Just a short post to say how blessed we are to have been serving authors and publishers for more than sixteen years. What started as a freelance gig when I was in high school (26 years ago!) went full time as a legitimate business in December of 1997. Our work and designers have grown so much and we’re beyond blessed as the TLC Graphics family grows each week. Each of you clients — past, present, and future — is a treasured part of this family.

Thank you and may God bless you richly!

There are several fairly basic things to know as you’re writing, before you begin writing, and at least before you move forward with the production of your book. A good designer will want to know these details to be sure she’s creating a cover that will work for your genre and sales methods. Some of these are quite mundane, while others will require you to wear your marketing hat to answer.

  • Your book’s genre
  • Who are your target readers? Male % vs female %, age range, professional status, interest group
  • Are your target buyers different than your target readers? (Think gift books, children’s books, etc.)
  • Books with covers that appeal to you and why. They do not have to be within your genre.
  • Design styles, colors, art, etc. that are unappealing to you and why
  • Book that will be your competition. EVERY book has competitors, no matter how unique. A reader always has the choice to buy yours or one from another publisher.
  • Title and subtitle
  • How the author wants his/her name to appear
  • Is this book part of a series? The series title and titles of several books are very helpful to know up front, even if they may change later.
  • Likely trim size (dimensions of your finished book)
  • Will the interior be black and white or color?
  • It’s helpful to know how and where you may print

While it’s extremely helpful to know these things before hiring someone, your designer should be able and willing to assist you if you have questions.

Enjoy the planning process and if you are here because you took our class, Selling Power of Book Design, thank you for being there! We thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you did, too.


Awards seals for blogHi, guys!

I often hear this question, as awards season begins and people wonder if it’s worth it to spend their money on often pricey entry fees. Our clients win national awards every year and use the new status to actively renew their promotional efforts. It won’t hurt and can help, but be wise about the categories and competitions you choose. While winners usually get some sort of PR from the sponsoring organization, you must promote the book as an award winner to truly take advantage of the honor. Many of these will provide at least finalists and winners with judges’ comments, some provide them to all entries. These insights can be invaluable to your future publishing efforts. In the end, remember that you are simply asking professionals for their opinions — some are more objective than others. ;)

If you think that your book is honestly better than the vast majority of its competitors, you should consider entering a few of these competitions. This is a list of the main competitions for small, medium, and indy publishers, with the first three plus Mom’s Choice generally being the most prestigious. There are others out there for specific genres as well.

IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards: http://www.ibpa-online.org/pubresources/benfrank.aspx
(Deadline was Dec. 31.)

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards: http://www.forewordreviews.com

Independent Publisher’s IPPY awards: http://www.independentpublisher.com/ipland/ipawards.php

Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) Book Awards (regional competition): http://www.mipa.org/midwest-book-awards

Nautilus Book Awards: http://www.nautilusbookawards.com

Next Generation Indie Book Awards: http://www.indiebookawards.com

The National Indie Excellence Book Awards: http://www.indieexcellence.com

Eric Hoffer Award (along w/the Montagne Medal and da Vinci Eye also on their site): http://www.hofferaward.com

Living Now Book Awards: http://www.livingnowawards.com

USA Best Book Awards: http://www.usabooknews.com

International Book Awards: http://www.internationalbookawards.com

Mom’s Choice Awards: https://www.momschoiceawards.com/entry-categories

Do your research, produce the best books possible, and good luck! We’d love to know about your successes in the awards world! Share them here and practice your promotional bragging. ;)


If you’re an Austin-area writer looking for answers to your publishing and ebook questions, there’s a whole event waiting for you on Saturday, September 8th.

“Let’s Make Ebook Gold” is the topic for Business Success Center’s fall Entrepreneurs’ Day from 9:30am to 4:00 pm on Saturday, September 8th. Expert sessions will deal with content and cover preparation, contracts and copyright, pricing, publishing and marketing your ebook. Designed for first time ebook creators as well as those who already have experience. The event begins with a networking session for attendees to share their ebooks and ideas.

TLC Graphics’ Tom Dever will present “Content and Covers” in the morning, teaching the best way to format your content for the most popular formats (Kindle, Nook, iPad) and how to bring in graphics and design to make it an award-winner. See the role your cover plays and how it can be a huge asset.

PR by the Book’s Marika Flatt will be speaking in the afternoon session on all things publicity and publishing during her “Marketing Your Assets” session. Other session leaders include: Jan Triplett of Business Success Center and Monica Emilienburg of Richards, Rodrigues & Skeith. Come to the morning or afternoon session only ($50 per session) or all day ($75). Seating limited to 25, so register quickly.

For more details, go http://entrepreneursday.eventbrite.com.

Hi, guys!

This week I was asked by Marika Flatt of PR by the Book (great book publicity firm!) to write a guest post about the importance of book design. I was honored to do so. Hope you like it!


Blog | PR by the Book | PR Campaign and Media Consulting Services.

Just in case you can’t be at this huge publishing industry event, you can tune in via the TLC Graphics HelpMePublish blog at any moment and see what’s happening. Just click on the video to the right and relax in the comfort of your own home or office. :) BEA Live Streaming begins Tuesday, June 5 at 8:30 am ET with BEA’s Book and Author Breakfast and continues on two live channels through the end of BEA on Thursday, June 7.

Events to be Streamed from BEA 2012

Book and Author Breakfast, Tuesday, June 5
8:00 am – 9:30 am, Special Events Hall
Stephen Colbert, JunotDiaz, Barbara Kingsolver, Jo Nesbo

Children’s Book and Author Breakfast, Wednesday, June 6
8:00 am – 9:30 am, Special Events Hall
Walter Dean Myers, Chris Colfer, John Green, Lois Lowry, Kadir Nelson

Book and Author Breakfast, Thursday, June 7
8:00 am – 9:30 am, Special Events Hall
Kirstie Alley, Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith, J.R. Moehringer

Buzz Panels During the BEA Education Program
BUZZ is BACK! BEA Editors’ Buzz, June 4, 4:15 pm – 5:30 pm & June 5, 11:00 am – 11:30 am, BEA (Young Adult) Editors’ Buzz, June 5, 10:00 am – 10:50 am & June 6, 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm, BEA (Middle Grade) Editors’ Buzz, June 6, 11:00 am – 11:50 am & June 7, 11:00 am – 11:30 am, and AAP Librarians Book Buzz, June, 5, 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm & June 6, 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm.

Key Appearances on the Author Stages on the Show Floor
Stop by the Uptown Author Stage (Booth #4576) and the Downtown Author Stage (Booth #DZ2000) to see live author interviews right on the show floor!

Here’s the link. (Wish I were more sophisticated and knew how to embed this so you could watch right on this blog page.)

This is the first year that BEA is offering this service. Let us know what you think!


Hi, guys! Today’s post was written by book publishing consultant Marion Gropen. Marion has been in book publishing for more than 20 years, both as a financial executive in-house, and as a financial and management consultant. For the last few years, she has been offering advice and solutions on a By-The-Question basis, as well as ebooks and tools in the Profitable Publisher series. Find out more at http://www.GropenAssoc.com.

I read this as her response to a thread on Self-Publishing@yahoogroups.com about the stigma of self-publishing and someone complaining that everyone but the author gets money. So many people wonder where their money does (or will) go when producing and promoting their books. Here are Marion’s insights on this topic.


Authors get more from most trade books than anyone else in the pipeline. You may not be aware of the typical figures for a mid-level trade book, but here’s how it breaks down:

Let’s take a novel, in trade paperback, with a list price of $14.95, which I will call $15 out of sheer laziness.

The bookstore buys it for $$9. Out of their $6, they may keep $0.60 in profit. If they’re doing well. The rest goes to pay the store clerks, rent, utilities, and so on and on. They may also need to discount the book in order to compete, if it’s a “big book.”

The wholesaler buys the book for $6.75, and resells it at $9. Out of that $2.25, they’re keeping something like $0.02 or at most, $0.05.

The distributor is paid a commission of about $2.25, and keeps about the same 2 to 5 cents. If they’re very lucky. (NB: large publishers have their distribution in-house, and save about 20 to 40 cents per copy on the deal.)

So, the publisher’s revenue, on a $15 book is $4.50.
From this comes:
PPB — about $1.50
Marketing — about $0.25
and Royalties — about $1.13 to $1.50 per copy.
After these per-copy costs are subtracted, there’s $1.62 to $1.25 per copy.

But wait!! Also coming from that revenue are the fixed costs of producing the book (those where the total isn’t related to the number of copies printed or sold). These include editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading, layout of the text and design of the cover, and often many more.

The total for the fixed direct expenses usually runs between $3,500 and $5,000. To cover these costs, the publisher must sell a minimum of 2160 to 4,000 copies.

Oh, but we’re still not done. None of the overhead (rent, utilities, office supplies, salaries for back office staff, etc) has been covered!

Let’s say that the company is quite small. Say that the overhead runs a TINY $100,000 per year, and that the company is producing with that overhead, and ASTRONOMICAL 20 titles per year. Each one must cover another $5,000 in overhead before there’s a dime in profit.

Now it has to sell a total of 5,250 to 8,000 copies before it makes ANY profit.

So let’s say that this book sells a nice 12,000 copies. The author (and maybe agent) are making $15,000. The publisher is making at most, $10,940.

The staff are making less. Consider: an editor at a company like this is probably making $1,750 per book.

The cover designer is probably making $1,000.

The marketing director/publicist might make $2000 per title.

The agent probably made $2250, and the author got the rest of the $15k, or $12,750.

It’s easy to feel gypped when you realize that you’re getting a dollar and change out of the $15. But when you realize where the rest goes, you realize that it’s not that someone is ripping off authors, it’s that our society doesn’t value the mid-list very much, and we’re ALL doing this because we care.

Many of the bestsellers look like drek to most of us here because we’re all a little off the popular paths. But if they didn’t meet their readers’ needs, they wouldn’t sell well enough to BE bestsellers. And if the quirky, “interesting” books really were interesting to most people, then THOSE would be the bestsellers.

Bookselling isn’t a “push” industry. It’s a “pull” one. We can put drek on the shelves, or even literary gold, but it won’t move to the cash register, no matter what we do, unless we convince the readers that they’re going to be getting what they’re looking for from the time and money spent. And there are literally millions of other titles out there in direct, head-to-head competition for those eyeballs.

Unmet needs are harder to find than hens’ teeth.

That’s not to say that we’re in a perfect world, or that there aren’t opportunities. But if you’re going to compete with a mainstream publisher, you need to know what they’re putting into the books you’re taking on.

You need to come up with some strategy to make your books as easy to buy as the ones on the bookshelves (and no matter how big Amazon is, it’s still not most of the sales to be made, in most market segments).

Your investment in preparing the manuscript has to be at least as good as what those mainstream publishers are able to get for their $3,500 to 5,000.

And you need to think long and hard about why your readers will want your books, and how to show them that your books deliver the benefits that they’re trying to get. But that’s for another post.


Thank you, Marion, for sharing!




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.