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Posts Tagged ‘POD’

Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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In 2010 I used Lulu to publish my first book, Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Then, this year (2011), I decided to give CreateSpace a try when I published Simply Prayer. Although the two POD’s are similar, there are some differences I thought others might like to know about before choosing one or the other. Here’s the breakdown of the two.

Lulu

Cons:

  • Not very user-friendly. It took a lot of time to search through the FAQs and community answers to find out how to put Lulu’s free ISBN on my copyright page. By the time I was finished I had a major headache.
  • Difficult to add Lulu’s free ISBN to the copyright page. I first had to upload my .pdf to Lulu, then have them issue the ISBN (took only a minute or two), then add that to my copyright page and then re-upload the new .pdf.
  • Look Inside! not even an option. Let’s face it, even if you’re buying a book online you want to be able to see between the pages to get an idea if this book is right for you. I did find a work-around, but it’s not the same as having an Amazon Look Inside! right there with the buy button.



Pros:

  • It’s free. This was super important since I’m just starting out and have a very small budget.
  • You’re book will be listed on Amazon. It can take a couple weeks, but it does show up pretty quick. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered those supposed listings with other booksellers often show the book as “out of stock.” Not exactly helpful for distribution.
  • Great cover designer. I was able to design the front and back, then import them as .jpgs into a basic template. Lulu even added spine text, though they did warn me about the possibility of the text wrapping to one side or the other based on the small page count. This was very important to me as I’ve donated my books to church libraries that will be including them on bookshelves.



CreateSpace

Cons:

  • Cover designer difficult to use. I like designing my own covers (though I hope someday to employ someone much better), but I found designing a full cover (front, back and spine) very difficult. The CreateSpace instructions for creating a full cover were a little hard to figure out. Also, CreateSpace refused to add spine text, even though the page count for Simply Prayer was a little larger than my first book.
  • Questioned about picture quality. What I was asked to do was change every picture to “300 dpi” or risk poor print quality. While that might not seem like a big thing, for someone who understands the nature of printing houses it was an irritation because it’s not the dpi that matters. What’s important is the ppi (pixels per inch), which I knew were perfectly fine.
  • Look Inside! feature can take up to 8 weeks. Sure, waiting 8 weeks is better than not having the feature at all, but it does wear on one’s patience.



Pros:

  • It’s free.
  • Very user-friendly. With step-by-step instructions and simple buttons, I didn’t need to read any FAQs or search the community pages to figure out how to upload my book.
  • Easy to add CreateSpace’s free ISBN to copyright page. I was able to get the ISBN before uploading a .pdf, so adding it to my copyright page meant only creating one .pdf for the entire process.
  • Listing on Amazon. Of course, that’s where free distribution ends. If you have the budget, then getting the larger distribution package might be the way to go.



Those are the biggest pros and cons I found between Lulu and CreateSpace. Everything else was similar, as far as I could tell. For those of you who have used either or both, or even someone else, what are your experiences?

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Publisher’s Weekly has announced that they will begin “showcasing” self-published books in a “special” quarterly supplement — for a price. That price includes only a listing and brief book description, no review unless you’re one of the few the staff deems “worthy.”

Worthy? I’ve read plenty of highly acclaimed traditionally published books that I found unworthy of the paper they were printed on. A book’s worth is in the mind of the reader and I don’t like someone telling me what’s worth my time (which is why I seldom pay attention to reviews). This new “acceptance” of self-publishing by Publisher’s Weekly is no better than a back-handed compliment.

Yet, maybe Independent Authors are asking for it.

It’s well known that there is no love loss between Independent Authors and traditionally published authors, but there is one thing I don’t see amongst traditionally published authors that is rampant among indie authors. They don’t quibble over how a book is produced. Among indie authors there is hot debate (and a lot of derogatory words flung from both sides) over whether a POD author can be considered self-published or not.

Who cares?! Isn’t it the quality that matters? Crap is crap regardless of whether you’re a self-published author, POD author or traditionally published author and readers know that. Perhaps if Independent Authors — ALL INDEPENDENT AUTHORS — would stop bickering over whose method is better and start doing a better job of producing a high quality product we would gain the respect our hard work deserves instead of being told by someone else that we have to pay to be included in a second-class supplemental with no guarantees of being reviewed.

I say it’s high time all Independent Authors stand together and march forward with quality products in hand on The Road to Writing.

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As I work my way through Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, I decided to take on his earlier challenge to write a post with seven links. Since this post was originally going to be about critiquing or editing, I went with seven links on that subject. Without further ado, here they are:

  1. Critters Makes for Better WritingDon’t let the title fool you. It’s not about household pets. This post about finding someone to give you honest feedback on your fiction.

  2. Sandwich Critiquing this is perhaps my favorite post, giving you a helpful technique to use when you are asked to critique someone else’s not-so-perfect manuscript.

  3. Editing With or Without a Budgetmore helpful tips on how to use money to learn how to edit

  4. Blogosphere Trends + Handling High Word Counts this is a great guest post on Problogger by Kimberly Turner on how to trim the fat in your writing.

  5. When Editing & Critiquing, Check Your Personal Opinions At The Door the title says it all. A great post by April Hamilton of Indie Author.

  6. POD People Scares Me I love this title, but that’s not the only reason I chose it. Find out why editing is possibly the most important thing you can do before sending your manuscript to the publisher or POD (print-on-demand) company.

  7. The Art of Critiquing receiving criticism is difficult, especially when the person giving it doesn’t give you helpful details you can actually use to improve your work. This post will get you thinking of specifics to address when giving criticism to someone else.

Editing your work, giving and receiving criticism, it’s all part of the process. Knowing how to do it makes it all the easier to move on down The Road to Writing.

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I sometimes wonder how other writers develop their books. Do they plan it all out from the beginning so nothing’s a surprise? Do they “fly by the seat of their pants” and just begin writing? Do they write in bits and pieces, then somehow put it all together like a puzzle? There could be as many ways to write a book as there are people who write them. I, myself, have at least two ways I develop my books: the fiction way and the nonfiction way.

Because my nonfiction writing is a whole lot more organic (something between piecing a puzzle together and just sitting down to write from the beginning), I’m going to focus on the seven steps I use to put together a fiction book from the first glimmering of an idea to sending the guts off to the POD (print-on-demand).

  1. Come up with a general idea — I know this seems rather obvious, but it’s really the first place you have to start with any writing project. Sometimes I find that I have to narrow, or even expand upon, the original idea as the process goes along, but I still have to start somewhere. I often start out using free idea mapping software like mind42.
  2. Map the plot line — You can use the same plotting method for short stories and novels, though you do need to remember that the rising action in a novel will be much longer. I like to use a plot line to get me started. By the time I’ve filled out the entire plot line, I’ve pretty much envisioned the entire story in my mind. For me, the process is like watching a favorite movie that I have complete creative control over. I’ve used James Scott Bell’s book Plot & Structure extensively for planning.
  3. Get started — At this point I feel comfortable enough to actually begin writing. I have an idea where the story is going, but the characters still sometimes do surprising things I hadn’t planned. It’s also the longest and, sometimes, most frustrating part of the process. As I write each scene I do my best to describe it entirely, putting in a lot more detail than it warrants. My reasoning is that it’s a lot easier for me to cut than to add. Along with writing the story, I also format its appearance. It’s easier to catch widows and orphans and know what the ending page count will be if you set up the formatting at the beginning.
  4. The 4 R’s — You’ve heard of the 3 R’s: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Let me introduce you to Reading, Re-working, Re-reading and Re-writing. If writing the first draft seems difficult, the editing process can feel impossible. I have a simple solution. I read through the first draft making only minor editorial marks for spelling, typos, punctuation and quick notes about parts that feel awkward. I don’t do a lot of editing the during the first read because I want to make sure the overall story flows. I then go back chapter by chapter and re-work anything that was awkward. Finally I give it a second, more thorough read, making longer notations about changes and additions that need to be made to give the story more depth. After I complete the needed changes I move on.
  5. Fresh eyes — This is a term I picked up working at NWMSU’s weekly newspaper, but it’s just as important in self-publishing. When you’ve finished the 4 R’s it’s time to let someone else read your work. The more eyes that read it, the more mistakes will be caught before you send it to the printer. I can’t stress this enough. Let an editor, your family, your friends, even the family dog read it. Okay, maybe not the dog, but you get my point.
  6. The 4 R’s — That’s right. Once you’re buddies have read it, it’s back to the computer to fix what they’ve found. But don’t despair. You’re almost finished.
  7. And print — Finally! All you need to do now is send it to the printer. I use Lulu.com, though I’ve heard a lot of good things about CreateSpace. Once your book is ready to upload to the POD of your choice, it’s just a matter of following their instructions.

Self-publishing can seem overwhelming at first, but if you follow these steps I think you’ll find your path just a little smoother on The Road to Writing.

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Editing. Possibly one of the most loathed words in a writer’s vocabulary. It’s a necessary evil, but with the right tools and some help from people who understand what you’re doing you won’t need to put it under getting a root canal on your to-do list.

The first thing you need to do is to evaluate is your budget. That may seem like an odd thing to suggest, but there’s a good reason I have. If you can afford to pay a professional to help you in the editing process, then do it. They get paid because they know what they’re doing.

Once you’ve checked your budget and know what you can afford, decide who you need to hire. I recommend reading Joel Friedlander‘s post What Every Self-Publisher Ought to Know About Editing before actually hiring anyone because each part of the editing process calls for a different skill set. You want to hire the right person for the right job.

Once you know who you need it’s a matter of searching for the individual who can do the job within your budget limitations. Start with your POD or print house. They often have editing packages that easily fit into smaller budgets. If you don’t find what you need there, then ask around. Most self-published/Independent Authors will be happy to make referrals. It’s in our best interest to help other self-publishers/Independent Authors find people who will do a great job editing.

Perhaps you’ve looked at your finances and found you have a big fat ZERO in your budget for editing expenses. Let me just say, not having a budget for editing expenses does not excuse you from the process.

If you absolutely cannot afford to pay someone to edit your work, then you must be even more vigilant when you do your own first edits and re-writes. Invest in some good style and grammar books (you may find them in your local library or, better yet, second-hand on Amazon.com). I like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and the most recent edition of the AP Stylebook. You can also find a lot of free editing information on the internet just by doing a quick search. Just remember that searching for an answer can be time-consuming (especially if you tend to get side-tracked) and sometimes confusing.

Once you’ve done plenty of editing on your own, it’s time to submit your work to a writers’ group like Critters or Absolute Write. Be sure you choose the right forum when you submit your work or you’ll be in for some nasty returns. Keli Gwyn of Romance Writers on the Journey: Resources for romance writers en route to publication suggests in her post “How to Find Critique Partners” that writers find a critique partner in their particular genre.

Another good idea is to let plenty of people read your work before sending it to your POD or print house. I particularly like getting the insights of my non-writer friends since they make up the largest part of my readership.

Whether you have money to burn or a wallet full of moths, there is no excuse for skipping the rigors of good editing on The Road to Writing.

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