adult education class

Conversations: 2/12/2016

IMPASSIONED DETERMINATION

Since I was a teen, I’ve been pursued by ideas—stories—that had to be written.  I’ve started multiple manuscripts in various genres from young adult to science fiction, mystery and children’s books.  The generic reject letters from the “old guard” publishers—who never even read my cover letter—seemed to come back to me almost before I sent the queries.  Then I discovered that the self-publishing industry was beginning to re-invent itself.  Could I adjust my old paradigms and consider options beyond the gates of publishing “houses?”

Because the very nature of being a writer takes place in what I fondly label solitary confinement—poised behind a desk with pen and paper in hand or wrists resting on the computer keyboard—most writers work alone.  This self-imposed cocoon is great for the flow of creativity, but harmful when we’re ready to face the new hurdle of how to make this novel (poetry book, cookbook, short story anthology, etc.) available to the Readers.  That is when my librarian’s words became golden advice: “Why don’t you try the writer’s workshop we’re hosting?”

adult education class

Magic happened!  Since 1976, I was nestled in a group of very active writers—a producing writers workshop—where everyone became “published” in one form or another.  We helped each other find our niché in such publishing arenas as newspaper columns, poetry chapbooks, cookbooks and magazines.  We grew in our writing skills and nurtured each other along through gentle critique. TIME has now taken many of this group home.  However, the impassioned determination to write and publish remains strong within me.

I have expanded my writing horizons by attending Writers Conferences, selecting workshops specific to my genre and rubbing elbows with published writers, editors, literary agents, creative writing consultants and marketing experts.  These conferences are great for building up a writers’ knowledge base of the publishing world and finding encouragement.  Can a publisher—from a publishing house—be found there?  Yes.

Am I just as passionately determined to write my books and get them published as I was forty years ago?  No.  Even though I can still see my book-child smothered under piles of other manuscripts only to find breathing room a year (or two) after I submit it to a publishing house, I am even more resolute to get my work in print and IN the hands of readers!

The GOOD NEWS is—the World of Publishing has changed!  Writers now have a great option to self-publish!  The old stigmas associated with self-publishing have all but disappeared being replaced by exciting new ways to print, distribute and market—and even catch the eye of film producers.  And possibly best of all, writers can now retain ALL their rights and control of their own creations.  From my impassioned and determined perspective, tomorrow is here today in the self-publishing business.  My first book—FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words—was released in May 2015!  WHEN will yours be released? ⚓︎

RoyaleneABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

loving your self publishing company

In Your Corner : Loving Your Self-Publishing Company

What does it mean to love self-publishing?  It’s one thing to love the theory of going indie: the creative control, the rights and royalties, the community spirit, and everything else that goes along with making your own way on your own schedule at your own page.  But it’s another thing to love the experience of going indie, and as our veteran self-publishing readers can attest, this experience depends in large part on the company you choose to self-publish through.

Has Amazon KDP moved past its “Big Bad” corporate image to provide personable services?  Will Kobo Writing Life treat you right?  Has AuthorHouse overcome its checkered past?  How do Smashwords, Lulu, and hybrid publishing companies like Outskirts Press measure up?  For those of you who are just starting out down this road for the first time, the answers to these questions may hold the key to unlocking the joyous, fervent love-affair you never expected to have.  I’m speaking, of course, about your love affair with your self-publishing company.

loving your self publishing company

I’d like to offer you a list of characteristics I think make for the ultimate lovable self-publishing company and also make for the most positive self-publishing experience.  What should you, the eager author, look for as you research what options are out there?

  • Expertise.  A company that says it knows what it’s about is all well and good, but a company that actually knows what it’s about makes for a far superior experience.  Since this year is a presidential election year here in the USA, bear with me a second: it might prove helpful to think of your publishing candidates the way you would your political ones.  What do you look for in your future president?  Know-how, that’s what.  Companies that lack this crucial characteristic slide headfirst into problems of honesty, accountability, schedule-keeping, transparency, reliability, and trustworthiness.  When researching your options, you can get a good sense of a company’s expertise by watching for those tell-tale symptoms of a company in retreat––a company that throws up smokescreens to disguise its lack of expertise.
  • Experience.  Coming on the tails of its close cousin, Expertise, this characteristic is of equal importance.  You simply won’t feel confident in your choice if you know you’re a living and breathing guinea pig for a wet-behind-the-ears company looking to build its portfolio.  And if you don’t feel confident, well, you won’t find yourself falling in love anytime soon.  As you carry out your research, watch for testimonials provided both by the company on its own website and by past clients elsewhere.  It’s easy to find out if a company has the necessary experience, since authors love to blog about what they love and hate; all you need is Google!  (And some spare time.)  The benefit of going with a hybrid self-publishing company is, in my mind, that you only have to research one vendor (the company itself), whereas if you take time to research your cover and interior book designers, editors, publishing coaches, website designers, copywriters, eBook and print on demand experts, and marketing specialists … well, you’re looking at a substantial investment of time and energy.  With a hybrid self-publishing company, these experts are vetted for their skills and reliability already.
  • Diverse offerings.  Your book is a work of art, and every work of art has its own special demands.  One of my college professors once compared books to babies, not just because authors feel a deep emotional connection with them, but because they seem to take on lives of their own and often prove as troublesome and demanding as a fractious toddler.  Because your book by its very nature requires special treatment, you as an author need to trust your self-publishing company to provide diverse customizable offerings to fit it––and you.  And while some self-publishing platforms might be willing to work with you on creating something totally custom from the ground up over the course of a dozen panicked phone calls, it’s better to start with set of offerings that you can winnow down to something close to what you want––and customize from there.
  • Flexibility.  Is this self-publishing company going to be a pleasure to work with?  Are they going to be calm, flexible, and eager to please––or are they going to be stubborn, inflexible, and resistant to your suggestions?  Are they willing to revisit decisions you’ve already made, or change course in the middle of the design process if you find this is what your book requires?  At the heart of a company’s openness to flexibility is its fundamental perspective on the nature of books.  If a company looks at your book as merely a product it is bringing to market, then of course it’s going to look for the fastest, most expedient way to do so.  If that company, however, understands that your book is a masterpiece and you are a partner rather than a problem or an obstacle in the way of publication, its representatives will work with you rather than around you.
  • Soul. “Inside us there is something that has no name, that something is what we are,” wrote José Saramago in his book Blindness.  When you go looking for a self-publishing company, you’re not just looking for an entity that ticks all the boxes in your “looking-for” list; you’re looking for a company with that little something extra, that thing which moves a person or a company out of the realm of “things I’d be okay with” to “things I feel a deep connection to.”  You’re not looking for a company.  You’re looking for company along the journey.  You’re looking for a good match between you and professionals who know what they’re about, and who share your heart and vision for your book.  If this sounds a little like you’re looking to fall in love with someone, then you’re not far off!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Always remember: you are not alone. ♣︎

ElizabethABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.
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Marketing BASICS : Call Your Own Shots

Last week, I tackled a fairly unpleasant reality when I itemized a few reasons why paying for a little advice isn’t such a bad idea––why it is, in fact, a fantastic idea––but I wanted to follow that lengthy tidbit up with an equally lengthy reminder that the whole reason self-publishing is worth exploring is the fact that it allows us––the authors––to call the shots when it comes to our own work.  And there’s no getting around the fact that free things are wonderful, just as there’s also no denying the reality that sometimes it’s best to do a few things really well and bring others alongside who can do the rest instead of doing everything decently and nothing exceptionally well (or worse, doing everything poorly).

Paying a little out of pocket doesn’t negate the value of an author’s hard work, and it certainly doesn’t erode our creative control, but rather reinforces it; when we foot the bill, graphic designers, copyeditors, and other paid publishing consultants become our employees, and our vision becomes their mission.


Welcome back to my series on marketing B.A.S.I.C.S.!  This is the fifth in a series of blog posts where I tackle the fundamentals of marketing in hopes of making things a little more manageable for you, the self-publishing author.  Four weeks ago I launched the series with this introductory post, followed by:

This week, as you might have guessed, we’re taking a look at:

  • C. Calling Your Own Shots

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There is, of course, an upside and a downside to being your own boss.  The upside is, as previously mentioned, you’re in control at every step of the process (that you want to be).  The product of your labors will turn out exactly the way you want and pay for it to do.  Your masterpiece, made your way by the people of your choosing.  Perfection.

The downside is: Bosses abide by deadlines, just like everyone else.  Better still, they set their own deadlines.  This is quite a leap to make, if you’ve never been self-employed or self-directed before––but it’s not the end of the world!  As Tom Wood of Killer Nashville Magazine writes, “self-imposed deadlines might be the hardest of all—precisely because only three people will push you to complete the book: Me, myself and I.”  Says Wood, “It’s not easy to find the time to write in a day full of work, chores, raising a family or whatever.”

Maybe deadlines aren’t actually a downside.  Some people thrive at the challenge of creating their own internal structure and abiding by it!  I don’t hate deadlines, even after the requisite years of working under the thumb of many such requirements, but I do hate falling behind and I have a tendency to fall into cycles of unproductive self-loathing when I do so.  It’s not hard for me to finish projects if nothing else (Wood’s “whatever”) interrupts me … but it’s really hard to re-hone and focus my attention if (or when) it does.  My main problem is I forget to write things down, and if it’s not on paper … well, it doesn’t happen.  Period.

The best investment I ever made was in a large––I mean, large––calendar planner, broken out into days on top of the usual weeks and months.  It doesn’t exactly solve all of my problems for me, and it doesn’t magically give me the motivation to do things I didn’t want to do in the first place, but it reminds me of the bare minimum.  And some days, we can all take pride in doing the bare minimum since even that is an insurmountable difficulty in a busy life and a busy world.  On days when I do more than what I write in my calendar … well, let’s just say that I’m not above keeping a chocolate stash in my desk drawer to celebrate.

Whether it’s buying a planner or tracking down an accountability partner, take some time to figure out your best fit when it comes to setting––and keeping––deadlines.  We may or may not like ’em, but we definitely can’t avoid living among them.  In the wild moors of self-publishing, singing with the echoes of a dream-laden wind, we call the shots.  Every.  Single. One.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.
copyediting

From the Archives: “There’s a Problem with Your Book”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: March 1st, 2011 ]

Your book published. Your family and friends have bought it. You’re excited…until they call you to tell you there were so many grammatical errors in the book that it was difficult to finish reading. “Oh no, I should have paid for copyediting”. Now you run the risk of “looking” unprofessional in the author community.

Too often authors are faced with the decision to either save their pennies or invest in editing services. They decide to bypass the editing. Fast forward to publication and many authors wish they would have made the extra investment. Even if you have gone through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb and had friends or family look it over, you’re almost guaranteed to find mistakes at publication. As a matter of fact, when you pay for professional copyediting services, the editor normally still has a 5% margin for error. With that margin of error from fresh and professionally trained eyes, imagine the level of error from amateur and familiar eyes.

When asked what they would have done differently when self-publishing their book, most authors agree they would have invested more money into professional copyediting and customizing their book cover.

So, I’m sold on the need for copyediting service, what do I need to know about working with an editor? Here are a few tips/things to keep in mind when you hire an editor:

  • Proofread and spell-check your work before sending it to an editor.
  • Remember that Editors are human and many work with about a 5% margin of error.
  • There are different levels of editing intensity: basic, moderate, and extensive.
  • Basic copyediting typically catches about 70% of errors in a manuscript.
  • As a self-publishing author, don’t focus on what the editor didn’t find, but rather what WAS found.
  • Review your manuscript again after you receive it from the editor to check for errors they may have missed.

If you want to be a successful author, it is important that you take the publishing process very seriously. That includes investing extra money into creating a polished product.

by Cheri Breeding

The topic of copyediting and the professional-grade book is not a new one to us here at Self-Publishing Advisor, but back in 2011 when Cheri first wrote her post it was not yet the standard by which most indie books were judged.  Since then, the industry has evolved, and we’ve written several times to try and sort out what copyediting might mean to the current aspiring self-publishing author.  (You can read those posts here and here.)

copyediting

Because we tackle this topic on a regular basis, it’s less helpful to rehash those posts than it is to do something a little different: I want to show you the difference between a professionally designed and copyedited book and one that hasn’t seen as much love and care put into its production.

Let’s start with covers.  To start, first let me say that it’s no exaggeration that there are two terribly designed self-published book covers out there for every good one.  All you have to do is look at the templates people are choosing from …

… to see why this is so easily and so often the case.  A professionally designed cover makes all the difference to your book’s impact on potential readers, and all the difference as to whether they actually choose to pay to purchase it.  Here are two neat examples of self-published books I’ve seen recently that I felt immediately drawn to for no other reason than the fact they are beautifully designed:

What I love most about these two examples is that they put the lie to any claim that genre fiction leans easily toward poor design.  Cazanav’s book is billed as paranormal fantasy, and Taylor’s as literary fiction––but if anything, Cazanav’s is sharper, more specific, and more revealing of the book’s content and tone.  That’s a good move!

So, let’s assume you’re sold on a professionally-designed cover.  What happens when you crack the spine and turn to the first page?  Does anything change?  Yes and no.  As Kyle Beshears writes on his blog, there’s real value to investing time and money into getting the exact design you want inside of your book as well as out.  Beshears chronicles his entire journey to self-publication, and points out that his choices––which always involved taking the cheapest option, even if it meant sacrificing untold hours of time and labor for his entire family––is not, in the end, a path worth following for many indie authors.

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Just getting the title page of his book to look the way he wanted (above, on the right) was a lengthy struggle.  Paying a little money up front doesn’t just ensure you get the design you want––it ensures you have an active advocate or team of advocates working for you and on your behalf to make sure your book is as beautiful as you’ve always hoped.

On a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, copyediting does for your sentences what a graphic designer does for your cover––which is to say, a copyeditor will whip your lines into shape and help you revise your book into something even stronger, and more compelling, than you could do on your own.  Relying on friends and family to be early readers is a good move, but relying on them to bring the same expertise and incisive vision as a career copyeditor who has been in the publishing industry for years and years is not such a good move.  Copyediting isn’t about changing what you do––it’s about making sure you create the best book possible and shifting some of the burden of perfection and hyperspecific industry insight off of your shoulders so that you can spend more time doing what you love: writing new books!

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.
spa-news

Self-Publishing News: 2.8.2016

This week in the world of self-publishing:

In recent days, it seems as though we’ve crossed a rubicon in regards to where the topic of self-publishing arises as a mainstay news item.  It might once have been unusual to see multiple references in a single issue of Publisher’s Weekly, but these days it seems as though they’re beginning to––can it be?––specialize in matters of an indie nature.  This week, in a February 5th article by PW contributor Drucilla Shultz, we are privileged with the chance to see both what an industry titan defines as “success” in self-publishing, and how that titan advocates for achieving said definition.  Shultz consults with Jessica Lourey, an author who began her career in the traditional publishing industry and transitioned to indie publication because she couldn’t let her latest project, The Catalain Book of Secrets, “wither on the vine” due to its genre-defying niche appeal.  Together, Lourey and Shultz recommend three steps to the aspiring self-publishing author:

  1. Submit First
  2. Be Professional, and
  3. Don’t Expect Immediate Success

Of course, these points mean a great deal more when considered in the context of Lourey and Shultz’s explanations, which you can access by reading the original article here.

“Every author I’ve ever met gets almost starry-eyed at the completion of their written work,” writes David Smith in his February 5th article for the Southern Utah Independent. “The problem with most authors is that while they may have indeed written the next “Twilight” series, they need to make people who might be interested in reading their book aware that it is out there.”  How to solve this dilemma?  Writes Smith, the key is to go digital:

There are websites that have blogs, podcasts, topical material, and point-of-sale opportunities to help authors promote, market, and sell their books. There are social media sites, (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), that you can use to connect with individuals and groups that may have an interest in your book. Email blasts to friends and family with the ability for each to forward notes to their circle of friends is another way to gain a following or make your information go viral.

And, of course, there are marketing programs that range in cost but provide more specific means to reach potential readers.

We couldn’t agree more, which is why it might be worthwhile to check out Smith’s complete article at the link.

Jurgen Appelo knows a little about being remarkable.  In this February 4th piece for Entrepreneur, the self-made businessman and CEO of Happy Melly writes that “Entrepreneurs always have it backwards. They want to be more successful at what they do, so they watch and copy what others do who are very successful.”  But this modus operandi doesn’t often work, he goes on to say: “Copying the tips and tricks of the experts rarely results in replication of their successes.”  Why?  And what can an aspiring author looking for inspiration––a true entrepreneur if ever we saw one––do without falling into that exact trap?  Says Appelo, failure is as much a taught principle as it is an avoidable reality. “I believe 80 percent of your success is determined by your unique approach to solving a problem,” he says. “Before anything else, understand what problem you’re solving and what makes your solution remarkable. After you’ve figured that out, it’s OK to read books and articles that may help you to polish and tweak your production and marketing. But if what you offer has little value and is not remarkable for anyone, no amount of other people’s scripts, routines and checklists will make it so.”  For Appelo’s full thoughts on the subject, access the latest edition of Entrepreneur here.

The internet, writes Anna Tims in this February 4th piece for British heavyweight paper The Guardian, is making room for more authors to innovate and in so doing, to make a living from what they do.  She writes that such global digital access “enables anyone to be an author with access to an audience and increasing numbers of people are discovering that they can earn an income from their own ebooks.”  This is good news for self-publishing authors, she goes on to say, because there’s a direct connection between the rise of ebooks and the rise of self-publishing.  She takes as her guiding star the story of Tracy Bloom, a self-publishing author whose first ebook, No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday, reached the top rank in Amazon’s romance category.  “I realised that my best chance lay in ebooks and spent three months analysing the mechanics of how to make a book successful on Amazon,” Tims quotes Bloom as saying.  Hers was a long road, riddled with necessary research and with the intricacies to be ironed out before she considered her book “published,” but her journey may prove both interesting and insightful for the aspiring self-publishing author.  For more of Bloom’s story and Tims’ reflections thereon, take a peek at the original piece over at The Guardian.


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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.