Publication Date Set for "The Way Around"

A publication date for The Way Around finally has been fixed. It will be available for purchase on June 17.

For those who do not know, The Way Around is my second book of very short works. Its style is akin to The Man Who Stands in Line, albeit with more of an emphasis on flash fiction than poetry. It also is slightly longer and (if possible) more pompous.

The cover illustration is by the same guy (Richie Montgomery) who drew the cover for The Man Who Stands in Line, and I’m currently putting the final touches on the cover design. The content has been finalized, and it will get one final read through (to make sure the order of pieces works, similar pieces don’t appear next to one another, the formatting is right, etc. The book will be 112 pages total, of which 95 are actual content (yeah, I know, it’s always astonishing how much front and back matter there is — and it’s especially pronounced for thinner books of this sort).

There will be paperback and kindle editions, and I plan to price it the same as The Man Who Stands in Line: $9.99 for the print edition and $2.99 for the kindle one. I make the same amount on each, but personally think this sort of book is best appreciated on the printed page.

I did not trouble with a Kirkus review (which is quite expensive) for this book. If you’ve read The Man Who Stands in Line, you will enjoy The Way Around too. The pieces were over the same period. With these (and my forthcoming short story books, beginning with Sjow in October), I don’t simply include the next chronological batch of pieces. Instead, there are pieces from various periods of my writing included in each book. So you’ll likely encounter a similar variety of styles (though quite different stories) in my books.

K.M. Halpern
PACE available for Preorder!

Well, I’ve finally got all 3 versions (pb, hc, kindle) uploaded and approved. I’m still wrangling with Ingram about some typesetting details of the paperback, and have yet to receive hardcover proofs — but the egalleys look great so I’m optimistic everything will be in place for the release date.

It may be a day or two before Amazon slurps in the hardcover info from Ingram’s catalog, but for now the Kindle and Paperback versions are available for preorder. In case it wasn’t evident from the huge signs everywhere on this website and Amazon, the release date is 2/26/19. This means that (theoretically) it should arrive on that date if you preorder. So you can break camp in front of your local B&N and wait in the warmth of your own home, eagerly counting the seconds until the book you’ve been waiting for all your life arrives. Unfortunately, that book was sent USPS so you’ll probably have to wait another few decades. But please enjoy PACE and some calming Muzak in the meantime.

The Kindle version is priced at $4.99, the Paperback version is $16.99, and the Hardcover edition is $29.99. Hardcovers are quite expensive to print, hence the high price, but I want to offer the option for those who prefer it. Besides, I know that my billions of soon-to-be fans will want a collectible hardcover edition…

Eventually, Amazon’s system will deduce that the same K.M. Halpern wrote PACE-the-kindle-ebook and PACE-the-paperback. But until that time I’ll include separate links:

PACE the kindle ebook

PACE the paperback edition

The ebook is DRM-free. I’ve also enabled the matchbook feature, so if you buy the paperback you’ll get the ebook version free (once the physical book is delivered, you'll be able to go to Amazon’s matchbook page where the ebook will be listed as available to you). I’ve always felt that ebook versions should be free for physical book buyers, so there you have it.

If you enjoy PACE, please consider writing reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads (this only will be possible after the release date, of course). And please share your enthusiasm with your friends!

It’s been a long journey, but the end is in sight! Or more precisely, the end of the gradual incline through fragrant meadows is in sight. After that comes the lethal ascent through crevasse-laden ice fields known as marketing. Or maybe I’ll just turn the cart around and enjoy a gradual descent through said fragrant meadows.

K.M. Halpern
More Ingram follies, but hardcover has now been submitted!

Again there's good news and bad news. The good news is that — after WAY too long — the illustrator finally got me a workable hardcover dustjacket. I uploaded it to Ingram and they accepted the book but promptly and inexplicably changed the page count on the interior — even though it’s exactly the same interior that passed through unchanged for the paperback version.

Hello, 911… I’m being held hostage by tech support. Please send help. Maybe a drone to blast them into the 21st century.

Now I am enjoying the distinct pleasure of dealing with Ingram on two fronts. Why two? Glad you asked. It's 6 business days since I raised the print issue with the paperback. That’s more than the guaranteed absolute maximum of 5 business days they promised. Naturally, no word. Online chat, click, click, type type type. Bubbly tech person promises to help, then forwards my concerns to supervisor and signs off. Thanks, bubbly tech person. Now I’m exactly where I was before, minus 30 minutes of wasted effort. Well, more like 2 hours cumulative. Because, lest you think me naive, I had been bugging them fairly regularly — both by phone and online chat. So there were multiple bubbly tech people. Why do bubbly tech people only have a last initial? I’ll have to investigate that. It must be cultural. Anyway, with big silly corporations, the squeaky wheel definitely does get the grease — or has a 2% chance of getting proper attention rather than 1%. That or they send a black limo full of lawyers to beat you into submission with Corporate Mission Statements.

Yes, there are few words to express the joy of dealing with Ingram on two fronts, and most of them are four letters. It's definitely '19. 1919, that is. Sometimes I wonder how they're still in business. The only answer I can imagine is that the rest of the industry is even more backward. I’m beginning to think I should have done the Kindle version first, because then I'd be so frustrated with Amazon that Ingram wouldn’t seem so bad.

To round out my fun corporate day, I also was forced to slam the brakes on everything else and attend to a Kirkus ad I bought on sale back in December. To my unpleasant surprise, I got a last minute email when I returned from vacation --- basically asking my approval and announcing that the deadline for changes is today. To be fair, “last minute” means it was in my inbox for a week. But also to be fair, the saleswoman had promised that someone would be in touch over a month ago. Of course, this was the same saleswoman who never got my emails because they were sent to spam. Even when I was trying to give her money. Another winning company with another winning business model. If only there were a way to short the whole publishing industry…

To end on a positive note, however, I did have one pleasant surprise. The Kirkus ad looked pretty darn good. I called the young lady managing the process and had her update the cover and make some minor tweaks to the wording. Given the deadline, we were lucky that a lot of back-and-forth wasn't necessary. Unfortunately, this prevented me from tapping the huge reserve of irritation I keep ever-ready for such situations. What will I do with all that self-righteous anti-incompetence? Well, I'm sure Ingram will pick up the slack.

K.M. Halpern
Paperback version now available for pre-order on Amazon!

Two pieces of news today.

The paperback version now is available for pre-order on Amazon! Basically, when it comes to print books being distributed by Ingram (as opposed to their own Createspace or Kindle editions), Amazon acts like any other bookseller: they slurp in Ingram’s catalog. It’s an automatic process, and usually pretty smooth.

Also, the paperback proofs arrived from Ingram. I must say that it's always a great thrill seeing my book in print! The good news is that the cover looks fantastic. The bad news is that there is some sort of weird print error where the typeblock is noticeably displaced on many of the pages. I checked the egalleys to see whether I overlooked this somehow. Nope, it's an Ingram issue. On one hand, I'm glad I caught it. On the other, I'm not looking forward to dealing with Ingram and their big-slow-corporation tech-support.

K.M. Halpern
Paperback E-galley received

I got back the Ingram egalley for the paperback and it looks fantastic! I ordered a few print copies delivered to San Diego (where I'll be visiting my parents for a week). My experience with “The Man Who Stands in Line” and Meia’s books suggests that it is a good idea to get a print copy even if the egalley looks perfect, since something always goes wrong :)

K.M. Halpern
Paperback version sent to printer!

After a great deal of back and forth with the illustrator, we converged on a great cover and he sent me a finalized paperback version. There were a few small tweaks needed to get Ingram to accept the files (the cover wasn’t allowed to have an ICC profile, and I had to reduce the size of the advert pics for my other books in the back of the interior), but they finally did. I'm now waiting for the hardcover version (the dust-jacket) and for Ingram egalleys of the paperback edition. The paperback version will be available in the US for $16.99, and the publication date remains 2/26/19.

Pace: I found a new Illustrator!
cover design for self-publishing, how much does an illustrator cost?

Having reluctantly been forced to dismiss my original illustrator, I went to Reedsy and bid out the job to five illustrator/designers whose portfolios appealed to me. They varied in style, but that didn’t worry me as long as it was clear their work had the elements I needed or they clearly were versatile enough to step outside a single style.

I promised my readers specifics. Well, actually I did so in my guide to self-publishing, but I’ll offer them here anyway. My original publication date for Pace was to be late February based on the advice of a marketing consultant. I’ve moved it to back to May due to the delays, but that should be fine too. Apparently, fall and especially the holiday season, are bad because that’s when the big publishers inundate the market and you’ll be competing with them.

The original illustrator had been contracted to provide a preliminary cover — something rough, but which would serve as an attractive placeholder on lists, ads and other places — until the cover was finalized. There was a strong reason I needed this. For example, I’ve now got a fantastic review on Kirkus, but no cover image in their listings. It may even have cost me a shot at a starred review. This is bad, because it burns my initial momentum. Anyway, I’d set up a sensible timeline for a pre-release campaign based around a mid-October delivery date for the rough cover, a mid-December delivery date for the final cover, and a mid-January target for any last-minute tweaks which turned out to be necessary prior to printing. Well, late November rolled around and we didn’t seem to be making much progress. More important, the illustrator was proving unresponsive. So I was forced to go to plan b. Unfortunately, this meant starting from square one and pushing the publication date back to May. This may seem odd, so let me explain.

Like most people, I always imagined that the cover was the last thing done for a book, not exactly an afterthought, but the final touch on it. That is far from true. For most pre-release purposes, a cover is absolutely essential. In fact, many places won’t list or review the book without one. All those generic-cover ARCs I used to see at the Strand? Apparently, not the industry norm, or at least not in the last 20 years. So a cover has to be done early. With a May release date, a Jan delivery date would give me the necessary 4 month lead time. If you ever wonder why it takes so long for a book to get published — there’s a lot of pre-release stuff that takes time. And a lot of steps depend on other steps in non-obvious ways. For example, the cover design requires exact knowledge of the page count (for spine width) — which can be tweaked quite late in the game.

The gist is that I need the cover complete by early Jan at the latest — and that’s pretty tight. Fortunately, my new illustrator has a deadline of Dec 31. Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep to that. My experience is that the professionals on Reedsy are pretty good about keeping to deadlines. If I have everything in hand by Dec 31, I’ll be well-equipped for a campaign which sees a publication date in early May.

Now to the specifics of cost —- and the thing which confuses the heck out of me.

My agreement with the original illustrator was for a PB cover, a HB cover, and various specific cover images for other purposes. I would have all rights. For this, they would receive $1000, with the caveat that if it went way beyond their time-expectation (since they were unsure), I’d pay a bit more up to a total of $1500. This only would be in the extreme case. So $1K is a fair price to put on it.

When bidding out the contract on Reedsy, I picked five individuals. All clearly were experienced, some with pretty famous titles in their portfolio. Two did not bid. Two of the three which did bid were in the $1000 range (accounting for currency conversions). The last bid was something close to $8K —- with minimal rights (just what he gave me for, precisely as it was). If I wanted more rights but not all (ex. some editing rights), it would be around $22K. If I wanted all editing rights — well, as he put it, only big companies would pay that much.

The guy had illustrated some famous books, and clearly was an industry star. He also was really nice when I explained it was out of my budget range. There was no tone of snobbery, and I suspect dealing with low-budget projects probably is par for the course when someone like him lists on Reedsy. So I’m not trying to cast doubt on whether it was a reasonable bid. Clearly, it was what he was used to getting paid. It’s always possible Reedsy recruited a famous name for legitimacy and perhaps to make all the other bids look good, of course — but I seriously doubt that. He seemed on the level. I’ve had similar experiences in the past when calling around for parts for some scientific project. A component which can be had for very little in the consumer market is thousands (or more) when industrial-grade (or more precisely, when the big buyers are corporations, labs, and the government, none of whom are very cost-conscious when it comes to this stuff). I’ve definitely had much less polite brush-offs from some sales people.

Now, the interesting thing is that for gallery art or prints or even some digital art — as art — I can understand the premium a big name commands. After all, small differences in quality, technique, or just the creative vision can make a big difference. And the name is extraordinarily relevant to cachet and resale value. What I don’t understand from a business standpoint — is how this can carry over to the market for book covers.

Yes, a good book cover vs a poor book cover can make a big difference for browsers — whether brick-and-mortar or online. I can fully understand the immense value of a good cover, and I think book-design in general is something which most self-publishers don’t grasp the significance of (or maybe they just don’t care because of their business model). But it’s difficult for me to believe that the difference between any enticing good cover and a cover by a superstar will be that great. First of all, very few books — traditional as well as self-published —- bring in the kind of profit which would offset a $10-20K cover. And it’s almost unfathomable to me that the difference in cover would account for anything near the necessary number of sales. Putting aside the question of whether the star-designed cover truly is more attractive, it seems like one easily could get 99% of the way there with a $1K cover. So I must be missing something.

There are several possible explanations which come to mind:

1. The star-designed covers ARE that much better — whether artistically or in terms of psychological appeal. I doubt this, but don’t know enough to say for certain.

2. Companies have in-house designers and the cost is fixed for them. This is the comparable out-of-house cost. It still would be a cost to the companies though, so it doesn’t solve the issue.

3. It’s a matter of bragging rights and cachet. To me, it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing which people would know about, though.

4. There somehow is marketing value via the designer himself.

The last is the most intriguing possibility. By this theory, the fact of using the star designer brings in sales — either through recognition of his name and the credibility/prestige it confers, or by appearing on lists and portfolios of his which are seen by influential buyers. I.e., you’d be paying to have a place in some sort of insider list. Or maybe they have some sort of following, and your book has received their imprimatur.

The latter certainly is possible, though I’ve never heard of such a thing. As for the name itself, I don’t think most potential customers pay attention to the cover illustrator/designer (or the editor, for that matter). I can’t think of a single time I’ve glanced at the editor or illustrator of a book before buying it — or after.

Anyway, my point isn’t to rant that it’s too much. It clearly is a rate which can be commanded by a certain cotery of elite illustrator/designers. I just fail to understand the market dynamics of it. In the fashion and art worlds, the name is everything. But with books, it’s the author’s name which matters.

It’s a mystery. I’ll look into it and ask around and see if I can gain some insight. Stay tuned for the answer to this epic mystery… as well as updates on Pace.

The Way Around

I finally settled on a title for my next book of very short works, the one temporarily called “Fences”.

It will be called “The Way Around” —- which is a renaming of the titular work “Fences” as well.

The choice came down to “The Way Around,” which kept the feel of the book and also fit well with the cover illustration, or “Buzz-Saw Bob.” I’ll admit that “Buzz-Saw Bob” has a certain ring to it —- it’s why I chose to write that piece — but it may lead readers to believe the whole book has that tone. Some pieces do, but most are more in line with “The Way Around.”

I also have finalized the selection of pieces and their initial arrangement. There are 74 in total, and the book will be 108 pages long (though only 90 of that is content). One more quick proofread, then off to the beta readers. Meanwhile, I’m working on the cover design in Inkscape. In fact, I’ll be writing a series of instructional blog posts on just that.

More soon, but right now it looks like a tentative publication date of Jan or Feb.

K.M. Halpern
Pace Update

Well, there’s good news and bad news on the Pace front.

The good news is that I got a fantastic Kirkus review. It’s not a starred review, but that’s not surprising (almost all Kirkus stars seem to go to Children/YA books with very specific themes). Anyway, here are the two quotables:

"The strength of this page-turning extinction event lies in the exposure of its characters’ darker selves."

"A pitch-black global thriller that is nevertheless supremely intimate."

I included a link to the full review below, BUT I strongly encourage you NOT to visit it. This isn’t because I misleadingly pulled good quotes from a bad review or anything. I’m very pleased with the review, but for some reason the reviewer saw fit to include some spoilers. They aren’t major ones, but they’re still annoying and could detract from a reader’s enjoyment of the novel. So feel free to visit the review, but bear this in mind before making that choice.

Now for the bad news. The cover illustrator fell through, and I’m in the process of finding a new one. It’s relatively late in the game, and I’ll likely have to push back the publication date to May. It’s frustrating because not having a cover makes listings difficult. For example, I now have a great Kirkus review but their listing of my book has no cover. Hopefully, I’ll have something soon, though.

(WARNING SPOILER ALERT) Full Kirkus Review (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT)

New Website Up

Well, it looks like the beta version of my new author website is up. I plan to post once or twice a week (perhaps more) a mixture of pretentious short works, sarcastic reviews, obnoxious observations, and perhaps even some teasers from my forthcoming book(s).

Welcome to my new website!

Please let me know what you think via the Contact form, and please sign up for the mailing list (via the Subscribe menu option). Also see the FAQ for miscellaneous unpleasantness.

K.M. Halpern