Vignettes and eBooks

noun 1.  a decorative design or small illustration used on the titlepage of a book, or at the beginning or end of a chapter. Macquarie Dictionary Publishers, 2019

I recently presented a session on The Well Crafted eBook as part of a workshop on How To Publish an eBook with Ken Vickery at the Bassendean Library. As part of my session I addressed the question of including Vignettes in an eBook. Vignettes can be obtained at a reasonable price from Shutterstock.com.

A sample of vignettes obtained from Shutterstock

Or make your own as we did for Leonie Rogers' Frontier Defiant.

Shanna and her two starcats

The problem with including a picture in an eBook, however, is that it must be able to be viewed on a variety of screens: from phones, to tablets, to computers, as well as on eBook Readers.

As a result we have now standardised on the image required for the printed version (300 dpi) for the Title Page (which is 590 x 270 pixels). The image for Chapter Titles is half that size (ie 295 x 135). For printed books each image has to be separately set.

When including the vignette in an eBook the following specifications are used (unfortunately this is slightly more technical and requires a little more understanding of the html/css interface/. What we are defining however, is as follows:

  • Width - this is the percentage of the page that is to be taken up by the image.
  • Minimum Width - this overrides the width and sets the minimum number of pixels, as the picture may be unrecognisable if it is too small.
  • Maximum Width - this ensures that the image doesn't pixelate by getting viewed beyond up its original size.

In summary:

Title PageChapter Page
Width40%25%
Minimum Width438 px200 px
Maximum Width590 px590 px

For an eBook the picture only has to be included the once, and then linked to its location below the chapter number on each chapter page.

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What size paperback is best?

This is a question that I seem to come back to every couple of years. This time I decided to attack the problem properly.

The first paperback Hague Publishing put out was Barry Dean's The Garden of Emily Washburn. This was sized at 5" x 7 13/16" (12.8 x 19.8cm), and from memory was based on a quick visit to our local bookshop to see what they were stocking. When it came time to put out our second book I thought I'd address it a little more scientifically and approached Google for advice on the most popular size for Trade Publications. The answer was a resounding 6" x 9", which is the size we've generally stuck to for the last couple of years. However, I have never understood why 6x9 is so popular, because it is really too large for comfortable reading, and particularly when a bookseller friend of mine has pointed out on multiple occasions that that format is not a popular size in Australia, and simply won't fit on his shelves. So with the impending release of Leonie Roger's Amethyst Pledge, the first book in a new trilogy, I thought I'd dig a little deeper.

The Book Printing Company states that: the most common (trim) sizes for Trade paperbacks  in Australia are:

  • 5 x 8 inches (203 x 127mm)
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches (216 x 140mm)
  • 6 x 9 inches (229 x 152mm)

After a couple of minutes work I was able to locate examples of the three sizes in my own bookcase.

In my personal opinion, the 5 x 8" looks by far the better, so why are people using 6 x 9". Well, unsurprisingly, it all comes down to cost, and the fact that our books tend to have more words in them than they did 20 years ago.

Wikibooks points out that smaller books lose disproportionately more space to margins, increasing the cost. A 6"x 9" book has nearly 20% more text space. But a 6"x 9" book costs only about 5% more than a 5.5" x 8.5" book. The result is a 15% cost savings.

In reality the difference in printing costs are negligible. As on 5 Nov 2019 Ingram charges $89.20 AUS for 10 paperback books of 230 pages 5" x 8", and only $91.55 for a 6" x 9" book of the same number of pages. Taking into account that the 6x9 book can hold considerably more words and there you have it.

In Australia we are also restricted to ensuring that the printed book is less than 1.5 cm, to allow us to post it at the cheaper 'paper rate' of $5. If the envelope goes over 2cm it falls into the parcel rate of $11.

I've now done some preliminary formatting of Amethyst Pledge and it looks like using the same font size, spacing, and margins as we did for the Frontier Series the 5 x 8" format will still only require 220 pages, and as we can go to 250 pages we can probably tweak the size of the type up a bit to improve readability.

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Hague Publishing accepting submissions in June and July

What we are looking for

Hague Publishing is seeking previously unpublished Science Fiction or Fantasy manuscripts by new or established Australian and New Zealand authors. This year we have amended our submission guidelines and ask all prospective authors to purchase a book from Hague Publishing before submission. This is partly to contribute a small amount to the hours of reading many submissions, partly so you are familiar with our list, and partly to support fellow Australian and New Zealand artists.

How to submit

Please read our submissions guideline (http://haguepublishing.com/submission.shtml).

Complete manuscripts are to be submitted via our online submissions system at http://haguepublishing.com/submit/index.php.

Further information about our publishing process (including a link to our standard contract) can be found at http://haguepublishing.com/publishing.shtml.

About Hague Publishing

Hague Publishing was established in 2011 as an independent Australian publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is registered in Western Australia, and publishes original work by Australian and New Zealand authors.

Hague Publishing is not a vanity press, and adheres to the Independent Book Publishers Association Code of Ethics. We pay royalties to those authors whose work we accept for publication. Authors are not charged for any part of the publication process.

We publish both eBooks and paperbacks. Using Print on Demand our paperbacks are available to purchase from Amazon.com, our own online shop at https://www.shop.haguepublishing.com/, and throughout the world using Ingram's Global Connect Program. Our eBooks are available through all major international eBook distributors.

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The Great Google Book Ad Experiment (Part 2)

(aka Can a Google Ad Sell Books)
Week 3

Google Ads

I decided to wait three weeks until I had some useful (?) data. If you remember from my last post the intention was to target people searching for Alternate History (or similar) using the Google search engine. The seven findings so far:

7 findings

  1. Despite specifically excluding search terms including bookshop or books, and only placing the ads before people search for Alternate History (or similar), Google decided to ignore my instructions because it needs to generate clicks not sales (see point 2). Specifically the phrase ‘books’ triggered the ad in 11,938 cases (nearly 1/3 of all impressions), and generated 15 clicks (out of a total of 108).
  2. Google tunes its placement algorithms based on the number of clicks, not sales. I concede that Google can’t actually identify sales (that’s my job) but its hardly a fair trial of my proposed strategy if Google does its own thing.
  3. Most of the ads placements were actually on Google partnered sites (97%), rather than in direct response to a search, once again preventing me from properly testing the effectiveness of my proposed strategy (see point 7(a) below).
  4. Despite only 3% of ads appeared on Google Search 13% of clicks came from ad placement on Google Search, indicating that such placements were 430% more effective than appearances on partnered sites.
  5. In addition, despite only 3% of ads appearing on Google Search they made up 43% of the cost.
  6. Advertising on a Friday is twice as expensive as it is on a Saturday, and three times what it is on a Sunday. That is $1.20 per click on a Friday, compared to $0.61 on a Saturday, and $0.47 on Sundays. OK – this one was an easy fix, I stopped advertising on Fridays and shifted that budget to the weekend, which should increase the number of click throughs by 50%.
  7. The Google Ads App has way more information than what’s available on the desktop – which is very weird. Information available only via the App includes:
    1. Where the App was viewed:
      1. Google Search – 3%
      1. Google Partner Sites – 97%
    1. What the App was viewed on:
      1. Smartphones – 39%
      1. Tablets – 47%
      1. Computers – 14%
    1. The Ad was clicked on:
      1. Google search – 13%
      1. Google partner sites – 87%

Next steps

  1. I have cancelled Friday’s advertising and transferred its budget to the weekend
  2. I have a phone conference scheduled in a couple of days with my Google Ads Campaign Specialist to discuss
  3. I see what happens over the next three weeks
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The Great Google Book Ad Experiment

(aka Can a Google Ad Sell Books)

Week 1

Cover of Nightfall by Andrew J Harvey

I have previously blogged about the failure of online advertising to sell books. My most recent blog on this was in September 2015  and entitled: “Does online advertising work for books?” This blog was based on an IBPA survey, and our own experience in 2014 with a series of blog-ads that cost us $330. For this we got 86,000 views, which gave us slightly over 43 click-throughs, and which in turn resulted in two sales. Given other examples quoted by the IBPA it was clear that online advertising doesn’t work for books.

About two weeks ago, however, I received a phonecall from an individual working for Google to inform me that because I had registered Hague Publishing as a business on business.google.com  they would be providing technical and artistic assistance to me for three months to develop and tune a Google advertisement.

That generated a conversation that went for 1.5 hours as John and I tried to work out what products Hague Publishing produced (Science Fiction and Fantasy books), and what type of advertisement might actually result in us selling more books (probably none). However, during that conversation it occurred to me that online advertising of non-Fiction books such as self-help and DIY might result in some sales if the search terms were narrowly focussed on those areas the books were about. And then flowing on from that perhaps people searching for ‘alternate history’, which is a pretty niche genre, might be interested in an alternate history book. And so I agreed to advertise my most first book “Nightfall”, published by Zmok Books.

The first thing was to come up with the search terms that would be used. This is set by a combination of the ‘business’ and the services/products being sold. This was the first problem as describing the business as a ‘publisher’ gave terms that focussed on ‘printing’, not ‘books’. Changing the business to ‘bookseller’ created more useful categories, although even here terms such as ‘new books for 2016’ isn’t going to get your ad in front of the right people. Luckily Google lets you turn search terms ‘off’ which resulted in me turning off all 221. It was more useful however when I listed the services/products as ‘alternate history’. This gave me 20, very specific search terms.  

As the advertisement links direct to the paperback listed on the Hague Publishing site, and postage overseas is a real killer I set the advertisement to initially only be offered in Australia. A further restriction is that the advertisement will only run Friday-Sunday, hopefully putting itself before people who are in the mood to whip out their credit cards. In an effort to increase conversion rates, however, I also updated the listing to include links to eBook distributors, including Kobo, Google, Apple, and Amazon.

So will this advertisement actually appear before anyone, and if it does – will it result in any sales? I’ll keep you informed.

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Book reviews are important

Reviews - thumbs up

The following was extracted from Judith Briles' guest post entitled 'As the Author World Turns on Amazon Book Review Policies' on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer. The Blog was posted 21 March 2019.

Authors need reviews on their books. Lots of them.

Once, there are 25, the [Amazon's] robots warm up. More than 50, expect to see cross promotion: book covers pop up on “like” books … “Customers who bought this item also bought …” meaning that your book cover gets displayed on other author pages.

As your reviews build up (think more than 75), Amazon does email blast, suggesting your book cover with the live link to viewers of the site that have shown an “interest” in your category with their searches. How cool is that?

So yes, reviews do count. Big time.

While Judith has anecdotal evidence supporting her claims about the effect of Amazon reviews the comments under the post make clear that this is a contentious area, and even if Judith is correct, as she wrote in response to one comment: "Guaranteed – Amazon always changes its system. What is good today, may not be next week."

Anecdotally, however, I just got an email blast from Amazon.com suggesting I might like Melissa F. Olson's new book Boundary Broken which had, when I checked 69 reviews. OK, OK, Amazon knows that I've bought the previous three books in the series, but still ....

Anyway, regardless of how important reviews are, I think any author would agree that any positive review is helpful, and the more the better.

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In L.I.E.U. - coming soon

Librarian, thief, or time-cop? Sometimes, not even those concerned can tell the difference — particularly when time-travel is involved, and things happen in order, out of order, and simultaneously at different times.

Welcome to the time travelling world of L.I.E.U. A future world where nothing is quite as it seems.

Pre-order: available 2 April 2019

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The What and Why of Pricing

In the process of releasing Barry Dean's latest book In L.I.E.U. (due out 2 April 2019), Barry asked the excellent question as to how we set the price of the ebook against its paperback companion. While a simple question the answer is more than a little complicated.

Ebook pricing

Hague Publishing initially started as an exclusively ebook publisher and set the price of its books on what I believed an ebook should sell for, which was $5.00 Australian. This was at a time (way back in in 2011) when the Australian dollar enjoyed relative price parity with the US dollar. Basically I set a price which I believed set sufficient value on the author's time and effort in writing the book. This was also in the early days of ebook publishing when those releasing the ebook (e.g. publishers and self-published authors) were still experimenting in price.

When the Australian dollar fell we were able to drop the price to $3.99 US without affecting our author's earnings (as $3.99 US equated to $5 AU and most of our ebook sales come from the US). More recently we have continued the trend and dropped the price to $3.50US. This is slightly higher than the $3-a-book price point independent publishers appear to have settled on (Forbes), but in my view is within shooting distance. The $3 price point is actually a result of Amazon, and Barnes and Noble adopting $2.99 as the point where the royalties paid increase from 35% to 70% for Amazon, and 40% to 65% for B&N. Adopting a general rule of $3.99 also allows us to lower the price we sell the first book in series at while retaining access to the higher royalty rate.

Others have pointed out to me that many ebooks are selling for $8 US or more. However, Adam Rowe (writing for Forbes) pointed out in December 2018 that this pricing was the result of the Big Five publishing houses raising their prices and as a result suffering a 10% drop in epub sale in 2017 (i.e. pricing themselves out of the market).

Paperback pricing (print on demand)

Paperback pricing is a little more difficult as instead of just the 'fair' value to recompense an author you need to consider :

  • the cost of printing, packaging, and postage, and boy is this a killer! Bottom line is that while POD is a wonderful thing you don't really start turning a reasonable profit on anything less than an order of ten books.
  • the cost of the bookseller's discount (somewhere between 45% and 55%)
  • the cost of holding stock, and
  • the cost of posting books to purchasers ($5 for postage within Australia if you can meet the printed matter criteria)

One thing that is worth pointing out is the advice that I received from one bookseller which was: that if no-one wants to buy your book you won't be able to sell it regardless of price. Against that is anecdotal feedback that pricing a book at more than $30 is going to reduce the number of people interested in buying it.

Until recently Hague Publishing has been selling its paperback at between $18 and $21. After reviewing our pricing structure we will be moving to setting an initial list price of around $25. This will permit us to increase the standard booksellers discount from 45% to 55%. It won't affect the price books are provided to our authors (which is set at cost plus 20%), and will allow them more flexibility in what they set their own sale price at.

Profit margins compared

Before finishing a quick aside. Our royalty rates are generally:

  • 45% on ebook net sales
  • 15% on paperback net sales

So for 10 ebooks, selling on Amazon.com at $5AU the author might expect to receive $15.75.

For the same 10 paperbacks, selling at $25 each the author might only receive $11.50.

Based on the above you can see why I prefer ebooks!

Ingram Spark's calculators

For those of you interested you can then use this link to IngramSpark's website to calculate:

  • The amount of compensation from sales to booksellers (you will want to set the wholesale discount level at between 45 and 55% if you actually want a bookseller to stock your book.
  • The cost of actually printing and shipping books.
  • The weight and spine width. To be able to post a book at the letter rate of $5 it must weight less than 500 gm and be thinner (including the packaging) than 20mm.
  • To create a cover template.

I hope this has proved helpful.

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7 steps to easier editing revisions

Person editing paper manuscriptYou've just got your Word file back from the editor. You open the file and blanch at the number of changes they've recommended. Certainly you can just accept them all - but don't. It's your book and we editors don't always get it right.

Based on Lisa Poisso's much more detailed post, however, the following 7 steps will speed up the process of moving to the final version.

Before you begin, remember that you really can’t go wrong if you save early and often. Keep saving regularly as you go so that if you make a big mistake (easy to do in the era of global search and replace), you can step back to a recent version.

7 steps to easier editing revisions

  1. read your editorial report
  2. get ready for your first read-through
    1. learn how to use Word’s Track Changes. For help on this see  Track Changes video tutorial
    2. save your edited document with a new name. Use a descriptive file name for your new file that includes the title, editing status, revision status, and date: GirlLineEditedRev1_0613
    3. turn off the Revisions Pane.
    4. change the colour of the edits. Set Insertions to Teal and Deletions to Grey – 25%. Then set Moved From to Grey – 25% and Moved To to Teal (this makes the grey deletions fade away and the teal insertions pop out).
  3. deal with your editor’s comments on a first pass through the manuscript
  4. on the second pass
    1. Reject any edits you do not want to keep (i.e. things you want left as you originally wrote them)
    2. revise edits your editor has made that you’d like a different way
    3. skip over the corrections and edits you like and want to keep. Simply pass them by with no action.
  5. accept All on the rest of the edits
  6. check for remaining comments and edits
  7. get a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript to proofread it before you publish.

For more information, with step by step guides, visit at Lisa Poisso's original post.

 

Track Changes Guide: Tips and tricks for handling revisions

 

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