Enjoy a public view of articles, notices, and events available to help you as an independent book publisher, small press, self-publisher, author or aspiring writer. NCPA is a support network to help you create and market the best-possible fiction or non-fiction book.

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  • 13 Sep 2015 5:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ted Witt

    Your book is competing with more than seven million others in today’s market. That number is so large we cannot even imagine the space that many books would take up. The odds of someone finding your book by chance are about half the odds of winning the biggest jackpot from the California State Lottery. How close have you come to winning the California State Lottery?

    Books must be discoverable. While good metadata and traditional marketing will score you some sales, it remains difficult to peddle your book based on a good title, an appealing cover and promotional materials that brag, “This is a great story.” There are millions of great stories.

    One solution employed by a growing number of indie publishers is a focus on building long-term customer relationships and offering value-added content. This is what is starting to distinguish successful indie publishers from those with scattered sales. Your book by itself is not value enough.

    Look around. People pay attention when you satisfy a need, arouse their curiosity and deliver something free.

    What are the pre-sale, value add-ons that can drive people to your platform? Usually they involve some sort of author-generated tool, expert advice or entertainment – all of which are cheaper than a brass ring in a box of Cracker Jacks, but still costly in an author’s time and in maintenance of the author’s media platform.

    Do not get left behind. Brainstorm what value add-ons you can deliver to your potential readers. Once you have created your value add-on, always provide a link back to your book and the opportunity to buy.

    To get you started, here are 25 ideas:

    • 1.     How-To Advice in a Pamphlet: Your book is about newly wedded bliss; you create a pamphlet for couples that gives advice on splitting your time between respective families on Christmas Day.
    • 2.     An Excel Spreadsheet: Your book is about getting a good mortgage; you offer a spreadsheet that calculates monthly payments and an amortization schedule.
    • 3.     A Free E-book: Your book is a historical novel; you create a 32-page e-book or PDF with pictures from the era.
    • 4.     An Interactive Bookmark: Your book is about astrology; you create bookmarks with a Lottery-like scratch off that reveals insights into reading the stars.
    • 5.     A You Tube Video: You have developed a collection of recipes; you create a video demonstrating you cooking one of the dishes and solving real-life kitchen problems.
    • 6.     An ITunes Play List: Your book is about exercise and conditioning; you create a play list of songs for the advanced, intermediate and beginner exerciser in a variety of musical genres.
    • 7.     A Lesson Plan: You published a picture book for children; you create a lesson plan for teachers that aligns with curriculum standards for various grade levels.
    • 8.     A Podcast: You have written a mystery novel; you upload a Podcast containing your interview with a real police detective about police procedures.
    • 9.     On-Line Reviews: You have written a travelogue; you post on-line reviews of the hotels you stayed at and reference the restaurants that are fully described in your book.
    • 10.  Infographic: You have published a set of political essays; you create an iPhone-friendly infographic with charts and graphs about homelessness, the deficit, Pentagon spending, PELL grants, health care – well, you get the idea…any topic works.
    • 11.  Craft Instructions: You have written a how-to book on knitting; you create detailed instructions on your blog for a Christmas knitting project that is not in your book.
    • 12.  Op-Ed Articles: You have written a book about medical dosage calculations; you write an op-ed piece for a newspaper revealing your research on how many deaths are attributable to improper dosages of medicine.
    • 13.  TV Interview: You have written a science fiction thriller; you set yourself up as the expert for TV stations, explaining how attendees can get the most out of Westercon when it comes to Sacramento, Loscon when it comes to Los Angeles, or Rustycon when it comes to Seattle.
    • 14.  Business Card Backs: You have written a romance novel; the back of your business cards contains a link to the Top Ten Love Scenes in Romance Literature (of course, a scene from your book is in the top ten).
    • 15.  Post Cards: You have written a high-action military thriller; you send postcards to your niche audience picturing a high -tech gun. The post contains a link to your website showing photographs of all the high tech weapons that have a role in your novel.
    • 16.  Surveys: You have written a book on etiquette; you pose provocative questions on Survey Monkey and offer readers the option to help set the standard for modern manners or ethical dilemmas.
    • 17.  Facebook: You have written a book for women on accessorizing their wardrobes; you offer the opportunity for your friends to be the fashion police by posting side-by-side photos on Facebook, and then you ask fans to comment on which accessory works and why or why  not.
    • 18.  Twitter: You have created a puzzle book; you pose a riddle in a 140-character Tweet and link back to the answer on your book page.
    • 19.  Linked In: You have written a business book about setting up a small business; you create a group within the Linked In community and answer questions weekly from small business owners.
    • 20.   Creative Commons License: You have written a book of poetry; you offer a web page that grants a creative common license to use a handful of your poems on a potential customer’s own homemade greeting cards.
    • 21.  Direct Mail Thank You: You have illustrated a children’s book; you send a thank-you packet to your existing customers that contains a limited edition postcard depicting a holiday theme you have drawn. You encourage customers to send a serendipitous note to a friend by mailing the free postcard.
    • 22.  Point-of-Sale Cards: You have written a book about a horse; you create an 8.5” x 3.6” glossy card that offers tips on how to go about a horse adoption. You place these at local feed stores and tack shops.
    • 23.  Stickers: You have written a book about UFOs; you create stickers that say, “This money won’t help you if you are abducted by aliens.” You place the sticker on every dollar bill you circulate.
    • 24.  Stock Art: You have published a gift book about cats; you use your website to offer free photographs and quotations that people can use to convey a greeting on Facebook.
    • 25.  Coupons: You are published in a literature anthology; you offer your fans a coupon for a free signed poster (suitable for framing) and a book discount.

    Your work as an author does not end when you publish your book. Your writing and your creativity are essential to making your book discoverable.

    Ted Witt is a publisher, working at Pretty Road Press, an indie imprint located in Folsom, California.

  • 13 Sep 2015 5:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ted Witt

    You have finished your manuscript; now it is time to design.

    Too many writers neglect book layout in their rush to get into print. Be professional. If you have not hired a graphic artist to lay out your book, you may violate one of these eight rules. Even if you hire a designer, an inexperienced artist may also make these publishing mistakes, and you will stand out as an amateur. Pay attention to these basics.

    Chapter Starts

    Chapters always start on right-side (recto) pages, and the corresponding page number must be odd, not even. The only excuse for a left-page (verso) start is when you have created a consistent two-page layout to introduce new chapters. Even in this instance, the exception applies to non-fiction books with magazine style designs where art and headers are on the left, but actual text usually starts on the right. Mass-market publishers who are cheap and disregard design (read St. Martin’s Press) start chapters on left-side pages.  Don’t emulate pulp fiction.

    Page Number

    Page numbers start with the Arabic numeral 1, concurrent with the first chapter on a right-side page. Front matter does not count toward the page count, and if front-matter pages are numbered, they employ Roman numerals, not Arabic. Turn to the end of your book; if a right-side page is not an odd number, you have a problem. Blank pages will count in sequence as part of the page count, but do not place an actual number on the blank page.

    Blank Right Pages

    There are no excuses for blank right pages. Blank left-side pages are acceptable. If a chapter ends on a left-side page, start the next chapter on the next right page. Never say, “This page intentionally left blank.”

    Running Headers

    Running headers typically include the name of the book or chapter ID running along the top of each page. The combination of text for running headers depends upon the structure of the book, but text on left-side pages is different from right-side pages. Examples of some possible combinations include:

    Author Name                              Book Name

    Chapter Number                       Chapter Title

    Book Title                                      Chapter Title

    When including running headers, the type should set to the outside of the page or at the center of the text block. Do not align running headers alongside the book gutter. You want to make it easy for people to read, not difficult. Aligning toward the gutter impedes readability, forcing readers to crack open the book to remind them where they are.

    Page numbers should be set to the outside edge of any text, on both the left side and right side.

    Do not use running heads on blank pages or on pages with chapter starts.

    Type Justification

    For most normal books, fiction or non-fiction, justified text is the standard. I once published a book with rag-right text because research said unjustified copy would be easier to read. However, the book lost its professional appeal. Learn from my mistake; stick with justified text. I would grant exceptions to gift books, children’s books, recipe books, and coffee table books.

    Widows and Orphans

    Typographers sometimes disagree on this topic, but the moral consensus is that it is our “ethical” responsibility to care for widows and orphans.

    A widow is the last line in a paragraph that sits by itself at the top of a new page. Often it is short and fails to reach the margin. It looks odd sitting there, tiny and lonesome.  An orphan is the first line of a paragraph that ends a page. It is not as unfriendly as a widow, but calls attention to itself especially in non-fiction books where the author’s manuscript is often accompanied by lots of subheads, tables, bullet points, and enumerated lists.

    A designer who wants a perfectly rectangular text block cannot fix orphans and widows without shortening some pages, so these dangling lines stay widows and orphans through the book.

    The better approach is to fix them. Here is a simple guideline:  begin and end a page with at least two full lines of text.  If necessary, steal a line from a preceding page. Allow that page to be short by one line so that widows and orphans become married or adopted.

    It is worth repeating: Always leave any extra space at the bottom of the page. Align recto and verso text blocks at the top of the page, not at the bottom. Always.

    You are excused from the care of widows and orphans if you are dealing with a long page of staccato dialog. It may be impossible to avoid short lines.


    Don’t be afraid of white space. Err toward more margin than less. Gutter margins must be wider to accommodate the binding and bend of the page; an inch is usually OK. Classic designs give larger margins to the bottom of the page than the top. At a minimum, your running head should be set on the half-inch line at the top of your page, with another line space of at least 1.5 lines separating it from the text block. Outside margins are usually wider than top margins; try three-quarters of an inch. When in doubt, buy a template.


    To serious book publishers, using Times Roman for your book would be like using Comic Sans to write a business letter. It is just not done. Save Times Roman for newspapers. Serif type is a must-do for readability. Here are six classic book fonts: Bembo, Caslon, Garamond, Janson, Granjon, and Sabon. Once again, we excuse gift books, children’s books and specialty books from the tradition. Chapter heads may be of a contrasting font, such as a san serif type.

    Ted Witt is a publisher, working at Pretty Road Press, an indie imprint located in Folsom, California.

  • 13 Sep 2015 5:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ted Witt


    • ·       Half Title Page (Recto)
    • ·       Blank (Verso)
    • ·       Full Title Page (Recto)
    • ·       Copyright Page (Verso)
    • ·       Dedication (Recto)
    • ·       Epigraph or Quotation (Verso)
    • ·       Table of Contents (Recto)
    • ·       Table of Illustrations (Verso)
    • ·       List of Any Other  Tables and Charts, if any (Recto)
    • ·       Forward by Someone Other than Author (Recto)
    • ·       Preface by Author (Recto)
    • ·       Acknowledgments (preferred spelling without the extra “e” (Recto)
    • ·       Introduction (Recto)


    • ·       Prologue (Recto)
    • ·       Part Heading (Verso or Recto)
    • ·       Chapters (Starting Recto)
    • ·       Subheaders or Scene Breaks
    • ·       Epilogues (Recto)
    • ·       Illustrations (At Designer’s Choice: Inline, Post Chapter, or Grouped)


    • ·       Acknowledgments (If not placed in frontmatter)
    • ·       Appendix (Recto)
    • ·       Second and Any Other Appendices (Each Recto)
    • ·       Chronology (Recto)
    • ·       Abbreviations (Recto)
    • ·       Notes (Recto)
    • ·       Glossary (Recto)
    • ·       Bibliography (Recto)
    • ·       Contributors (Recto)
    • ·       Illustration or Photography Credits (Recto)
    • ·       Index (Recto)


    Adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

    Recto = Right-Side Page, Verso = Left-side Page

    Single blank verso page is acceptable, but not two in a row; no blank recto pages, unless at the very page of the book

  • 09 Sep 2015 7:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Ted Witt

    Afraid someone will steal your writing? It’s a common fear, but the law protects you the moment you save your first word on a hard drive or pencil a phrase on paper. Still, there are limitations, and the law can be complicated. For starters, check out these highlights describing United States copyright law.

    What cannot be copyrighted?

    Book titles: Sorry, your novel’s clever title can be used by your competitor.

    Ideas: Too bad, Mr. Einstein, the theory of relativity is an idea. It is not protected. However, your creative, written explanation of how the theory works is copyrightable. (Albert could not have sued anybody for just writing about the theory of relativity.) Likewise, if you have idea for a plot, it is not copyrightable. If you discuss your plot idea with another person, the idea is not protected; your conversation partner can use the idea without penalty. Only your tangible writing is copyrightable, so be careful with whom you share your ideas.

    Speeches: Because your spoken words are not in tangible form, they are not protected. Once recorded, your speech recording is copyrightable. If delivered from a written text, the speech’s text itself can be protected by copyright.

    Facts: Examples: news, baseball scores, telephone numbers, addresses, and website domain names are not protected.

    Methods: Nope. This category includes how-to advice on how to fix a faucet and your recipe for carrot cake.

    Discoveries: Edison discovered that sound can be imprinted on vinyl. That’s not copyrightable, but he had a good reason to seek a patent to protect his invention.

    Fashion: Assume you create a gown for Julia Roberts to wear to the Academy Awards. Too bad! It can’t be copyrighted because it is a useful object. However, you may be able to copyright the fabric print, if you created it.

    Works from the Federal Government:  Yes, all those NASA space photos are in the public domain. So is the text of all U.S. government laws and court decisions, as are photos taken by the government-paid presidential photographer.

    So what can be copyrighted?

    Works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, drawings, computer software, and architecture.

    Take note:

    1. Your creative work is copyrighted the instant it takes physical form, even if on the back of a napkin.

    2. Including the copyright symbol gives you greater clout in court and the ability to collect on damages if you ever need to sue an intellectual property thief. Thus, for this article, I declare: © 2013, Pretty Road Press.
    3. Registering your work with the U.S. copyright office affords you the most protection if you ever need to sue.
    4. Failing to enforce your copyright can lead to: a) little claim to damages when you file a lawsuit, b) a speedier transition of the work to the public domain.

    Ted Witt is a publisher, working at Pretty Road Press, an indie imprint located in Folsom, California.

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