My Story: Who Is Giving Your Book TLC?

by ldespain on January 12, 2014

As an author (or publisher) you have options in choosing a formatting expert, whether you’re needing an ebook or print book, or both. You could post your project on a job site like Elance, work with a large conversion or design house, or find a small boutique operator like me. The experience you’ll have is different with each option and it can be helpful to know who you’ll be working with before you make your decision.

Although I’m convinced that you’re more interested in your book project than you are in me (as you should be!), I’ve been told that sharing my story is something I should be doing, so here goes!

Right now, I am blessed to have businesses in 2 areas – book formatting and quilting. Since I was a little kid, books have been important to me; I had a part-time job in high school at the public library. I was the kid who would stay up all night to finish reading a book…the one who had her head under the covers with a flashlight, excited to finish the latest “best” book she had ever read. (The book I am currently reading has always been my favorite…whatever it is!) After college, I went to work in Christian publishing, stayed at the publishing house for 13 years, and then struck out on my own.

Quilting is both my passion and the thing that helps me to relax. I now have a quilting machine – it’s as big as a car and just about as expensive. I use it to finish other quilters’ projects. I love it!

So that leads me to what I do best – I finish things. I can’t say that I always finish a project on time, but darn it if I don’t do whatever I can to make it happen. Who needs sleep, after all. (Kidding! Sort of.) The way I see it – I help creative people, whether in quilting or in books, take their project further along to “finished.” Sometimes creative types don’t have the right set of technical skills to finish what they’ve started. I get it. Who wants to learn a typesetting program like InDesign if writing is their true passion? Who wants to learn the intricacies of HTML to create an ebook? There’s kind of a lot to it, if you do it right.

So, if you’re interested in finishing your book, I’d love to hear from you. There are some very exciting opportunities right now for authors who want print and/or ebooks. The TLC is included in every project I do. : ) Contact Lisa at 918-232-6155 or

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I’ve been watching marathon episodes of Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu and have gathered a nice list of business tips that Gordon Ramsay uses on almost every episode. Ok, yes, it’s a rather formulaic reality TV show, but that’s part of its charm…and the main reason why I’ve been able to come up with this list. These are overriding themes that surface every week.

Tip #1: The problem always begins with the owner.

Gordon always has to convince the owner to recognize that they have an issue. When the owner finally stops denying the problem, that’s when things can start to get better. Until that time, the owner is not able to take responsibility for their mess. The ONLY way they can fix their mess is to take control over it and make some changes. It’s never the staff or the customer that is the problem. The problem is almost always something that the owner should be addressing, whether it’s poor food storage practices, an outdated menu or decor, or just a lack of care in the kitchen.

This is the same in any business. Until the owner can take control over the problem, no changes can be made. It’s dysfunction from the highest levels of the company.

Tip #2: Quality matters.

One of the first things Gordon Ramsay does on Kitchen Nightmares is to test several dishes on the menu. These are generally what should be the restaurant’s signature dishes. He invariably calls them (British accent) disgusting, rubbish, or appalling. The message is clear: people are not flocking to your restaurant, or business, because the quality sucks. People will break down your door for quality products delivered in a consistent manner. That’s one reason why chain restaurants tend to do so well – the system has been developed to the point that customers know exactly what they will get every time. Personally, I love quality and value, to the point that I will pay more for quality products that I know will last longer.

In ebook conversion, to me quality means functionality – does this ebook do what it’s supposed to do? Is there a working table of contents? Are page numbers, footers, and headers removed as they should be, and are footnotes/endnotes where they should be and are they linked up? Many times, achieving quality in ebook conversion requires some serious “under the hood” HTML coding. Did the conversion specialist do this or did they rely on software alone?

Tip #3: Presentation is important.

We all know when something looks appetizing. In fact, with food that’s a huge part of the appeal. You’re much less likely to look forward to eating a dish when it’s swimming in oil or has wilted lettuce. Yuck!

If we were going to make an analogy to book design, this would relate best to the cover and interior design. A beautiful presentation says that you care about the reader experience. Readers respond to beautiful design by assuming a higher level of quality. Does your cover evoke an emotion? Does it look professional and is it easy to see on Amazon? Is the book interior clean and easy-to-read? Is the ebook text displayed in a consistent way? Are there spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors?

Tip #4: Stay on top of trends.

Every Kitchen Nightmares episode does a remodel of the restaurant. For the most part, they don’t do a whole lot or spend a lot of money, but they make the restaurant look fresher and more trendy. They also do an update on the menu – removing older dishes, freshening up bestselling dishes, and adding new cuisine that fits in with the restaurant’s theme.

This is so important in business, too. In fact, in publishing and especially ebooks, change is a way of life. Ereader technology refreshes at least every 6 months. The main ereaders – and POD printers – change their interface just about as quickly. Since I’m living on the bleeding edge of this technology, I have to learn  something new just about every day. And, at some point as software gets more advanced in this area, I become obsolete. I thought it might happen last year, but at this point ebook conversion still requires human intervention. (Go humans!)

Tip #5: Hire people who are as passionate about the product as you are.

Gordon Ramsay frequently gets in chefs’ faces and yells at them about loving the product. He really stresses that they should have passion for what they do. When someone has a sincere love for the product, they naturally will do better work.

Ditto in business beyond food services. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think a person who dislikes reading should have anything to do with publishing or book production. You’re going to spend hours and hours of your time working on a project – if you don’t love it, you should make way for someone who does and let them do it. Life is short…spend it doing something you love.

Tip #6: Speed and service is almost as important as quality.

In some Kitchen Nightmare episodes, food goes out fairly quickly but is returned just as quickly. In other episodes, it takes FOREVER for food to be delivered. Neither scenario impresses customers and makes them want to come back.

In business, customers expect high levels of speedy service. This is an area that cover and book designers sometimes get wrong. In their desire to deliver a very high quality product, it’s common for projects to drag on for months. Personally, I love to finish projects. (Love.) Sometimes my authors are a little wishy-washy about exactly what they want, to the point that I begin to dream of the day I can cross THEIR book off MY bucket list! ; ) If you’re working with a designer and have a deadline, give very clear instructions and provide reasonable benchmark deadlines. Allow for a grace period before your book’s launch date so you don’t get stuck with an incomplete project and unfilled promises.

Tip #7: Be careful what you wish for.

What cracks me up about this show is that people ASK for help, then they’re surprised and offended when Gordon offers it. God has a sense of humor. If you pray to God for help, he just might send a raving, cussing, screaming Englishman to your aid!

So, how do I relate that to business? If you ask for anything, figure out what it will mean if you get it. Want more business? If you get it, then what? Are you ready for it? Are your systems in place to scale the business UP? Or would more business bury you? Looking for a huge sale? Can you fulfill the order? What happens if the order comes back? Do you have a plan B? These are all valid things to consider should you actually get what you want

What’s the next step?

What is YOUR next step as an author? If you think about your BOOK as a product, and your writing career as your BUSINESS, what should you be doing next? Drop me an email if I can help, even if it’s just to offer some (free) advice:

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