HP is a "micro-publisher" which exists only to publish the books written by E. Scott Spencer.
All of his books have a common strategy: each combines fiction with non-fiction, with a blurred boundary. The non-fiction covers interesting but obscure aspects of subjects, sometimes with footnotes and diagrams: a chance perhaps to educate the reader about an arcane subject. The goal of the fiction is to entertain the reader, to provide unusual ideas in an attractive way: action and adventure in uncommon surroundings. The main characters are mostly in their twenties, lead interesting lives, and all have a healthy disrespect for authority and political correctness. These guys are having fun, and they want to bring you along.
When I started writing, my skills were (and still are) somewhat limited, but I loved to write fiction and "daydream into the keyboard." When well into my first novel I sent it to an editor in NYC: a person who advises neophyte writers in return for cash. We would talk on the phone for hours about style, voice, point-of-view, plot, character development, and all those good things other people learn in writing school. The result was constant re-write. Along the way some of her advice "took" and my writing is much the better for the experience. However, the process of editing a book with another person, while improving the end product, reduces the spontaneity of the story and takes a long time. I experimented with other editors and professional readers and the process was the same. First there is the effort to prepare materials, print them, and send them. Then a long delay, during which the author is writing and changing the material, then a conference and the task of merging the editorís thoughts into the book, and rewriting to blend them in, then more editing. The end result may be a better book, but it is also a different book.
Instead, I am now going from keyboard to printed book, quickly and alone. In the past, the first three books on this website had various passes with editors and advisors, and multiple versions and re-hashes, but the end results were so unsatisfactory that I dropped the idea of writing fiction for over a year. Then I learned about print-on-demand and the clouds parted.
I have gone back to the versions I liked best, rewritten them the way I wanted, edited them myself, molded the pages into shape using Adobe InDesign, then emailed them to Lightning Source for printing. No editors, agents, publishers, kibitzers, nay-sayers, involved. I can do crazy titles, odd photographs, strange plots and whatever else I want without paying for criticism of it. And even more important to me is the lack of delay, waiting for someone else to do something. Instead of paying an "expert" to do book design and layout, I taught myself InDesign, which is a very slick piece of software, and did it myself quickly. If I change my mind, I can change the words, change the layout, email the changed files to Lightning, and the next book off the press will be new. It can happen overnight, instead of months later, and at little cost. There is no "inventory" to sell before a new version can be released.
Another aspect of aesthetics to consider is wasted time and emotional strain. With my early efforts, I spent considerable time writing cover letters, locating agents to mail them to, writing synopses, polishing the first twenty-five pages, etc. This not only took a fair amount of time and effort, but it distracted me from writing, and the endless stream of rejection letters is no fun. The process is also very slow: replies from agents and publishers arrived between one week and one year after I had written to them: the fastest replies came from locations where the person to whom I had written had changed jobs, so the address was bad. Lots of turnover in the agent world. I would not recommend this "standard" approach to any new writer unless he/she is uncommonly skilled at both writing and self-promotion, especially the latter. Even if you land an agent, that is no guarantee of publication, and he/she is yet another voice re-arranging your book, telling you whatís wrong with it, and causing delays.
If you have any interest in publishing a book, please buy a copy of PRINT ON DEMAND BOOK PUBLISHING by Rosenthal (Amazon carries it). I was most fortunate to find this book, via Google searching. When you receive this paperback, you will be holding a book that was written in MS Word, typeset in MS Word, converted to PDF via shareware, then printed by Lightning Source: nothing fancy, but it all works. Rosenthal gives a clear description of the process, the economics, and his own experiences, which Iíll briefly summarize here.
Traditional publishers use huge presses to print thousands of copies of a book at a time. Set-up is expensive, so once the plates are made and the press is rolling, itís crazy not to let it run for awhile. Each extra book may cost a dollar or less to manufacture once the press is spinning. (they use cheap paper too). Once these books are printed, they need to be trucked somewhere, stored in a warehouse, moved with forklifts, pushed into book stores by salesmen, and finally remaindered on the one dollar shelf at big stores. Difficult economics unless you sell lots of copies and pay to advertise like mad.
POD (print on demand) is new technology applied to the whole process. The author writes the book in a computer, formats the text and photos into pages on the same computer, then emails the files to Lightning Source (or a competitor). There, the files live on a huge computer, along with the files for maybe 200,000 other books. When someone buys a book, at Amazon for example, an electronic order goes automatically to Lightning, who then uses a gigantic "xerox machine" to print and bind one copy of the book in a few minutes, then mail it to the customer. The cost of making a book this way may be $5 instead of $1, but there is no inventory, no salesmen, no remainders, and nobody else to pay. For a new and unusual book itís a very good deal. For the lonely author it is also financially attractive: the customerís money is split between Amazon, Lightning, and the writer: no others are involved.
Getting started is not very expensive. Rosenthal did book design and layout in MS Word, so there was no extra cost for page layout. Every publisher needs to buy an ISBN number for each book, and Lightning charges $100 or so for various set-up fees. Something under $500 probably covers the whole process. You could pay this much for ten or twenty hours of editing, and be no closer to publication.
An extra attraction of Lightning is that they are owned by Ingram, which is the largest wholesale book distributor in USA. This means that if Lightning prints your book, it automatically appears on Amazon and B&N's internet stores. In addition, Lightning has a press in England, so you can obtain some international exposure as well, if desired.
Read a Harvard Business School case study (available for $6) about James Patterson and how he manufactures his stories and books to match customer needs, developed through his market research: he is a factory, making tons of money, not an author seeking awards. Much insight into the economics of fiction marketing and profits. Read one of his books on an airplane: it matches the case study!
Final pass through the text of Book-1, SENIORS, giving more importance to Jessica as the female lead: read that most fiction buyers are women so I have developed her into an attractive young woman whom female readers might enjoy following through my story. What a complex life she leads.
Need to format the text on each page, set the styles, page numbers, margins, leave room for binding, paper trimming, etc. All of this is done by a separate program, called book-design or page-layout software. It is special software that just lays out books and brochures. Adobe InDesign is the standard way professionals, at least those recently trained in art colleges, do book design, so it has the capability to do professional and highly detailed complex books, as well as simple ones like mine. Previously pros used Quark for book layout. ID takes your text and flows it onto pages, like water flowing in a stream: you decide the page measurements, where the text is allowed to go, page numbering, headers and footers etc, then ID flows the text onto the pages. You make holes and place photos, graphic effects, background pictures, etc. Look at any magazine or colorful brochure or even some fancy restaurant menus and chances are that they were done in ID or something like it, after the text had been written in any word-processor. (Note: you can do page layout in MS Word, but the real book layout programs like ID are much more powerful, flexible, and artistic: the Rosenthal book mentioned above was all done in MS Word)
First book design task: break text of book into chapters, one file each, while still in MS WORD: I did all the writing in one large file, which allows easy moving of paragraphs etc, for the author. Realized from my foray into InDesign that taking the process in small chunks would be lots easier for a beginner: talked to a pro and found that they always do it by chapters as well. Remove all photos and captions from the text: will place them on carefully-chosen pages later: keep them all in a separate file for now.
"Learn by Doing", flowing the first and shortest chapter into InDesign. Some pain just learning how to start a project correctly (I did it wrong way and restarted several times). Next book will be much easier! All the exercises in the ID classroom-in-a-book started with a project already in-process, then edited it: no example of start-from-scratch. In my years of developing and using software I have found perseverance to be the most effective skill by far: no matter how daunting the problem, there is always a solution, but the only way to find it is to try over and over to make the thing work. I still never got the main style pages (master pages) correct and had to fudge here and there, but once you get the hang of it, ID is a very useful and powerful program.
Placed the first pictures into the bookís pages and they looked poor, grainy, lo resolution, etc: much worse than they had looked in Photoshop. Finish the book, then go back to a particularly bad photo and "fix" it. Tried many ways but still awful. After hours of file format changes, size, etc, "read the instructions" very carefully, for how to place a picture in ID. Mega-surprise, the ID program places a "lo resolution" version of the image on the screen so that files edit and load fast, but places the actual hi res picture in the output file: I have been wasting my time: pix on-screen will always look terrible while editing in ID: a feature, not a problem.
For fun, search Amazon for my book, and it's already there! BUT, no picture of the cover and no blurb describing the book, and of course, no sales. Order a copy with one-click for fun and it works. Read the fine print on Amazon and discover that "the publisher", me, needs to upload a carefully-formatted cover image as well as a blurb to Amazon as separate files. Now I realize why some books on Amazon have no cover image: it's not automatic by any means. The process is free, but must be done by their rules.
Oddly enough, book-3, Gypsy Waves, is the first fiction I ever wrote and I have redone it end-to-end at least three times. Finally on-track to make a very interesting book from the existing material. BTW, a word of advice for authors and writers: After shipping Haunted Steel Adventures to Lightning and Amazon, I discovered a file with lots of good ideas for that book which I had forgotten. Need time I need to organize ideas better, and not loose such fine tidbits. First thing I did on book-3 was round-up all the old versions and notes and make some sense of the pile of paper, backup discs, editor's comments and old files before writing anything new.