In 1972, the men's Olympic Track & Field team spent 10 days training at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine before heading overseas to compete in Munich.
Fast forward 50 years, and in this training, Todd Coffin joins us to share his experience of finding some unique photographs from the Olympic Training Camp back in the 90s, and his process over the next few decades to write and finally publish a historical photo-retrospective.
In today's training, Todd is going to share the lessons that he learned through the pre-publication process of typesetting his book and getting a professional cover design, how he tested multiple print on demand companies to find the right one for his project, and how he has been able to get this project over the finish line with only 2 days to spare and receive enough author copies of his book to sell them at the expo for one of the most prestigious 10k races in the world.
Many of the lessons that Todd shares with us apply across all genres of books. Links to Todd's book and to the tools and services he used are included below the training in the resources.
Click anywhere within this unedited transcript to jump directly to that part of the training.
Hello, and welcome to this week's Apex Authors training. And today we're going to do a case study. So we've been working with Todd for few months. Now he's had a project he's been working on that we're going to talk about. And I felt a lot of the things that we did are gonna be super helpful and relevant just to see how to do some of the things that we've been talking about as well as some of the the unique actions that Todd took to make sure he came out with his book on time, cuz he was working off of a, really tight schedule. And I wanna start off with just a really brief introduction. I've known Todd for, I don't know, a decade and a half, two decades or so we used to, run together a lot back in the early two thousands and a mutual friend connected us this spring cuz she knew Todd was working on a book that I'd be interested in and that. That I've been in publishing for a little while now. So we, got together, had a little bit of a chat and I Laidig, Laidig out a lot of the options that he had for working on it on himself uh, on his own. And he came back a month or two later and said, Hey, how about we just work together on this project? And you he had a goal. This was probably around the June timeframe. And he had a goal of having this book ready for a race expos. So we have a really big race. It's one of the fastest 10 Ks in the country every year. And he wanted to have that book available for it because it's has a lot of local interests specifically. And so we were on, on a crunch and we're gonna go through the process that we went through in order to get this book ready to go. And it's not like this is a, book that went from start to finish in June. I mean, as Todd will tell us, he's been working on this for literally decades at this point, but it, he came out with a really high quality product. And I'm looking forward to telling everybody a little bit about it. So thanks for joining us, Todd.
📚 Origin Story
Oh, you're welcome Blaine. And, thanks for the, intro. And I guess I'll say from the top that having your help and support got me across the line. I would've been in serious difficulty without your guidance and this isn't gratuitous marketing it's, heartfelt because your guidance really bridged the gap between me floundering and me maybe trying to feel strapped to a larger publishing company or even self-publishing company that probably wouldn't have gotten me to the finish in time. So thank you. And thank you, Erin, for sticking by me and helping me out, but by, by way of, backdrop just to, to set the stage for the project I don't know if, any of those on the call were aware that in, 1972 and, probable event happened in Maine, which was the 10 day training camp that was held at Boden college that was attended by virtually the entire Olympic men's track and field team that was bound from Munich and they attended the camp in Brunswick at Boden college from roughly July 19th to July 29. and it was their last stop in the us before traveling overseas to Europe, where they had a handful of pre Olympic meets to prepare themselves for the Munich games beyond which started in, in September. So it was unprecedented in Maine and in hadn't happened before and will likely, never happen again. And it, it was ironic in that at the time I was living only two miles away. I, wasn't yet into running. I wasn't really even aware that this training camp was happening, but it really did turn a town of Brunswick upside down in terms of interest in attending the camp because the doors were open amateur photographers and pros alike took pictures. They got autographs and really flocked to the training camp. And it was a pretty big deal for the 10 days that, that the Olympians visited. And for me I. only found out about it through happenstance. I was at my in-laws home in bath main where myself and my wife are from originally. And we had rented an apartment and we were offered a bookshelf from my in-laws and we were in a spare bedroom, clearing the bookshelf off, removing stuffed animals, books, and trophies. And I got to the very top shelf and there was a dusty box and I took the box down, opened the cover. And inside the box were a couple dozen eight by 10 glossy, black and white photographs of the athletes who were training at Bowdoin college, the Olympians who were at Bowdoin college, and many of them were assigned. And I. Wow this is incredible. And I knew many of, the athletes, because at that time it was in the nineties. I'd been running for a couple decades or longer. And I recognized Frank shorter. I recognized marathon or Kenny Moore. I recognized Steve preta and icon and track and field. And I was like, well, why are these here? And, at the time, I actually had to be explained by my brother-in-law whose bedroom it was that. They had been given to his family his dad, my father-in-law bud cavity was a, dentist in bath. He was a Bowdoin graduate and it may be that he had a relationship with a photographer and somehow had done him a favor or, who knows. But ironically, my father-in-law bud did not remember who the photographer was, so that's a big mystery around the photos, but for me it was holding something truly unique and, memorable, even though I wasn't there personally, it was a, really big event in me. So I took the photos and thought, oh great. And I gave them back to my brother-in-law and, he took note in a couple weeks later, I visited for dinner, my in-laws and those photos were sitting on the kitchen table with a yellow sticky note, basically saying. Todd you'll enjoy these more than I ever will. Buddy. So my brother-in-law gave them to me and I was flabbergasted. So I didn't have any immediate plans for them. Right. I, there were mementos, they were important, but I tucked them away for probably closer, close to a decade. And then I admit the acquaintance of a marathon or Steve Poone, who was then the director at the Curtis library in Brunswick. And we became good friends. We trained a lot together and I showed him the photo collection and he took great interest because he was roughly 10 years older than me and knew the athletes even better. And he actually had competed against shorter and Jeff Galloway and some of the others that were photographed. And he says, I know a guy you've gotta, you've gotta. And this guy was Doug Moore and Doug's family owned a waterfront home in Brunswick, Maine at a place called mere point. You may be familiar and Doug's family had hosted the Olympians at a lobsters bake at this summer, home. And Doug's dad, Bob wasn't another Boden graduate. So he had close ties to the college. And when the Olympians visited for the lobster bake, they took a bunch of pictures. So Doug and I and Steve got together and sure enough, he's flipping through these photos of the Olympians eating lobsters, sitting on the dock. They've got a shot of steep preta on a slalom water ski in McCoy bay. And I began to, really conceptualize putting the two photograph collections together and developing a form of a photo retrospective that. I got into the history of why the event came to Maine, who these, men were the path that led them to Maine and to Munich in, in how they performed at, the Olympics. So I had at that point, maybe 20 photos, and I just felt in my gut, I wasn't quite there. I, was missing a lot of athletes. The photography was limited in terms of what they were doing. So I spent probably another. 10 years or so reaching out to the athletes who were on the team, having conversations, researching alumni directories, getting on social media sites, trying to find more photography. And it became challenging as you can appreciate because the event even then was 40 plus years ago. So while a lot of the athletes remember being there, maybe even taking pictures, they just had no knowledge necessarily where they had been tucked away. Maybe they were in garages and in ATS in basement boxes, but it, was hard to engage them to the point where they wanted to go on a search on my behalf. So enter Steve pone. Again, the gentleman I spoke to originally who was the director of the Brunswick library, who put me in touch with Doug Moore, he was recently retired as a director of the Portland public library. And at that time I had started calling a lot of the local newspapers. And I found out that the Portland press Herald had recently vacated their building in downtown Portland, but in their basement was a whole collection of the film archives from fifties, sixties, and seventies. And I found out that the, Portland press Herald had given those photographs to the Portland public library. So I knocked on the door with the library and asked for access to the photos and was told that they hadn't yet been formally registered, archived numbered, and the public was not allowed to see them. So that's where Steve came in. Having recently retired as the director of the Portland library, he opened the door, he was able to coordinate the, their archivists to go through search into the seventies. And sure enough, they came up with another three dozen terrific photographs of the Olympians that were taken by the Portland press heralds. Photographers and sports journalists at the time in the seventies. So I felt at that point, there I go. I've got 50 photos. I'd begun doing research on who the athletes were in the photos. And through the last, I guess, two, two and a half years began to develop the manuscript of, who the athletes were, why the event came to me and had a manuscript I was able to share with, Blaine and Erin and really launch the project in earnest. And as Blaine said, my, my goal was to have it ready for the running ex expo at the beach to beacon road race. But more importantly for me, or as importantly was this is the 50th anniversary. So I really wanted to have this book imprint available for sale during the summer 2022. It. Long journey and rewarding one obviously there are times when it seemed owner's task to, to get it across the line. And that's why connecting with, Apex and Midcoast publishing was the key to really getting it to, to the finish. And and I know Blaine, you have a couple, I guess, topics you'd like to, touch on at this point in terms of some of the nuts and bolts of arriving with the publication, I'm happy to jump into.
Yeah, we had two big areas, two big decisions that you had to make. And the first was how are we going to type, set this book? And you had already pretty much Laidig out the book in eight and a half by 11, just using Microsoft word. And we briefly looked into using something like affinity, publisher or InDesign. But given the tight timetable, we didn't really have time to completely retype set things. So how did you. Set things up with word, did you do anything, special with that or was it just type things in and and hope it looks good? What was your actual process for creating that?
Yeah, and I knew I was aware that there were other publishing focused software available in the market and, it came with some cost and learning curve that I felt due the timeline I really didn't wanna embark on. And this was probably about a year ago. I was familiar with word it's, the environment I work in professionally and I was familiar and had a good skill level with even inserting photography and setting up margins and developing a fairly finished project. And I knew from the get go that it probably wasn't ideal. But it was what I was familiar with and decided to run with it. So I knew first of all, that, because it was a photo centric book. I wanted to be a larger format and the eight and a half by 11, seeing convenient in, in like I'm sure many of you would do or have done, you look at your bookshelf and, look at a, style and a size that seems to fit the genre. And my wife is in loves art history. So she had a lot of photo based or art based books. And I actually personally had a, fairly thick book of Ansel Adams photography. And that book was a template for what I wanted to create, which had broad white margins with space to put a photo that was offset from the text and it was clean and crisp. And that gave me a bit of a guide. So it really started with just looking at examples on my shelf or at bookstores and. Here's something that I think could work and then adapting the word document to fit that format. And, I will say that Blaine was super helpful in the finishing stretches to really Polish the format with the right page numbering and the upfront material that's required of a publication. That was the part I didn't really know about. Right. I, knew I could, write and could format to an extent, but I didn't know what to do to get it to a point where you could publish it. And that's where the help of a self-publishing support entity like Blains and errands really was critical for me.
Yeah. So I think that's actually a really helpful answer. So what I got out of that is when you are looking to create a book, especially if it's a style you haven't done before, you don't have a lot of experience and go to the library, go to your own bookshelf or go to the bookstore, find other books that are similar to what you're doing and see what they're doing. And use those as a model for what is what's going to get the best product and is gonna most fit your vision and the market you're trying to go to. And I think that I, didn't know about that process cuz you basically came to me with a mostly finished manuscript that was almost ready to go. We just made a, few tweaks here and there. Yeah. But that's, that makes perfect sense. And we actually did that exact same process for the for the cover. So have two things I wanna show on the cover. So the first one was we went through and made a list of comparable titles. Obviously there wasn't a book that was exactly what Todd was creating, but there are other books in this general genre and in a few different genres about the Olympics and about running and track and field and even the Olympics with a couple of different different sports. So we went and we put something together. So I'm gonna share that one second here…
📚 Publishing Timelines
so we want, and while you're pulling that up, Blaine, I'll comment to that. I spent some time looking at publishing options and I did connect with the writer's cooperative. I think they're in Thomaston, Maine, and they were pretty helpful and interested in the project. But what they told me was when I'm ready to lay out the book and publish that I would need to provide them just a word version of the text, the manuscript, then a folder or a file with all the photos and then a file with all the captions. And for me, that was really almost divorcing myself, the process where as I Laidig it out. And as I wrote it, it was super critical for me to put the photos in a certain place, put the captions and where they fell in the narrative in a really key spot. And I didn't wanna lose that creative ability. And, maybe there would've been a collaborative. Process going forward, but I just knew time wise, it would've taken a, pretty big investment and effort to, work with the cooperative to get to where I, I ended up fairly quickly with, you Blaine. I, must say,
yeah, Todd, I just wanna comment on that. That that is one of the downsides to working with a publisher is that they typically do want to have a lot of the creative control and that's why a lot of Authors will turn to self-publishing so that they can be the one spearheading their project and be in control of the final product.
Yeah. Understood. Yeah.
📚 Comparable Covers
So when we had originally met, we had if you look at this screen, the cover in the, top left corner, I think that was the original one that you had created, cuz you had actually had a version printed up that had everything. In it mostly Laidig out you, I think you wound up changing out a lot of the, photos, correct from that version on it was basically I was looking through it, flipping through. I was like, wow, this is really cool for I'm the target market for this kind of a book. It was really neat to see some of these photos that I'd never seen before and read some of the info about a few of the athletes I wasn't as familiar with, but I, looked, I took a look at that cover and I was just like this is for someone that's really interested in it they'll, certainly pick this up, but this isn't a cover. That's going to sell copies and, encourage people to necessarily pick it up off of a table at a, an expo or something along those lines. So what we did we went through, we found as many books as, we could. So this is a sampling of the books that we looked at and said, okay, well, here's some other books that are touching either on a, similar storytelling style or similar topics, or just something that. You'd expect to find inside of, this market. And we took a look to see what are some of the things that they have in common? What do we like, what do we not like? And we had a, discussion about each one and, how they, they did or didn't work. And and then compared that obviously against what we were starting with. From there I went on and I, I showed this, page here had couple of variations of the covers you had created it. And then the two of 'em that I personally found the most appealing for this, particular area. And then now I'm not a, cover designer. I'm not a graphic designer or illustrator or any of that. So I took a, few different versions that I created on my own. And obviously these weren't meant to be at used as a final. Version of the cover, but just to say, Hey here, what if we did something like this on these various various ideas? So we had using the same general layout, but not having that stark black, we had this, is where I had actually forgotten that we started with that white background, right from this this process at the, very beginning having a feathered picture instead of the, harsh lines and then zooming in on it or editing pre out we, pretty much all decided that large pre version just didn't work whatsoever. But the nice thing about this is we were able to see what are some of the possibilities using this photograph that we can go in and play around with it a little. So I made a version of the, large one that had the fade in it with, where I edited out the signature, because that was distracting on the cover. It's great on the interior of the of the book, as on the page that it actually appears on, but. It didn't quite work as well on, on the cover. And so that kind of gave us some good ideas. We went back and forth and there was many, different versions of, different ideas that we had on it, but it gave us an idea that we could then go and hire a cover designer for it. So why don't we talk a little bit about what that process was like? So we used a service called 99 designs, and the way it works is you basically, you create a contest and you say, okay, here's how much I'm willing to pay for this cover. And here's the timeline that we're working on. And it's, a pretty short timeline. It's a couple week process, total and designers from all over the world will then come in. They'll take a look at your comparables. They'll look at your title and whatever images you show that you provide. And then they'll, mock up some quick cover designs for you. And you basically can go in and, rate them and say what you like. And don't like, And the context kind of whittles down from there to, finalist. So how did that process work for you? And if you were gonna do another book, would you use that same process again?
Yeah, I would. And I guess I'll, take a half a step back to say that at first I had some pride of partnership and, was reluctant to give up the, self created cover design. And, then once I became more receptive to the idea of having it professionally done, it was clear to me that it was absolutely the right path forward because a cover doesn't make the book, but it can certainly help sell the book and get interested in as, Blaine said, someone has to be drawn to it, to pick it up at a bookstore, open it and, take some interest if they haven't already been affected by some marketing effort previously.
📚 99 Designs Cover Contest
So I, I quickly bought in and, Blaine had provided me a, whole list of different cover design alternatives from hiring a single entity with experience and working with them exclusively to something more broad, like 99 designs. And do you think it's okay if I share a screen blank and maybe jump into what that process looks like and spend a few minutes on? Yeah. Yeah.
If you can show us through that. I think that would be really helpful in illustrating how it works.
Yeah. And just, and I can preface this to say I had no experience with this program or the contest. I just had to do a bit of reading and work with Blaine to have the confidence to, to jump in and, make it happen because the timeline was really critical. So entire screen. I'm not sure. Oh, here it's I think it's working now. Let me know when and if you can see the 99 design page
yep. That has come up for me. awesome.
So as, Blaine said, this is a contest driven approach toward arriving at a cover that you, as the author are happy with or you and your, team. So I picked this because it felt like it was going to be broad reaching and timely, as Blaine said, the process can take around up to two weeks or so, which seemed to work for me and price wise. It was attractive because I think there are three different levels, maybe bronze, silver, and gold. And with those higher levels, you pay more, but you presumably get a higher experience or higher expertise in graphic design. And I felt for this particular photo retrospective and having an idea of what I wanted it to look like, I didn't feel like I needed the Cadillac or rolls Royce versions, right. So I paid roughly $250 to run this contest, which seemed. Manageable. And the, first step was of course registering and, getting a user ID and password. But immediately you're asked to provide a brief. And the brief is really the, nuts and bolts of your project, which are given to the artists, the designers. So they can have an appreciation for what the book is about the size, the content, the title. So I'll just scroll down and you'll just get a flavor for the information that's needed. And, again, this is at the stage where you've got a pretty solid idea of what your end product is about and, they want you to add the blurb, which I did who would read it, what's the format of the book front cover and back cover. So they have guidance and can provide you mockups of each. How will you be distributing? And this is where Blaine was really helpful in, suggesting a couple self-publishing outlets that could fit the timeline and quality that we were looking for, and then the inspire your designers. So if you have photography or the, comparables or the mockups that Blaine had supported in showing the, designers typical examples or similar genre covers that might give them a head start and it just some really basic information. So they could really understand what you were looking for. So then it was a matter of cutting them loose once the contest was started and you see in these check marks the different steps of the process. The qualifying round was when the brief was submitted and all the artists submitted designs. And we'll have a, look at those in, in just a moment. And then secondarily, once all the designs are in, and I think I had a hundred plus designs that I could select from and review. And from that I, recall you pick maybe up to five or so designers and that becomes they, become finalists. So then you work more one-on-one with those. Designers to tweak and fine tune the design. And ultimately you have a final round with those seven finalists and you pick a winner. And even once the winner is chosen, which is one entity, you work with them to really maybe change a font or, a color of something. And you're pretty close, but you're not necessarily at the finished product. You, you have a few days to work with the selected designer before making a final decision. And then once that decision is made, yep. You look at the proofs, good to go. They then provide the final publishing ready files that, that Wayne used to help me publish the book on the back end. So from a, design standpoint it was interesting early on because that's when you're providing obviously less guidance other than. your brief and the designs. And I look in the trash only because it'll give you a flavor for some of the variety of designs and you'll get obviously greater variety early on. Because you've, you haven't at that point, provided much feedback or constraint. They're just providing back to you what they think you might like. So here's an early version. It was good. We didn't love the red. It seemed bright and this was solid. And of course these are pouring in day, by day, even hour by hour. And some of these are withdrawn because they wanna pull these designs off the table and not have them in imprint, but you can see all these are, quite good, a very professional back cover treatments. And it can be daunting in a way to make decisions because you might like one. And then all of a sudden, the next day you, go into the site and there's two or three that are as good or better. And we would review and I worked with Blaine and Erin to pick them apart. We didn't love the mixed color font or the use of italic and that's feedback that you're really obligated to, to provide back to the designers. So I will just go back to the contest set up in one really valuable tool that this program has. And this website has, which is really nice, is the ability to pull. And you can set up these mini con not contests, but I guess mini polls, where you go to your circle of friends or associates or colleagues, and you pick a certain number of the designs, the draft designs to share. And you then set up a poll, which is all super easy to do. And you simply populate email addresses and you send out the several versions and here's Aaron's feedback and here's my sister-in-law here's Blaine and they can rate them. They can comment. And here you have a summary of, the ratings for the different options that you sent out. So this is if you're obviously at a point where you've got a short list of designs that you like and people that, and trust to provide you meaningful feedback. So I really enjoyed this step where we could send out and, pick a target audience with some variable background, right. People that might. Like the genre of book, but maybe those who might appreciate just the design element of the cover, but maybe the not track and field people. So it's good to get a broad sort of spectrum of people to give you feedback. So I thought that was a super helpful aspect of the 99 designs contest format. So I'm just trying to go back and then messages and I'll, wrap it up with this piece and in the end I found it maybe mildly daunting, but. High level responsibility to provide feedback to, the designers. And so in the end, you almost have as a refined of a cover as you're willing to invest in your own energy in providing the designers feedback. So there's a, this option that you can message all the designers. So you want this message to be general advice. I don't like the red, I don't like the italic font. Please zoom in on the photo, zoom out. So you want everyone to benefit from that. But toward the end, when I was in a position of having to select finalists, you can actually provide feedback on a one-on-one basis. So classic designs know, I tried to be enthusiastic thank you. Here's some, advice 12 was another one that had some fun designs and, you wanna be. Constructively critical, but also encourage them to hang into the contest and to submit more design. So it was a bit of a, bouncing act to provide meaningful feedback, but not discourage them because they're your team, right. They're your designers and you want them to hang in there and, stay with it through the very end. So this is the combination of can you change this or that? And you're super close. I really like this, but without alienating them as, part of the design team. Yeah, so I, I wanted to just cover that piece and I don't blame if you had any, comments or anything to add on that, but I thought it was a really terrific tool that helped me arrive at what I felt in the end was a professional design that showed well and met the goals within a, timeframe in a price that. I really felt was effective for me.
Well, Todd, you just hit on my question and you and Blaine can both jump in here, but how long did this whole process take you?
Yeah. As every call, it was about 10 days. I think, and you can shorten it a bit by selecting your finalists a bit sooner. Right. And you can take up to three days as I recall with finalists to, fine tune the design and provide feedback and collaborate. So you can select your final design sooner if you're really honing quickly on what you like. It could be as short as maybe seven days. But in the end it, seemed like things were moving quickly on this front, but I had other jobs to do had to finalize the manuscript and, work on permissions to use photography. So this was moving along so nicely. I didn't feel constrained by the cover. And I think I ended up taking the full 10 days or so to. To get it done. And this was the, in the end of design, we picked had a clean, crisp look to it. The Olympians popped out. We liked how the subtitle was on the bend of the track and was formatted nicely. And the back cover was, quite simple. And we did end up changing this photo. After just, we had a preference in terms of perhaps a better one that was more thematic to the waterfront of the cookout versus the actual food. So anyway, and someone like Blaine and Apex can also perform minor edits to the cover even after has been submitted by the designer. So there's still a little breathing room, if you absolutely need to change something and you have a team publishing team like Apex, they can help you out and get things done. Right.
And for those people who are watching and who have worked with freelancers before we, know 10 days really isn't that long, especially when you're getting to tap into so many different designers.
Yeah. It was a really quick process cuz it felt. A very busy 10 days cuz we were constantly taking a look at what was coming in and every time it seemed like every couple hours I would get a a text message from Todd saying, oh, that some new designs came in and there's some really good ones. And we take a look at 'em and then it really does have plenty of room in there for you to make your decisions for where your, which ones you want to use. So once the that initial round is done, you can take a few days and then get back to it. But Todd had a pretty good idea of who his favorite people were and you pick the designers, not the individual designs for your top people. So when he went to that final round, he was able to say, okay, well there's about a dozen different designs. I really like, but it was only like five different people. So we were able to to continue working with those ones that kind of were getting. His vision as close as possible and then build off of off of that. And it was nice getting the, poles in there because it made for an easy interface for him to say, okay, well, here's seven of 'em I'm looking at, and I could just go in and say, okay, I like this. I don't like that. And even the ones that, the covers that I liked, they all had something that like, well, I this other part a little bit better. And then Erin and Todd and everybody Todd knows would vote me down because I have no design sense really whatsoever. But yeah, but it was nice. And we were able to work on other aspects of it while we were waiting for the designs to come in and for the edits to, get done at each in each round. And even when it was when it was completed. So we did have we were able to keep this project moving forward which was nice.
Yeah, I guess as a final comment from me, the it stands to reason that the greatest creativity and perhaps the most fun was early on when the designs were really quite variable because the designers were starting from more of a, blank page. And then as we honed in on, designs. We liked toward the end. It was a little more just rolling up the sleeves and working on. The fine tuning of the font, the colors and, we pretty much had to design concept in mind at that point. And we had to, because we're coming near the finish line, but it is fun early on to see just the crazy things the different textures and, placement of, the photo and, the wording. It was quite interesting every day to, to discover something new.
Yeah. That was actually one of the, reasons that I'm glad you decided to go with 99 designs, because even if you're working with, a specific design studio or with an, a specific designer, they'll often give you quick, mock-ups like I did in that initial, before we went to 99 designs where I said, well, here is some other ideas for ways we can treat it. And that was more to just get the creativity going and saying, oh, it doesn't have to look just like a, photo in the middle of that. A solid color background. And the nice thing about something like this, especially if you don't provide them with, you provide them with enough feedback that you can go in and say this is who this is for and what it is. And these are the kind of things it has to have, but it gave everybody a a lot of leeway about what they were actually going to be creating. And we got a lot of very different designs that we could then look through and say, oh I would've never even occurred to me to do this, but this is cool or like, oh, wow. That is incredibly awful. And , there was some of those too, but which was absolutely fine. But it was really neat to see what you had and because how many people do you think we wound up having, I know there was like 111 different designs, so what was it probably about a dozen and a half, two dozen people.
Yeah. That's about right. That's about right. And quickly out of those, I could see that there were. Maybe half of those 7, 8, 9 that were the more responsive, right. I'd give them feedback. And, within sometimes an hour or two, they would have edits for me. And I was like, yeah, these are probably the ones I want to go to the end with, because as, I'm making decisions, I want really quick turnaround on comments, particularly simple things like change the font from ax to standard print. And I didn't wanna have to wait a day. And even it got to a point where I could tell there were some that were probably overseas, maybe even Asia. And I would give them feedback that say one in the afternoon, it wouldn't be till the next day, at some point that I'd hear from them. And while they might be solid designers, it was just difficult to communicate. And that was a consideration toward the end the, responsiveness of, the teams.
Yeah. And just especially if you are working with someone that's, overseas from wherever you happen to be, I mean, know it is okay if you don't have that instant, gratification and it can be really cool to say, Hey, what if it had this, or that? Or can you change that? And it have been an hour, you've got something new. That's certainly really cool. But if it, if you are getting something within a day, then that's still very very responsive and
Don't, stress about it. I mean, I know it's a short timeline for this particular situation because of the way the contest runs. Now, is there anything working with this that you learned that you might have done differently or that you didn't care about it? Or are there any gotchas, obviously people being in different different time zones yeah. Was one of them. Is there anything else that you can think. Yeah,
I think it's just, maybe I underestimating the risk of underestimating the, effort during the 10 days that it takes to really give the designers appropriate level of feedback and specificity. And again, the outcome is, a reflection of the investment of time you put in to help guide, and you are an active partner in the process. It's not just here's my brief and go run with it. And that, that maybe works for, a day or two, but then they are expecting feedback. So I, spent a, like a several amount of effort setting messages to the full suite of designers, but also one-on-one feedback. When I saw something that I really liked trying to, cultivate. That design moving in a direction I wanted. It is a bouncing act of don't take away the creativity. But ultimately you need to hone in on, on the path in the ultimate design that you're leaning towards. So it, was a bit of of involvement. I had to put some things aside to really focus on this, not every minute of every day, but at least once a day, checking in where the design sit and they'll ask you questions how does this look? And you need to be on top of providing the feedback so they don't become disenchanted and, not responsive to you.
Yeah. So that seems like really good advice. So what you may, what people may want to consider is if they are doing a contest here is set aside a, block of time every day, or even multiple blocks of time throughout the day that you can check in and provide that feedback to each person as. Whatever came in since your last block of time and make sure every one of them gets there, gets some sort of a rating or gets some feedback for what you like and what you don't, so that they can then work off of that and and continue to iterate and improve on it and make the most out of the, time you have before moving on to the next round.
Yeah. Yeah. Good point. And I think when I think back on the option of maybe picking a designer, I think it could be super awkward if you working with a designer and you're just not getting there, like everything that's coming back, you say, ah, it just doesn't really work. I think it could be challenging on potentially even the relationship to, to just feel like you're not moving in concert. And this took that pressure off me because I, had a general idea, but I'm not a designer either. And it afforded me the ability to look at a whole myriad of, options. And I felt like I could then somewhat anonymously provide feedback and move. The project into the direction that we ended up with and, were very happy with.
📚 The Editing Process
Yeah. And I'll guess if, looks like we've got a bit of time, I would probably benefit the group on the call to just expound a little bit on, on the editing process, because I think that was something I had arguably underestimated. And I think if I had thought about it early enough in the process to have leaned toward a professional editor, maybe it would've cost a bit more in taking more time. I think in the end it might have taken some stress off the ultimate accuracy. And even though in the end, I think we had a really good product it's possible. They might have picked up more along the way. It could have been closer to perfect. And my brother always tells me, don't let the perfect get in the way of the good and I, appreciate that, but I just feel particularly responsible particularly with the work that's non-fiction historical. I want it to be as accurate as possible, even a hundred percent. And, it is accurate, but as, with anything your, perspective is only your own. And I did have, and in the end, because I did not hire an outside editor who, whose sold job was to edit you. I reviewed, of course, as the author, I had my wife, who's done a fair amount of publishing in, the museum trades. My brother, who's an attorney. He looked at it, but again, these are kind of confidants and family members who might look at it less critically. And then I think it was super helpful in the end to have Blaine and Aaron's feedback. And they provided. Editorial support along the way, but it was more of a team approach. And I think it, might, the project might have benefited in terms of ultimate deliverable from someone who I was hiring that just does that for a living. So I guess I would encourage that consideration on your ends and, maybe it's obvious to others, but for me, I got so close to it. I felt, oh I'm, good. Right. And even to the point where once we had a live version available, it is weird how, when the pressure's off and you're just reading your own work, it's like, oh, that's there's, I should have capitalized that. So I'd say in our maybe 20 plus thousand words, 25,000, there might have been three or four typos editorial corrections that we've made. And yeah, I think that's standard in the industry, but you put a lot of pressure on yourself as an author to try to be perfect. Even seeing one it's like, oh my goodness, how could I miss that? So I would just encourage that, thought process. But in the end it was, I think the stakes were a bit higher because of the type of book that this was, and it was a photo retrospective. Yeah. And, Erin appropriately points out that I did use the, ProWriting Aid tool, which was really helpful. And, I thought my writing was reasonably strong. I'm, in a technical profession, environmental consulting, but in trying to write this book for the real world and wanting it to be correct grammatically and otherwise it was a reach for me. I thought I understood commas in quotes. And then you find out that acknowledgements with an E the English version and the states, we don't use the E and who would know. And that's where I think a professional editor would've added some value. I just had to find out the hard way and do an awful lot of research when to use, which versus that. And I think I'm a stronger writer now. Trial by fire to some extent, and having to go through that and figure things out without the support of someone at my side, which maybe would've been a crutch, I wouldn't have learned as much, but it might have been a little less stress. Well,
Todd, one thing too is your technical writing tends to have specific requirements that could be different than the requirements for writing a sports history. Non-fiction book for sale. So no matter what it is that we're doing, if we if we're writing in our careers, they could be vastly different than the writing we do for our writing career. So it's always a good idea to as Todd had several people read this book and it's always a good idea to have lots of people read your book and if you can get a professional editor, that's always going to be a superior choice.
📚 Choosing a Printer
Right. So moving off of the cover, unless anybody has any questions about the, cover design process. I mean, basically from here, what we got was a final, the production files from the designer, which we were then able to make small tweaks for the, different companies, because we did look at getting proofs from different companies to see how they would work out and then slightly different sizes for the, different formats that we were using. And it was it, was nice having access to those files and being able to move along without having to necessarily go back to the the original designer. So if you do, if you're not able to make those changes yourself, it's good to make friends with somebody that is willing to help out or that that will work for a a. cheap amount for you to, make those kind of tweaks when you need it. So the next process was actually getting the book up, uploaded to the different printers and ordering some proofs. And that was the part of the most hair raising, at least from our point of view, because with all of the supply chain issues and the, unknowns about shipping and when things were actually going to show up, it was it was a little difficult for the, those weeks and days and the, deadlines getting closer and closer, especially since we knew that there was probably going to be some of these images, like we were trying out different paper styles, paper weights and inks ink styles and everything on these proofs to see what's going to make the most sense for how much it's going to cost to print each copy of the book and how long it will take for us to get those books. And, what's the quality going to look like. So I think that ultimately obviously we went with KDP print and going through Amazon, we went with Ingram spark, and we also tested out Lulu and Lulu wound up being the, most, it, it cost more than the other services, but the quality was a lot better. And one thing that we discovered was that while we knew there were different trim sizes that are supported by some and not by others it was of surprising how much the, don't overlap from service to service. We, were on to have the dust jacket for the main version of it that Todd was gonna have at the expo. And basically the only person that we could get with a print on demand company was. Was Lulu to have the dust jacket at eight and a half by 11 size, but we can't actually distribute that version of the book unless people are buying it directly from the, Lulu store or from Todd, and then he's shipping them himself. We did have to make some changes, like Ingram spark has eight and a half by 11 for a case laminate, but on KDP print, it's eight and a quarter by 11 instead of eight and a half. So there was some changes we had to make there. And I haven't done a lot of books with that us letter size layout. So we didn't realize that there was gonna be quite as much variation between the different different services. But if you have a few moments, Todd, can you tell us what you thought about. Print quality. And the experience that you had with getting the proofs from each of the different services.
So it was really important that image quality be very high in, the feel and the, paper and, the finish of the paper be high end because it, was, I would call it an art book or necessarily a coffee table book, but it had that I wanted to have that feel that you opened it and images was crisp as they could be, even though they were 50 years old. Right. And that the field of book made the reader think like this was something Important to document an event that was rare in Maine, that the feeling would be of a high quality product. So that's why we worked pretty hard to look at the different publishing options we had proofs sent to us from each Ingram and Lulu and KDP. So we could physically see what their end product would be like. And, I must say one that we got from Ingram spark just was inferior to the other two Lulu and KDP in terms of the paper quality, the finish of the paper. And I was glad we had it in hand because I would not have wanted that, Version that published version soul. So I think it's really important to make sure you get samples and make decisions based on what's tangible and, not necessarily what's just printed in terms of, oh, here's our paper, here's our weight. Here's our finish. You really need to see it and feel it to, to have that confidence. And it was again, particularly important because of the style of book that this was
One other thing we ran into was it was vastly different production in shipping times, too, because it's hard to get a firm deadline. This is when your book is, gonna show up. I know Ingram spark their proof. I don't think even came even close to showing up in time for us to to place an order. Not that we were planning on using them for the for the expo, but there would've just been no time whatsoever. And then when we were with Lulu. They, basically had, I think it was like three to five days production and then seven to nine days for shipping. And both times that we ordered from them, it came out to, I think it was like six or seven days on the actual production. And then it was like next day for the, shipping, thankfully. Yeah. Being located in Maine, it was real easy because they were they were printing out of Massachusetts and it was easy to just get it up the coast a couple of states to us. So thankfully the shipping took a lot less time since the, production both times took longer than we were expecting it to. And I mean, it literally came down. Did they arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday for, it was Tuesday, I think for the Thursday. It was Tuesday. Yeah. And it was a Thursday expo that you needed to have the copies for.
It was close.
📚 Showing the Proof
So Todd, do you have a copy of the dust jacket version of your book or Blaine? Might, it looks like Blaine might have it right next to him. There it, oh, thank you, Blaine. So it showed off. So this is the one that Todd received from Lulu. It's the one that he used in his live, his expo presentation of this book. The one that people saw when they came to him live. Don, the grammar editor program, he used was pro writing aid which I put the link right into the chat box for y'all.
So I'm gonna just talk a little bit, cuz just, so this shows up on the actual recording. But just I'll flip through a few of the the pages. And like I said, this version was from Lulu and we felt it had the best paper quality. We did adjust the paper quality a few times to in the ink. Like we tried some of the different settings with it and all in all, it just came across as the the best from the different options that we had. We had tried.
Yeah. And I'll, comment too, that from those that have provided feedback one, they were interested in please with the presentation of the subject matter, but I've received no comments about, well, Poor quality or picture image issues. And, maybe they're, being kind, but , I'm hopeful that if there was a fatal flaw or something that didn't work in the book that someone would have given me that feedback. And, so far, we've had nothing but positive results from those that have communicated and have bought the book and read it. So that's encouraging. Yeah.
📚 Live Presentations and Book Sales
Todd, if you have a couple more minutes, I know some of our members have tried doing live sessions or have wanted to do some things like an expo, but weren't sure how to tackle it. Do you wanna talk just for a couple minutes, if you could, about what the process was, how you set yourself up for doing this and whether you thought it was a worthwhile venture.
Yeah. Yeah. Great question. As, Blaine mentioned we, were at the beach to beacon expo, which was a two day affair. It virtually every athlete competing in that event has to pick up their number in person or have someone do it for them. So we knew in advance that they'd be several thousand people going through this expo to pick up their numbers. So I felt early on that this was a great setting venue to, to have the book. So I think the first step is where do I want to be as an author? How does the genre of the book fit the setting? I'm not sure I'd be as successful at the common ground. Fair. Right? a lot of people, but just a different audience. So I was at the expo. I, think I paid maybe $450. So it was not inexpensive at the same time. I felt if I could a sell a few copies of the book or several, and then B do some effective networking, then I'd have a chance. To, double dip and win twice, perhaps. I ordered, I think it was like a hundred plus books just in case, right. I didn't know if I'd sell 3000 or three, you don't know. And I just took the chance set up the table. I had some oversized posters made up that expressed copy that showed the cover of the book and a couple photos from the interior of the book. So someone going by could look over and go, oh, what is that? That's a new publication. Maybe I'm interested in, having a chat. And that's exactly what happened. A lot of people's I'd say dozens, not thousands, but dozens stop by the table to enter into conversation about the project, to learn about it. Many bought books, but I think more importantly, for example Joan Samuelson came by the table. She's obviously a legendary gold medalist in the marathon from Maine. And she promised to help do some networking and get some copies of the books to some of the Olympians that she knows. And, that's the level of exposure that really can take a book from being local and regional to perhaps national where it, could actually sell hundreds of copies or, more, and that's as an author where you'd love to be, right. Not just selling a couple dozen. And then another visitor to the table was an, employee at the Boden college bookstore. She says, oh, of course we'd love to have your book in our store. So I get her email and contact information. As we speak, there are copies of the book at the Bowdoin College bookstore and several runners from my generation and even younger stop by that are the target audience. And they were really keen to, to buy the book or to tell someone about it. And I think just the word of mouth has, resulted in some sales that I might not otherwise have, achieved. And it was, I guess, fundamentally a lot of fun for me to engage runners who were interested in, the event in 1972, who also had heroes in the sport named pre and Frank shorter and, Jeff Galloway, Kenny Moore. And we had a lot in common, so it was just fun to be there and to present the project to, the audience. Great.
📚 Additional Marketing Methods
Do you have a moment to tell us some of the other things you are doing to reach out and engage your audience?
Yeah. I mean, it's almost an endless list and I try to do, as I said, the blame do something productive around the book every day. Maybe it's just half hour an hour, but I'm on a forum for track and field news, which is again, a major target audience for this subject matter. And they have two particular forums, one called trading post, where you can actually sell and promote books and publications and collections and sports. But there's also one called historical where people just love to talk about sports history. So I've gone on to both of those and entered some information about the book, not trying to hard sell it, but just get interest in posting up some photos from the book and sharing some of the interesting subject matter about some of the athletes. I've knocked on the door of Sherman's bookstore, as well as the Boden bookstore. And they've got a great support system for independent Authors. As many of you may know, they have a commission system, that's pretty standard. It's not great in terms of my financial return, but I think it's really important to have your book in a local regional bookstore. And they do have, I think, nine or 10 locations, and they took 10 originally and sold the bulk of those out and asked for 10 more. I mean, again, I'm not selling thousands, but I love the fact that local Mainers can walk into a store and pick this book up and take it home. So that's exciting for me. I obviously on Facebook, even though I almost never used it and I hope it's not too, obviously self-serving, but people were super excited to hear about the project and were genuinely interested and, provide likes and feedback. And I think some of the sales so far have come from sharing the topic on Facebook. I'm on Twitter. I was on I think it's a chat room running. I forget the, last name of it, last part of it, but I'm a little overwhelmed by social media in the sense that I feel like I'm a needle in a haystack. And I think sometimes you have to be colorful or outlandish, or just maybe a lucky break to get that Twitter feed to go beyond your limited following group. So I'm, still figuring that part out and probably could use some, guidance and, will continue to, work that, option and angle to, help promote. Oh, and I did find out there's a new England based running club called 65 plus, and they have hundreds of members and I've reached out and they're interested in, having the book. In, their newsletter and maybe even speaking at their annual banquet. So that's another, I guess, great avenue that can be fun and engaging to have an offer talk. And I'm scheduled to be at the Cumberland library on September 20th, giving an offer talk. And who knows maybe that spawns a few more where you can just chat about the project. Like I'm doing here to an interested audience who may just have value in the conversation, or maybe even pick up a copy of the book. So a lot of different avenues.
Yeah. Also reach out to Maine Track Club and Maine Running Hall of Fame for their banquets. Cuz they're always looking for keynote speakers for those types of events.
Yeah, yeah. It can consume as much time as you're willing to give like a lot of things in life. Right. If. Really wanna market and promote it. There's so many avenues. If, it gets overwhelming and I just need a break I, do I take the weekend off and then let things settle and then jump back in. And so really it's a lot of work to publish as you all know. But in a way the rewarding work is afterwards trying to generate interest into market and to get the word out one to pay back debt, right. But secondarily, because you believe in your product, you believe in what you've documented historically or through fiction through your narrative. And that's important to, to do on the back end and sustain, invested in your own work.
And you do have an author website. Yeah, project website, which I'm putting up right here where people can find it. And I've just did a little search for Olympians in vacation land and all the top hits were about this book. Certainly has a little traction out there in virtual land
yeah. I think it's a combination of persistence in patience, right. That keep getting the message out in patients and that it may take time for that message to, to travel by word of mouth, to travel by an incidental email or a friend who happens to mention it to someone else. And it's just, it's the way social media works. It's the way life works. It's just keeping at it and it will spread,
right. Yeah. How much news have you gotten as well? Cause I know there's been a couple of the local papers have had articles about it. Do you know if you've been picked. Very many places through press releases or anything of that sort.
Yeah. That's a, good point. And I have it on my to-do list to, to get a press release out more broadly than, just may, because the book topic areas include Olympians who form the Florida track club out of Gainesville, Florida. Well, they'd be interested in, in, in knowing this book was out as well as Eugene, Oregon, that hosted the Olympic trials in 1972, they would be interested in, seeing their heroes to keep preta and Kenny Moore and others in a book. And I just need to keep thinking, expanding my outreach and it's just taking the time and, falling up and, getting that done Bowdoin college for their benefit. Former NPR reporter, Tom Porter. Wrote a nice story about it and published it in the, in Bowen's web main website and in the alumni magazine, picked it up as well. Bowdoin itself is a great target audience because it was hosted there and Bowdoin alumni, particularly those from the seventies and, eighties will probably appreciate knowing that the book is out there. So yeah there's, just a, lot of work ahead and rewarding work and getting word out. So looking forward to it.
I wanna take just a second, because we have recently been talking about preparing for the holidays around here. And this is the type of book where, if your parent is a huge fan of track and field, this is the type of book that they would want to obtain for their birthday, or I'm sorry for Christmas or their birthday, but we're talking about Christmas. So I'm sure Todd has is thinking through a few I plans around just getting the book into more people's minds before the holiday shopping season. And you all out there listening should be doing that as well. If you think that your book is a good holiday book,
📚 Final Lessons & Takeaways
And all right, we've been going a little over an hour now. So if anyone does have any questions leave them in the chat box and we can take a couple minutes to answer 'em, but I guess the main thing I wanted to leave off on was are there any we talked about a few of the, lessons learned as we went away, but is there anything that we've, haven't touched on yet that you feel like if you were going to do a similar project like this, or if you could start this one over from scraps that you would do differently or that you'd want to, or you thought went really well and would certainly want to do exactly the same way? Like what, are the, biggest takeaways for you through this whole process? Because this is your first book and probably there's not going to be a lot of, other ones, but what what do you think was that you found the most useful that you've learned from this process?
Yeah, for me, it was time management. We all want more time in the process because I think writers by and large are probably perfections driven and to arrive at the highest quality in the end. I think we, we, do have a high quality product, but it would be easier on the constitution, right. To have that extra month or two, right. Where we're not up against a delivery deadline to get the book at the expo. And that was just super stressful. Right. it just my own doing right. I just had tackled a lot. And the bulk of the hard writing was over the winter of, 21, 22. And then when spring rolled around and I had a manuscript, I thought I was pretty much there, but then you realize the publication process in its own right. Is months or weeks. And that's exactly what the, main writer's cooperative was saying that, oh, you want this in, July or August? And they were trying to be nice and, considerate, but I could tell from the response that it wasn't going to happen, unless I really took it under my own wing and, got your support Erin and Blaine and brought it to the wire. And I guess too, as I mentioned the editorial support, might've taken some pressure off me in terms of how many times do I have to read this to, to get it perfectly clean. Right. And, exactly where I want to be. I think that would've been valuable but it, was time. And of course budget is a consideration for all of us to our working on our project. And I found not lake, but certainly last year, how expensive photographs were that are in the public domain, like going to Getty images, for example and, Olympians and vacation was photo centric. Yes. I had all these photos from 72 through fortunate means the Portland library or an acquaintance. I also want to show the Olympians in Munich and how they performed during the games. And I want the reader to see, or here they are in Maine and here they are in Munich. And that completed the story. Well, Getty images can cost anywhere from 500 to over a thousand dollars. And for one image that I was particularly passionate about, I paid about a thousand to put in the book. So you know, to be prepared to have the highest quality product, but also that it will require a significant budget is something that you have to kind of embrace, or you might be disappointed in the end, right? I want it to be really great, but I don't wanna pay a thousand dollars for a picture. So those are really hard decisions. How much this add to the book, how much I I'm willing to invest to get it, you know exactly where I want it to be. And of course, it's probably a bit different if it's fiction and it's your narrative and your you're creating the pictures through your writing, but I really had to rely on, photos that are in the public domain to, to get it done and make some hard decisions.
Great. Well, thanks for coming on today. I was, it was a fun process little, stressful at times as you mentioned, but yeah, I feel like Erin and I learned a lot through it just because we got to work. Some aspects that we haven't necessarily had a, lot of time to, to do before. So it was great. I think you said it was trial by fire to, to get that in . We, appreciate that opportunity and thank you so much for coming in and sharing your experiences with us. Join us saying that, congratulations getting the book out and yeah. If anyone is interested in taking a look at it, we'll have the, link in the chat box and on the replay page. And if you do have any any further questions feel free to, to send them along, we can forward them to to Todd. Hopefully the book will continue to sell and we will really take off this Christmas season. We'll see a ton of sales and everybody will be talking about it next spring.
Yeah. Well, thank you for the privilege of joining your, group and sharing it's. What's all about, thank you.
Thank you, Todd. So before everyone logs off I, do wanna say one thing we learned through this process and Todd's gone now, but is just the importance of getting a proof. To see what your book is going to look like see how much you like it. And if you are considering multiple print options, multiple printers getting approved from each to see how it looks now, if you're doing something like a, novel, and there's really no graphics in it, it's not such a as big of a concern, but if you're doing something with some really serious formatting, some images, anything like that the, proofs we got did very significantly and the paper quality. I know I have a couple projects in the works and I plan to, do a test and see which one I like the best. And hopefully he'll, hear more on that again, and then not too distant futures. But that was one of the things that really struck me is just how different the different projects were. And, then also, as Todd said making sure you leave yourself the time to do these steps and that way you're putting the effort in and what the product is gonna look like on the end. So those are some of the lessons I learned from this process of working with Todd on this really specific style of, book, where it was vitally important to him, that the book looked really really have a very strong professional look that it have a certain type of cover that it appeal in person. And all those types of things. And so, those are some things I learned. I don't know if Blaine might edit that out of the recording, but I wanted, for those of you who stuck around at the end, I wanna do to hear those things. And if you have any questions on those types of things or anything else in your project process, please let us know at the support desk or on a hot seat session. And we'll, we would love to talk to you about your projects. All right.
📚 Next Week's Hot Seats
All right. And for next week's training, we will be doing hot seats and ask us anything. So if you do have any questions that you want us to answer, or you'd like us to take a look at your book, then feel free to forward those along to us. And in the meantime, we will see you in the Facebook group and have a great week, everybody.
That's it have a wonderful week. We'll see you next week.
Erin Moore: For those of you who do not have a background in the history of track and field, the individual on the cover is Steve Prefontaine- one of the more charismatic and well-known runners of the time.