Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Reading, Self Publishing, Writing

Cozy Mysteries on the Washington Coast – Q&A with Author Jan Bono

After retiring from teaching in 2006, Jan Bono began to write—and she hasn’t stopped since! Author of the six book Sylvia Avery series, Jan is also a prolific Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor and has been published in the series over 45 times, making her one of the top worldwide contributors. We love working with Jan, and recently asked her to share with us a little about her printing experience.

Author Jan Bono

Gorham Printing: You’ve recently completed the sixth book of your Sylvia Avery Mystery series. Can you tell readers a little about the series and what you wanted it to represent?

Jan Bono: Sylvia Avery is a middle-aged, fairly active woman who took early retirement on the North Beach Peninsula. She often finds herself tangled up in her friends’ lives, particularly when they’ve got trouble on their hands. Fortunately, Syl has a mind for mystery, and contributes quite a bit to solving the crimes that take place all around her—whether drug running, recent or cold-case murders, robbery, insurance fraud, kidnapping, and the like.

I’ve always loved reading mysteries, particularly “cozies,” and often I find myself wondering “What if” the events in the books, or even in real life, had happened a little differently. After 30 years in the classroom, I wanted to try my hand at making the community I live in a backdrop for the stories I had rolling around in my head. Writing a mystery series was on my retirement bucket list, and I took the bold move of starting this new endeavor in my mid-50s. After all, I retired from teaching, but not from life!

GP: Did your writing process change significantly from the first book to the sixth?

JB: The process? Not at all. My writing? Well, I like to think I improved as I wrote along! But my process did get a lot more detailed. Since the fall is my Season of Selling at holiday bazaars and craft fairs, I start most books in January by typing up all the notes and reading and summarizing my thick file of research. February is dedicated to writing a thorough synopsis. My definition of “thorough” has evolved from 18 to 20 single-spaced pages to over 40 pages for the last few books! Then I walk away for several weeks and leave the synopsis alone.

Between mid-March and mid-April, it becomes TIME TO WRITE! And although I have a very complete story summary, that doesn’t mean it can’t change, and often does! Characters I thought were only around for one book worked their way into my heart and I couldn’t bear not to carry them into the next book or two or even three! I’ve even changed “the bad guy”—twice—because I changed my mind about his or her intentions as I wrote. The synopsis is never in stone, but it helps me know where I’m eventually headed as I write.

GP: How long did each book take to write and edit?

JB: When I’m ready to start writing in earnest (about three months into the research and summary writing), I’m like a dog worrying a bone. I write first thing in the morning, every morning, and don’t quit till I have at least 1,000 words. Some days I just can’t pull myself away from the computer, and during the writing of Book 6, I wrote 1,500 daily words minimum, and on my most productive day I put down over 3,500 words!

When it’s my best effort at a first draft, I send it off to four or five friends to proof/edit/comment on it. And I only give them two weeks! I compile their notes, make corrections as necessary, and send it to my final reader, who somehow always manages to find another 20 or so things for me to review!

I like to say that the first book took me 31 years to write, but after that, it got much faster! HA HA! The last three books took 42, 42, and 39 days at the keyboard, but that was working from a very detailed synopsis. And it was so much fun! Then off to my proofer team (I had almost 30 people offer to help, but chose 5 or 6 readers for each book, and no one except my final reader read more than two first drafts). Then off to the printer! Start to finish, I averaged 5 to 6 months from first day of work to holding the finished product in my hand.

GP: How do you prepare your books for printing?

JB: I’m far from a computer geek, but there are some important things I’ve learned about formatting along the way. The Gorham Printing Manual was my bible in the beginning, but I also found that once I visualized the finished product, I could make it look on paper the same way it looked in my imagination! The manual clearly delineated the necessary components, and a retired teacher can certainly follow a lesson plan, but I also put different headers on alternate pages, chose my own font, and decided that 12-point, although it costs more to print more pages, was easier on “mature eyes,” and my regular reads are grateful for that! Then, after my proofreading team was finished with it, I made the corrections and sent the polished interior text folder to Gorham as a PDF with fingers crossed.

GP: We’ve been able to partner with you to do design work on the Sylvia Avery book covers. What was the design process like for you? What made you decide to work with a designer?

JB: Once my text was complete, I settled down to write the back of the book blurb, the author bio, take the selfie for my author photo, acquire an ISBN, and find—or take—a photo for the wrap-around cover. All these pieces went into another file for the book designer’s help, as I don’t know how to work photoshop, and I’m grateful I don’t need too! I worked with a designer’s HELP. I was glad there was an option between having it done for me, and doing it all on my own! The designer got all the pieces, and since I worked with the same one for the last four books, I greatly appreciated the fact that she soon learned to read my mind, and see my vision as I did. We communicated through emails, and I truly love the results of all our collaborations, without reservation. She made proofs that always surprised me, adding touches I hadn’t thought of, but that always looked fabulous!

GP: These books take place on the Long Beach Peninsula, where you live. What is it like writing about the place you live? How do your surroundings inspire you?

JB: On page 5 of each book is a map of the fictitious “North Beach Peninsula.” And yes, it looks just like the Long Beach Peninsula, in the SW corner of Washington State, but I’ve changed the names of the towns, bays, lighthouse, and other important landmarks, businesses, and features. In my series, Ilwaco, on the southern end, became Unity, which is actually what Ilwaco was briefly called at the end of the Civil War. Long Beach was founded by the Tinkers, and was Tinkerville for many years, but in my books it’s Tinkerstown. Oysterville has been replaced by the now-defunct community of Willoopah, which I moved across the bay to suit my purposes!

The Clamshell Motel was once the Tide Motel, a bit south of Cranberry Road, and the High Tides Burger Bar is still our long-time Corral Drive-In. Sadly, the Long Beach Coffee Roasters, which I renamed the Sandy Bottom Coffee Cup, is no longer in business, but my Buoy 10 Bakery, now Dylan’s Cottage Bakery, is right there in downtown Long Beach, and still makes the best pastries to eat while solving crimes anywhere on earth! My all-time favorite fictional restaurant name is Cinco Amigos’ Chinese Cuisine! In my first book, five Mexican friends decided to open an ethnic restaurant, but realized the local need was for Chinese instead of another Mexican food stop, and I let them take over the real-life Chen’s location. The name came to me when I thought about Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and I love the way people respond when first encountering Cinco Amigos’ Chinese Cuisine.

I’ve included aspects of the Crab Pot Tree Lighting, the Blues Festival, the Boardwalk, and many other true area events in my locales. Those things are real, but the Spartina Point Casino and Resort name is making a glamorous joke of spartina, which is actually a noxious weed that has been eradicated from Willapa Bay, or Shallowwater Bay, if you prefer! And The Veiled Rainbow, a geriatric belly dancing troupe, certainly exists, but not under that name. As I’ve said, writing is unlimited creative fun!

GP: Now that the Sylvia Avery mysteries are complete, what’s next on the horizon? Will you start a new cozy mystery series?

JB: A cozy series has no graphic violence, no obscene language, and no explicit sex scenes. It has an amateur sleuth working with the police department in a small town, quirky characters, and lots of laughs. When I finished the series, I already had a couple books in mind, just begging to be written. But the first on the list wasn’t in my usual “humorous” style, and I wasn’t sure if I was up to the task of writing more dramatically, with suspense and tension and all that I’d need to write a solid true crime, which I’ve been sitting on for 25 years. I will write it, but that book is now second on my list, as I “practice” writing drama! The practice book will end up being 8 or 10 short stories about how women ON THE PENINSULA are able to get away with bumping off their husbands or boyfriends in unusual ways! This will be my transitional book, and then I’ll tackle the harder one. That’s my plan at this moment! And yes, Gorham will be printing this one too. Gorham has printed 12 of my 15 books, and I see no reason to do it any other way!

GP: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

JB: This darn pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench into my marketing plan! Whereas I usually sell the majority of my books at holiday bazaars in the fall, I’m now focusing on online sales. If you live within 25 miles of Long Beach, I can meet you at a public place in your area to deliver them, but any farther has to go through the mail. My website, where you can read a short synopsis of each book, is http://www.JanBonoBooks.com. There are several ways to contact me through the website, and I answer all inquiries. If you get the recorder, please leave a message! But first, check out my body of work at JanBonoBooks.com. Got it?  Thank you! And thanks to Gorham for this opportunity to tell you about my Sylvia Avery Mystery Series! I couldn’t /wouldn’t have done it without them!

It’s always fun to see a new book from Jan and know that we get to partner with her to design the covers. You can learn more about our cover design process by clicking here, or give us a call to get a custom quote for your book design!

Self Publishing, Book production, Book Printing Cost

The Best Binding Type for Your Book – Pros and Cons

A few months ago I moved into a new apartment.  Some of the first boxes I tackled when I was unpacking were my 500+ books. I organized them by spine color, creating a wall of book art in my living room.

As I placed each one I was struck by the different feelings each book evoked. We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but if we’re judging favorably, is it such a bad thing? Each spine, whether a beautifully illustrated softcover or a timeless, foil-stamped hardcover, spoke volumes.

One of the first questions we ask when speaking to an author getting ready to print their book is “What binding style would you like?” Often a client will have this answer at the ready; in other cases, the author has not considered this before. Don’t let this decision get you in a bind!

Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding between hardcover, softcover, or spiral binding.

Hardcover Books

Hardcover Book Binding

Pros of Hardcover Book Binding

  • Printed hardcovers (with a color image wrapped around the front and back) offer a high impact look.
  • Clothbound hardcovers with foil stamping have a classic look. Additional features like dust jackets and ribbon markers make it easy to imagine your book on a library shelf!
  • PUR adhesive binding makes these books extremely durable.
  • Hardcovers are long lasting and make great keepsakes.
  • Premium features such as custom foil or cloth colors, embossing, and custom endsheets will take your hardcover to the next level

Cons of Hardcover Book Binding

  • Hardcovers are more expensive than other binding styles.
  • Production time is 4-6 weeks.
  • Hardcover books dos not lay completely flat.

Softcover Books

Softcover Book Binding

Pros of Softcover Book Binding:

  • Softcovers are light and portable.
  • They are extremely cost-effective.
  • Shipping will be less expensive due to the soft cover and uncoated paper, which is more lightweight than coated paper.
  • There is a quick turnaround, most orders taking 5-10 business days in production.
  • Plenty of premium features are available, like 3D Spot UV, metallic printing, and embossing, help make your softcover book stand out.

Cons of Softcover Book Binding:

  • Coated paper stocks are incompatible with softcovers.
  • The perfect binding may not have the elegant feel of a hardcover book.
  • Softcover books do not lay completely flat.

Spiral Bound Books

Spiral Book Binding

Pros of Spiral Book Binding:

  • Opens completely flat or folds backwards.
  • Many different colors of spiral to personalize your book.
  • Wire-o binding is an inexpensive upgrade for a professional, polished look.
  • Several premium features, such as foldouts and inside cover printing, are available for spiral books!

Cons of Spiral Book Binding:

  • Page counts larger than 450 will not work with spiral binding.
  • Spiral books may not have the polished feel of a softcover book.
  • When shelved, the book title is not visible on the spine.

I recommend letting your book’s genre and intended audience guide you when deciding on a binding style. A cookbook or journal is perfect for spiral or wire-o binding. If your project is a family keepsake meant to be passed down to future generations, a clothbound hardcover will last for years and look fantastic on every bookshelf. And you can’t go wrong with a softcover for the majority of genres, from novels to coloring books to photography books. If you are hoping to reach a wide base of customers, softcover books are reasonably priced to produce and you will be able to pass those savings onto your readers.

Take some time to peruse your own bookshelves or favorite bookstore for books with similar genres to yours. You will get plenty of inspiration when choosing which binding option is best.

Jennifer and I are available by phone or email to discuss your project and use our knowledge and expertise to help you find the right fit for your book!

Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Author Spotlight: Adventure, Photography, and Postcards with David Robertson

Every book is its own adventure. This is specifically true about one of our authors who has been printing books for a decade with new titles almost every month. His name is David Robertson and he is an exceptional person, author and artist!

I have had the pleasure of working with him on a majority of his books and being able to talk to him about his journey and creative process. He has multiple series of books including family history hardcovers, photography journeys, and a new series of postcard books. When he and his wife are not traveling across the country or the world, he prepares these amazing books for printing. I had a chat with him recently to get his thoughts about his process and here is what he had to say:

GP: What was the inspiration for creating your first book?

DR: I used to do posters and deck of cards and brochures. When I began trying to make something out of our travels, none of these formats seemed to work really well. I would do one trip as a fold out or the like, and another as a deck of cards, but I began to feel they were not working all that well. So, eventually I thought, hmmmm, these trips ought to be a book.

GP: What made you choose Gorham Printing for your books?

DR: I ran a Bioregional Artist in Residence program here at Davis back 20 years ago. One of the artists was Mike Madison and he told me about you. Mike has become quite famous, reviewed in NY Review, etc., and the piece he did in the Artist in Residence became a chapter in his first book. So we deserve some credit here. So On the Road Ecology was my first book ever, except for scholarly books.

David always impresses us when we receive his files. His books are interesting and always pass the file review with flying colors. Out of all his books he has done, he is so meticulous with his editing that I can only remember maybe one time that he made changes to a proof. His editing process works fantastic for him!

GP: What is your editing and proofing process like?

DR: Chaotic! I go through the photos in the iPhone (or what cameras came before) and edit and delete. Then I download them and delete some more and get an idea what “hangs” together. By this time I have an idea of what the book is going to be about. Most of the time the basic idea comes on the trip on the basis of what I see and read. So I make a list on a sheet of paper of what photos might go together. And I make notes of what words might go with them. Then I go back through the photos and on paper say “yes” or “no” or “?” I go away for a few days. Return. Start the book in InDesign. Do a first draft. go away, for a week to a month. This is very important. I get too close to a book, so I have to go away so I can get some distance. I return and most of the time make significant revisions, ever so often change the whole idea because I don’t think it is working. I wait another 2 weeks or so and finalize the MS and after another 2 weeks, send it to you.

GP: How do you sell or give away your books?

DR: I do not sell books, ever. I give them away to friends and family and to anyone who asks for one.

GP: I know you use InDesign for setting up your book now, but have you always used in InDesign? Why did you choose InDesign?

DR: Used Photoshop and InDesign from the start. I decided I would force myself to do no shortcuts. Get the best and learn how to use them.

David has a mix of black & white and color images in most of his books. As part of our PDF Review, we always check to make sure the color count in files are correct. David worked with our team when he first started to understand the best way to set up black and white images to make sure they registered as true black and white images using grayscale settings. His files are always 100% accurate in his color count!

GP: What are the struggles you have faced with designing your book?

Ideas!!! Ideas are the most important ingredient. No idea, no book. (That may not always be true, you understand.) There are two basic ways to “show” photographs. One is as a series of individual pictures, each of which stands alone. Two is a “story.” That’s what I want. Readers of my books should start at the beginning, go through the book as if they were reading a novel, and get somewhere at the end, somewhere they were not at the beginning. Again, you understand, this may not always be true, but I am trying.

GP: You have a few different series of books, including photography travels, family history, and now postcard books. What advice would you give to new authors looking to start self-publishing?

Ask yourself, what do I really want to do. Me, myself, what do I really want my books to be. Then do it. And beware of praise. Praise makes you want to continue doing the things people like, instead of going in your own directions.

David let me know he has another book heading our way soon which will be another Postcard book. We always enjoy seeing his new adventures, new books and working with him. A few years ago he and his lovely wife stopped by our shop on one of their journeys. The team was so excited to meet them!

We hope to make a connection with each one of our authors just as we have with David and perhaps meet you one day as well!

About Us, Additional Services, Marketing

What’s New for Gorham Printing in 2021

It seems as if the world around us changes faster and faster these days. Here at Gorham Printing, we have been working on finding new techniques, tools, knowledge, products and features to help you on your publishing journey. Right now, we have some big news we would like to share with you!

self publishing guidebook

Updated 2021 Guidebook

We would like to announce that our brand new guidebook, Journey Into Self-Publishing, is now available! The new guidebook is made free for authors at any stage of the publishing journey. It covers editing, designing, printing and marketing your book. The guidebook includes a Quick Reference page in the front of the book with an author’s checklist to help you track your progress. Here are a few more things you will see in the guidebook:

  • The new editing section details different types of editing. It has tips on how to do it yourself and what to look for when hiring a professional. It also has information on important publishing numbers such as ISBNs.
  • The new design section includes tips for designing the book yourself and showcases our new design packages. From choosing a program or choosing a font, we have tips for all stages of DIY book design. If you are looking for professional design services, we offer new design packages that fit any author or genre. Check out the new design packages in the guidebook or right now under our Design Services.
  • The print your book section includes example pricing, new promotional programs and new premium add-ons now available. We have added a full page to show off our new premium features and if you haven’t seen it yet, we have added a new section in our Get a Price tool that allows you to select some of our premium add-ons! These include:
    • 3D Spot UV
    • Interior Foldouts
    • CD Inserts
    • Metallic Printing
    • Inside Cover Printing
  • eBook conversions can now be purchased as a standalone service using our eBook Get a Price Tool. Check out the new guidebook to find a first time eBook conversion discount code.
  • The new marketing section will help you price your book. This can be found in the Marketing Your Book section along with other new tips and tricks to get your book out into the world.

Now through June 30th, we are also offering a promotional deal of Free Shipping! For orders of 100 books or more going to one destination, we will pay for your shipping cost. This includes USPS Media Mail and UPS Ground to all 50 states. Start your order today to take advantage and let us make your books a bit lighter.

Even if you’ve received our guidebook before, you can still be one of the first to receive Journey Into Self-Publishing. Order your physical copy or download the PDF instantly.

Our expert team will be writing new blogs each month to give you insight on new techniques and book printing knowledge! Subscribe to the Newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out!