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Publish Your Way! BelieversBookServices provides professional publishing services for today's independent author.

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Filtering by Category: Publishing

Good Design Starts on the Spine

andrew mackay

In the image above, you see the reality of physical book sales. Most often, you don't get the benefit of your book being face-out on the shelf. Most of the time, your readers are going to first engage your book based on the spine.

Depressing? A little, especially if you've got a fantastic cover and a sorry spine. Sadly, I see sorry spines all the time.

So, what makes a good spine? Three things:

Clarity

If you can't read the text on the spine of your book, who is it serving? It doesn't matter how much you love that typeface, if it's illegible, it's worse than useless: it's confusing. Fix it. Choose to serve your readers through clarity.

This gets particularly difficult if the spine of your book is tiny. Thin spines are really hard to put text on it. Don't try. You'll be glad you didn't.

Visibility

Contrast, brightness, big, readable type. All of these things help your spine to make an impact across the room. This really dovetails into the clarity point — if it's easy to read, it's good. If it's hard to read, it's hard to sell.

Creativity

I know you were waiting for this one. Creativity matters, even on the spine. Maybe especially on the spine. But, creativity is best when it stays within wise limits. So, a creative integration of the front cover treatment is great. If your background can wrap around attractively, it doesn't just help the visual, it also helps minimize the visibility of variances within the printer's work. Incorporate a logo that represents your brand.

Bottom line: get creative, but remember that clarity and visibility are more important than creativity!

The Time I Wrote The Worst Sentence Ever And Emailed It to Thousands of People

andrew mackay

It took about ten minutes from the time the IndieVoice newsletter went out on Friday. Ten minutes for someone to politely say, "Hey, moron… did you write that sentence?"

As my country preacher father-in-law says, "If it's across the plate, it's a strike, no matter who's throwing it."

In addition to my work here at BelieversPress, I serve our local homeschool community by tutoring a class of seventh graders, one day a week. Every week, we work through math problems on a big whiteboard together.

I have a speech I give to my students each week. It goes something like this: "When we get things wrong in this classroom, we laugh at ourselves. We point out our errors. And then, we redo the problem to show that we've learned from the mistake."

I know a thing or two about learning from mistakes. I think it's important.

In that spirit:

I wrote a stinker of a sentence in the IndieVoice newsletter last week. Adding to the comedy, it was in an article titled the Value of Editing. If I was part of an organization that was into spin, I'd say it was intentional. Let's be honest… it wasn't. It was a goof. A heinous one. It was, as we say in southern West Virginia, "Real Bad."

When you do a thing for a living, you like to think that you're getting good at it. I've spent 12 years working on creating, editing, and improving content. That's a long time. But, as they say, nobody's perfect. On this one, I was far from perfect. I was downright abysmal.

Let's be clear, that sentence was like a bad American Idol audition. Everyone who read it knew it was bad.

Somehow, the bad sentence made it through two rounds of editing. That's even more shocking. Organizationally, our process is normally better than that. It was complicated by the fact that I was running late to our self-imposed deadline, so everyone working on the newsletter was in a little bit of a hurry.

Hurried work is messy work.

It's not universally true, but it's close. When you get in a hurry, mistakes are more likely to creep into your work.

I got in a hurry, and instead of being extra careful about the content for the newsletter, I sent that stinker. It's particularly sad because we have a brand that is all about bringing quality to a field where inattention to detail has ruled for so long.

So, in keeping with my classroom rules, here's that sentence, done over, to prove that I learned from my mistake:

Okay, look: we believe in editing. When we meet an indie author who feels like their books are under-performing, the first question we ask is, "Did you have your book edited?"

See that? It's a far better sentence. Coherent. Makes sense. Easy to read.

What are the lessons in this mistake?

  1. Slow down
    Great content takes time. When you get in a hurry, content that could've been great instead winds up merely adequate if you're lucky. And if you're not lucky, well, you get to write an email like this.

  2. Don't skip steps
    We talk about the value of editors over and over and over again. Seriously. If you ever meet us at a conference, or even just walking down the street, and ask us what we think the key to great content is, we'll tell you it's editing. Why on earth would we rush the process with our own content? Crazy.

  3. When things go wrong, own it
    There's no use acting like it didn't happen. When a mistake gets made, own it. Learn from it. Do better the next time.

Thanks for reading. We really do love helping you publish. As they say on the internet, #LearnFromMyFail

The Value of a Writers Conference

andrew mackay

Writing is a solitary endeavor. I wonder how many times I've written those words? It's so often true. One of the things we hear routinely from new authors is "I don't know how to get good feedback on my writing."

The answer I give almost every time is, "Have you been to a good writers conference yet?"

Here are the things that happen at a good writer's conference:

- You meet writers

C. S. Lewis said "Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…'” I love watching that very thing happen at writer's conferences. You think, "I have to be the only person interested in how faith engages Zombie books." And then you get to a conference and meet 5 other people who love that conversation. It's awesome. It's good for your soul. If nothing else, you'll feel far less solitary after attending a good writers conference.

- You learn to write better

No matter what you're particular area of interest is, you'll learn how to be a better writer. There's so much information at good conferences that you'll likely feel like you're drinking from a fire house. It's great. I mean, if you're serious about writing as a professional, you should be worried about professional development. There's nothing better than a writers conference for just that.

- You interact with publishing professionals

Writers, editors, agents, oh my? Naw, even better -- you'll find out that they're all normal folks. You'll talk to editors, agents, professional, established writers, and you'll learn from them. Even if it's not time to pitch your book yet, learning from the pros will help you to do well when it IS time to pitch your work.

- You make friends beyond just the conference

I'm all about good strategy: when you're at a conference, make sure you pay attention to where people are from. Chances are, if you go to a conference that's somewhat local, you'll find other writers from your neck-of-the-woods. That's a perfect opportunity to connect beyond the conference. You can build long-term friendships that will help you, encourage you, and sharpen you as a writer.

- You get inspired

Even if you're super introverted and make it through a whole writers conference without speaking a word to someone else (Which, by the way, is... I think... impossible), you'll benefit from the sessions. You'll come away inspired to write more and write better. It will be so good for you.

So, if you haven't done it yet, find a good conference near you and schedule some time off, It'll be great for your writing career.

How Much Should I Stress Over My Content?

andrew mackay

Okay, look: we believe in editing. When we meet an indie author who feels like their books are under-performing, the first question we ask is, "Did you have your book edited?"

We believe in editing. It's easy to get your head around the value of a great cover -- if the cover is bad, no one will pick the book up. But editing, what does it do for your readers? Here's how I explain it: an unedited or poorly edited book will almost never get a word-of-mouth recommendation. Good editing is the most effective long-term marketing strategy I've ever met. You can only expect to convince so many people to read your book. But if your book is poorly edited, those people won't ever talk about your book to anyone else.

So, how much should you stress over your content?

The only right answer is a lot. Too much.

Now, there's a caveat that needs to go here: It is possible to get frozen up about your content. It's possible to worry that it'll never be good enough. it's possible to lose your ability to separate yourself from the need for your content to be very good. So, you have to know when to quit.

But you cannot afford to go to market with unedited or poorly edited content. You've got to spend time on making it as good as it can possibly be. How can you do it?

- Hire professionals

We believe in the power of professional editors. An editor is someone whose bread and butter is helping authors create great content. They understand the market, they understand the rules and conventions of the market. And they come alongside and help you be better than you could ever be on your own.

- Crowd Source

I feel like this method is finally starting to get the credit it's due. More and more people are talking about beta readers, or using a group of readers to gather feedback. This can be tremendously beneficial in two areas. First, readers can help you identify "that doesn't make sense," problems in your story. Secondly, they can help you catch the dumb errors you'll overlook when you're reading the same content for the seven-hundredth time. Use your friends! Wait... that sounds wrong.

- Develop great instincts

Self-editing is really hard. In fact, I think it's dangerous when publishing professionals allow authors to think they can effectively edit themselves. You'll never be able to identify ALL your own blind spots. But you can learn to identify more and more of your blind spots. You do this by reading technical books about good writing and good editing. But more importantly, you do it by reading great books and developing an ear for great writing.

How much should you stress over your content? Lots. I promise, the remaining stigma around indie-publishing would completely disappear if every indie author decided to obsess over really great content.

The Quick Start Package

andrew mackay

The world of publishing feels like it's constantly changing. We want to be the kind of company that embraces that. It's easy to find constant change intimidating. But all that scariness is also an opportunity. It's an opportunity to do what we do best—to innovate and create great solutions that serve authors where they have needs.

We've been asked, repeatedly it feels like, about solutions for authors that keep costs to a minimum. We heard you. This is our answer!

The QuickStart package is another opportunity for us to serve you. At its core, it's a package of just the most essential services to get your book available for sale.

It doesn't include some important things: editing, eBook conversion and distribution, or marketing. It also reduces some of the other services: you'll get one cover concept instead of two and we'll use great templates instead of a purely-custom approach to interior formatting.

Of course, you need editing. You need a marketing plan. What we're hearing from authors is that they want to do those things themselves, through beta readers and hard work researching. If you want to launch a book to the market at a low cost, we're here to help. Of course we remain committed to excellence. We just understand that there are multiple ways to get there.

Some things never change: at BelieversPress, you are always the publisher. We always sell books to you at the print cost, never at an inflated price based on retail. We always work to ensure rational, real-world retail prices. And we'll always give you the best information and advice we can to help you succeed.

Check out the QuickStart package here. If you're serious about indie-publishing your book, we'd love to chat. You can get in touch with us here.