Now this is almost like a real inspirational poster, although I’d say exercise and doctors are also useful in the pursuit of health.
London today was soggy. It was ok, I have waterproofs, but the biggest problem was trying to not to destroy the squeaky cleanness of the messroom when I was coated in mud. And the toilets in the new block are too small, which means just getting past the concertina door meant I painted the wall with a layer of mud from my coat. Then I’d turn around to clean it up and decorate the other wall behind me. And everything I touched, from bog roll to door to sink taps became streaked with brown, I felt like a shitty Midas.
When we were getting ready to go home, Mike said to Dan, now you need to find an umbrella you can hold over me so I don’t get wet. I looked at him quizzically and he said,
There is lots of information around the internet on self-publishing, but what I found difficult was that all the information seemed to start in the middle, assuming that I already knew what all the programs were, and terms meant. To try and help any of you new to this to avoid the same confusion, here’s a glossary.
Publishing programs and files
Ebooks can be published in a number of different formats, each of which can be used on different ereaders and devices. Other file types here . I’ve just referenced the ones I know.
Mobi – a file used on Kindle ereaders
Epub – a file for kobo ereader and Blackberry
PDF – a type of file often used for other documents, but sometimes requested from reviewers to play on Acrobat.
Kindle – refers to the electronic book reader made by Amazon or the type of file for that reader.
Calibre – a program that can be downloaded for free to convert any of the above files (or a word file) to any other of the above files.
Createspace – the program that can be used on Amazon to create a paperback. Most simply it involves downloading a template and then putting your book into that template and releasing it online. Once up, Createspace is the website you use to check your book, sort out blurb, price etc, and then shows you how many books you’ve sold. You can use this website to make changes also.
KDP – like Createspace, but for ebook publishing. Note: you can use KDP to publish paperbacks, but I have no idea how good that is.
Sellers of ebooks
Kindle Unlimited – a subscription to Amazon ebooks that allows readers to download a few at a time for free. A little like an online library that you pay a monthly fee for.
Kindle Select – you can choose to enrol in Kindle Select. The downside is you can’t use any other publishing platform, like those below. However you can get a higher percentage of the profits of each book you sell (but only if it’s $1.99 or above) People who are paying a subscription to Kindle Unlimited can download it for free, and you are paid for page views.
Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Ibooks, Gardners – I’ve not used these, because I’m enrolled in Kindle Select. There are more publishers, but these are the big ones. You can upload to each one individually, but it’s easier to use a distributor.
Distributor – InGram Spark, Smashwords, D2D. Each of these will distribute your book to multiple platforms, like those listed above.
Categories – a word to broadly describe the book eg ‘Thriller’ or ‘romance’. Used on KDP and Createspace (and no doubt on the various publishing platforms)
Keywords – More detailed words or phrases used to help a reader find the kind of book they’re looking for, can be titles/authors of similar books. Eg ‘Female protagonist’ ‘George Orwell’. When the reader searches for these phrases, your book comes up in the results.
Teasers – short quotes from the book or blurb, with a photo/image background. Used to advertise the book
Blurb – a description of a book’s plot, usually a paragraph or two. Focuses on being catchy, rather than complete.
Synopsis – a more complete explanation of the plot. May or may not include the ending (depends on who is asking). Usually more focused on being clear rather than being catchy.
Video adverts – short videos to promote a book. Often with music, pretty scenery in the background and with quotes or ideas from the book overlaid in text
ARC – author review copy, a copy of the book usually sent out to reviewers/promoters before the book is published.
Blog Tour – a service an author signs up to. The book is sent to various review blogs, who write about it. It is also tweeted about, and plugged on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform.
Author spotlight – Attention paid to one author, often with an interview, review, photos of the author. Used for promotion, usually on a review site.
AMS – Amazon Marketing Services. A paid for promotion. The author chooses ‘keywords’ that will lead to their book being inserted into searches by a reader. The author pays a set amount for ‘click’ (every time someone clicks the link to their book) although this doesn’t guarantee a sale.
KDP Rocket – a program you can use to help you get AMS keywords. Since you need a thousand keywords, this program is invaluable.
Click rates/click-through rates – how many times a link to the author’s book is clicked (but not necessarily bought) on a site or in an email.
Countdowns – a promotion whereby a book is cheaper, or free, for a limited time. Mostly an Amazon thing.
Giveaways – a promotion whereby a select number of people get free books and/or other goodies. An Amazon and Goodreads thing.
Kindlepreneur.com – a very helpful set of videos with information about publishing
Beta readers – people paid or unpaid who read through a book specifically to look for flaws, whether grammatical or structural. Like an amateur editor.
Goodreads – a very informative site. Primarily created for readers, but has become a place for self-published authors to discuss the trials and tribulations of getting their book finished and read.
Anything I’ve missed? Let me know, the more information the better.
And if you found this helpful, then please share or reblog!
As promised, here are some further tales of my adventures into self-publishing, I hope you find them useful. I’m pretty atrocious at self-pubbing, I’ve made mistake after mistake, and the different programs and websites I use all clash and crash and do totally nonsense things. I don’t know if that’s just me being hopeless, or it’s a corporate plot, but either way, I’ll list a few of the problems that I’ve had, with solutions that I’ve come up with.
You don’t need them. If you publish a paperback you can get an automatic ISBN generated by Createspace. Ebooks don’t need them at all. And ISBN’s aren’t cheap. I paid £160 for ten (I thought you needed at least two, one for ebook and one for paperback) and ten is cheaper than two. They say you absolutely can’t get a refund, but I hadn’t assigned them, so they refunded me anyway which was much appreciated.
Don’t trust Word. Don’t trust Mobi. Don’t trust Createspace. Don’t trust KDP. Each program will take your careful and consistent formatting and throw it up in the air, letting it fall randomly. Problems I had – pages disappearing (although they reappeared again). Page breaks working in only some formats (in one, the dedication became the first paragraph in the story.) Page numbers being at one height on some pages, then at a totally different height on others (fixed this by making the left and right pages the same). Often I would find that a problem with formatting only occurred on some uploads, so it was possible to just reupload and the issues would go away.
Doing everything the way the programs requested didn’t help at all. You need to check through the book each time, all programs do have facilities for doing this, they are mostly slow, but essential. Once the book is published, download it and CHECK IT AGAIN. TRUST NO ONE.
I set my price in the UK at 99p and my price in the US at 99c. I then went to Amazon.com via their link to check the page and found my book to be at $1.31. Once I’d checked I’d completed everything right, I wrote to Amazon. They wrote a vague confusing email telling me that the extra money was tax. Which: a. Seemed like a lot of tax and b. Didn’t help me put the book at the right price. After checking on Goodreads to see if anyone had the same problem (Goodreads is excellent for solutions like this) I learned that the price probably IS 99c in the US, but costs more when seen from the UK. Then Amazon wrote me another vague confusing email that sort of confirmed this.
Searching the title
When I first put the book up, I could only find it via a direct link. If I searched the title it insisted that I had misspelled ‘Paddling Doomsday’ (wtf? That is a scary paddling pool) and that there was no such thing. I thought it would take a few days to right itself. It still wasn’t showing up after a week, so I wrote to KDP. I got a nice clear email saying they didn’t know what the problem was, but would have it fixed in ten days. When I checked again the next day, the title could be found. So I guess they fixed it.
I had a promotion running from the 7th of June. When I was first planning this, I figured I’d publish the book on the 5th, just to allow for any problems to show up, so I could fix them before the promo started. DON’T DO THIS, A FEW DAYS IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. In the end, I didn’t do this, luckily I published about a week before. Firstly it takes up to 72 hours for an ebook to be available. Then there are all the problems I’ve described above, that each take up to 72 hours to change. The paperback version takes much longer, I think it was another week before that was up, but I reckon that’s ok. The paperback is maybe for people who have an interest in your book specifically.
Uploading the paperback from Createspace to KDP
Ebooks are created in KDP, and paperbacks can be KDP or Createspace. I used Createspace. Once the book was ready, I set the price of the paperback (the minimum is $9.99 wtf? That seems awfully high), then pressed the button to send the book to KDP (you can create a paperback in KDP, but rumour has it, it doesn’t do a great job with paperback formatting). It came up with a little box saying Your book is uploading to KDP and will be ready in a few moments. It said that for a few hours, then I left it running over night, it still said that. I wrote YET ANOTHER message to KDP and they replied asking for a screenshot of the uploading page (although I told them exactly what it said, and it’s their screen, they must know what it looks like). I gave up trying. Anyway, having looked, the paperback is available online, which is the main thing.
Any problems and/or solutions of your own, I’d love to hear them 🙂
This guy knows how to write blurb, just look at him, he BREATHES blurb
Blurb sometimes gets muddled up with teasers, so I’m using the definition that makes sense to me. Blurb is a short, enticing description about your book, up to four hundred words long. It’s not a synopsis. Guides on how to write blurb often have a long list of information to include, such as description of main character, setting, events, all finishing with a question. I disagree with most of that. Although it’s fine as a formula, the description is so ubiquitous that everybody is writing blurbs that look the same. If you have a captive audience (ie people who know your writing and have at least some interest in it) then that’s ok, because those people are paying enough attention to actually read the few paragraphs you’ve written. However, if your blurb is on Amazon, alongside thousands of other blurbs, then it won’t stand out.
My theory (which may prove to be totally wrong) is that blurb only needs to contain one idea that captures something about your book and is interesting enough to draw attention to itself. It shouldn’t misrepresent your book (that will only annoy your readers) but it doesn’t need to capture the whole book either.
I was inspired by this blurb on the back of Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.
I think that’s brilliant. In five short lines it’s got me thinking, I want to know what happens in this story, and it only took a few seconds to take it in.
Then I wrote my blurb for the back of my book and my Amazon page
‘Listen to me. Humanity is in trouble. You know that, right? The wars, the greed, the waste. We’re heading for disaster.
They tell us that’s just the way the world is.
But they’re lying.
I have the truth, and I can teach you the answers to the two most important questions.
Who is really running the world? And why are they doing it so badly?’
Myra, Prophet 2018
I was worried that was too nonspecific, so at the bottom I added the line
Peddling Doomsday is a tense psychological drama about a cult run by a charismatic female leader.
My hope is that the first part will get people’s attention and then the final line will provide enough information for people to decide if they want to read or not.
At the moment I don’t know if this will work or not. We’ll have to see.
What are your thoughts on blurb? Have you written any? Any feedback for mine? What does it take to persuade you to read a book?
The printer was flashing a blue light, which made a change from the red light it usually flashed when refusing to work. However, it was still refusing to work. Deirdre looked around for assistance. But in the open-plan office, sixteen people were suddenly talking on the phone or staring at their computers to avoid having to face the fiendish machinations of the printer. Deirdre sighed to herself, and went through the usual routine to get a printout. She pressed each button in turn, turned it off and slapped the top twice. Then she unplugged it, slapped it again, plugged it back in and turned it on. What she refused to do was think happy thoughts while she did this, despite the written instructions on the wall telling her to do so. Deirdre found that small, unobserved rebellions caused less trouble.
The printer had arrived three months ago. Deirdre’s boss’s boss, Dove, marched into the office in his leather trousers, a printer-laden minion struggling behind him. Dove had stated this was the absolute latest in artificially intelligent technology. This printer would eliminate the need for excuses. This printer would not simply print when they pressed a button, but would anticipate, adapt and evolve to create the perfect printing experience.
‘In time,’ Dove had said, swaying on his hips, face shiny with the excitement of his own importance. ‘In time you’ll see this as the most vital member of our little team.’ The reality was that the printer simply would not print when they pressed a button; it took a good twenty minutes of cajoling, resetting and violence. Whenever Sarah, Deirdre’s boss, tried to persuade Dove the printer needed fixing, his argument was,
‘It’s a highly sophisticated machine, Sarah, it requires highly sophisticated usership. You need to take a step into the technology of tomorrow. I’ll book you onto a seminar.’ Seminars were how Dove battered dissent out of his employees, their will broken by tedium; trodden into submission by PowerPoint presentations and flipcharts.
‘But it doesn’t work,’ Sarah had persisted.
‘It knows you’re complaining about it. Try asking it nicely while thinking happy thoughts. Negativity is the enemy of success!’
Deirdre’s office was at Stronk and Lowry, the backwater branch of a corporate advertising agency, and happy thoughts weren’t easy to come by. However, Deirdre’s colleagues all tried, and then blamed themselves when the ink refused to flow.
‘I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but what do happy thoughts, you know, feel like?’ said John, a creative, his quirky hat perched to hide his balding head. Deirdre didn’t have an answer and shrugged.
When Deirdre had discussed the printer with Henry, her erstwhile boyfriend, he was convinced artificial intelligence hadn’t been invented yet.
‘And definitely not artificial sulking, why would they bother?’
‘What about psychic artificial intelligence that senses negative thoughts?’ Deirdre had asked, and Henry gave her a look. Together they Googled the make of printer and discovered it was a perfectly normal, cheap printer that happened to not work very well. Erstwhile Henry found this incredibly funny and had fallen off the sofa with laughter. Office insanity had been bearable when she could use it to make Henry laugh. Now there was no one to laugh with, and Deirdre kept her head low and pretended that foolish things were a natural part of working life. She let her inner mockery wither.
Wherever possible, workers in the office did their work-printing at home and brought it in the next day, meaning printing costs at Stronk and Lowry had dramatically decreased. This was seen as a win by management and the one-printer-system spread throughout the branches.
Deirdre gave the machine a kick, it whirred indignantly and then deposited the letter she was printing at a diagonal. She shrugged, that would have to do. Mission accomplished, she got herself a chocolate Hobnob. They had been her dad’s favorites, and she sucked on it as he would have done. As she passed, she picked a few cigarette butts out of the peace plant growing on the window sill of the kitchen, and returned to Sarah’s office to chop the letter straight.
So I wrote last week about editing, and how I used ProWritingAid, an essential but flawed program, to help me. I was going to write a straightforward review, but the reason it annoyed me wasn’t so much the bugginess of the programming, but the way it ‘scored’ my writing. I was offended. This was unreasonable, but I figure I can’t be the only one. So to all of you feeling picked on by editing programs, this is for you.
Stickiness and Other Issues
ProWritingAid gives percentage marks for spelling, grammar and style. My marks for style tended to come in at the 50-60% range, with the main criticism being I had too many ‘sticky sentences’.
Sticky sentences are ones with excess ‘meaningless’ words. So in my first chapter the sentence,
These routines reassured her that all was as it should be, no matter how awful that was.
is a sticky sentence and the words – these, that, all, was, as, should, be, no, how – are the sticky ones. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do tend to use too many words, and this program helped me cut them down. On the other, while wordy sentences need to be used sparingly, they can work stylistically (see below for a perfect example.)
My book tended to be pretty good with pacing ( a useful feature that shows if there are any slow areas of your writing) but thought I had too many long sentences and tended to overuse the word ‘believe’ (although in a book about a cult, it was difficult to avoid).
So Whaddya Think of This?
Anyway, the upshot was that even when I adjusted my writing, it still had my style down as 60% or so. Which is when I thought I’d investigate how it saw the writing of others. I decided to use Catch 22 (one of my favourite books), Catcher in the Rye, my first book Riddled with Senses, Sense and Sensibility, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another one of my favourites) and the Da Vinci Code.
(note: I would upload a chapter to the program, but not necessarily the first chapter. Of course a book varies in pace and wording from chapter to chapter, but much longer than that and the program gets confused. This is not a scientific study.)
These are the Results…
No of difficult to read paragraphs
% slow pacing
Da Vinci Code
4 slightly 7very.
Catcher in the Rye
Riddled with Senses
Sense and Sensibility
I found these results befuddling and reassuring.
So The Da Vinci Code had the most ‘difficult to read’ paragraphs, which doesn’t fit with my view of the book at all.
Jane Austen was the fastest paced! (Although, I checked other chapters and they got a higher score). Even Riddled with Senses (which is totally not an action-packed thriller) was twice as fast as the Da Vinci Code.
Every book but Catch 22 had bad grammar, which was a relief, because I often disagreed with what the program said about commas and tenses.
Most reassuring of all, The Da Vinci Code was deemed to have a better style than Catch 22, Hitchhiker’s Guide and Sense and Sensibility. That being the case, I’d rather have bad style than good.
All had at least some long sentences (over 30 words), although Riddled was the worst for that. And every book had an excess of words like was/were or feel/felt.
Another strange statistic was that no book achieved a low enough ‘sticky’ rating (although Riddled with Senses and Da Vinci Code came close). Hitchhiker’s Guide had the worst, at 55%. This isn’t surprising since, Adams was the master at long, meandering sentences that were funnier because of the strange route they took. For example, the program picked out
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time.
as sticky. An alternative the program accepted was
This planet had a problem: most people were often unhappy.
It’s true, this is a more straightforward sentence, but with nothing of the humour or interest of the original.
I feel less affronted now. These programs are a tool, and it’s important to use them as such; they are no substitute for human feedback or my own opinion. It’s good to think seriously about the criticisms they come up with, but I shouldn’t make changes I feel harm my writing just to keep a program happy.
So what about you? Have you tried these programs? Did you find yourself shouting at them?
So, continuing my trek into self publishing (now to happen in just over two weeks, eek!) This week I want to talk about editing.
One huge drawback to self-publishing over trad-publishing, is that you don’t get an editor or proofreader to pick apart your book looking for flaws. It’s possible to pay for both, and this is the route I’d recommend, but not everyone can afford that. Plus it’s good to have a back up in case you make changes after you get your edited script back.
Editing – what is it?
Editing tends to focus on character and plot consistency, pacing, believability; and fundamental problems like that. I’ve read professionally edited books that are still majorly flawed, so it’s not foolproof.
How to Edit on the cheap
Friends – I have a few very talented writers as friends who are good at spotting flaws in my writing, so they always get first read. It can be difficult to hear criticism of a book you’ve poured your heart into, but no matter how angry or upset you feel, DON’T PASS THOSE EMOTIONS ON. Anyone giving you criticism is doing you a massive favour and is probably nervous about doing so. No matter how wrong you think they are, accept their comments with thanks.
Unfortunately for all writers, the best people to criticise your writing are those who don’t like it, so long as you can get more information out of them than ‘nah, hate it.’ When somebody loves what you write, they don’t notice all that’s wrong with it. If you can find a reader who doesn’t really like your writing, but is still prepared to read it and then tell you in detail everything that is wrong with it, cling on to them, buy them cake, they must be cherished.
Beta readers – I discovered these on Goodreads recently. Some are people who just like to read new novels and comment on them, others are picky, still others charge. They give feedback and will be able to spot flaws, but not to the professional level of an editor. I’ve not used them for this book, but will try them out next time around.
Writing a synopsis – unfortunately most writers don’t write their synopsis until after the book is finished. THIS IS UNWISE! If you want to see inconsistencies or areas where your story lags, then writing a synopsis is a great way to do it. If you can’t find a way to make your plot sound interesting, then maybe not enough is happening. If there are large sections that you don’t mention at all in a synopsis, it may be because the pace is too slow there. Writing a synopsis when you’re editing is also a great way to take some of the pressure off when you come to finally write it, which is a good idea, because it’s a truly awful experience.
Writing blurb – blurb consists of a few paragraphs that capture enough of your book to make it intriguing so the reader is hooked. Again, if you write the blurb while you are editing then it focuses your attention on what you want the book to be about and the atmosphere you want it to have. Writing something down is the best way to be clear about it. If you can’t write an enticing blurb, then there may be a flaw in your story.
Proofreading – what is it?
Proofreading is the final edit, where somebody who knows spelling and understands commas, goes through correcting flaws, and replacing missing words. I’ve seen a few writers ask if it really matters that a book has lots of spelling errors, and I’d say yes, it does. Grammar errors are like hiccups in your writing, they distract the reader and remind them that they are only reading a book, rather than living a life through the characters. They spoil the immersion.
How to Proofread on the Cheap
Reading Aloud – I don’t think this will work for everyone, but it works very well for me. For some reason, even when I’m not paying attention as I speak, if I read outloud, I spot missing words, dodgy grammar and repeated phrases.
Editing programs – Grammarly or ProWritingAid. I mention these two because they’re what I’ve used. They’re both problematic, but extremely useful. I’ll talk about them at greater length in a future blog.
For all you writers out there, what methods do you use to edit? What works and what doesn’t for you?
Hello fellow blogeezers, I’ve missed you! I haven’t been around for a few weeks because I’ve been up to something.
For the last three weeks I’ve been melting my brain trying to fathom the twisty-turny world of self-publishing and now I’m ready to tell you my secret:
On the 6th of June I’m going to release my new book
It’s the story of a Deirdre who joins a doomsday cult led by the charismatic preacher, Myra. But once inside Deirdre learns that good and evil are not as clear cut as she’d hoped.
I think at least a few of you have or will self-publish, so over the next few months, I’m going to be sharing everything I learn, the mistakes I’ve made (so you can avoid them) and what works and what doesn’t with promotion. It’s a scary process, but people on here and Goodreads and been extremely helpful, so at least we’re all in this together.
I’ll still be posting stories and thoughts, and I still welcome your comments.
If you want to sign up at the side for email updates, then I’ll be using emails to send out additional information that I don’t want to make completely public. Today’s email is going to have the cover reveal. If you do join, I won’t spam you and will keep emails relevant and interesting – if you don’t want to be sent self-publishing emails, then let me know on petra_jacob at outlook dot com and I can put you on a stories-only list.
I’ve also got a lot of catching up to do with all your blogs, so please be patient.