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.

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.


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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.