Category Archives: Book marketing

Event Review – Breaking the Code: from published to best-selling author

Breaking the Code: from published to best-selling author

Last weekend, Les Zig and I were part of this two-day festival held at the Belgian Beer Café at Southbank in Melbourne. The venue was very apt for writerly activity and the program was jam-packed with great topics for anyone wanting to learn about writing and publishing.

Best-selling author is the thing we are all chasing. Or is it? Simply being published could be what many authors would be happy with and that was the topic of many of the discussions at Breaking the Code last weekend.

The brain-child of Mat Clarke and Suraya Dewing, Breaking the Code was a mammoth task. It’s hard to pull off a program like this for the first time. Of course, there were some teething problems and the venue wasn’t perfect (aside from the beer) but overall, I think it was a success.

Of course, our session From Writer to Reader was well received because we were giving an overview of the writing to publishing process. We always aim to educate people on the pitfalls, not because we want to depress people but because we want them to be well armed with knowledge to prevent wasted time and money. There were great questions from the audience and a real attitude for sharing ideas and knowledge in the room.

There were two standout sessions that I think really gave a great perspective on promoting your book. The first was a session with Clare Dea, author of The One Breast Goddess. Clare is a specialist in speaking, so this enhanced her presentation but her overarching message was to be authentic. Own your story. When you think about this in terms of your book you might be totally confused. ‘Of course, I’ll “own” my story because I wrote it!’ But this isn’t what she’s talking about. Clare means that when it comes to promoting your book, you are the brand. This means that you don’t offer your book out to the reader and think that it’s so great that the writing will do the work of getting the book to that elusive best-seller status.

A book isn’t a book until someone reads it. So while you MUST make sure it’s well written, and that the publishing produces a great product, that is only the start of the journey. You need to then become a person who is willing to get in front of people and “own” who you are and tell everyone about your book.

The other stand out for me was Ander Louis from Up and Up Media. Andrew liked to compare the music industry to publishing. There were two things that Andrew said that really resonated with me. One was that it’s cool to call yourself an indie publisher rather than self-publisher (just like in the music industry, it’s cool to call yourself an indie musician).  And just like in the music industry, as an indie artist, it takes time to gather a following. You have to do the local pubs before you make it to bigger venues. Translating this to books is helpful in looking at ways to get in front of readers.

There was a wealth of knowledge in the room at Breaking the Code and I came away with some new things to try. I hope they run it again next year. Like anything, it takes a few years to get a following and this format is no exception.

Blaise the book chick.

Designing a book isn’t rocket science. Or is it?

Busybird Publishing has worked on around 300 titles over the past ten years or so. With each book, we learn a little more about what does and doesn’t work in terms of the book design and we often need to explain to authors that the setup of the internals needs more thought than just plonking it into a template. Of course it isn’t rocket science but there is a little bit of mathematics to it.

Most people only think about the cover but that’s only a part of the equation. There are several factors that need to be thought out, so here are four considerations when designing your book:

1. The physical size of the book
When a book is written, 95 percent of the time, it will be set up in Word on an A4 size page. This is pretty standard and the margins tend to have a default too. This is fine but when it comes to setting up the book into its printable version, there may be elements that don’t easily transfer to the desired format.

Let’s take a standard size to use as reference. The C Format is 234 x 153 mm. This is substantially smaller than A4. If you’ve been labouring over a pretty table with shading and styles that look gorgeous on the page, you are going to be disappointed when it goes into the template and the page cuts the table in half, or leaves only a couple of rows on the next page. Or you might have a graph that is wide and you reorientate the A4 page to fit it. This will mean that in the printed book, you will have to turn the book to read it and possible have it shrunk to fit.

If your document has a substantial number of graphs, tables, or images, you might want to think about the format you use to make it user friendly. A quick way to see how the pages are working is to convert your word document into an A5 page and get a visual idea of how everything is working. Remember too that margins are different in a book compared with a word document, so this needs to be considered.

2. Images
Colour printing is expensive and often not warranted unless you’re publishing a coffee table book or brightly coloured children’s picture book. For this reason, any images need to be converted to black and white (greyscale). Not all images look great once converted because they may be too dark, too dull or rely on colour to convey a message.

Orientation of images is also important. If you think of a regular book, it will usually be portrait orientation. This means that if your image is horizontal, it will not be able to fill the page unless you turn it on its side.

The biggest issue we have is the use of horizontal images for the cover. This usually involves a lot of cropping, which may diminish the value of the image. This can be disappointing if a particular image has been earmarked for the cover for some reason.

3. Fonts
Don’t underestimate the value of font choice. It brands the product into a particular category and changes the reading experience greatly. There is a temptation to use wild and cursive fonts (often hard to read) or a lot of different ones. Keep it simple please! (That goes for layout in general). Try to stick to two or three fonts at most and make sure the size is legible.

4. White space
Readers who read a lot understand white space. White space, or negative space, is anywhere that shows the colour of the page and is vital to the reading experience because it allows the eye to relax at points rather than being bombarded with information right through a book. A page that isn’t balanced with negative and positive space can appear cluttered or messy. Getting this balance right is good design.

For this reason, don’t be stingy on the width of your margins and if an image falls a particular way and there is some space under it before the end of the page, that’s okay.

A bit of thought and research into design will make the success of your book much more likely. Our next Publish for Profit Meetup will be covering these design elements in more detail, so drop by our studio if you’re nearby.
Blaise the book chick