January 2015 Meeting Notes
The details that fall through the cracks in book publishing, but are crucial to creating a top-selling book, were discussed at the MIPA meeting held Jan. 14 at the Carondolet Center in St. Paul. The presenters were Sybil Smith of Smith House Press and Sheyna Galyan of Yotzeret Publishing.
Smith began the presentation by explaining the role a book’s front and back cover play in the sales process. “The front cover is what gets a person’s attention, and consumers will typically spend about 5 seconds looking at it,” she said. “Then they flip the book over and read the back cover. It needs to do a good job selling your book.”
Smith went on to explain the elements of a good back cover for a nonfiction book, the type of titles she publishes. They include a headline or tagline at the top that is short and zippy and summarizes the content well. There should also be a good paragraph or two that summarizes the content in the book and explains its benefits to the reader. “Think of the back cover like a captivating tease written by a movie studio. The copy on the back cover should highlight the key points of the book and make clear who the audience is. It should also include an author biography accompanied by a professional photograph,” said Smith.
In addition, the back cover should include the book’s ISBN number or International Standard Book Number. Smith pointed out the importance of always ordering ISBN numbers from the official source: www.ISBN.org by Bowker. “A book’s ISBN identifies both the title and publisher to be contacted for ordering purposes. If you are intending to self-publish, it is critical that you order your ISBN from the official website. If you don’t, you may find out that your book comes back as having been published by some strange overseas company and not your own,” said Smith, who also noted each version of a book—hardcover, paperback, Kindle version, Nook version, etc.—needs its own ISBN number.
Another element of the back cover discussed was the barcode. Smith explained that if you want to sell your book in a chain store like Target or Wal-mart, it will also need to have a UPC barcode on it, which is completely different from the ISBN. Smith pointed out both Lightning Source and Ingram offer free barcode generators to their customers.
Galyan covered the often over-looked intricacies of the copyright page. She described the elements that need to appear on the page: the copyright year and copyright holder, contact information for the author and/or publisher, your company’s trademark if you have one, photo credits, and permissions for any literary quotes and photographs that may have been used.
“There also needs to be a statement about how all rights are reserved and that no part of the manuscript can be copied without permission,” Galyan said. “If your book is a work of fiction, there should be a statement explaining that the work is made up and any likeness to a real live person is unintended. For nonfiction, there should be a statement asserting that the information included in the book is true and based on the author’s recollection and/or research.”
Other elements that should be included on a copyright page: The book’s ISBN number, Library of Congress (LCCN) number, distribution information, a credit for the cover art, and a mention of where the book was printed—in the United States or some other country.
She particularly stressed the importance of getting permission to use quotes and other copyrighted material. Publishers often spend considerable time tracking down who owns the rights to a quote and if there is a fee involved in using the quote in the book.
For more information about the presentation, download this great handout (pdf 487k), which includes examples of the elements of a fiction back cover and children’s book back cover as well as tips on how to write effective copy and an example of a copyright page.
MIPA’s next meeting will be held on Feb. 11. The topic: Evaluating Your Printing Goals with Nicole Baxter, Manager of Marketing & Book Printing Services, and Rachel Holscher, Manager, Design & Digital Book Publisher Services, of Bookmobile.
November 2014 Meeting Notes
A great cover captures the reader’s interest, and great interior design keeps the reader reading.
At the November MIPA meeting, held Nov. 13 at the Carondelet Center, three professional designers described the book design process and why it is so important to send your books out into the world with the best impression.
Linda Koutsky, who has been designing books for 25 years including 15 of those with Coffee House Press, said, “Book covers are like billboards. You have an eighth of a second to capture people’s attention.” Koutsky is always on the lookout for great images to put on the cover of books, and she shoots many of her own.
“Tone is a quality, feeling, or attitude,” Koutsky said. “That is really what a book cover is all about.”
Interior book designers, Dorie McClelland of Spring Book Design, and Sherry Roberts, of The Roberts Group, discussed the importance of creating beautiful, inviting, and consistent book interiors. McClelland described a book interior as like a river: “Open a book, start at the beginning. It has a flow, a way of inviting you in from endpapers, to half-title, to title. It introduces you to the content, then brings you into the text. Timing takes you through the text, with some ebbs and flows but always within the banks (structure) and successfully brings you to the conclusion.”
“A well-designed book makes the reader feel comfortable,” said Roberts. “It’s this invisible connection between story and reader. It dissolves on the page and yet also guides the reader.”
Poor book design automatically stamps a book as “amateur.” The presenters not only talked about what good design is, but also what it is not. They discussed why Word is not a good tool for book design, how to use typography to avoid the “ransom note” effect, and handling widows and orphans.
For more information about the presentation, download this great handout, which also includes a list of 26 things that guarantee a book is identified as amateur.
As tradition, MIPA does not have a December meeting. Members instead gather for holiday party. Monthly meetings will resume in January. See the calendar.
October 2014 Meeting Notes
Step 2 in the publishing process is editing. Beth Wright from Trio Bookworks, Pat Morris from Book Architects, and Sherry Roberts from The Roberts Group led a discussion titled "Professional Editing Sells Books," at the Oct. 8 MIPA meeting, held at the Carondolet Center in St. Paul.
Their presentation began with a discussion about the importance of editing. "Whether your book is fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, or a memoir, you will need a professional editor," said Wright. "Your editor is a consultant who will help make your book the best it can be."
Wright shared that the stages of editing include self-editing, developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading.
A developmental editor is someone who can get involved in the project before the writing process even begins to offer suggestions on how the author can accomplish his or her goals for the book. Advice can be offered in the areas of character development, narrative voice, pacing, style, and language.
Copyediting happens when the manuscript is in its nearly final stage. During this process the editor improves formatting, style, and accuracy of the text. Wright explained that she often will create a list of characters and places mentioned in the book during this phase, and as she makes her way through the read make sure the story stays consistent.
Proofreading is where the text is checked for typos, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. This is done at the page proof stage.
Both Wright and Roberts suggested that all authors self-edit their manuscripts as well throughout the process, and preferably do at least one round before they turn their manuscript over to an editor. "It's a good idea to read the text out loud," said Roberts. "I will often catch things that need to be changed in my own books by doing that."
"Errors are frustrating to readers. You need to make sure the book is perfect before you put it out there, and the only way to do that is to hire an editor or team of editors to help you," said Pat Morris from Book Architects.
The presenters also offered this important advice:
- Ask the editor you are considering hiring for a sample page or two so you can get an idea of how he or she will go about editing your work.
- Find someone you feel comfortable with and can trust.
- Inquire about the editor's rates before you get started. Rates range from about $14/hour to $125/hour. Keep in mind, an editor may read a manuscript two, three or more times.
Handouts: Download handouts from this presentation.
November Meeting: "Step 3: The Secrets to Good Book Design and Eye-catching Covers" will be on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Carondolet Center in St. Paul. Please join us.