My book launch

Blood and Water CoverI’m a hybrid author with a traditionally published book, one I re-released on my own after  it was traditionally published, and a Kindle Scout winner. I’ve seen publishing from a few different angles and I’m planning to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the indie launch of my fourth novel, Blood & Water.

Planning a book launch on your own is a lot of work. The other day, I started writing it all down so it wouldn’t feel so jumbled in my head. When I was done, I looked at the list and said: “Oh, this is what a publisher is for.”

It’s daunting, but also exciting. I have complete control and I get to experiment as I like. I’ve read other how to guides, some with conflicting information, and I’m mapping my own course. Feel free to borrow.

It took about two years to write Blood & Water and I don’t believe a writer can edit themselves. That said, I also don’t believe in spending thousands of dollars on an editor. By the time Blood & Water comes out, it will have had over a dozen beta reads, mostly from other writers with varied editing specialties. I created the cover with help from Debbie at thecovercollection.com. She also did my covers for Finding Charlie and A Long Thaw, which I love.

My last book was in Kindle Unlimited, but this time I’ve decided to “go wide”, which means it’ll be available on Kobo, GooglePlay, Nook, Appleibook, and Amazon. I used pronoun.com to create an ebook and mobi from a Microsoft Word file. It’ll start out at 99 cents. I’m running a two-month pre-order phase.

These days, there are a lot of sites that support indie authors. It’s great, but can make it tricky when deciding which ones to spend time (and money) on. I signed up on booklife.com and applied for a free review and paid promotion via Publisher’s Weekly. I  made a page at booklaunch.com. I used my free bookcave.com account to send review copies and collect subscribers to my newsletter on  mailchimp.com.  I  use twitter and facebook. I have a writer friend who wrote me an amazing blurb to use on the book page and in promos. I plan to run ads with bargainbooksy.com, bookrebel.com, thebookbots and a Facebook boost.

As you can see, there’s a mix of free and paid promotions available for indie authors. I’m planning to spend just under $500 to launch this book. I’ll do Goodreads giveaway and keep my blog updated. On October 28th, I’ll be the author representing Authoberfest over at Bookies. There’s a different author every day this month.

I’ll write another post after the launch to let you know if any of this worked.

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Publishing Paths

Recently I attended the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference.  It was a learning experience and inspiring three days.  I had my doubts that this was something I’d benefit from, but in the end it proved to be worth the effort for this introvert.

This conference had master classes, seminars, workshops, evening readings, speakers and was focused on the art and craft of writing.  There were also activities for those interested in the publishing end of writing.  Each day had a pitch panel so writers could pitch their works to agents, a query letter writing workshop, and if you wanted you could get a one-on-one conference with a conference staff member to discuss your project.

Since I was there mostly to improve my poetry skills, I focused my attention on the poetry workshop I was in.  Still I managed to attend a couple of publishing sessions.  The one I like the best was, “Paths to Publishing.” 

In this panel discussion, four writers talked about how their books were published and the challenges they faced.  First there was a little discussion of self-publishing or how to promote through social media.  There were a few reasons for this – often came down to an admission that they weren’t really good at promoting themselves.

This isn’t to say it can’t be done, but understand who your are and what skills you have in that area before trying to be a self-publisher.  If you just want to publish for family and friends, the process is easy and you can get a few hundred copies out without too much trouble.  If your goal is to publish thousands of copies and make a profit, consider your business knowledge and marketing skills first.

If you’re not self-publishing, you need to attract the attention of a publisher and convince one to take on your book.  The big statistic that caught my attention was that there are nearly a million books published each year in this country with only a third of those being published by traditional publishers and that number is falling. The rest of the books are a combination of small press publishers and self-publishing. 

Getting published by a traditional press is a bit like winning the lottery.  You’ll need an agent to sell your work to the big publishers and getting an agent is no easy task.  One writer reported contacting 60 agents and not getting any to represent her book.  This was a typical report I heard.  The big publishers are in it to make a profit and they look at your book with the question of, “Will this sell enough to be profitable?”  Sadly, most first time writers don’t write books that will hit the best seller list.

The most common path to a published book was through the small press.  Often run by universities, non-profit groups, or dedicated individuals, these publishers are willing to take risks on books that the big publishers won’t.  Their reasons are many,  including – providing an outlet for literary writers, advancing a cause, or because they just believe that certain kinds of books and writing should be made available.  One example I know of is the Torrey House Press.  This publisher recently converted from a for-profit to a non-profit business model.  Their mission is to promote stories and books about the American West and the conservation movement.  They publish works on natural history, environment, or natural landscape themes.  If you’re writing a story about the American West, well, here is a possible market for you.

Oh, and you don’t need an agent to submit to them.

Most of the published writers I spoke with had their books published through small presses like this, or ones associated with education institutions or foundations.  Several had submitted works to various contests which included publication as one of the prizes.  It should be noted that many contests ask for a submission fee to cover costs.  Some are free, and some ask that you subscribe to their publication to be able to submit.

There are many good things to say about the small press and if you’ve got a book, story, or poem you want to get out there, here are a few positives:

There are thousands of small presses.

  • You don’t need an agent to submit (even for novels).
  • They believe in your work.
  • Most will get your book on Amazon.
  • They cover the costs of publication (be wary of those who ask you for money).
  • They generally don’t buy as many rights to your work – often only asking for first publishing rights or have a clause where rights revert to you after a specified period of time.  With the big publishing houses you often lose rights to your book.

But there are a few negatives:

  • They don’t pay much, if at all – sometimes contest winners get a small cash prize.
  • Most are run on shoe string budgets.
  • They don’t have promotion budgets, so don’t pack for the publicity tour.
  • They are often staffed by volunteers so don’t expect rapid replies.
  • Likely you’ll end up promoting the book yourself.

Some of the panelists did report that their press did arrange for some book store signings, or other book readings, but for the most part their promotion is adding the book to their catalog, putting out a press release, maybe an invitation to an awards dinner, and a few free copies.

So why go through the work?

Well a number of reasons:

  • It builds your writing resume (gets the line on an agent query letter, “I am the winner of …”)
  • It builds your contact list in the publishing world – networking is good.
  • Validation – many writers feel the need to be published because having a story published validates the writer’s work as being worthy.  Many of us writers suffer from low self-esteem and often question if we’re good enough.  Publication is a stamp of approval.
  • We feel the story is important and needs to be in the world.
  • Publishers can be a great source of editing input and can help hone your writing.

It’s really up to you and what you want to accomplish.  All of my current writing goes into my blog and I’ve sent very little of it out.  Part of me has always wanted to have a book published.  If I am brutally honest, mostly because I want that stamp that says, “You’re a published writer.”

And my ego would like a bigger audience.

If you have work that you’d like to get into the hands of a small press here are three resources where you can find these publishers:

Poets & Writers magazine: (http://pw.org)
Great magazine and website for poets and writers.

The Review Review: http://www.thereviewreview.net/
A website that reviews literary magazines and has a database of them.  Great place to find a magazine that speaks to you and your writing style.  Mainly for poetry, essays and short stories although some publish a book once in a while.

Winning Writers: https://winningwriters.com
Website that has a list of writing contests and lists free contests plus has a list of contests and services to avoid (be careful, lots of scammers out there). 

A couple of months ago I decided to cut back on the amount of writing I do for my blog so I can build up a better body of work that can be submitted.  It’s a major change in my writing discipline and I am still feeling my way through the change in writing rhythm.  I am hopeful that the changes I am making will lead to an improvement in my writing.

I certainly found attending the conference to be a wise choice and it’s helping me to push to that next goal.

Keep writing!

12 Surprises I Found Marketing My Debut Novel, To Hunt a Sub

quirksMarketing To Hunt a Sub, my debut novel, is a whole lot different from my non-fiction pieces. In those, I could rely on my background, my expertise in the subject, and my network of professional friends to spread the word and sell my books. Fiction–not so much. For one thing, I don’t have expertise in the topic I wrote about. Nor do I have prior fiction novels that have buttressed my reputation. So I did what I have always done when preparing for the unknown: I researched. I read everything I could find on how to market a novel, collected ideas, made my plan, and jumped in without a backward glance.

Well, now that much of the marketing is done, there are a few pieces I wish I’d done differently:

  • I participated in the Kindle Scout to mentally kick-off my campaign. That took longer than I expected which set me back a few weeks.
  • Uploading my manuscript to Kindle was easy, but took more preparation than I’d planned. The preparation was along the line of ‘tedious’, not ‘complicated’. No brainpower required; just time.
  • Many fellow bloggers offered to help with my blog hop, and I wish I’d kept better track of that aspect. I did have a spreadsheet, but I didn’t include enough detail.
  • I wish I’d included interview questions in the blog hop articles. Several bloggers I follow did this, but I skipped it to save time. I wish I hadn’t.
  • I should have used Facebook and Twitter more. Here’s what Stephanie Faris, efriend and published author of the Piper Morgan series, says about a Facebook account:

Facebook is where you’ll find your friends and relatives. You’ll also find your fourth-grade teacher, your kindergarten best friend, and pretty much everyone who has ever mattered in your life. These are the people who are most likely to buy your book and tell everyone they meet about it. All you have to do is post a picture of your book and your real supporters will ask where they can get a copy.

Stephanie actually suggests the same sort of approach for Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but I forgot to use it enough!

  • Take that a step further: I should have FB’d and Tweeted the posts of my blog hop folks. Duh–that seems so obvious now.
  • I wish I’d reached out to my local library and bookstores to see if there’s appetite for a book signing or chat. Well, I could still do that!
  • I didn’t follow up well enough on fellow bloggers who offered their help. Thankfully, many of them reached out to me–emailed me with questions or confirmation of dates. I wish I’d reached out more.

A few essential pieces that I gleaned from the experience of fellow bloggers and/or just seemed logical but–surprisingly–everyone doesn’t do:

  • Kindle Scout was a good first step because it forced me to create the necessary marketing pieces for the ultimate campaign–blurb, one-line summary, pristine document, and polished cover.
  • Visit the blog hop host and respond to comments.
  • Take blog hop visits one step further: Visit the blogs of those who comment. Join their conversations. Be a friend.
  • Read the books of your blog hosts. Usually, they’re Indies–between $0.00 and $2.99. That’s a small investment to promote your book and often, you come away with excellent entertainment for a few days. Then, review them. Add the review to not only Amazon, but Goodreads which has become the go-to location for readers and writers.

What tips do you have for marketing a new novel? What’s worked best for you?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

19 Self-editing Tips

Help!

Help!

Now that I’m close to publishing my first novel, To Hunt a Sub, I can say from experience that writing it and editing it took equally long periods of time (and I’ve been warned that marketing will be just as involved). After finishing the final rough draft (yeah, sure) and before emailing it to an editor, I wanted it as clean possible. I searched through a wide collection of self-editing books like these:

The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall

…and came up with a list of fixes that I felt would not only clean up grammar and editing, but the voice and pacing that seemed to bog my story down. Here are some ideas you might like:

  • Use ‘was’ only twice per page. This includes ‘were’ and ‘is’.
  • Limit adverbs. Search for ‘ly’ endings and get rid of as many as possible.
  • Watch out for bouncing eyes–
    • He dropped his eyes to the floor.
    • His eyes roved the room
  • Use gerunds sparingly. Search for -ing endings and eliminate as many as possible.
  • Eliminate ‘very’.
  • Eliminate ‘not’ and ‘n’t’–switch them to a positive.
  • Eliminate dialogue tags as often as possible. Those you keep should be simple, like said. Instead of tags, indicate the speaker by actions.
  • Be specific. Not ‘the car’, but ‘the red Oldsmobile convertible’.
  • Eliminate but, the fact that, just, began to, started to. Rarely do these move the action forward.
  • Use qualifiers sparingly. This includes a bit, little, fairly, highly, kind of, mostly, rather, really, slightly, sort of, appeared to, seemed to--you get the idea.
  • Run your manuscript through an auto-editor like Autocrit. It’ll find problems like sentence length variations and repetition of words so you can fix them.
  • Run your manuscript through a grammar checker like Grammarly or Hemingway.
  • Don’t have too many prepositional phrases in a sentence. There’s no set rule, but if you get lost before the sentence ends, you have too many.
  • Secure each chapter in place and time. A quick reminder of where characters are and whether it’s in the present or past is good enough.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. It’s tempting to retell events when a character is talking to someone who didn’t live through the last few chapters, but summarize instead–briefly. Your audience already knows this material.
  • Verify that time tracks correctly in your novel. Make sure the day is correct and that characters have enough time to get from here to there in the timeline.
  • Verify that your characters are wearing the correct clothing and have the right reactions for their position in the timeline. For example, if they were in a car accident, when they appear again in the novel, make sure they act accordingly.
  • Describe with all senses. Add what your character smelled or heard along with what they saw.
  • Don’t tell what you’re showing. Use one or the other, preferably showing.

A great way to find these mis-writings is with Ctrl+F, the universal Find shortkey. It will highlight all instances of whatever you’re searching on the page.

What these don’t address is character development, plotting, or living scenes so you’ll still have to deal with those prior to sending it to your editor.

More on self-editing:

11 Tips to Self-Editing Your Manuscript

How to Edit Your Novel (according to Yuvi)

20 Hints that Mark the Novice Writer


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

What I learned from my KindleScout campaign

will_be_publishedAbout a month ago, I wrote an article about KindleScout and how to know if your book is ready for their program. Since then, my book, Finding Charlie was selected for a publishing contract through their imprint. I can’t pretend to have completely figured out how the system works, but I’ll give you my sense of it.

My book spent 248 hours in “hot & trending”. What this amounted to was the entire first week and a few days in the last week. It seemed to take 25 page views a day to hit it. If my nominations had been spread out more evenly, I’d have made it into the chart every day- but besides saving me from pouting on the days I didn’t make it, I’m not sure it makes a huge difference.

There are books that spend the majority of their campaign in “hot & trending”, but are not selected. I think it really needs to be stressed that the crowd sourcing element of this program is only one factor. You need to show the editors that your book can get readers’ attention. But then it will come down to the quality of your submission.

When the 30 day campaign ended, I received an email telling me my book was under review. During this time, I came to realize that my campaign had been successful. I got an editor to read the book and the rest was out of my hands the same way it is when you query an agent. It comes down to whether they like it and think it’s marketable, whether they think you have a platform, whether it’s a genre they know they can sell. It can feel very arbitrary.

After three days in review, they sent my acceptance email at the exact same time as they sent an email to notify everyone who had nominated the book. My boyfriend knew before me. He said: “Honey, have you checked your email lately?” and before I could call my mom, the phone was ringing.

I’m really excited. This will be my third published book and it’s different each time. They will be sending me the suggested edits November 26th and I’m hoping it will be out in time for Christmas! For more updates on the KindleScout process, you can follow me on facebook.

Finding a publisher isn’t always the end of the story.

I have always been a bit of a snob when it comes to self-publishing. In theory, I like the idea of making publishing democratic by eliminating the gate-keepers, but without some sort of filter, how do readers find the good stuff in all the slush?

I shied away from self-publishing, insisting on the validation that traditional publishing provides. A few years ago, I got exactly that: a publisher with a three book deal, a contract, an advance, an editor to work with. We went back and forth on cover revisions. There were book bloggers who did reviews and twitter updates from the publisher. Months later, when the sales were finally reported to me, Monsoon Season had sold over 10,000 ebooks. I was elated.

Things went very differently with the second book, however. In order to get me to sign over all three titles, I had been told they planned to release all the books in the same summer. But a year later, that hadn’t happened and my editor stopped returning my emails for such a long period of time that I actually thought she might be dead. When she did get back in touch, she ignored my questions and we began the editing process. This time, I had no input about the cover – a decidedly summer image for a story that takes place in the winter, called A Long Thaw – and there was no promotion on their end. No reaching out to bloggers, as with the first book, not so much as a single tweet.

Not surprisingly, the second book didn’t do as well. It took awhile, but I was able to get out of the contract so they wouldn’t have the rights to the third book or any option thereafter. This is particularly tricky when you don’t have an agent or a law degree.

Getting out of a contract with a publisher was a very strange feeling for someone who always thought that was the brass ring.  It was a hard fought victory that put me back in control of the way my work is promoted. And that’s exciting, but also a bit daunting.

I certainly don’t regret the route I took.  I learned a lot and I probably wouldn’t have the confidence to take the next step if not for the validation I felt in the process- from my publisher and editor and, ultimately, from readers.

So, about that next step… I just got the rights back for that second book and I’m rereleasing it on my own. I don’t know if I can do a better job of selling it than the traditional publisher, but I’m excited to find out.
Wish me luck.

Preparing a Novel for Publication – Preparation, Pre-orders, and Promotions, oh my!

Professional publication isn’t easy. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-publishing, you need to present yourself professionally. How your book looks, on the inside and out matters. How you promote your book also matters. Today, I’m going to walk you through how I, a self-publishing author, navigate the murky waters of publication while attempting to be as professional as I possibly can be.

I’m going to draw your attention to one important thing: If you act like a professional, treat yourself and others in a professional fashion, and treat your work like it is a professionally produced product, at the end of the day, you are a professional. It doesn’t matter if you spend $1,500 to produce a novel (like I do) or if you spend $0.00. Professionalism isn’t about budget. It’s about behavior, planning, and executing your publishing plans.

Having a budget helps, though.

I’m going to walk you through how I’ve been working on my upcoming novel, Winter Wolf, from start to finish, including tidbits and tips for a smooth release.

My Process:

  1. Outlining
  2. Drafting
  3. Editing
  4. Cover Art and back-of-cover copy
  5. Pre-Orders
  6. Promotions
  7. Formatting
  8. Publication

1: Outlining, 2: Drafting, 3: Editing

This is pretty self explanatory, so I’m not going to waste a lot of words on it and will instead jump straight to my unasked-for advice: Write your book, and make it as professional as you can. I hired two editors to help me whip Winter Wolf into shape. I’m working like some professional publishing houses do: the publication date is set when the book isn’t completed yet. Unless you are an experienced professional, do not do this. Deadlines like this are serious, and cannot be missed.

  • For most people, the pre-order and promotions phases will not begin until after the editing phase is completed. Your mileage may vary.
  • In this phase, professionalism is really important. Listen to your editors. Let them be picky. They’re improving your novel. Leave your ego at the front door, and always be polite.
  • If you aren’t using editors (not recommended!) then you should take extreme care and caution with your work. Use your word processor’s grammar checker, and confirm each and every rule. If you’re breaking a rule, you need to know the rule and why it’s acceptable to break it.
  • Use a synonym checker and master list of commonly misused words. Their and there are two different words! So are where, were, and ware.

Fun Fact: My outline for Winter Wolf was so detailed it was pretty much a first draft, which in turn makes the drafting and editing process much smoother. It took well over a week to completely detail the novel, make corrections, and do my developmental editing chores. As a result, the drafting and editing phase is well ahead of schedule.

4: Cover Art and Back-of-Cover Copy

Winter Wolf by RJ Blain This is the finished cover for my upcoming novel, Winter Wolf. Due to the importance of the cover art, I actually ordered the cover art from my artist, Chris Howard, in the very early stages of production. Once Chris started working on the cover, it took approximately a month to finish. The texting, commonly referred to as typography, was done independently with a different graphic designer.

A professional cover artist can help you create an attractive, compelling cover. But also remember that not all cover artists are graphic designers, and you want a graphic designer handling your typography.

Since the cover should tie to the novel, I did the back-of-cover blurb shortly after the cover art was completed. It took me about five hours to come up with my blurb, and I didn’t finalize it until I gauged the interest from some fans and readers.

Here’s the blurb I’m using:

The Hunted Wizard

When Nicole dabbled in the occult, she lost it all: Her voice, her family, and her name. Now on the run from the Inquisition, she must prove to herself—and the world—that not all wizards are too dangerous to let live.

The savage murder of a bookstore employee throws Nicole into the middle of Inquisition business, like it or not. Driven by her inability to save the young man’s life, she decides to hunt the killer on her own. Using forbidden magic to investigate the past, she learns that the murderer is in fact a disease that could kill the entire werewolf race.

Forced to choose between saving lives and preserving her own, Nicole embraces the magic that sent her into exile. Without werewolves, the power of the Inquisition would dwindle, and she could live without being hunted.

Nicole’s only hope for success lies in the hands of the werewolves she hates and the Inquisition she fears, but finding someone to trust is only the beginning of her problems. There are those who want to ensure that the werewolves go extinct and that the Inquisition falls.

But, if she fails to find a cure, her family—including her twin sister—will perish…

Why did I choose this blurb? I feel it has the important elements of a good blurb: It has a character who has a problem to solve. It tells a bit of what the story is about–but not too much. Finally, it hints at the consequences of the character’s failure, and what she gains should she succeed.

These are the types of blurbs that appeal to me, which is why I asked friends and fans for their opinions. I settled on this blurb because it resonates with me, and it’s also appealing to others who like the type of stories I write. That’s important–you want to write a blurb which attracts readers who enjoy the types of stories you write.

These were all marketing decisions, as the blurb is one of many weapons in my publication arsenal.

Tip: Professionals don’t insult the tastes of readers in their blurbs. The blurb is about the book, not you, your opinions, and whether or not you think books of whatever sub genre are boring. Exceptions may apply, especially in parody works.

5: Pre-order

Amazon recently opened pre-order functionality to self-publishing authors. Winter Wolf is my initial experience into the pre-ordering system. Here’s a very brief walkthrough of how it works from a writer’s perspective, and how to set it up:

1: Fill in the book data as normal.

However, this time, you have the option of marking a ‘finalized file’ or a ‘draft manuscript.’ For Winter Wolf, I am using a dummy manuscript of the approximate length of the actual book. The manuscript isn’t ready to be finalized, nor will it be ready until mid October. Most authors should not do this. I’m good at meeting my deadlines, and I’m experienced with doing so. If you are not the same way, absolutely do not start a pre-order unless you are 100% certain you can have the finalized manuscript ready on time. Amazon will ban those who fail to have their manuscripts ready from the pre-order system for one full year.

You do not want this.

Tip: Professionals meet their deadlines.

2: Select a date

Amazon and other pre-order services require the finalized manuscript two complete weeks prior to the novel’s official release date. Most services will ban you from pre-ordering if you fail to have the manuscript prepared on time. Yes, I’m repeating myself, but it’s really that important.

Buyers will be able to see your pre-order approximately 24 hours after submission, where they can click “pre-order” to buy the book. They’ll be charged for the book on the day of the novel’s release.

6: Promotions

Armed with your pre-order links, you can arrange any promotions you want without having the stress of doing a soft launch or needing to get links to your bloggers at the last minute. This is a huge relief, as someone who had to do this. My previous novel’s release was beyond hectic, as I didn’t have buy links until the last minute.

  • Research your promotion companies–there are great ones, and there are scams. Research, and don’t accept the first site you find as the final say. The hours you spend researching may save you a lot of grief and heartache later.
  • Many promotion firms require at least six to eight weeks to prepare for a tour or single-day blast promotion.
  • I’m using six different groups for promotion of Winter Wolf. I’m really proud of this novel, and I feel it is worth the investment.

Tips on Professionalism: When working with promotion groups, stay polite, if you’re asked for something, deal with it as soon as possible, and have patience. A single advertising campaign may take you hours to properly prepare.

7: Formatting

Sometime between the editing phase and the publication date, formatting the novel is necessary. You’ll need to format twice; once for the ARC, and once for the production copy. You may need to format three times, if you’re doing a print manuscript. From past experience, it takes me several hours to format a novel for publication, and I’m experienced enough to have streamlined the process.

  • The interior of your novel matters. Do it right. If you can’t, hire someone to do it right for you. If you don’t know how to do it right, learn–do not publish until you’ve mastered your formatting. Always check for errors if you’re converting files.
  • As with many things, plans included, ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’ applies–the simpler your formatting is, the less likely there will be problems over different devices.
  • My first formatting run is done a month prior to the novel’s release so I can send the book to reviewers. The second formatting run is for the finalized version, which will be done several days before my deadline for submission.

8: Publication

Two weeks prior to the official publication date, the finalized manuscript goes into all systems. At this stage, I’ll be completely done. On publication day, all I’ll have to do is sit back and watch.

That’s how my novel is being dealt with this time–a very drastic difference compared to how my other books were produced. This method won’t work for everyone. However, the basic principles of professionalism still apply, no matter how you approach completing your novel.

In short, these are the things I’d suggest to you if you want to carry yourself as a professional:

  1. Swallow your ego and correct your mistakes.
  2. Don’t argue with people helping you. Either use their advice or don’t, but listen and keep quiet unless you have a question.
  3. Always be polite–even if it means gaining a reputation of being old fashioned from saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so much.
  4. If you can’t be kind to a reviewer of your book, don’t say a word.
  5. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
  6. Don’t miss your deadlines. (Excuses won’t get Amazon to overturn the 1 year ban from pre-ordering.)
  7. Edit your novel.
  8. Proofread your novel.
  9. Proofread your novel again. People are paying you for your book. You don’t want basic mistakes! (All books have them, just fix them when someone finds one.)
  10. Yet again, proofread your novel.

Good luck.

The Writers Circle: Publishing

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Self-publishing has made it easier to get your books out there for people to read and buy, but it isn’t for everyone and the idea and promise of traditional publishing houses remains the goal for many.  Do you feel traditional hard-copy publishing is still feasible or realistic for new or emerging authors?  Which publishing methods do you feel are best for your own work?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

 

Do you have an idea you think would be a great topic for a future The Writer’s Circle post?  Do you have a question you’d like to ask our authors?  Fill out this form to submit your ideas and questions:

 

 

 

After the Writing: Producing a Novel for Publication

Inquisitor - RJ Blain - Small CoverI’ve been shamefully quiet on Today’s Author lately, although there has been a pretty good reason for it: I released my third novel on May 16, an urban fantasy thriller titled InquisitorMay 16 also happened to be my birthday. I’ll just say I was really busy. There’s a lot that goes into the production and finalization of a novel, and I’m going to give you the ins and outs of it. When you release your first book, I hope you have smooth sailing!

We all have different opinions on lists. Put aside yours for a moment. If you’re a fan of lists, rejoice. If not… you’ll need one. There is a lot that goes into producing a novel, and unless you’re a super genius who never forgets a single detail, you’ll want a list. More importantly, you’ll want to stick to the list. It really will help you release the best novel possible. To simplify things, I’m going to give you a very basic list of things needing to be done to prepare a book for e-book and createspace print editions. My personal list was about four times this long…

Initial Preparation

  1. Edit: Copy Edit – Proof Edit – Homonym List Check
  2. Cover Art: Acquire Image – Typography/Layout – Back of Book Blurb
  3. Format: Print Version – E-Book Version
  4. Promote: Paid Options – Free Options
  5. Edit: Homonym List Check Round Two
  6. Copyrights: To Purchase or Not to Purchase?
  7. ISBN: Amazon or Purchase?
  8. Distribution: Decide on Amazon, Draft2Digital, Createspace, Lightning Source, Lulu, KoboSmashwords, etc…

Editorial

Final rounds of editorial, even if you have hired a proofing editor, is never unwise. Editors are humans, and they make mistakes. However, once you have proofed your novel, you shouldn’t change anything unless it is a confirmed error and you triple check that you have not introduced a new error. Proceed with caution.

Do your homonym checks twice. There are many lists on the internet with the most common homonyms. Yank one, then confirm the usage of each one in your novel. You’ll probably still miss something, but at least you’ll clean up a lot of them. Homonym errors (they’re versus there) are among one of the most common types of mistakes found in ‘final’ versions of a novel.

P.S.: My complete check of homonym errors took me approximately 6 hours… but was so worth it.

Formatting, Cover Art, Copyrights, and the Nitty Gritty

If you’re self-publishing your novel, these are decisions you’ll have to make on your own. Do you create your own cover art? If so, make the cover look professional. Ask for help. If possible, license artwork. There are many cover art solutions you can acquire for $50 or less. Cover art can really increase your visibility–or damage the book’s chances for success. Covers do matter. As for Copyright and ISBNs, these are personal choices. But, I’ll tell you a very quick story…

I had a very bad incident with one of the self-publishing firms. They violated my copyright, and didn’t honor a request for removal. Without ownership of the legitimate copyright, I probably would have had a lot harder time getting them to adhere to my request for removal. Because I did own the copyright, I was able to send a letter stating as much. The company decided it was in their better interest to uphold their contractual obligations. I didn’t have to take it to court. That copyright paper is worth a lot, because when you have it, you have full control and power over your novel. I needed it, and was glad I had it.

Not everyone needs to own the full copyright. The book is still yours, and it is still copyrighted, even if you don’t pay up to have the official documentation. The documentation just makes it easier if something goes wrong.

Promotion

Paid promotion isn’t for everyone. It’s high risk, and it may not pay off at all. Free promotion, however, only costs you time. Simple ways you can promote for free include finding sites to write guest posts for, contacting book bloggers to get reviews written for your book, and making yourself visible on social networks.

Distribution

It’s ultimately up to you how you distribute your novel–take a look at all of your options. Then decide which choice is best for you and your book. Exclusive on amazon can be a great boost with the free book, countdown deals, and lending library promotion options. Smashwords and Draft2Digital can get you into a lot of venues with great ease.

Formats needed for Launch

  1. PDF: Print Version – Consumer Version
  2. Doc: e-book source version (amazon), e-book source version (smashwords)
  3. MOBI: Consumer Version
  4. ePub: Consumer Version
  5. ARC Versions of all types, excluding .doc
  6. Cover Art: Print version – Front Cover only

And finally… patience.

Releasing a quality novel isn’t easy. You want it now. You’re excited. But have patience. Take your time. It’s better to delay the book than it is to release something lackluster.

Take it from me–I learned this lesson on my first book, and it really isn’t worth walking in those shoes just for the sake of walking in them. If you can’t afford proofing editors, call in a lot of favors from your friends. If you can’t afford cover art, barter for some, twist arms, or ask for help on making a good one on your own.

There are always options, and many of them are free.

Good luck, writer.

May the odds be in your favor.

Book Review: The Breakout Novelist

Recently, I was asked to review Donald Maass’ book, The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction

breakout novelist

Writers (Writer’s Digest, March 2011) by his publicist, FSB Associates. I jumped at the chance. I loved his prior book, Writing the Breakout Novel, and the title of this new one intrigued me. How timely, with the empowerment of writers by self-publishing (more on Maass’ thoughts on self-pubs later) and digital book sales blowing past traditional offerings. Data shows a slew of new authors emboldened by a successful novel (success being a relative word) who want a career in writing. I wanted Maass’ thoughts on the viability of that as well as how to do it.

For those of you who don’t know Donald Maass, he is a veteran agent, currently the head of the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 100 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. By his own count, he receives annually about 7500 query letters, partial manuscripts, and completed novels–99.9% of which disappoint him. This amazing statistic must be the inspiration behind his new book. The authors, he declares, are not incompetent, merely not in command of their technique. This book provides the tools to change that.

It’s organized into three parts:

  1. Mastering Breakout Basics–how-to-write fundamentals, including exercises for the wanna-be breakout novelist. That’s right, homework. There are no shortcuts, but there are quicker ways to do it and he shares those.
  2. Achieving Breakout Greatness–factors that vault an author to success. This includes a singular voice, tension all the time, hyper-reality, scenes that can’t be cut. If you think you know those concepts, you don’t know. Maass even includes a section on how to write humor (Chapter 16), explaining how to ban banal with his ‘methods of mirth’–like hyperbole, ironic juxtaposition, being extremely literal, and more.
  3. Building a Breakout Career, which addresses the nuts of bolts of agents, contracts numbers, and career patterns that work. Most of this material I have not read before though I’ve read many how-to-write books. His chapter on Numbers, Numbers, Numbers is fundamental to moving beyond the one great novel we-all have inside of us to a successful career. He itemizes:
    • What Breaking Out means
    • When to write full time and how to do that
    • How to build an audience (word of mouth is prominent)
    • What distracts you from writing (lectures, short story anthologies–these he considers ‘distractions’ from the real work of writing a novel)
    • How to create your voice
    • The life cycle of a career writer

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