Archive for category Self-publishing

Indie Publishing: No Barriers, But Plenty of Responsibility

Today I have a thought provoking post from long-time indie author and publisher, Elizabeth Ducie plus a heads-up about her free and discounted books on the Business of Writing – essential reading for those serious about making an income from their writing.

Over to Elizabeth:

I’ve been an independent publisher for more than a decade now. And by that, I mean I am responsible for publishing my own books, in a variety of formats, using a variety of tools and platforms; and for the ongoing marketing and sales.The Business of Writing

But do I do everything myself? Of course not. There are aspects I can’t do: cover design for one; proofreading for another; or production of physical copies. There are experts I contract in for that, and I pay for their services. But I take full responsibility for, and maintain full control over, the project.

One of the biggest benefits of indie publishing to me is the absence of barriers to entry; or gatekeepers. The technology is available for all, at a low cost, or even free in some cases. There are no agents to turn down that manuscript you’ve spent years getting right. There are no publishers to decide your book isn’t on trend. The decision to go ahead with the project rests solely with you, the author.

Conversely, one of the biggest disadvantages of indie publishing is also the absence of barriers to entry; or gatekeepers. Just because it’s possible, even easy, to get your book out there, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Not until it’s ready.

That’s where the responsibility comes in. I once had a conversation with a member of staff for a well-known retailer. He picked up a copy of my debut novel, which had been runner-up in the previous year’s Self-published Book of the Year awards and said “wow, it looks like a proper book!” As you can imagine, I didn’t know whether to be proud or insulted!

There should be no difference for the reader between an independently published book and one that’s gone down the traditional route. The cover should be professionally designed; the content should be correctly formatted; the text should be free of typos and other errors. The quality requirements are the same however a book is published; the only difference is who takes ultimate responsibility. Actually, there’s no difference there, either. In both cases, it’s the publisher. The only difference is that as an indie, the author is also the publisher.

Elizabeth DucieSelf-publishing, as being an indie is sometimes called, used to be a really dirty word in our industry. It’s less so these days, as more people realise it’s not the route of last resort, but a viable option. And frankly, I don’t believe most readers ever notice, or care, who’s published something. But there’s still a number of books out there that aren’t ready and shouldn’t have been published.

If you are considering going down the indie route, I wish you good luck; it’s a fun time to be an indie. But please, please, please take it seriously and take responsibility for the quality of the finished product. Your readers, and fellow indies, will thank you for it.

 

Elizabeth Ducie is the author of The Business of Writing, a series of books on business skills for authors. This week, her books are all on special offer:
Part 1 Business Start-Up is free until 27th January.
Part 2 Finance Matters; Part 3 Improving Effectiveness; and Part 4 Independent Publishing are all on Countdown deals and are available today at 99p / 99 cents each.
For members of Kindle Unlimited, the entire series is free to download at all times.

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Be Inspired!

So, we’re in that weird time between Christmas and New Year when we eat chocolate, watch TV and wait for the world to start turning again (or not, depending on lockdown restrictions where you live).Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

Kobo PublishingBut this is also the time to get inspired for all those great things we’re going to do in 2021, whether it be write a novel, exercise more or increase our confidence. Following the disaster of 2020, many of us have high hopes for 2021, so let’s use out current enthusiasm and inspiration to get started on that journey towards a new skill.

On that note, I’m pleased to say Kobo has included Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners in their ‘Be Inspired‘ promotion which runs from January 1st to 14th in Canada and the U.S.

I don’t want my UK Kindle readers to feel hard done by, so I’ve already lowered the Kindle price of Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to only £1.50 for a limited time (and the paperback is not bad value at £5.49 if you’ve had an Amazon gift card for Christmas).

Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners will give you everything you need to know in order to face an audience, whether that be a handful of people in your writing group or work team, or a larger gathering at a book launch or other event. You will learn how to craft an attention grabbing speech, banish self-consciousness, use gestures, inject humour and finish speaking with a persuasive call to action. And it will improve your confidence in everyday situations as well.

For those who prefer to write rather than speak, I’ve also reduced the price of Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners to just £1.50. This book takes the reader all the way from e-publishing first principles to accessing Kobo promotions and marketing suggestions. So no excuse not to get your book in front of readers during 2021.

Finally, A Happy New Year to all of you and a massive thank you for sticking with this blog and supporting me through the last twelve months. May you all enjoy health, happiness and success in the coming year.

 

 

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Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners

Many of you are familiar with my e-book Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners. Now there is a sister publication: Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners. Both books are structured in a similar way, taking the novice e-publisher from the definition of an e-book and deciding what to write to uploading a manuscript to either Amazon or Kobo and using the marketing tools provided by these respective platforms.Kobo Publishing

The idea for the Kobo Writing Life book was born after a consultation with Tara Cremin, a Kobo Author Experience Manager, about making the most of the Kobo platform.
Kobo is based in Canada and has a large audience share there and in Australia. The company’s market share is also growing very fast in the Netherlands and Kobo’s partnerships with bookshops around the world, including Bookworld in New Zealand and FNAC in France and Portugal, are a factor in its increasing popularity. Importantly for self-published authors, in 2019 one in four of the titles sold by Kobo in Canada was by an independent author published through Kobo Writing Life. This love of new independent voices is a growing trend across Kobo’s major markets. More than 30 per cent of the titles sold in Australia are from independent self-published authors, 27 per cent in the United States, and 20 per cent in the United Kingdom. These statistics are a compelling reason for making your book available on the Kobo platform. Another good reason is that Kobo Writing Life is one of the easiest and friendliest e-publishing platforms to deal with. Kobo has a personal touch with authors that Amazon often lacks. If you have any questions, Kobo Writing Life is very approachable which means that some writers choose to cut their e-publishing teeth with Kobo instead of publishing on Amazon first.
Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute BeginnersAmongst other things Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners explains how Kobo can make your e-book available for purchase by public libraries via Overdrive and how to get access to promotions run by Kobo where your book may be mixed in with titles on sale from major publishers. In common with the original KDP book, it also covers more general e-publishing topics such as how to obtain a book cover and writing a series of books. This is in order to fully inform the newbie e-publisher.
Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners is available on Kindle and Kobo.

And I’m delighted to say that Kobo Writing Life Publishing for Absolute Beginners is currently featured on Kobo’s Best Books for Writers page.

In tandem with producing the Kobo e-book I have also revised Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners for 2020. The tweaks are mostly small, the only major change is the removal of VAT from e-books sold in the UK. This means that the 35% KDP royalty rate now applies to books priced from 77p to £1.76 and the 70% royalty rate is from £1.77 to £9.99.
The revised version of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners is available now from Amazon.

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Universal Buy Link for All E-Book Retailers

I’ve written previously about BookLinker. This is a free service which enables authors to create an ‘intelligent’ link to a book’s Amazon page. The link automatically directs the reader to his home country/currency Amazon site. However, this is of limited use to those authors who have ‘gone wide’.

‘Going wide’ with an e-book means making it available for sale from a number of online retailers, rather than sticking just with Amazon. These other online retailers might include Kobo, Apple, Google Play and others. Going wide increases the number of possible sales but also creates another problem: how to efficiently direct a reader to the site from which he would prefer to buy.

Internet and social media book promotion works best when potential readers can easily click through to the correct page to make a purchase. If a reader has to start searching around in order to make a purchase, he’s likely to lose interest or go off at a tangent somewhere else. It’s important to keep book buyers happy by directing them to their preferred e-book retailer (Amazon, Kobo, Apple etc.) and the correct currency/country for their location.
This can be done by listing all the different retailers’ links but it’s messy and confusing on a blog post and is impossible within the confines of the Twitter character count.

An efficient way to do this is to use the universal links provided by Books2Read. Simply go to the site, paste in the Amazon, Kobo or any other e-book retailer’s link for your book and click ‘Make My Universal Link’. Books2Read will search all online retailers for the book before creating a single ‘universal’ link. This link will take the reader to a choice of all the retailers where your book is available. If the reader has previously expressed a retailer preference via an earlier use of another Books2Read link, he will be taken straight to his preferred retailer.

To see how neatly this works, try this universal link for my psychological thriller, Bedsit Three. (Tip: Select the Amazon option to get the book for only 99p).

Bedsit Three

 

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To Hire an Editor or Not to Hire an Editor?

A few weeks ago I met freelance editor Ameesha Smith-Green at a networking event and was impressed by her full order book and great enthusiasm for her job. She generously offered to share some advice about when an editor is required and what tasks that editor might perform.  Ameesha Smith-Green

Over to Ameesha:

Whether you’re a professional writer making a living from your words or someone who enjoys hobby blogging, there will no doubt come a time when you wonder whether it’s worth hiring an editor. In fact, “Do I need an editor?” is a question I get asked fairly often by writers. As an editor, you might think I’d leap up and shout “YES!”, but the answer isn’t so cut and dry…

Are you writing for pleasure or business?
If you’re writing for fun or catharsis, then an editor isn’t really necessary. It’s more important that the writing fulfils your personal needs and desires. However, if you’re a freelance writer, an author, or a blogger hoping to make money from your work, then it might be worth hiring an editor, because your writing needs to be of a higher quality than if you were just writing for yourself.

What value does an editor add?
A good editor knows the industry relevant to your writing and what your readers want. They understand genre standards, word counts, structure, and flow. Importantly, they’re objective and honest about whether your writing is good enough—and how to improve it. A good editor should make you a better writer, not just fix your errors. Even the best writer can sometimes find themselves unable to see the wood for the trees, and that’s where an editor is invaluable.

What do editors do?
The term “editor” is very broad, but in writing there are two main types: content editors (also known as developmental editors) and copy editors. The former look at the big picture—structure, content, message, narrative, and so on. The latter focus on the small picture—grammar, language, wording, punctuation, and so on. It’s worth noting that the role of a copy editor is often confused with that of a proofreader. However, proofreading is merely checking the final version of the text (such as a designed book or website) for any last typos or errors.

Which should you choose?
If you’re a book author, you’d normally start with a content edit, then progress to a copy edit, then a proofread. If you’re writing blogs or website content, then you’ll probably only want copy editing and/or proofreading. Some editors offer both content and copy editing services, while others specialise in just one. If you’re confident in your writing skills and don’t need an editor, it may be worth hiring a proofreader to ensure there are no embarrassing typos before you hit “publish”.

Where do you find editors?
You can find editors and proofreaders through generalist freelancing sites such as Upwork, niche sites like book-specific freelancing site Reedsy, or industry organisations such as the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). Before hiring anyone, carefully read their feedback and have preliminary discussions about your requirements to see whether they’re the right editor for you. With copy editing and proofreading, you can request a sample to see their skills in action.

Links:
• To find out more information about book editing, check out: https://thebookshelf.ltd/
• To find out more information about freelancing, check out: https://afreelancelife.co.uk/
• You can get in touch with me via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameesha-smith-green/

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Make New Virtual Friends

One of the nice things about being a writer is the lovely people you meet along the way. These may be real world contacts, virtual acquaintances from social media or cross overs between the two. If you meet other writers at a workshop or conference it’s rare that you’ll part without swapping Twitter handles, Facebook existence or other means of giving each other virtual support. And sometimes that person who’s said ‘Hi’ on social media will turn out to be local to you and it’s possible to meet in person.

These contacts aren’t necessarily always other writers. There’s a growing trend towards freelance working, aided by technology, internet and social media. Writers are one small part of this freelance world. We are usually not salaried and have only ourselves to rely on to find commissions and markets for our work. Mixing with freelancers from other professions can help us to treat our ‘creative calling’ as a business and manage our time better.

Over the last few months three different contacts have offered me internet publicity via blog interviews. These people all started as virtual contacts but two were near enough to meet in person as well. Below are the interview links. You’ll find out stuff you (possibly) didn’t know about me plus, if you settle back with a cup of tea and rummage around, you’ll discover information on co-working, writing tips and help managing your freelance business.

Ameesha Green is a freelance editor of non-fiction books and also runs the Freelance Life blog.  My favourite question from Ameesha was, ‘What skill do you think is most important in freelancing?’

Lorraine Mace will be a familiar name to many of you; she writes for both Writing Magazine and Writers’ Forum as well as writing crime novels and doing much more. My favourite question from Lorraine was ‘Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad)?’

Dispace is an organisation facilitating co-working in coffee shops and other venues up and down the country. For when you get fed up of staring at the same four walls! Dispace asked me for five tips on writing and self-publishing non-fiction.

Has anybody else made helpful contacts via the internet?

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Using HTML in Amazon Book Descriptions

This is a post for those of you who have self-published on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or are planning to do so.

KDP requires a Product Description for each book. This is the equivalent of the blurb on the back of a traditional book and it is very important in selling the book. These short paragraphs help readers decide whether or not to buy the book. Therefore the product description must be set out in an easy to read format. This is not as straightforward as it sounds because Amazon doesn’t provide any formatting options within the box where the the product description is keyed i.e. it’s not possible to use bold or italics or bullet points. This means the product descriptions of many self-published books appear flat and uninteresting.

But there is a way to slip formatting into the product description and thus make it more attractive. HTML can be used. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is the standard markup language for web pages. DO NOT GLAZE OVER OR RUN AWAY! This is simpler than it sounds.

For example, to make the word ‘thriller’ appear in bold in a product description, use <b> and </b> immediately before and after ‘thriller’.

And, to make the word ‘scare’ appear in italics, use <i> and </i> immediately before and after ‘scare’.

Put ‘A <b>thriller</b> guaranteed to <i>scare</i>.’ in the product description box and it will appear as ‘A thriller guaranteed to scare.’ on the Amazon page.

It’s also possible to use HTML to underline, create lists and give other text effects. This page lists the HTML acceptable in the product description.

To complicate matters, when publishing in paperback through KDP, the product description has a tendency to lose the line breaks. Use <br> to manually indicate where the line breaks should go and use <br> <br> to create a blank line between paragraphs.

Why not experiment with HTML to liven up your book descriptions?

 

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Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

I’ve been beavering away on a couple of projects recently and am pleased to announce that one is now complete. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback. It brings together everything I’ve learnt about addressing an audience over the last five years. Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners

Who should buy this book?

  • Anyone who has to speak in meetings (work or otherwise), on a committee or any other group scenario such as a book club or writing group.
  • Anyone who’s been asked to speak at a wedding, funeral, family party or similar occasion.
  • Anyone with something to promote. That something could be a business, a favourite charity, a political or community campaign, a sports team in need of a sponsor, a club appealing for new members or anything that needs someone to pitch for publicity.
  • Anyone who’d like to be paid for talking about their passion. (I receive a small fee when talking about writing to community groups).
  • Anyone not included in the above. Remember those times you’ve felt awkward introducing yourself at a writers’ workshop, ‘selling’ yourself at an interview or making a complaint in a shop? There are times when we all lack confidence but being able to organise our thoughts and speak calmly makes these situations much easier.

As the title suggests, Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is aimed at those with no or very little experience of addressing an audience – that was the starting point for my journey in public speaking when I joined Sutton Coldfield Speakers Club in September 2013. The club is part of the Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) and in 2018 I represented the Midlands in the national final of the ASC Speech Competition. Back in 2013 I had no desire at all to enter a speech competition and never expected to find myself, a few years later, speaking in a competitive situation on a stage in a packed hall at the ASC Annual Conference. It’s amazing what we can achieve with a bit of encouragement, self-belief and hard work!

But far more important than the competition, several people have commented on how much more confident I’ve become in everyday life since learning to speak in public – and I think that is the real benefit to me from the last few years. I wrote Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners to minimise the fear that we all feel when asked ‘to say a few words’.

I hope it will help you grow in confidence too.

Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners is available on Kindle and in paperback.

 

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Selling to Book Shops

Following on from my previous little self-promotion post, children’s author Robert A. Brown has been in touch with some brilliant advice about how to sell to, liaise with and organise events at book shops. Robert is the author of William, the Hedgehog Boy. Over to Robert:How to Sell to Book Shops

For the purpose of this blog I am differentiating between the national chain retailers such as Waterstones, W.H. Smith, Foyles, The Works and Blackwells and smaller independent bookshops or the WH Smith/Post Office franchises.

Engaging with the major book retailers.

• Choose a retailer that is appropriate to your book and possible events you can offer. Mine is a children’s book, aimed at fluent readers aged 7-9 years, and featuring a hedgehog as one of the main characters, so I was looking for retailers with a large children’s section and also those that show in an interest in wildlife. I wanted a children’s section that was bright, colourful, welcoming and featuring a wide range of children’s authors not just the most popular ones such as David Walliams, Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, Jaqueline Wilson etc. I wanted retailers who host children’s events at weekends and during school holidays. As the timeline for my book encompasses both Halloween and Bonfire Night I was particularly keen to secure bookings during October half-term.
• Once you have decided which major retailers to approach, work on building a relationship with the store manager and the events team (readings and signings). This should involve several visits and face to face discussions besides emails. The more they get to know you the more likely they are to be positive about offering you an event slot.
• For the pitch try to highlight the unique selling points (USPs) of your book and introduce these into these discussions.
• Leave the manager with a copy of your book and copies of any publicity and or reviews.
• After the initial meeting pop back into the store every week or so for a brief chat and find out what they thought of the book and the prospects of a reading and or signing event.
• Inform your publisher and get them to send the press release and advance information sheet to the manager. It helps to keep your book at the forefront of the store manager’s mind.
• Assuming you are given a date and time for an event it is very important to establish how the event will be publicised and by whom. The retailer, your publisher or yourself. Hopefully all three. You should try to maximise local media outlets, company website, social media, flyers and posters etc. Hint: Don’t expect too much from the retailer, some are excellent other less so. You will probably need to be very proactive at this stage. The larger stores will source copies of the book for the event from their usual suppliers at the usual rates. You will be paid royalties based upon this order.
• Also confirm how the event is expected to run, structure, timings, breaks, refreshments, permission for taking photographs for future publicity and social media posts.

William the Hedgehog BoyFor independent bookshops and smaller local retailers the principles remain basically as above however:-

• Having established a good relationship and confirmed their interest in stocking a few copies of your book, you may wish to supply them with copies of the book yourself rather than expecting them to go down the usual trade routes. This will enable you to fix a convenient price point for them, on a sale or return basis. I chose £5-00p per copy and the shop could then choose to sell at the cover price of £7-99p. Therefore, you receive more than the usual ‘royalty’ rates, whilst they too make a handsome profit per copy sold. Thus, it is in their interest to promote the book and display it prominently.
• My local Post Office started with 5 copies and I provided them with an invoice on a sale or return basis.
• You will need to provide publicity flyers for window and table top displays.
• Offer to pop in frequently to sign purchased copies with a personalised message, check on how sales are progressing and replenish stock.
• If stock needs replenishing, request payment for copies sold and provide a signed receipt.

The Event- reading and signing

• Arrive early to meet the staff, set out the space and make yourself comfortable.
• Welcome everyone and explain what is going to happen and when.
• Be prepared to ‘ambush’ store browsers and have a chat about the event.
• When you have an audience, and let’s be honest here, you are not John Grisham, they will not be queuing outside the door, so only a very small audience is sufficient to commence your presentation and introduce the reading. Hopefully, others are likely to be curious and join you.
• Offer bystanders a ‘well thumbed’ copy to flick through.
• When somebody wishes to make a purchase, accompany them to the till and offer to sign the purchased copy for them. This is less embarrassing than sitting alone at a table at the end of the event with nobody taking any notice of you.
TIP at the end of the event offer to sign a few unsold copies for the store. Retailers like to having a few author signed copies available, perhaps at a discounted rate for a later date. The benefit to you as the author is that they are considered sold and will not be returned.

This is really good advice from Robert, an author who is proactive at sourcing sales outlets for his books. I shall be following some of these tips. If anyone else has techniques that work when engaging with book shops, please feel free to share them in the comments. Regular followers of this blog may remember that Robert also dropped by last summer to share some tips on organising a book launch

And if you know any children who deserve an Easter treat, I’ve heard very good things about William the Hedgehog Boy.   

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Improvements to KDP Paperback Offering

In 2017 Kindle Direct Publishing introduced the facility for authors to self publish in paperback as well as on Kindle. This meant it was no longer necessary to use Createspace to produce paperbacks for sale on Amazon. However, there was a downside to moving away from Createspace towards KDP paperback publishing – unlike Createspace, KDP paperback publishing didn’t allow authors to order proof copies or author copies (i.e. books for the author to sell direct to the public). I blogged about this previously.

However, that has now changed!

It is now possible to order proof and author copies of paperback books via the KDP Author Bookshelf. According to Amazon, authors will pay just the printing costs plus delivery and any taxes. And the really good news? Copies for the UK and Europe will be printed and shipped from within Europe – an improvement on CreateSpace, which ships from America.

Chris McMullen has written a detailed blog post comparing Createspace and KDP paperback publishing, which is well worth a read if you’re wondering which path to take or whether to switch from Createspace to KDP. He concludes that for most authors KDP is now the better option.

On a personal note, I’m now glad I tried KDP paperback publishing for A Coffee Break Story Collection and will consider switching from Createspace when I need more author copies of Bedsit Three.

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