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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Publishing’

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Chapter 1

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I can’t believe it. This day has come. I saw the small book-sized package on my front step and I couldn’t remember what book I’d ordered. Upon opening it I could hardly breathe…

my proof had arrived!

It was such a strange surreal moment. As if something you had only imagined had materialized right before your eyes by some white magic. As if you wanted something so badly that it wished its way into the world.

Now, that’s not obviously what happened since I have been toiling away trying to bring this book to life –revising, beta-ing, work-shopping, editing, copyediting, formatting, and uploading, but it suddenly felt like it just appeared out of no-where on my front step.

I’d heard on other self-published writer’s blogs that you shouldn’t expect a bookstore quality version in print, that they have bleeds, pages askew, smudges, shiny thin covers and poorer quality paper, but I was incredibly impressed.

The 5.5″ x 8.5″ size feels wonderful with its hearty 280 pages. Yes, the cover’s shiny, but I thought it looks like many of the shiny covered Grisham/Patterson novels in my bookshelf. The cream paper is a perfect thickness and all of the print was smudge-less and straight. My mother was with me when I opened it and both of our jaws dropped with how professional it looked and felt. It was only when my husband saw it that he pointed out one flaw — the cut was slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. Of course, now it’s all I can see, but if that’s the only thing that’s not perfect than I can live with that since it doesn’t interfere with reading. I don’t think it’s something I can tell Create Space to correct, but I’m going to get another proof to see if the same thing happens.

All in all, this little bound book made the biggest smile spread across my face. Everything looked fantastic inside, the formatter and cover artist did a terrific job. I passed it proudly around to my large family and they all couldn’t believe how great it looked. Watching them all thumbing through it, inspecting it, and smirking (many of them doubted that I would see this through) was priceless.

I realized that this is a huge milestone. I’ve already achieved something that not many people do. Whatever happens after this won’t take away from the fact that I set out to bring this story to life and I’ve done it –through countless distractions, agent rejections, self-teaching, and self-doubt –I’ve accomplished a life’s goal and that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

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With a little more than a month away from my book launch and my first proof ordered for review it’s starting to actually sink in that

I am going to put my book out.

When I thought about this day months ago I was brimming with excitement and the thought of seeing my novel up for sale on Amazon made me giggle in anticipation, but now…

Now when I see the publish button at the bottom on the Smashwords page or the email I received after requesting a proof telling me how to approve the proof for publishing,

I just feel sick.

Yeah, I’ve been so gung-ho ever since I decided to do this on my own –trying not to look down as I climbed the slippery cliffs of self-publishing. Problem is now that I’m so close to the top…I’ve looked down.

Looking down, I began to suddenly worry that maybe my book isn’t what I think it is and maybe I’m not a good writer after all. Maybe the most important thing an agent and publishing house can give you is the validation that you are a good writer and you’ve written something that others want to read.

What if I publish this novel and no one likes it? What if I only receive scathing reviews? I feel like I’m approaching the edge of dream I’ve always had and very soon I’ll find out if this dream becomes real or will just fizzle away to the dark corner of regret where lost dreams go. Is it better to just keep the dream?

But then I sent an email venting some of these worries to my amazing crit partner (Bethany Yeager) and in only a few fantastic lines completely grounded me again to why I was doing this in the first place:

“And Lauren, let me just tell you: your book is good. It’s solid. It’s fun. The premise is fantastic, the execution is fascinating. If you doubt yourself, give yourself a little shake and know this: ultimately, the point of stories is to entertain. There is beautiful prose out there, gorgeous dialogue, pretty covers, but that means nothing if people are bored. And your story is NOT boring. It’s wonderful. And what’s even better? It’s got some pretty gorgeous prose/dialogue/cover as well. ūüôā And if it doesn’t do well at first, then just write the next one. You’ll get there with perseverance. :)”

Okay, you see why I’m so lucky to have her and why she is such a great writer!

(I wish I could use this blurb on the front cover of my book!)

Anyway, it’s exactly what I needed and has completely calmed my launching fears. I’ve turned my head back up to the summit and reached for another hand hold.

Thank you, Bethany.

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Ahhhhhh! I nice big mug of hot chocolate to wake me up from my night of two-hour interruptions and some time to write my blog. I think it’s time to update everyone on my self-publishing progress.

I really didn’t know much about book formatting. I even searched for online articles on how to work with a book formatter and what I needed to know but couldn’t find any. All I found was articles on formatting your own book. Luckily, I asked the amazing David Gaughran (my self-publishing guru) who he recommended and he gave me two names: one he said had a few months backlog and another who didn’t.

So I contacted the formatter without the backlog and I honestly didn’t even know what to say. I started by asking if now was a good time to have my book formatted and that I was looking for all the ebook files (epub, mobi, and smashwords) and a print version. He said that the ebook files are very similar but a print version was a whole other beast. I asked him for quotes for both and was happily surprised when I saw that it was only going to cost me $300 for all the files. Create Space starts at $295 for book formatting services and I’m sure I would get much better service and results from this highly recommended formatter. I’ve also found quotes for over $600 for the same services online.

After I jumped at this fantastic deal I was expecting much more hand-holding throughout the process. I’m sure this book formatter is used to working with seasoned self-publishers and I expected him to walk me through all the choices he was making and thought he’d ask me style questions but he just went right to work after asking me the size of the book and keywords I wanted to use. He got back to me after a few days with a problem. Since my book is incredibly complex with the same characters reincarnating into many lives I felt that a graph that kept track of each character’s past was needed. Unfortunately it seems that charts and graphs do not transfer well into epub and mobi formats. He said he’d try to fix it the best he could but wished I would just remove them. I told him to try and I’m sure he struggled with this for at least a week.

I received the epub file and the mobi file and had no idea how to open them. I’m sure he’s never gotten a reply asking for instructions on how I can view the files, but he sent me a few links on how to download the necessary readers. Well, I’d love to say I figured this out immediately, but it actually took me a whole day to figure out how to install these applications (I am grammatically and technologically challenged). Anyway after struggling to view these a huge smile came over my face as I opened my book. I couldn’t believe how real it looked and I went through it page by page to check whatever I could. I found a few things to change (lone sentences and issues with the graph). He explained to me that you couldn’t control the flow of the ebooks so that lone sentences could not be corrected but he said he would work on the graph again.

I was interested in using a chapter vignette (the little graphic an author uses at the beginning of each chapter). I had no idea how I got one though. I searched for one online but there were no sites that sold chapter vignettes so I figured I would have to ask my graphic designer to come up with one. She never made one before but she would give it a try for me and working with her delayed my formatter even more since he needed to wait on this before completing the ebooks.

Once I had the vignette the formatter requested it be done a certain size and I sent it off only to hear I sent the wrong one. So I sent the right file and a week or two went by, I had the baby, and still no news from the formatter. Finally after a week I decided to send a reminder email to him and he wrote back that he sent off the files weeks ago, even sent a follow-up email, and to check my spam since it might have gone there. Sure enough, it was sitting in my spam folder and I felt like there was no end to the miscommunication that was occurring between us. Once I opened up the files the vignettes looked great, the overall book was professional, and even though the graphs were not exactly how I wanted, it was good enough for the reader to understand. I only had a few small fixes like the Acknowledgements page was not on its own and the vignettes were on a separate page instead of right above the chapters. He made the changes and sent it off and began working on the smashwords file. He returned that by the end of the night and then he finished the print version by the next day. I thought everything looked great and he caught that I went from Chapter 5 to Chapter 7, completely skipping Chapter 6. I would have definitely missed that and he saved me much embarrassment.

He let me know that the smashwords file may not upload since they usually wanted font size 18 or smaller but he preferred to use some font 24. If I could sneak it by the overall product would look better and he would fix it for later if it didn’t upload.

Happy with my files, I sent off his paypal invoice and I’m now looking into all I’ll need to complete publishing with Create Space, Smashwords, Nook, and others. Oh I hope they are basic enough for me to figure out on my own. Now I’m off to give my graphic designer the page number of the print version so she can create my printed cover. I can’t wait until I can send for my proof!

All in all, this did take about a month to finish but I have a feeling this usually takes him a few days. He did say that I contacted him at a super busy time (I think he was releasing his own book at the moment) and I definitely delayed it myself by not knowing how to view the files, insisting on using the graphs, waiting on the vignettes, and not checking my spam folder. I do highly recommend this formatter though, he really knows how to deliver an extremely professional product and is familiar with the ins and outs of the self-publishing world. If you’re looking for a fantastic formatter email me privately and I will give you his name and if you learn from all my delays he will most likely have your files back to you within days.

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If you’re considering self-publishing it’s critical that you look into all of these forums: Kindle Boards, Absolute Write, Nathan Bransford, Self-Publishing Review, Goodreads, and Library Thing. You should join each one for a different reason and the earlier you learn how to navigate these forums the better it will be for you in the long run.

Kindle Boards РA fantastic, extremely self-publishing friendly forum filled with people with extensive self-publishing knowledge where you can ask any question you have on your mind. Especially helpful with promotional ideas. (If you join only one forum join this one!)

Absolute Write – If you’re shopping for an agent or query writing this forum is wonderful but I find it’s a little less supportive of self-publishing even though they do have a whole posting area for self-publishing. I still find this forum extremely helpful for testing a book description, approving a cover, and for promotional opportunities.

Nathan Bransford– This forum has much less traffic but is still good place to get some feedback on book description, cover approval, and as a promotional tool. His blog is also very entertaining and he’s discussing more about the benefits of self-publishing lately and on Fridays he gives a run-down on the latest news in publishing and in the blogging world.

Goodreads – A great forum for advertising your book once you publish. A wonderful place to connect to your readers.

Library Thing – This is a website geared toward readers. They seem to frown on promotional attempts but if you join and connect to readers legitimately through your love of books you might attract readers subtly towards your book. Once you publish though there is a section for book giveaways that can be very useful for collecting reviews.

Self-Publishing Review – A forum for self-publishers only where you can receive great information and exposure if you decide to post.

And even though this is technically not a forum, I strongly recommend to follow David Gaughran’s blog. He is not only very helpful and super informative but he wrote a wonderful guide to self-publishing that will save you tons of time. His posts keep you updated on all the latest self-publishing news and he exudes such a positive and contagious outlook on self-publishing. If you have any questions he is extremely knowledgable and warm.

In conclusion, these forums are essential for information you can’t find in the self-publishing how-tos and as a promotional tool but I find the most important thing these forums provide is the support that someone going out on their own needs. It must be terrific to get an agent who tells you your novel is fantastic and who tucks you under their wings telling you they’ll take it from there but for those of us who only have a handful of beta readers giving us the thumbs up you need to have people out there who have been through the self-publishing trenches and emerged satisfied and proud. You will need their success stories, their support, and their inspiration to press forward and produce your novel. Reach out to these people and ask any question no matter how basic you think it is. The only dumb question is the one that is never asked.

Are there any others I forgot?

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Yes I’m still getting them!

I couldn’t believe it when I checked my email yesterday and saw the kind form reply apologizing for being a bit late (eight months!). Could that really have been only eight months ago! I feel like so much has happened since then.

How did I come so far in only eight months?

I learned how to query, how to process promising agent’s rejections, decided to self-publish, began a blog and website, and took on self-publishing. I can’t help but be proud of so much growth.

I reminisced about those hopeful replies and requests that I checked for every hour and had to laugh out loud when I saw it. It felt so wonderful not to care at all about it.

But what if this had been an interested agent’s reply at this point, what would I have done?

Right away I knew that this was the right direction for me to go in with this series and I would have politely turned down the agent at this point.

That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t query a new novel in the future but this series is made for self-publishing. I agree with so many other self-publishers out there that you must evaluate each project’s needs and marketability on a case by case basis. But I am so excited by this process and love this adventure. I love the support from all the self-publisher’s blogs, forums, and my blog readers and I can’t wait to see my first proof, get my first positive review, hold that finished book in my hand, sell my first 100 copies, and get an email from an appreciative reader (I will frame that you know).

Yeah, I realize there are all the negatives to cope with also: the first negative review, slow sales, emails from disgruntled readers demanding refunds, but I’m going to focus on the reason why I’m expending all this energy to begin with–I have to get this story out and I just hope there are some that will enjoy all my hard work.

It really has been so much fun so far!

What about you? How has your writing/ querying/ publishing journey progressed so far and how do you feel about it?

 

 

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Wow. Everything’s going by so quickly suddenly. The summer’s almost over, my son’s school will start soon, the baby’s on its way, a hurricane threatens to disconnect my internet for days, and of course I’m in the midst of book formatting my first novel of the series. Originally when I set the 11-11-11 launch date I thought I was giving myself extra time just in case of a colicky baby or the baby blues prove a challenge, but now with time ticking away I’m so glad I didn’t pick an October release!

Everything I’ve read about increasing your indie book sales recommends getting your second book out as quickly as you can after your first. Many say that nothing promotes your first book as much as another book release. The more books you can get out there the better. So, as I’m learning the ropes of publishing the first one I’ve been busy revising my second. My goal is to release the sequel January 2012 and I’m even planning on including the first chapter of the sequel in my debut book.

Honestly, I’ve been revising this book over the last year. I’ve gone through all my normal revising checklist and now I’ve added all the things my editor pointed out in the first novel. I feel like I can’t get it any better on my own and since this sequel is almost twice as long as my first, I know the editor, the copy editor, and the book formatter will all take twice as long, so I need to get moving. I did worry that one of my most trusted beta readers is midway into the sequel and would need to allow time for her critical feedback, but I know I can still make improvements between this first editor run-through and the second. I might even have time to send it out to a few more people as well.

So I wrote to my AWESOME editor to see if she was available to take on another book of mine. She said to send it on over and that’s what I did. Two books now on their road to print. I can’t believe it. Is this really happening?

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Google Alerts - Monitor the Web for interesting new content

 

Just a little tip for anyone not familiar with a great tool called Google Alerts. I heard this mentioned on another blog and wondered if I would be able to figure out how to do this myself. I typed in ‘google alerts’ and wouldn’t ya know it went directly to a google alerts screen. You can enter any keywords or phrases that you want to be notified about anywhere online. This is so important for writers since if anyone reviews your book on their blog or happens to mention your book you can immediately thank them. It’s important to know what others are saying about your writing and your books (good and bad) and this way you will be notified it’s out there.

After you type in something you want to track (my example: Infinite Sacrifice), you can choose what facets of the web you want to search (I chose everything). Then you can chose how frequent you want it sent to you (I chose once a day) and if you want only the best results sent to you or all (I chose best results). Lastly, you enter the email you would like these notifications sent to.

You can create as many of these alerts that you want. I chose to enter the titles of my books, the series name, a few different versions of my name, and my website address. This is also a neat idea if you want to track a certain author or topic you’re extremely interested in. I also decided to enter the names of future titles of my book since it would be good to know if someone else uses these titles before I can.

Well, just another tip I learned about through purusing blogs and thought I’d pass it on!

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I just realized how similar it is that at the same time I’m preparing to get this baby out into the world, I’m trying to get this book out into the world as well. This is how similar both processes are:

~Same crazy elation in the beginning. The idea of it all sounding so wonderful. Not truly thinking about how much work was ahead.

~Five months of morning/day/night sickness equal to the painful revision process. I also took two grueling workshops during this time that was as helpful as it was critical.

~As the baby grew so did all the things I needed to read about self-publishing.

~Spending money: factoring in all the things I needed to purchase for my expanding belly and for the needs of the baby and started laying out money for the website/cover/editor/copy editor/book formatter/ISBN’s/review copies…

~Having to lean on others. I haven’t been able to lift things over 20 lbs for a while, I can’t pick much up off the floor, and I can only waddle around so long before I get Braxton Hicks contractions. I’m also at the point in self-publishing where I’m asking more detailed questions on the forums and blogs.

~Starting to get tired. Tired of moving around and also tired of trying so hard to get this book out there. I keep trying to stay focused on the outcome I’m working toward but it is getting pretty hard to feel motivated at this point.

~Worries. The closer I’m getting to my due date/launch date the more I’m getting worried at what’s ahead. I had a baby already and I know exactly what’s to come. How much sleep I’ll get and how much time I’ll have for myself. I’ve also heard how grueling bad reviews can be, how my sales will most likely be few until I can really get noticed somewhere, and how tedious all the self-promotion can be.

~Can’t change things now. This baby/book is going to come out and I’ll just have to try my best to get it out as perfect as I can get it. I can’t keep either thing inside me any longer!

~Letting Go. These two things I’ve been creating for so long–two incredibly important things–I must release into the world. They’re going to go from being safe inside me to starting their own journey; where other people can ultimately ignore or judge them. But hopefully, where some will appreciate and love them the way I have.

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I can’t wait for this editing to end!

This is all new to me so every step I don’t know what to expect. I was so pleased after working with the editor I chose and part of me wondered if I even needed to use a copy editor. But I listened to all of the most informative self-publishing blogs that insist you must have a quality editor and proofreader before publishing.

So luckily, I found the name of a very reasonable proofreader on one of the forums I frequent. Her website looked fantastic and I liked how she has a review site as well that showcases self-published books. Anyone who wants to support self-publishers like that I want to give my business to.

I gave her my MS on Wednesday and she had it back to me by Sunday night. She even had her partner give it a look through for no extra charge!

I was worried about seeing completely different suggestions the other editor pointed out. I worried I wouldn’t know which editor was right and I’d lose faith in both editors. Well, when I opened up my file I saw the corrections were very infrequent. She changed comma placement, suggested some sentences could be made clearer by removing a few words, found a word I left in by accident when I made my last edits, and made a few editorial comments.

All in all, there was much less corrections than I anticipated. At first I wondered if that meant she wasn’t thorough but then I realized all the improvements she did point out where spot on. So then I realized that this was a great sign. It showed the first editor did a great job and the second editor agreed with her choices.

A few instances she pointed out things I went against the editor with and so I knew I had to change them. But I was very happy to see that the majority of things I did keep (against the first editors recommendations) the copy editor didn’t pick up on. Making me feel much better about going with my gut.

In conclusion, I feel very confident going forward. The fact I’ve had such a thorough and professional editor and then a great copy editor who picked up on the little things we’ve both missed, makes me feel fantastically ready to publish. The copy editor also told me that she and her partner really enjoyed reading my book and couldn’t wait to see what happened next!

I’ll probably do another read through before I send off to the book formatter, who I am still waiting on for a quote. This is all really moving forward so nicely.

PS- Would love to give you the name of the copy editor if you’re looking for one, just ask!

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So in the middle of this whole first self-publishing experience, I’m attempting to get my second novel of the series ready to quickly follow the first.I find myself going back (what feels like so long ago) to the first major edits of my first. So these are the things I’ve learned from so many terrific editing blogs out there:

1) Remove all the ‘just’s you can

2)Remove all the ‘that’s you can

3)Do an ‘ly’ search for adverbs and change them where you can

4) I tend to overuse the word ‘look’ so I do a search for those and change them

6) Tighten up unneeded words

7) Remove all unnecessary dialog tags

8 ) Cut the fat (take out anything that doesn’t move the story forward)

9) Change all ‘has pulled’ to ‘pulls’ or ‘is running’ to ‘runs’, even ‘comes running’ to ‘runs’

I’ve also started to go through all the things I learned from my editor so she doesn’t think I’m a lost cause. My goal is to have a lot less red on the pages with the next one.

It seems a never-ending process though because publishing the second makes me want to finish writing the third book so I can have that follow as well, but I’m only human! How can I be learning self-publishing, promoting, editing the second, AND writing the third! How do these prolific writers do it?

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