Spring News: Blog Posts, Events, and More

I’ve been busy with freelance projects since the new year started, including academic papers on everything from forest growth to service marketing. I’ve been taking a class in developmental editing of nonfiction, which is helping me understand how to manage the “big picture” of an edit: Is there too much or too little material? Is it well organized? I’ve also participated in several webinars.

Blog Posts for Authors and Editors

poster advertising hybrid publishing

One thing I love about learning new things is being able to reorganize the material and share it. There are three new posts on my editor blog:

  1. An overview of hybrid publishing, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/what-is-hybrid-publishing/
  2. Basic information about working with legal issues for authors, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/copyright-and-privacy-and-libel-oh-my/
  3. Some tips for working with UK English, http://www.emilyeditorial.com/how-to-deal-with-uk-english/

Upcoming Events

Flyer that says, Is self-publishing right for you, May 20,, 2018 2 PM at the OC main libraryI have three events coming up:

  1. Beginning Kneading Class: I’ll be teaching again at the Asheville Bread Festival on May 5. This year, the Bread Fair will be at the New Belgium Brewery from 10 to 2, with classes in different locations around town. Mine will be from 10 to 11:30 at Living Web Farm. Look for updates and get tickets at http://www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. (Tickets for my class are here.)
  2. Self-Publishing Talk: I’m giving a talk at the library in Hillsborough about self-publishing. It will be an overview of the whole process with a focus on what it would take to do it all yourself. It’s free and open to the public on May 20 from 2 to 4 PM. Learn more (PDF).
  3. Science of Bread Class: I’m teaching a week-long class at the Folk School June 3 to 9. Learn more here: http://emilybuehler.com/classes-events-2/class-at-the-folk-school/ (The link to register is at the bottom.)

Writing News

My fiction manuscript (working title: Intelligence, hashtag: #IntelligenceBook) went off to a developmental editor, Tanya Gold, this month. It’s my first attempt at writing fiction, and while I feel good about some aspects of it, I wasn’t confident that it was the best it could be. I’d taken a class from Tanya and liked her style of working with authors (the class was on how to work with authors!) so I’m excited to hear back from her when she finishes.

people walking in New York City

Walking through Manhattan to the EFA conference in 2016

I’m attending the North Carolina Writer’s Network’s (NCWN’s) spring conference in April. Fifteen years ago, when I first considered writing for other people, I joined NCWN; at the time, they had an office at White Cross, just west of Chapel Hill, and I biked out to use their library. I let my membership lapse, though, because I did not get much value from it. At the time, I was writing Bread Science and trying to find a publisher, and then turning my efforts to self-publishing, which was not much accepted.

Well times have changed! I’ve been to conferences the past two years (the EFA in 2016, AWP in 2017) and looked forward to one this year. When I decided not to travel far, I settled on attending both NCWN conferences. I rejoined the network and realized how far I have come: self-publishing is now mainstream and slowly gaining acceptance in the industry, and I have two self-published books; and I have two full-length fiction manuscripts that I’m ushering through the process of revisions.

I often think of myself as having three careers rolled into one: (1) writing my own books, (2) editing other people’s writing (and sometimes writing for other people as well), and (3) self-publishing my books and sharing the process with others. I’m glad to be involved in all three of these spheres.

figurines of American and British soldiers in 1776

How to Deal with UK English

When I first started editing, I dreaded getting an assignment that specified UK English. (I hadn’t even known there was a different version of English until I became as editor.) I knew the basics, but was sure I would miss something.

I won’t give details here, as there are many websites that do (such as this one, or this one), but a few examples of the differences are the following:

  • Spellings (behavior/behaviour, analyze/analyse)
  • Diction (the hood of a car versus the bonnet of a car)
  • Punctuation (Americans write, “Hello,” while the British write, “Hello”.)

A recent paper that I edited in UK English had just about every “iz” word you could imagine: optimization, minimize, size, decentralize, realize, linearize. Were all of these supposed to change to “is”? I set the paper’s language to UK English, but many of the variants are correct in UK English, if not preferred.

The I made a discovery. The online Cambridge Dictionary has separate tabs for UK English (“English”) and US English (“American”)!

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website

When I looked up “horizon,” I found it was the same in either language. However, when I searched “minimize” and clicked on the English tab I found that while the “iz” spelling is correct in UK English, “UK USUALLY minimise”:

image from computer screen showing a page at a dictionary website with word "minimize"

A few options showed up:

  • Some spellings are always used in one language or the other, in which case the spelling has its own dictionary entry (see behaviour)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, but on is preferred: UK USUALLY (see optimize, minimize)
  • Sometimes either spelling is acceptable, with no preference: UK ALSO (see centralize, minimization)
  • Sometimes one spelling is only preferred at times: FORMAL UK USUALLY (see utilize)

Word "English" with a flag that is half UK and half USI decided that if the “is” version was merely an alternative, not the usual spelling, I would not change it in the paper, but I changed the spellings when the “is” form was preferred.

Having the Cambridge Dictionary as a place to check spellings was reassuring.

random text

Libel, and Copyright, and Privacy, Oh My!

An important step in writing a book, particularly if you’re self-publishing without the guidance of a legal team, is securing permissions. There are three types of material to consider for permissions:

  • any material that might be copyrighted,
  • any material that might infringe on someone’s privacy, and
  • any material that might be considered libel.

judge's gavel atop keyboardEach of these areas is complicated. For example,

  • If you quote an email that someone sent you, the copyright of the material may belong to the person who wrote it.
  • If you take a photo of a sculpture, the sculpture (a work of art) might be copyrighted, and you’d need permission to use the photo, even though you took it.
  • With songs and poems that are relatively short, even a small quote might be too much. The music industry is known for being particularly strict about copyright.
  • If a living person can be identified, even with a name change, you might be infringing on the person’s privacy.
  • A fictional character that is obviously based on a real person, even with a different name, can get you in trouble.
  • In addition to the right to privacy, there is a “right to publicity”; you cannot use a famous person’s name or image to make money without permission.
  • Using “in my opinion” before a negative statement about another person is not enough to protect you from an accusation of libel.

And this is only a sample of the points to consider. The laws about copyright, such as the concept of fair use, can be vague and are often decided in court. Remember that in addition to doing the right thing, you don’t want to get sued, even if you think you’d win.*

Resources

stack of books mentioned in the textI read four books when I self-published Somewhere and Nowhere, the memoir of my cross-country bike trip. While I still hesitated over certain items in my book and what to do with them, I felt more certain that I had considered every problematic item, and was able to make more-educated decisions. The books were these:

  • Copyright and Permissions by Elsa Peterson: This is a quick read that focuses on copyright. If you want to deal with permissions yourself (see more below) it includes guidance, as well as sample letters.
  • Self-publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick: This is also a fairly approachable book. In addition to copyright, privacy, and libel issues, it covers setting up a business, understanding contracts, working with various types of self-publishing services, understanding taxes, and more.
  • The Copyright, Permission, and Libel Handbook by Lloyd Jassin and Steven Schechter: This is a very detailed book about copyright, privacy, and libel and the one I would read if you want to learn the most about all three issues.
  • The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and Tad Crawford: This includes a wide range of information (contracts, taxes, agents, dispute resolution, how to register a copyright), but you can find copyright infringement information in Chapter 5 and privacy and libel information in Chapter 8.

There are also many online articles (like this one), and the US Copyright Office has material online. Writers conferences frequently include a session on copyright or other legal issues, and groups like the Authors Guild sponsor online webinars.

What To Do

words illegal and legal on slips of paper, fingers are choosing legalSo, if you have a manuscript written, what’s your next step?

If you want to use copyrighted material and there’s a lot of it, you might work with a permissions editor, who will hunt down the copyright owners, send permission letters, and pay the necessary fees (using your money, of course) or let you know if a fee seems out of your budget. Note that a permissions editor might not work on material that infringes on privacy or could be libelous.

If you want to handle permissions yourself, go through your manuscript line by line and make a spreadsheet with every possible problem. Don’t skip over passages that seem problem-free, because all kinds of things will pop out that you never thought of as problematic when you wrote them (this might be more true for certain types of nonfiction, like memoir). Even if you suspect it’s not really a problem, include it in the spreadsheet so that you feel like you have not missed anything.

Lego police arrest Lego office man

Don’t let it come to this

Then, solve each problem. Some will be easy to check off your list. For example, maybe you’ve included the title of a book; then you read that titles cannot be copyrighted, and so you check off that item. In some cases, you might decide to seek permission. In others, you might decide to cut material to avoid a problem.

What if you don’t have a budget to pay for permissions, or someone just says “No”? Then it is time to rewrite. I know this might seem like a tragedy at first. I struggled with the simple task of changing people’s names, thinking, “It won’t be true anymore!” But then I realized that readers won’t know; they won’t be thinking about whether or not the names are accurate, and ultimately, it won’t affect their experience with my book.

woman standing with two bikes at the border of Wyoming, with a sign overhead

Mary at the Wyoming border on the bike trip

In some cases, the rewrites made the book better. For example, while on the bike trip, Mary and I often sang to pass the time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” became a favorite because of the difficulty of biking into the wind. I was pretty sure I could not afford permission to use the lyrics, however. Then I realized that I hadn’t actually known the lyrics when biking—I’d been making them up. It was only once I got home that I searched online and found them, and pasted them into my manuscript. So I changed the passage to have me singing, “How, are the times, of a man, um-de-ahhh, … before he’s asleep on the sand? How many laaa, da-da, white dog ale, before it’s for contraband?” This version actually better captured what happened, and didn’t require permission to use. In another instance, I had to remove a scene to protect someone’s privacy, but the scene was important. I ended up writing a new scene, and as I wrote it, I felt the spirit of the book coming through, and really felt okay about making the change.


Issues of copyright, privacy, and libel can be intimidating. It’s tempting to keep your head in the sand and ignore them. But you will feel better if you learn about them and try to do things right.

* It just seems like I should have a disclaimer on this post, saying I’m not a lawyer and that this isn’t legal advice. I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.

hands holding book

What Is Hybrid Publishing?

hands holding book, with text that reads "Hybrid: something heterogeneous in origin or composition"Hybrid publishing is a new model of publishing in which an author works with a publishing company but pays to publish in exchange for higher royalties. Some in the publishing industry disregard this new category because the idea of paying to publish suggests (to them) poor quality, like the books that vanity presses produced years ago. However, hybrid publishing is not vanity publishing. The hybrid press vets books before agreeing to publish them and offers active distribution.

The new model is a win-win: presses can afford to put out more books, contributing their knowledge and clout, and authors have additional venues to approach and the opportunity to make larger royalties—over 50 percent, compared with about 10 percent with traditional publishers.

Unfortunately, the publishing world is cluttered with scam artists, and the various publishing models that now exist create confusion and enable these scammers to take advantage of authors. Many companies have started using the word “hybrid” since hybrid publishing has gained some acceptance.

Standards for Hybrid Publishers

To help legitimate hybrid presses and authors continue to connect, this month the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) announced a set of criteria for hybrid publishers. If you’re an author interested in working with a hybrid publisher, the criteria can help you filter your options.

poster that says "When is a hybrid publisher not a hybrid publisher?" with stack of booksHere’s a summary of the criteria:

  1. A hybrid publisher has a mission and a vision, and doesn’t just publish a mishmash of books.
  2. A hybrid publisher vets submissions, rather than publishing anything it can.
  3. A hybrid publisher has a knowledgeable person or team producing books under the publisher’s imprint, with the publisher’s ISBNs.
  4. A hybrid publisher’s books meet industry quality standards; readers should not be able to tell them apart from traditionally published books.
  5. A hybrid publisher uses approved editors and designers to produce professional books.
  6. A hybrid publisher manages a variety of rights for the book (print, digital, and possibly others like audio and foreign-language) or negotiates with authors who want to keep some rights.
  7. A hybrid publisher provides distribution beyond simply making the book available online. This can involve sales reps who actively market the book or targeted outreach, and also involves listing the book with wholesalers. The publisher should have a marketing strategy for each book and assist the author in carrying it out.
  8. A hybrid publisher should have several books that show respectable sales.
  9. A hybrid publisher pays higher royalties than is standard in the industry, usually greater than 50 percent of net on both print and digital books.

You can view the IBPA’s full criteria here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/hybridpublisher(click on the “expanded details here” link to see the detailed version).

Tips for Authors

In a webinar last month, the IBPA’s Brooke Warner shared these tips for authors investigating hybrid publishers:

  • poster with woman reading, says "Does your hybrid publishing company pass the test?"Ask about the criteria listed above: does the publisher vet submissions, partner with authors on marketing, and have some form of active distribution?
  • Get physical copies of books from the publisher, to make sure they look and feel like “normal” books
  • Demand transparency: ask about any additional costs beyond what’s covered in the publishing package and about royalty rates
  • Talk to the publisher’s authors; asking for referrals is normal, so it’s a warning sign if the publisher won’t share author names
  • Ask if the publisher qualifies for traditional reviews; some companies still suffer from the stigma of being an author-subsidized press
  • Check the publisher’s website to see if it looks professional
  • See what kind of response you get after contacting the publisher, and trust your instincts if the response seems lacking

She also shared these best practices for authors considering hybrid publishing in general:

  • Educate yourself about publishing and the hybrid experience
  • Read about different hybrid models and see if one press’s model feels better than others
  • Only approach a hybrid publisher if you are ready to go the hybrid route—don’t do it while your agent is still trying to sell your book to traditional publishers
  • Before approaching, consider your publicity ideas; most hybrid contracts do not include publicity

Hybrid publishing is an exciting new option for today’s authors, and will contribute more good books to the world!


(Note: a hybrid author is someone who publishes traditionally and non-traditionally and is not related to a hybrid publisher.)

News for the New Year: Upcoming Books, Talks, and More

I started the new year with some prioritizing so I could focus on one major project at a time.

What I’m working on

First I finished up the draft of my new fiction manuscript (working title: Intelligence), which will go to developmental editor Tanya Gold in March. I’m excited to get Tanya’s feedback on the manuscript, and also (from an editor perspective) to see the developmental editing process in action. Tanya reminded me to think about marketing Intelligence, even though it’s far from publication. It’s hard to know what’s going to change, but I’m hoping to stick with the title so I’m adopting the hashtag #IntelligenceBook for future use on Twitter.

Flyer that says, Is self-publishing right for you, May 20,, 2018 2 PM at the OC main libraryMy current priority is learning everything I can about today’s self-publishing, in preparation for a talk I scheduled at the Orange County Public Library (Hillsborough) on May 20 at 2 PM. Last year I wrote a booklet, published by the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), about “do-it-yourself self-publishing,” which is my area of expertise. However, even an author-publisher who wants to do the entire process herself can benefit from some of the services now available. So I have been taking webinars and reading about distribution, e-books, and more to broaden my knowledge of self-publishing. The EFA booklet is available as an e-book here, and I’ve been told a print version is coming.

New blog posts

a diagram showing various distribution paths for e-booksThese new posts are on my blog for authors, editors, and author-publishers:

Book Distribution for Self-Publishers
http://www.emilyeditorial.com/book-distribution-for-self-publishers/

How to Get the Most Out of AWP
http://www.emilyeditorial.com/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-awp/

Authentic Marketing
http://www.emilyeditorial.com/authentic-marketing/

A question during my last bread class caused me to investigate the difference (or lack of) between instant yeast and RapidRise yeast: What Is RapidRise Yeast?
http://foodchemblog.com/2018/01/what-is-rapidrise-yeast/

The second of my articles for The Kitchn has been posted: Debunking the 10 Myths of Sourdough
https://www.thekitchn.com/debunking-the-10-myths-of-sourdough-bread-250222

And finally, here is my blog post about my visit to the Folk School last fall: Back in Time at the Folk School, and Biltmore
https://blog.folkschool.org/2017/12/06/back-time-folk-school-biltmore/

Other news and upcoming events

I’ve written discussion questions for Somewhere and Nowhere. If your book club reads memoir or outdoor adventure, I’d love to join you for an informal chat about the book. Discussion questions and other information are posted here: http://www.twobluebooks.com/book-clubs/

The Modernist Breadcrumbs podcast is a series of podcasts about bread. I was interviewed for it, so there are clips of me talking (!) within some of the episodes (although I have not yet figured out which ones). You can hear the episodes here: http://heritageradionetwork.org/tag/bread/

The Asheville Bread Festival is scheduled for May 5-6, although a location and other information is not yet available. Save the date! http://www.ashevillebreadfestival.com

I’m teaching the Science of Bread at the Folk School in June. Learn more and register here: http://emilybuehler.com/classes-events-2/ (I’ll be teaching there again in January and May of 2019.)

three people on bicycles with bags, biking along the coast

Authentic Marketing

cartoon person sitting on book with sun overhead, she is thinkingWhen my first book, Bread Science, came out in 2006, I had a list of ideas on marketing from a guidebook I had read about self-publishing. I made a sell sheet, sent it to bookstores, and got no response. I tried to schedule readings at my local bookstores, also without much luck. But somehow the book started selling, and has sold steadily ever since. I attributed this to luck (meeting Peter Reinhart) and timing (artisan bakeries and home baking were about to blossom) and the fact that there is no other convenient place to get the information I included.

When my second book, Somewhere and Nowhere, came out last year, I did not expect it to sell like Bread Science. I had a revised list of ideas to try: scheduling events not in bookstores but in outdoor supply stores, maybe contact the local radio station. It was hard to follow through, and so I pushed the work aside.

A conversation last weekend led me to realize some things.

person on dirt bike jumping off small cliff

Not authentic: this is not my kind of biking!

My involvement in communities that relate to bread aids sales of Bread Science. I teach bread classes, attend science events with my bread table, and network with bakers. I participated in the (now defunct) #breadchat on Twitter. These methods of marketing came easily because they were authentic—I would have participated with or without a book to sell.

In contrast, I’m not part of communities that include target readers of a book about self-discovery on a cross-country bicycle trip. I’ve always preferred to ride solo, not in a pack. I’m not part of a travel company community; my riding partner and I actually rejected the idea of going with a company and were thankful we had. And self-improvement has always been something I work on alone or by talking with a friend (or, at times, a therapist).

I’ve refocused my marketing plan for Somewhere and Nowhere with these two ideas:

  1. I can authentically become part of communities or groups that contain potential readers.
  2. It’s okay if the book gains readers slowly.
three people on bicycles with bags, biking along the coast

Authentic: this is more like it!

This makes me feel a lot better because I’m more comfortable when I am being authentic. It removes the pressure of trying to sell the book, and makes me feel braver about approaching others with it. It also ties in with an idea I heard recently, that for self-publishers, building an author brand is the route to success, and sales build over time. I don’t need immediate promotion of one title, with a six-month cutoff for success, as is common in the traditional publishing industry.

My first idea is to write a list of discussion questions for the book and then approach the local library’s outdoor book club. I could attend the book club if they decide to read my book, and interact with the readers. I’m also going to follow up on my idea to approach bloggers who review books or discuss travel or bicycling. This was on my original marketing idea list, but I feel more comfortable about it now.

people onstage during a conference session

How to Get the Most Out of AWP (updated)

Note: A version of this post was originally posted in February 2017.

In early 2017, I attended the AWP (American Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Washington, DC. It was my first time at AWP, which was an overwhelming affair: six sessions each day with up to 35 choices, a monstrous book fair, evening meet-ups, and events throughout the city.

Day One: Sessions

view inside the convention center

Inside the mammoth DC convention center

The first day, I attended all six sessions, each of which included a panel of four or five experts. The morning sessions were filled with practical information about how to land an agent, what it’s like to have a book deal, what residencies are looking for in a writer, and how to give and receive feedback effectively. The afternoon sessions were less helpful: the panelists read essays they’d written or excerpts from their books, or told personal stories. This was less interesting to me, or maybe I was just exhausted from the day’s nonstop activity.

While I gathered lots of information, I didn’t speak to a single person all day. The conference format, with only 15 minutes between sessions, made it hard. After each session, people would line up to speak to the panelists, who often included published authors, agents, editors at presses, and bookstore owners. While I would have welcomed an interaction, I didn’t have anything to pitch or a clear goal, so I didn’t join these lines.

Day Two: Book Fair

view from the convention center

The view from my table in the book fair’s cafe area

The next morning, on my commute into the city, I met a writer on the metro who’d spent all of her conference time so far navigating the book fair, pitching her book to presses she had selected ahead of time. This surprised me; I’d thought the presses were only there to sell books. I resolved to spend more time in the book fair that day.

At first, it was hard: my natural aversion to talking to people, particularly people trying to sell me something, kicked in. Thankfully, I’d been tasked with bringing home pencils for my family, so I forced myself to talk to anyone who had pencils at the table. This led to some pleasant and interesting conversations.

I gradually came to understand the types of vendors in the book fair:

  • Small presses selling books and, apparently, looking for authors
  • Literary magazines selling subscriptions and looking for submissions
  • MFA programs, which include low-residency options
  • Residency programs, which include competitive programs that are sometimes free to attend, and programs that anyone can attend for a fee
  • Other: Groups for writers, groups of editors looking for writers, a service to help writers submit to literary magazines, and more
Emma Straub and Ann Patchett onstage during their event

Emma and Ann onstage with a moderator

Note that these vendors were not organized into sections, and there were hundreds of them. I walked up and down each aisle looking at all of them, but had I had a goal, targeting specific vendors ahead of time would have made sense.

I also attended “a conversation with Emma Straub and Ann Patchett,” which was delightful. Both women are successful writers, and they talked about their lives, how they became writers, and which 2017 books they are looking forward to.

Observations

The conference seemed very academic: some sessions had super-specific titles or focused on teaching writing, there was a definite trend toward writers attending formal programs, and the assumption seemed to be that we writers were all writing literary works. I had hoped to meet a romance novel publisher but didn’t see a single mention of romance!

I also noticed a dearth of information about self-publishing. This struck me because I’d heard panelists (including successfully published authors) talk about the disappointments of book deals, the number of good books that don’t get published, the luck involved in successfully publishing, and the inability to live off of one’s writing royalties, even as a successful author. On the third day, I encountered outright hostility toward self-publishers in one panel, where a bookstore owner who won’t work with self-publishers made the assumption that people self-publish only because they’ve failed to publish traditionally. I was happy to find some booths in the book fair, such as the Authors Guild, that supported self-publishing.

Takeaways

Attending the conference helped me see its possibilities, and I hope to go again. To get the most out of it, I will plan ahead: I’ll identify goals of attending and who I’d like to talk to. I might wait until I have a manuscript to pitch to presses, and then research the presses that are attending to find the ones that interest me. The book fair would be an invaluable resource if I were interested in attending a writing program or residency.

Recognizing how overwhelming the conference is, I’ll choose which sessions and speakers interest me (subject to change), but not try to attend every session, using the breaks to peruse the book fair. I’ll make sure I plan time to network at vendor booths. I’ll also try to find somewhere to stay that doesn’t include a long, exhausting commute. This might help me attend some of the after-hours activities.

And I will continue to hope that the AWP organizers will recognize the validity of self-publishing and begin providing resources to authors to help them self-publish effectively.

You can read about upcoming conferences here: https://www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/

tall shelves in warehouse

Book Distribution for Self-Publishers

What is distribution? For a self-publisher (or as they are now sometimes called, author-publisher), distribution can be the most confusing part of publishing. This is because the term has various meanings. In general, it refers to the means by which books go from the publisher to the retailer (e.g., a bookstore), who then sells them to readers.

Before self-publishing became so popular, the distribution system worked a certain way and was intertwined with publishing houses. Some publishing houses had their own distributors and some used outside distributors. Among these traditional distribution methods, some are now technically available to author-publishers, but a large part of the system is filled by publishing houses, which makes these methods in practice fairly unaccessible to author-publishers. There are new methods of reaching retailers that also fall under distribution and are accessible to author-publishers. There are also publishing services that include some form of distribution in their service packages, which further complicates the picture. The addition of e-books and e-book distribution makes the picture even more confusing.

As an author-publisher, I’ve sold print books directly to readers (i.e., no distributor) via my website and the Amazon Marketplace, and used a few e-book distribution methods. I’ve read about other methods available to author-publishers. I have no first-hand knowledge of the more traditional distribution methods but learned about them in a recent webinar presented by Angela Bole of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).

I’ve attempted to list the methods here. If you know of something I’ve left out, please share it in the comments.

Print Book Distribution

There are now three methods of printing books: offset printing, digital printing, and print-on-demand (POD). Offset printing is the long-standing method and makes sense for large print runs (~1000 books or more). Digital enables small print runs at reasonable prices. POD uses digital technology to print books one at a time, as they are ordered; note that with POD, books usually go directly from the printer to the reader. The diagram below includes the distribution methods that are most relevant to new author-publishers, with additional methods described in the text only.

flow chart attempting to show the distribution of print books

 

  • Distribution without a distributor (Author 3 in the diagram above): The author-publisher pays to print a bunch of books, either using offset or digital printing. She sells them from her website and mails books when orders come in. She might visit local or relevant bookshops and ask them to carry the book, offering a wholesale discount. If the book sells well, the bookseller might want to order more, but because there is no distributor, the book is not “in the system” to easily reorder; the author might have to check back to keep the bookstore ordering. The author can sell on Amazon (a retailer, not a distributor) using the Amazon Marketplace; again this involves the author mailing the books when orders arrive. With this method, the author keeps most or all of the profit.
  • Distribution with POD companies (Author 2 in the diagram): The author-publisher lists the book with one or more POD companies; the author sets a wholesale discount as if the POD company is a bookstore. When someone (a reader via an online retailer or a physical retail store) orders a book, the company prints and ships it; they take their cut, but there is no fee for acting as a distributor. The two biggest companies are CreateSpace and IngramSpark, and there are many articles comparing the two. As of 2017, best practice (because of the fees charged) was to use CreateSpace to list the book online at Amazon, and to use IngramSpark to list the book everywhere else.
  • Distribution with POD companies via a publishing service (Author 1 in the diagram): The publishing service takes care of getting the manuscript to the POD companies; usually an author would only use this route if he’s also buying additional services, such as design and editing. Start by searching “full-service publishing providers” online; read not only directories but also articles that rate and review the companies. There are good and bad publishing services out there; be sure to read reviews before signing up to work with one.
  • Traditional, passive distribution: The publisher uses a distributor (such as Ingram, the biggest, or Baker and Taylor) to handle billing and shipping, but there is no sales team pitching the book to retailers. The distributor simply lists the book as available and stores copies. The agreement should be nonexclusive—the publisher can sell the book elsewhere. There is an application process; the author-publisher must have significant sales and might be required to offer a certain discount, accept returns, pay a fee, and more. This only makes sense for books that are selling thousands of copies. The company is sometimes called a wholesaler rather than a distributor.
  • Traditional, passive distribution with Amazon (for sale on Amazon only): Amazon offers several distribution services that authors can pay to use, that do not seem to have much of an application process. However, the author pays fees, including storage fees with some services, so if the book does not sell, the process could be costly. Here is a summary of Amazon’s services: (1) With Amazon Advantage, Amazon is the seller, orders books when needed, and sets the price. They will drop your book if it does not sell. (2) With Fulfillment by Amazon, you are the seller but Amazon stores and ships books, which are eligible for Amazon customer services. (3) With the Amazon Marketplace, you are the seller and also ship the books as they sell. The professional account has a monthly fee, while the individual account has a fee per item sold. (This third service does not really count as distribution.)
  • Traditional, active distribution: The publisher has an exclusive agreement with a distributor, who is the only one who can sell the book to retailers. The distributor handles billing and shipping and also has a sales team that actively tries to sell the book. Many distributors will not work with author-publishers, although this is changing, but there must be several books and significant sales, as well as other qualities like the publisher’s perceived longevity and prominence in the marketplace.

Note that with a traditional distributor, the author and/or publisher only receives a small fraction of the sales price. Author-publishers should be clear about which type of distribution they are receiving—they often think there will be active selling when really they are working with a passive distributor. There is a list of distributors at the IBPA website, here: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/distributors (these distributors have not been vetted).

Some of the traditional distribution companies mentioned above also handle e-books; if you work with one of those companies, make sure you understand the agreement and what is included (i.e., do you retain the e-book rights?).

E-book Distribution

The main decision of publishing an e-book is whether to work directly with each retailer (and keep more of the profit) or to use a distributor (and have less work, plus the ability to reach additional markets) or to use a mix of both. If you choose to work directly with retailers, remember that any change to your e-book will need to be made at each retailer; you might start with one and see how it goes before uploading to the rest. The methods listed below are the most common for an author-publisher.

  • Distribution without a distributor (Author 3 in the diagram below): The author creates e-book files and sells them directly to buyers. Note one complication with this situation: As the seller, the author could email the e-book to the buyer, but the files are often large and buyers expect to download an e-book as soon as they buy it. Creating a system where the buyer is taken to a webpage to download the e-book requires some technical know-how; there are also security issues to consider. Thus, it is easier to use an intermediary to deliver the book. These intermediaries are called “digital distributors” and they take a cut of the profit, but I still consider using them as “selling direct to buyers” and the cut is smaller than that taken elsewhere. I use Gumroad.
  • Distribution via single-channel distributors: Single-channel distributors enable an author to sell his book at one online retailer; for example, Kindle Direct Publishing enables e-book sales on Amazon. These distributors are “self-serve” and straightforward to use; simply follow the instructions for formatting and converting the document to an e-book and upload, and the e-book will appear for sale at the retailer’s site. Authors can access these distributors themselves (Authors 2 and 3 in the diagram below) or with a distribution service (Authors 1 and 2 in the diagram).
  • Distribution via a distribution service (Authors 1 and 2 in the diagram): A distribution service publishes an author’s e-book at whichever retailers she chooses, and takes a cut of the sales. Currently the most popular distribution services are Smashwords and Draft2Digital. There are many reviews comparing them, so I won’t get into that here. Distribution services usually have their own storefront, meaning that they’ll sell your e-book to readers and take a cut but there won’t be an additional cut taken by another retailer, like Amazon; however, sales from these storefronts are not typically large.

Another decision is whether to publish exclusively with Amazon KDP Select (which offers promotional advantages) or with as many retailers as possible. If your target readers are using Kindle Unlimited, publishing exclusively with Amazon makes sense. To find out, look at the top books in your category on Amazon and see if these books are available in Kindle Unlimited.

Note: Bookbaby is sometimes listed as a distributor. Bookbaby’s business model is different: authors pay up front for services, then keep all the money from sales. Bookbaby might more accurately be described as a publishing service provider.

flow chart attempting to show the distribution of ebooks

 

What’s going on with these e-book authors?

  1. Author 1 is taking the simple route: using a distribution service to handle all e-book sales. The service will convert the manuscript to an e-book and upload it at all the retailers’ websites. Either the service will cost money to use, or the service will take a cut of sales. The retailer (e.g., Amazon) will also take a cut.
  2. Author 2 is uploading the book directly to Amazon, the biggest e-book retailer. This way, only Amazon will take a cut of sales of e-books sold on Amazon. To reach the other numerous e-book retailers, the author uses a distribution service.
  3. Author 3 is selling e-books directly from her website. She is also selling them at Amazon and other select online retailers; unless she is so famous that people will seek out her e-book on her website, using other retailers is smart because many more readers will find the book. Author 3 might try to sell with all the other retailers, but there are many, and some do not accept e-books from author-publishers; she might use a distribution service to reach only those other retailers (this is not show on the diagram).

I hope this post clears up any confusion about book distribution. Of course, the situation is constantly changing, with new services appearing and old institutions gradually accepting the legitimacy of self-publishing. New paths might open for author-publishers any day!

metal type laid out to print

How to Reduce the Word Count

This week, I edited a paper that had a word limit of 8000. When I received it, the paper had 8905 words. The client asked me to cut as much as possible and to suggest sections that might be reduced. I was determined to return the paper with less than 8000 words—making writing more concise is one of my favorite things to do!

old fashioned computer keysThere were many ways I reduced the word count to 7964. When I’d finished, not only was the word count below the limit, but also the paper was much easier to read. While we hope papers are published for their academic merit, being readable can’t hurt.

Here are some of the ways I reduced the word count. To protect the author’s confidentiality, I’ll invent a paper topic: Let’s pretend the paper studied the effect of growing multiple varieties of pumpkin on farm profits in the fall season.


Replace groups of words with a better word

  • “growing large amounts of pumpkins” → “growing many pumpkins”
  • “in the farm environment” → “in farming” or “on the farm”
  • “the pumpkins appearing in the photos” → “the pumpkins pictured”

Remove lengthy introductions

  • “As can be illustrated with the color of pumpkins, there are many options” → “As seen with the color of pumpkins, there are many options” or possibly “Consider the color of pumpkins: there are many options”

Rearrange “of” phrases if possible

  • “the color of pumpkins” → “pumpkin color”
  • “the use of hoses” → “hose use”

Remove “in order” from “in order to”

Remove “furthermore,” “additionally,” “moreover,” and other such words; one or two might aid readability, but they are often overused—not every item in a paragraph needs such an introduction

Replace long noun-filled phrases with a verb

  • “pumpkins are the possessors of nutrients” → “pumpkins possess nutrients”
  • “pumpkin color has an impact on sales” → “pumpkin color impacts sales”
  • “our hypothesis suggests that” → “we hypothesize that”
  • “to obtain a better understanding of the colors” → “to better understand the colors”

Remove passive voice, which often adds words

  • “Increased pumpkin growth has been seen by farmers” → “Farmers have seen increased pumpkin growth”
  • “Similar results were found by Smith et al.” → “Smith et al. found similar results”
  • “Farming has come to be regarded as” → “Many now regard farming as”

Remove use of “there”

  • “There has been increased use of drip irrigation” → “Use of drip irrigation has increased” or “Drip irrigating has become more common”

Remove unnecessary references to studies: it’s not necessary to preface every intention or result with a reference to the current study or other studies; the reader will assume results are yours or others’, depending on the location in the paper (i.e., a section about the current study versus a section about the literature)

  • “It was found that orange pumpkins are most popular” → “Orange pumpkins are most popular”
  • “Growing a variety of vegetables has been found to significantly help farm profits, as shown in Table 1” → “Growing a variety of vegetables significantly helps farm profits (see Table 1)”

Own your results: if you found a result, you can state that

  • “The current study aims to further expand our knowledge of” → “This study expands our knowledge of”

But, don’t repeat the importance of your results ad nauseam

  • “Another important result is the benefit of displaying large pumpkins on the farm” → “Another result is the benefit of displaying large pumpkins on the farm” or better, “Displaying large pumpkins benefits the farm”
  • “It significantly helps farm profits” might become “It helps farm profits” if nearby data shows that the difference is significant and if the significance is discussed elsewhere
  • Sentences such as “our important results will be of great benefit to the farming industry” can often be removed—the data will illustrate this point to the reader, and trying to draw additional attention to it comes across as phony

Don’t describe what the reader can see for himself: if you list items, you don’t need to describe the number of items to the reader

  • “A handful of studies have looked at pumpkin color (Jones, 2013; Smith, 2017)” → “Studies have looked at pumpkin color (Jones, 2013; Smith, 2017)”

Combine sentences

  • “Recent studies have demonstrated that orange pumpkins are more popular. This effect was seen at farmers markets but not in grocery stores.” → “Recent studies have demonstrated that orange pumpkins are more popular at farmers markets but not in grocery stores.”
  • “We examined several factors. These include color, size, and shape” → ““We examined several factors, including color, size, and shape” or better, “We examined several factors: color, size, and shape”

Avoid repeating a lengthy phrase throughout the paper, simply because it was needed in the introduction and conclusions. For example, if the study examined the effect of growing other varieties of decorative winter vegetable in addition to pumpkins, such as gourds, squashes, and corn stalks, you don’t have to list these other varieties, such as gourds, squashes, and corn stalks, every time you mention them. You can simply write “other varieties of decorative winter vegetable” or even “other varieties” after the first one or two mentions of the list.

Avoid repeating the obvious. If your study looks at growing pumpkins on farms, you will let the reader know that. But you don’t have to repeat “growing pumpkins on farms” throughout the paper. Once the reader knows that you studied growing pumpkins on farms, you can reduce the phrase to “growing pumpkins.”


Authors can reduce word count using these tips, or hire an editor to do it. Ask specifically for the editor to make the writing more concise. While I prefer this type of writing, I also respect the author’s voice and might not have made as many cuts without the directive to shorten the paper.

colorful hashtag symbols

Understanding Hashtags

At one of my jobs, they told me to Use More Hashtags! I know this might come naturally to some folks, but I began using social media later in life and decided to research a bit. I read a lot of articles that repeated each other, but the information organized in my head in a different way. Here’s how I see hashtags.

Hashtags in General

The general advice can be summed up as follows:

  • Keep hashtags short, memorable, unique, relevant, and specific
  • Don’t overdo hashtag use
  • Use hashtags to add to a conversations (e.g., don’t use #NationalCoffeeDay just because it is National Coffee Day if you’re not writing something relevant to #NationalCoffeeDay)
  • Don’t use spam hashtags (e.g., don’t use #NationalCoffeeDay for a random photo of your cat, just to get viewers to see your post on National Coffee Day)

I found this advice for using hashtags on specific platforms:

  • Twitter: Hashtags are used to categorize posts or to focus a conversation; one or two per post is best
  • Facebook: Hashtags do not boost engagement and might even hurt it; use one or two at most, but maybe none
  • Instagram: Hashtags are used to describe the photo and to build community, and should be unique and detailed; some say to use eleven or more, while others say five or six maximizes engagement

Branded versus Unbranded

An area of confusion among my coworkers was what kind of hashtags to use. Should the hashtags contain our company name (i.e., branded), to stay unique to our events? Or should they be general hashtags (i.e., unbranded) that others might already use, resulting in more people finding us? The confusion resulted from confusion about the goals of using hashtags.

Branded hashtags are used for the following:

  • Group together viewer-generated content, posts about a campaign, or contest entries
  • Raise awareness of a campaign
  • Organize posts relevant to a certain topic
  • Drive participation and engagement within your community (for a local business, this would be the local community)

Unbranded hashtags have the following characteristics:

  • You can use them to join a trend
  • You can get people to notice you, thus increasing participation and engagement from newcomers to your community
  • They are usually global but can be local (e.g., #firstworldproblems versus #carrboroproblems)
  • You should use hashtags that fit your brand
  • You should make sure you understand the hashtag before using it (e.g., #instabuns is about bunnies, not bread buns)
  • You should use the hashtag only to add to the ongoing conversation, to avoid looking like a spammer

hands holding smartphone with laptop nearbyA key point to me was the global versus local nature of unbranded and branded hashtags, respectively. It might benefit a nationwide company to use an unbranded hashtag and have people all over the world discover the company. As a small business without online sales, we would do better to engage with people living nearby who might come into our store.

So, we would create our own, clever, branded hashtags to have an official hashtag for each event; use them on our posts; and include them on event banners and materials to encourage others to use them. On Instagram, where there is enough space, we could use both the official branded hashtag and other unbranded hashtags; it wouldn’t hurt to have engagement from people who might never visit our store. (As a final note, any engagement on Facebook at the moment helps a post gain traction, but since hashtag use doesn’t help on Facebook, and might even hurt engagement rates, it’s a moot point. As far as I know, engagement on other platforms does not increase a post’s visibility.)