Writing, secrets and self-publishing

writing-828911_1280

Much of the creative world is built around secrets. Creatives and those who market, manage, and leverage them are very hush-hush about projects – lest someone steal it or leak it. Surprise I suppose is the proffered reason. And controlling the message. And probably most important – ensuring no one else beats you to the punch.

The publishing industry is no exception to the rule. Which may be why so many authors find it exceedingly difficult to break in to the inner circle of successful authorship. And even of those authors who do manage to break in, the majority of them:

  • Make little to no money
  • Don’t gain a strong readership
  • Lose their rights to their work for life
  • Never get to quit their day jobs

Although many mainstream best-selling authors offer advice, write books, create courses, and espouse formulas that they followed to become successful – as far as I can tell – these offerings do little to nothing to help hopeful authors actually succeed.

Independent authors exceptions to rule

Then Amazon did this wild and crazy thing – they created an eReader. And then created a platform for writers to publish and sell their own works to a practically limitless audience. And authors started to succeed on their own where the publishing industry had let them down.

Say what you will about indie authors and criticize them all you like but in my mind there is a significant difference between them and mainstream traditional authors. They talk. They don’t keep secrets. Most of them will tell you everything they did, with copious details, to succeed. Because they aren’t beholding to a publishing company or contract. They are free to create and share any and all of their experiences. Often with wild abandon. Because they want to help other authors succeed. And they want readers to have more choices. Secrets by and large don’t seem to matter to them. Go figure. More books, more choices, more readers seem to be the priorities.

Indie author up close and personal

I’m about to self publish a 3-book mystery series and as part of my prep leading into the release of the books I have a list. One of the things on that list was to pick a successful indie author and study them. So last week I picked a well-known indie author and read his entire blog. It took me about five days to read five years of blog posts. I was totally immersed in this fellow’s world and journey for nearly a week and I have to say I learned a lot:

The good

The good news is that anyone who is willing to do the work, can publish and succeed. And that success can be and should be defined by the author. You want to be a best seller? Great then go for it. You’d be happy to be a working author who can quit your day job and live on your author earnings – you can do that too. As long as you do the work.

The bad

You have to do the work. You have to make choices. Sacrifices. You won’t get there by turning out one book every two years. You won’t get there by sitting around playing video games. If you don’t approach it as a business and accept that you are also a publisher and have all the attendant duties and obligations of a publisher it won’t happen. And it can and probably will take years. It ain’t a sprint, it’s definitely a marathon.

The elating

There is no editorial censoring. You can write the stories that you want to write. The stories you feel you were meant to write. You don’t have to write formulaic drivel because that’s what sells. You can maintain your own true voice and creative integrity. And you can find a readership who wants to read your stories.

The frightening

It’s all on you. There are no editors or publishers to blame. There are no agents to bitch about. There is only you, your work, the quality of your work and your own marketing efforts. And luck too plays a part. Being at the right place at the right time. That is something over which you have no control.

The take away

I believe the one thing that all indie authors have in common is a pioneer spirit. Though they may be nervous or afraid they are still willing to explore the unknown. To blaze new trails. To go in their own direction and take a risk on themselves. To invest in themselves. And to accept each step as its own lesson, even if that step fails. They may not succeed but it won’t be for any want of trying. And if they do then that success is all the sweeter because they did it their way. They bet on themselves and won.

Is self-publishing for everyone?

I don’t know. But I don’t think that it is. There are some authors who want the security of a publishing company. They want to have someone else provide the infrastructure and follow a game plan that in large part is set by someone else. Or perhaps they need someone to keep them on the path, to issue deadlines, to insist they do the work. When you self-publish that all falls on your shoulders. There is no one watching to make sure you do what you’re supposed to do. That you keep writing, that you continue to produce, sell, market and do the work. And that’s fine. All authors should follow the path that works for them. If you want a publisher then absolutely go that way. If you’re willing to take all the risks yourself then go that way. The great thing is that you can choose and aren’t forced into choosing a path you don’t want.

So as I approach my own self-publishing adventure, I look forward to it with elation and fear. I truly have no idea what will happen. Or if anything will happen. Not one clue. It’s a crap shoot for sure. And I’ve already started the next series because that’s what I do. Write. Will I ever be on that list of best-selling indie authors? It’s anybody’s guess. But like they say, go big or stay home. Right?

How about you? What do you think about indie authors? Are you an indie author. Do you plan to self publish? Or have you already? Any tips or lessons learned you’d like to share?

ISBNs – One of the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing

nuts and bolts

If you’re an indie author and plan to self-publish your book, there are a lot of nuts and bolts details that goes along with that. One of the first details you will need to see to is getting an ISBN. An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. An ISBN’s purpose is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition.

Explanation from Bowker:

“The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributor.”

So clearly if you want your book to listed in library and distribution catalogs you will want and ISBN. You may opt to accept a free ISBN from Amazon for example, however, ISBNs are not transferrable and Amazon will be listed as your publisher if you accept their offer. Personally, I like to just ‘get my own’ if you know what I mean.

It wasn’t really a daunting process

I don’t know why but I was really nervous about buying the ISBNs – and sent queries to Bowker because I just couldn’t get my wits wrapped around. Although, the fact that I was about to drop $300 probably influenced my emotions somewhat. However, once I followed through I found the process to be really pretty easy and not stressful at all.

Steps to take in obtaining and registering and ISBN

To purchase your ISBN(s) go to: https://www.myidentifiers.com/Get-your-isbn-now. You can purchase one ISBN for $125 but you can get 10 for $299. If you are planning to write more than one book or have different editions such as eBook and Print you will need a different ISBN for each – so it makes more sense to buy the 10-pack in the long run.

The site accepts the usual credit cards but does not accept PayPal.

You will also have to set up a free account with my identifyers so that you can follow through on the assignment process of ISBNs to your book(s). The ISBNs are not just emailed to you in a zip file (yes, this is what I envisioned).

After you have purchased your ISBNs you will receive a confirmation email from Bowker, with live links back to the site to manage your ISBNs. Which though it may seem daunting is a very simple process:

1. Go to: https://www.myidentifiers.com/
2. Log in to your account
3. Under the “My Account” tab, click on “Manage ISBNs”
4. There you will see a table with all your ISBNs listed.
5. In the left column click on “Assign Title”
6. You will be taken to a page with fields in it to fill in – in all there are four pages .(Title & Cover, Contributors, Format and Size, Sales and Pricing) and you simply fill in the information requested. Note: you are only required to fill in those fields that have a red asterisk.
7. Part of the process requires you upload a copy of your manuscript in PDF format. If you don’t own Adobe software, you can convert your document to PDF at: http://smallpdf.com/word-to-pdf It’s free, very quick and simple.
8. You will also be asked to upload your cover image which should be a JPEG
9. Once you have completed all the pages and filled in the necessary fields, you hit the submit button and viola your book now has an ISBN – which can gleefully enter on the copyright page of your manuscript.

I realize this is not a sexy or scintillating topic but I hope it is helpful to anyone planning to self-publish.

How about you? Any good self-publishing tips you’d like to share? Were you as daunted and weirded out as me when you got your ISBNs or did you handle it like a pro? Feel free to share your wisdom in the comments.

Writer Chick

Welcome to Self-Publishing (You’re a real writer now, eh?)

tornado of books

Well, the good news is that I just finished the the third book in the series I’ve been writing for the last eighteen months. Yay (small pom-poms, please). And much as I would like to revel in that accomplishment there is so much more work to be done that it makes me want to run screaming to my bed so I can burrow under the covers.

Some might say that the work has just begun. And they’d be right..

The writing, beta reading and feedback, rewriting, editing, and proofing and polishing is a lot of work and sure I’m proud of myself for getting that far but beyond that is my checklist. I thought I’d share it with you, for any of you indie authors, soon to be self-publishers or aspiring to same. It might help…or not:

CHECKLIST ON SERIES:

1. Write: copyright pages, dedication pages, disclaimer pages, acknowledgment pages and new bio, add to final mss
2. Purchase ISBNs from Bowker
3. Read formatter contract, print, sign and send in with payment and manuscripts per their specs
4. Write product descriptions for books
5. Put together mailing list for email marketing
6. Open email marketing account
7. Create mailer for book announcement(s)
8. Decide if you will release all at once or at intervals
9. Read all the marketing and book promotion material you’ve been saving for the last 1 ½ years
10. Sketch out mkg strat for books (implement)
11. Write a series of ‘guest posts’
12. Apply for copyrights for all books (online)
13. Get new author photos done
14. Re-do page for series on blog
15. Update Author Central page – new photo, new bio, new everything
16. Find every place possible to promote books (write list/put on spreadsheet)
17. Determine best strategy for getting reviews
18. Determine best distribution
19. Key word research on Amazon
20. Publish by end of August
21. rock and roll

Now this list is by no mean complete but it does cover the basics. And drives home the fact that I’m not just an author anymore, I’m a publisher. And unfortunately, I’m the only employee.

So, if you don’t see me around, or I fail to comment on your blog, or tweet you back or have a little FB time with you – don’t take it personally, I’m just trying to get a lot done in a very short time.

I do intend to write a few how-to posts on some of these steps – as I learn them or navigate the process. Hopefully, that will help some of you at a some future date. So stay tuned.

How about you? Are you self publishing? Where are you in the process? Any tips you’d like to share? Feel free to yak it up in the comments.

Writer Chick

Do All Self-Published Books Really Suck?

Newsflash — all self-published books suck. Don’t believe me? Then spend five minutes Googling the concept and you will get hundreds of articles from ‘experts’ who will prove to you that it’s the truth.

Okay, so I guess we should all just give up, run away with our tails tucked between our legs, and go start a McDonald’s franchise then?

I don’t know about you but I despise generalities. I hate broad, sweeping statements that dismiss an entire topic out of hand. So, in this here, uppity blog post I will attempt to address what seem to be the biggest complaints.

Complaints about self-pubbed books

While there seem to be as many complaints about self-pubbed books as Carter’s has little pills, let’s hit the highlights:

Not good quality. This I take to mean not as good as traditionally published books and people say this with a straight face too. As though the fact that a book was published by a traditional publisher makes the book good. I don’t know about you but I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that were terrible. Where and how a book gets published does not guarantee good quality.

Unprofessional. By whose standards? If the readers complain, then so be it. You should probably listen and possibly unpublish the book if the response is really bad. Of course, it’s a given that you want to do everything you can to write the best story you’re able to write and if you have, then who gives a rat’s ass what your competitors say?

Glutting the market. This one really gets me. Because the market is for readers, not authors. So how can an endless supply of books be bad for the market? It can’t. Although it may be bad for authors and publishers who don’t like competition, I don’t think readers are too upset about it.

Poor formatting, not professionally edited, typos, bad layout, terrible covers – blah, blah, blah. Okay, again, so what? (And by the way, I’ve seen typos in traditionally published books too, so no one is immune. And don’t get me started on some of those ‘professional’ cheesy covers either.) And sure, I’ve seen this in indie books too but the market weeds these products out by refusing to buy.

And just as a side note – Hollywood spends billions of dollars a year producing one stinker after the next. Do you hear actors, producers, or screenwriters complaining? Nope. Instead they have awards. Yup, that’s right awards for the biggest stinkers of them all. That group knows how to close ranks and defend the fortress. Also many many of these really bad movies become cult favorites (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes ring a bell?) Who knows, even if your book sucks it could still gain popularity as a Raspberry of its own.

Anybody can publish – no standards. And who might be the gatekeepers in this little scenario? The traditional publishers? The critics? The trolls who travel review forums to trash the work of others? And again, that anyone can publish is good for writers and readers. A writer gets to test her mettle, possibly fail, and learn new tricks, or God forbid succeed – and readers get unfiltered, non-homogenous stories that they can’t get anywhere else. How is this a bad thing? Except possibly in terms of competition for those who’d prefer to thin the herd.

Indie authors are so pushy. Now I agree that manners and being polite in social discourse is a must – however, when an author approaches a reviewer or promotes her book in another way, she is being the publisher/distributor. Not the author. Of course they want to get their product out in the market and known about and create a buzz. It’s a sales cycle, baby. What salesman isn’t tenacious and persistent? Answer: the one who doesn’t sell anything.

Published too soon. Again by whose standards? I’ve seen authors brag that it took them five years to write a book. As though their book is somehow better than a book by an author who wrote and published in six months. But in the end it’s the reader who decides what book is better. The time it took to write a book is no measurement of its value. Again, if an author published too soon, no need to worry about it, her public will let her know. But making statements like this create an arbitrary that really has nothing to do with the truth.

And too, and this is something people don’t talk about much – in the “Golden Age of Pulp Fiction” those dudes and dudettes were cranking out 4-5 stories a week and being published. They didn’t torment over every word, they didn’t wait for beta readers, or spend months looking for just the right editor. They just wrote stories. And apparently, damn good ones because their stories were everywhere. Even if your story isn’t perfect (and I’ve yet to see one that is) if you entertain the reader and give them what they want – the rest really doesn’t matter, does it?

Productivity over quality. I don’t understand how these two are mutually exclusive. Is it really so impossible to write fast and good? Nora Roberts is very prolific and fast, as are many literary giants and best selling authors. Are they hacks too? And if readers love a writer’s books then that’s the important thing, isn’t it?

The wild wild west of the indie author frontier

Indie authors and indie publishers are forging a new path. And my belief is that this is unsettling the apple cart of the status quo. Could things be better? Sure, but that could be said about any industry or field under the sun. Things can always be better and it’s a great thing to strive for – always.

As an author and a reader, I agree that you should do everything you can to give your readers a topnotch, high-quality product. A story that will wow them and keep them up past their bedtimes reading because they just can’t fucking put it down. So absolutely, get all the professional help you can afford and work that puppy into a thing of wonder.

But don’t let a small budget stop you either. You do the best you can. And on the next one you do better. That’s the cycle. Always improving on the next shot, the next round, the next book.

So, I say self-publish. Take a shot. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot. And hopefully, there’ll be other writers out there who will give you a hand up. And hopefully you’ll do the same when you’re able.

All self-published books do not suck. All traditionally books are not all wonderful. There’s room for all of us. So keep writing.

WC

Copyright 2015

The Ins and Outs of Book Blurbing and other awesome reads this week

blurbs

Morning! Grab your latte and settle in for some good reads:

How to Write a Book Blurb by Henry Baum Awesome post about the ins and outs of book blurbs – what’s good, what sucks, what to do and what not to do. With lots of samples. Don’t you love samples?

50 Ways To Reach Your Reader. # 2: Indie Authors & Amazon Author Page  From selfpublishingadvice.org – Amazon, author pages, key wording, and categories, oh my.

50 Astonishing Mobile Search Stats and Why You Should Care  by Brian Conlin. Did you know that Google is going to start penalizing websites that aren’t mobile friendly? Yikes.

The 10 Commandments of Authorial Self Promotion  Wild man Chuck Wendig  gives us the unabridged lowdown on author self-promotion. I knew I liked this guy for a reason.

What kids have taught me about writing  Kathleen McCleary over at Writer Unboxed, reminds us about the joy of creating as a kid and what it can teach us. I give her an A+.

So there you have it, read, enjoy, have a great week.

Writer Chick