Friday, June 19, 2015

The Curse of Printed Art Books - and How to Remove it (Case Study 09)

The Curse of Printed Art Books - and How to Remove it (Case Study 09)

I can hear my Art Teachers "tut-tutting" in my head now.

They were all very good at being constructive in their criticism. You knew you hit the high-level of their approval when they asked if they could keep your class assignment. (Rare.)

Otherwise, it was either technical points or some comment along the line of "Nicely Done!" And when most students around you were getting that same comment and no one got below a "C" if they turned in the homework at all - you kinda noticed that anything except an "A" was merely an "attaboy"

Once you start working for yourself, and publishing just exactly what you want, the world changes. Then you start hearing those voices again. Until you finally shut them up with something so excellent, so beyond comparison - you know that criticism can't touch you.

Art books give you that problem, and those voices in your head.

You can't do real justice to these books in trying to get them re-published. Well, you could, but you'll never get a decent return for the extreme amount of time you'd have to invest.

Time vs. Money - the perpetual prize-fight.

Publishing (especially public domain re-publishing) always has that fight: Time vs. Money. A very prolific, high-speed author can crank out maybe 6 books a year. Some more, most less. If they invest all their time writing, they do very little marketing. And that is why they value a traditional contract with one of the Big 5 publishing companies - so someone else can take that work off their hands. (Dream on - it's a percentage of 1 percent of all authors who get these - and who can count on having such a contract renewed.)

I know of some authors who write a single book and then do nothing but market that book for the following two years. Usually non-fiction, their income comes more from coaching and consulting, rather than writing. (Look up John Jantsch and his "Duct-Tape Marketing")

This case study may seem out of sequence, but has been being worked on for some time, so the numbering itself is right. (See my last post on handling the "Evil of Distraction" for why it's only coming out now.)

Art books and their curse

I had these two books which couldn't be published without a lot more work. I finally got one of them finished today, and have another nearly complete - just some niggly, nit-picky editing to finish.

In both cases, the problem has been images. They are both illustrated within an inch of their book-lives.

But the images don't just down-size to epubs and then re-upsize when you want them to.  You have to start with good images to begin with - full-size images which make an ebook a huge size.  Unless you are OCRing a print book, you won't have that quality of image (and usually, not even then.)

Ebooks (epubs, mobi's, even some PDF's) don't rise to that level of quality. Having a 10MB file on your ereader will often make them choke. The current crop of smartphones have the chips and memories to deal with them - just in time. The tradition is to make these ebooks small and easy-to-download. That has traditionally meant: text only.

Since I'm often trying to work backwards from an existing epub, this gives quality issues on all those originally wonderful diagrams and photos. (So maybe the curse of artbooks is mostly a public domain problem? No. Why do you think art books have always been high-priced? The cost of printing in any decent quality.)

Neither of the books I've been working on will be distributed as print books through the major distributors - because  I simply don't have the time to invest in re-creating the wonderful line drawings by carefully doing scans and editing on every photo and diagram in the book. So the images rely on someone else having done that in their epub file - which is the source for the print versions. (You can hear that "tut-tut" starting now...)

The solution to quality problems.

Lulu gave this to me recently. They have a very nice (if mis-titled) e-booklet called "Author's Guide to Success - A Complete Plan for Publishing and Selling Your Book". (You can get your own copy by opting-in to their mailing list.)

If your book doesn't meet muster for print, then you can simply produce it as an ebook, then offer a nicely-discounted economy print version as a direct purchase.

I've often recommended Lulu over any and all other self-publishing outlets. The reasons are three: first, they have high quality hardcopy in addition to ebooks, second, they are less expensive than any other POD (print on demand) company, and third - they'll distribute to anywhere you want to go.

That last is a caveat - you have to be printing original work. (And they started doing that after they expanded their distribution to Amazon and Kobo.) Otherwise, they will print and sell for you just about anything you can legally claim copyright to.

In Lulu's ebooklet, they follow the progress of a "Bess Seller" (yea - corny, I know) who is a local barista at a coffeshop down the street from their offices. She wants to publish her masterpiece, but is unsure of how to go.

The solution and trick is to do an all-of-the above.

  1. Convert and publish your work as an ebook and distribute it everywhere.
  2. Convert your work to PDF and publish in a standard format (like trade paperback) which will go to all the big booksellers via Ingram's catalog.
  3. More interesting is that you create a version without ISBN that you can offer  as a discount or premium paperback with direct sales by it's link.
  4. While you can finally offer a hardback casewrap version that's available via Ingram, you can also create a premium version with a dust jacket that's available as a reward for special clients on a limited basis.
They point out that getting an ISBN automatically adds a retail markup.

The graphic I scraped goes like this:
getting an isbn from Lulu automatically adds a retail markup to your book

When you are doing your own marketing, you don't need the added markup from Lulu. Practically, being able to offer a special edition which isn't available anywhere else (like that dustjacketed hardback) is quite a bonus.

Picture Book Series Update

The proofs I ordered came in. As mentioned, one book didn't make the midnight deadline, and the other two will now come as proofs, but not make the Global Reach scene - just low-cost private editions.

There is something to having a copy of your printed book in your hands - nice dramatic cover and everything. Satisfying - and for very little cost. Some people say CreateSpace is so great for giving you a digital proof. Lulu gives you that proof, but also requires you physically review that book to make sure everything turned out just right. Without doing that, you have to buy a copy yourself from CreateSpace to make sure it actually did turn out OK. So your cost (slightly higher from CS, than Lulu, interestingly) is still needful either way.

I did find another book by Walter Crane on Design - a bookend to his Lines and Form, which came later. Titled "The Bases of Design." It was simple to convert it to an ebook, and I won't be making a hardcopy version of this anytime soon - as I'm way behind on my editing already, and this book has a lot of graphics as well.

The point to not doing an artisanal recovery project for old books is above, as I covered. I have to earn my keep. To do that, I need to find and publish and market more books. This is the Indie Publisher (or publishpreneur) at work. Deeper backbench means earning more income monthly. Simple math.

Time is worth more than money, as it's linear. Money can be leveraged. And then you can hire people to do those jobs which take all your time. Meanwhile, you run lean, invest sweat equity, build audience. Until you can leverage that income, then you guard your time carefully.

What's next?

After I finish up these last few editing jobs, it's getting the ebooks through their paces (I have to get the links into their back-pages and double-check everything) - after that will be getting them ported through Lulu to Google Books/Play, iTunes, Nook, and Kobo.

With the proofs in hand, I'll create book trailers for all of them, along with podcasts out of that audio. The book trailers will be scripted, not done off-hand, so that text will go onto the landing page. While this could replace the description (and probably should) I'm not at that point with these books. It's just another revision to the spreadsheet-action-sequence. Noted.

After that, update and make live all the landing pages. As I do that,  I'll create the downloadable PDF's and post these to Slideshare while embedding that into the landing page.

Amazon won't be included as I have to research and create special editions for them.

We're also, regrettably, going to pause the marketing spreadsheet at that point.

The buck then stops.

Because we're getting right back into memberships again - and making that go live.

Reviewing all this data to this point shows that we should be doing this on Rainmaker to get the most bang for my buck. It's a lot more efficient than what I've been doing up to this point - and I've been paying that bill for months now with no returns.

I'll still do a sidebar of doing a membership via Gumroad and Insta-member, with Rainmaker going first for the comparision.

- - - -

There is another scene happening, which revolutionizes how to approach book marketing. I talk a bit about this in our next installment.

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So make sure you're opted-in for all the white-knuckled excitement from this cliff-hanging adventure in modern ebook marketing.

See you next time.

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