Self-publishing an ebook decisions

This post is the thirty-eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, we talked about making sure your novel is ready to publish and then went over traditional publishing houses as well as taking the option to self-publish a physical copy of your book. But nowadays so many people have an e-book reader or e-book reader app that it might be worth it not to publish a physical copy of your book and only publish an electronic version.

Now with any self-published book, you, the author, make all the decisions. In the next couple of weeks, we will be going over these areas in more depth.

Cover

One of the most important aspects of selling your book is to have a good, eye-catching cover. Even though you will be selling online instead of a brick-and-mortar store, many readers select their books based on appearance.

While some authors are skilled enough to design their own cover, I would highly recommend that you have a professional do it. And go to one that is going to custom design a cover for your book rather than just one that will take a stock cover and add your name and title.

Book Blurb

Just like paperbacks have descriptions on the back cover, your e-book will need an enticing blurb. This is the second most important aspect after the cover. Your cool, awesome cover made the reader click on your book link. Now it is up to the book blurb to seal the deal.

Please take a lot of time when writing the blurb. Don’t just jot down something quickly. Go read book blurbs and decide what works. After you write yours, polish it just like you did your novel. It needs to shine!

Content

There is much more to having a novel than just the story. You need front matter (cover page, copyright page and perhaps a table of contents or dedication page) as well as the back matter (a biography and list of other books you have written and perhaps even an excerpt of another book).

Formatting

This is one of the trickiest parts of preparing your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It clears out many of the problems that you didn’t even know existed. If you aren’t completely savvy in the ways of computers, please elicit or hire help for this step. Formatting effects how your novel appears on e-book readers so it is an important step in allowing readers to enjoy your writing.

Distribution

Once you have a properly formatted book, you are ready to self-publish it. And to begin, you should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. They offer step-by-step instructions on offering your book on their website. You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your e-book. If you approve it, your book will be sold in all markets from the UK to Japan and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. They also offer a program called KDP Select where you exclusively allow them to publish your book. It is up to you to decide if being only found in the largest e-book retailer will benefit you more than having your book available at ALL e-book retailers. (You can opt to do KDP Select for a limited time.)

Smashwords  offers a way to publish your work with many distributors from Amazon to Barnes & Noble and iTunes and many other e-book retailers. It can save you time from having to do each distributor individually though since you are paid through Smashwords instead of directly from the other retailers there is a slight lag in payment processing.

So there is a brief overview of some of the topics that are to come, but we will also be covering selecting a title, pen names, author bios, author websites and more so stay tuned!

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your Novel

Mother-in-law paranoid about aspartame dumps our Diet Mountain Dew

As mothers-in-law sometimes do, mine annoyed me this past weekend. We had asked her to watch Lexie on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, my mother-in-law (MIL) was supposed to pick Lexie up after school and watch her until Jase and I returned from his orchestra field trip to the local amusement park. Lexie ended up not feeling well in the morning and luckily MIL was able to watch her all day.  During the day, she noted we had Diet Mountain Dew in the fridge. When my husband returned home from work, he received an ear full about the dangers of aspartame.

Now I know that lots of parents don’t let their kids have food with aspartame. But I had not done any research into these health claims about it causing everything from Alzheimer disease and headaches to diabetes and ADD. But as with many things – coffee, wine, chocolate – there are claims these items are either good or bad for your health. Often, you can find studies to support you either way.

A little over 10 years ago, my husband’s triglycerides were off the charts. Cutting sugary drinks and food was recommended. At that time, his favorite drink was Dr. Pepper, and he drank WAY TOO MANY of them (about 8 a day). So, we switched him to diet Dr. Pepper and his triglycerides fell back to an acceptable range.

So when he switched to drinking Mountain Dew, we went with the diet version, and he has been drinking this for many years. Lexie also likes Mountain Dew, and I figure she asked for one, alerting MIL to the fact that it is diet, which lead to her lecture to my husband.

MIL returned Saturday morning as we had asked her to watch Lexie while the rest of us went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story (which is a good movie). And this is when she did something that annoyed both my husband and me. She got rid of all the diet Mountain Dew in the fridge and pantry. I had just bought 3 12-packs on Thursday. She replaced them with the regular, non-diet version.

But it goes beyond replacing the drinks. She didn’t tell us. In fact, she told Lexie not to say anything about it. And she filled Lexie’s head with a whole bunch of unproven things about aspartame so that Lexie now thinks it will kill you.

Now, I am an adult in my forties and so is my husband. We are both college educated and reasonably smart. We are perfectly capable of doing our own research and making our own decisions. I have no problem with her voicing her concern. I would have had no problem if she bought us some regular Mountain Dew and asked us to get rid of the diet drinks. I also would have been fine with her sending me (or my husband) links to the studies that support her belief. But she didn’t do that. She came into our house and removed our property, told my daughter to lie about it, and filled her head with things that are NOT true.

I have not found any conclusive studies that show aspartame causes anything that the rumors on the internet claim. Aspartame has been used in food products since 1981. It is one of the most reigorously tested food ingredients and has been deemed safe by over 100 regulatory agencies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, the UK Food Standards Agency, Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority.

Needless to say, my husband and I are both livid with her. I had all sorts of thought of never allowing her to babysit (or pet sit) again. Luckily for us the kids are getting older and the need for a babysitter has gong down. It is only Lexie who needs someone if we are going to be gone for an extended time or during a meal. Lexie already stays by herself for short periods such as when Jase goes to karate or to his violin tutor.

I’ve left it for my husband to address MIL’s actions with her. But it does make me wonder if I need to worry about anything else. I mean, I know she doesn’t have a Facebook account because she believes they will steal her data or allow thieves to access her computer or something like that. Jase, my husband and I all have an account. If she finds out about our accounts, will she decide to delete them next time she is in the house?

All I can say is if she did that, she would be giving us our key back and would not be allowed in our house without supervision!

Publishing Options for your Novel

This post is the thirty-seven in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

We have covered writing and editing your book. But you aren’t done yet. You still need to publish and market your book. And those are the topics we are going to cover over the next few weeks.

But before we begin, I want you to caution you to make sure your book is ready to be published. As authors, we are sometimes under pressure to get out another book or you are just so excited and ready to publish your first book that you are in a hurry to get it out there.

Let me say this clearly – Don’t rush through the editing process.

It can take countless hours to weed out the inconsistencies, fix timelines, refine word choices and do all the other editing jobs that need to be done before you publish. So, don’t rush and publish a mediocre story. Take your time to rewrite, to edit, to polish and to proof your novel until it is ready for all those hungry readers out there.

Ok, so you believe you are there. It is ready to be published. There are two options for you. You can go through a traditional publishing house or decide to self-publish.

Traditional Publishing Houses

Traditional publishing is where a company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Usually, an agent representing the author, negotiates a deal with the book publisher for the publisher to print and distribute the book.

The first step would be to research the publishing company or agent to make sure they publish the type of book that you have written or are writing.

If you hire an agent, they will use their contacts and knowledge of the publishing world to match your writing with a publishing house. Or you can contact the publishing house directly though you will probably have a better success if you have an agent.

Remember that both agents and publishing houses receive thousands of query letters and manuscripts each year. Some may send back a stock rejection letter but there are quite a few that won’t respond at all.

The benefit of traditional publishing is there is no out-of-pocket expense to the author. The publisher will make their money from the sale of the book. But they select so few authors that you may send out many query letters, and months or years later be no closer to getting published. Many famous authors were rejected many times before finally landing a book deal.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to go the traditional road and be published by a major publishing house. But it is a hard road so many authors choose to self-publish their own work.

Self-Publishing

As a self-published author, you have complete control over what you publish and when. You retain all rights to your book, and you receive 100 percent of the profit. The main drawback is that you have to do all the work and pay for any expenses yourself.

You have several options when it comes to self-publishing. You can opt to publish just an electronic copy of your book (an e-book), or you can actually print a physical copy, or you can do both.

Let’s look quickly at the options for physically printing a book.

Vanity

In this option, you pay for all the services to print your book but own the book and receive the profits. You are in charge of distribution. This is best for the hobbyist or those who just have a goal of seeing their work in print. (Hence the reason it is often referred to as a vanity press.)

Subsidy

While similar to a vanity press, a subsidy publisher contributes toward the cost of editing, distribution, warehousing and marketing of the book. Typically, the author pays for the printing and binding of the book and will receive royalties.

Print on Demand

This is a good option for someone with a limited audience. You use your own money to produce the book and then have a company (such as Amazon’s Createspace) print them one at a time as they are ordered. The plus is that you don’t have any books that you need to store.

Self-Publishing

You pay to produce, market and warehouse your books.

With all of these methods, the majority of the work and expense of publishing falls on the author’s shoulders. And as hard as it is to find a traditional publisher, it can be equally tough to find physical retail location that wants to showcase your new novel.

But often with today’s technology, many readers no longer buy physical copies of books. Many readers now have e-readers or e-reader apps so authors need to determine whether they even need physical copies of their books to sell.

Next week, we will look more into self-publishing an e-book.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

Crazy Decision – Becoming PTA President

I’ve been on the executive board of my kids’ elementary school since Jase entered kindergarten seven years ago. I only have one year left on this board until we are done with this school. (Jase moved on last year and Lexie only has one more year to go.) This year has been stressful, and I want to focus more on writing, so I had thought that I would drop being an officer (which I have been for the past 4 years) and just go back to a simpler committee chair job.

I knew what position I wanted. All I wanted to do for my last year was throw my daughter and her classmates a great party at the pool as part of their graduation onto middle school. I wanted to be fifth grade party chair.

Then as talk about filling officer positions circulated, the suggestion was I take over the secretary position. Ok, I thought. I can co-chair fifth grade party and be secretary.

Then a week or so later, they sprang it on me. The person who they thought would be president wanted to be treasurer next year and then she would do president the following year. Our current PITA (that is pain-in-the-ass) 2nd VP was considering a second run as president. No one wanted that. In fact, no one wanted her on the board, let alone in a position of power as she had been for the past four years. They wanted me to become president, so she couldn’t.

Dang, I thought, all I want to do is throw a party at the pool.

I’ve spent the past two years in the first Vice President role. I have watched our current president struggle with a rough year with lack of volunteers. And now they think I want to do this?

Sigh. Well, I have to say, I am crazy. And I obviously don’t know how to says no – just ask my mom or husband. They both will agree that no doesn’t seem to be in my vocabulary when it comes to volunteering. So, after some consideration and long conversations with my husband who encouraged me to do this, I decided to take the plunge. I decided to agree to be president for just one year. (You are allowed a maximum two years at any position.)

Two weeks later, I was nominated. A week later, I was elected by an unenthusiastic bunch of parents who were only present to see the ukulele concert after the PTA meeting.

Now I need to line up my committee chairs and fill two officers positions (2nd VP and secretary) that weren’t filled. It will be up to me (and the other officers) to convince people to come back to the board and to continue to support our PTA after many of them have been driven away by the PITA 2nd VP.

Sounds like fun, huh? Yeah, I agree. Not fun at all. But I signed up for this. Gee, I must really be crazy.

Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

This post is the thirty-sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Over the past few weeks, I have been discussing revising and editing your novel. You will go through several drafts, and these two tips can be employed at any time to help you refine your writing.

Take a Break

You have spent a good chuck of time writing your novel. And then you begin editing and revising it. It is easy when you have spent this much time on a project to lose your objectivity or get in a rush to be done with it. This is the time when you need to take a break.

Yes, that is right. One of the best tips is to take time off. Whether it is just a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, you need to get your mind off your current project. When you return, you will have a clear mind and will be able to view your novel with “fresh eyes.”

Now it is up to you to decide just how much time you want or need to spend away from your work in progress. Every author has their own preference of how much time they need off and what they want to do during that time.

You might take the time to do some pre-release publicity or you might begin work on another story idea. Some authors switch between working two different stories. They do draft one on one story, then draft one on the other story. Then follow with the other drafts switching back and forth.

I don’t take a break after my first draft, but I like taking a short break between drafts two and three, and then another short break whenever I am getting ready for my final read through.

Read Aloud

Often when we read silently, our mind skips small errors and typos. Reading aloud forces you to notice every single word. It can help you notice run-on sentences, missing words, awkward transitions as well as other grammatical or organizational issues. It also lets you hear the dialogue allowing you to determine if the dialogue sounds realistic.

The key to reading aloud is to make sure you are reading exactly what is on the printed page (or computer screen if you don’t want to print out your text.) You may want to follow along with your finger, pointing at each word. This helps you stay focused and not skip anything. Or you may want to cover up everything but the section you are currently reading so you concentrate on just it and not what is to come.

Another option is to read your work backwards, sentence by sentence. This helps you focus just on the text and not the ideas. It can be especially helping you catch sentence fragments.

Methods to reading aloud

Read aloud to yourself – This is self-explanatory. You can even pretend you are the famous actor/actress doing the audio version of your book.

Read to a friend – This can allow a second pair of ears to hear the prose and allow for additional feedback on what is missing or needs improving.

Have someone else read aloud – Allowing a friend to read to you lets you concentrate only on what is being read. You can note where your friend stumbles or gets lost. You do not necessarily need to follow along as they read but can certainly do so to make notes and corrections as long as you don’t start reading ahead.

An alternative to this would be to have the computer read to you. This works great as the computer will definitely read EVERY word.

For those of you who use Microsoft Word, this feature is already available to you. If you use another software that doesn’t have a speech feature, you can find many web-based services that can help you get your computer, smart phone, tablet or e-reader to read your work out loud for you. (Search ‘text to speech’ or ‘text reader.’)

For MSWord – At the very top of the screen is your Quick Access bar (circled in the below image). Click on the down arrow (Drop Down Menu) on the right. Select More Commands.

On the left side is a list of features/tools you can add to your Quick Access Bar. Go down to Speak and click the button to add it to your bar. (If you don’t see it under “Popular Commands,” then select “All Commands” from the drop-down menu above the left column.) Click OK.

To listen to your text, highlight the text to be read and then click the Speak icon (now located on your Quick Access Bar). It is that simple.

No matter which reading aloud method you choose to use, reading your novel aloud will be beneficial as will taking a break from your editing.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing