Mike Ashley of FirstBooks
Library contacted me before I'd heard of the
company. A real go-getter, Mike wrote to ask
for the names of any of my editorial clients
who might be interested in placing their books
on the internet with FirstBooks. I gave Mike
a list, which included me, and after asking
a lot of questions I decided to go with the
company myself. FirstBooks placed my book
on the web within a few weeks of the time
I submitted my manuscript in the summer of
I liked the way FirstBooks
included the cover I'd commissioned an artist
to paint for my book, and I liked the consideration
given me on the company's site. I paid extra
to obtain materials about registering the
book with the various standard services (copyright,
ISBN, CIP, others) and copies of books on
self-publishing, like Dan Poynter, The
Self-publishing Manual (Santa Barbara:
Para Publishing, 1997), now in its tenth edition;
Tom and Marilyn Ross, The Complete Guide
to Self-Publishing(Cincinnati: Writer's
Digest Books, 1994), in its third edition;
John Kremer, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books
(Fairfield, IA, Open Horizons, 1998),
in its fourth edition; Joe Vitale, Cyber
Writing (New York: Amacom, 1997.
All these books gave helpful
suggestions, although I had already done so
much promotion work on my earlier books and
on my husband's books that not a great deal
was new to me. Kremer and the Rosses direct
their help specifically to self-publishers,
while Poynter also addresses small companies
who publish the work of others. Kremer operates
Open Horizons Publishing in Fairfield, IA,
and Poynter runs Para Publishing in Santa
Barbara, CA, both of which offer materials
and personal consulting on publishing.
The Rosses operate About
Books, Inc., from Buena Vista, CO, and they
do consulting as well as operating a trade
association, Small Publishers Association
of North America. Another source of help in
publishing is The Jenkins Group, Traverse
City, MI, whose head is Jerrold Jenkins, author
of books on small press publishing; he also
operates a trade association, Independent
Publishers Network. Source: Michael Alesko,
FirstBooks did send out some
releases, although the releases gave more
information about FirstBooks than they did
about me. But, in my experience, even commercial
publishers perform only a limited amount of
promotion, and authors really need to do much
of their own, using their special knowledge
of the book's subject for possible tie-ins,
locating clubs that might be interested in
the subject, and thinking of ways to get their
message to the right readers.
Sales of the internet version
of my historical novel, The Sceptre,
were negligible, but they gave the book some
exposure and got me some columnist mentions
Net Plus: Print-on-Demand
Then I discovered Xlibris,
an internet company that not only puts authors'
books on the web, it prints them in hard copy,
too, for very much less than vanity presses
charge because of efficient electronic preparation
and storage of these books.
Remember that FirstBooks
and Xlibris are technically not publishers;
they're distributors of authors' works. The
authors themselves are the publishers. So
because authors of internet books retain the
rights to their work, I didn't have to withdraw
from FirstBooks, or get the permission of
FirstBooks, to use another company as well.
I could retain Xlibris, too. (This situation
doesn't apply to all ebook vendors; if you
choose another one, check the agreement you
sign with that distributor.)
Xlibris uses on-demand printing
and charges about a fifth of what vanity presses
do, although authors still pay for the books
themselves, buying them at a discounted price.
The books that Xlibris produces are indistinguishable
from any of the good-looking paperbacks and
hardcovers you purchase at your corner bookstore,
complete with barcode. Xlibris gives authors
and their books a nice presentation on their
site, complete with an excerpt from the book
Working with Xlibris proved
slower than expected (the company is being
swamped with requests). And I was disappointed
in one editorial policy: contracting all of
the ellipses in the text so that they failed
to show the standard spacing I was used to
editing into my own clients' work. But putting
standard spacing back into these ellipses
might have delayed publication another month,
so I decided to forego that change. The foreign
words in my story that contained diacritical
marks caused some problems, too--one diacritical
mark on the first page of the book is still
wrong--but most of the typos got corrected
when I received paper proofs and worked with
the typographer on the phone.
Also slower than anticipated
is Xlibris fulfillment. The company collects
orders and sends them to its printer once
a week, then has the books printed and delivered
to its own office, where they are checked
before being mailed to buyers. (Occasionally,
the printer puts the wrong jacket on a hardcover.)
Sometimes six weeks elapse between the date
of the order and the delivery date, so I warn
bookstores to order early. And some store
managers balk at the Xlibris policy of giving
bookstores only twenty percent discount instead
of the more usual forty percent.
On the whole, Xlibris gave
me a good experience with internet-company
publishing of hard copies. The book looks
beautiful in both softcover and hardcover.
Of course, you could always
hire Lightning Print, a division of Ingram,
to "print on demand" and ship books
to stores within 48 hours, but to use Ingram's
service you need a minimum of 25 titles.
Edit, Promote and
Xlibris does no editing,
but since I have for more than thirty years
been a professional editor, that policy posed
no problem. Xlibris also performs no promotion
or publicity, but I'm used to doing it myself.
To promote the book I had
thousands of postcards printed and sent to
bookstores I thought would be interested in
my work, using address stickers purchased
from PCS Mailing List Company in Peabody,
MA. The stickers were expensive, and many
addresses proved to be out of date, but I
received enough interest to set up a summer
book-autographing tour of stores that responded
to my cards. I wrote and sent out many promotional
pieces describing the research, the background,
and the story line of my book, and as I collected
endorsements from friends in the publishing
business and reactions of thrilled readers,
I collected and summarized them for promotion
Because the book's main setting
is in Ohio and I am an Ohio author, I was
able to arrange a formal presentation in the
Cleveland Public Library's new auditorium
and other presentations to groups at my two
Cleveland universities. The rest of the action
takes place largely in Austria, where I did
considerable research and interviewing, so
I capitalized on my Austrian contacts. Now
I'm searching for a European publisher to
buy foreign rights.
To keep myself up to date
on current possibilities for promotion, I
subscribe to Book Marketing & Publicity,
a newsletter that suggests journals, media,
and other resources for promoting and publicizing.
It's costly, but it's useful. To keep up with
industry changes I have long subscribed to
Publishers Weekly, and I study the
New York Times Book Review as well
as checking various internet sites that sound
as though they might offer help.
I recommend Internet-plus-hard
copy publishing by a electronic company that
uses on-demand printing.
Ingram Book Company, One
Ingram Blvd., P.O. Box 3006, La Vergne, TN
37086-1986, Ph. 615-793-5000, www.ingrambookgroup.com.
Ingram states that it is "a leading national
wholesaler of trade and professional books."
Baker & Taylor Books,
44 Kirby Avenue, Somerville, NJ 08876-0734,
Ph. 908-722-8000, www.baker-taylor.com. B
& T claims it is "the largest book
wholesaler in the world."
Bookpeople, 7900 Edgewater
Dr., Oakland, CA 94621, Ph. 510-632-4700,
www.bponline.com. Bookpeople is employee-owned
BookWorld Services, 1933
Whitfield Park Loop, Sarasota, FL 34243, Ph.
941-758-8094. www.bookworld.com. BookWorld
says it's "one of the top three American
Independent Publishers Group,
814, N. Franklin Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610,
National Book Network, 4720
Boston Way, #A, Lanham, MD 20706, Ph. 301-459-3366,
www.nbnbooks.com. Specializes in general interest
or trade books. Claims to be "the fastest
growing national book distributor in the United
States" and declares that in Publishers
Marketing Association's 1998 survey, it came
out the highest-rated book distributor in
Partners Book Distributing,
2325 Jarco Road, Holt, MI 48842, Ph. 517-694-3205,
for independent presses.
Quality Books, 1003 West
Pines Road, Oregon, IL 61061, Ph. 800-333-4241.
Small Press Distribution,
1814 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702,
Ph. 510-549-3336, www.spdbooks.org. States
that it handles poetry, innovative fiction,
and "cultural writers." Distributes
to libraries as well as bookstores.
Besides FirstBooks Library
and Xlibris, other internet companies
offer to list, publish, or distribute books
on the internet. Some will merely list the
manuscripts and/or classify them by genre;
others sell or permit free downloading of
all or parts of the listed manuscripts. Technically,
authors who use these services become the
publishers. These companies prepare the work
as a "virtual" book and host a site
where the book can be offered for sale or
sold. Some also publish in hard-copy.
World Wide Weblications,
www.weblications.net. Postings include author
bio, synopsis, writing sample, and author's
email address. Potential readers or conventional
publishers contact author directly.
The Writing Mill, www.writingmill.com.
Posts a 400-word synopsis but offers no writing
samples. Heavy with playwrights' scripts.
Primarily a listing site, a showcase for author
materials available to commercial publishers,
who can download a book for $12.00.
Light Communications, www.light-communications.com/author.
Mainly published and self-published books
categorized by genre, but some unpublished
manuscripts are posted.
Pure Fiction's Electronic
Slush Pile, www.purefiction.com. Excerpts
from selected unpublished manuscripts are
posted, at no cost to the author.
Author's Interface, www.authorsinterface.com.
Restricts queries to agents and editors via
a password. Writers can include lengthy excerpts
here. Requested manuscripts are mailed out.
Some of the 200 titles published have already
been self-published in hard copy.
Lonely Blue Coyote, www.lbcoyote.com.
Writers featured on web pages with bios, photos,
Online Originals, www.onlineoriginals.com.
Selective about what's published. Here's where
the Booker Prize winner appeared.
Hard Shell Word Factory,
www.hardshell.com. Charges no fees at all,
and does some editing. Fairly selective: likes
authors to have some publishing credits. Publish
"quality" and "finished"
work. Ask for "exclusive rights"
to publish and sell in digital format. Offers
25 per cent royalty but only on net earnings.
Boson Books, www.cmonline.com/boson/authors.html.
Currently not accepting manuscripts; has enough.
Buy Books on the Web, www.buybooksontheweb.com.
Besides offering the service of preparing
and presenting books on the web, this company
offers a great deal of helpful technical direction,
so even if you don't select this service you
should look at the site. Performs some promotion
and advertising, and offers 200 printed postcards
A Canadian site, in Victoria, British Columbia.
Emphasizes on-line services and on-demand
publishing. Presents a "talent pool bulletin
board." Some of its services are made
available via software. Sells books for $10.00
Inclusion is restricted to published authors,
and each entry contains a listing of published
works as well as a bio and contact information.
Source: Writers' Journal,
March/April and May/June, 1998.