Category Archives: self-publishing

Pulling out of iBooks?

This post is a reaction to reading Holly Lisle’s recent article: The Apple iBooks Author Issue: Small things, and large principles in which she talks about a clause in the user agreements for the iBooks Author program. I encourage you to hop over and check out her article, and the article she links to which gives a bit more explanation about the clause. I’m always grateful for people who can explain these agreements in ways that don’t make you want to spork your eyeballs out.

Now, I’m just hoping I get this right because these things are confusing to me, so be nice. But what I gather is that Holly’s pissed because the iBooks user agreement says that if you use iBooks to create an ebook (and I believe you must use it to get into the iBookstore without a third party like Smashwords), and that book is rejected by the iBookstore, you can’t take that copy of your work and sell it elsewhere.

To be clear, Apple’s not saying it owns the intellectual content of the book, but it owns the format produced by its software enough to have a say in what you can do it with it.

And that’s shitty and wrong for all the reasons mentioned in the two articles mentioned above, and if adopted by others spells out DOOM and virtual apocalypse and the end of the Life As We Know It, etc.

But it is a shock?

No. This is Apple! Have I created ebooks using iBooks Author? No. Because it’s Mac-only software. As far as I know, I cannot put books directly into the iBookstore as I can the Kindle, NOOK, or Smashwords stores because I don’t own a Mac, so I can’t run the software which is the exclusive way to get in there. If I want to put my book there myself, I’m expected to buy (and learn!) a whole new computer system.

I don’t like Apple’s exclusivity. I don’t deny that they have a right to be as exclusive as they wanna be (and that other companies have the right to to do things like make mobile versions of digital comics only available to Apple devices). I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to give in, get an Apple device and set myself up to do more business with Apple (or the few cell phone providers who can support the device) for the life of the device. And I don’t have to buy the products of companies which can’t get a move on and release their products for the devices I will buy.

That’s my protest. That’s between me and Apple. In the last few years at my house that’s included a couple laptops, a couple MP3 players, an ereader, a tablet, and a smartphone. I like to adopt early. It’s hard to keep up and it seems to make things easier. But I’ll get behind on some tech rather than bind myself up in exclusivity battles. (Did I buy a Kindle? No. I waited until my Sony Reader was wretchedly behind the times and then I bought a NOOK Color and rooted it so it could use the Kindle app so I could shop where I wanna shop.)

I totally admire what Holly says here:

And there is no number of people affected that is insignificant. The smallest minority is the individual, and minority rights protect the rights of the individual because those are the only rights there are.

I would agree with that. Don’t use the software. I hope Holly chooses to find another way into the iBookstore because this is where our opinions diverge.

Apple may lose some revenue from the loss of Holly and perhaps of others who follow her lead. But also at a loss for the content they want are the fans who have already invested in Apple’s devices. Pulling content from the marketplace that serves that segment of her fan base puts those fans in the crossfire of her dispute with Apple. (Just like pulling content from NOOK to make it exclusive to Kindle in KDP Select is a smack to a segment of fans). And I’m not iHater enough to say that’s what they deserve for investing in Apple devices. (Of course you’d think they’d be able to purchase content at other places and sideload it if necessary, but we know that’s beyond the technical capabilities of some, and, at any rate, I feel like my job is to think of the people who actually support my work whenever I can.)

The whole thing to me is like… I don’t know. I guess it feels like you marry a jealous, possessive, controlling man because he drives a stylish automobile, knows the latest hot spots, and comes in fashion colors, and then suddenly you’re surprised when he wants to start telling you what to do? If a guy starts slinging a lot of proprietary formats in your general direction, take the hint about what kind of relationship this is going to be and shop elsewhere.

I’m not trying to rag on those of you who own and love your Apple devices for all the reasons you own and love them. There IS a lot to love. And I AM frequently jealous of you while I’m sitting on the outside looking in at your app store. I’m sure your OS is as elegant as you say it is and whatever else. But that relationship is not for me, and this is the kind of thing that reaffirms my stance on buying Apple goods.

But as much as it does, I don’t think pulling out of that marketplace entirely is right answer to this event. What about you guys? Anyone else inspired to pull out of the iBookstore because of the iBooks Author license agreement? Do you plan to just dump the software and get back in through Smashwords, or boycott the store entirely? For those who shop the iBookstore, will this be a problem for you? Would you shop elsewhere for your favorites?

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Formatting for Print on Demand

Ok, so last week I started talking to you about getting started with CreateSpace. We talked about some things you can do and think about before you really dig into formatting. The last step we talked about was doing one last, careful, super final pass to make sure that text is completely typo-free and just the way you want it.

I should preface the rest of this by saying that there’s actually a lot you can do with interior layout, and if you want to be fancy, you’ll want to find references beyond what I’m going to talk about. This post is about get it done, get it out there, and quit being held back by fear or perfectionism. What I’m going for is a nice, clean, legible read, because I really believe it’s your story that matters. But if you want to dive into the fancy stuff on your first time out, go for it. One book I’ve seen recommended may times is Aaron Shepard’s Perfect Pages. That book deals a lot more with the ins and outs of making Word do what you want it to than it does about design type things. I’m sure there are tons of books and blog posts out there if you poke around long enough.

Hopefully you’ve been looking through some books to see what the insides look like, and to think about what kinds of extra information you’ll add. This is your space. As long as you don’t wind up costing your customer too much money, you can add promo for your other works, the works of your peers, a bio, etc. You should definitely leave a little room to tell the reader where to find you online so they’ll know where to go for more info about your future work.

A quick word about margins, which we didn’t get into the other day. I used equal margins on each side, partly because I had read somewhere that just in case the printing got a little off, it seemed a safe thing to do. In retrospect, I think I might have a wider inside (gutter) margin next time around. If you want to do that, in Word, you’ll go to File, Page Setup, Gutter Position Left, set the Gutter amount that you want (1/4″?), for Multiple Pages select “Mirror Margins.” Don’t be surprised if you page count has changed.

You’ll want to go through that section at the beginning of the book before the story actually starts, the “front matter.” Use Insert, Break, Section Break Next Page to make each page a new section. Use this method for any blank pages you want to add to make text fall on odd or even pages.  For example, the title page is on the right-hand side, or an odd page. The copyright info is usually on an even numbered page. Page 1, the way CreateSpace is counting, is the first page of your document. You can’t print anything on the inside cover (save it for your autograph).

When you start Chapter 1, make sure that’s the start of a new section. All Chapters should be the beginning of a new section (meaning there should be a section break, not a page break.) Continue to scroll through your document. Now you’re looking to make sure each chapter starts on an odd page, and if it doesn’t you’ll add extra section breaks as above. Remember to always work from beginning to end of your document. Each blank page should be its own section, and each new chapter should be the start of a new section. This is probably the most tedious part of the whole thing. This is about page numbering, which we’ll get to later.

Once you’ve added all your blank pages and you’re SURE about your page count, you can go back to CreateSpace to make the cover template. That’s as easy as entering your book size and number of pages and downloading a zip file. What you do with this, I don’t know. I sent mine to Robin and she sent me back a cover. (I ❤ Robin.) CreateSpace has some kind of cover creator thing for you DIYers. Remember to look at some books on your shelf to see what goes on a cover. You’ll probably at least want a short blurb for the back. CreateSpace will take care of your barcode, and the blank spot you leave for that is on your template.

Now you’re going to add headers. Go to File, Page Setup, Layout tab, and under Headers and footers check the box for Different odd and even. Also check the box for Different first page. In your document, skip to the Chapter 1 page. Select View, Header and Footer. A menu bar pops up and so does a text box where your header should be. Page down to the header of the next page. Use your regular old alignment buttons to center the text and type your name. Page down to the third page of your book, center the text and type your title. Now page through the rest of the section. You should have your book title on the odd pages and your name on the even pages.

Hover over the buttons on that little menu bar until you find the one that says Link to Previous. When that button is live, the section that you’re in takes the information from the section before it. Go through and click that button for every section. Go back to Chapter 1 and make sure that what you have is

  • your title on odd pages
  • your name on even pages
  • no headers on blank pages or “Chapter” pages

All of the headers and footers in the “front matter” section should be blank (but only if you’re doing it my way–you can actually do whatever you want). If they’re not, check those link to previous buttons and make sure they’re not activated.

Next step is to add page numbers. Go to the first page of your story, Chapter 1. If you’ve lost your footer box and menu, go to View, Header and Footer to get it back. Click in the footer and click the button for Format Page Number. Select Starts at and put in 1 so that this is where you start counting pages (story pages, for the reader, not actual pages for the printer). If you find there’s a 1 in the footer box in your document, delete it.  Go to the next page’s footer. This time, click the Insert Page Number button. Use the alignment buttons to center the number. Check page 3 and see if there’s a page number.

Page through your document. You should have no page numbers on blank and “Chapter” pages (because those are all the first page of a section). All other pages should have consecutive numbers. If this is not the case, play with it.

If you want page numbers on your “Chapter” pages (I have them, because the convention of not having them annoys me as a reader, but it is more common not to have them), that’s doable. You just have to unlink your sections and insert page numbers on the “Chapter” pages. It’s a pain in the butt.

Double check your front matter section and make sure all headers and footers are blank. Double check that all your headers and footers on blank and “Chapter” pages are empty. Double check, again, that all blank pages fall on the left, or even, and that all new chapters start on right or odd pages. And when you’re done checking, check again.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is your curly quotes and apostrophes. When characters interrupt each other, as they often do, Word has a habit of making the end quote turn the wrong way. (“Hey, wait a min–“) Additionally, make sure any apostrophes at the beginnings of words are turned properly. When you type a word like ’cause, Word always puts the apostrophe the wrong way. These are things I now fix as I type, but had to go back through and fix when formatting for epublishing and print for Book 1. Make sure your double hyphens became em-dashes (the long, unbroken ones). There are probably other common things to look out for, but these are the ones I can think of and you probably worked a lot of this out when formatting for e anyway.

Once you’re all done, you should be able to Print to PDF. If you don’t have a program installed that allows you to do this, you might try something like PDF Creator or other free program. Google is your friend. Then you’re in for another round or two of just get your eyeballs on it and make sure it’s perfect before uploading.

We’re running long, but if you’re actually doing this, I know you just want me to finish it out.

Once you upload your PDF and your cover, it takes a day or few for CreateSpace to look it over and make sure it’s not going to be crappy in some way. Basically they’re checking to make sure you’ve followed the submission requirements, that all your text is in the printable area, stuff like that. Once it’s been accepted by them, you’ll order your proof.

What you pay for your proof is the cost you were quoted based on the page count. You’ll probably pay about the same for shipping via media mail. This should take about 7-10 days depending on how the mail is, although the site quotes longer. Once you get your book, after you’re done oohing, ahhing, stroking it, taking pictures of it, etc., you’ll want to actually crack it open and make sure everything turned out ok.

Go back to CreateSpace and approve your book. Make sure you’ve got your price set the way you want and that you’ve enrolled in ProPlan if you want (you can go free right now and add that later if you choose), and that you’ve opted into the Expanded Distribution Channel if you choose and have done ProPlan. Your book should show up on Amazon within a few days. If you entered your title exactly as your DTP title, your Kindle and paperback versions should link up automatically. If your page finishes building and they don’t, contact DTP customer service and let them know.

There’s a lot more that can be learned on the subject than what I’ve told you, which is mainly the highlights of what I remember having to learn when I did this, only once, about six months ago. But I hope it helps move you toward getting a print edition out there.

My book uses 12pt Times New Roman with 1/2″ margins, no gutter. Headings, headers, and footers are done in Engravers MT. I did no kerning of the text at all. The text is left-justified. If you’d like to see how that came out, you can Look Inside the Book on Amazon.

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Beginning Steps in Print

I don’t know why I’m so all-fired motivated to get you guys to put out print books, but yeah, here’s another post about it. I wrote this before I went on break, but while I’ve been away I’ve read yet again that it’s Soooooo hard to format for print. For CreateSpace even! Arg. It’s enough to make a girl come back and schedule some posts.

This is going to be some more nuts and bolts type first steps, and is going to be about CreateSpace. That’s what I used, I liked it, I recommend it. If you want to do something else, that’s cool, and this post may or may not be helpful to you. Welcome to the crap-shoot that is my blog.

Stuff you can easily do today, so get off your ass.

Ok, possibly unnecessary, but if you’ve been dithering or otherwise dragging your feet on this (like I did), for whatever reason, here’s a little kick in the pants.

Today, just go create an account. You don’t have to do anything with it, you’re not obligated to use it, but it’s a good first step. It’s just your basic username/password, email addy, and they’d like to know what you’re planning to publish (book, DVD, etc.) While you’re there, go find the places where you enter payment info. You’ll need to put a credit card on file for when you buy stuff, like ordering your proof copy, or later when you order your copies at cost for giveaways and reviewers. Also, find the place where you enter your payee info. Because they’re gonna need to know where to send your big fat royalties.

A good next step would be to choose your book size. You don’t have to do anything or commit to anything here, I’m just saying figure it out in your head, so you know. My method for choosing my book size was very scientific. I IMed Zoe and asked, “What size did you go with for Blood Lust?” She said 5.5″ x 8.5″. I went back to CreateSpace and double-checked that that would be a good size with the Expanded Distribution Channel and all that, and it was all good. So if you don’t have a preference, you can also go with 5.5″ x 8.5″ for the simple reason that we did. Decision made.

Can you handle another to-do today? Assuming you have a completed manuscript, open it up, do a Save As, and then in the new copy change the page size to whatever you chose for your book size. See how many pages you’ve got. Go back to CreateSpace and play with the calculators. If you can’t find them, try the Publish tab, click the Books on Demand link, then the Pricing tab. The other calculator is under Sales & Royalties. Between the two of these, you can start to get an idea of what this book is going to cost and how you can price it. You can go back to your document and play with margins, fonts and font sizes, extra content, etc, and more or less decide on a number of pages. (You can find recommended margins based on number of pages under the Submission Requirements tab.)

Do NOT finalize your cover or send a CreateSpace template to your cover designer until you are certain about the number of pages. Changing the page count will affect the cover template.

Now that you know how many final pages you’re shooting for, you can start your formatting. The biggest part of this will be the most thorough proof-reading ever. Be certain you’ve got as many bugs out of this manuscript as humanly possible because once this is done, you will be charged a fee to make changes in the future.

Set a goal for this proof-reading pass, and schedule proofing a set number of pages per day to reach your goal. Because proof-reading is boring. To avoid being caught up in the wonderful awesomeness of your story, I very much recommend starting from the end. Read each page from top to bottom so that you’ll still understand the context, but turn the pages from right to left instead of left to right. If you’re like me, working this way will help you catch a lot more of the missed word/incorrect word typos that your brain typically fills in automatically. If you’re not good at this, consider shipping this off to a professional copy-editor.

That should keep you busy for a little while. Next week I’m going to talk about things like headers and footers, page numbering, blank pages, etc., and how I handled those. It’s easier to do that stuff AFTER the rest of the text is perfected. Trust me.

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On CreateSpace

On my to-do list for some time has been to talk to you a little bit about print, how I came to choose CreateSpace for that, and my experience with it so far. Hopefully this will be just an overview and informative while mercifully brief.

Question #1: To print or not to print?

Print! Yes, ebooks ARE the future. I buy digital whenever possible, don’t even like to buy paper books anymore, and I absolutely believe that’s where we’re going. But I also understand that I am not Jill Every-Reader. While more and more people are trying out ebooks and embracing them every day, there are still plenty of people who prefer paper, or who are simply not ready to take that plunge.

For me, print is about customer service. If I were running a retail store (which I have done), part of my job would be to stock the types of products my customer wants and needs. I know from experience that customers can get pretty peevish when you don’t supply what they want. If it’s within my power to give my customer the type of product that best suits their need, why would I not do that? This is as true for providing both print and ebook formats as it is for providing your customer with a variety of file formats for various devices.

Question #2: DIY or Author Services Company?

I think of Author Services as those companies that offer to do this for you. Names that come to mind are AuthorHouse and Xlibris. Companies like CreateSpace and Lulu also offer author services packages in addition to the DIY stuff. This is something you’re going to have to answer for yourself. For me, and most of the indies I spend time with, it’s DIY as much as possible. We simply don’t have the money to shell out hundreds of dollars for someone else to do this work, and it just doesn’t have to be a big deal.

In fact, I think that, especially when you’re talking about fiction which is primarily text without images, print can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. A simple print edition is no harder than formatting for e.

I have read some scary-ass things put out by Author Services Companies. I’m not saying they’re all charlatans, and I’m sure that some of them provide great service which the authors feel is worth the price. I get that they need to make their services sound important, worth the price they’re charging, etc. I have seen some claims that lean toward un-truths, and some really bad “science” when discussing sales numbers. If you’re going that route, beware. Read a lot. And keep in mind when reading testimonials that many people have a need to justify their own choice, sometimes by making it seem better than it is.

Question #3: Which company should I choose?

Keep in mind from this point on that I’m talking about my thought process, my choices, and what works for me. Your mileage my vary. Because we’re obviously going to talk DIY, the conversation usually comes down to three: Lulu, LSI, or CreateSpace.

I’m throwing out Lulu right off the bat as too damned expensive. A big part of the decision-making process for me was: how cheaply can I sell my book? Answer from the Lulu calculators? Not cheaply at all. In just the manufacturing costs, the exact same edition I got from CreateSpace prices out 70% higher on Lulu. (To be fair, I have to say that they price out about the same, except that I’ve added an option to lower my CS price, which I’ll talk about later. As far as I know, Lulu could have something like that, but I don’t know.) Lulu has more format choices (coil-bound, hardcover), but for fiction and a first novel, I don’t see any need to get fancy.

LSI (Lightning Source) is favored by many indies as the most professional way to go. And likely it is. It certainly seems moreso in the way they don’t put a lot of information on the website and expect you to do a lot of talking on the phone. (Oh yeah, you know that’s an issue for me.) Most of going with LSI is about having more options and maintaining ultimate control as the publisher. The trade-off in that seems to be having a somewhat more complicated process with a bit more to learn–although I’m not sure because I haven’t actually worked with them, and shelling out a good deal more up front.

ISBNs and ownership are an issue for some indies. They want to have their own imprint, to have everything in their own name, they have their reasons and they’re willing to pay for that. I’m not right now. Unlike the other options, LSI doesn’t offer free ISBNs and requires you to set yourself up as a publishing company. And while that may look really spiffy, I’m just not into the added hassle right now.

LSI has other initial costs that are greater than CreateSpace. I don’t know if the books cost appreciably more like they do at Lulu, again because LSI isn’t upfront about that stuff. I do know that most of the LSI books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine, but then, most of the books I’ve seen are priced higher than mine.

LSI has some other benefits with regard to distribution and you can find people talking about these all over the web. Most of them don’t apply to me as a beginner, and those benefits don’t outweigh the added hassle and expense.

After I have progressed in my career, if I feel I need to have an LSI edition, there’s nothing that says I can’t go do one later. I still own all my stuff, right?

My choice was CreateSpace and I’ve been very happy with it. And since this is running long, I’ll try to just bullet the pros and cons for you.

Pros:

  • No up-front cost. Nothing. You can go print your book with CreateSpace today for free. Free ISBN (but you can bring your own if you’re into that), no setup fees. We like free.
  • ProPlan- Lowers your cost. You’ll want to add this. It’s an up-front cost of $39.00 (for each book). For this you get a lower manufacture cost which allows you higher profits and/or the ability to lower your retail price. Since you pay the manufacture price for any copies you personally buy, this will pay for itself pretty quickly in your copy for your mom, giveaways, review copies, and the ones you sell out of your knitting bag to sweet people who are just excited to meet someone with their name on a shiny cover.
  • ProPlan- EDC: Just as important, this gets you into the Expanded Distribution Channel which I believe gets your book into Baker & Taylor (but I don’t think into Ingram and I cannot find that info). Don’t get excited. This does not mean B&N is going to order your book to stock in their stores. They probably won’t, even if it’s doing well. I’ll discuss that in the Cons. But it will allow your book to be listed at B&N’s website, at Book Depository (which has free international shipping), and allows registered booksellers (like your local indie bookstore that carries books by local authors) to order your book at wholesale prices.
  • You will find VS. posts around the internet that talk about CreateSpace books not being able to get into Baker & Taylor, not being available to resellers, etc. Be advised that the EDC is a new program, so check the date on those posts when you’re doing your research.
  • Oh! You should also know that renewal of ProPlan is only $5 per year. My annual fee was waived in December, I assume because my book was out less than 6 months. I believe LSI does charge an annual fee to list your book in its distribution network. I read somewhere that it’s around $13, but that may be old or inaccurate info.
  • Easy as print as PDF. Really. That’s all there is to it. Now, getting that PDF just right might make you pull out a few hairs, but you don’t HAVE to get super fancy in your layout to produce a good book. MOST people don’t care about fancy book interiors. What’s important is that your book is readable. With a little thought and care, you can do that. You did it with e, you can do it for print.
  • It’s pretty fast. Once you’re done with your part and you upload your book, it take a few days for them to review it. They’re not proof-reading it for you, but they are making sure you have the right margins, stuff like that, and that nothing’s going to get cut off or anything. After that, you order your proof copy for the price they’ve quoted you as your cost. From my limited experience, I’d say expect to pay about the same amount as your book’s cost for media mail which generally takes a 7-10 days unless it’s a busy season. Expect to pay exponentially more for expedited shipping options. Once your proof is in-hand, all you have to do is log on and say yes! I approve! Go sell that bitch! And then it goes live on Amazon pretty quickly, like within a day or two, if I recall. Other sites will pick it up eventually.
  • Low cost means low price. You know how I feel about low consumer prices. CreateSpace, and some fudging with fonts and layout stuff, allowed me to put together a book that sells for $8.99, the same as what the mass-market price seems to be right now. Not being more expensive than my vetted counterparts is important to me.

Cons:

  • Borders doesn’t list it. I’m at the point of thinking this is more Borders’ problem than mine. I mean, It’d be cool if they would pick it up and I could sell a few more, but whatever. I don’t think I’m losing that much by not being at Borders.com. They’re losing more by not embracing indies in general, that’s for sure. Anyway, I think this may be because I’m not in the Ingram catalog, but like I said above, I’m not sure about that.
  • This edition will probably never be in the brick and mortar chain stores. Doesn’t matter who it’s listed with, CreateSpace does not allow you the option of making the book returnable. Essentially, the bookstores want to order a bunch of books, put out a few for however long they decide to try them out on the shelf, then box them up and send them back for credit. So think about it like this: maybe one day you have orders for a couple hundred or a couple thousand books. Awesome. And then in six months you find that all but six copies were returned. And all the “profits” you’ve been waiting on, that couldn’t be distributed to you because they’re held against possible returns, are now gone, and you get a check for $3. Possibly it’s better to have loved and lost, and certainly I’d like the opportunity to be browsed in the chains, not saying that wouldn’t be a great thing. Just it’s hard to work up a lot of upset about it, and the hassle/expense vs. potential benefit ratio just isn’t impressing me right now. (Ok, who am I kidding, if B&N calls me up and tells me they want to stock my book, my laptop and I will be on Zoe’s doorstep begging her to help me put together an LSI edition ASAP. I will bring a Firehouse Sub to get me in the door. I’m crafty that way. But I just don’t see as a likely scenario right now.) I know there are people who go with LSI for reasons of ownership who still don’t want to exercise the option to make the book returnable.
  • I’m not the publisher. Like I said, I don’t really care about that at this point. CS puts their name on it. I think this may be because I went with the free ISBN, and I think it might also be a requirement of expanded distribution.

I think a lot of the point is that I’m happy with CreateSpace because it was cheap and easy for me to just get it done now without adding fees I couldn’t afford or stresses I don’t need. If I get to the point where it’s no longer the right choice, I figure I can go with something different at that time, when I’ve grown into it.

Sorry about the lack of merciful brevity, and I’m going to continue for a bit because indies like numbers. It’s been absolutely worth it for me to put out the print edition. Extra costs for me were $80 for the rest of my cover and a new title page from Robin (a title page I also put in my e after that), and the $39 pro plan from CS.

I make 5xs more in royalties on Amazon than I do when I have sales through the EDC. Which is fine. The royalty from EDC sales isn’t much less than I’d get from a standard royalty if I had a trad publisher. So I’m not really losing anything, I’m just getting 5xs more from Amazon. Since I put the book out at the end of September (actually 4 months exactly from the day I’m writing this. Print was several weeks behind the ebook version because I thought it would be harder and I was learning a lot of stuff at once), I’ve sold 45 copies through Amazon and 38 through EDC (most of those I believe are via B&N), for a total of 83 paperbacks. I’ve pretty much just cleared my expenses. And that doesn’t count any of the ones I sold to local acquaintances. Having print also gives me something more to offer as a giveaway, which is nice, as people seem to get more excited about a $9 item than a $1 item. Go figure. And it’s cool to know there are people out there who are actually willing to pay that much to read my book. Yay!

So, in conclusion (finally), totally worth doing, really happy with CreateSpace as the cheap and easy alternative, and looking forward to reaching over 150 paperback sales soon so that I can rub Brad’s nose in it. I’d love to hear your experiences, addendum to this info, and will try to answer questions in the comments. Hope this was helpful.

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The Next Level? What’s an indie to do?

Today I feel like my brain is going to break. Like, moreso than usual.

It all seems pretty straightforward when you start. For the beginning stuff, information is pretty abundant.

Write a book. Well, okay, I’ve read a lot about doing that. Got lots of books on the shelf, have read countless advice on the internet. Been processing all that and practicing for years. Let’s sit down and write a book. Okay, done.

Edit the book. Well, okay. I guess I can pretty much go back to those books and articles and all the practice, and hopefully come up with something readable. Okay, done.

Format the book. Hmm. Well, okay. New searches, new articles, talk to some friendly people. Seems pretty step by step. I think I can do that. Okay, done.

Publish the book. Okaayy… Read the instructions, ask a few questions of the friendly people. Click, click, okay done. Finally. Now let’s sit back and…

Oh, no. Go market that book. Oh, right. Marketing. Okay. More books, more articles, social sites, lots more being friendly. Some comfort zone issues, but also a lot of fun and rewarding. So that’s cool. And oh, look, sales are starting. Awesome!

Write the next book. Sure, okay, did that before. Oh, no wait. This is a sequel. Okay, that’s different. But okay, I can do this. Because of the reading and the practice and stuff. It’s just going to take some different thinking and some more time.

Time. Well, there’s less of that. Nothing is going right. And we need things to be just right. Plus, you know, got all this other stuff to manage. Got all these new friends to follow and get to know and remember all their stuff and want to read their books and check out their blogs, but also gotta keep learning stuff, and gotta reply to comments, tweets, emails. Don’t want to miss anyone. Need everyone to know they’re appreciated. Don’t ever want anyone to feel slighted because I can’t keep up. But my inbox won’t stop refilling itself. Is it possessed? Is all this really necessary? Of course it’s necessary. If they take the time to say something nice, they deserve a thank you. If they ask me a question, they deserve an answer. Does the answer have to be hundreds of words and take the whole morning? Well, maybe not, but I want to be thorough. These are people, and they deserve attention.   But so does my family, and my home, and that poor, unfinished book that those people are waiting for.

Waiting. Right. Two people–more?–are still waiting on interview questions to be answered and sent. Gotta get those done. How many people have I promised giveaway copies to? Are those due yet? I hope they follow up with me, because I don’t have a way to be organized with this stuff.

It’s just those emails got buried under the barrage of alerts I got, and flagged for follow-up, of places advertising my pirated book. Well, what to do about that? Just shrug it off? Say oh, that’s ok, because it probably doesn’t hurt sales anyway and maybe we’ll find a way to make us think it’s actually a good thing. Maybe. I don’t know. It seems wrong. Especially those guys who are trying to sell it for $4 and haven’t offered me a cut. So do I just ignore it? When in doubt, we have to ask ourselves: WWHRD? What would Howard Roark do?

Um, well, when Howard Roark lost control of his work, his designs, he blew up Cortland homes. So…maybe not really. Perhaps we should just go with the lesson that we should make an effort to do something, if only to say look, this is mine, I made it, and it’s not okay for you to give it away without asking me. I’m pretty generous with stuff. My photography isn’t great, but still, a lot of it’s got Creative Commons licensing on it in case it’s useful to someone. I try to blog a lot of useful stuff, information that I might have been able to compile and sell. I try to share what I can and keep back some particular things for myself. So it kind of sucks when someone takes them. I don’t think that’s okay. Not trying to start a movement, not holding a rally or screaming and whining about it. But if I believe in doing what I can to protect my own property, I have to follow the leads, find the files, find the hosts to contact, write and file the proper notices, and this is all stuff I have to learn and do. (And thank goodness I found an awesome friend who has been very generous in helping me get started learning this stuff. Even though a lot of it is still over my head and dealing with me requires a lot of patience.)

Do I want to license out some of my other rights, stuff I can’t do on my own? Umm…well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, really? That would cool. But wait. Is this for real? Is this legit? Google Google, seems okay. But…I have concerns. I need more information. But how do I ask? Is asking for more unprofessional? Will it make me look like I don’t know what I’m doing so I can be taken advantage of? Is this just how it’s done? How is it done? I have no clue, I need help.

But…no one seems to know anything. Google Google, not really getting exactly what I’m looking for. I need to talk to someone who’s done this. Ask a few indies who are farther ahead than I am. Answer: get an agent.

Well, okay, that’s an answer. That would be someone who’s done this. Someone who has answers. Didn’t occur to me that I would need an agent for what I was going to do, or at least need one in the first year with one book out. Didn’t think THAT would come up. But one of the indies I wrote to basically said, paraphrase: if this is coming up now, it’s probably going to come up more.

Couldn’t I learn to just DIY? Um, yeah, I guess. But damn, look at how much DIY I’m already not able to deal with. Having someone to help me, to not go through these mornings of Googling and trying to piece information together, to have someone to go to answer my questions, someone I wouldn’t feel like I was imposing on…that sounds pretty freakin’ good right now.

Does that make me less indie? I don’t know. I kind of don’t see how, and I kind of don’t care. For me, part of independence is that I get to decide my own crap, not have it decided by the indie purist committee because this isn’t the junior high cafeteria.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still on the fence. After all, what the hell good does deciding to look into getting an agent do me this morning when I have this big red flag in my inbox needing attention right now? It’s not as though I’ve been approached by an agent. From what I’ve GOOGLED (omg I’m as sick of it as you are) there’s nothing for it but to start the process from scratch, as though I were going trad, with the added interest of trying to make them not see me as damaged indie goods.

Excuse me, what? Okay, let’s just skip that part. So should I add read/learn/practice the query process to my to-do and start the process politely asking, in just the right way, for the privilege of being allowed to audition for the person I’d like to hire to help me out with this? I understand, I really do, that there are reasons why the process is the way it is. But it just seems way backward to me, I don’t know if I want to get into that, and I don’t see it helping me deal with today.

Today I just want school to reopen, my house to magically clean itself, and to sit in the quiet and write my book. Write a book. Simple and straightforward, like it was in the beginning.

Should I be apologizing for the level of whining insanity self-disclosure lately? Does anyone else feel just totally overwhelmed?

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Filed under self-publishing

Lessons from the Universe Continue to Plague Me

Some days are just full of headaches and embarrassments.

The headache is mainly just that I’m sick with one of those nasty, painful colds. At least we didn’t have a snow day for the THIRD day in a row. I know I’m not supposed to consider school my babysitter, but come on.

Anyway, I feel terrible about this, like I just have total promo fail. I can’t believe my reach is still so small that I can’t even give away 10 copies of a book. And it may be partly that Imogen and I have been doing cross-promo and she’s already tapped as much of my small network as she’s gonna. And it’s probably also that I had to go our around 12:30 yesterday, didn’t get home until 8pm, and then just crawled into bed, so the PM world didn’t really know about the giveaway. So basically, everyone who commented yesterday wins, and I appreciate it. I’ve already sent those out.

So a friend of mine, who is somewhat down, has written to me with some questions about self-publishing. And like the indie fiend that I am, I’m responding with a long letter, attempting to take advantage of his frustration and bring him over to the Dark Side.

And while I’m doing this, an email I wrote a few weeks ago come back to haunt me.

While I was away for that reunion thing over Thanksgiving weekend, I got this email from the people at BookBuzzr, basically saying: hey, since you’ve been with us, your rank has gone from this to this. Do you know how that happened and have any marketing tips we could share with our readers?

Well, now, you guys know that I am always happy to babble about that stuff, so I did. With my husband tapping his foot, I furiously typed this really long email in which I brain-dumped everything I could think of, most of which you guys have already read. Only, you know, I thought I was just talking one-on-one, and I was pressed for time, and I left out the self-effacing humble stuff that I actual feel, but just didn’t have time for that morning.

So in the middle of what’s supposed to be a kick-ass, indie-rah email to my friend, I get a promo in my inbox that mentions my name in a link. And follow it to the reprint of this previous email.

Now, don’t get all mad on my account. I say I didn’t know it was coming out, but I’m sure it was a misunderstanding on my part and I’m not mad. You’d be AMAZED and frightened by the amount of stuff that goes over my head and that I just plain forget. If you’re one of those writers who goes about in a fog most of the time and makes the absent-minded professor look like Franklin Planner-Man, you know what I’m talking about. (I am, actually, the antithesis of Kait Nolan. And suddenly the Anti-Kait has a ring to it…) But it leaves me sort of nonplussed and kind of embarrassed, and concerned about whether, perhaps, I came off as a big no-it-all with a huge, bloated head. Plus I might have tried to sound more smarter than I do around here, talking with you friends.

The lesson here, for all of us, is to remember to be careful in our communications with others, to pay attention to whether or not we’re projecting what we intend, and that what we say electronically can live on for a long time in ways we didn’t originally expect.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew, for enquiring minds who want to know, is going fairly well this week. I enjoyed the 2500+ words I wrote yesterday from Dylan’s perspective, many of which were written in Burger King, with its wonderful indoor playground. You know, when I mention fast food playland, NO ONE takes their kids to unhealthy places like that. Oh well. Deal. I got words down and no one had to die, and if someone had to suck down some chicken and fries for the cause, so be it.

I have now exercised two days in a row, and three times within a week. Now, I will grant you, it hasn’t been a lot of exercise, but I have turned on the Wii and done something, and I demand at least partial credit for this. Plus, there was water consumed that was not even carbonated. I know, right? But I did it anyway.

That’s it! That’s all the babbling you get for now. I have things to do, tissues to destroy, and vulnerable writers to corrupt, and I must move on.

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Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Increasing Kindle Rank, Laws of the Universe, links, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, what not to do, word count, writing

For Indies: Get your print and ebooks linked

My rankings are really sliding the last few days. I hope that means some of my buddies are getting some traction and selling lots of books.

To that end, I come to you with a quick post of hopefully helpful indie info.

My print and Nook versions of Hush Money are finally linked on Barnes & Noble. Moreover, when they linked the two listings they also copied ratings and reviews from one edition to the other. This does give me a couple duplicates from a few people who were kind enough to find both listings and leave reviews for me, but it also means I now have 70 ratings and 17 reviews that people can see when they find the print version. Yay credibility.

Ok, so if the listing for your print version states that there’s no Nook version available, you’ll want to email BN at corrections@barnesandnoble.com and let them know that you do have both formats. Provide them with the links to both listings, and especially the ISBNs for each edition. When I did this, they took care of it VERY quickly (but if there’s a small flood of them they might slow down).

If you haven’t done this on Amazon, you’ll want to take care of that too. When your cheap Kindle version is climbing the charts, sometimes it gets onto “Books” charts, not just Kindle charts. So when those non-Kindle readers find your awesomeness, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for them to see there’s an edition they can buy too. (Not that mine are flying out the door, mind you.)

When I wrote to Amazon, a very nice CSR told me that if your titles are exactly the same for both editions, this usually happens automatically. This may be the same for BN, I’ve no idea, as I think the format of my title is a little different (like one is Hush Money (Talent Chronicles) and one is Hush Money: Talent Chronicles #1, or something like that). When they’re not identical, you’ll need to email these guys and give them a heads up. I contacted DTP customer service for this at dtp-support@amazon.com, and it was taken care of within a few days. Make sure you send them the ISBN for the print, the ASIN for the Kindle edition, and send them links to both listings in case that makes it easier.

Don’t put it off. It’s Christmastime. Go and sell some books.

And hey, don’t forget that a shiny new copy of Hush Money would make a swell gift. If anyone’s interested in autographed copies for gift-giving, I’ve got some copies here and would be happy to send those out for you, though I’m not promising next-day order fulfillment. Email me with any personalization details you need and don’t forget to include your PayPal address so I can bill you. I think I can match Amazon’s $8.99 with no shipping fee and break even.

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Filed under Hush Money, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

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Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Guest Post: Protagonist Arizona Darley, and Quantum

When my dear friend Imogen Rose, author of the Portal Chronicles, asked me if I could help with Quantum‘s launch by hosting her and her character Arizona  on launch day, I was delighted to say yes. Let’s hear from Arizona…

A note from Arizona Darley

Once upon a time–well, a year ago now!–I suddenly woke up as Arizona Darley, a blonde California cheerleader, which, of course, I’m not. I am actually Arizona Stevens, a varsity ice hockey player from New Jersey. It was confusing to the say the least–I mean really? A blonde Barbie doll… sheesh, not! It turns out that my mom’s time travel  portal was somehow responsible. Anyhow… it’s now a year later and the portal is now active again, which means that I can go home to my real dad….

-Arizona

Book Description

Quantum Cover ArtA whole year has passed. It’s October again… or is it?

As California teen, Arizona Darley, contemplates traveling back through the portal to seek out her dad, her life is plunged into a whirlwind ride through the unknown.

But this time, she doesn’t disappear through the portal.

Has Arizona been kidnapped–again? Is Raj Sen to blame? Could Dillard have taken her?

As Kellan, David and her parents launch a frantic search with the help of the Wanderers, it becomes apparent that things are much more complex than they seem – for all of them. While investigating her daughter’s latest disappearance, Olivia faces shocking revelations about the Wanderers and her life with Rupert.

In the meantime, what’s happening in New Jersey? Are both of Arizona’s worlds about to collide?

Quantum is the third book in the Portal Chronicles. Catch the start of Arizona’s adventures in Portal and Equilibrium.

Quantum can be purchased today on Amazon.com.

Book Trailer!

For more information on the author, Imogen Rose, or to read more about the earlier books in the series, visit her website: http://imogenrose.com.

…Please visit again tomorrow when I’ll have some information for you about Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the sequel to Hush Money, including the first reveal of the cover art.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, interviews, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing