Self-Publishing News: 9.29.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We’ve written many times about zines––their history, their current value and various applications––and we are always happy to see zines back in the news! This article comes by way of Jasmine Santos and The Chronicle, and it covers the rise of zines and their critical importance in the age of digital impermanence. Says Santos, “Zines give marginalized creatives an inexpensive avenue to disseminate and self-publish their ideas.” And that, in a nutshell, is what we ourselves have always believed to be true. We are also compelled to answer her later question: “Zines offer a space where communities unite and individuals feel included. Indeed, zines do democratize publishing, but so does blogging and desktop publishing. What makes zines different?” We could propose a few ways that zines are different, but we find ourselves agreeing with pretty much everything Santos says on the subject, and we highly recommend reading the entire article. But when Santos writes the following, we were simply in love with every line.

Zines provide what the internet is truly lacking: authenticity and soul. Regardless of background, the art of zines embraces the stories that easily get lost in digital timelines and capitalist assembly lines, and transforms them into a tangible publication — a timeless story. They help creators map out their roles in the social ecosystem through the diversity they invite.

Isn’t that just the most hopeful thought? When you find yourself next at an impasse with writer’s block, perhaps you might consider publishing a shorter work––like a zine!

Speaking of diversity and the benefits thereof, here comes a wonderful article from Ashley Winters and the St. Louis American on two sisters who have found a home in self-publishing. As is often the case when breaking new ground, it was a bit of an uphill battle getting into the game. Together they have published five children’s books that “reflect families and children of color,” which have been sorely lacking due to the many ways the publishing system continues to battle itself to grow beyond decades of under=representation. Writes Winters, “Owens and Draper pride themselves in creating stories that Black and Brown children can identify with. Their goal is for their books to leave a lasting impression on kids who can model the positive messages found in their stories.” Their story is inspiring, compelling, and exactly what we needed to read this week. We absolutely insist you check it out if the events of 2020 have cultivated in you an interest in learning more about diversity in publishing, and the power of self-publishing to democratize the market.

“Books don’t sell themselves, especially when no one is physically allowed to go to bookstores anymore. You need to market,” writes Jia Wertz in a recent Forbes article. Those who have chosen to pursue the self-publishing path are being hit especially hard in this area, as they lack the force of a team of marketing experts that traditionally published authors can rely on to help. (Self-publishing companies do, however, sometimes offer marketing assistance as a part of their publishing package––so definitely check out your options before feeling overwhelmed.) And Wertz has several wonderful suggestions of her own––you absolutely must read her full article––and begins with one of the challenges that all self-publishing authors seem to face in the indie process: when to start.

“During our last self publishing survey, we asked top-selling authors to share some of their secrets to success,” says Stephen Spatz, President of Bookbaby. “One of the most important findings: over 80% of these successful authors started marketing their books before they began writing.” He says the ‘promote-then-publish’ mentality is spreading amongst independent writers and self-publishers.

Wertz draws upon a number of experts while unfolding some of the best writerly and publishing advice out there on the web. Every point brings something of value, and Wertz seems to know exactly who to turn to in order to convince us––to get started on our next project! Check it out.

Just as we are always happy to see zines back in the news, we are always happy to see Publishers Weekly hard at work championing the publication of new indie and self-publishing books. They are back at it in this week’s list of new titles, which include Rita Malsch’s Secure in God and Robert Levine’s The Uninformed Voter––two very different books, and that’s just a taste of the creative range of books on the list. We highly recommend taking at least a quick peek at all the possibilities! Maybe you will find yourself an interesting read … or a bit of inspiration as you yourself move forward with your self-publishing ideal!

spa-news
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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “God and Country” by Joseph Bylinski (Religion, Politics & State)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

The Bible and politics unite in a new non-fiction book which discovers that finding the answers to the Biblical mysteries leads to understanding that politics and the Bible must come together for our country of freedom to survive.

Hidden within the Bible are many creatively written and cleverly placed phrases which specifically point to these times. And when these extraordinary phrases are rearranged, they clearly explain our current world and answer one of the Bible’s biggest mysteries. They identify the Beast of the book of Revelation, the being commonly known as 666. And to obtain this elusive answer the Biblical phrases will take the reader on an incredible journey back to the birth of America to discover why we have our freedom and they’ll make it known that the true meaning of Jesus is what binds our nation together.

In God and Country the Biblical phrases unlock the secret to understanding how our freedom is earned, and more importantly, the Biblical phrases warn us that our country and our freedoms will not last unless we do indeed become “One Nation under God and Indivisible”. All of our countrymen shall live by God’s words or we will fail. And this becomes evident when the Beast is revealed.

The rearranged Biblical phrases expose our nation’s problems but in doing so they also reveal the secret to discovering the solution …..that politics and the Bible must become partners in a free democracy.

Our country was founded upon the Bible. Our laws are based on the Bible. And unfortunately, we are currently throwing the Bible out the window. Our country has wandered away from its founding ideals as we have pushed aside, ignored and thrown out God’s laws without realizing that they are here to discipline us and keep us in control.

Let it be known that freedom comes with the restriction of living by faith, that freedom has responsibilities with our mutual duty to be kind and considerate to one another, and that freedom must be constrained by discipline, and that this discipline is the Bible.

It’s time to change America’s politics, values and direction.

REVIEW:

I’m not particularly shy about my religious background, which in this case is probably a good thing, since Joseph Bylinski’s God and Country: ….United We Stand! ….Divided We Fall! is itself not even remotely shy about its stance and content. In my case, I come from a conservative Evangelical Christian household with supremely specific and controversial interpretations of the scriptures. I’m much more of a seeker and questioner now as an adult, but none of my more recent struggles and doubts have erased the practically perfect recall of the passages Bylinski refers to that I acquired in my childhood.

I absolutely refuse to spoil the main points of a book that is entirely built upon the principle of unveiling hidden truths! You’ll just have to buy a copy if you want to unlock them all. Without spoiling anything, I will simply say that the book leans heavily on the notion of freedom, stating in its early pages that “by understanding the concept of freedom that [the founding fathers] created back in the 1700’s […] helps us realize that we all have a greater obligation to fulfill in being a citizen beyond just taking an oath or being born on this soil.” Bylinski’s book is deeply political in that many of the passages he analyzes are, he argues, built entirely to communicate political truths and citizenship ideals.

For someone who lives within a community like mine, Bylinski’s claims make perfect sense once grasped. This particular book draws upon a long legacy of biblical interpretations that lean on numerology or cypher cracking in order to better understand the meanings and prophetic declarations within red letter passages. Bylinski’s approach is not quite either of those things (numerology or cypher based, that is) but it will likely appeal to those readers who have found something to value in them. And yes, it goes without saying that those who don’t already buy into the sanctity and inerrancy of these same passages will likely not walk away with the same degree of sympathy and agreement as those who do. But that, too, is perfectly in keeping with a long tradition; even within the bible itself one can find the acknowledgement that “the message of the cross is foolishness” to those who are not a part of the community of believers (1 Cor 1:18, NIV).

This is certainly one book that asks, repeatedly: Are you a believer?

IN SUMMARY:

Decisive in voice and unafraid to stick to its unique approach to the sacred texts of Christianity, God and Country: ….United We Stand! ….Divided We Fall! by Joseph Bylinski is a bold book in these unprecedented times. For those who fall within its ideal audience, it is likely to be an absolute hit.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find God and Country wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Joseph Bylinski’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

It’s been quite the busy e.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Barnes & Noble book listing.


SONY DSC

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Self-Publishing News: 9.16.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

We’ve written about Technavio reports before; unfortunately most of each of their reports is hidden behind a paywall, but they always create an attractive summary infographic that is useful all on its own. Their timeliness in collecting and publishing data means that they’re often among the first to note new trends and developments in both traditional and self-publishing. Their latest report (and infographic) is out now, and the news is mostly positive: Technavio reports that the data suggests publishing will actually grow in 2020, albeit incrementally and not dramatically all at once. (Which would be fun, but also potentially unsustainable.) They also speculate on possible dates when the market might “normalize” after COVID-19, which ranges from the third quarter of 2021 (at the earliest) to the first quarter of 2022. It’s always worth being reminded to be patient with a market as large as publishing (traditional and self-publishing) when going through something as disruptive as this virus. We can only imagine what’s hidden behind that paywall at present in respect to further information, but even just that news is both encouraging and realistic.

This week in The Arrow, Lucas Irizarry covers the story of Jasmine Jones, a student at Southeast whose first self-published book came out in 2018 when she was, herself, only 18––and who has just released her second and latest book of poems in July. According to Irazarry, Jones “said the process of getting self-published is surprisingly easy, and she learned of the opportunity by watching poetry Youtubers.” That’s not an avenue one might expect, given that most of the stories we’ve heard and reported over the years have focused on careful comparisons of existing self-publishing platforms, and not so much the possibility of discovering a resource by way of YouTube. But Jones’ story is interesting in many ways, not just her source point of discovery; she published through the B&N website, and states that the appeal of self-publishing was in that it “allows the user to decide the color of the pages, if the book will be hardback or paperback and the size of the book. Jones designed the covers for both of her books, but she said authors can hire any designer or illustrator to create them. She said it took about a week for her to perfect each of her covers.” We’re always excited to hear about new young authors embracing the process of publishing, and Jones seems to be emblematic of that particular trend. We’re excited to see what Jones does next!

spa-news

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 each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

In Your Corner: A Month of Romance (part 4)

As I wrap up my “month” of posts pertaining to the Romance genre (with a capital R, yes, absolutely) I think it’s time to take a quick look back. In my first post, we took a look at who the genre is for. In my second post, we spent some time examining the data on who writes books within the genre. And in my third and penultimate post, we dug into the process of writing within the genre by taking a closer look at the expectations of the genre. Having done so, our conclusions were multiple: the only critical expectations of any Romance novel are the ones you and your readers bring to it, and once you know what the rules are, you can do whatever you want with them. The basic formula may indeed be two or more individuals + a misunderstanding or obstacle to overcome + a bit of steam = the typical romance, but the data suggests that the Romance genre is less tied to its formula than most other genres are to theirs, making it a great genre to experiment within.

This week, to wrap up the series, I want to answer the simple question: Knowing all these things, where do we go from here? Determining one’s direction moving forward is critical to make the most of the writing process and to delivering on our goals to produce a completed Romance novel. So, how can a writer ever narrow the options down to pick just the ones they want to focus on right now?

What I’m about to suggest now seems almost too simple to be real and substantial advice, but it’s also the only piece of writerly advice I’ve ever been given that has turned out to be true in every single thing I’ve ever written. So, here it is.

Let the story itself lead you.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t plan out your approach, even including those of you who lean heavily on outlines. It simply means that you shouldn’t hesitate to update your outlines and well-laid plans when the story feels like its pushing itself into a different direction. If you find yourself facing writer’s block and struggling to figure out a way forward, it’s time to loosen rather than tighten your grip on controlling the action. Sit back, maybe get some extra eyes on the material you’ve written, and ponder alternative storylines. Not every Romance novel ends with a happily married couple. Not every Romance is all that steamy. Not every Romance involves exclusively white characters. Putting your finger on what elements of your ideal plan are actually holding you back is a guaranteed way to figure out what should come next.

But what about getting started in the first place? If you’re struggling to figure out where to start, go back to the genre expectations we’ve talked about in both this post and in past posts. Which of these appeal to you? Which of these do you want to push back against? Start with the core elements of every (or most) Romance novels, and work outward from there. Who do you want your characters to be? what do they look like? What unusual scenario can you imagine putting them in so that they run across each other and perhaps even misunderstand each other? Do you want to write within a sub-genre like historical romance? After you sketch out some of the world and the character elements, you can start playing with Romance-adjacent plot points. Do you want to add a love triangle? A forbidden love affair? A rags-to-riches or secret billionaire subplot? (There’s a great Book Riot article on this, by the way.) Just like genre expectations, these tropes can be something you want to subvert rather than embrace. Sometimes, knowing what you don’t like is as useful as what you do when it comes to starting out and breaking out of writer’s block.

So these are some of my many, many thoughts on getting started in the Romance genre. Are there any other genres or subgenres you’d like to hear more about? Let me know in the comments.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, 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.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Cost of Freedom” by Katherine Zartman (Fiction)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Is it the cost of missing legs, arms or sight, or is it something more valuable…

Walk through the dark halls of our VA’s, filled with damaged men and the one woman who brings light back to their traumatic days and nightmare-filled nights. Arlene, a very experienced nurse, touches the lives of all she cares for. John, an armless vet in love with Arlene but unable to fulfill his dreams. Lars, another maimed vet, tall, blond, a damaged Viking, fragile, sensitive and falling in love with this sexual woman who knows his most intimate thoughts and body. Warriors stalled on distant battlefields and the woman who can stop the bullets with words of love and compassion.

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.

REVIEW:

There is nothing more beautifully sincere than a book by someone who has lived and loved (and in this case, lost as well) the kind of people that it paints so clearly and sympathetically. Such is the case with Cost of Freedom by Katherine Zartman, who was both the daughter of a WWII Colonel and a Vietnam veteran, declares in her book biography that she felt “well acquainted with the problems veterans face” and wrote this book (and its sequel) in the hope of “help[ing] readers gain a deeper understanding of the pain and trauma involved as vets transition back to civilian life.”

This, she certainly accomplishes–and then some.

Zartman’s book may be a work of fiction, but it is characterized by a rawness of emotion that quickly made me forget the occasional rawness of form. Even without the more romantic elements of this book (love triangles galore for those who seek out books specifically for them) I found myself cheering for our main character, Arlene, and celebrating her fineness of character. I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the tropes and tools of the romance genre, but from what I could tell the relationships were the realistic kind that can form in only specific situations and under the kinds of extreme pressures and stresses that VA hospital work and recovery can bring. I knew I was in safe hands as soon as Zartman started fleshing out Arlene’s world with the kinds of little details that only someone who’s been through that kind of experience would think to include in a book, like the intricacies of helping an injured or incapacitated soldier maintain his dignity in the bathroom when in need of assistance, or the careful management of patient safety by way of checks, balances, and a guy named Mike. (You’ll see what I mean when you get there.)

This is a book that really ticks along. It’s not terribly long, really–I suppose you might call it a novella in respect to length, and recently I’ve been reading a lot of novellas. They’re short, sweet, and to the point–and they feel as rewarding and compelling as novels without being as daunting. With so many people (including myself) struggling to move through our TBR (to be read) piles at our usual paces, I think it’s important not to undervalue the importance of a book that knows where it wants to go from the first page and gets there in under 200 pages. It’s also a testament to Zartman’s eye for story that she knows exactly which scenes to share in order to make Arlene’s days feel both full and rich in detail.

I’m excited to have discovered that there is a sequel–Cost of Freedom II–that is already out in the world. While this first novella feels complete in and of itself, I wouldn’t mind spending more time learning about the minutiae and emotional weight of Arlene’s work within the VA hospital, particularly her interest in assisting those with PTSD. A number of my friends struggle with varying forms of this disorder, and it can be difficult to learn more about how to be the best possible friend to them without re-traumatizing them. Accessing some of the complexities of PTSD through a fictional set of characters and circumstances (some of them inspired by Katherine’s own experiences, I think) provides a safe place for me both to learn more and have a conversation about it that doesn’t require them to revisit their own traumas and possibly trigger an episode. “So I was reading this great book the other day, and one of the characters goes through something really interesting and I would love to hear your take on it …” is always a great way to tackle tough subjects, in my opinion.

Sorry for rambling a little bit here about my personal life! I just think it’s an incredibly important subject (or a collection of very important subjects, since this book really tackles quite a lot) and one that I am truly excited to have an insider perspective on, even if fictionalized.

IN SUMMARY:

Inspired by her own life and experiences, Katherine Zartman introduces readers to Arlene, an experienced nurse at a VA hospital, who carefully and thoughtfully seeks to navigate the inner worlds and outer bodily needs of patients who may or may not be more than a little bit in love with her. Inflected with just enough romance to add a bit of spice, this novella-length work knows exactly what it’s doing.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Cost of Freedom wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Katherine Zartman’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

It’s been quite the busy month around here, and I have no doubt it’s equally busy for everyone else! I have been working steadily to bring in the fall harvest from my overgrown and overwhelming garden, which is more or less entirely sunflowers, squash, and misbehaving greens (like kale and collards) at the moment. My cherry tomatoes have finally ripened, but I’m still waiting on my regular ones–and the weather is already getting down too low for my comfort at night. So I’ll be staving off frost and such for the next little bit, but I promise to bring you more bookish thoughts in two weeks! Watch this space.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


SONY DSC

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.