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For the New Year, set free your inner author

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image M&M Printing Company CEO Wes Mullins in the company’s press room. M&M, along with other printers, is capable of helping you make dreams of becoming an author come true. Photo Mitch Traphagen

There has never been a better time in the history of the written word to become an author.

By Mitch Traphagen

The publishing industry, like so many other industries, has been thrown into disarray by the relentless growth of digital media. For publishing companies, that could well be worrisome news. For aspiring authors, however, there has never been a better time in the history of the written word to become an author.

It is commonly said that everyone has a book inside. If that rings true for you, make this the year you act on it.

The sale of electronic books, or e-books, is expected to reach half of all books sold by the end of 2013. Although the sale of dedicated e-readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle, has reached a plateau, an estimated 20 percent of Americans now own one, nearly double the percentage from the previous year. The sale numbers for printed books, meanwhile, have fallen. Any rumors of the death of printed books, however, are still exaggerated. Print remains the dominant medium for readers.

Yet the rise of e-books is great news for hopeful authors. Today, virtually anyone can publish a book on their own and even offer it for sale via global websites such as Amazon.com. Once the more difficult work of actually writing a book is complete, creating an e-book is relatively easy with readily available software — some even available at no cost. But for any author, nothing beats holding a physical book with your story on the pages and your name on the cover. Fortunately, even that is easier than ever.

Of course, first you have to write the book. Observer News contributing writer Penny Fletcher is also a published author of multiple books as well as a freelance editor of manuscripts. An editor such as Penny can be invaluable in making the difference between a jumbled diary and a masterpiece.

“Don’t worry about anything except what you want to write,” Penny recommends to hopeful authors. “Don’t worry about grammar or sentence structure. You could even speak it if you can get it out better that way. Don’t worry about ANYTHING until the whole thing is written.”

Penny has further advice for when you are ready to hire an editor.

“Absolutely never hire an editor who charges by the hour and most do,” she said. “Look for someone who is accessible and answers email within one day and will give you a contract of ‘expectations’ before starting. Mine is a simple online contract.”

Editing services vary greatly in scope and in cost. An editor such as Penny can help with everything from spelling, syntax and punctuation to the far more in depth work of structure, character development and even plot development. She also offers overall manuscript critique services with comments and suggestions on how to refine and enhance your work. “My basic contract is for editing only, but a good editor should offer all the services necessary to make the book a book; if requested, of course,” Penny said.

Once the book is complete, creating an e-book can be as simple as formatting the pages and exporting it to one of the accepted digital formats. From there, you can search for a publisher or, with an Amazon merchant account or even a personal website, offer it for sale on your own. Amazon, along with most other online book retailers, generally takes a third of the sales price as their cut on a commission basis. Keep in mind a large retailer will likely require that your e-book have an ISBN code, a bar code that identifies every published book.

As simple as publishing an e-book can be, there is still a great sense of satisfaction in being able to hold the results of your hard work in your hand. If you want to promote and sell your work, offering to speak at events or signing up as a vendor at local markets provides an excellent opportunity to do so. In such cases, it is much easier to sell a physical copy than it is a digital version. A book in hand beats a website URL and you can’t autograph an e-book. Fortunately, self-publishing printed books is also easier than ever. M&M Printing, the parent company of The Observer News, The SCC Observer and The Current, has made printing books a part of their business. Like hiring an editor, book printers offer a variety of services at a variety of costs.

According to M&M Printing CEO Wes Mullins, the company has the ability to produce anywhere from a single copy to 1,000 or more copies of your book. The cost, of course, varies, yet with modern equipment printing a book has become an affordable option.

“Depending on page count and color, the cost could be anywhere from $7 up to something that is full color of larger page count at $25.00 per book,” Mullins said.

To have your book printed, all you have to do is convert your manuscript to the standard PDF format.

“PDF is preferred,” Mullins confirmed. “[Microsoft] Word is acceptable, but there will be a charge for converting it. We do convert to size.”

The company already has extensive experience in printing self-published books.

“We can also help to get the bar codes so authors can sell their books,” Mullins continued. “We have coil binding, saddle stitch binding, and perfect binding. All types of sizes are available.”

In the end, printing a book is as easy as creating an e-book. Once the writing is done, there is very little left to do.

“Have all files ready, graphics picked, format size chosen, quantity to be produced and we can take it from there,” Mullins said.

If there is a book inside of you waiting to come out, 2013 could be the best year ever to become an author. With the simplicity and convenience of creating an e-book combined with the ease and cost-effectiveness of having a printed book, there has never been a better time.

For more information about the sources referenced in this article, visit M&M Printing at www.mmprintinc.com or call 813-645-4048. Penny Fletcher is available via email at penny@pennyfletcher.com or through her website at www.pennyfletcher.com.

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