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Come on an adventure… March 27, 2015

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 6. Castle Tips.
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Come on an adventure

Castle facilitates adventures, and you can come along on that journey. Here’s how…

We’re in the business of books, and books are always designed to take people on a journey – whether that’s through the excitement and intrigue of a fictional or true life story, or through thinking more deeply about God, life, the universe and everything. We count it our privilege to provide books that take people somewhere.

Then there are the people who love reading but aren’t content to only tag along on another author’s journey – they have a desire to create a book of their own – and Castle provides adventures for those kinds of people too.

We’re still in the first quarter of 2015 (just!), and maybe this year you want to create the book that you’ve dreamed of or that other people have encouraged you to write and publish. Exciting times!

But it’s not always easy to start or to know what the next step is without a bit of help and guidance.

Sometimes you might feel a little bit out of your depth – but what’s an adventure without a little bit of trepidation? All the best adventures start out with that first step.

Stepping out with Castle makes the whole journey that much easier – we can be your expert guide, and help steer you through the adventure of publishing your book.

Come on an adventure… Contact us.

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Buy books September 10, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 8. Buy a Castle Book.
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If you’d like to buy a Castle book you can contact us, or visit the online store of one of the great Christian retailers that stock our titles.

You can find the links to retailer websites here.

Visit the main Castle website to browse the full range of Castle titles.

The publishing process, Part 3 August 26, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 7. The Publishing Process Part 3.
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For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this third part of my article I continue to uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on! (Read Part 2 here)

RRP. RRP stands for Recommended Retail Price and is the price (including GST in New Zealand) that your book will sell for. The RRP is set as a happy median between the cost of production and selling (so that all costs are covered in the sale price with a bit of profit – hopefully) and the ‘perceived value’ of your book. The perceived value is often based on what other books of a similar size to yours are selling for.

Marketing. These days, marketing is all about having ‘strings to your bow’ – there are a lot of different ways to tell people about your book – but there is no ‘silver bullet’. So you need utilise as many different ways as possible. In my experience free marketing is often the best marketing. It’s widely recognised that the best way of getting your book known is through word of mouth – people telling people about the book. For this to start happening, there needs to be a ‘buzz’ about the book. For you as an author, don’t underestimate the effectiveness of your friends and associates saying good things about your book to other people – the more people you know the better! If you are someone who regularly speaks to groups of people about topics related to your book then most of the hard work is already done – you have a real advantage. Other ways to generate interest are book reviews, author interviews (on TV, radio and in print media), on blogs, through social networks (such as Facebook) and through paid advertising (if you have the budget for it). Although I have the ‘marketing’ stage listed after the production process, in reality it needs to start early, before you have the product in your hands. Offering pre-orders is one way you can begin generating interest.

Distribution. Primarily ‘distribution’ relates to getting your book into bookstores (both ‘bricks and mortar’ shops and online stores) . It is great to have your book stocked in shops, but it isn’t the complete solution to all your book-selling needs. 1000s of books are released each month and your book will be competing with the others. So you need to find your point of difference and do the marketing things well. Then people will go to the bookshops and buy your book, but few will buy the book just by browsing or as an impulse purchase having never heard of your book before. It is good to have distribution handled by a company that has existing links with the booktrade, and even better if that company believes in your book. Distribution companies and bookshops will buy your book for RRP less a wholesale or retail (trade) discount. The bookshop will then sell the book for the RRP and the discount you gave them will be their profit. For ebook distribution, if you have the time and inclination, you can upskill yourself on the technical details and set up accounts with ebook retailers. But to keep things straightforward it is a good idea to work with people who already have the technical skills and have relationships with retailers in place.

Sales. So now people begin buying your book. If a publishing company is handling your book then they will look after sales, but if you are self-publishing then you will need to set things up so that you can provide invoices etc and look at various ways to handle tax etc – best to talk to an expert about this.

So that’s the publishing process. Because it’s difficult to make money from publishing books in New Zealand, it’s important to maintain a motive other than making money as your primary reason for wanting to publish. Throughout the entire process, keep your readers in mind – they are the most important part of this whole publishing thing – more important than sales figures or recognition. Don’t let anything eclipse that fact. The most rewarding things for me as a publishing manager are seeing authors realising their dreams and seeing readers’ lives being touched.

The publishing process, Part 2 August 20, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 6. The Publishing Process Part 2.
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For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this second part of my article I continue to uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on! (Read Part 1 here)

Edit. By the time you give your manuscript to a publisher you should already have made it as good as you possibly can. This might involve several rewrites as you take into account the feedback you’ve been given by people around you. It is well worth investing your time and effort on this. No matter how much work you’ve done though, most publishers will want to tweak things a little. This can be a scary prospect for authors, but don’t worry too much. Remember, publishers are experts so you can usually trust them – their main aim is to make the book better. If you feel strongly about something they are trying to change, you can tell them no! Castle always tweaks the titles we publish and always recommend that self-publishers get an edit done as well. It is important to use an experienced editor. The editing service that Castle offers has transformed lots of manuscripts into well-written and easy to read books beyond what the author could have achieved by him or herself.

Design. This is another crucial part of the book production process. A lot of people are keen to have a go at book cover design, or know someone who knows how to use Photoshop. But because the cover design will greatly affect how readers perceive your book, it is always a good idea to engage a book cover specialists for this service – or at least get the input of a specialist. I should mention the book title here too, which is also extremely important. For both the title and the design, you need to have something that is both accurate and impacting. In other words, the design and title need to accurately represent the content of the book and also capture the reader’s attention.

Typesetting and layout. Your book needs to be readable and while most readers don’t notice the finer points of good typesetting and layout they are definitely affected by them. ‘Easy reading’ can have a lot to do with the flow of the writing (taken care of in the editing stage) but it also has a lot to do with what typeface is used for the book, how the words and lines are spaced and how they appear on the page. The quality of the typesetting also impacts the perceived quality of the book (as does the design) and the overall aesthetic of the finished product. The cover design and internal pages need to match and be part of an overall design concept. There’s a far cry from having a go at creating the inside pages in Word and getting an experienced typesetter to do the work. So get a typesetter!

Proofreading. Probably the least glamorous and least exciting part of the publishing process. Once the typesetting and layout are complete, you should be given ‘reader’s spreads’. These are sheets, usually with two pages of your book to a sheet, that show what your pages will look like when printed. These need to be read carefully to make sure there are no errors in the text. It is important at this point not to confuse ‘proofreading’ with ‘editing’ – proofreaders are only looking for actual errors. A lot of authors can’t resist a few optional tweaks to the book at this stage, but these should be avoided because changes can affect the overall layout and create time-consuming problems. Generally we find that the authors we work with have friends and associates who make good proofreaders. This works well, but the person who takes the corrections in (based on the proofreaders’ work) should have the skill to vet these corrections. You can hire the services of an experienced proofreader, and this is sometimes a good idea (especially for technical books or books on specialist subjects). The author should be one of the proofreaders but he or she is likely to miss some errors simply because of over-familiarity with the text.

Print. So now your book is ready to be turned into a physical object. There are two main methods for printing: digital and offset. Offset is the traditional way. Digital is a new technology that is improving every year. Technical details aside, at this point is more feasible to print quantities of under 800 units digitally and more than 800 by offset.

Bind. This is how your book is put together. The most common form of binding (and the one that Castle usually uses) is called ‘perfect binding’. You see it on most soft cover books that you pick up – it is durable and neat. If your book is more of a ‘booklet’ you might want to consider ‘saddle stitch’ (also known as stapling) instead.

eBook. For a long time, people said that ebooks would change the face of publishing and the way we read books. It took a while to happen, but the ebook revolution is now officially here. People’s reservations about reading on an electronic device instead of a paper book are being put aside as they discover how easy it is to use the ebook format. In the world of ebooks, there are two main file formats – EPUB and MOBI. MOBI is used by the Amazon Kindle system and EPUB is used by everything else. Having your book as an ebook won’t guarantee that thousands of people will read it (there are a lot of books out there) but it does open your book up to that possibility. It pays to get some knowledgeable technical assistance when creating and distributing your ebook.

Delivery. This is a bit like Christmas Day for most authors. Boxes of books arrive from the bindery. You carefully slide a knife along the tape on the top box and open it up to reveal your book staring back at you – complete, in all its glory. There’s a huge sense of achievement in thumbing through the pages and seeing what your work has become, it’s the realisation of a dream. Now your book can go out and change the world – getting it into the reader’s hands is the next and trickiest bit…

So that’s the second part of the publishing process. In the next part we’ll look at marketing and sales – getting your book into the readers’ hands.

The publishing process, Part 1 August 19, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 5. The Publishing Process Part 1.
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If you’re thinking about writing a book or if you have already written your book and want to get it published, you might be interested in this overview of the complete publishing process. I talked about what Castle can offer in an earlier article. For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this article I uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on!

The idea. Somewhere, someone comes up with the idea to write a book about something. No one has ever been able to define exactly what ‘inspiration’ is, but that doesn’t make it any less real. The authors that Castle Publishing has worked with over the years have been a mixture of first-timers and seasoned wordsmiths.

The writing. So having received the idea and passion for the project, the author commences writing their masterpiece. Even at this early stage, it is a good idea to talk to an expert – an established author or publishing professional. As you start writing you should already have a finished product in mind. One of the basic questions you should ask yourself very early is ‘who am I writing this book for?’ It really helps to have an idea who your intended audience is.

Assessment. Here’s the bit where you expose your work for the first time to the harsh realities of the big wide world. By all means, ask your friends for their opinion, but don’t only ask friends. Encouragement is a vital part of the process, but objective opinion is also very important – it will help you refine your work and take it to the next level. If you ask your friends for their opinion make sure you give them permission to be critical as well as nice. For a new author, exposing their deepest thoughts and work to public scrutiny can be a big step. But don’t worry – that’s all part of being an author!

Finding a publisher. Increasingly people are starting out with the plan of self-publishing, and that’s fair enough and can be a really good idea. But most people still see being published by a publishing house as the best possible outcome for their manuscript. Finding a publisher can be hard work though. In USA and other places, most commercial publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Most of their published work is sourced through literary agents and through commissioning authors directly.  Fortunately, because New Zealand is a smaller market, it is still possible to get your work through to a publisher more easily. But make sure you research what kind of book a publisher publishes before you send your work to them. Here at Castle, for example, we publish mostly books by Christian authors, but within that category we are pretty much open to any genre. Also make sure you adhere to the publisher’s preferred method for receiving manuscripts etc. Castle’s requirements are here.

Self-publishing? What if commercial publishers turn you down? If you’ve run out of avenues to have your book published commercially, it is always a good idea to weigh up the feasibility of publishing the book yourself. And remember, if you self-publish, you cut out the middleman. Self-publishing can be more financially rewarding than being commercially published. In fact, you may decide to flag the rigmarole of trying to get your manuscript accepted by a commercial publisher altogether. The important thing is to go to experts who can help you get the work done to prepare your manuscript for publication. And it just so happens I can recommend some very good experts: Castle Publishing!

The contract. If a commercial publisher wants to publish your book as one of their own titles, they will draft up a contract for you to sign. I don’t really have space here to give much advice on the ins and outs of this. But it is important to read the contract carefully and show it to someone with a bit of a legal head who can interpret what some of the clauses might mean in real life (especially if the contract is written in ‘legalese’ and not ‘plain English’). Feel free to ask the publisher for what you want, but also remember that the publisher needs to be able to make the deal viable for themselves as well – otherwise they just won’t bother with your book. They are taking a risk with your book, so bear that in mind as you deal with them. And if you are self-publishing this is one step you don’t need to worry about.

So that’s the first part of the publishing process. In the next part we’ll look at production – the transformation of your manuscript into a book.

Publishing Services March 17, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 4. Publishing Services.
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Since 2000, Castle has developed as a commercial publishing company with high production standards. We always aim for the best possible quality. Over the last three or fours years, we have offered that same level of service to self-publishers and other organisations. Our clients have included large organisations like the Salvation Army, Pascoes and OMF NZ, but also lots of individual authors who have fulfilled their ambitions and produced great self-published books.

Here are the main publishing services we offer. You can use any or all of them:

Editing. Authors can be a bit nervous about editing, but it really is a crucial part of getting your book ready for publication. A good editor can ‘get inside the author’s skin’, maintaining the author’s ‘voice’ and tone while polishing the writing to make it easier to read and more accurate. The final result of editing should be to add value, not subtract it. Some manuscripts only need a little bit of editing and some need a lot! Castle provides experienced editors who treat your work with care and attention to detail.

Design. Even though we’ve been told a million times not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most people do! The quality of the cover will shape a person’s impression of the quality of the book itself. The cover design needs to be eye-catching and in keeping with the tone and content of the book. Book design also extends beyond the cover to the inside pages, and that’s where layout and typesetting come in…

Layout and Typesetting. Professional layout and typesetting change your manuscript from a plain old Word document into a book. The true art of layout and typesetting is to create a coherent design that flows from the cover to the inside pages, while taking into account the comfort and perspective of the reader. In other words, make the book look good and easy to read! It involves selecting typefaces, working out line spacing and placing all the elements (body text, page numbers, headers, headings and pictures) on the page.

ISBN and Barcode. The ins and outs of the legal requirements of book publishing can be a bit daunting. So Castle takes care of obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) (required by law for all books published in New Zealand) and a barcode (so that the book can be sold in bookshops).

Proofreading. As my boss is fond of saying, ‘It’s easier to change something before it’s printed than after.’ That’s why proofreading is so important. This process eliminates any last minute mistakes – misspelt words, missing words etc. We have experienced proofreaders who can help ensure that your work is free of annoying little errors.

Printing and Binding. The last step in the production process. Our sister company, Wentforth Print, has over 30 years’ experience in the printing business. They have in-house offset printing facilities for large quantities and the latest digital technology for smaller quantities and ‘print-on-demand’ jobs (so that you can get new stock as and when you need it). They also act as brokers for off-shore printing.

eBook. The revolution in publishing! But it’s not an either/or thing (although it can be if you want!): it’s worth having your book in ebook and printed form – marketing and selling your book is all about having ‘strings to your bow’ – making your book available as an ebook creates another avenue for people to find and read your book – all over the world! Castle has all the expertise to navigate the technical aspects of ebook production.

Distribution. In many cases, Castle is able to assist in distributing your book to the booktrade. In particular, Castle has a great working relationship with the New Zealand Christian booktrade. We will assess your finished book, and if we think we can help, we will buy stock from you and on-sell it to bookshops. We can also help with ebook distribution, utilising our international ebook retail partners, making your book available to a much wider audience.

Support and Advice. This where it really comes in handy working with a commercial publishing company. As you self-publish your book you can take advantage of our experience and expertise. As part of the total package, we will guide you through the publishing process and give you advice on things like setting a retail price and marketing your book.

Contact us for more info or to get a publishing services quote.

Submitting a Manuscript March 14, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 3. Submitting a Manuscript.
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Whether you want us to consider publishing your work as a Castle title, or if you are interested in Castle providing publishing services, the first step is the manuscript assessment process. Castle provides this free of charge and from this process we make a recommendation about what we think the best publishing solution is for your work. Here’s how the process usually works…

1. Contact us. It’s important that you let us know that you are intending to send us your manuscript or manuscript idea. You can also contact us early in the writing process if you want some advice while you are still working on the text. The easiest way to get in touch is by using the contact form here.

2. Manuscript form. Once you’ve contacted us, we will email you a manuscript form. This form asks some important background questions that help us get a clearer idea about what you hope to achieve with your book. We will immediately consider your completed form before moving to step 3.

3. Manuscript sample. Having reviewed your completed form, we will usually request a manuscript sample. Generally this will consist of three to four chapters of your book. It is best if this is supplied via email rather than printed. From this sample we can get an idea of the tone and style of your writing, and begin to establish whether we can publish your script as a Castle title or recommend our publishing services for self-publishing. It can take a little longer to respond to your manuscript sample as we like to do your work justice and consider it carefully before responding. But feel free to contact us during this process to see how things are going.

4. Full manuscript. If we think that your work might have potential as a Castle title, we will request the full manuscript so that we can read right through the text and make our final decision. We will also need your full manuscript if you are using our publishing services so that we can begin work on your book. Once again, assessment of your full manuscript can take some time, but you can always contact us to see how things are progressing.

That’s the process. Sometimes it will vary a little depending on the situation, but the most important step is step 1. Contact us now!

Publishing à la Castle September 20, 2007

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 2. Publishing à la Castle.
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Castle has a couple of publishing scenarios that work well and mean that books that wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise are given the chance to shine in the big wide world.

Castle’s point of departure

In my last post, I described a pretty tough publishing scene that makes it virtually impossible for the majority of manuscripts to be published. The reason this situation exists is that for most publishers the bottom line is making a buck or two. This is Castle’s first point of departure.

Of course it is great when sales of a book make a profit, and at Castle we always aim for that, but it isn’t our primary goal. Our primary goal, as our vision statement says, is “that people with compassion, passion and drive can impact society”. This ‘altruistic’ approach arises from the Christian beliefs of the people that run Castle. We believe in the written word and believe that there are things more important than making a big profit. When money comes our way through good business practices, we reinvest it in other publishing projects.

Castle functions because we work with authors who have the same ethic as we do. They have stories that they want to tell because they genuinely believe that their stories will help others.

Our publishing scenarios

So, let’s have a brief look at Castle’s two main scenarios for publishing.

1. Castle premier titles. We get sent lots of manuscripts, but we don’t ignore them! When someone comes to us with an idea, we like to give it a fair hearing. Out of that process we find some real gems, and we take these manuscripts on as Castle premier titles that we publish under the Castle name.

This process is a bit like traditional publishing, but we form an equal partnership with the author (or the author’s backers) to publish the book. This means that both parties share in the ‘risk’ of publishing, and neither party is treated unfairly. Castle throws its full weight behind these titles, editing and producing these books to a quality level that easily competes with international publications. We fully believe in the message and quality of these books and we do our utmost to get them into the hands of readers.

2. Publishing services. Often the best scenario for having a book published is for the author to do it him or herself. Nobody can sell a book like a proactive author can.

There is plenty of self-publishing going on around the world, but unfortunately you can often spot a self-published book a mile off. The quality just isn’t the same as commercial books produced by big publishers. Castle offers a full range of publishing services for self-publishers that give the potential for these books to match commercial publications in quality. We also have systems in place that allow self-publishers to print any quantity of their book from 1 copy to over 10,000. That means authors can minimise the risk of being left with hundreds of boxes of books sitting in their garage!

Talk to us!

So that’s publishing à la Castle in a nutshell. Stay tuned for more info about our publishing scenarios. You can contact us right now if you’d like to discuss your project – we’re always happy to answer questions (for free!) and help people through the publishing process.

The publishing scene September 5, 2007

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 1. The Publishing Scene.
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I’d like to start by giving a bit of an overview of the publishing scene.

Good old-fashioned publishing

Traditional publishing is a pretty tough game. In the old days, a publisher would find a manuscript that they wanted to publish in book form, and they would pay for all the capital costs of production. The author’s cut would be in the form of royalties – usually a percentage of sales. This method made book publishing highly risky, because large amounts of capital were invested in books that may or may not sell.

This publishing model was constructed in a time when the publishing market was less competitive – there were fewer new books entering the market, and books weren’t competing so much with other media. To reduce the risk of this model, publishers started to seek out authors that were already well known or produce books based on buzz topics that were more likely to yield a profit. Author royalties also shrank. Famous authors who sell millions of books make money but mid-range authors selling say 5000 make very little.

How to get a bestseller

This model still exists, but it results in a very small number of manuscripts by ‘ordinary’ people being published by publishing houses. It has been estimated that only about 1% of unsolicited manuscripts (ie manuscripts that the publishing house hasn’t directly asked the author for) are published worldwide.

This problem is made worse in a country like New Zealand where a very small market exists. We only have a population of about 4 million people. To give you an idea of what ‘good’ sales figures are in NZ, to achieve platinum level premier bestseller status you need to sell 50,000 copies if it is a fiction title, 5,000 copies if it is a poetry title, 100,000 if it is non-fiction title, and 40,000 if it is a children or teen title (source: Booksellers NZ). The list of platinum bestsellers includes Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider and the Edmonds Cookbook – if you are a New Zealander, you know how popular these titles have been. At the time of writing, the platinum list only includes 26 titles – that is the total number of NZ books that have achieved platinum sales.

Bronze level (the lowest bestseller status) is achieved by selling just 5,000 fiction units, 1,000 poetry units, 10,000 non-fiction units or 7,000 children/teen units. While these figures look modest, most publishers in NZ are very happy to reach these levels. If 5,000 novels sold is a bestseller, you can imagine how many novels don’t reach that level.

New approaches…

So, New Zealand is a small market. If you are writing a Christian book, for example, your market gets even smaller. Local titles compete with 100s of overseas titles being released each month. In reality traditional publishing is hardly feasible in New Zealand. This sounds like a pretty sad state of affairs, but the publishing scene is moving to adjust. Castle, for example, has found some ways to make it as feasible as possible. In the next installment I’ll discuss how Castle works.