Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is how I do print on demand (in the Philippines)

Even though ebooks account for most of my sales, I still get requests for paperback versions. There are people who just prefer it, and who am I to turn away a willing reader just because I didn't have a print copy of my book?

A company called Books On Demand has been printing the Philippine editions of my self-published books (they're the tiny paperbacks I started selling in November 2011, in case you have one in your possession right now). Prior to discovering them I was using CreateSpace, which is great too, except they were printing the books out of the US and I was spending a lot on shipping. Books On Demand is just in Ortigas! So so cool. (Update: I also work with Marikina-based JMD Copy Print! Their phone number is 919-3283 and they also print one copy minimum.)

Anyway, I just had a nice conversation with them today, and I think I should maybe post some of the questions I often get about how we work together. Because we think some people don't yet realize how easy and affordable it all is.

What does one need to do to get their book printed?

Prepare your book the way you want to see it laid out in print. They have some guidelines, which you can request, and they'll accept your PDF file. Send also your front cover, back cover, and spine images.

What I do: My books are simple and usually just text (with some illustrations), so I just send a layout done in Word and saved as PDF. Could it look better? Of course, but I do it this way to keep my costs low. So far my layout costs are zero. My covers are done by more artistic people, so I just get a hi-res JPG of them and email them over.

How many copies do they require an author to order and buy?

One copy.

Of course, it'll be an expensive single copy if you decide to do that, because they have to put some work into making sure your book looks good. As with most things that scale, the price per copy goes down the more copies you order.

What I do: I take pre-orders, and accept payment prior to delivery. This way my first order is always way more than 1 copy, so I can negotiate for a lower per-copy rate. And I don't end up paying for excess copies out of my own savings, nor do I have zillions of copies lying around waiting to be bought. I tried that and don't really have the space to keep that going.

How much does it cost to print a book?

My books are small, an estimated 4.25 x 6.75 in, and rarely go over 150 pages. I'm able to sell them at P300 apiece, which means it costs less than that to produce them.

I must mention that I don't make a lot of money from selling them at P300, so the markup isn't that huge. I've also started giving away the profit by offering cupcakes to the people who buy this edition. But it's not about profit anyway. (Business experts, don't yell at me.)

If the book isn't in the best shape yet, will they help out?

Books On Demand can help with the editing, layout, cover design and even the publishing legwork (getting an ISBN etc) for a fee. I don't use these services myself, but I've seen them do this for other client authors.

Can they ship a book order directly to the buyer?

Yes they can.

What I do: I tend to pick up the books myself, from their office in Ortigas, because I usually offer to sign the paperbacks ordered directly from me. They've offered to do the shipping for me and I'd actually recommend it. Shipping in many cases costs less than setting up a meetup, and more practical when the buyer is in a province or faraway city.

What kinds of books do they print?

A wide range of stuff. The thing to remember is that if it's a conventional enough book, then they can print it. You're in effect hiring them to print your book, instead of submitting a book for their approval. You're in charge.

So yeah, this is how I do it. This means I don't have that many copies of my own books at home anymore. When someone places an order, I just send off an email to Books On Demand and tell them to print my book. Sometimes they print five books at a time for me, sometimes just one. And then I pick it up, ship it to the buyer. And maybe buy cupcakes.

It's not that difficult. Writing the book, that's what's difficult. So go do that, and then get your paperback already.

(PS. Are they paying you to talk about them? They sometimes sponsor our Author at Once workshops, but no I don't personally receive anything to talk about them. Just a happy customer.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trick or treat

What you're looking at right here is the candy bar at my sister's wedding, my major contribution being the hauling of classic Pinoy candies Kendi Mint, Orange Swits, Flat Tops, and Butterball all the way to Texas, from Manila. Despite being maid of honor, I didn't get to do much maid-of-honorly things at all, because I was taking care of a fussy jetlagged baby the whole time.

What is a maid of honor usually expected to do? Definitely throw the bride a party, take over logistics so she can enjoy her day in peace, and assist her as she negotiates stairs and steps on the stilts she chose to wear. Did I do any of that? Nope!

It just occurred to me that Kimmy was a better maid of honor than I was. Eep! At least I brought candy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A year of thinking Hannah

Source: via Mina on Pinterest

It's near the end of October, which means I should just go right out and admit it to myself and everyone -- Queen of the Clueless (Interim Goddess of Love #2) is late. I wanted it out earlier this year, but life intervened, and I haven't been able to keep to the publishing schedule I established pre-motherhood.

Interim Goddess happens to be my first series too, so the character of Hannah has been residing in my thoughts for the longest so far. This is a good thing because she's kind of gestated and matured there in my mind, but not-so-good too only because I already have a book waiting to be written after this. That might have to wait a little longer.

Rest assured that Queen of the Clueless is on its way. This is how it starts: (QotC sneak peek over here...)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More publishing stories at Author at Once, Oct 27

Been getting a lot of questions about publishing lately! It's likely because of the interview that was published in Rappler, yay. I don't mind the questions at all, but let me just announce this anyway:

I will be speaking at Bronze Age Media's AUTHOR AT ONCE Basics of Publishing on October 27, 2-5 PM, at Cafeccino Eastwood, P500. Register here:

The afternoon will be all about what anyone needs to do to publish their work in ebook or paperback, but it'll be mostly me sharing secretssss. (Haha. Kind of.)

Seats are limited, hope you can all register. Discussing these and participants' questions really help us learn and find out what we all need to do to succeed. See you there!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We're number 2000-ish!

Yesterday and earlier today, I was in meetings with soon-to-be author/publishers and telling them that watching your own ebook sales rank is the ultimate in unproductive timesuck. Now Amazon goes and does this -- check out Author Rank, where they list the most popular authors on an hourly basis.

If you have an Amazon Author Central account you can actually see where you are as stacked up against the greats. And when looking at a graph like this, an hourly account of your winning and failing, you can:

1. Be depressed.
2. Be excited.
3. Even more obsessively hit Refresh.

So the screenshot above is my best number. That is, I am currently the #2,919 Contemporary Romance author in all of the Amazon Kindle store. I peaked this week on October 4 at #1,956 (alas, I didn't even know it! I should have basked in the glory). In all of Amazon, when lumped together with nonfiction and paperback-only, I drop to 140,000-ish.

Am I depressed? Not at all. I live in a city with 12 million people. Being #2,919 means something to me.
Am I excited? Yes. I wonder if I can do anything (that I'm not already doing) to make this a more impressive graph.
Am I even more obsessively hitting Refresh? Um, yeah.

Congratulations to the 2,918 contemporary romance authors more popular than me, at this hour! And to the many authors, a lot of them indie publishers, who are doing so well on this list! Any of you willing to share secrets in exchange for a cupcake? :)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"New Adult" and why it matters

This is how I've had to classify my books in bookstores (online and off):

Romance - Because there's usually a romantic storyline in every book.
Contemporary - Because they're set in the present, or at least the recent past.
Chick Lit - Because they're advertised in women's magazines, come in candy-colored covers, and were published in response to a trend in this subgenre a few years ago.
Women's Fiction - Because some bookstores don't offer "chick lit" as a category.
Young Adult - Because there's no graphic sex, even for the contemporary romances.
Teen Fiction - Because I heavily use flashbacks that have the characters go back to college, usually when they're teenagers.

I've embraced all of these categories and genres, but eventually started to see how they can be confusing for international readers taking a chance on a book with Philippine characters and setting. American romance readers expect more sex in a contemporary romance, and they won't find that in any of my books. Young adult readers expect many of the coming-of-age tropes in novels to happen in high school, but in my stories they usually happen in college -- because many Filipinos start college at 16 or 17, though that's about to change now that we're transitioning into K-12. And for a great many Filipino young women, at least those I know, those things don't even start until they're in their twenties and working. This is a country that has only begun to acknowledge that sex happens between unmarried people, so I have to tread a fine line in presenting that in a way that doesn't seem too "Western." Should I take pains to explain all of this before a person buys my book? Seems too tedious, and I don't want to appear like I'm talking down to anyone with a "things you need to know about my country before reading this" intro.

Recently I found out about an emerging category called "New Adult"/NA. Think of it as describing the kind of stories that seem too old (mature? risque?) for YA, but too young (naive? innocent?) compared to adult lit. There's still some debate over whether it's "a thing" or "not a thing," because where have you seen a "New Adult" shelf in a bookstore? And why split a subgenre further?

And yet this term perfectly describes the section of universe where my books exist. I also think that it helps readers find the kind of stories they're looking for. What I don't want to do as an author is alienate a romance reader with a "too sweet" story, or a YA reader with one that doesn't feel authentic because the characters are too old.

So even though NA is not yet mainstream (I'll consider it so when local bookstores start using it), I'll add it to my regular categories anyway. I think, as a writer, and publisher, it's the category that describes my work the best. Since reading up on NA, I've begun reading books marketed as NA, and I'm usually happy with them. Turns out I'm a target audience for NA too.

More on NA here: NA Alley. Check out #NALitChat on Twitter too.