Category Archives: Book Publishing

A practical approach to DIY ebook production

It’s About Time! It’s about What the Kid Did!

Grandpa holds Chase 3 days oldThough it has been nearly two years since I have posted to my blog, I now have something new that’s worth writing about!

I have been blessed with a new grandson! This event inspired me as a dad (now a granddad) to put together a new book about kids… my kids, your kids… a book about every parent’s experience in raising kids.

Everyone has a story, whether it be from your own childhood, your family or your friends. Somewhere in your memory, there is a happening that involved kids, their logic, their determination, their raw and innocent responses to situations. Many of these recollections are priceless treasures that beg to be shared with others.What the Kid Did.indd

I have collected a few of these stories, along with some of my own experiences and recollections for this first volume of What the Kid Did!  I hope that this little book will inspire others to reach back into their memories and recall some of their own childhood adventures and happenings. New hardcover copies are available now. (See below).

This post is an early call for entries for the 2015 volume of What the Kid Did! If you have kids, I know you have stories, and I’d like to hear from you. Send me your story, and if we like it, it could appear in our next issue to be published in late November 2015. All published contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the new hardbound edition by mid December… just in time for Christmas! It will make a great family gift to be enjoyed by young and old alike.

 

Here is an excerpt from What the Kid Did!:

The Dummy

—Michael Faris

I was about twelve and my brother, Kevin was five. We shared a corner bedroom at our home on NW 6th street in Fort Lauderdale. Mom and Dad’s room was adjacent with a thin wall between.

It must have been past our bed time, because Dad was watching the late news in their bedroom. However, Kevin and I weren’t quite ready to call it a day and were apparently a bit too noisy.

“You boys better get it quiet in there!”

Dad’s stern voice was usually enough to mitigate any unwanted activities, and it did, for a short while. But restless young boys…

“If I have to come in there…!”

We settled down again, some. But by and by we were at it again, and after the basketball bounced off the middle wall, Kevin dove for the covers.

I could hear Dad’s belt jangling as he dragged it off the dresser. I hurried to make preparations for the inevitable confrontation. There were only a few seconds…
The hall light came on! I slipped into the closet just as Kevin lifted his cover to peer out. He saw me and decided to follow. He whipped his covers back and started out of the bed, but he was too slow.

Dad was angry. He didn’t put up with any tom foolery. He grabbed my brother up and gave him a couple of whacks with the belt.

Dad was stern, but he never really beat us. Just a few slaps with his leather belt on the legs was enough to get us in line. I think it hurt our pride way more than any physical damage.

Kevin jumped back into bed and Dad turned to my bed. He whacked the lumps concealed beneath the bedspread.

He tore away the covers, revealing a football, a dump truck and various other toys contrived to resemble a sleeping twelve-year-old… a dummy in the bed!

My little brother lacked the experience that I had in dealing with adults. He didn’t know that a laugh on his part was inappropriate at the moment. However, as the covers on my bed absorbed the first assault from the belt, he laughed out loud.

“So, you think it’s funny?” Dad whirled around and slapped at Kevin, who had by this time returned to the sanctity of his covers.

“Daddy… now wait a minute, Daddy. I want to tell you something!” he blurted out. Dad pulled the covers back. Kevin was halfway between laughter and fear. He pointed at the closet.

“Mike’s in there!”

Well Dad could no longer contain himself, Though he tried. The skin around his eyes began to crinkle and his mouth twitched.

By the time he dragged me out of the closet, we were all three laughing at my prank. As it turned out, I never got the spanking like Kevin did. He reminds me of it to this day, more than fifty years later!

 Get a hardbound copy of What the Kid Did for only $20 (free shipping).

To order, contact me via email:

mfaris1950@gmail.com

or call me on my cell:

541-954-6724

Check out my Judeco website:

www.judeco.net

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Dissecting Old Hardcover Books

Photo of old books

Lots of old worn out books can be found at garage sales.

Garage sales are a great source of antique books. These musty old relics hold a bit of information beyond the printed words and pictures… at least for book binders. For as little as fifty cents, you can find old books that can be dissected in order to learn how they were constructed.Photo of Old Book Disection #2

It is not uncommon to find books over a hundred years old, many of which were bound by hand. Books may have become damaged over time, their covers torn or missing. Pages are dog-eared and stained. These dinosaurs have outlived their usefulness as texts, but stand in the spotlight for the aspiring book binder.

Photo of Old Book Disection #4

This book has tapes that pass through slots cut into the entire text block, rather than sewn in.

Book covers have been made from all sorts of materials ranging from leather to fine silk book cloth. Most, however were made by wrapping and gluing some sort of fabric around a stiff book board. I have seen book covers made from wood and even woven mats of bamboo.

Covers are usually attached by gluing heavy end papers, supplemented by the addition of a cloth backing glued to the spine. The end sheets are sometimes decorative, and the paper may have been hand made or individually hand colored. Some striking examples of marbled papers can sometimes be found inside the covers of old books.

Removing the covers almost always involves severing the end papers from the text pages. In some cases, the end papers may be moistened and peeled from the book boards to release the cover and reveal the spine.Photo of Old Book Disection #3

Older book bindings differ in many ways. Each time I cut into one of these old volumes, I may discover another unique method of construction.

But there are many common elements too. Folded sheets are inserted within each other to form signatures. These are most commonly in fours to make sixteen pages. But it is possible to find instances where the bookbinder used other combinations anywhere from two to six sheets per signature.

Diagram of nested pages

Four sheets of paper nest to make a 16-page signature

Diagram of stacked 16-page signatures

Ten 16-page signatures stack to make a 160 page book

Each signature is stitched along the inside of the fold to bind the separate sheets to one another, and then each signature is in turn stacked and stitched along the spine.

Here is where I find a variety of stitching patterns. Coptic stitching is a general term applied to sewing all of the pages together into a text block. I find quite a few different patterns used, but most employ the use of a kettle stitch to connect the signatures to one another.

Coptic stitching using tapes or bands.

Once the signatures are sewn in place to make the text block, some sort of flexible material (mull) is glued over the stitches, leaving loose flaps on either side. These flaps are in turn sandwiched between the end sheets and the book boards.

The result is a sturdy connection between the cover and the text that will withstand repeated handling throughout the long life of the book. The paper will tear before a page will come loose in this type of binding.

Photo showing Endsheet showing mull backing

Endsheet showing mull backing on text block before assembly with covers.

Next time I will show how I construct and assemble hard covers for several types of books.

I am always open to new ideas about bookbinding and publishing and would relish some comments and suggestions from my readers. I love to share information and to teach my craft to others. So please, comment, call, come by or send me an email with your thoughts.

Michael A. Faris Bio Photo

Michael Faris

Michael

mfaris1950@gmail.com

541-954-6724

Bookbinding – DIY Marbled End Papers

Lately I  have been experimenting with end papers, the sheet that is pasted to the inside cover when binding books.Endpapers or endsheets serve a number of purposes, the most important being to help connect the cover to the signature block. It also covers the more substantial mull flap that actually does the job of securing the text to the cover. In some cases, the endpaper is used to mask side stitches or oozing glue.

The secondary purpose of the endsheet is decorative.  It is usually made of something other than the text paper. Handmade or painted papers are common.

I tend to favor a more substantial sheet with stiffer properties. Thin papers present problems when pasting them onto the bookboard. They tend to tear more easily during assembly. In use, thin papers make for a weak hinge joint that will eventually fail.

Since only two papers are needed per book, the additional expense of a better sheet is trivial. Even handmade papers are affordable for the purpose. You can even add color or designs using your inkjet printer.

Image of real marbled paper

Marbled paper – A chunk of the real stuff.

Ahh! But marbled paper! That’s the stuff!  Fascinatingly beautiful marbled endsheets. Hand marbled papers are exclusive, that is, no two are exactly alike. Mastery of the technique takes time and patience, but the results are outstanding.

I Googled marbled paper images and studied them carefully. I saw basically two types, a more or less repeated pattern of loops, and a random swirly version that actually looks like real polished (stone) marble. I researched the process enough to develop an appreciation for the effort it takes.

If you are really a rough ‘n ready do it yourselfer, you can try marbling your own paper. The process is time consuming, messy and a little spendy.

But I’m an old printer, and my tendency is to look for a way to get the same effect digitally. I naturally tried to simulate the beautiful peacock’s tails and marble-like swirls on the computer. I am fairly adept at Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator. I thought surely I could come up with something that would work.

image of Maharaji Paper

My own Maharaji Paper! Made in Photoshop.

“Work” was the magic word here. I tried starting with a pallet of colors sprayed in a sort of soft rainbow. None of Photoshop’s stock filters produced the desired effect. So I imported my rainbow to Illustrator and dinked with the tools I found there. I got some very interesting results, but nothing even came close to the marbled look I was striving for.

Next, I tried making a series of hard-edged circles and shapes, and then applying the various filters and experimenting with the different drawing tools… with only marginally better results. Each time I tried, I developed a better appreciation for the the art form. It was easy to become discouraged.

But then I tried working with photographs as a base.

Photo of Brick Wall

Original Image of brick wall

Using a picture of a brick wall, I used the liquify filter and a small size brush. By experimenting with the brush size, density and pressure, I was able to get the effect I was after.

Marbled brick image

Brick wall after applying liquify effects in Photoshop

It takes a lot of time and patience to simulate marbling in Photoshop, as the “comb” used only has a single point, in contrast to the multi-toothed combs used by the true marbling artisan.

This means you have to drag it multiple times in order to achieve the same results. I would painstakingly make a single stroke and possibly delete it and try again. Each time I liked the effect I would save it. In this way I finally fell into an acceptable rhythm of strokes and the process became easier.

I was able to work the image to my satisfaction by taking my time. I came up with a pattern that reminded me of the old Checkmate TV series in the 50’s (for you old fogies out there). It looked like swirling liquid candy to an eight year old kid.

enlarged section of brick marble

Enlarged section of brick-marbled paper

I saved several versions, each with a different overall look. By manipulating the colors using the hue pallet in Photoshop, I was able to generate and save several different colored versions using the same basic pattern.

Photo of Climatis and chives.

Original photo of Climatis and chives.

I produced a number of interesting patterns using a combination of tools and effects in both Photoshop and Illustrator. Exactly how I did it makes no difference. The point is that with a little clicking around, you can generate your own patterns, using pictures, drawings or any number of colored shapes using a drawing or photo program on the computer.

The next image I used was a photo of a purple climatis. Using the same tool, I tried to achieve the peacock swirls. To do this, I soon discovered that my strokes had to be more uniform and less random. It took significantly longer to produce this one and I was not as pleased with the effect.

Image of Climatis and chives with liquify filter applied

Climatis and chives with liquify filter applied

I would like to see someone develop a tool to be added to the liquify filter in Photoshop, one with several points to be dragged at time. This technique could be really interesting if it was applied to other colorful subjects such as an American flag or a circus clown.

Image of Climatis + Chives (marbled) closeup

Climatis + Chives (marbled) closeup

I had some of these patterns digitally reproduced on an ivory colored 100# Parchtex cover. I made full 12×18 images using these patterns so that I could make endpapers for any size book that I was likely to bind. I also did a job where I used one of these patterns on a gloss white stock with good results.

One advantage of making your own patterns and printing them digitally is that you have full control of the scale and colors, making your options practically limitless.

Do you know of a way to make interesting patterns for endpapers? I would welcome some advice on how to simulate real old fashioned marbled paper using digital tools. Show me your work. Let’s share some ideas. Make a comment.

Until next time,

Michael

image of 4 Different Marbled Brick Colors

Four different colors generated from the same pattern.

DIY Writer-Bookbinder

Real do-it-yourselfers have a craving for knowledge about how things work. We aren’t satisfied accepting things “off the shelf”. We have to take them apart to see what makes them tick, and in many cases we wind up modifying or even building a better version using the knowledge gained. Once the basic principles have been learned, the true DIYer will look for ways to make it faster, cheaper, more appealing or whatever. The satisfaction gained from these journeys nourishes the creative fires and feeds the soul of these DIY creatures.

Photo of Michael Faris sitting in chair

Why not do it yourself?

A printer for more than forty years and a writer for the past twenty-five, I have always looked for ways to print and bind some of my work… in small quantities.

The digital press opened the door, at least to the printing part. Finally –an affordable way to print books. I could even print a single book if I wanted. Digital printing is the writer’s dream come true. The work comes off the press already collated and in order, just like a real book! Zowie! The only thing missing to make it actually be a book is the binding part, something I felt could do for myself.

After all, what could be so difficult about gluing a stack of paper, right?

My first perfectbinding effort using Goop silicone adhesive.

So I tried it, using some scrap paper and some silicone rubber. I placed the stack between two boards, put the sandwich in a vise and smeared some Goop on the bind edge and it worked! I was able to wrap a pretty respectable cover around it in a separate operation.

I was elated! My home-grown process worked so well that I bound my first run of my first novel that way. The process took me the most part of a day to bind five books, but they came out perfect! I had perfected perfectbinding in my garage!

Later, I learned to score the edges and scrub the glue down into the book block to penetrate and form a better bond. Later still, I bought a table top hot-glue binder that bound the cover to the edges in a single operation. However, I have to say that the hot glue holds no better than the silicone rubber did.

So now I could make my own paperbacks. Big deal!

Perfect results!


Once I got over how cool it was, I decided to try a hard cover version as it seemed to be just an extension of skills I already had developed with my paperbacks. I was sure I could do it.

And so began an adventure!

My first few efforts were laughable. They were uneven. Some of them wouldn’t stay closed, and most of them wouldn’t lie open without suffering damage to the binding. But I didn’t lose heart. I was determined to find a way to use modern materials and adhesives to produce a nice looking and durable book. I tried this and that idea, trying to emulate the common hardcover book with the tools and knowledge I had at my disposal.

You see I was tired of the look of production books, the mass-produced paperbacks and bookstore hardbacks. But by trying to ignore the old ways, I missed all the important things that traditional bookbinding could teach me! Duh!

So I started taking old books apart to see how they were constructed. I bought a few manuals on book binding and book repair and I read all the articles and watched all the video tutorials on traditional bookbinding. Then I began to see the process in a different light.

There are two major categories or methods to bind pages: flat sheets or folded signatures.

Perfectbinding flat sheets by the application of various adhesives is the most common (and cheapest) way to bind books. This binding method lends itself very well to digital printing, as there is virtually no complicated bindery tasks like folding and stitching required. Hot glue does a respectable job on uncoated paper. Additionally, holes can be punched or drilled near the bind edge for the purpose of stitching coated or glossy papers. The result of gluing and stitching is a very sturdy binding. However, stitching from the side robs a lot of margin from the gutter or bind side. Allowances in the book layout must be made for this. Also, the paper grain should run parallel to the spine to favor the book construction.

Punching Cradle

Folded signatures are stitched in any number of ways before attaching the pages to a flexible cloth backing. This is a much more durable way to bind books, but it is more time-consuming and uses more materials, because this method generally involves a hard cover or casebinding.

But the most important lessons were in the hands-on experience I got while attempting to follow the traditional methods to bind my work. I was surprised at how much easier it was to use tried and true materials… especially adhesives.

Beforehand I was convinced that modern non-water based materials were stronger and easier to use. I thought it would be more efficient to use transfer adhesives and hot glue to produce my books. But I was dumbfounded to learn how wrong I was! Those materials are more expensive and far less forgiving than using water-based liquid glues.

Home made stitching loom for Coptic stitching.

With practice, I learned how to judge how thick and wet the glue should be, how to apply it and how long I can work it before it sets up.  I learned which surface to apply it to and how to rub out all the bubbles and burnish paper to board. I have to say I am sold on PVA, a relatively modern water based glue that lends itself to traditional (and modern) bookbinding methods.

One thing I was able to do was to make many of my own tools and equipment, a truly satisfying thing that fed my inner desires to create. The more conscious I became of exactly what I was trying to create, the more comfortable and capable I felt about making it happen. I began to look at the world differently. I saw bookbinding tools in everyday items — spatulas, putty knives, tweezers, carving knives, knitting needles. I saw bookcloth in fabric prints, batiks, old blue jeans, vinyls for sign making , placemats, old maps.

I have now lost count of how many books I have bound for myself and others. But I feel like my work has improved considerably over the years. Though I built myself a couple of book looms to aid in stitching signatures, I am just as comfortable stitching a book in my lap… and stitching is a trip!

So many ways to do it! I experimented with several stitching patterns until I found a couple that suit my style and I have worked to refine my stitches so they are now looking uniform and just tight enough to hold things together.


Closeup of Coptic stitches

I will often experiment with new ideas using scrap or discarded materials. Once I get the method down, I progress to quality materials. In servicing my customers, my philosophy is to use the best  I can afford, as cheap materials are not worthy of my time.

Traditionally bound 160 page embossed casebound journal

I will be posting some more information on how writers can bind  their own books in a variety of unique and interesting ways, including some of my experiments in hot foil tooling and blind embossing.

Another journal - 320 pages. These covers are bonded leather bookcloth.

Rolling Your Own Audio Books

Photo of Michael Faris sitting in chair

Why not do it yourself?

I started checking out audio books to listen to on my mp3 player. I downloaded some free classics that I found on Librivox. These are mostly public domain books read and recorded by volunteers. Having read some of these books in the past, I had an idea of what to expect… but I was mostly disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support their noble cause and salute their efforts to preserve literary heritage.  But there has to be better quality material available in the way of audio books.

For me, lengthy novels like Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea quickly became boring and difficult to follow. The same of shorter ones like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Why was I dissatisfied? Aside from sound quality, which was rather poor to good in my opinion, there was something about the intonation or pace that I didn’t like. But hey! What can you expect for free. ..and what can a really good audio book sound like?

So I went to audible.com. Here I found much newer, popular books read by professional people. Yet I chose to purchase another classic: Jack London’s The Sea Wolf, narrated by Frank Muller. The book was over nine hours long. Sound quality was way better, and the narration was excellent.  After that I purchased Henre Charriere’s Papillon, narrated by Michael Prichard. I had seen the movie starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, and loved the story, but the eleven-hour audio book was even better!

So what made those books better? OK, the sound was produced by professionals, people who specialize in recording quality… and it’s what you would expect. The track was all normalized, optimized, tweaked filtered and whatnot to create the best possible results using current mainstream technology. But more than that it was the narrator’s tone, inflections and perhaps the soul that he put into the reading.

True, a great storyteller needs a good story to do his thing, but the life he breathes into characters becomes the spice to the essence of the tale. His voice paints a vivid picture made more complete by his intonation. He adds character to characters. They take on more meaning just from the way he expresses the words used in dialogue and descriptive writing.

Of course, the professional audio books cost money to produce and to own. They are often subject to digital rights restrictions, which severely limits the ability to transfer them from one device to another. This is intended to prevent unauthorized downloads and free use of the material. But is it really necessary for the newbie author?

So the big guys have produced professional quality audio books by famous and popular authors selling anywhere upwards from ten to thirty dollars or more that are difficult to give away or share due to DRM. (Personally I would love for someone to steal my material and pass it all around… Heck,  make it go viral! It’s free promotion for me. I can see nothing but benefit by not using DRM. But that’s a whole different subject).

This model works for an established author with a track record. He gets great reviews and wide distribution as well as premium space in the brick and mortar bookstores. The business plan is structured so that everyone along the path of production, sales and distribution gets their cut of the proceeds from the project. Nothing really wrong with that model, except that it requires prior establishment of and considerable investment by the author.

But what about the fledgling author just starting to flex his wings? The one without the budget. And what does it mean to the writer with several published books under his belt that wants to expand into audio versions of their work? Does it really take big bucks to produce and market your own audio books? Can a person produce a good audio recording on their own?

I’m thinking that along with the flood of new technology comes a vast opportunity for creative writers. Obtaining the software and learning to record your own narrations is simple. All you need is a modest investment in a good microphone, and a computer with a sound card plus speakers. The rest depends on your ability to tell a good story.

Notice I said tell. You might believe you can write a good story, but can you tell one? Have you listened to your recorded voice? What do others say? How well does your work come across when it is narrated, rather than absorbed by looking at the printed page?

Words can only half describe the author’s real meaning. The other half comes from the subtle inflections and emphasis of the voice. An author may even feel that no one can read it like they wrote it, except maybe themselves. Punctuation and  diacritics can only go so far in describing speech. The very same printed words when spoken by different people can sound so different.

So if you can write a good story, and you can tell a good story, what’s to prevent you from making your own audio book?

In an effort to find out, I obtained a dynamic microphone and downloaded Audacity, a free program for recording and editing sound tracks. I made some tests in my relatively quiet office, laying down tracks of my voice while reading some of my material. After comparing samples made with and without the pop-filter, and testing different mike positions and volumes, I attempted to do an entire short story.

Right off the bat, I stumbled and stuttered, causing me to pause and reread portions many times. But I would stop and patiently repeat the words until they came out the way I intended for them to sound. The whole process took about an hour to lay down the raw track. However, the editing process takes a lot longer, especially if you factor in the learning curve. For me, it took approximately six hours of recording and editing to produce what I felt was an acceptable file.

Audacity is a cool program that anyone can use. It records in .wav format, which is an uncompressed file that will play on any Windows Media Player. When you open the file it is graphically represented on a timeline from left to right. Sounds are represented as groups of squiggles that form definite shapes.

Audacity Screenshot

Besides the ability to cut and paste, there are dozens of effects that can be applied to any selection. You can amplify or soften the volume, fade sections in or out, change pitch, eliminate pops and unwanted sounds, adjust the high, mid-range and low tones and take advantage of many other professional features to edit the sound.

I archived my edited track as a wav. file and saved often as I progressed. When finished, I was able to import the file to mp3 and transfer it to my portable player.

Now I was excited. I invited my wife to go for a ride with me in my pickup truck. (She had no idea!)

I casually plugged the player into the deck and turned the unit on. I kept glancing over at her as the piece began, watching her reaction.

She sat there looking out the window, not really paying attention at first, but as it soaked in, she cocked her head and stared at me in amazement. “Hey! That’s you!”

We both burst out laughing. It sounded pretty good. Not bad for a novice.

So my next questions are: Why do you need to hire out this service? What is it about the process that you cannot do yourself? It would seem that pushing your art to the next level would be an inviting challenge, worthy of your creative abilities as a spinner of great yarns.

So for an online test, I have recorded one of my poems – Completely Stumped by Michael A. Faris. How does it sound to you?

I’d like to hear from some other folks that have tried this. Let me know your experiences and conclusions. I especially want to know how indie authors view DRM.

Until next week,

Michael Faris

The Author’s Hat

Photo of Michael Faris wearing a hat

Everybody's hat is different

“Cowboys and outlaws, 

Right guys and southpaws,

Good dogs and all kinds of cats. 

Dirt roads and white lines,

All kinds of stop signs,

But I’ll stay right here where I’m at… 

‘Cause I wear my own kind of hat.”

–Merle Haggard

Merle said it with the song “My Own Kind of Hat”. It speaks loudly of the desire for indie authors to create their own brand, regardless of how the literary world has elected to categorize them.

Writers want to stand out from the rest, to be seen as unique artists in their own right, presenting work in their own style. Few authors today will place themselves firmly into any one genre. Doing so tends to associate their work with other “genre branded” authors. It means their work is stereotyped. Tagged. Pigeonholed.

We conjure all kinds of preconceptions when we have a label applied to anything. Our experience with classifying things teaches us to expect certain behavior when we encounter similarly labeled  products. Associating a label with specific traits subconsciously embeds this information in our minds. This conception is tempered by an individual’s unique experiences associated with the label. This alone is enough to give everyone a totally different slant on any given category.

Some things are indelibly woven into our concepts. For instance, if you see two men with guns facing each other in the street. One is wearing a white hat, the other a black one. What things come to mind? Most of us think of a good guy about to duel with a bad guy. Why? Because it was hammered into us from the time we watched that first episode of Gunsmoke. Good or bad, you can tell by the color of the hat.

Attempts to define specific genres suffer the same drawbacks as any classification system. They specifically include some things while excluding others, and so it becomes necessary to understand the limits of the system you are using in order to appreciate how to best utilize it.

An author might try to qualify their work by adding a note that further defines it, but the truth is that genre classifications tend to blend into each other at the edges, making it difficult to pin some types of work down.  In any case, aligning oneself with a generic or general classification could result in an unfavorable brand that limits the scope of your work.

Plato started this genre stuff, and Aristotle elaborated on it. Down through the ages, others have massaged the concept and expounded and debated the subject until it has mushroomed into a complex set of loosely defined definitions that cannot be agreed upon by anyone… completely, that is. Some authors have been driven to try spanning two or more genres in an effort to categorize their work, but this angle might serve to cloud their image even more.

Just as there are the crossover musicians which appeal to a broader cross-section of fans with individual tastes, so there must be authors with the same kind of charisma, ready and willing to cross the lines and make their work available to a wider and more varied audience. Branding yourself as a “one-size-fits-all”  kind of writer might tend to dilute your image. I don’t believe there are any genre police going after authors inventing their own classifications, but I expect there are penalties.

To play ball with the big guys, you have to first learn their game. If you are working through an agent or otherwise publishing traditionally, this means you will need to discover the genre that best fits your work. The reason is that there are already institutions, campaigns and tried methods in place that are geared to marketing these predetermined broad-class genres. In order to fit, you may need to… conform (ouch!)

But if you are truly an indie, you won’t be encumbered by traditional rules. You will bravely stick to your course and hope that your social media effort will gain enough followers to see you through. You will realize that there is a much bigger audience out there if you don’t confine yourself to any one genre. But one thing is certain. It is difficult for readers to make any kind of judgement about your work unless they can either compare it to something familiar or experience it firsthand.

Try to connect with and appeal to folks that have similar likes and preferences. .. those with their own kind of hat.

Do you have some thoughts about assigning a specific genre to your work? I’d like to hear how some other indie writers out there seeing this problem and what they are doing to avoid it… or maybe they totally disagree. What do you think? Let’s hear your side.

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genre

http://www.bubblecow.net/a-list-of-book-genres

http://homeworktips.about.com/od/booksbytopic/a/genres.htm

Zodiacs and Genres

Graphic: Genre Spinner

So what’s your sign?

Labels… so many labels that attempt to define who we are and what we do!

It seems that everything is classified according to some standard, pigeon-holed along with countless other folks that may or may not agree on most things. Yet it’s the way we begin to evaluate a new idea or thing of which we have no immediate knowledge. We compare things in order to begin to understand them. We always ask the question, “What’s it like?”

Arbitrary categories mean different things to different people and require even more sub-definitions to clarify our concepts. For instance, if I told you I was a fiction writer, what would you think?

I have just placed myself in a general category that basically says I make up my stories, but it doesn’t convey any sense of the types of stories I write nor does it indicate anything about my style. As far as you know, my work could be anything from crime mysteries to fairy tales, mythology to science fiction.

So now I say my work is fantasy-adventure, which narrows it somewhat, but it still encompasses a wide range of possibilities… still pretty near infinite, I’d say.

I could suggest that my work touches on science fiction and involves crime mysteries. But that tends to widen the field again.

How about if I say my genre is sci-fi-fantasy-mystery novels with a touch of humor? Sitting astraddle of a handful of these categories somehow makes me uncomfortable and really clouds the issue. Perhaps I would feel better just going back to the general fiction classification, but it wouldn’t serve well.

So how should I go about defining the type of writing I do? I could say I was inspired by such writers as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, E.R. Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, O. Henry and others. But does that do anything to clarify it? Not really.

Maybe I could find another writer that produced work similar to mine and compare myself to them. But that would tend to dilute my image as a writer with a unique style. Hey! I blaze my own trails! I’m not a copycat and I refuse to try to model myself after anyone else’s style. Like most writers, I feel my work is unique. It doesn’t really fit wholly into any one category or classification, and I’ll be damned if I will try to make it do so.

So maybe I should invent a new genre? How about MysSciFiHumFant? Say it real fast and it sounds… well, silly. But am I all alone? How many writers have difficulty classifying their work? What if you write several specific kinds of fiction?

I not only write novels, but I have tried my hand at poetry, songs and short stories, all with different styles and I’m not sure you could classify any of them. I prefer to think of my genre as undefined and without limits. I’m a free-thinker and I want my writing to reflect that.

Too often my attempt at genre classification will turn some people off. They will say “I’m normally not a fan of sci-fi (or fantasy or mystery… whatever), but your book was really a fun read.”

So it seems that the best strategy might be to give ’em a little taste without telling them what it is. My mother (and my wife) have both tried this technique in order to get me to broaden my horizons and try new things. I must say it has worked on some occasions and I have indeed expanded my experiences for the better.

I’m suggesting here that whether you are Scorpio, Pisces or Sagittarius, you could actually step outside your assigned preferences and check out some of the unclassified literature being  produced by some very talented writers.  Genres be damned!

I hope to be interviewing some rogue authors in the near future to find out how they see themselves and what they are doing to promote their work.

As always, I invite comments and suggestions about the business of indie publishing and ways to help fledgling authors be seen and heard. What’s your genre? How do you classify your work ?

About Time Publishing

Photo of Michael Faris sitting at desk

Michael Faris

I have three books available at present. Check out the links at the very top of this page.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac

http://literature.pppst.com/genres.html

http://genresofliterature.com/

http://webclipart.about.com/od/businessoffice/ss/Chinese-Zodiac-Calendar.htm

DIY Bookbinding -The Sticky Stuff

Photo of finished hardcover book

DIYcrafters generally have quite an arsenal of materials and supplies in their workshops. Over time they develop a loyalty to certain products, and for good reasons. Their use of a particular tool or material has been positive. The limits of the thing have been explored and experienced. Familiarity breeds confidence in their ability to make these things work for them. Over time these products help you settle in to your comfortable crafting zone.

I can really appreciate the effort and craftsmanship that goes into making traditional hardcover books. The rather lengthy and cumbersome process can yield a beautiful and durable work of art. But this old-world craft is fading in favor of new processes and materials. There are newer fangled (Did I say fangled?) materials out there that open up many new facets for the creative. There are also a lot of new tools and processes that will enhance the home bookbinder’s craft.

Bookbinding is a sticky proposition. Unless your books are spiral or otherwise mechanically bound, at some point you will have to deal with adhesives.

One of the things that bothered me about traditional bookbinding was the lengthy times that it took for the glue to dry. Polyvinyl acetate is one of the bookbinder’s staples. PVA is great stuff, and sometimes it is the only thing that will work in a given situation, such as repairing older books. But working with PVA for any volume of books is too slow.

PVA is similar in consistency to Elmer’s glue. You have to apply it in a thin coat to the surface of various materials, and then hold them together under pressure until the adhesive has set. Learning to use PVA can be challenging and requires some practice in order to reach that comfortable crafting zone mentioned above. Slow-curing adhesives tie up equipment for lengthy times. (By the way, Elmer’s is not a good substitute for PVA as it dries brittle and yellows with age).

Most do-it-yourselfers know that anything worth their time should be constructed using the best materials. No one likes to have their project fall apart in a short time because of shoddy fabrics or workmanship. If you want to be proud of your work, then you should subscribe to the philosophy that it should be done well with the best materials you can afford.

So what constitutes “best” materials when it comes to bookbinding? Aside from using acid-free papers designed and manufactured to last, bookbinders need to use adhesives that will not break down over time and under use. In trying to find the right adhesive, keep an open mind. Look to other industries such as aerospace or building. Companies specializing in industrial finishes have all sorts of products that can lend themselves to the DIY bookbinder.

For instance, I use a transfer adhesive designed for the outdoor sign industry for many of my bookbinding operations. It is fairly inexpensive and easy to use. It is also very sticky. This thin, opaque white adhesive  comes in a 38″ wide roll that can be cut into any size sheets as needed. It comes mounted on a waxy substrate that  peels off after application. Once the other surface is carefully mated into position, a light rubbing to smooth out any bubbles is all that is needed. Of course I always give it additional treatment with a smooth brayer-roller, and sometimes even send it through my desktop pouch laminator (without the pouch) to apply even pressure for additional measure. Once stuck, it is permanent in most paper-to-paper applications.

If I need a stronger bond, I will usually use contact cement. The water based (less toxic) version will work, but the solvent based works better. Either one requires that a coating be applied to both surfaces and allowed to set until it becomes tacky before pressing the two surfaces together. This stuff is faster to use than PVC glue, but it has its obvious disadvantages. It certainly doesn’t belong in a production environment if only because of safety considerations.

Spray mounting adhesives come in many flavors designed for all kinds of uses. Their main advantage is that they are ready to use right off the shelf. Simply shake and spray… well, almost. You have to deal with the chance of overspray onto places and things that you don’t want to be glued. You need a good supply of masking materials, newspapers and so forth, and a way to dispose of them. Other disadvantages include clogging nozzles that either splatter the contents in unsightly globs or refuse to work at all. This frustrating behavior occurs when the can is still 3/4 full and you have a deadline to meet. Oh, and did I mention you need to be fairly good at spray-painting in order to get a nice even coating? Still, one can develop a mastery of using spray adhesives. It is just like any other aspect of crafting anything. You have to do it a lot to become proficient at it.

I mentioned using Goop in a previous post. Goop is one of those products that is packaged for many purposes, including shoe repairs and weather caulking. It is basically a silicone sealer. This clear substance comes out of the tube about the consistency of honey. Silicone smells almost like vinegar and is very flammable in its liquid state. It cures to a flexible rubber-like consistency that bonds well to paper. Before I finally broke down and invested several thousand dollars in perfectbinding equipment, I used Goop to bind my first books.

Modern industry and scientific research developed many adhesives (like super glue and hot glue) that have found their way into my shop.  Since I bind books for other people, I try to thoroughly test a given product before I try to sell work made with it. Many of my experiments are gathering dust in a back room. Some were immediately disappointing, others await the test of time in order to determine their suitability. But in all cases, experimentation has made me a better craftsman. Thomas A. Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

During my own 10,000 experiments I have actually uncovered a few methods and materials that work quite well. These things go into my quiver of bookbinding arrows. They become tools for specific purposes because I can depend on the results… straight and to the point.

I will be posting more tips about practical DIY bookbinding.

photo of Michael Faris on the river

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing

Read more:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_a_edison.html#ixzz1ld1J76wz

http://www.dkgroup.com/downloads/18_Film_PS.Mounting.Adhesives.pdf

http://www.ehow.com/info_7785553_3m-spray-adhesive-strongest.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2069585_spray-mount-photograph.html

Fe Fi Fo Fangle!

Photo of dog sleeping

Sometimes it's all too much!

Old dogs sometimes have to be starved into learning new tricks. Only when the cupboard is bare and the income stream dwindles do they wake up to the fact that old tricks “ain’t gonna cut it” anymore.

I learned the printing trade in the late 60’s and early seventies. Back then you could learn a few tricks and coast on your knowledge for a time before you had to “warp up” to a few new ways of plying the trade.

We didn’t have computers then. In fact I was feeling pretty damn “with it” with my desktop calculator. It had all four standard functions ­ –you know, add, subtract, multiply and divide. Plus, it could do logarithms, something I found very useful in photography.

Rumors of the “paperless society” were regarded as mythic prophesies, not to be fulfilled in my lifetime. We laughed at the idea that there was even any use for storing information electronically. Computers were clumsy, expensive and difficult to operate.  Besides, no one would trust their valuable information to any computer. It was likely to be lost or rendered useless and unreadable by even the best of systems.

There were no standards, no way to communicate with other proprietary systems. The whole idea seemed too expensive and awkward to be a part of any profitable business plan.

Yet the power of electronic communication called to those few who would listen. The promise of undreamed of efficiency and potential beckoned. All it needed was a few innovative believers who could look to the future and realize the benefits that lay in this sealed Jeanie-jar of unlimited opportunity.

Just as radio helped to shrink the size of the world in the 30’s and 40’s, and television shortly thereafter, the technology in the 21st century has taken mankind an exponential step farther in the dissemination of information. No one wants yesterday’s news. Everything has to be current, up to the minute and verifiable through multiple sources.

All of this technical whizbangery is easy to talk about, easy to dream about, easy to wish for… but how about us old fogey’s that have tried to settle back and enjoy life with the gadgets we already know and love? Like the remote for the TV, the garage door opener and the microwave oven… OK, and the cell phone, but just because it’s portable, not because it’s so damn smart. Are we doomed to be left lying in the dust if we don’t jump on this loony bandwagon?

All this fangledness! Even your car talks to you. We live in an age that requires you to learn how to use an app (that’s short for application) on the average of once a week. Stay connected! Get on Facebook! Update your profile! Reload your firmware! Will this madness ever stop?

Everything is multi-functioning and multitasking to the point of major malfunctioning. There are tasks that are forgotten or unattended because you have untactfully taken on too many tasks, which wouldn’t be such a problem if you had only synchronized! Dang!

Another thought: It wouldn’t be so difficult to learn how to use one of these new-fangled gadgets or systems if they didn’t change over to a whole different one by the time you get the first one figured out. Worse yet, if you decide to try and use the one in which you just invested so much effort in, you come to find out they no longer support that version. Frustrating!

After spending an entire day trying to make any one of my new connections to the cyberworld out there actually work, I long for something real simple, like a walk outdoors. Just me and my dog. Unconnected and unconcerned.  We’ll go as soon as he finishes posting his blog and answers a few more emails.

Michael Faris

Self Publishing’s Biggest Hurdle

Photo of Michael Faris - About Time Publishing

Michael Faris

So you hear about this great book that you simply gotta have. What do you do?

Most folks go online to Amazon and do a quick search. Payment is by credit card and the item is either shipped or made available for download. Simple and effective. Customer gets product and seller gets paid.

This seems like a very efficient system on the surface. But is it really?

Why did the consumer even want to buy this book? Was it something that Amazon did? Is the fact that they were able to find the book listed at Amazon have anything to do with promoting the merchandise?

I have an idea that building a demand for your work is the biggest chunk of a successful author’s marketing plan. It is far more important than developing distribution systems, because if there is no demand for the product, then there will be no sales. In fact, it could become a drag because of associated costs, such as inventory or membership or listing fees. Distribution arrangements must be managed, which takes valuable time. Further, you could be subject to restrictions that could compromise your flexibility when it comes to setting prices and selling in other venues.

I’m not saying that that you don’t need a way to distribute your products. But I am raising a few questions:

  • Is a big worldwide distribution channel really necessary for your work?
  • Does an author need to share revenue by way of sales commissions to a distributor?
  • Are there other potentially more profitable ways to set up a supply chain?

True, dyed-in-the-wool DIYers thrill at the chance to produce something through their own ingenuity. To create a work of art is a beautiful thing. To be able to sell it is even better than beautiful! But sometimes production costs for small quantities of quality goods leaves no margin for profit when you go to sell it. That’s why it is important to examine every aspect of your plan to market your work.

Since profit equals the selling price minus the costs ( production + distribution), it would stand to reason that anything that can be done to reduce the cost will increase the profit. This goes for anything that influences these costs.

I will be covering some ideas about shaving the cost of producing and marketing books for writers and self-publishers in later posts. I invite feedback and suggestions. What are some of the best ways a fledgling author can promote and distribute their work.

I would like to leave you with some food for thought:

Search engines can find just about anything, including the distributor of your books… even if the only distributor is You!

Michael Faris

About Time Publishing