will consider YA fiction, contemporary and historical romance, horror (no
vampires), literary fiction.

Not looking for children’s picture books and poetry at this time.

————————————————-
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Bill Martin, C James Gilbert and Robert Miller headline at Sunbury Press book release party

Mechanicsburg, PA – Sunbury Press is hosting a book release party at its headquarters at 50 West Main Street in Mechanicsburg on Friday February 1, 2013 from 6 pm to 9 pm. Authors William Martin(Quoting Liberally), C James Gilbert (A Deeper Sense of Loyalty) and Robert Miller (The Cogan Legend) will be presenting and signing their books.

VIP Guests (from 6 to 9 PM):
Robert E. Miller, the author of the early Pennsylvania murder mystery “The Cogan Legend” will talk about his debut novel.

About The Cogan Legend:
The Cogan, a mysterious stretch of Pennsylvania with towering hills, swooping trees and narrow roads, claims the life of a lovely young woman, best friend to Ann Fairchild, a passionate, headstrong girl of 18. Barely escaping with her life, Ann succumbs to shock and is unable to recall exactly what happened that cold, wintry day in the Cogan. Meanwhile, Ann’s new suitor, Army Lieutenant Phillip Matter, hunts for the killer. Driven by guilt and shame for not saving the girls from harm that day, he grows increasingly more frustrated as he scours the Cogan for a killer he knows is still there.

Ann’s own guilt gnaws at her. It’s because of her that Rachel is dead. She’s the one to blame! She’s the one whose escapes tarnished the Fairchild name, and she’s the one who disobeyed her father and lied. She had to be punished. It was she who then convinced Rachel to accompany them to this rural setting. And it was she who wheedled and cajoled and begged her father to take the trip that led through the Cogan.

The Lieutenant thought it would be easy to find the killer, he was mistaken. With a stroke of luck on that last day of the search the soldiers capture the killer dragging him from his hiding place. The killer extracts a promise from the Lieutenant. He is taken to Sunbury where a judge, without evidence to the contrary, sentences him to hang by his neck until dead.

Ann’s memory rejects that gruesome day, until she remembers that he is innocent. A desperate effort to reach Sunbury to save Poll Soll proves futile by seconds and instead she witnesses his hanging.

After a time for healing Ann and Phillip marry but the promise that Lieutenant Matter wishes he’d never made turns his happy life miserable and threatens to take away everything he loves and lives for if he doesn’t fulfill it.

C James Gilbert, author of his debut Civil War era novel will present “A Deeper Sense of Loyalty.”

About A Deeper Sense of Loyalty:
In 1860, James Langdon, a southern boy from Macon, Georgia, is all set to celebrate his eighteenth birthday after graduating from school in New York. He has been groomed to handle the business end of his father’s large cotton plantation. A deeply religious lad with an uncharacteristic aversion to slavery, James’s father raised him to believe that unlike other negroes, the workers on Langdon Plantation were sharecroppers and not slaves.

When James finds out that his father has deceived him, it sets up a conflict between the two men that takes a war to settle. When hostilities break out in 1861, he leaves home, ostensibly to serve the Southern cause. Instead, he embarks on his own mission to help slaves escape to Canada.

Now considered to be a traitor and an outlaw by the South, danger is his constant companion; certain death awaits him should he be caught. Although he is powerless to go against his conscience, he is equally ridden with guilt for turning his back on his heritage. James knows that when the war ends, there will still be one last confrontation left for him: facing his father.

Author William Martin

Author William Martin

Professor William Martin has been dubbed “the Ultimate Quotographer of the American Left.” will be discussing recent political events and presenting his most recent books “Quoting Liberally” and “Quotes from the Underground”.

About Quotes from the Underground:
“Quotes from the Underground – Radical Wisdom in Small Doses” is a remarkable resource and must-read for writers, researchers, activists and indeed anyone who embraces progressive values and hopes to rescue politics from corporate control.” — Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation and Childhood Under Siege

“William Martin does it again with this splendid new volume of insights, wisdom, bon mots, and just plain common sense from those who are working to improve our collective lot.” – David Morris, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self Reliance

I highly recommend this uplifting compendium of wisdom for achieving social justice, protecting the environment, and renewing our democracy. Worth taking in large doses. — Jill Stein, Green Party USA candidate for President

“Quotes from the Underground is . . . a stock of patriotic wisdom that should be nailed to the door of the New York Stock Exchange!” — Charlie Cray, research specialist with Greenpeace USA and the director of the Center for Corporate Policy

“There’s something to irritate just about everyone in this delightful collection of verbal prickly burrs.” — Alfie Kohn, author of FEEL-BAD EDUCATION: . . . And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling

I’m a quote collector. They inspire and instruct me. Thank you, William Martin, for compiling this book of quotes. I plan to use them liberally.
— Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood, speaker, and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power

“An excellent read–or rather lots of them–for atheists and others who care about liberty and our fellow human beings. Words from hundreds of wise people like Richard Dawkins, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Allen, and George Orwell, to make you laugh, think–or both.” — Ed Buckner, former president of American Atheists

“William Martin’s excellent chronicle of quotations from the American Left needs to be lifted above ground and spread across the land. Read, absorb, and take action!” — Jim Hightower, nationally syndicated columnist, radio commentator, author, and editor of the Hightower Lowdown

About Quoting Liberally:
Dr. William Martin has been a college professor at Temple University and Monmouth University and has worked for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a press secretary, school auditor, and management consultant. He has published the other books of quotations, The Best Liberal Quotes Ever, What Liberals Believe, and Quotes from the Underground: Radical Wisdom in Small Doses. A national columnist calls Martin “the ultimate quotographer of the American Left.” He lives in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and sells books at Zabby Books @ Amazon.com.

Some samples from the book:
In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy. – Fran Lebowitz
A Romney presidency will be awesome unless you’re poor, sick, gay, female, Mexican or a dog. – Andy Borowitz
If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work: “Hello. Can’t work today, still queer.” – Robin Tyler
I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole. – Unknown
The idea that the blame for our government’s dysfunction is equally shared by the parties just is a giant, steaming mound of horse shit. – Bill Maher
Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings. – Richard Dawkins

All authors will be signing copies of their books after their presentations.

Snacks and drinks will be provided.

The event will be held at:
50 West Main St
Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

The location is directly across the street from the Brath & Hughes Art Gallery. about a half block west of the Gingerbread Man. There is plenty of free public parking in the rear.

All of Sunbury’s titles will be on display and available for sale.

Author presentations will at 7:15

Author William Martin