Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Nebraska Way Attracts National Media Attention
What is the Nebraska Way? Some would argue that the Nebraska Way would include hard work, integrity and a concern for one’s fellow human beings. The results of the Nebraska Way are put on display most fall Saturdays in the form of the University of Nebraska football team. But after 30 years of unparalleled dominance on the football field, a change in the athletic department has led to an erosion of the Nebraska Way.
That is the premise of Jonathan Crowl's new book, The Nebraska Way. When Crowl, a University of Nebraska student and Daily Nebraskan reporter, decided to research and write about the Husker football team’s decline, he did not have to search far for a publisher. He selected iUniverse, a Print-On-Demand company with ties to Lincoln, NE.
Crowl’s book has received press attention from major media outlets including USA Today, and Sports Illustrated.
Crowl recently shared his experiences writing, researching and publishing the book.
What led you to publish the book through iUniverse? How did you learn about the company?
I heard about iUniverse from a friend who is also working on a book, and I checked their website out online. I realized early on in the process of writing the book that self-publishing was about my only option for the book, because I wanted the book out during the 2007 college football season, and I began working on it the spring prior. It would have been very tough working anything out with a traditional publisher given the timeframe.
Was the fact that iUniverse has an office in Lincoln a factor in your decision? Did you visit the office at all?
I never have visited the office, but their location in Lincoln was an advantage. I hoped they would be a bit more understanding of my book's subject and its target audience, being that they were located at the epicenter of Nebraska football and were likely to have a lot of football fans working for them.
Did you seek out a traditional publisher prior to settling on iUniverse?
No. Time was a major factor, and I was pretty confident that marketing would be taken care of by the media, given the book's relevance to the current football program and season.
What was your impression of the iUniverse process?
Self-publishing can be a little frustrating at times, because there isn't much devotion from the company to your book. Any written work is essentially being pushed through on an assembly line, and it can be difficult getting any "special treatment", even for a book that you feel is going to have reasonable success. But, once the book was mentioned in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times, along with most other sports news outlets, I think they saw the potential for the book and have been very accommodating. I've been really happy with the response I've gotten from them in helping me with the book.
How was the cover designed?
Doak Ostergard, who was a heavily-contributing source for the book and wrote the forward for it, took the picture on the front cover. The rest was the work of the iUniverse design team, and I'm happy with the way it turned out.
When you began writing the book did you have iUniverse in mind?
I had self-publishing in mind; I didn't stumble upon iUniverse until later, but once I was aware of them and researched them as a publisher, I didn't look anywhere else.
How long did it take to research and write the book?
Somewhere between 2-3 months. Two of those months were very intensive, though; seven days a week, and the researching was much more time-consuming than I expected it to be.
What was the most difficult part of that process?
Making revisions and editing on my own. It's really tough to assess your own work sometimes, and I was concerned at the time about missing some obvious things, having weak transitions, presenting information poorly, and so on. I didn't have the luxury of getting advice and feedback from other people, so the book is essentially the best work I on my own could do. I will say, I would have really loved to have an editor read through it. There's only so much a writer can do on his own.
What type of legal advice did you seek out with regard to the book's content?
I talked to some people who have been published and worked in publishing, and iUniverse had a lawyer look over the book. Additionally, before the book was sent to the publishing press, another attorney looked at some of the chapters in the book where semantics and accuracy of information were vitally important.
What are your career goals and how will the book impact them? When are you scheduled to graduate?
My goal is to graduate in December 2009, but internships and other projects could delay that another semester. I would like to keep writing. I'm not sure in what manner, if it's books or articles. But I would also eventually like to go on to graduate school and become a professor. There are a lot of avenues open to me right now, and I'm trying to keep it that way.
How have you been marketing the book? What has been most successful for you? What has been least successful?
My book was unique in that news outlets gobbled it up. I haven't done hardly anything to market it. I have appeared on a few radio shows to discuss the book and its content, but most of the hub-bub about the book is media-generated.
What kind of national publicity has the book received? Have you been doing radio, TV, newspaper interviews?
I've done a few radio and newspaper interviews. As I said before, the book has been in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and on, along with most other local news outlets in Nebraska.
What kind of reaction have you gotten from fellow reporters (Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star, etc.)?
Not much of one, really. There are several people working up in the press box with books of their own, so I don't think having a book would generate big waves, even if I am much younger than them. But I'm sure there's a wide range of reactions. Some might not care, and some may be aggravated by it - because, you know, young people aren't supposed to write books. I know a few of them have used their space in newspaper columns to take a couple shots at me, but that doesn't really phase me. One thing to realize is that when news of the book broke, most people jumped right into commentary and criticism without knowing much at all about the book.
Initially there were a lot of people blasting me for writing a book, or trying to cash in on it and get my tuition paid for, but when people are that judgmental without knowing the full story, or the entirety of the book's content - I think it says more about them than it does me.
What has the reaction been to the book from players, coaches, other athletic department personnel?
For the most part, there has been no reaction. Most people just want the news of the book to die down as quickly as possible. I have heard a little positive feedback from within the world of Nebraska athletics, but I'm not going to point in any directions.
What has the reaction to the book been from your peers and your professors?
Very positive. Professors have been very supportive, although surprised, and many of my peers were shocked as well. I didn't tell many people about the book before it came out in the newspapers, so I'm sure a lot of my friends were caught off guard as well.
How has the publication of the book impacted your ability to cover the team for the Daily Nebraskan?
I don't think so. It could have depending on how the athletic department handled it, or how I handled it, but I've tried to separate the book and writing for the DN. I wrote the book at a time when I wasn't writing for the newspaper, so that has helped to keep them separate. No one has denied talking to me or treated me differently, and if anything, it gives me a much better knowledge of football team, which is a benefit to my reporting.
Will the book be available in local bookstores?
It's already in most bookstores in Omaha and Lincoln, as far as I know.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Author A.C. Ellis

Hits POD Trifecta

Comparing and contrasting Print-On-Demand publishing companies has sprung up as a bit of a cottage industry unto itself. But what do these surveyors really know about the process? Sure they’ve checked out a few websites, studied a few contracts, and maybe even made a few phone calls. But can they truly judge a company without publishing a book with the company?

Author A.C. Ellis may want to consider setting up shop as a POD pundit after he’s done promoting his latest tomes. The Denver science fiction writer published three books with three different POD companies this past summer. In May, he came out with Worldmaker, an out-of-print title originally published in 1985, through iUniverse’s back-in-print program with the Authors Guild. Soldier of ’Tween was released by Angela Hoy’s Booklocker that same month as was In Pursuit of the Enemy with Infinity Publishing.

Ellis recently took time to share his POD experiences.

Who was the original publisher for Worldmaker? How did you go about landing the publishing contract back in 1985? Do you have other traditionally-published books?
The original publisher for Worldmaker was Ace Books, the mass-market arm of what is now known as the Berkley/Penguin group. My then-agent sold the book to them and negotiated the contract. She later sold the book to a German publisher (the German edition appeared in 1993) and about five summers ago the book was optioned by an independent Los Angeles film producer. After about two years of negotiation, the deal fell through.

Previously to the initial publication of Worldmaker by Ace, I had a collaborative science fiction novel, Death Jag, published in 1980 by Manor books. The co-author on that one was Jeff Salten.

How did you learn about iUniverse and the Authors Guild back-in-print program? I was simply browsing the Web one day, looking for self-publish/POD opportunities, when I happened across the iUniverse site, where they mentioned their partnership with the Authors Guild and the Back-in-Print program. I contacted the Authors Guild to confirm the information, joined the Guild on the spot, and applied to be included in the Back-in-Print program. The rest, as they say, is history.

What was your impression of that program and iUniverse?
I was truly impressed with both iUniverse and the Back-in-Print program. They were professional and extremely helpful. I had input into every step of the process, and even came up with the idea for cover art. A very enjoyable experience. And, to top it off, under the Authors Guild Back-in-Print program, there is absolutely no cost to the author.

If you have an out-of-print book you are having trouble getting back in print, I highly recommend this program.

What led you to publish Soldier of ’Tween with Booklocker? What was your impression of that company? How was the process different than the iUniverse process (aside from back-in-print versus new manuscript)?
After beginning the process of getting Worldmaker into print through iUniverse, I realized I had a perfectly good novel, Soldier of ‘Tween — which I had been offering as an e-book for a number of years to good reviews — that I hadn’t really tried to publish in paper format. I knew that I would have a hard time getting it published traditionally, because it had been out there as an e-book, so I decided to go the POD route. iUniverse was quite expensive in any of their publishing plans other than the Back-in-Print program, and Soldier of ‘Tween would not apply for that program. Besides, I wanted to try other POD publishers, to see how they stack up against one another.

I searched around and compared. The one that seemed the best for the money at the time was Booklocker. They seemed more author-friendly than most, and it appeared they would work with the author to produce a quality product.

I was right. Working with Angela Hoy was a writer’s dream. She is not only an expert in the POD publishing process, but is extremely knowledgeable about the creative process, as well. And those who work with Booklocker know their stuff, as well. I sub-contracted with a cover designer, and when I was sent a number of cover ideas that didn’t really suit my book (but were very good in the generic sense) was allowed to produce a cover of my own that more closely represented the book’s content. Consequently, on Soldier of ‘Tween, I got not only the byline for the book, but also the cover art credit.

It all worked out quite well.

What led you to publish In Pursuit of the Enemy with Infinity? What was your impression of that company? How was the process different from the other two companies?
In Pursuit of the Enemy, I had just finished my first mystery, and the first book of an envisioned series. I was still in the POD experimental mood, went looking for a company that did mysteries well. I finally found Infinity Publishing. Their editing process was quite good, and distribution was excellent.

Again, I came up with the idea for the cover, although this time I did not actually produce the artwork. I was amazed by how closely they had captured my concept when I opened the package containing my proof copy. Really, one fantastic cover!

What I plan is to brand the covers of the Brad Carpenter series books. Each will have a smoking gun pointing out toward you, but each will be a different gun. Each will have “Pursuit” in the title. Besides In Pursuit of the Enemy, I foresee Extreme Pursuit, In Pursuit of Justice, In pursuit of Happiness, In Hot Pursuit, In Cold Pursuit, In Pursuit of Honor, In Pursuit of the Past, and, finally, Final Pursuit.

Are you working on any new projects? If so, where will you be publishing it?
I am currently working on the first book of a very dark, very bloody mystery series, the Point series. The titles will be similar to Hollow Point, Point Blank and Point of No Return.

I hope to publish these books traditionally, capturing an agent at the March 2008 Left Coast Crime conference. That’s the plan, at any rate.

What kind of advice can you pass on to other authors using Print-On-Demand companies?
Shop around — don’t go with the first one you find. There are now many POD publishers out there, and you should be dealing with the one that is the best for your needs. And, of course, each author’s needs are different.

How are you marketing the books? What's worked best for you? What has been the least effective?
I am marketing my books. I realize that, even if my books were published traditionally, I would have to take the responsibility for getting them noticed. Publishers just don’t do that any more, not that they ever did much for writers that weren’t best-sellers to begin with.

It is still too early to tell what works best — these books were released during the summer of 2007 -- but I think the best bet is to do as much as you can through I have published two short stories, The Navigator and Strolling the Road, through their Amazon Shorts program. On each of the pages selling those stories, there are links to my books.

And Amazon has several other programs designed to help sell books on their site, such as their AmazonConnect, Search Inside, and Affiliates programs.

Then, of course, there are my e-mail signature line, e-mail newsletters, Web sites and Blogs. Even this interview. Any way I can get the word out about my books.

Read more about A.C. Ellis and his books at his website