Tag Archives: self-publishing

Advice for the Self-Publisher

Last week, I gave an interview to Inkspokes, a website dedicated to independent authors and their readers.  The interviewer, Nelson Suit, who is one of the editors at Inkspokes, asked me a number of questions about my own experiences as an author who published his own work, but then asked me — as both a writer and a publisher of others’ writing — what would be my advice for folks who were looking at self-publishing. Well, a lot of people who are smarter than I am have given thought to that subject, but after considering the question for a bit, here’s what I came up with:

DK: My two biggest pieces of advice will both seem a bit heretical.

The first is that self-publishing doesn’t mean that you have do everything yourself — or that you should. The chairman of Penguin/Random House doesn’t copyedit every book, nor does he try to design his own covers. He’s your competition. Budget in the time and (if you can) the money to outsource the parts of the work of publishing that you really can’t (or as I said shouldn’t) handle yourself.

The places where you will really serve yourself best by finding someone else to help out? Highly technical processes like print layout and cover design. It’s possible to create your own ebooks if your work is narrative and doesn’t include much in the way of complicated formatting or images.

stillpoint-shlomo

You should absolutely have editors at each of the three stages of editing — development (before the “final” draft is finished); copyediting (after you’re done developing the book but before you’ve had it laid out); and proofreading (after layout/conversion and just before publication). Do you have to hire professionals? I’m not unbiased, I recognize, but I highly recommend it.

Continue reading Advice for the Self-Publisher

Smidget for Smashwords (and MS Word)

My post on how to add social media and review links to your ebook has remained one of my most popular — no surprise, when every author and publisher (and author/publisher) is trying to make it as easy as possible for readers to share what they think about the book!

Someone asked recently if it were possible to use the same technique in a Microsoft Word document that was going to be uploaded to Smashwords and put through the dreaded Meatgrinder. The answer, of course, is yes!

Here’s how you do it:

The first thing you need to do is find images for the buttons. In most cases, the stores/social media companies have such icons available for the purpose on their sites. In my case, my own site (like just about every site out there) has a line of such icons across the bottom of every article; I right-clicked on each icon (that’s control-click on a Mac) and selected Save Image as…, downloading each of the icons to my computer as an image file — in each case either a JPEG file or a PNG file, either of which will work in an ebook.

The larger Amazon and Goodreads images I found on their websites. You could just do a web search for “Amazon icon” or “Goodreads icon” and find the ones that you want. (If you’re uploading to Smashwords, however, don’t include the Amazon icon and link — they’ll kick the book back to you. The only links they’ll allow are back to your own page or to Smashwords.)

To get them into your Word document, go to the Insert menu, and select Photo and then Picture from File…. (I’m using Word for Mac 2011 — I believe it’s the same in most versions of Word created in the last decade.) Find the image files wherever you downloaded them to, and hit the Insert button. The images will now be loaded into your Word doc.

You can play around with formatting them however you like — in a single row, in a tower, in a pyramid, whatever.

Now select each image one by one. The easiest way to do that is to place the cursor down right next to the image, then hold down the Shift key and the left or right arrow key. The icon will now be highlighted (on my computer, it turns bright yellow). Now go up to Insert menu again and select Hyperlink… (or hit Command-k on a Mac or control-k on a Windows computer). Take the hyperlink for that site that you’ve created using the directions I gave above, and then paste them into the field provided in the dialog box and (once again) hit the Insert button. Voilà! You should have a working link.

Now try clicking on the link you’ve just created. Does it behave the way that it should, creating a dialog to post a Tweet, update or review? If not, double-check the code and make sure that everything is as it should be. (The sites all occasionally change their code, and so some of these links may not be workable in a year or five — but they all work now.)

Repeat that for each of the icons, and you should have a working widget. Upload to Smashwords, and watch the book start to sell itself.

Six things you should be including in your ebook (and probably aren't)

Or, How to Use Your Ebooks as Your Best Marketing Platform

Last month I came up with a flash of inspiration: a way to use ebooks to market themselves. After trying it out on a number of my own ebooks, I wrote a post for Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for independent publishers, TheBookDesigner.com.

That post sparked a lot of interest and so I knew I wanted to share it here as well. (Since a number of folks have asked: yes, I will help you do this if you’d like. The directions here should be easy to follow — for someone comfortable getting in under the HTML hood of an ebook. Not everyone is, however, and so I can provide assistance.

I’ve created a service to add these buttons to your ebook; head on over to our new order page for Smidget — the social media widget for ebooks!

Quick: who—aside from you, your immediate family, and your dog—are the people most excited about your book, most ready to talk about it with their friends, and best equipped to talk about your book’s virtues? Anyone?

Well, there are lots of possible answers for each of those questions, but when it comes to identifying the whole bunch, I’d bet it’s a group that you haven’t thought much about: The people who have just finished the last page.

Think about it. If someone has actually finished your book, they’re committed to it. They’re interested in what you have had to say, and it’s fresh in their minds. They are your ideal advocates, your perfect evangelists for generating more excitement about your work and making sure that people hear about it. So what are you doing to harness that potential?

Most self-publishers don’t do much of anything. Maybe they put a bio at the back, and, possibly a link to their web page. Commercial publishers don’t do a whole lot more—they’ll put a list of similar titles the reader might be interested in, and, if they’re very twenty-first century, they’ll hyperlink those titles to the appropriate pages on their site.

Those are all really, really good ideas, and a great way to make the next sale. Is that enough? No, no, no.

What are you going to do to make sure that this title finds its audience? How are you going to harness that band of potential sales reps who’ve just finished your book and really want to talk with someone about it? I was thinking about this recently, and realized that the answer was pretty simple, when you remember that an ebook is simply a specialized web page. You do something like this: Continue reading Six things you should be including in your ebook (and probably aren't)

Six things you should be including in your ebook (and probably aren’t)

Or, How to Use Your Ebooks as Your Best Marketing Platform

Last month I came up with a flash of inspiration: a way to use ebooks to market themselves. After trying it out on a number of my own ebooks, I wrote a post for Joel Friedlander’s wonderful resource for independent publishers, TheBookDesigner.com.

That post sparked a lot of interest and so I knew I wanted to share it here as well. (Since a number of folks have asked: yes, I will help you do this if you’d like. The directions here should be easy to follow — for someone comfortable getting in under the HTML hood of an ebook. Not everyone is, however, and so I can provide assistance. Just email me at editor@stillpointdigital.com head on over to our new order page for Smidget — the social media widget for ebooks!

Quick: who—aside from you, your immediate family, and your dog—are the people most excited about your book, most ready to talk about it with their friends, and best equipped to talk about your book’s virtues? Anyone?

Well, there are lots of possible answers for each of those questions, but when it comes to identifying the whole bunch, I’d bet it’s a group that you haven’t thought much about: The people who have just finished the last page.

Think about it. If someone has actually finished your book, they’re committed to it. They’re interested in what you have had to say, and it’s fresh in their minds. They are your ideal advocates, your perfect evangelists for generating more excitement about your work and making sure that people hear about it. So what are you doing to harness that potential?

Most self-publishers don’t do much of anything. Maybe they put a bio at the back, and, possibly a link to their web page. Commercial publishers don’t do a whole lot more—they’ll put a list of similar titles the reader might be interested in, and, if they’re very twenty-first century, they’ll hyperlink those titles to the appropriate pages on their site.

Those are all really, really good ideas, and a great way to make the next sale. Is that enough? No, no, no.

What are you going to do to make sure that this title finds its audience? How are you going to harness that band of potential sales reps who’ve just finished your book and really want to talk with someone about it? I was thinking about this recently, and realized that the answer was pretty simple, when you remember that an ebook is simply a specialized web page. You do something like this: Continue reading Six things you should be including in your ebook (and probably aren’t)

Spreadsheets to Galleys: How to Budget Your Self-Published Book

New Year, New Spreadsheets by SaraE

After I wrote recently about why self-publishers need to use professional editors, a number of folks emailed and commented, asking just how much such an endeavor would cost. It was a tough question to answer — I know what I would charge for many services, but it’s difficult to say what the market cost might be, especially for services that I myself don’t regularly provide. Understandably, some correspondents were anxious, wondering if they should jump in, not knowing what the whole process might cost.

This week on PBS.org, Miral Sattar, CEO of the publishing-services marketplace site BiblioCrunch, posted what I found to be a quite thorough rundown of what it might cost to put a self-published book through as professional as possible a publishing process.

She posited a fairly typical book, weighing in at around 70,000 words. She made no further stipulations — fiction vs. non-fiction, for example, or thoroughly workshopped, researched, and rewritten vs. hastely pulled together. The style, genre, and initial quality of the prose do make a huge difference in terms of the kind and amount of editorial work that needs to be done, obviously. Ms. Sattar was trying to explore a median case.

She based her standards and pricing on the Editorial Freelancers Association’s posted rate sheet, which is as close to an industry standard as exists.

Here in brief is Sattar’s rundown (each entry has a low and a high end estimate):

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Seven Deadly Myths and Three Inspired Truths About Book Editing

Reworking, rewriting, removing by mpclemons, used through a Creative Commons license

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Joel Friedlander’s wonderful self-publishing resource site TheBookDesigner.com; it sparked a lot of great conversation and feedback, and it occurred to me that the information might be of interest to a more general readership. If you’ve ever groaned at typos, continuity errors, plot holes or just plain bad writing in a book or blog post, here’s my prescription:

I’ve edited lots of books — children’s books, fantasy, memoirs, self-help, textbooks, and especially books about myths. Myths? I like myths. Heck, I love myths — if we’re talking about myths as “great poems, [that] point infallibly through things and events to the ubiquity of a presence or eternity that is whole and entire in each.”*

If we’re talking about myths in the more negative sense of “untruths,” however, I like them less — especially if they’re myths about my profession and vocation.

Myths and Misinformation about Book Editing

There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about editors and what they do. Here are seven of those myths that I’d like to clear up:

Myth #1: A good writer doesn’t need an editor.

In these days of self-publication and “service” publishers — who take a percentage of sales for letting the author do all of the work — you hear this a lot. “I’ve slaved over this manuscript for years. I checked it through a hundred times. Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar comes up clean. It’s ready for publication.”

Want an example of a professional book from a world-class author who convinced her publishers to put out the book as-is, without a deep developmental edit (see #3 below)? Look at J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Pretty good book, and it’s sold millions of copies, absolutely — but it’s at least a hundred pages longer than it needs to be. There’s needless repetition, uneven pacing, and side-plots that go nowhere. You’ll notice that the previous and subsequent books in the bestselling series were much shorter and much tighter. Rowling worked more closely with her editors.

Here’s the fact: if you want your book to be strong, clean, professional, and appealing, for it to affect the readers as you want it to affect them, you need to have it professionally edited. There’s never been a text written that didn’t need editing. By the time you’ve spent weeks, months, or years on a project, you can’t see the words any more. You can see the ideas — the concepts, arguments, plot, and characters — but not every word that’s on the page, or that isn’t, or where there are gaping holes in logic or jumps in style. An editor will. It’s what they’re paid to do. Continue reading Seven Deadly Myths and Three Inspired Truths About Book Editing