On today's podcast: How can a publishing services company help indie authors? Every month, I'll feature an interview with an ALLi partner member who can help you at various stages in the self-publishing process, from getting the manuscript ready to ensuring it reaches your potential readers. My first guest is Michele DeFilippo of 1106 Design, which provides end-to-end book design, production, and publishing services for independent authors.
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About the Guest: Publishing Services Company
1106 Design provides end-to-end book design, production, and publishing services for independent authors who seek all the quality of traditional publishing without forfeiting their rights and royalties in return. Our vetted team, with convenient project management, has helped thousands of authors create outstanding books. Please visit the company's website to browse design samples, read testimonials, and book your free, no-obligation consultation today.
About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn, and X.
Read the Transcripts: Publishing Services Company
Howard Lovy: You're listening to Creating Better Books, a brand-new podcast stream from ALLi that helps guide you along in the production of your book. Every month, I'll feature an interview with an ALLi partner member who will help you at various stages in the self-publishing process, from getting the manuscript ready to ensuring it reaches your potential readers.
I'm hoping to make this podcast a treasure trove of editorial and book production advice.
Now, my first guest is Michele DeFilippo of 1106 Design, which provides end-to-end book design, production, and publishing services for independent authors.
Hello, Michele, and welcome to Creating Better Books. Thank you for being my first guest.
Michele DeFilippo: Hello, Howard. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I'm just thrilled to be able to do this with you and speak to other ALLi members.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. First, tell me what 1106 Design does and how ALLi members can take advantage of your services.
Michele DeFilippo: Okay. 1106 Design, we specialize in what used to be called pre-press services, which is all the services that are necessary to produce a book before it can be published. Today 1106 offers editing, cover design, interior design proofreading, eBook formatting, author websites, and a whole bunch of other services; everything up to the point of actual publication.
We help our authors upload their files to IngramSpark and KDP, and we help them choose distribution options, but basically, it's an advisory service and a production service combined.
Howard Lovy: It sounds like you do a lot of things that a traditional publisher might do. So, tell me, what is the difference between an author services company and a publisher?
Michele DeFilippo: That starts to get into a little tricky area because back in the day, publishers were the only avenue available to authors to get their book distributed. You had to work through a publisher in order to get your book into a bookstore and available to the public. Amazon changed all that. Now distribution worldwide is available to anyone.
To say that caused an earthquake in the publishing world is an understatement. So, now authors really do not have to work with a publisher in order to produce a book and get it distributed and available for retail sale.
They do, however, still need help producing that book if they want to produce the book to industry standards, and that's where an author service company like mine comes in.
We do not officially publish the book for the author. We help the author publish the book in their own name so that when a book is sold, they get all of the revenue possible in the book world paid directly to them, not to us.
Howard Lovy: Okay, you handle a great many different kinds of functions. Let's take them one by one. Design is one of them, and you mentioned that there's a difference between a DIY design and a professional cover and interior design. What is the difference?
Michele DeFilippo: Oh, I guess there's a lot of misunderstanding about what designers do. The prevailing narrative on the internet is that making a book is a do-it-yourself operation, and a lot of people do go that route, but a designer is trained. We study colour and composition and arrangement and typography, and we put all that together in order to create book covers and book interiors that look like they were published by a major publisher.
The book interior design area is especially filled with misinformation now, because you've got so many people telling authors to lay out their book in Microsoft Word, but there's actually an entire field of endeavour called typesetting, which is becoming a lost word, and that was, and is, a very technical, detailed approach to how the text is put on the page in order to facilitate easy reading.
Those of us who've been in the business for any length of time can only be dismayed that is being lost and almost unknown now.
Howard Lovy: When it comes to these kinds of services though, there are a lot of different choices out there. What do you advise authors to do, to look out for, in terms of telling who's legit and who's not?
Michele DeFilippo: That's really difficult, right? But probably the best way to decide that the person you're thinking about hiring is qualified is to look at their samples online, look at their book cover samples, look at their interior design samples, have a conversation with them, ask them about their experience. How long have they been in the business? What do they believe? How do they approach the job?
Freedom is messy, so anybody can put up a website and say that they know how to do books, but the proof is in the results. So, that's really the number one way that authors can qualify the people they may want to work with.
Howard Lovy: Staying on the topic of design really quick. What are some of the trends in cover design? I've noticed lately there have been lots of big words on covers of books and not much, you know, using the words themselves as art. Is that a trend these days? Tell me what people are doing.
Michele DeFilippo: Yes, the trends change all the time. There was, you may remember back in the day that on Malcolm Gladwell's books, the trend was all white covers with a tiny little picture icon on the cover, and then just what looked basically like kind of dull and uninteresting type, but that became a great big trend for about a decade. Every business book on the market then had a white background for a long time. Then the trend changed to bright primary colours, orange, yellow, red.
The point being that the trends change all the time, and it's important to design your book or have work with your designer so that your book looks like the current trend, it looks contemporary, because you don't want to stand out for all the wrong reasons by producing a book that doesn't look like it belongs with the bestsellers. Because when people go to find your book on Amazon, Amazon is going to put up the bestsellers next to your title.
So, if you want people to take a chance on you, the unknown author, you really need to have a top-drawer book cover that looks like it belongs with those bestsellers so that it looks credible and it looks like it's going to be a good buy for the purchaser. Because people are spending their hard-earned money, they want to make sure they don't get ripped off. They want to know that book is credible and that the information inside it is something that they can rely on, or the entertainment inside of it is something that they can rely on, and that's a very scary place for them to be.
So, as publishers, we need to reassure them. We need to make that book look as credible as it can be so that they feel safe to buy it.
Howard Lovy: That's the packaging. Now let's get into the guts of the book, what the book says and how it sounds, and this is something I'm familiar with. When I'm not podcasting, I'm also a book editor and I do editorial evaluations, which is something your company does also.
On your website, you say, you don't want your book to sound self-published, and editorial evaluation is a step along the way to a professional edit.
Tell me what you do in an editorial evaluation, and is that sort of the entry point to your editorial services?
Michele DeFilippo: Yes, that's our 1st step into the editing process in most cases. Basically, it's an opportunity for the editor to take a 50,000-foot view of the manuscript, and just get a sense of how much work may be involved and what sorts of things need to be addressed.
We take that as a first step so that the author has an opportunity, maybe, to tune up the manuscript a little bit before the actual editing begins. Fortunately, in my experience, indie authors do not question the need for editing. They understand that it's important, and that the text has to read in a nice, smooth way, otherwise people are going to put the book down and decide they don't like it and that they don't like the author.
There's not too much argument about that as far as I can see.
Howard Lovy: Do you get manuscripts that are, you know, are some of them simply too raw for you to work with, or are you able to work with pretty much anything?
Michele DeFilippo: I mean, I did get a manuscript one time that was 30,000 words in all one paragraph, but that doesn't happen too often.
Our belief is that just about any manuscript can be fixed. The only thing that differs is how much time it's going to take to do that and how much work it's going to involve.
Howard Lovy: Okay, speaking of the way a book sounds, another service you offer is audiobook narration. Now, I've been reading and listening to other podcasts, especially Joanna Penn, who's our big AI advocate at ALLi, and there's competition coming with artificial intelligence in terms of audiobook narration. Is that something that you're looking at or concerned about?
Michele DeFilippo: In my opinion the computer narration is not there yet. It's sort of like a human voice. It's almost a human voice, but it doesn't have the depth or the feeling or the emotion of a true human narrator, especially if that narrator is a trained voice actor.
I would recommend that authors listen to a lot of audiobooks before they make that decision, and they will be able to hear for themselves the difference that a trained voice actor can make, especially in a novel.
A good narrator can cause you to become completely immersed in the novel and think you're living that novel. Whereas a machine, I don't think, at least not at the moment. I don't think a machine can do that.
Howard Lovy: And I just want to assure our audience right now that I am in fact a live person and I'm not AI, and I'm assuming that you're a live person as well, right?
Michele DeFilippo: Yes, as far as I know, I checked this morning.
Howard Lovy: These days you have to make sure everybody knows that.
Tell me more about how ALLi members specifically can take advantage of your services.
Michele DeFilippo: First of all, I love working with ALLi authors because from the get-go I know that they care about quality, and they care about honesty and integrity in business. Otherwise, they wouldn't have approached ALLi in the 1st place. So, that's a big hurdle that designers have to overcome right at the very beginning.
We offer ALLi members a 10 percent discount off our services, and we are focused on personal customer service. We are not a great big book factory where you have to be put on a conveyor belt to have your book produced. When you contact us or call us, you'll correspond with a thinking, trained human being who cares about you and your book.
Howard Lovy: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see authors make?
Michele DeFilippo: I think, I know, that writing a book is a solitary experience, right? The author has been immersed in this project pretty much alone for a very long time, and of course, you become focused on you and what you want. But publishing now, when you get into the production mode, when you're ready to start producing your book and releasing it to the public, a mental shift is necessary.
Now, you're no longer an author. That job is done. Now, you're a publisher and you need to start thinking more about the market, the people who are going to buy your book, or that you hope will buy your book.
A lot of times, I don't know if I would call it an error, but it's a difficult mental shift to make. Sometimes we have to just gently guide the author back and say, yes, we know this is what you want for your cover, but if you look at what the major publishers are producing now in this genre, if you do what you want, if we do what you want, what you're telling us to do, you may stand out for all the wrong reasons.
So, a lot of guidance is necessary, and a lot of thoughtfulness is necessary.
The cover in particular is all about the buyer. It is no longer about the author. So, we try to keep authors focused on that so that first impression of their book, when people see it online or wherever they may see it after the author begins their marketing effort, that first impression is the most powerful thing in the world, and you don't have another chance after that first impression is made.
So, that's what we like to focus on, especially with the cover.
Howard Lovy: Speaking of book marketing services, that's probably the most difficult of all the tasks, especially for indie authors. What's the most important piece of advice for authors on making their work visible to their potential readers?
Michele DeFilippo: Oh, there are so many avenues to market a book, and the word I hear most often from authors is that they feel overwhelmed by it. I can relate to that, because when we look for any kind of information on the internet now, it's not unusual to get 100,000 replies. So, how do you weed through that? How do you know what to do?
The marketing answer is different for every author. We offer some do-it-yourself services that are very economical for the authors who want to roll up their sleeves and do the marketing themselves. We also work with someone who can train the author to do their own marketing, again, saving some money so that they can actually do the implementation themselves.
In my experience, most authors don't want to do it themselves, and so then I will refer people to marketing specialists who they can decide to work with and craft a custom marketing program. That of course is more money, but everybody has different opinions about that.
Howard Lovy: There's so many moving parts to marketing. There's getting reviews, there's lining up interviews, everything from live events to web events. Is there any one particular trend that's working now.
Michele DeFilippo: No, I would say all of the above, and that's where the marketing expert comes in into play, because they can recommend based on the nature of the book and the personality of the author, what will be the most effective way to market the book.
If the author is an introvert and doesn't want to be seen and doesn't want to be out in public, it wouldn't make much sense to recommend the sorts of marketing channels that would require that. So, it's always a balance between the author and the channel, but there's millions and millions of ways to market a book right now.
Howard Lovy: Here's one final general question. Self-publishing can seem overwhelming, how do you make the process easier?
Michele DeFilippo: I think, yes, I think we can, because we handle everything from manuscript all the way up to uploading the files to the print-on-demand printers for the authors.
When authors work with an author services company like ours, they don't have to worry about a lot of things. They don't have to worry about choosing the right editor, choosing the right designer, choosing the right eBook formatter.
That's a really dangerous territory, because again, if you're entering this field for the first time, maybe you don't have enough knowledge to make the right choice. So, if you work with someone like us, we've got that vetted team in place for you, we know they're dependable, we have multiple people so that we can start as soon as you send us your manuscript, and we manage the process for you.
That doesn't mean we cut you out of the collaboration, you're a big part of it. We collaborate with you every step of the way, but you have our expertise backing you up instead of going it alone.
Howard Lovy: Tell me just a little bit more about you, Michele, and how you became involved with this company.
Michele DeFilippo: Well, that's kind of a long story. I'm 70-years-old now, and I've been in the business since 1972, which is as amazing to me as anyone else. My first job, I grew up in New York. So, my first job was at Crown Publishers in New York, and then I moved to Arizona in 1976.
I wound up being in my own business because in Arizona, I could not make more than minimum wage, to my dismay. I came here never expecting that to be the case but that was the reality here. So, I started thinking about opening my own business, and I started with an old-fashioned typesetting business where the first typesetting machine that I bought was $30,000, and each typeface that I bought was $125.
I just stayed in the publishing industry in different ways ever since then. We used to work for major publishers and ad agencies, and then Steve Jobs changed everything by inventing the Macintosh, so I had to adjust to that.
I became a freelancer and then I opened 1106 Design because I saw that self-publishing was changing everything, and I decided to put my publishing experience to work in a different way and opened 1106 Design.
Howard Lovy: That's great, it sounds like you've seen a lot of changes, but not only seen a lot of changes, but you've reacted to them and stayed on top of them. So, that's great.
Michele DeFilippo: We don't have a choice, right? You have to stay on top of the changes. You can't get left behind.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, exactly. I started out as a journalist, and then maybe about 10-15 years ago, I noticed people stop reading newspapers.
So, I had to find something else to do. I managed to float into podcasting and self-publishing and book editing. I kind of compare it to Tarzan swinging from vine to vine.
Michele DeFilippo: As far as journalism, there's so many channels now for that. People, I don't think they've stopped reading, they may have stopped reading newspapers, but I don't think they've stopped reading.
Howard Lovy: Exactly. I've learned to use my journalism skills in other ways.
Thank you, Michele. I appreciate your time and thank you again for being my very first guest, and good luck with everything.
Michele DeFilippo: Thank you, Howard. I appreciate you, and I appreciate all the members of ALLi because we can't give up on quality books.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful, thank you.