Monday, November 30, 2009

Third Time Was Not a Charm!

Last Wednesday I placed a call to the new printer to check on my book's status. After all, I had been told 7-10 days start to finish, and it was the 8th day and I hadn't seen a proof yet. My salesman was out to lunch (at 2:00 in the afternoon), so I left a message. Since that was the day before Thanksgiving, I really wasn't surprised when my call wasn't returned. At 11:00 today I called him again. He said that a proof was ready to be picked up, and seemed surprised that I did not know this. His notes indicated that I had been called and informed about the proof.

When I arrived there after lunch, the first thing I noticed was that his proof was much thinner than any of the three books I had taken along for comparison. Definitely not a good sign... We went back to his office, flipped to the back of the book and I saw that the second half of the article that ends the book was missing. A more in depth look revealed that all of the odd pages had not been printed. That certainly explains the thickness, or lack thereof, of the proof. He opened up the pdf file I had sent him and saw that all the pages were intact. However, they had been sent in a two page spread and not as individual sheets. Now, I have never worked for a printer, but wouldn't it seem logical that someone would have called as soon as the file arrived to tell me that it was incorrectly formatted? Why would you go ahead and print it that way?

He admitted that he had not personally looked at the file. He was trying to decide if there was a way to make it work, and I told him I would just have my designer contact him directly to see exactly what was needed so she could send him a new file. He said if he gets it this afternoon, then he will courier a proof to me today. I reminded him that I have two book signings this weekend, and he said there will be no problem getting the books to me on time. Why do I have this sickening feeling of deja vu?

Monday, November 23, 2009

My First Review!

Over the weekend I received my first written review of the book from a man in Liberty, MO. I had just mailed him a copy on November 18th. The reason he was interested in a book from St. Louis County is that he is researching an 1860's farm house that once belonged to his ancestors in north county. Here is what he said:

I just finished reading your great book. At last an updated and very informational guide book
to researching your home in St. Louis County. I really appreciate the large print, the pictures and story of the Morton family. Your home is so beautiful, the connection made with Holly Burt, and I love the ending with George Barnett in question! Let me know your findings on this. Congratulations again Kim! Great book for all of us researchers.
Stan Busken

I could not be more thrilled - this is exactly why I wrote the book. To have its usefulness confirmed by an active researcher means a great deal to me. I asked for and received permission to add this review to the book's website. Hopefully I'll have more testimonials to add to this one!

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Places to Buy the Book

The St. Louis Genealogical Society has agreed to sell my book on consignment at the office store, so yesterday I dropped off five copies. Their agreement is to keep $5.00 of every book sold, leaving me with $12.00 (they round the book price up so they don't have to deal with change.) That is actually more money then I'll make selling through a book store.

My second stop of the day on Thursday was to the gift shop of the Webster Groves Historical Society. I had agreed to donate a book for the Webster-Kirkwood Friendship dance, which has a silent auction going on in addition to dinner and dancing. All the money raised during the auction will benefit the two high schools, even though this dance is put on by the two historical societies. While dropping off the book, I inquired about the possibility of having the local historical society sell my book in the gift shop. They readily agreed, so I left five books on consignment with them. I'll donate 20% of the book price on each book sold to the organization. they have a boutique and open house coming up on December 6th, so that should be good exposure for the book.

Better than agreeing to carry my books in the gift shop is the fact that they asked if I would do a presentation next year at one of the historical society meetings. They would like me to do a program on how to get started with your research, and sign copies of the book. Yes!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Business Side of Publishing

Setting up a publishing company entails quite a few steps. First you must determine the structure of the business. Sole proprietor? Corporation? LLC? When I turned to my accountant for advice, he quickly asked, "Is there any chance you can be sued?" Well, we all know that anyone can sue at any time for any thing. I suppose a person could go to a library where I suggested there was a certain microfilm available, and if the film isn't there they could sue for misinformation. That being said, the accountant suggested I form an LLC, which gives me the personal protection of a corporation without all paperwork and added accounting issues.

The second step is to come up with a name for your company. I spent a lot of time on this as I wanted to make sure it was something I could live with for a long time. Researching name selections on the Internet yielded some interesting suggestions: first and foremost, the name should be memorable and relate to what you are doing or selling; choose names with the same number of syllables, i.e. if publishing was going to be in the company name, then the other word with it should also consist of three syllables; and a suggestion that the name consist of an alliteration. For me, then, I was looking for a three syllable word beginning with the letter "p" to go with publishing. I settled on the word "provenance". By definition, provenance is a place of origin or birthplace. It seemed perfect for a company that would give birth to new books.

Next I had to go to the Missouri Secretary of State's (SOS) website and check to see if Provenance Publishing LLC was an available name. It was, and so I registered the name with this office and received my Articles of Incorporation. At this point you can decide if you want a logo designed for the company, and you can set up a bank account. Many banks require a Employee Identification Number (EIN) to open an account. You can quickly and easily obtain one online at Many people will also ascertain that their company name is available as a website, and register this domain name right away.

Once I had established the company with the SOS, I had to complete a Business Registration with the Missouri Department of Revenue. This was followed by a Missouri Tax Registration Application. Yessirree, the tax man cometh. Because I will be selling a product, I was required to fill out the Sales and Use Tax Cash Bond and mail it it with a money order to make sure I could take care of my sales tax responsibilities. Once that was received by the state, I was issued a Missouri Tax Identification number.

With my new tax id I was able to complete the Business Personal Property Registration Application for Merchant and/or Manufacturer License for St. Louis County. This will enable me to have a license to sell in St. Louis County. My last step is to stop in at my local City Hall and fill out a business application since I will be doing administrative duties out of my house. Whew! I need to publish more books to make all this worthwhile!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Third Time's a Charm?

Today I selected a new printer in St. Louis. This company has printed all six or seven books of a friend of mine. He seemed to understand my frustration with the two printings done by the first printer. The pricing came in very close to what I had paid to printer number one. With the new company, I was able to send the cover art and inside copy to them through their website. If all goes well, I should have all the books in seven to ten days which is in plenty of time for my next book signings. For reprints they only need three to four days to complete an order. Hopefully all will go well this time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh Printer Where Art Thou?

Before my printer decided to fire me, I had already contacted a printer that has done multiple books for an author friend of mine. He shot me a price using 20 lb paper, and needed his print broker to give him the cost of using 70 lb weight. That was a week ago...I need to follow up with him tomorrow and move on to another if he isn't interested in this job. Time's a wastin'. I need the books for the first weekend of December. I received an order for a book in the mail today from a man in Liberty, MO who is researching a house in St. Louis County. And the St. Louis Genealogical Society wants five books to sell on consignment in their store.

For my next book I was thinking of doing a photo essay on the barn quilts in Iowa. Basically the owner of the barn selects a quilt square design that they like and has it painted on the side of their barn. These have proven to be somewhat of a tourist attraction for the area. I thought I could photograph the barn, interview the owners and then talk about the area. As I was researching this idea, I came across a woman on the internet who has been commissioned by the Ohio University Press to do a book on ALL the barn quilts in the U.S. There are currently 24 states that have a barn quilt project established in them. She is blogging about her travels as she goes around photographing the barns. That kind of threw a ringer in my plans. Would people buy a book just on the Iowa quilts if they could buy one that had all the states in it? Food for thought...I also don't want to look like I am copying her idea. We were just up in Iowa last weekend, so I photographed the 12 barn quilts located near my in-laws. It was such fun to see them. I really want to do this project!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Bloom is Off the Rose

So I called my print mis-manager today since he never gave me the courtesy of a return call after I left a message for him regarding the streaked books. In a nutshell, he is through with me. He said they could either refund my money or reprint the 44 books. But the printer used on my books is broken down (No fake? Is it because it is leaving streaks across the pages of everything they print on it???) He doesn't know when it will be fixed, when they could get the new books done for me, blah, blah, blah. But he doesn't have a problem refunding my money. Really? "Why would you have a problem refunding money to me when nearly half of my books can't be sold?", I asked incredulously. I told him to give my money back. Which he actually did by this afternoon, crediting me for 50 books. Big of him, since I made 5 extra trips due to their screw-ups, stressed over having the books in time for my signing, was embarrassed when a customer pointed out the streaking, and am now put in the position of trying to find a new printer so I can have a sufficient quantity of books before my next event.

On to better news...This morning I dropped off my business cards with the Director of the Webster Groves Library, as he had requested them for a meeting. That has already paid off with an order coming from the Kirkwood Public Library. Woo, hoo!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Black Mark Against the Printer

Bright and early this morning I sat down with all the books and flipped through each and every one looking for the dreaded black streak. I was dismayed when 3 of the first 5 books I picked up had the marks. By the end of the stack I had a pile of 41 books with the streaks. That means that nearly half of the second printing of these books were damaged! Where was the quality control?

There are also 3 books where the printing on the binding wraps around to the front of the book. I believe these books were the printers try at convincing me that the wave problem was due to my selection of a 70 lb weight paper. I think they used 60 lb on those 3 and so my binding was too wide. Yeah, let's throw those in the box and make her pay for them as well. Needless to say 44 books are in a box to be returned. Or refunded. I haven't figured out what my next step will be. I placed a call to my production mis-manager yesterday to give him a head's up on the issue. We played phone tag today.

In the meantime, I called another local printer that my friend has used for all of her books. (Duh - why didn't I ask Edna who she used in the first place!) I gave him the specifications on the book and explained the issues I have been having with my current printer. He will get back to me with a price. I want someone else lined up before I need to reorder books. No way Black Mark Printers will ever get my business again.

Because I like things to end on a positive note, I'll report that the St. Louis County Library ordered a book today. I think they will order additional copies once they have an opportunity to see what the book offers. I also dropped off a book at the St. Louis Genealogical Society for their review. If they think it is a good fit, they'll carry it in their store. I told them to keep the copy for the on-site library once they are done with the review. My last stop was to my local library. I am donating a copy to them, and need to drop off 8 additional business cards Thursday morning. The Municipal Library Consortium, made up of 9 independent libraries in the county, is meeting in Webster Groves Thursday. Tom, our director, will pass out my business cards and show them my book at the meeting.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Baby's Launched

Yesterday was my first book signing. Sitting at the Webster Groves Historical Society table surrounded by the sounds of Christmas and the sun beaming through the greenhouse roof, it was definitely a unique launch. I had set up the table and chairs on Saturday afternoon, and then needed to be at my table by 9:30 Sunday morning. At first it was rather slow, to be expected as most people were at church. Jim hung out with me, which was really nice, and my sister and a few of our friends arrived early. My first sales - yay! Fredbird was in the house from noon until 2:00 as a batting cage was set up to raise money for Backstoppers. There was a really nice crowd the whole time he was present, and he was very agreeable to photographs. Too bad I can't caption mine "Fredbird says 'Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed(room)?' is a winner!"

Other friends came throughout the day, and Bobbi noticed black horizontal lines going across one of the pages in a book. OMG! I hurriedly looked at the others and did not see any with a problem, thank goodness. At least not then - more on that later. By the end of the day I had sold 10 books, which I thought was pretty good for the venue. But more important was getting the word out on the book. A special collections librarian for the St. Louis Public Library (the city system) stopped by, took my card and said they will want to carry my book in the city libraries. And the Vice President of the historical society took my book to a meeting she had that afternoon with other local societies. She showed the book, and let them know I am available to give presentations on house research. One of the societies wants to order 10 books!

So at the end of the day (4:30 to be exact), I felt that my time was well spent and I made some great contacts. Bring on the December boutiques!

This morning I began looking through the books, searching for any other flaws. So far I am up to 15 books that have the striping issue. And I probably have over 50 books left to review, not to mention going to the bookstores to check their inventory. Guess who is not getting my re-order?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drum Roll, Please!

At 9:30 this morning I met with my production manager to pick up my books. Even though it was a Saturday, there were several cars in the lot. At least the electronic gate was open today and I didn't have to wait double-parked in the street while calling the office to get them to open it. On my first visit to the printer I got locked inside the parking lot. Thinking that a motion sensor that would open the gate, I drove slowly forward hoping to trip the electronic eye. Nothing...After several more attempts, which even now probably appear on youtube somewhere, I finally spied an employee out on a smoke break. I motioned to her and asked her about the gate, and she said she would come over and let me out. She had to punch in a code at the gate. Would have been nice if someone inside had given me a heads up on that one.

At any rate, I picked up the copies today. Originally I had picked up and paid for 110 books (the 100 in my order and an overrun of 10). Today I only received 102 books. I think they were done with me by the time they got this batch completed. I expressed concern that I was getting less than I had originally paid for, and he had the gall to reply that I had kept 10 of the original books! Yes, 10 that I wasn't happy with! Throw me a bone here, buddy! After four additional trips back and forth to the printers and stressing all week about whether I would have books for my signing tomorrow, he is going to quibble over those 10 books I kept for the local bookstore? Have mercy!

Bottom line here is that the new books look better than the old, but still not perfect. I probably will look for a different printer when I get ready to order more.

And to end on a happy, positive note, I had been contacted by the Book House on Manchester with a request to see a copy of my book. Upon showing it to the owner, she immediately purchased 5 copies. And gave me a check! Woo, hoo!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Full Moon

I took a picture of the full moon last weekend. Little did I know that it would symbolize the kind of week I would have. It is 4:30 on Friday and I do not have the new copies of my book. The latest is that when they ran the books again they got the same result. So they decided to try it on a different printer. The book ended up looking a little different so they called me at noon to come and take a look at it. The new machine ends up treating the pictures in the book a little differently, but I really couldn't see much of a difference. The bigger issue is that the book is still slightly wavy. It is pretty minor, and stacking the books may straighten them out. I'm not sure. I asked Patrick why the proof turned out so perfect, and he has no answer to that. He feels it is because I chose 70 lb paper that there is a problem. Oh sure, blame it on me...the 70 lb paper was used on the proof, for crying out loud!

I told him I would accept the new books if that is the best that can be done. And honestly, I doubt anyone would notice an issue at this point. Plus it's possible they will flatten nicely once they are stacked. In any event, they are much better than the originals. Because the second shift will be the ones trimming the books, I can't get them today. Patrick will meet me at the printers tomorrow morning to pick them up. Ei, yi yi....

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ten Babies Have Left the Nest

Now that 2 bookstores want to carry my book, I decided a consultation call to my friend Anne was in order. What kind of a discount do I offer to the stores? Is there a signed contract? What documentation provides proof that I dropped off x number of books in case later it is claimed that I only dropped off the quantity of y? Anne told me that the bookstore will take 45% off the price of the book as their discount. That is where they make their money. She had no written agreement, and she concurred that it is all pretty loosey-goosey. That won't work for me, so I need to come up with something to leave in the bookstore owner's hands that covers me but won't offend them.

I ended up designing a starting point layout for my publishing company letterhead. Then I devised an introductory letter, where I can insert the number of books being left with any store who elects to sell my book.

Having heard nothing from my printer by mid-afternoon yesterday I bundled up 10 copies of my not ready for prime time books and took them to the local bookstore, Pudd'nhead Books. The store was having a fundraiser for a local elementary school last night, and the owner felt certain she could sell some of my books at the event. As she said she would take some books in their current condition, I had withheld 10 when I took the rest back to the printer. When I arrived, they were scurrying around readying the store for what they hoped would be a deluge of customers. A young woman was outside painting book characters on the windows. The owner assured me she still wanted my books, and said the first thing I needed to do was sign each copy. After they were all signed, she placed two stickers on the cover of each. One says "Local Author", which she says garners a lot of attention from shoppers, and the other says "Signed". Then she placed them on a shelf in the area of the store she felt would be the busiest last night. Right next to the beautiful, hard bound book commemorating the anniversary of the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was definitely a moment for me. And did I have my camera with me? Nope! I left a letter with the store owner on my new letterhead, confirming that I was dropping off 10 copies of my book. At least she now has my contact information until I can get business cards done.

Speaking of business cards, last night I came up with a layout that I am pretty happy with. Today I purchased business card stock with matching paper for letterhead and envelopes. Hopefully the Avery template I used will work on the paper I ended up purchasing. Shame on Avery for not selling paper and envelopes to go with their business card stock!

Latest word on the book? It had to be reprinted, they are waiting on the covers before they can do the binding, and I'll have them tomorrow afternoon. No pressure!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Approaching the Libraries

I have become friends with Tom, director of my local library, through a local writers group on Facebook. I stopped in the library this morning to show the book to him, albeit a copy still stuck on doing the wave, and asked his advice on my next step to getting it into libraries. He admired the book, and recommended that I downplay the helpful forms section of the book. Libraries don't like those as people tend to, well... write on the forms.

He suggested coming up with a flier describing the book, and listing any quotes from reviewers. The fliers can be left behind with any libraries I visit, and can be mailed to those I can't get to personally. He also asked where my invoice is. I'm pretty sure I gave him a "huh?" look. He said I'll need to leave an invoice with the book at each library. Okay, another item on the "To Do" list. It sounds as though I will need to approach each of the libraries within the Municipal Library Consortium of St. Louis County separately. Darn it! I was hoping they had a central buyer of books. St. Louis County Library is on my hit list, of course. But Tom advised me to also contact St. Louis City Library. He is confident they will want more than one copy of the book for their branches.

On a different note, the Book House, which sells new and used books in St. Louis, heard about my book and wants to carry copies. In an email, the owner asked what discount I am offering to bookstores. Yet another "huh?" moment for me. I thought the bookstores would have an agreement waiting for my signature. I'll do some research and talk with other authors to see what is fair to both parties. I don't want my naievete to get me screwed with the other retailers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Taking the Baby in for Cosmetic Surgery

I called my production manager bright and early this morning (meaning as soon as they opened at 8:30), and I'm sure I made his day by telling him that there is a problem with my book. I explained the wavy look, which is pretty hard to describe without seeing it. He asked if I could bring the books back to him. Confirming that I would bring them this morning, I decided to stop at a local bookshop to see if the owner would give me an opinion about the condition of the books. After all, I might be making a mountain out of a molehill.

This particular bookstore does not generally carry self-published books. In fact she only carries one - my friend Ann Milford's book "How to Marry the Wrong Guy". (Which was just picked up by an imprint of Penguin books - yay, Anne!) Stopping in would give me a chance to show the owner my book while asking her advice. She confirmed that had she received a shipment looking like that, she would have returned them. She then looked further at my book, and said she wanted to have 10 copies for an event that is going on at her shop tomorrow night - she would even take 10 in their current condition, if need be! Then she was talking about book signings in December and/or January, doing a small lecture at the shop at the same time. I told her I'll see what happens with the books, and bring 10 back to her one way or the other tomorrow. Wow!

At the printers, they concurred that there was a humidity issue with the book. They hadn't noticed the wave as they packed up the books for me. Maybe that's true, or maybe they thought as a new author I wouldn't know any better. Regardless, they will first try to straighten the books with a dehumidifier. If that doesn't work, they will reprint the books. When reminded of my book signing on Sunday, I was assured I would have the books by Friday. Another lesson learned - whether you pick up your books or have them delivered, take them out right away and check them over. I was lucky that I had picked them up myself, as I understand that sometimes the printer tries to blame the trucking company and the trucking company blames the printer, and there you are stuck in the middle. I just stuck with my guns.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Baby IS Ugly After All

Following a call from the printer this morning, I dashed downtown to pick up my books. I plucked one out of the box, excited as a new mom about to cradle her newborn for the first time. The pinkish cast on the cover had been corrected, and the book looked great. Or so I thought at the time. The project manager of my book advised me that they had an overrun of eleven books. Did I want them? Heck, yes! I wouldn't leave any babies behind. He added the eleven to one of the boxes. He and another guy loaded the boxes into my car, and once I arrived home I realized I couldn't carry the boxes by myself. I grabbed a few of the books out of the box and took them inside to admire. I'm not sure I can verbally describe what happened next, but I'll try.

I set the small stack of books on the counter and proceeded to put the groceries away. When I glanced over at the stack, the side of the books appeared wavy. Not on the bound side, but on the unbound one. Thinking my eyes were deceiving me, I took the top book and set it by itself on the counter. Yep, definitely wavy. Is this because the glue isn't quite dry? I'm not sure but if I didn't know better I would say the books had been exposed to excess moisture. With all the rain we had last week, I guess it is a possibility. It occurred to me that perhaps these books were part of the eleven extra put in at the last minute. Maybe they were the first ones through the process and didn't look as good as the rest? Hope springs eternal. I went back out to my car and muscled one of the boxes in. Unfortunately it appears that all the books are doing the wave.

When my husband got home, he took one look and said it appeared that the books had gotten wet. He said HE wouldn't buy one in a bookstore looking like that. And I know that the bookstores are really picky about the appearance of books. Tomorrow I will call my project manager at the printers and see if he has an explanation. The proof book I had reviewed definitely did not look like these. It is six days until the book signing...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hiring an Editor

Avoidance is sometimes a necessary strategy, so I am putting off the press release for the moment. The information I had come up with was enough to satisfy my first brush with the media. Back to the book... After I had my book reviewed by the institutions mentioned in the book as well as a professional genealogist and a St. Louis County librarian, I hired an editor. When she emailed suggested changes back to me, they were few and mostly inconsequential. Now, I would love to think that I am such a great writer that the manuscript was pretty perfect when I sent it to her, but I know that is not the case.

In retrospect, it might have been better to give her the book after the book designer had laid it out. Quite a few changes were made once I was able to see how the book would look. The problem with having the editor review the text after the lay out is that you rack up additional fees with the designer when changes are made. On the other hand, the editor never saw the final draft of the book. I had settled up the bill with her long before then. I did, however, have other sets of eyes review it, including someone who works at the local newspaper. My advice is to get the editor involved after the entire book is laid out. That's what I'll do next time.