Archive for the ‘Self-publishing’ Category

Out of the Frying Pan–Into the Frying Pan?

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Entry #6, Bill Ruesch recession-recovery diary

Dear Reader,

In my last post I mentioned redirecting my efforts toward book printing. Some may think that is a fool-hardy strategy, after all, e-books are all the rage. Paper books are passe. E-book readers are being sold everywhere. Amazon has the Kindle. Barnes & Noble markets the Nook. Sony sells the Librie and there are at least 8 other brands available including the iPad and iPhone. In fact, the e-book reader competition is so hot that it makes the war between BetaMax and VHS seem tame. It’s anybody’s guess as to which reader will dominate. I’m sure they are taking odds in Vegas if you are a betting person and want to get in on the action.

One e-reader can hold hundreds of books

There is even speculation in the industry that the Kindle by Amazon may soon be offered free, so if you haven’t been able to afford one yet you may get it as a bonus for buying a certain quantity of e-books.

So why would I choose books for a focus when the world seems head over heels for e-books?

There are two reasons:

  1. Over 700 Thousand self-published books were printed last year.
  2. I feel that we aren’t done with books yet. A tangible book has an intangible value over an electronic book. It’s tactile. You can hold it in your hand and savor the feel of the binding, the smell of the paper and the beauty of the design. Try as you might, there just isn’t any way for you to lovingly rest a signed first edition of an e-book in your library.

From my observations, self-publishers as Rodney Dangerfield used to say “Get no respect.” Being brutally honest about it, they don’t get respect because they stop short of doing the job right. Publishing a worthy book requires massive amounts of effort. It’s an exercise in attempting perfection. Readers who report that a book is full of typo’s, grammar errors, and poor syntax will persuade other readers to give your book a pass. No wonder most self-published books only sell around 50-100 copies. It costs a little to hire proofreaders, editors, graphic designers, and layout artists, but if you go cheap on your product you will get what you paid for–a cheap product that doesn’t appeal to the masses.

My specialty is printing, which I assure you is much more complicated than sending your masterpiece to Kinkos, or most of the on-demand printers. Yes, you can get a decent book printed if you know what you are doing, but so few do. I also know artists, editors, and marketers that can help self-publishers win. So, if you are a budding self-publisher and want the help of proven professionals don’t be afraid to call. It doesn’t cost anything to talk. My number is (801) 474-1270 or you can email me at billprintbroker@comcast.net.


 

To Book Publishers (Traditional & Self) Who Just Don’t Get It

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In reading a response to a discussion I started on a writer’s group on LinkedIn, I was struck with the thought that it isn’t just self-publishers who need to pay attention to the quality of their products. Some very big names are guilty of foisting-off crap.

The kind of food you'll find at Cracker Barrel.

Recently I visited a Cracker Barrel Restaurant with my wife. For those who may not be familiar with Cracker Barrel, it serves southern style comfort food at reasonable prices. We like to go there when we just want foody-food. Nothing fancy.  No cooking with exotic spices like saffron or curry. On the menu will be dishes like meatloaf, country fried steak, and catfish. You can choose your sides from a menu that includes fried okra, turnip greens, and corn. For desert there are various cobblers, pie, and ice-cream. Yum.

Before you get to the restaurant part of the place you have to wend your way through kitschy collections of merchandise that change with the season. My wife loves to peruse their tables of nick-knacks, music boxes, and stuffed animals. Now, as I am writing this it is three days from Christmas, so they were all decked out in a torrent of red and green. Santas and gift items were stacked nearly ceiling high. My eye caught an illustrated book of The Night Before Christmas. The illustrations were beautiful. I wish I could say the same for the book. The workmanship, especially on the cover was a disaster. Both covers, front and back, bowed outward from the spine. It was not only ugly, but made it impossible for the book to lay flat on a table. Here was a book that I wanted to buy, wanted to take home and treasure, wanted to read it to future grandchildren, but I couldn’t get past the cover. This was not an heirloom piece; it was a piece of carnival crap. I looked at the spine and was surprised to see that Simon & Schuster allowed this mess to go out under their banner.

I believe that books are a treasure. They last decades and centuries even. It saddens me to think that the noble business of publishing, especially the giant houses like Simon & Schuster, may be more focused on profit than quality.

I have heard authors complain that their traditionally published books were an embarrassment to them. That the cover designs didn’t truly represent the book, and that cheap cost cutting methods were implemented. Authors who have sold their rights to the publisher have no claim on how the book is manufactured. As for The Night Before Christmas I’m guessing it was sent to a sweat shop overseas to be printed and bound for the lowest price possible, a price guaranteeing maximum profit but sacrificing the honor of the book. I didn’t buy it. I’m hoping no one does. If enough customers reject poor quality the publisher will have to ask why. Why didn’t this book sell?

I plead with self-publishing authors to realize that they have total control of their children. Dress them up in their Sunday best and send them out to play. The day may come when the marketplace will select a self-published book over a traditional one because of the value added that comes from your care.

What’s Next–Debtor’s Prison?

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Okay posts on printing and Self-Publishing are going to have to wait once again. It seems that the last post, We Sure Swallowed the Health Care Lie, I seriously stirred the pot. If you go back and read my post and the attached comments, you will find that sentiments are all over the place. The truth is we don’t know what to do about the corporate Godzilla’s wreaking havoc in our lives. We know who they are, and there is plenty of finger pointing to go around, but our backs are against the wall and there isn’t a rescuer in sight.

Does this sound a tad dramatic? It is, but unless we see the monsters for what they really are we won’t muster the will to fight them. Tracy commented on my post, and I quote, “I emphatically agree with you regarding your views on health insurance…perhaps because I, too, am self-employed and have been for 31 years. My Blue Shield plan just increased about 3 months ago by 22% and is going up another 18% in December (when I enter a new age bracket). I worked in the housing industry and my income is down 90% while my health insurance will have increased 40%. I have been charging my health insurance premiums since January of this year because I am afraid to cancel it because, as you stated, it will be impossible to get health insurance then. Something has GOT to change!”

Tracy’s example is representative of the trouble many of us are finding ourselves in; let’s look at the the history of the unholy trio: US Congress, Health Insurance Companies, and the Financial Industry; and discover the careful step-by-step path that led us into this unconscionable position.

  • 1920’s Health Insurance created by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
  • 1929 estimated annual average health care expense for American families totaled $108.00.
  • 1933 Federal Government passes Glass-Steagall Act wherein “banks, brokerages, and insurance companies were effectively barred from entering each others’ industries, and investment banking and commercial banking were separated.” Post by Kitty Wampus
  • 1940′s saw the entrance of commercial insurance companies into health insurance  after seeing the success of Blue Cross/Blue Shield (source EHNet).
  • 1960 Health Care expense rose to an average of 6.6% of a family’s annual income. It was no longer a luxury–it was now a necessity.
  • 1973 the last year middle-class and poor Americans saw an increase in real earnings–only the top 20% saw gain–the bottom 80% has been stagnant for 36 years.
  • 1980 congress passed Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control which broadened lending powers and banks rushed into real estate lending and speculative lending.
  • 1980 Ronald Reagan elected president, took office 1981 (note: Regan didn’t start banking deregulation).
  • 1981 Economic Recovery Act spurred a boom in real estate.
  • 1982 Garn-St.Germain Act authorized money market savings accounts in banks and savings and loans. Seriously undermining their security.
  • 1999 President Clinton, Republicans agree to deregulation of US financial system effectively nullifying all of the protections of Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.
  • 2001 Health care insurance premiums risen three times more than wages. With company health care the average person paid $2,827.00 including premiums and deductibles. Health Reform.Gov
  • 2005 Bankruptcy laws changed to protect banks at the expense of customers. Banks who encouraged consumers to participate in reckless free-spending credit card lifestyles feared to face the results of their own actions.
  • 2006 Average spending on health care including premiums and deductibles rose 30% in five years to $3,744.00. For those without company sponsored group insurance the costs were even more. HealthCare.gov
  • 2008 ushered in the biggest financial failing since the Great Depression. US Government offers bailout money to head off economic collapse. Banks promise to renegotiate home mortgages, instead raise credit card interest rates by double or more

So here’s the bottom line as I see it:

  1. The way to unimaginable wealth is to create and market a product that becomes a necessity, like cigarettes and cocaine. The health insurance industry did just that. How? By allowing costs to spiral up. Since medical providers have had unrestrained ability to charge outrageous fees, i.e. the ten dollar dose of Tylenol, ancillary costs and services have skyrocketed too. Who now can afford treatment for even simple procedures without insurance? Furthermore, should a policyholder contract an illness or suffer an injury while covered, their options of changing insurance companies becomes impossible. Pre-existing condition clauses keep people stuck. Drop your insurance with a pre-existing condition and you may never qualify for coverage again.
  2. The financial industry has manipulated the government into lifting all of the protections that were implemented to prevent the collapse experienced during the Great Depression. What happened? Is it any surprise that the country is experiencing a deep recession? It is okay with the CEO’s because they take their bonuses whether the company makes money or not. It is the workforce and small businesses are hit hardest. Big banks are recovering nicely because of bailout money, higher credit card charges, and tougher bankruptcy laws.
  3. People like my commenter, Tracy, find themselves charging their rising
    New & Improved Card

    New & Improved Card

    health insurance costs on credit cards that can, and do, double interest and fees without restraint. If she can’t find another way to pay those usurious interest rates and outrageous policy premiums she will lose everything she has.

  4. Congress, the health insurance, and financial industries have us just where they want us. We have become slaves of the system just as surely as blacks were plantation slaves over 200 years ago. If you want proof, just try to get away without paying income taxes. Go to a hospital without an insurance card. Refuse to pay exorbitant credit card fees. Do all of those things and see what happens.

What’s next, debtor’s prison?

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© Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bill Ruesch, Talking Through My Hat with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.