Indie-publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Front and Back Matter

Indie Publishing Chats

The other day, I chatted with KT about front and back matter. Unfortunately, she received her edits back from her editor and is currently in the hellish throes of revising and editing. So while we intended to do these through her entire publishing journey, she realized putting in her edits would take more time than she thought, and we decided to suspend them.

While it was a disappointing decision on both our sides, I am going to make the most of my free time and finish publishing book 3 of my Tower City Romance Trilogy. I have also started a new book, and I’m about 3500 words into it. I’m very excited as this plot has been nudging me for quite some time.

Enjoy the last chat between KT and me, and we both wish you the very best with your own publishing journey!

Hands holding an open book with blank pages

KT Daxon
So. Let’s talk “inside matter”. The goodies of the book. What is the most important thing to remember when crafting the inside of your book?

Vania Margene Rheault
To format it correctly. Unjustified margins and spaces between paragraphs are unacceptable. It’s amazing how many people forget what a “real” book inside looks like.

KT Daxon 
What is the difference between a dedication, and Acknowledgement section, and are they both needed/required? Formatting. Is it centered? How do you advise an author to go about doing it correctly? You mentioned to me before about looking at other books?

Vania Margene Rheault
Looking at other paperbacks helps tremendously. The margins are justified, there aren’t any spaces between paragraphs. No headers and footers where there aren’t supposed to be. I can’t tell you the number of books I’ve bought that aren’t full-justified. It’s insane.
The CreateSpace template, for those of us who don’t know how to set those kinds of parameters up in Word, is a big help. They have almost everything you need set up in the file already. You just need to copy and paste your book’s text into it.

KT Daxon
I bought some books myself that had either big print, then small, or weren’t centered correctly. It’s definitely important. Thank God for templates, LOL. What all needs to be included?

Vania Margene Rheault
CreateSpace includes the Title Page, the Copyright Page, the Acknowledgement Page, the Dedication Page. They also include a Table of Contents that I delete. I don’t believe a fiction book needs a Table of Contents, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Besides the About the Author page in the back of the book, CreateSpace says, “You’re on your own.” So you can include anything you want back there.

the writing cooperative

KT Daxon
Good to know. Let’s go back to the pet peeve. I agree; I don’t pay attention to most of the front matter unless it’s a dedication or Prologue. What else do you believe isn’t needed, but people throw in there?

Vania Margene Rheault
I don’t think front matter is the place to ask for newsletter sign-ups or ads for your other books. I think that can go in the back. Keep in mind when a person uses the look inside feature on Amazon, they want the first page–the meat of the story. They don’t want to wade through five pages of acknowledgments, or “A note from the author.” They want to know if they’re going to buy your book or not. That’s it. So don’t crap up your front with a lot of junk. Keep it professional. Paperbacks you can find in a store can do what they want–the reader has the power to skip through to the parts they want to check out. Online it’s different, and you only can read what Amazon will show you.

KT Daxon
I always forget about Amazon having that feature to “look inside”. I should use it more often. So, let’s discuss back. What do you usually include in your back?

Vania Margene Rheault
What I included in the back are my other books, my author page, my website. A plea for reviews. LOL For books one and two of my trilogy, I added the first couple scenes of the next book. But I couldn’t do that with book 3 since I don’t have another book started well enough I would want to include it.

KT Daxon
What should authors NOT include?

Vania Margene Rheault
I’m not sure. I haven’t come across anything that turned me off. As a reader, I’m not sure how many people keep reading after they’ve finished the story. I’ve read a couple books where the acknowledgments were so long the author did put them in the back. That can be something to think about if you have a ton of people who helped you with research. If you write fantasy and have created a language or made up words, I suppose you could add a glossary of sorts.

KT Daxon
What about maps? I’ve seen some people do those.

Vania Margene Rheault
Maps are hard to format. I wanted to include one in Summer Secrets but decided it was too much work to make it fit. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to certain things. Formatting for the Kindle is a pain in the butt, and not everything you want to insert will convert correctly. If you want to get fancy, I always recommend hiring out so your files convert correctly.

KT Daxon
Good to know. Formatting…the thing that may scare me more than getting edits back from the editor lol.

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, formatting sucks. Conversion is iffy–you never know what will work and what won’t.

KT Daxon
True. Well, I don’t think I have any other questions about inside matter. Is there anything you want to add?

Vania Margene Rheault
Just that with the table of contents, if you publish outside of Kindle, other platforms for their e-readers will make you have one. Smashwords will put one in if you don’t, and so will Draft2Digital. I think it’s silly; I don’t think fiction needs a table of contents. But it’s a good thing to know if you decide to go wide and they put one in when you didn’t want one.

KT Daxon
Hmm, def makes me reconsider going wide.

Vania Margene Rheault
For your paperback, table of contents is a personal choice. But to me, it’s some kind of weird myth spread among indies. I guess they think it makes the book look more professional or something. I have no idea. But it just goes back to taking a fiction book, looking through it. Seeing what’s in it.

That is where our chat fizzled out. We always get to talking about non-chat related subjects, but if you have any other questions about front and back matter here are a couple more articles you can read about it.

Thanks for joining us!

Writing: Front and Back Matter for your Self-Published Book

Anatomy of a Book: Front Matter, Body and Back Matter

What’s it Matter?: The Front and Back Matter of a Book

 

Vania Blog Signature

 

Thanks to the Writing Cooperative and Bookstand Publishing for the photos.

What Draws a Person to Buy Your Book: A VERY Scientific Poll and Results

Your first pages do a lot of work for your book, and this blog post was going to talk all about it. This very scientific poll I ran on Twitter was going to lead the way. But it bought up way more than just first pages, and this post turned into an overall-type thing. I’ve always enjoyed knowing how others make decisions, and here’s a small idea of what attracts readers to your book.

twitter poll

What I found was that some people are really brutal with a book. You get the first sentence with some, others, maybe the first paragraph. That’s it–if your potential reader even gets that far.

If you have a typo anywhere, forget it. I have little patience for typos. I’m starting to feel quite agent-y about the whole book-buying thing. All it takes is one little nope, and I’m done.

this-is-the-cutest-nope-ever-5457814

I would imagine though, that if an author knew how many readers s/he was losing due to a small error, it wouldn’t seem so cute.

The picture above was just a poll, but there were a lot of comments, too:

first lines twitter poll 7

This is a great thing to keep in mind. Your writing style won’t hit home with everyone. I dislike first person present. There is only one author I will read who writes that way. I’ve turned down beta requests and review requests because of this. I might as well be reading something like, right?

first lines twitter poll 5

Reviews were one aspect of the whole thing that I didn’t consider. Mainly because I don’t look at reviews unless it’s a non-fiction book. Taste is subjective, and unless the reviews say it’s poorly edited, I don’t think someone’s opinion would have much weight with me. And I would know if it’s poorly edited by reading the first couple paragraphs.

first lines twitter poll 3

Liking the blurb makes sense–if that is poorly written, there’s a good chance the book will be too. But blur-writing is a skill in itself, and you need to either pay someone who has the skill to do it or learn it yourself.

first lines twitter poll 8JPG

Being swept away by a book is the best sign. If you’re reading on Amazon and you run out of the free sample and you want more . . . that’s the goal of every author right? Because it’s not such a long stretch from being sad the sample has run out to clicking the buy button.

first lines twitter poll 6

Some people give their books way too much of a chance–and I think this happens when someone has already bought the book and doesn’t want their money to go to waste. That’s one thing you have to watch out for when buying indie books from Writer Twitter. We’re all friends, but just because that person is a friend, that doesn’t mean what they’ve written is any good. It’s an unfortunate fact that some of your friends will publish crap. Be it because they can’t afford hire an editor, or didn’t want to take the time, didn’t take the time to have beta readers weigh in on their book, or because they don’t do anything in their non-writing time to get better, (reading craft books, reading other fiction) sometimes you just can’t trust the people you know are good writers (or know how to format correctly, either).

first lines twitter poll 4

While I was thinking of mainly indie books, Jamie brings up a good point. Trad-pubbed authors don’t control the book cover or the blurb. If you’re turned off by those two things, you won’t make it to the inside. Although, if you are trad-pubbed and have a little marketing power behind you, maybe a high number of good reviews or positive word of mouth would counteract a cover you don’t like and a blurb that sounds boring.

first lines twitter poll 2

Leanne brings up the book’s title, something else I didn’t think of, at least for this poll. I’ve lamented in the past about my title for On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. I loved it then, not so much now. I don’t think the title has helped sales. *Laughs* But I bought the ISBN number for it so to retitle it I would have to trash the number, and that’s a waste of money. But anyway, to get back to Leanne, she likes the title and the cover.
If you want to laugh at some, look here.

first lines twitter poll 1

And last, but not least, Laurie likes the blurb as do most of us.

This poll surprised me, but it shouldn’t have because it’s a no-brainer to have a decent cover and a good blurb. But taste is subjective, and what you like for your own book may not be the best for your genre or your book’s content, so it’s always a good idea to research what is selling in your genre and try to fit in and stand out at the same time. Got it? Good. 😛

If you have a poor cover, some won’t bother with you at all. If you have poorly written-blurb, that’s probably a good indication the inside isn’t written well either, and potential readers will pass you by.

Publishing is a cutthroat industry; readers don’t have time for your poorly written book.

So, what makes a reader buy your book?

  1. A good cover. Something that fits within your genre.
  2. A good title.
  3. A good blurb. Hire someone. Learn how to do it and get honest feedback from people you trust.
  4.  Have awesome first pages.
  5. Format it correctly. Your book could have won the Pulitzer, but if you leave the automatic 8 pt. space between paragraphs, I’m not reading you. Simple as that.
  6. Decent reviews won’t hurt. At least one five star review so when you tweet the link to your book the five stars will pop in the tweet. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I rarely tweet my own books, but this is what it looks like:

never tweet my own books

Might not help if someone found your book on Amazon, but if you tweet it now and then, it can’t hurt.

This blog post was going to be about first pages, but I wanted to feature my Twitter poll, so I’ll write about first pages another day.

Thanks for reading, and tell me what you think!

Vania Blog Signature

 

 

 

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–Imprints

Indie Publishing Chats

Imprints are fun . . . some say frivolous. But if you have any long-term plan to publish books, having an imprint is another way to claim your work. If you think really long term and are successful as an author you may want to publish other writers’ works. Joanna Penn, not long ago, created her own imprint. While she’s not accepting submissions, she certainly has what it takes in terms sales and exposure to draw in new talent under her imprint if she so chose. Never write-off something that could be part of your brand, as you never know what the future holds.

Let’s listen in to the chat I had with KT about imprints.

KT Daxon
What are imprints and how important are they? Personal preference or encouraged for Indie authors?

Vania Margene Rheault
Imprints are the name and logo of the publishing company you set up for yourself when you publish. They are a personal preference, but your name will be listed as the publisher of your book on CreateSpace if you don’t have one. They aren’t encouraged as much as owning your own ISBN numbers, but they go hand in hand.

KT Daxon
How does one set up an imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
The first you have to do is make something up. Something you like, something short, though, so it doesn’t take up a lot of room. Something that means something to you. I’m a romance author, and I love coffee, so I made up Coffee and Kisses Press. BUT and this is a big BUT, you have to make sure it’s not taken by someone else. Coffee and Kisses Press was like, my 4th choice.c&k2

I had a friend draw the mug, and my son did the rest. I share this imprint with @drwillisbooks. David doesn’t write romance, but he wanted an imprint and they are kind of hard to think of. So many are taken.

KT Daxon
So you both use this when publishing?

Vania Margene Rheault
He only has one book under this imprint. He published other books with iUniverse, and they have their own imprint. But yeah, all mine are under this imprint. I bought my own numbers and I knew I wanted my own imprint from the beginning.

KT Daxon
You say so many are already taken, how do you advise other authors on creating their own? Coming up with names is difficult for me, and in turn drive me crazy until I figure it out.

Vania Margene Rheault
I’ve read up on it, and they say that if you think of something personal, it’s easier to be unique. Like your pen name. I know how you made it up, so I mean, keeping it close to your heart it’s easier. But I suck at stuff like that too.

KT Daxon
Would you recommend I use my pen name as my publishing imprint?

Vania Margene Rheault
I would suggest you think of something cute. Especially if you’re going to stay with writing romance. PillowTalk Press. On the shape of a pillow. LOL But I bet that’s taken.PillowTalk Publishing

KT Daxon
Hmm

Vania Margene Rheault
Actually, it’s not. That’s funny.

KT Daxon
Hmm, I don’t know if I’ll stay with romance. Down to Sleep is Romantic Suspense … the next book after this is likely considered Contemporary Romance? Hahahaha! Hmm …
How much does getting your own imprint cost?

Vania Margene Rheault
Nothing. You pay for it when you buy your own ISBN numbers. Unless you hire a designer. Then that would be an extra cost.

KT Daxon
Even better, LOL. So, when you buy your ISBN numbers, you will just include that during that purchase?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can look for ideas on Canva. They have logo templates. Yes! Great question. You need to have thought of your imprint name before you buy your numbers because there’s a field for it.

KT Daxon
I know what will be running through my mind now. LOL That’s all the questions I have for now on imprints…that I can think of. Oh! I have one more. How can you find out if an imprint is taken? Is there a site?

Vania Margene Rheault
No, you just Google it. Most of the time if there is a publisher or a press associated with it, it will be the top few search results. But I used all the search engines to make sure: Yahoo, Bing, Google. You get slightly different results, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

KT Daxon
I got one I will check out…where on Canva can you use to check for logos?

Vania Margene Rheault
If you go to Create A Design, it’s under the menu, Marketing Materials. I made mine before I knew Canva existed. I have a tab on my website that explains my imprint and the books that are published under it. You have to be careful on Twitter if you are ever approached by a “press” or a “publisher” who wants to publish your book. It could be someone trying to publish your book under their imprint, and they don’t have any real publishing experience or distribution channels. They run your book through CreateSpace, just the same as you would then take a cut of your profits. So be very careful when someone approaches you–especially during the pitching games like #pitmad.

KT Daxon
Good to know!

Vania Margene Rheault
Yeah, it’s kind of scammy. But if they have a pretty imprint and a website that looks legit, it’s easy to get taken in. Everyone wants a contract and not everyone is as careful as they should be.

KT Daxon
Is Press the only thing you can use or are their others?

Vania Margene Rheault
You can use press or publishing. Those are the two main ones.

Our chat fizzled out after that because KT started experimenting on Canva. She wants to keep her imprint a secret until she publishes, so I’m not allowed to post what she came up with during chat. But if you need ideas for yourself, Google imprints and click on Images for the results. You’ll get an idea of what you need to come up with. Here are a few other articles on imprints:

Should Self-Published Authors Create Their Own Publishing Imprints?

A Quick Lesson About Publishers, Imprints, CreateSpace, and Bowker

Why You Should Create Your Own Publishing Imprint

A long time ago, I also wrote a blog post about imprints. If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thanks for reading! Next up we’ll talk about having your author photo taken, and the advantages and disadvantages of trying to remain anonymous online and still try to sell books! See you there!

Vania Blog Signature

Indie-Publishing 411: Chat with Vania and KT–ISBN

When I first started out, ISBN numbers were a mystery to me. They aren’t so much anymore, but the prices haven’t changed since I started–they are still one of the most expensive things you can spend your money on when you self-publish.

Take a few minutes to listen in to our chat about them. Whether you decide to buy them or not is a personal choice, but it’s always a good idea to have all the facts before you choose.

Take it away, KT!barcode_design_elements_vector_set_519833

KT Daxon
What are we starting with first?

Vania Margene Rheault
Should we start with ISBN numbers? There’s quite a debate about them.

KT Daxon
Sounds great! What are the pros and cons when it comes to buying your own ISBN numbers vs using CreateSpace’s free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
The biggest pro is that you are protecting your own work. I like knowing I own my work free and clear. Using a CreateSpace ISBN number doesn’t mean they own it, but they are listed as the publisher in the product details. Some people don’t mind it, but if a reader has been burned by an indie book,  it’s the quickest way to lose a sale.

createspace as publisher

This is from someone who took the free number.
The other pro is yes, you can list an imprint you create for yourself as the publisher, lending a bit more professionalism to your book.

imprint as publisher

KT Daxon
Which also doesn’t help separate you from other indie authors when you share the same “Publishing Name” I would think professionalism would be up on the top of an authors list?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes. But that goes with the biggest con. ISBN numbers are expensive, and not everyone can afford them. If you publish with IngramSpark, they make you buy your own.

KT Daxon
I’m very excited to learn about imprints…as for the cost of the ISBNs, they are expensive but is it worth it to buy your own?

Vania Margene Rheault
Here’s where people are divided. Some say it’s worth it, some say they don’t care. The professional opinion of the Alliance for Independent Authors say you should always buy your own. But with CreateSpace giving them away, and Kindle Direct Publishing give you an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) lots of people forgo buying their own numbers.  It’s a personal choice. Personally, if you can afford it, I say you should. Even if just for the vanity (and fun!)  of being able to use your own imprint.

KT Daxon
I really can’t see myself doing it any other way. Self-publishing is a journey, why wouldn’t you want to go all in?

Vania Margene Rheault
I guess cost is the main issue. After you pay for editing, maybe formatting, maybe cover design, there’s not much money left for something you can get for free.
Another con is if you’re going to be slow to publish. The best deals are in packs of 10, 100, and 1000. If you only publish once a year, it doesn’t seem worth it.

KT Daxon
Do ISBN numbers expire?isbn number

Vania Margene Rheault
No. Once they are yours, they are yours. But you can’t sell them or give them away. They are registered under your name and imprint. I called and asked them that. 🙂

KT Daxon
So as long as you wrote 10 books in your lifetime, it wouldn’t be a waste….if one could afford it?

Vania Margene Rheault
Five books. One for the paperback and one for the KDP version. Any version of the book needs a new ISBN number. I’m thinking of publishing my books in Large Print. That would require another ISBN. So one book could have four or five ISBN numbers.

KT Daxon
Such great information to know. Knowing that each book requires a different number, shows me that it IS worth it to get your own. Even if you had to sell something to afford it. (Which is what I considered, haha!)
Does CS and KDP have unlimited free ones?

Vania Margene Rheault
Yes, they’ll give you as many as you need to publish.

Other questions people have asked about ISBN numbers:

*Can you change the cover without needing a new number?  Yes.
*Can you change the insides without need a new number? Yes–if you don’t change more    than 20%.
*Can you change the size of your book and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change the title and keep the same number? No.
*Can you change your author name and keep the same number? No.

KT Daxon
Great information to know! Especially for those just venturing out. I’ve learned so much tonight!

Vania Margene Rheault
I hope we’ve helped some others, too. Do you have any other questions right now?

KT Daxon
Not at this time. The good thing about these chats, I’m sure we’ll get comments to inspire other chats.

Vania Margene Rheault
Awesome! I’ll dig up a couple of articles on the pros and cons of buying your own ISBNs as well.

It was fun to chat with KT about ISBN numbers. I know they are very expensive, and I like I said in the chat, not everyone can afford them–especially if they pay for other things for their book like editing or cover design.

Here’s what the Alliance of Independent Authors says about buying your own. You can read it here.

Should You Buy Your Own ISBN When You Self-Publish?

ISBN 101 For Self-Publishers

Thanks for listening in! Next time we’ll be chatting about imprints! See you there!

Vania Blog Signature

The Top 7 Indie News Items from 2017 (that I can remember).

Indie Publishing News of 2017

December is almost over, which means we’ll be welcoming in 2018 in a few days. Maybe you won’t see it happen because you’ll be in a pumpkin pie/eggnog-induced coma, or maybe you’ll be hungover, which is the best way to bring in any New Year. But nonetheless, 2017 will be just a distant memory. Here’s a recap of the top things that happened in 2017!

Amazon came up with Amazon Charts. Some people didn’t like this, some people did. Some people said it was a nice thing for Amazon to do since The New York Times cut back on some of their bestseller lists. Some people said it was a biased list; Amazon would only promote their bestselling imprint books. Whatever you think, there’s another list you can aim for, because just hoping for someone to buy your book and like it isn’t enough.

UnifiedListLandingPage_Charts_PostAC_FINAL_SliceReady_06

Pronoun closed. This caused a mad dash for indie authors as they were a third-party distributor like Draft2Digital or Smashwords. I don’t think anyone received a definitive answer as to why Macmillian closed Pronoun, but there was some discussion of money (isn’t there always) because they didn’t take a cut for distributing.

Speaking of Draft2Digital, it was big news in 2017 when they partnered with Findaway voices, giving indie authors a different way to produce audiobooks rather than relying on ACX through Amazon. Audio is on the rise, and while I hear it’s expensive and time-consuming to do an audio option for a book, more people than ever before are “reading” their books by listening. As an indie struggling with writing, editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing, audio is probably the last thing on your mind. But you don’t want to miss the boat–in the long run, you never know how many sales you’ll miss.

d2d_findawayvoices-600x375

Two other big news items that happened in 2017 concerning audio books are 1) Kobo is now selling audiobooks. This is important because it gives indies another sales channel besides depending on Amazon/iTunes through ACX. But if you like Amazon and are “all in” with them, and you write romance, when 2) Audible added the Romance package to their subscription, this gave indie romance writers another venue for getting their audiobooks out there. It may be more difficult to get your book into the Romance Package in Audible than it is to enroll your ebook into KU through KDP, but it’s still an option if you write excellent quality books.

Kobo-Audiobooks-560x255

Amazon/KDP rolled out KDP Print. That little tidbit of information goes alongside the news that CreateSpace is closing their online store. At first, this caused a stir that maybe CreateSpace was going to close its doors completely, and we’d be left with only IngramSpark (for distribution purposes you should be using them with CS anyway) but this is not the case. CreateSpace may fold, but in its place there will be KDP Print. I’ve looked into this service a little bit, and how you submit your interior files and cover files is the same. It actually makes sense–you have your paperback sales and Kindle sales all on one dashboard. So, in light of that news, I would suggest that if you’re close to publishing your next book, try KDP Print, figure things out before you’re forced to.

Publish-Your-Kindle-Book-in-Paperback-Format-with-KDP-Print

Another thing that popped into 2017 was if you’re looking for another way to have your romances published, the Hallmark Channel is accepting queries through Hallmark Publishing. Because, you know, there aren’t enough ways to have your writing rejected. No, seriously, if you write clean romance that you could easily see as a Hallmark Channel Movie, give it a go! You never know what can happen.

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Luckily, I’m not writing in order of importance, because surely the change in how GoodReads handles their giveaways is more important than pitching to Hallmark. This was a huge step back for indies when they decided to stop their free giveaway program for all 2018 giveaways and start charging for giveaway packages. Before, for free, an indie could giveaway paperback books and only pay for the printing and shipping for the giveaway. Now, GoodReads offers two tiers of giveaways, one for $119.00 and one for $599.00. Yes, you read the second one correctly. I haven’t looked into this too carefully, as I haven’t used the free program, and it will be a while, if ever, when I use the paid option. There was a lot of speculation as to why GoodReads did this, and in my very humble opinion, it was because they needed to assert some kind of quality control. It may not be true, but I’m guessing if an indie has the resources to pay for editing, book cover design, formatting, possibly ISBN, then they also have the resources to fork over another $120.00 for a giveaway. On the flip side, if you do everything yourself to save money, then you are less likely to shell out the cash. I’ve had people disagree with me, saying that poor writers still can put out quality work, and I agree. But in terms of GoodReads now charging for giveaways, it thins the herd, no matter what the reasoning is behind it.

giveaway6

Well, for me, I guess that wraps up my year in review for big publishing news. I can do a personal, What I Did in 2017 post, maybe later. I hope you found this blog post interesting–maybe you’ll need to make some changes to what your marketing plans are for the coming year.

If you want to keep your ear to the ground, a good place to start is to listen to the podcast by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, the Sell More Books Show. In their weekly podcast, they talk about indie news on a weekly basis, keeping you informed of what’s going on in the self-publishing industry. Also, follow Jane Friedman on Twitter (@JaneFriedman). She tweets interesting news articles about the publishing industry, and if you can afford it, sign up for her Hot Sheet. If you like to stay on top of trad-publishing news, listen to the PrintRun Podcast hosted by literary agents Laura Zats and Erik Hane. They work at Red Sofa Literary Agency in my home state of Minnesota. Also, follow them on Twitter (@printrunpodcast)! 

If I’ve forgotten anything, give me a shout. I like staying on top of things. You never know when it will come in handy.

Have a great 2018 in the world of publishing! Get your books out there! Good luck!

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Thank you to the respective websites for the pictures that I stole borrowed for this post. Also, thank you to http://www.pixabay.com and Canva for the other photos.

 

Indie Book Reviews: My Unpopular Opinion

There’s been a lot of talk lately about writing indie book reviews. You know, it’s a kind thing to do, you’re giving the book a bump in the Amazon algorithms. You see it everywhere on Twitter: support an author, leave a review.

And I’ll be honest, when I jumped into the indie world, I read a lot of indie books. I was supporting my Twitter friends. But when you are just starting out, when you’re new to Writer Twitter, the thing that no one tells you is that there are bad books out there. Maybe I was naive, maybe I was just inexperienced. I was in awe of anyone who had published books. I hadn’t been exposed to the indie world, and I had no idea that a published book could be bad.

So I bought books, tweeted I was reading them, showed my support. The only problem was, some of them were good, some were okay, some were dumpster fires.

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Then I would have to write a review. I admit, I wrote a handful of 5-star reviews for books that were mediocre. (I realize that is a moral dilemma for some, and I have stopped doing it since it’s not fair to anyone). There was a lot of telling, or the characters were flat. Maybe a plot hole here and there.

After I bought two books in a row that I did not finish (DNF), I stopped buying indie completely. Because let’s face it, indie books are expensive. I buy paperback, and to get any kind of royalty, CreateSpace makes you price your book at a ridiculous price. So spending $17.99 on a book I won’t finish is a blow to my wallet.

But lately, the review talk is getting out of hand. While writing a positive review for a book that is well-written and well-edited is one thing, writing a negative review for a book that isn’t good is something else.

What makes a book bad?

Poor or complete lack of editing
The formatting is wonky, so wonky that it takes away from the reading experience
Flat characters
Plot holes
An all-around boring story

I’ve read my share, and if you read indie, you have too. I once read a book that had so many typos in it, I used it as a proofreading exercise (a quick run through Grammarly could have fixed 80% of those mistakes). I’ve read two books that I did not finish because the formatting was so terrible I couldn’t focus on the story. I read one book where nothing happened for three chapters. I was still waiting by chapter four and eventually toss the book aside.

Did I write bad reviews for any of those books? No, I didn’t. Did I reach out to those authors, my friends? No, I didn’t.

See, here’s the thing that you probably won’t agree with, but something that I live by:

When I pick up a book at Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, I’m picking up a traditionally published book. I’m reading a book that has been read several times by an agent, by several (and different kinds at that) editors. If the book is bad, say unlikeable characters, maybe a slight plot hole, or just a boring story, several people are to blame for the all the book lacks. I’m also reading that book as a readerI don’t know the author, probably. I’ll never interact with them. I can leave an honest review, and for a traditionally published book on GoodReads I have left, you know, two or three stars (which technically isn’t a bad review anyway).

When I read indie, I’m doing it because they are my friends, or I know them peripherally, or I thought it looked good and picked it up in a show of support. What do you get when you purchase an indie book?

Maybe something that hasn’t been edited all that great due to cost, resources, what have you. Most times editing is a favor, and it’s not always done by someone who knows how to edit.
A book that has a cover that was maybe done by the author to save a few bucks. I do my own covers, and I like to think they look decent. I know decent isn’t what we’re aiming for here, and I realize that if I wrote in any genre other than Romance, I would have to pay to have my covers done. Romance is the only genre you can get away with slapping a kissing couple on the front and adding the title and your name and be able to call it good.
A book that hasn’t been properly formatted. This has always bothered me because CreateSpace has free templates for you to download. And there are lovely templates you can purchase at a low cost you can use over and over again. Copy and paste your book into it, and you’re done. You’ve got your headers, footers, the pages where there should be numbers, and where they shouldn’t be. Gutters, margins. The templates aren’t perfect, and I’ve had to tweak mine, but even just using a template as a starting point will put you ahead of hundreds of authors who don’t know they exist or are too stubborn to use them. Pick up a trad-published book for God’s sake. Copy it. Page numbers, title, author name in the headers and footers. Full-justify the damn thing. Take out the auto spacing between paragraphs. A 200-page book shouldn’t be 600 pages. It costs money, for you and your customers, to print all that space. Stop it.

But you know what, a review is not the place to say all this. By the time the book is published, it’s too late. It’s not your job. You might say, well I have to warn other readers, or I’m giving my feedback.

When you read an indie, you are doing so as a writer, and that is not the same as reading a book as a reader. It’s not the same. When you read indie, you are peer-reviewing their books, and giving a poor review is a low blow. Reach out to them in a DM if you absolutely must, but be prepared for the backlash.

Look, there are a lot of readers out there, and eventually the book you want to “leave feedback on” will receive an honest review from someone the author doesn’t know. That’s an honest review, and maybe if your friend receives enough of them, they’ll pull the book and have it edited, or whatever.

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This blog post is really long, and I haven’t even touched on the thing that makes me the maddest. I’ll write another blog post about it. But anyway, I don’t leave bad reviews for the simple fact that I am a nobody in the world of indie publishing. I don’t have thousands of sales, I don’t make six-figures. And when I do become an authority, I still won’t leave reviews. I’ll write blog posts like this.

Let’s try to save these books before they are published. Instead of reviewing, maybe offer to beta read, be a CP. Tweet informational articles about formatting. If you find services you like, tweet about it! Share when you find a paperback interior template that you LOVE. Share tips, tricks. A good editor that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Maybe you can get the information out there; even if you can help one person, it’s worth it.

It’s hell for an author to pull a book to fix it, and by then, their reputation may already be ruined. All it takes is one book for a reader to be turned off by an author, forever.

Let’s stop it before it starts. It can only help all of us.

no one heals themsevles by wouding another

Tell me if you leave bad reviews. Feel bad about it? Proud of yourself for being honest? Let me know!

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It’s Beginning to Look a lot like . . . Something the Cat Dragged in

I’ve been blogging close to nothing these past few weeks. I’ve been sick, but not like, a flu/head cold/stomach bug thing that wouldn’t go away. I’ve had an infection in the cartilage of my nose, and while the pain has been annoying and uncomfortable, it’s been the antibiotics that have made me feel off for the past few weeks. I went through two courses in the past 24 days. I just finished my second course a couple days ago, and I think my body is finally getting back to normal. Though now I have some weird sinus/fuzzy ear/ face pressure thing that won’t go away. It can’t be anything bacterial-related since all the antibiotics I’ve been on would have killed it. I’m just biding my time, waiting to see if my body will right itself after all the drugs I’ve pumped into my body lately. (With the second round of antibiotics I was also put on Prednisone; that didn’t do me any favors.)

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Tired of this BS. I want to get better!

Anyway, so I’ve been fuzzy, sleeping, and my nose hurt until the antibiotics kicked in, and the tip of my nose still tingles and aches in the cold (I live in MN). I admire anyone who can function on a day to day basis with any kind of chronic illness. Not only does the pain do things to your body, it preys on your mental health. I couldn’t concentrate while waiting to see if the drugs were going to kick in or not. And yes, I have to force myself to stop poking at my nose to see if it hurts. The short answer, yes. Anything you poke at long enough will start to hurt. LOL

Through it all, any mental wherewithal I had went into my books. I released book one of my Tower City Romance on November 18th to little to no fanfare. My fault. But that’s okay. My second book is loaded into CreateSpace and KDP and is ready to go on December 18th. I’m editing and scrambling to get book 3 ready for release on January 18th. I might be behind on that one, and I may need to settle for the end of January, or even the beginning of February. I don’t want to sacrifice any part of editing just to publish, and I know Christmas is going to take a little time whether I want it to or not.

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On the bright side I already know the next book I’m going to write–it’s a stand-alone and once I get going on it, I should be able to write and publish it rather quickly. I’ve already got it plotted out, and I’ve been playing with the cover. I’m so used to dealing with a million words at a time (Summer Secrets was about 160,000 words all together and this trilogy is 210,000 combined) that working with only a 70,000-word book will feel like a dream come true.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing these past few weeks.

I’ve also been fiddling with what I can do to break into the reader/social media barrier that eludes a lot of writers.

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I read a lot of books so, for now, I’m going to focus on reviewing them. But not just any books. I’m going to read romances (what I write, naturally) pick at them, and compare how they are written to what I’ve learned in the world of self-publishing. That way I’ll be reading my genre, get a blog post out of it, but also I can compare what’s being published to what indies are “learning” in the Twitter Writing community. A win-win for everyone.

I’ll start with The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. I watched the movie with my sister and bought the book to compare. But that is another blog post.

I realize 2017 is coming to a close, and I’ll be writing another blog post or two about what happened in 2017 both in the publishing community and in my own career. I have a lot to share–if my nose and my ears stop doing weird things.

Fingers crossed!

 

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