Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 2

The Next Step

After deciding how many books I want to write and publish, the next step in the publishing journey is promoting my first book. This step is one for writers in groups #3 and #4 as discussed in Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 1: writers who want to publish three or more books.

Wait. What do you mean? Promote my first book? I haven’t even written it yet. Or at least it’s not finished. I don’t know how to publish it. Why would I promote a book that isn’t ready for readers?

Why indeed.

Promoting My First Book

This is the advice I’d give to myself if I was just getting started in the publishing business. I need to start building interest in that book now. I need to start presenting myself as a writer now. I need readers to learn about me now.

So when my book is ready to publish and I hit that PUBLISH NOW button, I have at least a small following and my book has been seen by several thousand sets of eyes.

How Do I Promote a Book I Haven’t Finished Writing?

Easy. Talk about it.

Did you know, I’m writing a dystopian novel? It’s called Seeds of Life.

Phew! That was easier than I had thought. Who did I tell? Well, I first told my sister. She was impressed I was writing a book since I had flunked Grade 11 English. Then I told my neighbour – two people know I’m writing the book. They want to read it. Cool.

By the end of the week, I’ve told 30 people, and I’m eager to spread the news further. Oh, Facebook. I just posted the news to share with my “friends”. Here’s what I wrote: Hey, everyone. I’m writing a book, and I’m going to publish it. The title is Seeds of Life.

The girl I went to high school with commented: What’s it about?

Oh. Good question. How do I answer it?

Developing Your Elevator Pitch

This is when you start to develop what is called the Elevator Pitch. It’s describing your book in one sentence or two or three short sentences.

Answer: It’s about this girl who is born after the world is devastated. She’s kinda special because seeds, which are vital to life, are messed up, and she can fix them.

Thinks to myself: I’ve gotta work on that. I also gotta finish writing the book. I’ve only got 61,158 words written, and I’m aiming for 90,000 words.

Spreading the Word Further

In two weeks, I’ve told about 300 people I’m writing a book and publishing it but to sell lots of copies, I need to spread this news to the world. I could do it on Facebook, but I have only 226 friends, and only Aunt Pearl shared it. Wait. Aunt Pearl has 3,539 friends. I guess more people than I thought saw that I’m writing a book. Eek! I better get to finishing it.

To spread the word further, I need a platform. This is where promotion starts. It’s the stage where I promote my book to everyone in the world.

Next Week: Platforms: What are they and how do I create one?

Self-publishing from Scratch: Article 1

What is the First Step?

Using the information and experience I’ve gathered over the past 10 years of self-publishing and 23 years of writing professionally (Before I turned to fiction full time, I had a successful freelance business where I pitched non-fiction stories to magazines and newspapers), I’ve given careful thought about what my first step would be in the non-traditional, self-publishing world if I was starting the journey today. From this perspective, I’ll create this series of posts called Self-publishing from Scratch. It’s geared towards the writer who wants to publish their first book.

Step 1: How Many Books Will I Write?

This might be an odd question for some, but after thinking of many other questions, I kept backspacing and finished at this one. This question helps answer the ones that follow.

Each Writer is Unique

I’ve met a lot of writers over the past two decades. While we all love to write, we had different goals for our writing.

Writer Group #1

Some just wanted to write for personal reasons. They didn’t have the desire to see their stories in print. Others wanted to hold their book in their hand and share it with family and close friends.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these goals. Writing for them is self-satisfying. They don’t want to share with strangers, sell books or become a name in the business.

Writer Group #2

Some writers want to write one book. That’s it. They fall into the category of everyone has a book inside them, and that’s all they want to write. They want a few dozen copies to give to family and friends, and they think it’s cool to see it on Amazon’s website. They’re tickled pink to earn a few dollars to pay for their coffee once in awhile.

Writer Group #3

Some writers want to give it a shot, so they commit a few years, a few dollars and write a few books. Only half their heart is in it because, well, they like reading, but they don’t know if they like writing lots of books. They’ll be happy to sell a few, happier if they sell a million with little effort.

Writer Group #4

Then there are the hard-core, addicted, won’t ever stop writing writers. They don’t care about discouraging comments made by family, friends or inner voices, how long it takes, or if sales aren’t as high as they expected them to be.

They’re going to write book after book until they fill their shelves with titles. They’re going to burn the midnight candle, spend birthday money on paperback proofs and ads, attend workshops and markets, read countless articles on how to successfully write a book and sell it, learn how to do all the things they can to build a book and save money, and spend every day writing to reach their word goal.

These hard-core writers have their own individual goals: writing x-amount of books a year, selling x-amount of books, becoming a famous author, winning awards, etc.

The Number of Books and Self-publishing

Writer Group #1

The writer who wants to write for personal reasons or the one who wants to hold their book in their hands and share with family and friends, need never know how to self-publish.

Writer Group #2

The writer who wants to write one book and sell it on a small scale doesn’t need to put forth much effort. They could create a webpage so the book has real estate on the Internet, and anyone looking for information on it and links to buy will find it. Obviously, sales will be low unless the subject is self-propelling.

Writers with one book who want to sell that book like crazy need to learn marketing. The basics of self-publishing will carry them through to get that book published. They won’t need to repeat the process, just sell what they have.

Writer Group #3

Writers dabbling in self-publishing with the goal to write a few books, let’s say three, to see if they can make money at it need to know the basics. However, since they are not planning to spend the next 20 years writing or make a career from it, they don’t have to learn as much as those in Writer Group #4.

Writer Group #4

These writers will write as many books as they can until life forces them out of the game. They aim to make this their career and are looking forward to the day they can quit their current job to become a full time writer. The more they learn, the better they’ll be.

This is the group I’m in.

Who is Self-publishing from Scratch directed at?

This blog series is directed at Writer Groups #3 and #4. I will assume you want to write more than one book, and I’ll direct the conversation in that direction. That includes discussing the basics of formatting, setting up a website, getting an ISBN, starting a company, networking and many other things I’ve done to not only publish books but promote them.

The best time to write that novel and self-publish it was 15 years ago. The second best time is today.

Starting a Self-publishing Career from Scratch

Every other week or so, a writer contacts me and asks how I do something or where to find information in regard to self-publishing. Often, these are writers who have been writing for a long time but have never entered the publishing world either traditionally or non-traditionally.

Sometimes they ask a question I can answer in one sentence. Other times, I can go to my website – this website – find the post or page on which I discussed that topic and send the link. Still other times, they have many questions. I try to answer the best I can, but my time is limited, and I can’t spend an hour crafting an email with links and details.

An hour to write an email? Yes, because I double check information or I find a reference to it on the web to ensure that information hasn’t changed and to provide a place where they can learn more. Then I read it carefully a few times to ensure I’ve said things properly, didn’t leave out a word and included everything I wanted to say.

It’s Already Online

The truth is, most of the information I provide is already on the web. Many times it’s on my website because, believe it or not, on January 3, 2021 (The First Step in Blogland), I mark ten years in blogland, and I’ve written about every step from writing that first draft to getting that published book in hand.

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Book Printing, Embedding Fonts and Lulu

Healing StonesAs mentioned in my post on August 17th Comparing Print Times of KDP Print and Lulu, I ran into trouble with Lulu’s newly designed website and their more user friendly tools. While frustrating, once I figured out the source of the problem, I solved the problem for the print file for Healing Stones and other books I plan to upload in the future.

The problem? Embedding Fonts.

My Lulu History

To understand my problem, we have to go back to the beginning when I uploaded my first interior file to Lulu. This was about two years ago. Back then, I did as instructed and saved the file in PDF. However, Lulu rejected every PDF for the interior that I tried to upload. I tried to figure out why but couldn’t.

Reading further, I saw they also accepted .docx files, so I uploaded my formatted book in the MS Word document file I had originally created. SUCCESS. Lulu accepted the file, and I never looked back. From then on, I always uploaded a .docx instead of a PDF.

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What I learned about writing two novels at the same time.

NaNoWriMoFor NaNoWriMo 2018, I wrote two novels at the same time: Revelation Stones and Beyond the Myst. I didn’t plan it that way. My goal was to complete the first novel. The second one started as a homework assignment from my writers’ group.

I focussed on the book I wanted to complete first, writing a minimum of 2,000 words a day for it. I wrote 1,500 words a day for Beyond the Myst.

To keep the stories separated in my mind, I wrote Beyond the Myst in the morning between 5:30 am and 7:20 am. If I didn’t reach my goal, I spent a few minutes after the morning chores to complete it. I wrote Revelation Stones from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Often I finished early, so I was in bed by nine o’clock. I get up at 4:35 am, so I need to go to bed early.

Before each writing session, I’d envision the scene I was about to write. This put me in the mood to write and provided details I might not have considered. I run scenes in my head like movies, so I get a clear idea of what I want. The scene is basically written before I sit down to the computer. I just record what happened.

I’ve never tried to write two full novels at once. I have written a short story while writing a novel, but usually I’d write the short story in a few days, then return to the novel writing. This whole experience of writing two in one day was completely new to me. Here’s what I have learned listed under the benefits and the drawbacks.

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A Hard Lesson Learned

Hard Lessons LearnedAlthough it’s tough to admit it, six years ago, I made a horrible mistake in my publishing journey. After publishing the first book in my Castle Keepers fantasy series, Shadows in the Stone, I should have buckled down and completed the draft to the second book in the series, Scattered Stones.

However, feeling the pressure to get more books on my publishing shelf, I wrote a few short stories that were not in the fantasy genre. They were quick writes, quickly edited by my editor and quickly published. I soon had four books on my shelf. It looked impressive.

I was following the advice of those who believed the more books on a shelf, the more a writer gets noticed because they have a larger footprint.

However, those giving advice didn’t stress the vital fact that the books written should all be in one genre. Readers sometimes stick to one genre, so those who loved my fantasy novel might not like my contemporary stories about death, domestic abuse or a cranky neighbour.

Sigh.

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Summer is Over and Work Begins

Thought for the dayWe can all ask, “Where did it go?”, but I think most of us who live in the north know summer passed in the usual form: too quickly. What started out to be a very cool June with snow and hail in Nova Scotia, eventually evolved into hot July and August days.

With cooler nights and mild days on the horizon, school started today where I live. That means the house is empty because everyone is either in school or at work. This is the first time I’ve had the house to myself during the day for more than two months.

While I hope you enjoyed your summer and I’d like to reminisce about mine, as John Wayne said, “We’re burning daylight.” So it’s time to buckle down and get back to work full time. My batteries are recharged, new ideas are splashing around in my mind, and I’m ready to start the next phase of my self-publishing journey.

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No One is Surprised: CreateSpace Closes and KDP Print Takes Over

Amazon CreateSpace KDP PrintBetween putting the laundry in the washer and hanging it on the line and while I was making pancakes for my youngest child, washing dishes and waiting for the buzzer on the oven to go to indicate the cinnamon rolls were ready for extraction, an email popped up in my inbox.

The subject told me all I wanted to know, and if Amazon thought they’d surprise me, they couldn’t have been more mistaken: CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing to become one service

I didn’t bother opening the message; I was too busy, and I knew what it was all about.

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KDP Print Now Provides Proof and Author Copies

KDP Print ProofA welcomed message arrived in my inbox this evening. Amazon’s KDP Print will now provide self-published authors with the option of purchasing a proof of their book before it goes on sale for the public. The message also stated writers could purchase author copies.

In my post, dated April 17, 2017 (read Amazon’s New KDP Print Feature is Bad News for CreateSpace Users), one of the major drawbacks of KDP Print over CreateSpace was the inability to order proofs and author copies.

CreateSpace marked its proofs with a large “PROOF” across the last page. KDP Print will take this one step further and “have a ‘Not for Resale’ watermark on the cover and a unique barcode but no ISBN”.

I’m not sure why the extra security is needed since proof copies were the same price as author copies and if a proof was good enough, more copies could be purchased. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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Review of Lulu’s Printing Service

With this ever-changing publishing world, it’s good to explore other options before the need arises. I feel this way about paperback printing services now that CreateSpace seems to be going the way of the megafauna. Before Amazon Print scuttles the boat (read Amazon’s New KDP Print Feature is Bad News for CreateSpace Users), I want my books settled on solid ground at another printer, so I can still get copies with short notice.

At a friend’s recommendation, I tried the printing services of Lulu. She had printed several of her books using their service. She showed me samples, and the quality was good. I uploaded a book and ordered a copy to see how easy it was and to compare it with the quality from CreateSpace.

Lulu accepted interior files created with CreateSpace’s template, so I didn’t have to redo the book to order the sample. I later learned they accept InDesign files, too, as I assumed they would.

Since this was a new program for me, there were a few stumbles, but overall the process wasn’t too difficult. Ordering copies was easy. The benefit of Lulu is they accept PayPal. This is excellent for everyone who doesn’t have a credit card.

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Saturday Morning Briefs

One Self-publishing Success Story

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” “After I clicked “publish” on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program, I sat back and waited for my life to change.

“It was as if I thought self-publishing my teen vampire novel, What Kills Me, would be transformative: kind of like when Prince Adam raises his sword and becomes He-Man. Following six months of writing and spending about $2,000 preparing my ebook for publication, by the power of Amazon, I was now an author.

“Except that putting your book for sale on Amazon feels like dropping a single grain into a bag of rice — you need to paint it green or point it out, or else how will anyone distinguish it from the rest? So nothing happened. And I felt no different.”

Many of us have held the He-Man sword, hoping for instant transformation. We learn quickly it doesn’t happen like that. This article was published in The National Post on December 14, 2012, but I feel it still provides inspiration to those thinking about self-publishing or those who are already on the path. To read the rest of the article, go here Self-publishers Can’t Afford Humility: How my self-published book became a Canadian bestseller in six months.

Eleven Reasons to Love Outlines

I write free style. I tried to be a writer who outlines stories, but I failed miserably even though I know there are many benefits to outlining. My brain is simply not wired that way.

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Saturday Morning Briefs

Keywords Are the Key to Amazon Success

“As marketers, it’s a big part of our job to get more readers, but as you probably have discovered, that’s often a challenge. With so many books and so many titles competing for the same attention, setting yours apart from the pack can be hard.

“On the flip side, what if you have a book with limited attention, because your topic isn’t wildly known? How do you drive attention to a book about something that doesn’t have top of mind awareness? The good news is, it’s totally possible. And I’m going to tell you how!”

To continue, read Amazon Keywords: The Secret to Doubling Your Sales and Pulling in New Readers! by Penny Sansevieri.

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Saturday Morning News Briefs

Shadows in the Stone Permanently Free at Amazon

FREE eBook Read Everywhere

Many years ago, before self-publishing really took, the goal for many writers was to get a book permanently free at Amazon. It was relatively easy back then but for the past six years, Amazon has been reluctant to set books at permanently free. I was told the only way to do it was to set it for free at other vendors and hope (or scheme) customers would tell on you and Amazon would price match it. However, I’ve tried this several times over the years without luck. Until now.

I checked my sales record this week and discovered the book was being sold for free starting on May 9th. Yet, the book still showed a price of $0.99. Confused, I let it play out, watching my books be purchased for an invisible free price sticker. Last night, I checked again, and the Amazon sites finally revealed the true price: FREE.

Why do authors want a book permanently free? In my case, it’s because I want the first book in the series free in hopes the second book will be bought. Next spring, I hope to publish book 3 in the series, and with this boost in ‘sales’, it should do well. At least that is the hoped for outcome.

You can download Shadows in the Stone at Amazon Canada and Amazon US.

Who’s Pointing at Your Book at Amazon

Last week I shared David Gaughran’s experience with Also Boughts at Amazon. Since then, he’s written a post to share more information on this subject from a different angle. Gaughran’s experience in analysing data such as this helps explain some of the mysteries behind how Amazon works. Read more about this in David Gaughran’s post Who’s Pointing at You.

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5 Words that Weaken Your Sentences

Used when needed, these words can be powerful, but when they are used unnecessarily, they can weaken a sentence and undermine the impact the writer wants to deliver.

Identifying these words and testing to see if they are truly necessary is one of the keys to writing powerful sentences.

Some

In general, this determiner means an unspecified amount of something: an object, of people or anything that can be measured or not measured. It’s also used as a pronoun: Some of us left early. The unspecific nature of this word makes it detrimental to sentences when used unnecessarily.

Compare these sentences…

  1. “I want some candy,” said Becky.
  2. “I want candy,” said Becky.
  3. “I want one candy,” said Becky.
  4. “I want your bag of candy,” said Becky.
  5. “I want all the candy in the world,” said Becky.

In this instance, sentences two through five indicate how Becky is feeling and may hint at her personality. Is she indecisive, watching her sugar intake, greedy or unrealistic? By choosing another word or leaving out some altogether, the sentence becomes stronger and reveals more about Becky.

A few more examples of when you can eliminate some

  • Without some additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • Without additional funding, the idea would never fly.
  • I enjoy my day when some family come to visit.
  • I enjoy my day when family comes to visit.

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First 5000 Words Evaluation

Over the years, many writers have asked me to provide an evaluation on a piece of their writing, not a complete manuscript, only a section of it. I knew this was a great idea because I’ve done it myself with my beta readers. I’ve sent a chapter, a scene or a passage and asked, “Does this work?”

The feedback provided by my wonderful, honest and no-holding-back beta readers has helped me grow as a writer. Because of them, I am a better writer today than I was ten years ago. But it’s not a one-way street. I read their material and provide an equally honest evaluation.

This relationship is what every writer should have, but I know they don’t. I didn’t until about 15 years ago. Although I knew my beta readers since the late 1990s, we didn’t get around to reading each other’s work until the mid-2000s.

I understand the difficulty in connecting with a beta reader, so that’s why I’m offering to be that person, to provide an honest, unbiased evaluation of the first 5,000 words of your story.

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