TSR Comes out Tomorrow!

TSR Book Cover Header 640x350
Hello, my amazingly faithful Readers!

Tomorrow is the big day: the official release of my 7th full-length novel, The Sky Riders. Even just ten years ago, had you told me that one day I’d not only publish a single novel over 100,000 words, but seven, I would have laughed in your face. So each and every time this “book release” occasion comes around, I’m even more indebted to the following:

• God, for humoring my inabilities with his abilities to produce capabilities.

• My wife and children, for allowing me to spend the long hours needed on my laptop at absurd hours of the day (and night).

• My English teachers, notably Dawn Sandquist and Margaret Grace, who poured into me even when I gave them the deer-in-the-headlights look.

• My writing companions and tour mates who encouraged, taught, corrected and inspired me to grow as a writer: Wayne Thomas Batson, Donita K. Paul, Eric Reinhold, Jonathan Rogers, L.B. Graham, Bryan Davis, Sharon Hinck, Gregg Wooding, and Christopher and Allan Miller.

• Former publishers who gave me a shot when I didn’t deserve one: Pam Schwagerl (Tsaba House Inc.), and everyone at Thomas Nelson Inc.

J.A. Konrath for enticing all of us legacy published writers to jump ship and dive into the self-publishing revolution.

Michael A. Stackpole for his abundant wealth of knowledge which he continually gives away for free, but has cost him years of development.

• My Proofies who have leant their selfless eyes to the ARCs I put out. You make me shine.

• The Inkblots, in all our various forms, who met (and will meet again) over pub tables to discuss writing, life and the future.

• The amazing staff, board and congregation of my church, New Life, for believing that my writings are just as much ministry as counseling someone in my office.

• My friends Peter Hopper (and dad), Kirk Gilchrist, Douglas Gresham, Brett Peryer, David Buckles, Joseph Gilchrist, Tony Hayner, Jason Clement, Nathan Reimer, Denis Johnson and Nate Cronk for their conversations, musings and creativity that have inspired me to think hard and dig deep.

And lastly, to my readers. I write every word with you in mind, and couldn’t continue writing without you literally paying my bills. I’m blessed I get to do things I love for a living. It amazes me every day, and I pray I never take it for granted.

Thanks to everyone for purchasing the new book, spreading the word, and leaving honest reviews. (When referencing The Sky Riders on Twitter or Instagram, please try and use #theskyriders or #TSR).

Fly or die,

ch:

Review Athera’s Dawn


Would you mind reviewing Athera’s Dawn on Amazon?

Yes, reviews help sell books. Because people take them seriously.

So I’m asking for those who’ve read the book to take five minutes and write a simple review of your impressions.

Sure, if you hated it, please abstain from writing a review, though I can’t stop you. That’s the beauty of capitalism in a free-market. However I’d sure appreciate positive reviews.

Thanks in advance!

ch:

Self-Publishing Update & CreateSpace eStore

Whatever time I lost working on my books in August, I’m making up for now. I spent a number of hours on a binge-formatting streak last night, knocking out 481 pages and 41 chapters of The Lion Vrie; my Proofies should be receiving it in less than 14 hours as I finish up my “From the Author” segment.

I wanted to share some of my self-publishing experiences with you in those hopes that other would-be authors will be inspired at publishing their own books.

As most of my readers know, I have cordially parted ways with my legacy (or traditional) publishers for the frontier of self-publishing. Reasons being: maintain 100% creative control, faster turn-around time of books, higher royalties on both print and ebooks, ease and feasibility of restriction-free social marketing, and the fact that it’s the author who generates and maintains a fan base – not the publisher (ie marketing).

In prepping Rise of the Dibor, Book 1 of The White Lion Chronicles, I made a list of most of the major tasks I encountered along the way:

1.) Resurrected the original Word.doc manuscript, made sure it was as clean and presentable as I could make it.

2.) Scouted and secured a freelance editor, Sue Kenney, negotiating a contract for all three books based upon my satisfaction of a sample editing of 5 chapters. (She’s fantastic).

3.) Researched the present field of POD (Print On Demand) and ebook formatting businesses; settled on Amazon’s CreateSpace as offering the most consistent and professional services, as well as being the giant in print and ebook distribution. Setting up an account is free, and there are no upfront costs. Aside from electing a few of their services (2 of which I describe below), you could easily upload your interior and exterior PDFs and publish a book completely free.

4.) Began work on cover design. Developed numerous covers myself, and asked a few friends to submit ideas, too. Finally settled on a design submitted by Christopher & Allan Miller. Gave them permission to go ahead and do the full spreads of all three books. It’s been a fun collaborative process. The stellar series logo was done by Jason Clement.

5.) Once the corrected manuscript was returned (using Track Changes feature in Word), I forwarded a PDF version to my Proofies. I sent them a fun introductory email, and gave them 7 days to send me edits via email.

6.) Realizing that having 10+ people send you corrections and suggestions – a large portion overlapping – is a lot of data to process, my friend Nathan Reimer suggested I set up a GoogleDoc spreadsheet for Proofies to submit changes to in real-time, not bothering to post duplicates, and allowing me to post questions if need be. It’s worked like a charm and saved many hours of work for me.

7.) Midway through this process, it became apparent that Adobe’s InDesign would be a better application to format a novel in. The control is far greater, but as a result, so is the learning curve. Allan and Jason both helped a great deal with tutoring me.

8.) I used CreateSpace’s handy “help” features to get the exact specs for my book (I chose a fairly standard 6″x9″), which included template generators for the cover (takes into account the estimated number of pages for the width of the spine), and a sample interior Word template (which I obviously did without once we went with creating an InDesign template).

9.) The brand new (and super cool) interior PDF was then resubmitted to my Proofies for a read through, mostly focusing on formatting issues. Again, the GoogleDoc spreadsheet helped facilitate this very smoothly.

10.) I made finishing touches to the final cover spread, and uploaded a CMYK jpeg to CreateSpace’s step-by-step processing path.

11.) A number of final improvements were made to the general formatting of the manuscript, including a quick phone call to CreateSpace’s outstanding customer support line, and it was officially submitted earlier today.

12.) I set up the “marketing channel” selections in CreateSpace, which included creating your own eStore for your books. I was able to design and upload a custom header and background with some trial and error (shown above). You easily set the price of the print book (based on figures they calculate on how much your book will be to produce), and then select what venues you want the book published to, from Amazon.com to retail stores to schools and non-profits. I’ll be rolling out the eStore announcement as soon as the print version of ROTD is proofed and put into production by CreateSpace.

13.) The two services I’ve decide pay for are CreateSpace’s Pro Plan (one time $39/title, $5/per year) which gives you a higher percentage, lower book cost when ordering your own copies, and gets it into more retail stores. I’m also paying $69 to have CreateSpace do all the Kindle formatting for me (as that’s another learning curve I just don’t have the time for; plus, they are Kindle, so they’re going to get it right the first time). I anticipate the ebook version to come about 2 weeks after the print version is ready.

Feel free to ask me any specific questions below; I’ll be sure to answer you as best I can.

Last but not least, the formation of Spearhead Books transpired somewhere in this creative mess. Lots of phone calls, Skyping, emails, and tweets were exchanged by who are now the founding members of Spearhead: Christopher & Allan Miller, Wayne Thomas Batson, and yours truly. We prefer to think of ourselves as a post-publisher.

Now off to write that section from the author. ch:

The Future of Book Publishing

where music leaves us

In addition to wondering about the future of the printed book, there’s at least one more pressing question that those interested in the book-world have been and should be asking: what about the future of print publishing?

While there are some similarities here with the music business, they’re not nearly as close as they were in my previous post on the subject. The main reason is that making good music is still rarely a one-man-show. Even for a guy like me who’s been around and mastered [pun intended] almost all facets of the industry, music-making–from initial creative inertia to final product–involves and even requires many talented people to pull off well. Sure, there’s the occasional one-hit-wonder, or guy-with-a-laptop-who-only-uses-samples-to-create-a-project; but to make a meaningful collection of songs up to industry standards, it takes a team.

It also takes a lot of equipment.

Acoustically perfect rooms are still needed, as well as gold-sputtered large-diaphragm microphones, expensive hard disk space, CPU processing, quality monitors, mixing surfaces, mastering programs, not to mention hiring all the musical talent, engineers, producers, and mixing ears. Then you front the money for design, duplication, and distribution. And unlike book signings, which yes, often do include performances of a sort, music must be performed. And that’s a whole other industry.

I think it’s for this reason alone that we haven’t seen the complete demise of record companies. Because someone still needs to coordinate the talent and front the monies and manage the time lines.

True, musical artists can do much on their own. But those that do are still the exception, and usually have a big wallet or are using inventive methods of grass-roots investment to finance projects (like Eric Peter’s last project which proudly displays “The Hopper Tribe” in his liner notes). Larger record companies also have a lot of pull with what gets played and how many shelves a project sees space on. But even that is beginning to change.

I don’t know anyone that buys music based on “record company,” but on what they like. And in our information-accessible generation, connecting the artist with their listeners–both existing and potential–doesn’t really need the record company. They need an internet connection and a list of tour dates.

the lone art

So how, exactly, are music publishing and book publishing different?

Well, writing novels is incredibly simple: an author sits down…and writes.

Granted, most writers I know are a bit strange.

Some, downright weird.

But then again, you’d have to be.

To spend hundreds and hundreds of hours sitting in front of a computer screen staring at lines of information is pretty tedious. More like a computer programmer. And no matter how cool the Matrix made looking at code seem, computer programmers are even weirder than authors.

In a nut shell, it’s this simplicity that makes the publisher obsolete. Technology just helped push the inevitable along.

but the publisher does so much!

So if a record company does all of the stuff I listed above, a publishing company surely does just as much to merit an equal place of prestige.

Right?

I said, right?

What hundreds and now thousands of writers are realizing is no, they don’t.

As I said, writing books is much simpler than making music.

Yes, there are editors. But a good writer truly only needs one good one; often a skilled writer can edit their own work successfully. A handful of “Proofies”–as I call them–help, but they’re usually willing to proof the book for free seeing as how they had the intangible privileged of reading it before anyone else.

Editors often get in the way, too. Traditional publishers always have a way of using their editors to make you fashion the art they think will sell, not what you think is right. Sure, there’s something to be said for market awareness; but critical thinking and a serious eye can tell you just as much as any market analyst would, and having an editor that “gets” you and your art is almost priceless.

Interior design? Exterior design? Why, but of course! After all, no matter how often the quote is used, we actually do judge books by the their covers. And how they’re laid out. But those services, along with editorial services, are quite easy to secure, especially when producing for the growing e-market.

That leaves distribution. Distribution of thick, heavy paper books that are constantly vying for shelf space–the majority of which you’ll never ever see as an author–and cost anywhere from $12-$15 for a consumer to buy.

Which you, the author, gets all of.

Umm. Actually, no. You get about 8% of it. And 14.5% if it’s a digital sale.

So where, exactly, is that other 92% going?

That, my friends, is the million-dollar question, and what authors like me are trying to figure out. And the only logical answer is into a bloated publishing system with high production overhead, over-staffing, heavy distribution costs…

…and does very little marketing for the author.

I can almost justify the first few items, but that last one is the clincher. Where the benefits of big-publisher name recognition, shelf-placement pull, and high-profile advertising prowess should really kick in is in the marketing. The crazy part is I did more self-promotion for the largest Christian publisher (Thomas Nelson) than I did for one of the smallest (Tsaba House). And none of it changed my personal bottom line…except in countless man hours, personal travel expenses, and creative ideas.

The result?

More fans, but less money for my baby’s mouths.

ok, but they’ll still be the filter

Ah yes. Traditional publishing’s last resort.

Now that anyone can publish themselves, who will help you know what’s good and what’s not? Surely the publisher will.

Any publisher that is still thinking this is already dead, they just don’t know it yet. It’s the same mistake “big government” makes. You’re not smart enough to manage your life, so we’ll do it for you, just give us all your money for the greater good.

In the not too distant future, the reader becomes the filter.

If social media has taught us anything, it’s that if one person likes something, they’ll tell all their friends. And if it’s a truly worthy concept, nothing can stop its success. Which means that if success is that apprehendable by the content creator, they have even more incentive to create their best work for their public. Which means you get better books for less money: the author knows their success rises and falls on whether or not you like it, not whether a publisher says it’s good or not, and can drop their prices for you (because the author is still making more on a less expensive self-published book than they are on a far more expensive traditionally published book).

guilds: the future publishers

I believe that in place of publishers will come alliances. Guilds, if you will. Gatherings of like-minded creators and inventors who’s allegiances are bound by willfully aligning themselves with one another. Sharing resources, combining platforms, and blending fans.

The truth is, more came out of the two Fantasy Fiction Tours that Wayne Thomas Batson and I dreamed up in 2007 and 2008 than almost any other book-related venture we’ve done. Pam Schwagerl, CEO of Tsaba House Inc. was also indispensable in her assistance (proof that sometimes smaller is better). The 9 authors that partook in that have benefited to this very day. And it wasn’t publishers doing the heavy lifting: it was the fans of a single author taking a risk on the work of another by mere association.

I believe that the new face of publishing will be self-published authors who combine efforts and resources, link arms through shared branding and emblems, co-occupy websites, and venture out on tour together. Not because they have strong backing, but because their audience is strong enough to trust them and those they create alongside of. ch:

What authors have you learned about and fallen in love with because of their affiliation with a pre-existing reading allegiance you had?

Are you more likely to buy a book because of the publisher or because of a recommendation?

The Future of Print Books

putting it in context

Vinyl.

I have very fond memories of sifting through my parent’s record collection as a boy, and my dad teaching me how to handle the large black discs “only touching the sides” – as if my finger tips had the ability to annihilate the music forever if I slipped and touched the center. Zeppelin. The Who. Peter, Paul & Mary. The Yard Birds. Earth, Wind & Fire. Peter Frampton. Cream. All subject to me touching only the sides.

But vinyl was on its way out (with the strange 8-track obsession quickly averted) and cassettes were in. Of course seeing tape made more sense to me as that’s all I saw in the studio. I watched my dad splice thousands of feet of tape for an album, all whizzing by at 30ips (inches per second). So shrinking a 2″ tape down into a hand-held version was nothing short of miraculous.

Then CDs came along, and the digital age was born. Even though I knew that I was trading true sine-waves for digital bits, there was something sexy about them. That, and I never had to use a pencil to wind the music back in. Sure, there was the whole scratch issue, but that would be solved in the next iteration.

Digital music files.

No tape to unravel, no plastic to scratch, and most of all, instant access and ultimate portability.

Perhaps you’re asking what this has to do with books? But you’re an intelligent audience: you’ve obviously gathered that the example of ingenuity, invention, and marketability played out in the music industry is exactly where the publishing industry is headed. And you’re right. In fact, most of my generation was willing to accept the digital transformation of books long before publishing companies did (and have yet to).

So is that as far as the comparison of music and books goes?

here today, gone tomorrow (or just later today)

If you’re even remotely interested in the book-world, you know publishing companies are scratching and clawing to make up for lost time (which most will never get back), and are being crushed beneath the weight of high overhead as they’ve failed to account for the consumer’s low tolerance of high price points and the author’s ability to take control of their own work – conception to delivery.

Amazon reported that Kindle sales exceeded hard cover sales last July, and just surpassed paperback sales in January. Likewise, digital ebook sales are exploding, with year-to-date percentages moving into the hundreds, and dollars amounts into the tens and hundreds of millions. Trends are changing so fast, numbers are being reported on a weekly basis.

And while traditional publishers are busy trying to push $15.99+ digital book price points to meet the needs of their bloated budgets due to an outdated means of mass production, new entrepreneurs are dropping prices to $1.99 – with others, like authors JA Konrath and Cory Doctorow, giving away certain titles in order to win readers who will be more likely buy the next book.

And it’s working.

Not only are the most affluent, highest spending demographic of consumers excited to ditch the cumbersome tomes in exchange for the sleek e-reading status symbol of their preference, but authors are making more money than they ever dreamed. By themselves. And they deserve it. [I’ll do a raw numbers break-out of my own accounting in a tell-all forthcoming post].

With what once was the trademark term of an author that didn’t have the goods to land a real deal, suddenly “self-publishing” is becoming the method of choice for the new era of writers.

from common to collectible

So print is on its way out and digital is well on its way in. But the question everyone wants to know is, what’s going to happen to books?

Most analysts I’m following say that by the time ebooks reach 25% of the market share (a figure that – according to current trends – will be reached in the third quarter of 2012), the traditional publishing industry will collapse. So does that mean the physical books all readers have a secret (or often times public romance) with will vanish?

My answer: no.

But their function will change. In essence, their purpose.

What was once a means of communicating written content will now become a collectible. And the music industry prophesies this perfectly.

In 2007 and 2008 Jon Foreman released 4 EPs (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer). As I’m a huge Switchfoot fan, and love anything Jon does,  I wanted them right away. So I bought the downloadable digital version of each release as soon as it was available. 3 minutes later I had my iPhone plugged into my car stereo and was jamming to “Equally Skilled.” I actually did end up buying the physical CD version of Fall, but realized it wasn’t that unique in packaging, and I never played it once.

Then the vinyl collectors edition came out.

Signed. Numbered. Limited. Rare. And full of never-before-seen photos that Jon took himself.

And I had to have it. I easily parted with the extra money for it.

Now it’s interesting to note that I haven’t actually played the records. Nor do I necessarily plan to (though I’m not opposed to it). I listen to the music regularly on my iPhone or Mac Book Pro because it’s convenient. But I savor the art on the vinyl collectors set that proudly rests in my bedroom.

And this is the point.

Self-published authors (and publishers that manage to survive; that’s another post) will produce ebooks as the new means of media distribution. It is inevitable. But traditional print books will serve a purpose: the collectible. And with the most recent advents in POD (print on demand) services, running small numbers of a high quality product has never been easier and more accessible. In fact, I dare say printed books will become more sought after, but never more prolific.

The signed, numbered, dated, leather-bound, silver-plated, hand-embossed, wax-sealed, parchment-printed, collectors set, the tangible version of the book that changed your life that you simply cannot live without, that book will always live on. Even as sacrilegious as it may sound, I haven’t touched my favorite physical Bible in over a year, though it sits proudly on the bookshelf beside my bed, signed and dated by my father Peter. Instead, my iPhone and Mac Book Pro have become my sole source of daily Bible reading.

And now I feel vindicated for starting off with a music comparison: books and vinyl really do belong in the same post after all. ch: