Thursday, September 6, 2012


Interview for Between the Pages
Getting to Know Author Michele DeFilippo

Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that works with authors, publishers, business pros, coaches, consultants, speakers . . . anyone who wants a beautiful book, meticulously prepared to industry standards. 1106 Design offers top-quality cover design, beautifully designed and typeset interiors, manuscript editing, indexing, title consulting, and expert self-publishing advice. Publish Like the Pros is Michele’s first book.

In Publish Like the Pros you share advice based on your many years of experience in the self-publishing industry. How many of your own books have you self-published?

Over the years, I’ve probably worked on a thousand books—and as many other graphic design projects—but Publish Like the Pros is my first attempt at self-publishing. It was an eye-opening experience to participate in the process as the client, and I came away from it with a much greater understanding of how the client feels at every stage.

Self-publishing has really taken off in the past few years as a valid alternative to traditional publishing. Why is this so?

The Internet is responsible for the explosion in self-publishing. In the past, traditional publishing companies were the only entities with access to distribution channels and the financial power to promote book sales on a national level. First Amazon and then social media made it possible for individual authors to bypass publishers entirely.

While self-publishing is a fantastic opportunity for authors whose books might not otherwise see the light of day, self-publishers have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water in the name of affordability. Because they were taking a financial risk along with the author, traditional publishers—now derided as unwelcome “gatekeepers”—ensured that books met a certain standard of quality. Not only did publishers ascertain that there was a market for the material, they also made sure that manuscripts were carefully researched, edited, designed, and printed so that the buyer would receive a quality product.  Unfortunately, some books published through nontraditional means scream “self-published,” mainly due to substandard book cover and interior page design and poor editing and proofing.

When should an author consider self-publishing their book?

There are many reasons to self-publish (to express oneself, to promote a business, to share knowledge, to entertain), but self-publishing is a lot of work and as such, isn’t for everyone. Before moving forward, authors should be clear about their goals and how they’ll be met.

If your goal is to sell a lot of books to the public or to promote a career or company, then you should treat your book as a business and take the “CEO approach.” CEOs don’t launch a project until they have assembled an expert team, run the numbers, and have allocated the budget necessary to do the job right.  

On the other hand, if your book is a hobby, perhaps a memoir for friends and family, then the “hobbyist approach” is appropriate. Hobbyists do much of the work themselves and spend as little money as possible.  But beware! Trouble awaits those who take an approach that isn’t in line with their goals.

What's the first step on the road to self-publishing?

Self-publishers should do exactly what publishers do: identify a need in the market and then write a book to fill that need. Often, just the opposite happens. Authors write a book and then hope that buyers will find it interesting. There are thousands of books on every subject. How will your book be different? Who will want to read it? How will you reach them? These are crucial questions that should be answered before the writing begins.

What do you consider to be critical to a successful self-publishing venture?

Many authors focus on publicity and marketing at the expense of the most important step: producing a quality book in the first place! Buyers expect and deserve value for their money. Producing a quality book involves editing, cover design, interior design and proofreading. By skipping any of these steps, the author runs the risk of wasting his or her marketing dollars. For example, perhaps the author spends a lot of money on advertising. Advertising can only introduce people to a book, but if readers feel they didn’t get their money’s worth, they’ll retaliate in the form of bad reviews on Amazon. No amount of advertising can undo bad book reviews.

One final point: Authors may come across the websites of book designers that feature bestsellers. The implication is that this design firm was somehow responsible for the success of the book. Poppycock! No book ever became a bestseller solely because of a good cover design, but a bad cover can doom an otherwise great book. ALL of the professional services—editing, cover design, interior design and proofreading—are needed to produce a good book. Only then is marketing required to get the word out.

What are some common mistakes made by beginner self-publishers?

With the best of intentions, beginning self-publishers often shoot themselves in the foot by not setting an adequate budget for necessary professional services.  We’ve talked to people whose spouses edited their books because they are a PhD or an English teacher. Or, they’ll ask a friend who is a web designer to design the cover, even though they have no experience whatsoever in book cover design. Or, they’ll skip proofreading because they think that the editor took care of everything. All of these decisions can hurt their books’ chance to succeed.

To avoid these mistakes, match the approach with the goal. If you are taking the “CEO approach,” it’s better to save up and wait until you can afford to pay the necessary professionals than to barge ahead and release a poorly crafted book.

Can you share a self-publishing success story to inspire our readers?

Several of our clients have produced more than one book, so that tells me they achieved some success. One, Michael Rubin, became a consultant for ING Direct bank, who promoted his books to millions of their account holders. He reprints both books regularly. Marian Anders, author of My Dog Bites the English Teacher, was picked up by a publisher. Both of these authors produced quality books in the first place. 

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