Chele Cooke

Tag Archives: Self-publishing

Kobo Podcast

Two weeks ago, I recorded a podcast with Kobo Writing Life’s Diego Marano and Mark Lefebvre. The podcast went live on Kobo Writing Life this afternoon.

http://kobowritinglife.com/2013/09/23/kobo-writing-life-podcast-episode-006-with-chele-cooke/

I’ve never been very good at talking about my own experiences. I can write them down, sure, but talking about them is a different kettle of very scary fish. It doesn’t particularly help that I loath hearing my own voice on recordings.

That being said, I’m very proud of how well this went. Mark and Diego were so cheerful and easy to talk to that it felt like I was simply on another Skype call.

I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed recording.

Dead and Buryd available for Pre-Orders

Today is a very good day. Today is one of those days where I want to jump up and down, scream a little, and generally hug everyone I meet. (You can imagine what I’m going to be like on the actual release date.)

Not only will I be receiving my print proof copy of Dead and Buryd from Create Space, the first time I have seen and held a physical copy of my book, but also, today is the day that Dead and Buryd has gone live on Kobo for pre-orders.

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dead-and-buryd

Kobo have been absolutely wonderful to me, and I never would have imagined that a global company would be so personable. The Kobo Writing Life team are kind, helpful, and completely understand how important this time is to an author.

Yes, we all know that without the authors these companies wouldn’t make any money because they’d have no books to sell, but Kobo have really gone above and beyond when it comes to connecting with the authors and ensuring that they get the best.

Anyway, enough gushing on that subject, and more gushing on this one…

DBKobo

Look how pretty it is!

So yes… Dead and Buryd is officially available for pre-order!

I’ll put up photos of the proof copy when I receive it.

eBook Formatting, Part 2 – Building it Up Again

Following the first section of eBook formatting in a HTML method, in which we used Microsoft Word to strip out a lot of our odd symbols, and to find the italics in our book, it is at this point that we move into Notepad++.

(As mentioned in the previous segment, Notepad++ is a free program. If you have another HTML creation program, this will work just as well.) I also used Guido Henkel’s Formatting guide, which is where much of this comes from and I highly recommend checking out. However, I have added a few details of my own.

 

If you’ve ever used HTML before, you’ll know that horrific moment when 60% of your punctuation has turned to a list of symbols. It’s frustrating, especially when you have to go back and change it all. As pointed out in the previous section, each symbol has it’s own HTML code. Having been through your manuscript in Word and made sure all the symbols are consistent throughout, we can now replace them with the HTML code.

Yes… your manuscript will look like a giant mess once all this is done.

So, what I did, following Henkel’s guide, is to copy my entire manuscript into Notepad on a fresh project. I put a few lines space at the top (we’ll get to that) and then I set about replacing all the symbols with their code counterparts. Like the normal notepad, you will notice that writing does not conform to the page. Each paragraph is contained on a single line. Keep it that way, it will make it so much easier in a minute.

Replacing the symbols is done in the exact same way as we did in Word. Highlight the symbol you want to change, click on Search and then Replace. The symbol you’ve highlighted should already be in the ‘find what’ box, but if not, post it in. In the ‘replace with’ box, put the code of the symbol you are replacing.

There are a number of extensive lists online for all the symbols and their HTML code. Simply google ‘HTML Symbol codes’ and you’ll get a dozen lists.

Hit replace all. You will notice that all your “ are replaced with “ , for example. This is good! We no longer want the actual symbols, just their codes. Keep doing this with all the symbols we spoke about in the last segment (and any specials you have in your manuscript.)

By now, your manuscript will look a bit of a mess, sections of code in the middle of words where there had been an apostrophe, etc.

HTML will not automatically make paragraphs, so we have to put that in. This can be done all at once, once again using the Replace function.

In the ‘find what’ box, put the following code: ^(.+)$

In the ‘replace with’ box, put: < p >$1< /p > (without the spaces in the < p> and < /p >)

Hit replace all and each line of your manuscript will now have < p > at the beginning and < /p > at the end.

At this point, I saved my work as a .html file and opened it up in my internet browser. This allowed me to preview my progress each time I hit save. Just refresh the browser page, and you’ll see each change you’ve made since your last save.

Playing with the width of the browser, the paragraphs will shift to the size of the screen, so I could actually view my work is if it were on an eBook… only, with scrolling down instead of pressing ‘next page’.

So now that I had a rough outline, I could actually start making it look pretty.

There are two methods of using HTML. One is to use <p style=”etc etc etc”> at the beginning of each line… boring and annoying in my opinion, and the other is to use a style segment, where all of the style elements are listed at the top of the document, a source section, and then we call on that source throughout the rest of the work. This method minimises the amount of code throughout the manuscript.

notepad

By the time I took this screenshot, I’d already added my copyright and dedication pages, so the actual manuscript begins below that, but the point is the style section at the top. You’ll notice that I have a lot of different segments. This is so that I can style every section exactly the way I want it.

The first one I looked at was the general paragraph tag, P.

Because I want my eBook to look as much like a regular book as possible, I need to design it. Reading the style section, you’ll notice that nowhere have I put a font name. This is because many people have their own preferences when it comes to font. Some like serif, others sans serif. They will have these choices inputted into their eReader, and if that’s what they are most comfortable reading, why change it?

You will also notice that the font size is not done in 12 point, or 10 point, etc. People change the size of the text on their screen, so instead, we’re going to use ’em’ and work from that.

My layout for a general paragraph is as such:

p {text-indent: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 0.2em; text-align:justify;}

This gives me:

format201

That’s great. It’s justified, it has a nice indent for the beginning of the line, and it gives a gap between paragraphs that isn’t obvious, but just makes it a little easier to read. (I’ve scaled this down from the original a bit.)

However, I’m a stickler for proper layout, and I want my first line to not have an indent (as you’d have in print books.)

I created a new paragraph segment, p.first – This is to be coded in for each time it is the first paragraph in the chapter, or after a scene break.

p.first {text-indent:0em, margin-bottom: 0.2em; text-align:justify;}

Everything is exactly the same as our general paragraph style, except for the indent, which is now zero. A zero indent is also very important for when you want to centre items, like your chapter titles, for example.

Because I need to link this paragraph to the source style, I need to note it. So, I go to the first paragraph and where I’ve currently got < p >, I change it for <p class=”first”> – The < /p > at the end doesn’t need changing. I went through the entire manuscript and inputted this code for each ‘first’ paragraph.

format202

Now, my first paragraph doesn’t have an indent, but the rest still do.

When moving on to chapter titles, I needed to deviate a little from Henkel’s guide. I’m one of those people who like the chapter number to be in a different style from the title. Here is an example of mine currently:

format203

This means that I needed two different styles, so I created p.chapter for the chapter number and p.name for the title.

p.chapter {text-indent:0em; text-align: center; page-break-before: always; font-size:2.5em; font-weight:bold; margin-top: 5em;}

p.name{text-indent:0em; text-align: center;  font-size:1.5em; margin-top: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 2em;}

This is the great thing about using em for your font size. It means that you can make text larger without specifying a specific size, only specifying it’s relationship to the general paragraph. In the chapter number’s case 2.5 times the size of the text. In the title, 1.5 times the size. I also added < em > and </em> around the chapter title.

Also, check out the margins for top and bottom. These give the spaces above and below your title. By putting 5em in a top margin for the chapter, it means it will start further down the page… like a real book. Also, ensure that every chapter beginning has ‘page-break-before:always;’ – This means that the chapter will start on a new page, no matter what.

When centering text, some eReaders prefer a span class. So, as well as putting the text-align:center; in the paragraph class, I also created a span class (as seen in the original image…)

span.centered {text-indent: 0em; text-align:center;}

Whenever I wanted to centre text, I had to make sure that I had the P class and the Span class both in there. In this case…

<span class=”centered”><p class=”chapter”>1</p>

<p class=”name”><em>Buryd in the East</em></p></span>

I didn’t close the span until after the name. You can do it on every line, but it’s actually not needed until the end of the entire segment you need to center.

Inputting all of this into the manuscript takes time, and each time you think you’ve created every style class you’ll need, you’ll find something else you want to look different… like your dedication, or your copyright. It is just a case of playing with it until you are happy. Keep saving, keep refreshing on your browser, and like me, you’ll see your manuscript really take form.

eBook Formatting, Part 1 – Stripping it Down

As Dead and Buryd is my first novel, and the transformation from scribbles to published book is coming entirely from my own pocket, I decided that while I would need professional assistance for things like editing and cover design, there were some elements that I could complete myself for little cost. One of the biggest elements of this is formatting.

There are people (admittedly my editor included) who suggest that formatting should be shipped out to a company. I have been told that you can always spot a self-published book, not by the writing, but by the formatting.

Of course, there are elements that will immediately give away my book as a self-published novel. The fact that I don’t have that little recognisable Publisher’s logo on my Copyright page, for example. However, the formatting of the text does not need to be one of those elements.

So, I decided to format my book myself. I’ve spent over a decade taking part in online writing and the creation of forums for Play-by-Post RPGs, I’ve got a decent enough handle on HTML (one of the methods of formatting a manuscript for eBook publication,) and I figured ‘why not?’ If I crash and burn spectacularly, I can always ship it out to a company later.

Some people will suggest Scrivener for formatting, and if someone has a good enough grasp of Scrivener, there is absolutely no reason why it can’t create a fantastic looking eBook. I, however, do not have a good enough grasp of Scrivener, so I decided on the HTML route.

Through David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital, I found an absolutely wonderful tutorial on HTML formatting of an eBook. Guido Henkel’s Take Pride in Your eBook Formatting is informative and detailed. However, there are a few elements that I feel were missed. One of which, as I will go into detail of in the next part, I feel is very important. However, I would recommend that anyone considering doing their own formatting take the time to read this 10 section guide.

format1

As you can see from the image on the right, I’ve already done quite a bit of my formatting. This is from one evening’s work. A few weeks ago, I spent an evening doing a test run, which drastically sped up the process when I went about it the second time around. Don’t be fooled, even if it’s difficult the first time, it will get much easier once you are confident in what you’re doing.

For my formatting, I am using Microsoft Word, Notepad++ and Calibre, the second two of which are free programs available to download. There are better programs that you can pay for, but actually, I think both of these do the job fantastically.

This section (first of 3) will be looking exclusively at Microsoft Word.

If you’ve been writing in Word, you may realise (or may not, depending on your knowledge of Word) that Word formats your work. Even when you haven’t inserted anything, it’s all formatted. What we need to do is strip that down so that it’s nothing. No formatting, nothing but your text.

As Guido Henkel points out in his guide, you first need to ensure that all of your symbols are the same as well. ” for example, is different to “. … is different to … . If you just have …, where you have typed a full stop/period three times, there is a chance that this will spread over two lines. We don’t want that. We want it all in one place. You wouldn’t expect a comma to be on the next line from the word it comes after, for example.

Stripping away these discrepancies now will make life much easier further down the road.

The first thing to do is to determine which symbols we are looking at. This, admittedly, will require looking through your text. There is no magical way to find out which symbols you are going to be playing with. If your book is set in present day England, you might use the £ sign. You may use the & sign at some point. These are all individual to the book, but must be consistent throughout.

From searching through my text, I found that I would require the following symbols.

“ ” … — ’ ‘

Looks rather ridiculous, doesn’t it, having to search through a manuscript for these symbols we use so often, but type them out on a computer screen.

” ” … – ‘ ‘

Vastly different, and not nearly as attractive in a book.

in HTML, these symbols (the first set) all have names.

“ =  &ldquo;
” = &rdquo;
… = &hellip;
— – &mdash;
’ – &rsquo;
‘ – &lsquo;

So, to clean up the text, we must make sure that every symbol is the same. Easiest way to do it… Highlight and then replace.

Highlight an instance of the symbol you want. Let’s go with the Ellipses, and use the replace tab to replace all with the actual ellipsis sign.

format101

Going through is actually rather simple at this point. By clicking Replace All, you don’t even need to search through the document one at a time. Unless you were planning on having an ellipsis, you won’t have … anywhere. The same will be true of the other symbols.

The only one to be especially careful of is the dash. There are different lengths of dash. You have — emdash, ‒ figure dash, – endash, and ― horizontal bar. Each of these has it’s own symbol, and is not simply a hyphen. Make sure that all of your ‘longer’ dashes are the same. Select one and make sure it is the same all the way through. You may need to search manually for this one, I know I did.

 

The last thing to do before moving over to Notepad++ is  to highlight all of the italics and wrap them in tags. This, unfortunately, will not word for bold font. That is something that must be done through a style element, which I will point out when we’re looking at the pure HTML.

To wrap your italics for HTML, we will be using < em > and < /em > (I’ve placed spaces in there so that it won’t turn the and into an italic)

Finding italic in Word is actually simple and can be done using the find function.

format102

 Go into the find function and click the More >> button on the bottom left. This will extend the box down, and you will see a Format Button (circled in red on the image.) Click that and select ‘Font’. This will bring up the new box, in which you can select Italic, and click OK.

Now, underneath the search box, you’ll see ‘Font: Italic’. Delete everything from the search box where you usually type a word to find, and click ‘Find Next’. This will take you to your first instance of italicised text. Wherever you find italicised text, put < em> at the beginning and < / em> at the end.

Save a copy (I called mine Dead and Buryd Formatting) and we’re ready to move on to Notepad++.

 

The next installment of this will be up very shortly, along with a post looking at examples of self-published and traditionally published formatting.

POD Experience

I’m thrilled to have Jaclyn Aurore as my guest poster today. Jaclyn has a number of self-published books available, and some very worthwhile experience with Print on Demand.

My Experience with Print on Demand Publishing

There is nothing easy about writing a novel, or going through the publishing process, whether self-publishing, landing an agent, or hitting the Publishing House jackpot directly.

I thought I’d suffered enough trying to edit and revise my work for the twelfth time over; I finally got it to a place where I felt confident enough to share. After sharing it though, I quickly realized it needed more editing and finally after countless edits, headaches, and hair-pulling stress, I deemed it worthy of self-publication.

I can’t talk much about the Amazon Kindle or KDP Select process because, honestly, I left that in my husband’s charge. He’s the expert on all things social media and Internet, so that was the easiest decision I made in the entire process. He sent my manuscript back to me, asking me to reformat it as per the Kindle Guidelines, but that was easy enough. To save you time, it might be easier to know these guidelines prior to writing your novel in the first place, but it’s just standard Word Document practice, for example, indent paragraphs and insert page breaks between chapters.

After that, the natural next step was to figure out print on demand. E-publishing might be taking over the business, but there is nothing like seeing your own book in print. It makes you feel official. So the first thing I did was talk to a friend who’d done this before. She said, the process will not happen overnight, so have patience.

That was my first bit of disappointment, I suppose. I’d hoped to use CreateSpace and upload my manuscript, possibly design a cover, and voila – print on demand. Sadly, this is not the case. First thing you need to know, is that CreateSpace is a free service, you can set up your account, upload your work, all completely for free. However, it’s not very user-friendly and there isn’t a lot of online support. Just have a little patience, and try not to pull out all your hair at once… it’s a lengthy process after all.

I’m going to offer advice about the site that I learned the hard way. Hopefully, you can speed through the process more efficiently than I ever did. The general CreateSpace process is:

  1. Upload your document;
  2. Design a cover;
  3. Wait for approval for said cover;
  4. Proof your work;
  5. Approve work, set price, submit to Amazon.

This last step is without a doubt, the easiest step, and if you don’t already have an eBook established on Amazon, you can do this in the fifth step as well.

Going through the first four steps multiple times over, you’ll become a pro too, but maybe I can lessen the work for you. First thing you need to know, is that CreateSpace is an affiliate of Amazon.com – meaning, it’s American. So, if you are not from the US or living in the US, then you need to get a US tax number. This is a long process itself, so you might as well start now even if you choose not to sell your work right away, at least you’ll have the number. CreateSpace has a step by step process including documents and forms needed, just do a search on the site for “ITIN or EIN Process.”

Next, before uploading your manuscript to CreateSpace, make sure that you reduce all unnecessary spacing. It costs money to print, so the more pages your book is, the more it costs to print it. The more it costs to print it, the more you’ll have to charge in order to see any kind of profit on it. The more you charge, the less people will be inclined to purchase. The end format will be a paperback book after all, not hardback. People won’t pay more than $15-20 for a paperback novel at most, so if it costs CreateSpace that much to print it, you’ll not see any profit or any sales. So reduce your page count any way possible.

Ways to reduce your page count without reducing word count are easy enough. First, pick a standard font, like Times New Roman point 10 to 12. Second, single-space your document. Third, get rid of any unnecessary blank space, but don’t feel pressured to get rid of all blank space, as some is probably necessary.

Once that’s done, upload it to CreateSpace. This takes a few minutes, and during this time, the site prompts you to create a cover while you wait. Don’t. Trust me on this, just wait it out.

You will receive an email once your document has been uploaded so if you need to go do other things while you wait, do them, just don’t touch the CreateSpace site.

Once you’re there, with your document uploaded, you’re still not ready to create a cover. As is, your upload is likely in the format of 8.5×11 inches. This is the size of a stack of paper, or a text book. It’s not likely what you’re going for when you think of ‘novel.’ They recommend some standard formats but other than dimensions, they don’t really say what any will look like… this is trial and error on your part. I’d recommend the 6×9 inch format. It’s as close as you’re going to get to “Trade Paperback” format. Choose a smaller dimension if you want, but the smaller you go, the thicker your book will be, and thus, more costs.

Choose the recommended format dimensions (either 6×9 or something else) and click the convert button. CreateSpace then converts your document into the correct size. You’ll have to wait again, but it’s worth it. Once this goes through, you’ll see if there are any errors with the new measurements. I had some because I had headers and footers that extended across the page.

To fix these errors, CreateSpace gives you the word document in the right dimensions (i.e., 6×9) and now you save that version to your desktop and manipulate that. I had to change my headers and footers and re-upload that version, again having to wait.

Once you get an error-free upload in normal book dimensions, then you can begin the tedious process of designing a cover. This is pretty easy as far as ‘user-friendly’ goes, but still time consuming.

One small piece of advice, if you choose to upload an image, your image needs to be the dimension of the book (i.e., 6×9) as well as 300dpl. Play with the formatting of your image in Paint or some Photoshop program, before uploading. It’s easier than it sounds. If your image is bigger than the dimensions, and has better resolution than the minimum, you’re set, it’ll adjust for you.

Once your cover is designed, there’s a 24 hour waiting period for approval. Therefore, make sure you have everything exactly how you want it before submitting, because you can’t make any changes again until after the approval. Meaning that the next day you get your approval, make more changes, resubmit, it’s another 24 hours before second approval, and so on.

Once you’re comfortable with your format, dimensions, upload, and cover, and it’s been approved by CreateSpace, you can then proof your book both online, and in print. I’d recommend proofing online first, see what you can see and fix what you can fix. If you notice any errors in your document anywhere, you’ll have to fix the document, and re-upload, starting the process again. New upload, new cover, new 24 hour waiting period. The cover will be saved from the last time you did it, unless you change the dimensions of the book. So if your dimensions are the same, you can skip through the cover process, and possibly the 24 hour waiting period since you didn’t resubmit your cover. This, surprisingly, I can’t remember.

I do know that each time you submit a new document you have to go through the cover process again, even if it’s just to hit ‘next’ a bunch of times, and then wait for approval from CreateSpace. That wait time may or may not be 24 hours… the good news is that it won’t be any more than 24 hours.

If you’re confident in your upload, and after viewing it online, it looks good, order a proof. This will cost you the charge of printing, but you need to see how it looks in your hands, to see what your customers will see if they purchase it. It’s worth the money. You have the option of ordering up to 5 proofs at a time, but you only need one. This is for you only, not your family or friends, not free giveaways on your blog, just you. It has the word “PROOF” stamped in it, so it’s not something you want to give away.

Once you receive your print copy in the mail, go over it. Literally read it cover to cover. You’ll be surprised what stands out, that you never noticed before.

If you have to fix anything between the covers, you basically start from scratch, if there is something you dislike about the cover itself, then you can skip step one, and go right to step two, bearing in mind that you’ll have to wait again for approval.

At least now you’re closer to the end goal – selling your work in physical form. If and when you get the book to where you want it to be, approve the proof. This brings you to step 5. Approve work, set price, submit to Amazon.

This last step is easy, it’s just clicking buttons as you walk through the steps. CreateSpace does this for you. The problem is that if you don’t have that US tax number, you can’t do anything beyond “approve proof.”

Once you approve the proof, you can buy as many copies as you want for yourself, and give them away, sure, but you can’t sell anything without that US tax number, which means more waiting.

It took me eight weeks to get that US tax number, with that, I submitted to CreateSpace, set the price for my books and clicked a button to send off to Amazon. It took one week to see my ‘printed books’ for sale on Amazon but I had to keep looking on Amazon myself. There was never a notification sent to me advising that my books were now available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

They are not available on Amazon.ca – CreateSpace is independent of the Canadian Amazon, so I have to direct my fellow Canadians to the US site. Overall, this is the only complaint I have with CreateSpace. Everything else, though tedious, is worth it in the long run because they are offering me a service absolutely free. I don’t have to mass produce my books, purchase them all, and sell them myself. I’m out absolutely no money. Just time…

Lots of time…


JaclynAuroreJaclyn Aurore is the author of young adult fiction books The Starsville Saga: Starting Over, Standing Up, Giving In, Hanging On, Leaving Behind, and the stand alone epic, My Life Without Me.

Her books have been described as “Wonderfully human”, “Evokes the awkwardness of teenage life perfectly”, “Heart-wrenching and heartwarming at the same time”, “Twilight without the vampires”, and “Nothing at all like Twilight”.

She is a wife and mother, and lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two children and two dogs.

See more of Jaclyn and check out ‘Starting Over’

http://www.jaclynaurore.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JaclynAurore

Starting Over on Goodreads
Starting Over (Paperback) on Amazon.com

30 DBC: Day 22

Day 22 – Favorite book you own

wool

Because these 30 days might get somewhat repetitive due to the number of ‘favourite books’ questions, not to mention that I own pretty much all of the books I have written about so far (I don’t own 50 Shades, for obvious reasons) I decided to go with a book that is currently resonating with me.

Further back in my blog, you may have seen my review of Hugh Howey’s Wool. I adored it. It is an amazing story full of mystery and intrigue, but even that is not why I chose Wool for today’s selection.

I chose Wool because of what it stands for, for me. Wool was originally a self-published book, and while 50 Shades also stands as one of those record breaking self-published gone traditionally published works, Hugh Howey, for me, is far more of a role model to emulate.

Hugh was smart. Instead of signing over everything to a publisher the moment he hit popularity, he kept his eBook rights. He managed his book professionally, and continues to put out stellar content. Hugh sold the print rights to his book, bringing a larger audience to a book which was already selling in the hundreds of thousands online. He reaped the benefits of traditional publishing without giving up his rights, and his control.

For me, Hugh Howey is an independent publisher to be watched, because, from his writing to his business sense for his brand, he has made wonderful decisions.

Not to even mention that my hardback copy of Wool looks absolutely wonderful, and I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

We are Not Alone, by Glenn Muller

I am lucky to be joined by Glenn Muller from Ontario, Canada. Author of Torque, a crime thriller novel, Glenn traversed the self-published path to publication, and assures us that just because it has the word ‘self’ or ‘independent’ in it, independent publishing does not mean you do not have to do it alone with his introduction to self-publishing.

We Are Not Alone.

Old notions die hard, and the one that self-publishing and vanity presses are two sides of the same coin lingers on. Yet writers have known for some time that digital technology has created a paradigm shift in the publishing industry, and those willing to embrace the new tools have found success away from the traditional path to publication.

Most authors like to work alone but the smart ones realize that, at some point, they will need help with their masterpiece. This point has always been the fork in the road between the traditional publisher and the vanity press; authors fortunate enough to attract the attention of an agent, editor, or publishing house would benefit from professional resources while the rest would have to send their best package to a printing house, pay for a trunk load of copies, and rely on family and friends to buy a product that often lacked professional polish.

That fork is still in the road but, thanks to the Internet, another path called self-publication has appeared that gives authors easy access to a range of editors, cover artists, proof-readers, publicists, reviewers, and readers. Having successfully traveled that path, I can confidently say that we are no longer alone in our endeavours.

Self-publishing is not solo-publishing; it is a route to publication where the author maintains the most control over the book they have worked so hard to create. Although numerous pages could be written on the pros and cons of self vs traditional publishing, this article is about the support available to DIY writers. Similar to company directors, these authors hand-pick the people they’d like to work with and there is no limit to the number of people they may ask to join their team.

Once a writer has wrestled their scribbling into reasonably cohesive chapters, it is time for another opinion. While family and friends may be willing to help, it is too early in the game for them – you need more qualified eyes, and for that I suggest a writer’s forum where you can post some or all of your book for others to read and make suggestions for improvement. You can make some excellent friends and contacts, here, and if you play your cards right (return the favour), you can get some or all of your previewed work edited for free. If the work needs a deeper massage, editors for hire are just a click away.

After heeding the editorial comments and polishing your work, the next phase is publication. The e-book publisher and distributor, Smashwords, has an excellent free tutorial on how to format your manuscript for e-book publication, and their simple to use software makes it easy to attain a professional appearance. If you are not able to create your own cover art, there are plenty of graphic artists willing to help at very reasonable cost. For physical books, CreateSpace is another free resource with plenty of support available.

Once you have your manuscript formatted, there are many online retailers – Smashwords, Kobo, Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, etc. – who will not charge for distributing your book; they just take a percentage from each sale and send you royalty cheques.

Then comes the final, and some say the toughest, phase. Marketing. While traditional publishers will have a budget for promoting a book, it is still up to the author to do most of the legwork. This is where family and all of your friends, old and new, come into play. You can pay for publicity in various forms, but the best promotion is word of mouth and, here, social media rules. By now, you will have made friends with many other writers, editors, etc. and by promoting each other’s work through media like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, the self-published author effectively expands their potential audience.

So, the next time you see a book labeled as “self-published” keep in mind that the author not only worked extremely hard to bring it to life, but did so with support from a network of skilled and motivated people. We are passionate about what we do, and we are not alone.

For more from Glenn, check out Torque.

After nine years on the road, driving 
instructor Chas Fenn knows how to avoid 
accidental death - it's the intentional 
kind that gives him trouble.

The intentional kind is the seductive 
Brittany Reis who plans to carve a niche 
in the street drug trade with a new 
hallucinogen. When her lab technician 
suddenly dies, Reis is forced to partner 
with an aging con man who sees the 
opportunity as a last chance for a big payoff.

Necessary Expense

Wherever you go, there will be people giving you different opinions on what you need to do in order to self-publish a book. It’s like anything in this world, opinions will differ depending on who you talk to. There will be those people who want to redo their bathroom and do every part themselves, right down to moving the pipes for the bath, and then there will be those people who hire someone in even to do the painting and to design the colour scheme. When it comes to what is a necessary expense, the decision lies totally with you and your skills.

Having loitered around a number of writing communities for a while, I have come to realise that the decisions on what to pay money for are, and should remain, completely in the hands of the individual author. If you feel that you are an unbiased enough person to edit your own work, that’s great, or if you have the skills on Photoshop to create your own cover art, go for it. If, however, you don’t feel that confidence, or even if you’re unsure on your skills then hiring someone else is always an option. It is all about deciding what expenses are necessary for you to put out the best product that you can. Even if you decide to do it for this book, it doesn’t mean you have to tie to every one. Perhaps spending that money on an edit this time will make you realise that next time, you don’t need it.

I was really lucky when it came to my cover art. I knew that I wanted something professional, and by chance, through my twitter, I spotted a very talented digital artist showing off her most recent creation. I knew said artist from a website we have both frequented in the past, and so I checked out the rest of her work. Safe to say, I loved it, and I knew that she would be able to create the look I was going for with Dead and Buryd. So, we emailed back and forth, we discussed what I wanted and when would be a good time for creation, etc, and on Friday, I paid the first installment of the commission. We’ve decided that the finished piece will be completed for mid-July. But more on that in another post when I have more to say about the progress.

From an early stage of writing my novel Dead and Buryd, I knew that an editor would be a necessary expense for me, and in my case, it was never a question over whether I would hire an editor or not, the question would be when to hire an editor.

As soon as I decided that I would be self-publishing, I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors. As a currently unpublished author, this was an expense of £40 for the year. Once I have published, it will go up, but we don’t need to worry about that right now. I wanted to be able to talk to people who have been through this, who have seen the pitfalls and who know the best places to look for hired help.

So, the matter then became, when do I start using the expertise of these people? When am I ready?

Dead and Buryd had been through numerous self-edits and half way through a rewrite when I decided to start looking for an editor. The truth of the matter is, when it comes to editing, is that the more you do yourself, the more you will save money. Many editors will charge by the hour, and so how much they invoice you will depend on how much work they feel your manuscript needs. If you send them a first draft, they will spend much more time going through it than they would need to after numerous edits by the Author, and when editing is an expensive business and you’re paying for it from your own pocket, you want to ensure that you’re being as cost effective as possible.

I find, in self-editing, the problem isn’t in taking out the glaring mistakes, it’s that every time I go through my manuscript, for each ten mistakes I take out, I somehow manage to put a new and completely different mistake in. By going over my editing over and over again, I can make these mistakes as minimal as possible, but I know for a fact that I will never catch every one. Add on to that the many many mistakes and/or stylistic choices that I just can’t see in my own text, and you can see why I decided that an editor was right for me.

So, I started looking. I went through the ALLi’s contacts list for people who had put their skills down as editor. Just like when you’re looking for an agent to submit to, checking out the person’s website is vital. On their website, you will find all the information you need about whether they are right to consider submitting to, and just like Agents, editors will have reasons outlines as to why they may not accept you. Some editors won’t take fantasy/sci-fi for example. You could try, but would you really want an editor, someone who has so much influence and input into your work, to be working in a genre they’re not familiar with, or don’t enjoy?

Once I had a list of editors who I liked the look of, I started breaking down their services. Some only offer proof reading, for example. Now, I could do that for Dead and Buryd, I’m pretty happy with it, but this is my first book, and I made the decision that I wanted to pay the extra expense and be as thorough as possible. So, I decided n a service that would not only offer a comprehensive copy edit, but also include elements such as characterisation and plot dynamic.

This will not result in my entire story changing. In fact, I have been assured that, should my editor think I need any substantial rewrites, he will halt editing and send the manuscript back to me, effectively pausing the process until I have completed rewrites. This is where I feel these things become important. When it comes to editing, you shouldn’t be looking for someone to rewrite your book for you. You should be looking for someone who will stand over your shoulder, point out the mistakes, and let you fix them.

Upon finding someone that I was relatively sure would be a good fit, I contacted them. Quotes were not given until contact, so I sent off a cheerful ‘PLEASE HELP ME, OH GOD SAVE ME‘ email. Kevin got back to me incredibly quickly, and was enthusiastic about my project, and confirmed that he was free to take projects on the dates I had requested.

Here is where I became positive that I had found a professional person, someone that could really benefit me in my self-publishing. Kevin asked me to send him three chapters of my work so that he could perform a sample edit. This would be where he would work for one hour and see how much he got through. By that, he could create a price quote based on the total word count of my manuscript. I sent off the first three chapters (not the prologue, as the tone is slightly different for that chapter.) Kevin got it back to me within twenty-four hours, giving me a good 2,000 word sample of his work. He had not changed a single thing, but instead used the tracking system to allow me to make the edits I agreed with.

I admit, I was incredibly lucky. Kevin wrote that he was able to work quickly and that he was intrigued with the story. On seeing his edits, I agreed with practically every change he suggested. It was in reading through his edits that I knew that I had found someone I could work well with, someone who understood my writing and appreciated it for what it was. For me, this is very important. I am not looking for someone to turn me from a mongrel into a pedigree best of show winner. I am looking for that person who sees me as a mongrel and will make sure I am being showcased as the best damn mongrel I can be.

My manuscript is being handed over to Kevin on the 15th of June. From further discussions about the book, I have one more edit to go through before I send it off, checking the endings of my chapters to ensure that they have the necessary hook to draw readers onto the next chapter.

I’m feeling incredibly confident, and I am 100% positive that paying for my art and my editing are necessary expenses for this project.

This isn’t a Book, it’s a Business

Anyone who has ever met my mother could swear that when I was born, mum wasn’t hoping for a bundle of joy in a girl or a boy, she was hoping for a spreadsheet. My mum is a software engineer by trade, an excel addict by… well, I don’t know what it was by, but she is one. Ever since I was a teenager, any money I borrowed or bills I needed to pay toward (like the phone bill) was added to my spreadsheet, we each got one, like an unwanted Christmas present.

I say all this, not because I’m waiting to get a phone call which will confirm that my mother actually reads my blog (if you are, hi mum!) but so that you understand when I say that I am not my mother, and while I inherited quite a few of her traits, her skills with finances is not one of them.

When entering publishing, or indeed self-publishing, I am sure that many people have the dream of making a million. We may not admit it, we may cling to our craft and, like a hipster, declare with ferocity that only the sell outs make money… it’s a passion, man. But, in the end, I suspect most of us have had that fleeting dream.

However, while that dream is still in the corner of our minds, it does not pay for printed copies, nor does it pay for an editor or cover designer. Those millions we dream of will not help us in getting the first book on virtual shelves, nor help us in managing any money that does start coming in.

Unfortunately, there is not much I can say to help on this matter, whether you are frugal for six months in the hopes of hiring an editor, or you fall to your knees and plead with the bank of mum and dad to lend you the needed funds, or you decide to go without, that is whatever works best for you.

Upon a discussion with my mother regarding these expenses and the journey I am making toward self-publishing, however, she did come out with some very interesting insights. Some of it is common sense, but when our mind is so firmly fixed in the creative process and the dream of getting out book out there, are we thinking about one important factor…

This is not a book. It is a business.

What we are doing, in this process of moving toward self-publishing, is we are setting ourselves up to be self employed. We are selling books, and with no publishing house to answer to, we are our own boss.

So, here are five things I have been thinking about when it comes to self-publishing and self-employment.

  1. Start now. – Even before you are ready to release your book, you will have expenses. These will range from the small to the large expenditures, so keep a record of everything, starting as early as you need.
  2. Know your expenses. – This goes for everything, not just your large points like an editor or a cover design for your books. If you need to buy a new laptop to write on, that can be classed as an expense and claimed back in tax. If you need to buy a packet of paper to print on, this is an expense. Hell, even that single red pen can be counted against when it comes to your tax at the end of the year. As long as you can justify it and have the necessary proof, it can all be counted,
  3. Consider a separate bank account – This is not a must, but it could make life easier to keep your self employed records separate from your day to day living. Not only will this separate all expenditures, but it will also keep any earnings separate once you do release your book.
  4. Good Product – Just like someone who is making clothing, it is in our best interest to put out the best product possible. If you make a dress that falls apart within a month, customers will not buy from you again. The same is true of books. Yes, that will most likely mean larger expenditures at the beginning, like hiring for cover design if you cannot make a professional one yourself, but it will hopefully mean higher return business.
  5. Be Professional – Writing is an art, but selling books is a profession. I’ve heard many self-publishers say that once you release that book, you become your own marketing team, your own design team, etc, and this should be treated as such. Separating yourself from your work, especially when it comes to the business end, is vital. If you are yelled at by a hotel reception because you registered a complaint, you won’t go back to that hotel. The same is true if you bad mouth someone because they dared criticise your writing or they gave you an answer you did not want.

It’s all very easy for me to say these things, and I am sure that the process will not be as easy as it is on paper. However, moving forward, I think it will be some good things to keep in mind.