In Your Corner: Home by Midnight

In the story of Cinderella, our heroine must get herself and her carriage home before the midnight bell, when the spell breaks that has turned a pumpkin into a carriage and a poor orphan servant into a lady. In some tellings of the tale, Cinderella doesn’t quite make it in time, and finds herself mixed up with the pulp and seeds as her carriage reverts to its original state. I liked these stories the best as a child, mostly because I can’t imagine explaining that to a prince (or a mean stepmother). Then I would imagine the scene as it played out, with Cinderella explaining: “I’m sorry, I lied about everything and am not a princess, but would you like some pumpkin seeds for your garden? I understand this variety can grow to be the size of a carriage!”

Now, if you search for “Cinderella” and “Halloween” together online, you’re likely to pull up a list of absolutely useless Halloween costumes based on the Disney animated (or live action reboot) version. They’re cute, but they’re not demonstrative of an actual connection between the two.

But consider: On this particular Halloween––that is, October 31st, 2020––the night between Halloween and a candy-induced migraine of a Sunday is also the night in which we get to celebrate midnight twice. ÂNDˆa full moon. This particular pumpkin patch of coincidences, in which Halloween, Daylight Savings Time, and a full moon. This particular full moon will be the Blue Moon, as it is the second full moon in the month of October, and that is a fairly novel event, which explains the origin of the phrase “once in a Blue Moon” to describe an event that is rare. It’s kind of weird, but it’s also kind of amazing. What a year, right?

Halloween is an astronomical celebration. It is a cross-quarter moon, which I am just beginning to wrap my head around, that falls roughly halfway halfway between equinox and solstice. But don’t trust me, trust diagrams from the great and wonderful Internet full of amateur astronomers!:

There’s a lot of fun science behind this astronomical event, one definitely worth celebrating (maybe even in a Cinderella costume). It is also, of course, considered something of a spiritual event, with both its lovers and its haters due to its pagan origins. Of course, a person could say the same thing––that there’s a lot of fun science behind it––about each of these things: the Blue Moon, a full moon on Halloween, and Halloween as a cross-quarter event.

Perhaps this is just me connecting the dots between two very different things, but I always think of Cinderella around Halloween, mostly because of that iconic pumpkin carriage scene. If there was indeed a ripe pumpkin on the vine the night that Cinderella’s fairy godmother transformed her into a high-status lady for the prince’s ball, then the events in the story may very well have happened on Halloween. There’s a shared wistfulness and aspiration behind the story of Cinderella and the stories of modern day trick-or-treaters (or since this is 2020, those folks who dress up for the day even though it’s difficult to go door to door safely in some areas due to COVID-19).

They are aspirational because they reflect some larger than life passion or desire. For Cinderella, that desire was to be seen for who she was inside and not be defined by her poverty. For many trick-or-treaters, often it reflects someones or somethings that they find interesting and compelling enough to put on as a costume. (Unless you’re an infant, in which case, it reflects your caregivers’ passions.) Kids dress up as superheroes, first responders, heroes and villains from any number of shows and movies and books––and they do so because they wish to be extraordinary too, deep down.

They are wistful because so often our lives take us in a different direction from those aspirations. (It’s extremely difficult to find available fairy godmothers these days who are taking on new clients.)

We as writers often feel similar things about the publication process, that it won’t ever possibly work because it’s too difficult, or requires specialized editorial or software know-how, and so forth. We are afraid of still being in the pumpkin as the carriage reverts, and feeling publication as an impossibility that one can only wistfully watch from afar as it happens to other people.

Today, as you go about your final preparations for Halloween (maybe complete with a splash of some Cinderella story), I want to challenge you to see publication as something that is, in fact, within your ability to achieve. This is where you see the connection between all of these different dots. Self-publishing exists for a reason. For many reasons. And unlike Halloween, to become a published author isn’t something that you can only ever be aspirational for. If you ever figure out how to get a radioactive spider to bite you, I want to know your secret. But suffice it to say, most Halloween costumes do not reflect achievable career paths. It’s extremely difficult for Spider-Man to pay the rent if he’s constantly running away from work to do a second, unpaid job of saving people and annoying Tony Stark.

(Yes, I’m a nerd.)

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But self-publishing isn’t some remote once-in-a-blue-moon possibility. It exists precisely to get you from your aspiration to whatever the complete opposite of wistfulness is. Celebration of past accomplishments, perhaps? Pride in a job well done, and pride in a dream realized. And it isn’t something that you have to do alone through impersonal computer-mediated steps. Self-publishing as an industry is absolutely packed with amazing people with useful and related skills who are not just happy to talk with you in a casual sense––they’re eager. And delighted to help aspiring authors become published authors, and then to welcome new authors to the author club.

This has been a year of feeling alone in the face of all the things our world is throwing at us. But don’t fall into the trap of including publication on that list. You can chat with your local librarians, your local bookstore staff, the excellent employees of self-publishing companies, and yes, you can chat with me too.

Don’t let yourself be frightened to publish––or at the very least, don’t let yourself talk yourself into a self-fulfilling prophecy of publication being impossible. Get yourself and your pumpkin carriage of a manuscript home (and published) by midnight––and see what kind of wonderful things can happen when you believe in yourself.

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.
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Self-Publishing News: 10.27.2020

And now for the news.

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

When it comes to speaking directly to the troubles of the present, one can’t overlook the impact of articles such as this one by Tiffany Johnson for the Spokesman Reporter, in which she records details of a conversation with self-published author W.D. Foster Graham, who is using his experience and voice as a Black author in America to broaden the diversity of local library collections both through the inclusion of his own books as well as by requesting a number of books by other authors be added to their catalogs. Foster Graham is most well know for “Never Give Up and Mark My Words, which are both part of his Christopher Family Novel series.” Writes Johnson, “He used the self-publishing process as an opportunity to care for his project in a way that was relevant to his unique narrative as a Black voice in the United States. “I had to vet editors. I would ask them, ‘What does cultural sensitivity mean to you?’” he said.” Once his books reached publication, he began approaching libraries. The Hennepin County library welcomed his books into their collections, and other libraries began to follow suit.

According to Foster-Graham, now seven counties in the Twin Cities metro area plus St. Paul, Rochester, and St. Cloud, offer his books and other Black authors that he has requested. He urges the Black community to do the same. “You need to come at them with data on how they can access more African American books. I provided them with an alternative [solution],” he said.

We cannot recommend this article highly enough. It’s not too long, so we don’t want to steal too much of the limelight from Johnson’s excellent writing, but suffice it to say this is a positive, proactive approach to improving the quality and quantity of voices represented in a regional way, and it just might offer a roadmap for other authors and readers to assist in starting tough but necessary conversations with their own local libraries.

Alright, now this is interesting––and if the first reviews of the crowdfunding project Spark Books Accelerator Program by the Spark Project come back positive, then this might prove to be an incredibly useful tool for some self-publishing authors who have struggled to raise the money to pay for premium services, like copyediting and illustrations (just to name two). According to Patricia Mirasol of Business World, this “accelerator program uses a similar model as the local crowdfunding platform that matches creators with backers who are willing to pitch in money for ideas they find compelling and worthwhile.” Sounds nice, right? As more details are made public and the Spark Project beta tests its first few crowdfunding attempts, we will report further on this subject! Quoting from one of the project’s founders, Mr. Dulay, Mirasol repeats his words that “The beauty of crowdfunding is that it [offsets expenses]. Our goal is for the whole process to pay for itself.” Nice idea, nice plans, and now we watch and wait for nice test runs.

Prabbhan’s article in The Free Press Journal is something of a wake-up call. Not only do writers struggle with the same COVID-19 inspired challenges that we all face, but they are also struggling with the additional challenge of not being able to access their local libraries and bookstores (or at least, not in the same ways as they did before––most bookish spaces have pretty robust online presences these days). Bookstores offer inspiration, research pathways, and much more, hints Prabbhan, who interviews a number of young writers for the article. That said, one interview––with author Karan Puri––is especially illuminating in a positive sense. Writes Prabbhan:

[Puri] believes that the ‘stay home stay safe’ phase can be a terrific option for those wanting to maximise their side-hustles. “The lockdown gave me the time to complete my book and release it all over the world through Amazon self-publishing. A great platform, I took advantage and first launched the ebook version of the book. I started interviewing a few people who had gone through such issues for my book, and it’s been a worthwhile pursuit.

Whether or not his local bookstore is open for business, Puri sees possibilities. That’s a notion we will keep in mind when the days seem especially hard. There is a silver lining, perhaps, for some authors who never quite found the time in their busy lives to complete their manuscripts!

Every list needs to end with something as pure and sweet as this article from the Green Bay Press-Gazette! As Clough himself puts it in the article’s opening lines, “It’s not often a golden retriever gets a writing credit, but that’s the case on Baby Bumbu, a book from writer John Koski and illustrator Ben Toyne, both of Sturgeon Bay.” The cover is adorable, and the idea is adorable: “tells the fictional story of a puppy taken to join a circus in France and her efforts to return to her Wisconsin home,” writes Clough. Bumbu has been “dognapped”! Obviously we’re going to have to read the book so we find out what happens to poor Bumbu. In addition to the regular edition of the book, a special addition is available for an additional fee that goes directly to a nonprofit. Clough sums up the details: “Those who order directly from Koski can have their books ‘signed’ with a paw print from Grace Ellen.” We don’t know much else about this particular book yet on the blog, but we can’t wait to learn more. Find out more information at the link above!

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: Spook Your Neighbors, Not Your Readers

We are halfway through October, and the year continues to be an odd one. And while many neighborhoods will be skipping the door-to-door risks of trick-or-treating––or finding super creative ways to be both safe and merry––some areas are ramping up the intensity of their outdoor decorations as a way to demonstrate their continued love for the season of Halloween.

It is one hundred percent acceptable––even encouraged!––to put your imagination to work when it comes to putting up spiderwebs and that twelve-foot skeleton that sold out immediately and became an instant internet meme. We want to be extra spooky during the month of October … but only to our neighbors. Our readers? Not so much. This week, I’ll talk about things that will scare away readers and how to avoid these mistakes.

1) Typos and poor grammar

While even books published by big-name traditional publishers occasionally have mistakes, readers expect books to be nearly flawless. If your manuscript is full of typos and grammar mistakes, readers will not take you or your book seriously, no matter how great your story. It is difficult to review your own manuscript, so I always recommend hiring a professional copyeditor or keeping an eye out for an all-encompassing publishing package that includes a built-in editing service.

2) A poorly developed story

Sometimes authors feel rushed to meet a deadline or lose track of the direction of their book. If you’re like me, the most punishing deadlines of all are the ones I create for myself, independent of what’s going on in the world. If elements such as plot, characters, setting, organization, and voice aren’t properly developed, a book will leave readers disappointed. Since an author is attached to a story and knows in their mind how it is supposed to read, it is always best to have someone else review every story destined for publication. Consider hiring a developmental editor or ask trustworthy friends, family, and colleagues to provide feedback.

3) A generic cover

Despite the cliché “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” readers decide whether or not to purchase a book at least partially based on the cover. Rather than using stock photos or artwork, I highly recommend spending extra for a personalized book cover that is professional and that captures the essence of your book. As with editing services, graphic design is a demanding process and often well-worth the financial investment of searching out assistance from someone who knows exactly what to look for.

I’d love to know, have you ever been spooked away from purchasing a book? What pushed you over the edge?

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.

Self-Publishing News: 10.13.2020

And now for the news.

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

If you haven’t yet gotten into the world of podcasting as either a listener or creator, 2020 may just be the year to do so! One of our weekly contributors (Kendra M.) is something of a book-related podcast fiend, and pointed us to this recent podcast episode put out by Book Riot‘s children’s book show (they have many, which is why we’re being so specific here) Kidlit These Days, hosted by Matthew and Nicole. The episode in question is titled “Self-Publishing and Getting It Right,” and you can listen to it on the Book Riot website (linked here) or on most of the other podcatchers out there (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, and etc.). The conversation about self-publishing really gets going at about the 8:40 mark. While Kidlit These Days focuses most frequently on books for younger readers (young adult and younger), their conversation on self-publishing is worth listening to no matter who you’re writing for.

In a recent opinion piece for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Philip Martin describes a personal experiment with self-publishing: “As an experiment, I recently self-published a book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing e-book publishing service. It cost me exactly nothing, because I designed the cover and formatted the text.” Apart from some annoyances specific to Amazon advertising, he writes, the process was straightforward and easy. He goes on to note that “Most of my favorite books from the past few years have been from presses I’d never heard of before I received the book. The digital disruption of publishing has had some negative effects […] but for a consumer, it’s a good deal.” His piece is informed by his work as a critic whose career has included many a review of the printed page, and who is now surfing the wave of transition into the brave new world of mixed indie and traditional medias, in print and on digital platforms. It’s great to see this take added to the list of author and reader thoughts on the subject.

This article by Sassafras Lowrey for Publisher’s Weekly blew us away this week. PW has often included positive reflections on self-publishing in the past, but mostly contextualized within a larger conversation about its merits in comparison to the traditional model. Writes Lowrey, “My biggest wish is that self-published authors could stop apologizing directly or indirectly for the ways in which their books came to be in the world. […] The most important thing for the success of a book is that the author has confidence in whatever publishing decisions are being made—especially if the decision is to self-publish.” Like many authors, Lowrey has dabbled in both modes of publishing, and she’s eager to advocate for the merits of self-publishing independent of how it may or may not compare to what’s come before. She tackles issues pertaining to diversity and representation, creative control, royalties, and much more. We can’t recommend reading the full article enough.

If you’ve ever wondered what the big deal is with zines or are curious about the possibilities zines offer the self-publishing author, we have some good news! This year the Twin Cities Zine Fest (TCZF) is going digital as a result of the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named, and that means you can participate no matter where in the country you happen to be––an unexpected bit of good news to offset some of the grimness out there. According to this press release,

TCZF aims to sustainably support self-publishing and the DIY ethic in our communities, with an intersectional focus on politically and socially engaged zines, community partnership, and amplifying the voices of those who have been historically unheard.

That’s a mission statement we can get behind! For those of us who do not live in the kind of urban sprawl that gives birth to fests like these, a digital option is a most welcome development. The Hennepin County Library, as sponsor of the event, does offer some tools and resources to their local library users that won’t be available to those who dial in from outside, but are available to the rest of us. Browsing the zinefest and watching the TCZF’s scheduled live events online is free, and many of the events have incredible titles, including the intriguing “Crafting autobiographical work without going nuts!” panel with M.S. Harkness on Thursday, October 22. Sounds like a great opportunity to interact with other creators despite the unusual year we’ve had. You can find more information at the link provided.


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.

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!

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