Tag Archives: Publishing

Five Steps to a Great Book Contract

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manuscriptSome writers have been fortunate enough to land book contracts, but unfortunately for the majority of writers that’s not the case. Ryan Van Cleave says, “reach beyond the obvious to achieve success.” Ryan is a Florida basted writing teacher and author of twenty books.

You have a terrific book manuscript that’s ready to submit.  Thats great! Or maybe your’re pas the halfway point on a new project and you want to start thinking about the next step.  Before you start stuffing envelopes or firing off email queries, take a moment to reflect on pre submission and pre contract realities.  Is there anything you can do now that might increase your odds for success?

Writing advice espouses the obvious: Take classes, write well and solicit quality feedback on your work.  Here are five actionable, less than obvious steps you can take right now to stand out from the crowd and earn a writer friendly book contract once you’re ready to put your work out into the literary world.

1. Change your attitude.  Literary agent Lisa Hagan says to strongly consider your “attitude regarding changes that need to be made to make the manuscript the best that it can be.”  It’s not about ego or sticking to the original plan.  It’s about producing a publication worthy book.  No one willingly chooses to work with an inflexible stickler.  Be open to suggestions, especially those from publishing experts.

2. Prepare your own pitch.  “The writing may be wonderful,” says Sourcebooks editorial director Todd Stocke, “but can I distill it down to something quickly and easily explained.  Ultimately, that’s the publisher’s job, to find ways that connect the author and the readers.  But sometimes those of us who do this for a living still can’t find the pitch.”  Clearly share your vision for the pitch.  The publisher is still welcome to come up with a different one for the back cover, catalog copy or PR materials, but sometimes you’ll bowl a publisher over with you well-reasoned, compelling pitch that leverages angles they hadn’t considered.

3.  Be proactive with your BISAC. With more than 3,000 BISAC(Book Industry Standards and Communications) subject codes available for a published book, it’s imperative that yours gets the right one(s).  When Random House changed the BISAC for a strong-selling title from “Fiction-General” to “Fiction-Suspense,” the sales increased by 55 percent.  Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what BISAC codes the publisher intends for your book.  Do some research so you have ideas ready in case they’re missing ways to increase visibility.  Having the wrong BISAC can make your book essentially invisible.

“Go to a bookstore,” Stocke advices. “Spend time in the stacks, really understand where your book might sit in that store.  What books will be around it?  What authors am I most like?  With what am I competing?” Or is your book better suited to readers finding it in other venues than a traditional bookstore?  Figuring all this out can help your future sales immensely.

4.  Chase down the co-op.  Most publishers have money set aside to spend on book promotions, front of store displays at Barnes & Noble that cost thousands of dollars a week but have huge results in terms of sales.  Make sure you ask any publisher offering a contract if co-op is available for your title.  If not, consider offering to match any co-op dollar for dollar, up to whatever amount you can afford.  Sometimes that’s enough for a publisher to commit those limited resources your way.

5. Run from red flags.  Is the publishing company undergoing big changes?  If so, be wary, warns Hagan.  In terms of book contracts, she prefers to have the “right of first refusal” clause deleted.  It’s not exactly a red flag, but “it saves time for future projects,” she explains.  ” I don’t like to be locked in.”

Stocke says one red flag is if publishers don’t have extensive experience publishing books similar to yours.  They also should have initial competitive/comparative research if thy’re offering you a contract. “What’s their plan for the format, the price, the size, the brick verses e-tail opportunities? How are they going to title, package and pitch it to get it in front of people?  What does success look like, and what does the opposite of that look like?” Anything but good, reasonable answers here are red flags for sure.

Far too many writers spend months on a manuscript but then fire off the final product like it’s a radioactive hot potato.  Take your time to create a clear, informed plan so when you do put that masterpiece into the hands of a literary agent or publisher, it’s with no regrets.  Listen to the experts and give yourself the best chance to earn a great book contract with writer-friendly terms.

What Does A Publisher Do? Part 4

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publisher Here is the last installment in this blog series. I hope I have provided information that you can understand and use as needed.

Marketing departments issue all kinds of catalogs to promote books—ones you see and ones you won’t unless you’re a librarian or a bookseller. The trade catalog is a publisher’s principal tool for making sales to bookstores. Like countries that have only two seasons, wet and dry, most of scholarly publishing divides its year in half. (Some larger houses now issue three catalogs; their weather is more complicated.) Publishers with two trade catalogs bring out one per season. The fall season usually begins in September and continues through the winter. The spring season begins in February or March, and continues through the summer. Books to be announced in a catalog must be securely in place at the publishing house up to a year ahead. The book you hope to have published in September will be announced in a catalog printed the previous spring; the copy for your book will be written during the winter. It isn’t uncommon for a house to expect the manuscript to be delivered and through its review and revision process a year prior to publication date. Certain kinds of books can’t be well published in certain months. Scholarly publishers avoid launching serious trade books in December, since the outstanding study of world famine won’t compete with holiday fare (unsold copies will be returned to the publisher before the tinsel is swept away). It’s most desirable to stock textbooks by January or February, since teachers will need to see examination copies in the spring to order texts for fall classes.

Have a blog? Share the news with your devotees. To marketing and publicity also falls the task of arranging author tours. If an author tour conjures up images of red carpets, limousines, and chilled champagne, think again. A scholarly author on tour may be staying in friends’ guest rooms, speaking in near-empty bookstores, and certainly wondering if there aren’t easier ways of selling books. And yet most authors are delighted by the request to make appearances. After all, it means that the publisher thinks this is a book that can reach beyond a core readership.

An author tour can take various forms. Two weeks of travel, flights from city to city, an author appearance every day, twice a day if possible. The phone-in radio show in the morning, the mall bookstore in the afternoon, the campus speaking engagement just before dinner, a quick stop to sign a pile of copies at the campus bookstore, where your book has the prime window display. All this takes the author’s time, and can cost the publisher a tidy sum. At the other end of the scale, the tour might be rather less elaborate. (Do you know anyone in Chicago who could put you up? Do you mind driving there?) If you are publishing a book with a very small house, there may simply not be a budget for any sort of touring. Many scholars overcome the limitations of their publishers’ budgets by using their own speaking engagements as book promotion opportunities. If you’re going to give a lecture anyway, contact your publisher well in advance to see if a book event might be scheduled around it.
The cheapest way to promote a book is to have the author pitch it to a willing audience. Lecturing at the community center on images of aging in Western art? Your publisher can easily run off a simple promotional flier with order form attached, ship you a stack of them, and have you place them strategically at your lecture venue. Medium-size and larger academic houses will usually select one or more authors in a season for special promotion. Publishers often make their choice on the basis of three factors:

the book can sell in quantity in bookstores;
the book can be reviewed in newspapers, not simply journals;
the author is presentable.
Some books can be successful without ever selling a single copy in a bookstore. These are textbooks—if you’ve written one, don’t expect to tour. Your publisher will send you on tour only if bookstores think you’ll draw a crowd. If bookstores are behind you, chances are your book has enough appeal to garner reviews in the media.

“Will I be getting a party?” asks an author breathlessly, having just turned in his overdue manuscript on the history of childhood illnesses. Publishers throw parties reluctantly. Parties make authors feel good—to which your publisher won’t object—but the publishing business is primarily about getting books sold. Unless you can deliver the movers and shakers of the media, or of your academic discipline, your publisher’s marketing budget is better spent on advertising and direct mail than on renting a restaurant for catered snacks and dancing. Of course, it might be nice to have a little do for your close friends on campus. Think warm white wine in plastic cups in the faculty lounge. Next question.

Your publisher may budget anywhere from fifty to several hundred “free and review” copies of your book. These are copies on which you will receive no royalties because they’ll be given away or used in promotion.

Books are given away to people who may review the book or in other ways do the book some good. A publisher with a book hot off the presses will want to get it as quickly as possible into the hands of the most powerful people in the field. The publisher who has just brought out a book on the ethical treatment of animals may want Peter Singer, for example, to have a copy as early as possible, in the hopes that Professor Singer will (a) like the book and spread the word; and (b) respond eagerly if a book review editor contacts him about reviewing it.

It’s important to remember that book reviews are assigned by book review editors (at newspapers, at magazines, at journals). Since almost anyone could plausibly be a book reviewer, publishers have become hard-nosed about sending out review copies to unknown persons. Your publisher will have an A-list of preferred review sites, and will automatically get copies of your book to the people at these publications and organizations. If your best friend Louise wants to review the book but isn’t a book reviewer, don’t be insulted if your publisher won’t send her a free copy. Louise should try contacting a journal where she might review the book. Chances are your publisher has already put that journal on the A-list and a copy of your book is waiting, alongside hundreds of others, in the office of the journal’s book review editor. If not, have that journal send your publisher a request—on letterhead

Remember that promotional copies are not about promoting you. Or about your promotion at State U. Don’t expect your publisher to send a copy of your book to your dean or to Betty who typed the manuscript. These are your responsibilities. Your contract will stipulate a number of copies given to you at no cost. Beyond that, you’ll be expected to pay for further copies of your own book. (But at least you’ll get an author’s discount.)

Take a look at my new YouTube video and let me know what you think about it. Have a blessed day.

What Do Publishers Do?

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The next several blogs will be dedicated to what a publisher does and carries you though the complete process. This article comes out of the University of Chicago. I hope you enjoy reading it. Shirley

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There are all kinds of publishers. Most deal in hard copy. Anything printed and disseminated can be described as a publication—a mimeograph handout, a 500,000-copy-a-month magazine, a scholarly journal, a book. Anyone who produces any of these might describe himself as a publisher. Today you can self-publish. In fact, you always could. In the 1620s Johannes Kepler not only printed his own work, he disguised himself as a peddler and traveled to the Frankfurt Book Fair to sell it. Four centuries later you can disguise yourself electronically and publish online. Inside Higher Ed, Slate, and Postmodern Culture are online publications. The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times provide abbreviated versions of their texts online, with more extensive resources deeper into the Web sites. The great scholarly publishers offer an increasingly sophisticated array of electronic “product,” a term so complex it earns the right to be a singular rather than a plural. Yet despite the expansion of the electronic universe, academic publishing is still in many important ways solidly connected to the world Gutenberg made: books printed on paper and bound for repeated readings. The book is the form in which we scholars tell our stories to one another. Articles do other things: test-drive a portion of a book’s ambitious project, or deliver cold, hard data. Even when a publisher offers the choice of a physical or electronic edition of a work, or supplements a physical book with electronic ancillaries, or produces a physical book only on demand, it is the form of the book, that precious thought thought-skeleton, that holds a project together.

Twenty-first-century book publishing is dominated by a few very large and powerful corporations. Many well-known imprints are satellites within conglomerates. Scribner, for example, is part of Simon & Schuster. Knopf, Crown, and Doubleday are all parts of Random House, which is owned by the Bertelsmann corporation. (Norton stands as one of the few remaining independents in New York.) Smaller trade lists include FSG, Pantheon, and Holt, but they are part of larger organisms. Palgrave (Bertelsmann), Blackwell (Wiley), and Routledge (Taylor and Francis) are large commercial academic publishers owned by still larger entities. Alongside them are other midsize and small firms, commercial and not-for-profit, the giant Anglo-American university presses Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the archipelago of university presses that stretch across North America.

Publishing companies continue to imagine themselves as reasonably independent entities, presenting each season a collection of works that cohere in some way—either through their intellectual or entertainment value, or through the sheer force by which they are marketed to the world. Editors like to think of themselves, as they long have, as working at houses, though the label “house” is a charming compensation for a suite of offices either crowded and shabby or crowded and sterile. Yet “house” is both functional and stylish, with more than a soupçon of couture about it. Coco Chanel and John Galliano; Max Perkins and your editor of choice. Fabric and designs may be different, but these craftsmen all wield the same tool: a pair of scissors. An editor’s job is, in part, to cut your manuscript and make you look good.

Who They Are
It is easy to imagine the critical distinction in modes of scholarly dissemination as print vs. electronic, and easier still to imagine this as the latest battle between ancients and moderns. In practice, electronic scholarly publishing is bound in many ways to the forms and institutions of physical print culture. Much electronic scholarship is dependent on carefully prepared hard-copy texts. The publisher considering your work in digital form is still likely to be dependent on trees and ink for its daily business.

We can group publishers into five major categories. The digital environment, now one of the scholar’s homes, might represent a sixth category, but at this stage ion the life of “publishing,” it’s perhaps more useful to think of “digital” as a means of operating, or of delivering content, that in varying ways influences the recognizable categories of publication. The corporate organization of knowledge can still be diagrammed in terms of these five:

1. Trade. Trade publishers, the big commercial houses based largely in New York and owned largely elsewhere, are what most people think of when they think of publishers at all. Trade houses are the source of more than half of the books published in the English language, and most conspicuously those on the best-seller list. When people talk about books, it’s likely they’re talking about trade books. Trade books are the ones most people—including you—read for pleasure and information. While no trade publisher is reluctant to have a backlist of titles that continue to sell year after year, the industry’s trends are toward signing up only books that will be very profitable, and very profitable right away. Trade publishing thrives on precisely what scholarly publishing does not: the one depends upon reaching the greatest number of people quickly, while the other depends upon reaching enough of the right people over time, an objective made increasingly complex by the electronic revolution. Trade houses do publish some scholarly books, but scholarship isn’t the reason these publishers are in business. In the era of conglomerates, there are fewer independent trade publishers and more divisions, imprints, lines, and series within larger trade houses. Trade publishing isn’t the focus of Getting It Published, simply because few scholarly writers will begin their publishing careers with trade.

2. Textbook. The book you’re writing may wind up being used in a college course, even as required reading, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a book that a textbook publisher would want. Textbook publishing is often called college publishing. College publishers produce genuine textbooks—the introductions to macroeconomics and panoramas of American history that are the staples of large college lecture classes.

Textbook publishing can be the most profitable part of the publishing industry—and is when the books work. The publisher who produced the Psychology 101 text you’ve assigned in your lecture class won’t be selling it to anyone other than students, but they will buy it because it is a requirement of the course—and usually a requirement of that course semester after semester. Textbook publishers don’t get their books into Barnes & Noble or your local independent, but they happily supply the textbook counter at your campus store once an order for your course has been received.

One definition of a text is a book no student would possibly want to keep, and that is useless even to the professor two years after publication. Textbook publishers expend considerable effort in providing teachers exactly what they need for specific courses—and then in revising the material on short cycles. Textbook publishing addresses real curricular needs, and attacks those needs with all the powers at its disposal—high-quality production, prestigious authors and advisors, sales reps who knock on professors’ doors urging them to adopt a particular title, and a painstaking review process. A well-reviewed work of serious trade nonfiction may earn you a bit of money, as well as professional kudos. But will a textbook? Universities rarely grant tenure to someone on the basis of having authored a textbook, and few scholars devote their early careers to this type of project alone. Why devote one’s efforts—as publisher or writer—to college publishing? Many textbook authors are genuinely motivated by a desire to shape a field and to excite beginning students. But beyond that, as Willie Sutton said of bank robbing, that’s where the money is.

3. Scholarly or academic. The heart of any academic’s publishing life will be the scholarly publishing community. Most scholarly publishers are university presses, particularly in the United States and Canada. Beacon, Island Press, and the New Press are unusual not-for-profit publishers with trade book lists. There are also important not-for-profit scholarly publishers, those connected, for example, with museums—the Metropolitan, the Getty, and so on. But there are other scholarly and scholarly-trade publishers in America whose readerships and author pools overlap with those of university presses.

For most of the past century, scholarly publishing has been devoted to exactly what the term describes, scholarly publishing. The term monograph persists as a description of the kind of book published by a scholarly press. Not that many years ago, a scholarly house might refer with pride to the monographs it was about to publish. “Monograph” isn’t a term heard quite so often these days, but that doesn’t mean that this kind of book is no longer crucial to learning and research.

A monograph, forty years ago as now, is a specialized work of scholarship. All university presses continue to offer some monographs, and some commercial houses have found creative ways to publish them, too. Monograph publishing is about hardback books at high prices, marketed to a few hundred key purchasers, most of which are libraries. Generations of scholars were trained to produce their first monograph, and encouraged to seek its publication. The most traditional academic publishers continue to support the monograph as part of their publishing programs. For three decades the death of the monograph has been repeatedly proclaimed, but the monograph may have merely been napping. Digital technologies are transforming the means of producing and disseminating the monograph, giving new life, or its cyber-equivalent, to works too specialized to sustain traditional printing methods. A first-rate monograph in renaissance literature, published by a leading university press, might enjoy worldwide sales of four hundred copies. The publisher may find electronic paths to other readerships, but there is no magic cursor pointing to an easy solution. Fundamentally, the number of people who need to know about maritime law in the 1620s is an inelastic figure. The first-rate monograph tells that inelastic readership something they want to know because they need to know it and are willing to pay to learn.

4. Reference. Like “textbook,” “reference” is a term that can be used too loosely. Your book on Brecht might be so detailed that it could act as a frequent reference for theater historians. That is, people will consult your long and thorough index and bibliography. You might think your project would make “a handy reference,” but that doesn’t make it a reference book. Let’s distinguish hard reference from trade, or soft, reference. Soft reference may show up in bookstores or at a discounted price from an online bookseller. There are lots of soft reference books, from paperbacks on spelling demons to handy manuals on repairing sink traps. The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music is soft reference, as is, on a more scholarly note, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (at 1400+ pages it’s soft, but heavy.) In other words, things you might buy, usually in paperback, and keep around the house.

Traditional, printed dictionaries and encyclopedias were at one time the heart of hard reference publishing, and librarians are their key purchasers. The very largest reference projects are often cooked up by the publishers themselves or by “packagers,” basically independent companies that think up big or complicated book projects and take them as far as a publisher would like, even all the way to printing them.

Reference publishing has long ceased to be about physical books alone. Reference works continue to appear in traditional printed form, but many are also accessible electronically—on CD, on a publisher’s subscription-based Web site, in the databases of online aggregators, and in formats and combinations bound to expand our understanding of what “information” and “book” will mean in the twenty-first century. Despite the experiments and advances of the last decade, discussions of electronic publishing today still recall some of the excitement of the first manned space launches in the 1960s.

5. Self-publishing. The prefix “self” speaks volumes. Friedrich Nietzsche took the text of Beyond Good and Evil into his own hands and published an edition of six hundred copies. In recent years, corporations have self-published manuals and other projects for their own use. Some business bestsellers, like The One Minute Manager, began as self-published projects, and went on to sell millions of copies. Sophisticated packagers are available to help the ambitious writer move an idea to market without knocking on the doors of trade houses.

For writers of academic nonfiction, however, the siren call of self-publishing drifts forth not from the offices of book packagers but out of the Web. In the Age of the Internet self-publishing is easier than ever. Create your text, build a Web site, slap up your document, and voilà. You’re an author with a work only a few keystrokes away from millions of readers. Putting one’s work on the ’Net is always an option, and while it has been pooh-poohed by serious scholars, trends in the culture of publishing are bringing about a rethink of these attitudes toward electronic dissemination. There will be more in this book on the subject of electronic publishing, but for now let’s say that print publication remains the dominant form of scholarly communication and the basis for almost all professional advancement.

Remember that publication is a way of validating your work. A book that is published by the author has all the authority the author brings to it, but little else. Once one isolates self-publishing, there are four broad categories—trade, textbook, scholarly, and reference. For most academic writers, the principal choice is, of course, “scholarly.” But the neatness of the categories conceals the messiness of most publishing houses. Some houses, like Norton, have trade and textbook divisions. Others, like Palgrave, have trade and academic divisions, including Bedford Books, an imprint that specializes in anthologies and other materials for course adoption. Random House has a small reference division, but it’s primarily a trade house. And many trade paperback houses see their books go into classrooms in large adoption quantities—think of all the Penguin paperbacks you’ve assigned or used in courses.

If publishing houses are sometimes messy organizations, some books really do fall into more than one category. The Encyclopedia of New York City is genuinely a reference work suitable for public collections, and a trade book that can be sold to individuals for home libraries. So is that venerable vitamin pill, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Books can also change category over time. Take, for instance, Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Like every work of literature taught in a classroom, this novel began as a trade book, but has moved up the cultural scale to the status of “modern classic,” now earning money for its author an publisher because it has become a widely adopted text. Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen made meteoric transitions from play text to adoptable text. Like Beloved, these very writerly works also became teaching tools.

Like the tiny protomammals scurrying about in depictions of the Cretaceous era, university presses may be the most versatile, and resourceful, of all publishers. A press like Columbia, for example, produces a reference program alongside a more familiar list of academic titles, and a selection of trade offerings. A small university press may highlight one or two general-interest titles as its trade offerings in a given season. Oxford University Press publishes a vast list of specialized scholarship, as well as a distinguished list of reference and trade titles. (Oxford’s scope is so broad that it even has a vice president for Bibles. As a professor once said to me, Oxford signed up God as an author in the seventeenth century.) In a single season, a university press might offer a trade book on gardening, the memoir of a Holocaust survivor, a study of women in African literature, a workbook in Mandarin Chinese, an illustrated atlas of dams and irrigation, and the twelfth volume in the collected papers of Rutherford B. Hayes.

A word of caution: authors sometimes make the mistake of presenting their work as a combination of trade, scholarly, and reference, with a dash of text thrown in. You can understand the motivation—the all-singing, all-dancing academic book that might appeal to every segment of the market. But publishers are wary of authors who claim too much for their progeny, and marketing departments will be skeptical of the proposal that envisions a book for student use that will also be of interest as a trade hardback. No editor wants to take on a manuscript with multiple personality disorder.

This brief map of the publishing world is meant to demonstrate the range of publishers that exist, and the kinds of works they produce. But the point is to help you focus on what it is you’re writing, and how to match it up to who’s out there.

My Family Will be Thrilled…..

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It was so easy it scared me.  I published my Christian Poetry book on XenXii.com.  For some reason I thought it would be harder.  It was a little time-consuming for me to get the poems and pictures into one document.  Thank goodness this was a small book. I wanted to see what actually happens with the process.

Now comes the hard part of trying to sell the book.  I think publicizing is the hardest part of the book writing process.  I probably won’t get on Good Morning America or Anderson for the world to see me  and listen to me say how wonderful either of the books I have out now are. I have read everything I could get my hands on about selling a book and they all start with the social programs.  What works, what doesn’t work and what might work when your networking. So I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, but who I’m connecting with is other writers trying to do the same thing I am.  I think it is a vicious circle.

I am beginning to do Pod Radio interviews now and I must say it has been interesting.  I plan on doing more of them just because I like to talk and I can hear myself on the radio. That is something I never thought would happen.  I know I can get my family to listen and tell me how good I sounded and how absolutely wonderful the books sound.  There’s nothing like having people who love you.

I think I’m going to try my hand at doing a book commercial. That will be fun and once again, it will thrill my family.

Oh by the way drop by http://www.xinxii.com/en/verses-for-my-king-p-333636.html?osCsid=gmcb03bri8khs1hcqg1s9gtf03 and have a look at Verses For My King.

You Can Never be Sure

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Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

My blog today is going back to the subject of writing and publishing.  It was brought to the forefront in my mind today that you can never be sure that your book will come out from the publisher like it was sent to them.  My problem only came to my attention because of a cancelled book tour.  I was told my book was not ready to be toured.  I couldn’t understand what was going on.  I had gone over my book with a fine tooth comb and couldn’t find a problem.

When I received my galley from the publisher they were fine, and I signed off on them and sent them for printing.  I received my author books and they looked great.  That took place about a month ago.  Since that time I have actively been advertising my book and a sold a few ebooks.

Yesterday after my book tour had been cancelled I went back over my book and could find nothing wrong.  It dawned  on me that I’d never looked at my ebook, so I downloaded me a copy to my Kindle.  I looked at the first page and it immediately jumped out at me that something was missing.  In fact it was absent throughout the book.  What had been left out was the italicized print for the characters inner thoughts.  It made it look like I was changing tense in the middle of paragraphs.  When your writing that is a big NO, NO.

I immediately got on the phone with my publisher and told them of the problem.  It took awhile for me to convince them they caused the problem.  I finally got through to the ebook department after explaining the situation to at least three people.  I was then told sometimes the code messes up in the ebooks and it makes an error in printing.

It makes me want to jump up and down screaming at the top of my lungs that I did everything right and it still came out messed up.  So the moral of this story is check your ebooks to make sure they are correct. I made the mistake of assuming because my hard copies were correct my ebook would be also.  Learn from my mistake.