Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Troubleshooting: Avoiding Scams

So, Squiders, this is our final post about submitting and publishing for the nonfiction book. I’ll take a few weeks off of the nonfic books after this, and then we can talk about whether or not we’d like to do another one or not.

So, today, we’re going to talk about how not to get scammed. There are a lot of prospective authors out there, and, unfortunately, there are also plenty of people willing to take money to prey on people’s dreams. While the rise of the Internet has helped authors immensely (usually a Google search can be enough to avoid some of the worst), there’s still some points to be salient about to keep yourself safe.

In Traditional Publishing, Money Flows to the Author

If you’re pursuing traditional publishing, this is essential to remember. If a publisher or an agent asks for money up front, this is a big red flag. There is no such thing as a “reading fee” or a “printing fee.” In traditional publishing, nobody gets paid until a book is published. Then the publisher takes their cut, the agent takes their cut, and the author gets their royalties.

Authors will occasionally get emails from various companies promising to publish them, but these are almost always scam companies. Legitimate publishers don’t have time to pull every author email they can find. Additionally, some agents may have connections with vanity publishers or editing services that can constitute a conflict of interest.

If you’re looking at an agent or a publishing house and something looks fishy, ask other authors. Many writing communities have spaces where authors can ask if people have used a person or a company and what their impressions were. There are also sites that keep track of potential scams, such as Writer Beware.

In Self-Publishing, Make Sure You’re Getting Your Money’s Worth

Self-publishing requires the author to be in charge of a lot of different aspects of publishing, and it can be a good idea to hire a professional for different aspects to help put out a quality product. But there are a million and a half companies out there that offer services to self-published authors, and it can sometimes be hard to tell legitimate companies from scammers or people who just simply don’t know what they’re doing.

The best way to make sure you’re working with someone with the necessary professional know-how is to ask other authors for referrals. Happy authors are more than willing to share the contact information for someone who’s done right by them, especially since many cover artists/editors/proofreaders are also one-person businesses and they like to see them succeed. You don’t need to talk to other authors directly if you don’t know many; many authors will talk about services they used on their blogs or list them in their books or on their website. Writing communities are also a good place to ask for recommendations.

Once you have some referrals, check out those people/services in depth. For cover artists, look at other covers they’ve done and see if you think their style will work for your book. For editors or proofreaders, you can ask for a sample page (or three) and see if you like their editorial style and if you think they’ll be good to work with. If you’re looking at hiring someone for a blog tour or another marketing campaign, you can normally look at campaigns they’re actively running and see how they’re going. Make sure you’re informed and know your costs/budget up front.

Self-publishing is also pretty easy to DIY these days. You’ll find services that will take over the “technical” aspects of publishing for you, such as uploading your book on to Amazon, but these are unnecessary, as it is pretty straightforward to do this yourself. A cheaper and better alternative, if you feel you can’t manage on your own, is to hire a self-publishing coach who will teach you the process so you can do it yourself in the future. Companies are willing to take money for just about any aspect of the self-publishing process. A bit of research to see if a service is needed, or if you can do it yourself, can be very helpful.

It also doesn’t hurt to be generally aware of the range of price for various services. That way if someone is much higher (or lower) than average, it can be a sign of something being a bit off. This is not always true; some highly experienced service providers may charge more because you’re getting a higher quality service, while many artists and editors who are starting out may not be aware of market prices or may be starting out at lower prices to build their client base/portfolio. Again, this is where talking to other authors can be beneficial.

Contests

It can be hard to pick out scam contests from legitimate ones, since many contests do charge some sort of entrance fee (which at least partially goes to paying out the prizes for said contest). Again, doing your research is key here. Ask other writers, make sure the organizations running the contest are legitimate and not tied to previous controversies, make sure there’s no strings attached to “winning” (a common scam is to make buying a certain number of copies of the “winners’ anthology” a requirement of publishing, and then charging $50 a book), see if they list previous years’ winners on their website, etc.

Avoiding scams across the board involves doing your research, reaching out to other authors, and paying attention to potential warning signs.

Missing anything, Squiders? Anything confusing?

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Troubleshooting: No One’s Buying

Self-publishing can be a lot of work–not only do you have to write the book, but you have to be in charge of editing, proofreading, securing a cover, distribution, and marketing. So it can be depressing if sales are slow or non-existent. What are some things you can do to try and help boost your sales?

Check Your Product

The first step is to make sure you’re putting out a story that is in good shape, not one that’s riddled with typoes, stray punctuation, obvious plot holes, bad formatting, or anything else that makes your book look low quality or amateur. If you find yourself consistently getting bad reviews, or if reviews are consistently pointing out the same issue, it may be worth it to take your story off of being on sale and do another round of beta reading or editing. Some distributors will let people who have bought your book know when you put out a new version.

Check Your Market

It can be hard to know where to put your story when there’s fifteen million different categories available. It doesn’t hurt to look at books that are similar to yours and see what categories they’re listed in, and whether or not they’re performing well in those categories. With online distribution, it’s easy to test out different, related categories to see which ones work the best for your story. You can also tweak your keywords to see if that helps you gain traction. Getting your book where the right readers can come across it can be a lot of the battle.

NOTE: If you do marketing research, you’ll probably hear advice about putting your book into more niche markets to increase its rankings. While this can be a good strategy, make sure the categories are still appropriate to your book or you’re not going to be doing yourself–or your book–any good, and you might actually do some harm.

Check Your Marketing Strategy

It can be helpful–and some people would argue essential–to set up a marketing plan before you release a book. This is a place where you keep track of your different marketing techniques as well as how successful different things have proven to be. You can also keep track of reviewers and your budget, if you have one.

When I make a marketing plan, I often do waves of marketing, such as indicating which activities are pre-launch, during launch, or post launch. I also keep track of activities to try if my initial efforts don’t seem to be working the way I’d like them to. If your sales aren’t what you’d like them to be, it may not hurt to follow some book marketing podcasts or blogs, or to take a webinar or two on techniques that sound interesting to you. That way you can tweak your marketing strategy and hopefully find something that works for you.

Many authors consider marketing to be the hardest part of self-publishing, and it can be hard to find which strategies work best for you. Be open to trying new things if they appeal to you. And when doing research, try to stick to articles and books that aren’t older than a few years, as what works in book marketing changes relatively quickly.

NOTE: If you really hate some aspect of marketing–like, for example, Twitter–don’t force yourself to do it. You’ll be miserable, it’ll be a waste of your time, and your dislike will come through to the readers you’re trying to reach. It’s better to focus your time on something you like to do.

Am I missing anything here, Squiders? Anything else you’d recommend checking if your sales are low?

See you on Thursday!

Self-publishing Novels (Physical books)

Okay, squiders, today we’re going to talk about how to self-publish physical books–hardbacks and paperbacks. And then we’ll get into troubleshooting, and then I’m going to have to write the rest of this book on my own, ahahaha. But we’ll do a poll to see which nonfic topic we want to discuss next when we’re done with this one.

Self-publishing physical books falls into two categories:

  • Print-on-Demand (hereafter referred to as POD)
  • Batch printing

The names refer to the amount of books printed at any one point in time. In both cases, you will need for format your book for print, or hire someone to do it for you. It is easier to create paperback versions of self-published books, but some companies do allow you to pay for the added expense of doing a hardback version.

When formatting your book for print, you will need to determine the trim size, which is the size of the book. There are some industry standards, but there is also some variation and you can pick whichever you feel will work best for your book. For example, if you’d like to make a shorter book look more substantial, you could go with a smaller trim size to get more pages. You will also need to determine font size and type. Some fonts are more readable and considered more standard, though you can again get away with some variation as long as the font is easy to read. Mass media paperbacks tend to have smaller font, while hardbacks tend to have larger.

You will also need a cover. Some POD services offer cover creators, which allow you to create a cover on the website, but be aware that your options will be limited to stock font and images, unless the creator allows you to upload your own. You will need the full wrap-around cover (front cover, spine, back cover) so it’s important to do the interior formatting first so you know how many pages the book is going to be and can base your cover dimensions on that. Also be aware that you will need a high quality image so that it doesn’t look grainy or pixelated when printed.

You will also need to consider buying an ISBN. These can be bought individually or in packs of 10. Each new edition will need its own ISBN (for example, a hardback edition would need a different ISBN than a paperback edition) and if you plan to publish several books, the packs are a better deal. Some POD or batch services offer deals to let you buy ISBNs through them, though these may have some limitations as to where they can be used.

Print-on-Demand

How POD works is that your manuscript is uploaded onto a POD service’s website, complete with formatting and cover. When someone wants to purchase your novel, a single (or however many that particular order is for) copy of said novel is created and shipped.

You can work directly with a POD service, or some publishing services companies will deal with it for you. There is a minimum cost per book, usually based on how many pages your novel is, what type of paper you want to use, trim size, and whether you want color in the interior of the book. You must pick a sale price at or above this minimum price.

Some common POD services include, but are not limited to:

  • CreateSpace
  • Ingram Spark
  • Lulu
  • Lightning Source

Some services will charge a set-up fee for the initial set-up, or may charge a yearly fee to continue carrying the book. The quality of printed book also varies between different services. For example, CreateSpace is a popular POD option because they easily let you list your book for sale on Amazon, but there have been complaints about the quality of the books. Some authors use a combination of CreateSpace for its Amazon connections and then a different POD service for other retailers or for books for conventions or book signings.

POD is popular with many authors because it requires little or no upfront costs and because authors don’t need to keep a large stock of their own books on hand. Many publishers, especially small presses, also use POD technology for their titles.

Batch printing

The other method for getting physical copies of a self-published novel is batch, or bulk, printing. This is where several copies of the book are printed all at once, which usually results in a lower overall cost per book. Like POD, you will need to have your book formatted for print beforehand (though many printers also offer formatting services) and have a cover ready (though, again, this may be a service offered). Some printers may only offer books in select sizes, so make sure your formatting matches what’s available. Some printers may have a minimum number of books per order (such as 25 or 100). If you need a large amount of books, this is the way to do it.

There are many different companies that offer this service. There may even be local companies you can use, in which case you can avoid paying for shipping. If possible, ask to see a finished book so you can check binding quality, printing quality, and cover quality.

People who move a large amount of books will find this method much more cost effective. However, you will need to deal with distribution yourself unless you pay a service to do it for you, and if you buy more copies than you sell, you may find yourself having to store a large amount of books with no easy way to sell them.

Did I leave anything out, Squiders? Anything you have questions on?

Also, just a reminder that The Short of It comes out tomorrow! I’ve also got Shards and Hidden Worlds on sale at Amazon for tomorrow (and might have City of Hope and Ruin though I am checking with Siri before I do anything there) for a dollar. I’ll post specifics tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday, squiders!

Self-Publishing Novels (ebooks)

Aw, squiders. Sometimes it’s too cold in the morning for my computer to start up, and then sometimes, when it finally starts, your web browser freezes and eats your half-written blog posts which were apparently not saved all the way despite what WordPress promised.

So, self-publishing novels! A lot of the self-publication information for novels is the same as it was for short stories, as most self-publishing venues allow for any length of product. That’s an argument for making a single self-published section in the book, which I shall ponder. But, for now, we’ll go back over the options, though in less detail. If you’d like more detail, feel free to pop back over to the Self-Publishing Short Stories posts.

I am, however, going to break the information here up into self-publishing digitally vs. self-publishing paper or hardbacks. Today, we’ll talk the digital side.

Here are the methods available for self-publishing novels:

  • Blogs/websites
  • Newsletters
  • Online fiction websites
  • Online retailers/book distributors

Blogs/websites

The easiest way to self-publish a novel is to make it available on your personal blog or website. For a blog, you can post a chapter a week (like I’m doing with this nonfic book) or along whatever schedule works best for you. It is, however, recommended that you not put the book in a single post, since that can make it hard to read. Many blogging sites have character limits on their posts anyway.

NOTE: Posting a novel serially can be a good way to help you build readership should you intend to collect the book into a single manuscript and sell it later, or if you want to sell sequels or other related books.

Some authors also make books available to download from their websites. Often this is the first book of a series so readers are encouraged to buy later books if they like the first one. Most often, the reader has to exchange something for the free book, which is usually signing up for the author’s newsletter, which we will discuss in a moment.

You can also sell your books on your own website. There are different ways to build a storefront into your site, which allows you to take payment directly from your readers without worrying about a retailer or distributor taking a cut of your sales.

NOTE: For best visibility, it will help to have multiple ebook formats available for purchase/download. The majority of ebook readers will use the following formats: mobi (Kindle), epub (pretty much everyone else), or PDF.

Newsletters

As mentioned above, many authors offer a “freebie” as an incentive for joining their mailing list. This freebie can vary depending on what the author has out, what they write, and what they’re willing to give away. Authors I know give away everything from a short story to a novel, but there is a lot of variation and a lot of schools of thought on this one.

For example, some people write a brand new novella or short story related to a series of books they write so that subscribers get something no one else gets. Other people offer a story that a subscriber would otherwise have to pay for, so they feel like they’re getting a good deal. Several people will change the subscription incentive periodically.

You should do your research about what will work best for you and how you want to implement your newsletter.

NOTE: In most cases, unless you’re providing exclusive content for your subscribers, this should not be the only method of distribution.

Online fiction websites

Sites like Wattpad and FictionPress allow you to post full-length novels in a serial fashion. These websites often have a community aspect to them, and readers can leave comments, favorite, or otherwise “like” (terminology varies by website) individual sections or the work as a whole. They can also bookmark your story so that they’re notified when you post an update.

This can be a good way to build readership, depending on how much time you’re willing to put into the community. In some cases, people have received traditional publishing deals if a story has done well enough, but you shouldn’t go into this method expecting that to happen.

NOTE: This does count as publishing your novel. If you’re hoping to try for a traditional deal later, some agents/publishers may not consider work that has been previously published unless you have impressive numbers to back it up.

Online retailers/ebook distributors

This is the most common method to self-publish an ebook. These websites allow you to upload your manuscript and cover, add in a book description and categories, and set a price. Your books will show up next to traditionally-published books and, if you do a good job with cover/formatting/etc., are indistinguishable from them.

Most ebook retailers allow you to upload your book directly to them (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo), though others will require or be easier to access if you use an ebook distributor. A distributor, such as Smashwords or Draft2Digital, will convert your ebook into different formats and distribute them to different retailers of your choice. Many authors prefer to use ebook distributors because it simplifies the process of keeping track of sales, and because changes only need to be made in one place.

Right, so there’s the low down on that! Am I missing avenues, Squiders? Let me know! Tuesday we’ll talk about paper/hardback publishing, and then I think we may be done with the content that’s going on the blog–no, wait, I was going to do troubleshooting. Right! So novels Tuesday, probably a break Thursday, and then troubleshooting.

Self-Publishing Short Stories (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday’s post. Just a reminder that there’s not really a submission process for self-publishing, since you make the decision on what you want to publish yourself, so this section mainly focuses on possible publication locations and how they work.

Online Retailers

Most retailers that sell ebooks allow you to upload a short story directly, or you can use a distribution service to upload your story once and have it sent to a variety of different markets. Retailers in this category include:

  • Amazon (KDP)
  • Barnes and Noble (Nook Press)
  • Kobo
  • iTunes
  • Google Play

The largest ebook distributor is Smashwords, though there are others, such as Draft2Digital. Distributors take a single file (often a Word document), convert it into a variety of formats (mobi, epub, PDF, etc.), and then list your book at many of the retailers noted above, as well as other, smaller ones. Smashwords also has some partnerships with various library systems, meaning that libraries can put your book into their system for their patrons to check out.

NOTE: Amazon does not currently allow ebook distributors to list ebooks on their site. If you want your ebook to be available on Kindle, you will need to deal directly with Amazon.

Some retailers may have a minimum word count that you need to meet before you can publish your short story as an ebook. Amazon, for example, recommends that an ebook have at least 2,500 words.

NOTE: If you are doing children’s books, such as picture books, there may be different criteria. Amazon offers a KDP kids program to help create picture and chapter books that will be properly formatted for reading on the Kindle.

When you self-publish through an online retailer, you can set the price of your short story. Most retailers allow you to set the price for free; Amazon requires a $0.99 minimum, but if you have the ebook for free on other retailers, you can get Amazon to match the price.

Pricing is a subject of much debate, but be aware that readers will expect to get their money’s worth out of an ebook. Pricing a 5,000 word story at $4.99 may earn you some bad reviews.

While you can also create POD versions of short stories and sell paperback copies through online retailers, it may be cost prohibitive if your story isn’t closer to novella-length. Many POD services charge a base price based on the size of the book and the number of pages. CreateSpace is one of the most popular POD services as it is associated with Amazon and easy to get your book listed on the mega-retailer.

Short Story Collections

Like individual short stories, you can also self-publish short story collections through online retailers and ebook distributors. The process is much the same. Collections typically have at least three stories, but could have up to a couple dozen, depending on the length of the stories and what your goal with the collection is.

The appeal of doing a collection over an individual short story is that some readers may feel like they’re getting a better value for their money, since they’re getting more than one story for their effort.

Additionally, since collections tend to be longer, they’re a better value if you decide to also sell the collection as a paperback.

(Hey, Squiders, how important do you feel it is to go into an in-depth discussion of POD services? The main point of this book is to explain the submission/publication options and generally how they work, rather than explain all the details, so writers can decide on the best course of action for them and their works, and get started on putting those methods into action. I’m unsure if going into a lot of detail on POD, aside from what it is and how it generally works, is out of scope.)

Questions? Anything confusing? Let me know!

Self-Publishing Short Stories (Part 1)

All right, Squiders! Today we’ll start talking about methods for self-publishing a short story. Unlike “traditional” publishing, there is not really a submission process for self-publishing, since the only gatekeeper, in most cases, is yourself. You decide you’d like to publish something; you go for it. The only thing to consider is the best method/location to do so.

NOTE: Because there are no gatekeepers for self-publishing, you are responsible for the final product. That means that your cover, your editing, your formatting, etc., all reflect on you. You may find it beneficial to hire professionals for areas you may be lacking in, or to otherwise improve your skills in order to ensure that your final product meets the quality standards expected by readers.

Self-publishing locations for short stories fall into the following main categories:

  • Blogs/websites
  • Online fiction/book websites
  • Online retailers
  • Short story collections

Blogs/websites

The easiest way to self-publish a short story a short story is to post it on your blog or website. For a journaling website such as Tumblr, LiveJournal, WordPress, etc., you can include a short story as its own post, which, depending on the platform, may then be shared by your followers.

Some authors also include a short story section on their author websites. This is a place where they collect the short stories they have available to be read through their site, making it a static page people can visit.

WARNING: Many publications consider posting a story on your blog or website as the first publication of that story. That means that if you later decide you’d like to sell that story to a magazine or anthology, they will consider the story already published, and will consider your submission a reprint, which may be a harder sell, if the publication takes them at all.

Online fiction/book websites

Many websites exist where you can post your original fiction of varying lengths, including short stories. Often these are websites where you create a profile and all your works are collected under that one name. There is often a community aspect to them, with readers/other members being able to favorite stories and leave comments.

While there are a large number of these sites available of varying sizes, popularity, and focus, the major ones are Wattpad,  FictionPress, and Figment. Some sites are more focused on critiquing and reviewing than on building readership, so make sure you understand a website’s main goals before posting your work.

Some fanfiction-based websites such as Archive of Our Own also allow original fiction to be posted, though it may be harder to find.

Book websites where people can track the books their reading and rate them, like Goodreads, may also have sections where authors can post short stories or excerpts from longer works.

Question, Squiders–do you think I need to specify that these are non-paying markets, that their main purpose is to build readership and get feedback? Or is it obvious?

Anything I’m leaving out here?

Types of Publishing

Let’s move into our nonfiction topic, shall we, Squiders? Before we can get into the nitty gritty of publishing and submitting, it will help to know about the general types of publishing so you can consider what’s best for you and your goals.

Publishing basically comes down to three types:

  • Traditional publishing
  • Self publishing
  • Hybrid publishing

Traditional publishing

Traditional publishing can essentially be boiled down to “someone pays you for your writing.” Someone who is traditionally published has submitted their manuscript to a publisher, has had it go through an acceptance process, and gives the rights of the story to the publisher in exchange for something, which typically is some sort of monetary reward. It is called “traditional” because this is the way the publishing industry has generally operated over the past hundred years or so, with the publishers acting as the gatekeepers for what was acceptable or of good quality.

Self publishing

Self publishing, as an antithesis to traditional publishing, is when you publish without any oversight. Someone who is self published has made their manuscript available when they wanted to without having to go through any sort of gatekeeper. Self published people often have to wear many hats, as they must do everything themselves or hire their own help, such as editors, proofreaders, cover designers, etc. It is “self” publishing because the author remains in full control.

Hybrid publishing

Hybrid publishing is, as it sounds, a combination of traditional and self publishing. This can take many different forms and often varies from author to author. Someone might, for example, traditionally publish novels, but self publish novellas or short stories in between so their readers can have new content. Someone may self publish their novels but send their short stories off to magazines. Some people may traditionally publish one genre and self publish a different one.

What about indie publishing?

Indie publishing is hard to define. Indie, or independent, publishing, in some cases, can be used interchangeably with self publishing. In general, indie published people do not go through any sort of formal submission or publishing model. Indie published authors usually retain full control of their manuscripts and their rights. For some people, the difference between being self published versus indie published lies in the end goal: is writing a hobby? Is this release a one-time thing? Or do you intend to make a career out of this, regularly releasing new content? The distinction is that someone who is self published is a hobbyist, whereas someone who is indie published is someone who is trying to make a career/business out of their publishing.

What about vanity publishing?

It used to be that self and vanity publishing were used interchangeably, but with the event of print-on-demand and e-readers were authors can interact directly with readers, the two forms of publishing have separated. Vanity publishing is when you pay someone else to publish you, making it the direct opposite of traditional publishing. Vanity publishers are often consider to be scams, since they will publish you, no matter the quality of your manuscript, as long as you pay them money. Vanity publishers may offer a variety of services, such as editorial work or cover design, but the quality may vary wildly.

Types of publishing I’ve left out? Questions on the basic definitions?