Author Interview with Daniel Mattia, Author of Debut Novella In Crows’ Claws

author interview daniel mattia

 

Dan and I chit-chat on Twitter a little bit, and I asked if I could interview him, and he was amazing and said yes! Dan published his debut novella, In Crows’ Claws on July 7th of 2018. Writing and publishing is hard work, and everyone has a different experience when it comes to publishing. Listen in to see how he fared in the big bad world of indie-publishing!


crowHow long have you been writing? How long did it take you to write
In Crows’ Claws?

I’ve written almost all of my life. I’m 28 now, and remember writing short stories and tales all throughout my childhood. I continued writing throughout my early teens, then stopped for a few years until about 2010.

During that time, I was at the tail-end of a severe bout of depression and found solace in my writing. It was during this time that I started crafting the fantasy setting of Fyrndell, the world in which In Crows’ Claws is based. I wrote quite a few short stories during this time, all of which have helped me to further flesh out and build upon this setting, but In Crows’ Claws is the first I’ve published.

I wrote the first version of In Crows’ Claws in 2010 or 2011 as a weekly web serial. It was a way to ensure I wrote on a consistent basis and the accountability of publishing a new chapter on a set schedule held me to that promise (for the most part).

The original serialized version took about three or four months to write and was fairly raw. That’s not to say it wasn’t written well-enough for publication, but it certainly didn’t meet my current standards.

crowWhat surprised you most about the writing process of this novella?

The emotions I had to invoke in order to represent the mindset of certain characters. I generally write without much personal emotion; I think there needs to be a sort of cold logic when you’re going through the actual craft of writing. I’m not writing how I feel, but how my characters feel, so it’s important for me, as the author, to be as emotionless as possible.

But as I wrote – particularly in the cases of Ahri and Nextiarc, two of the main characters in In Crows’ Claws – I discovered myself feeling how they felt in some of their specific chapters. Ahri, especially, starts off as an excited and optimistic young man who quickly finds out that the world of Fyrndell is a cold, dark place and the “truths” he felt he knew aren’t entirely accurate. The second-to-last chapter, especially, makes me tear up every time I read it – and, again, I’m not someone who has that happen often.

The chapters written from Nextiarc’s point-of-view surprised me even more. They were actually the most difficult to write because, in order to write from the POV of a literal monster who not only enjoys killing but venerates the very act, I had to adopt a rather dark and violent mindset. I had to write his POV chapters in short bursts because writing in his mindset for long actually frightened me.

crowWhy did you decide to publish?

To prove to myself that I could. I have so many stories I want to tell, particularly in the world of Fyrndell, but I’m someone who often has a self-defeatist attitude and can easily give up before I even try. Forcing myself to publish a finished work (along with the encouragement of some close friends) was what I needed to do first before I could even think of repeating the process.

crowWhat was the biggest obstacle when publishing your novella? What did you do to overcome that obstacle?

Formatting. My workflow, and the software used, is atypical from the workflow used by many other Kindle authors. I had to adapt and figure something out for myself despite there not being much information available for how to do it. Luckily, I discovered the Kindle Create software, which helped me to format and publish the Kindle version without much pain – after, of course, I had converted the book to the proper file format.

crowWhat do you mean by workflow?

In this context, workflow basically means process. Like you were witness to on Twitter during my editing/formatting phase, I didn’t write the novella in Word so exporting from the software I used (yWriter, something akin to Scrivener) meant much of the formatting advice I found online needed some tweaking to apply to my situation. On top of that, I completed the last editing phase in Kindle Create instead of the actual doc, which was a stupid idea, since it meant the final editing copy was locked to a proprietary format and couldn’t be easily converted to a friendlier format, ie. a .doc or .pdf.

crowWith publishing your debut novella, what is one piece of advice you would pass on to a writer who is thinking about publishing for the first time?

Don’t underestimate the value of editing. No matter how much or how little editing your work needs, it will always be better after you’ve put some solid editing time into it. I’d recommend hiring an editor to do it for you, but there’s no excuse for not editing yourself if you can’t afford an editor. Do at least three editing passes in which you read every word and every line.

crowWhat is next for you writing- and publishing-wise?

In Crows’ Claws is sort of the spiritual precursor to what readers can expect from the next Tales of Fyrndell book. My next work will be a novel in the same setting that takes place in a distant kingdom under siege from an invading neighbor, eventually introducing readers to a cold war that’s heating up quickly.

crowWhat will you do differently the next time around?

I’ve already identified where in my workflow I need to make changes to make the formatting process easier and more simple. The next release will come out in both Kindle and paperback format and will (fingers crossed!) not be such a pain to format and release into the world!

Thanks for the interview, Dan! It sounds like we have some spectacular stuff to look forward to!


yWriter is a free writing program similar to Scrivener. If you have been thinking about Scrivner, but don’t want to pay, try yWriter. You can find it here.

Editing and formatting your books for publication can be kind of tricky. Dan isn’t the first author to . . . put it informally . . . mess up. Even after the books I’ve published, I still find shortcuts and different ways of doing things every time.

Formatting your Word file for conversion to download to KDP (Kindle) doesn’t take that long at all. I blogged the instructions here.

If you’re interested in reading In Crows’ Claws you can find it here.


In Crows’ Claws Description

“This desert is the domain of death.”in crows claws cover for blog

The world of Fyrndell is a place of ancient powers, myriad races, and untold secrets. It is a world where gods may or may not exist, where heroes are few and far between, and where technology progresses at a haphazard pace.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS tells the story of two opposing armies as they race across the continent to a recently-unearthed desert tomb believed to be the final resting place of the goddess Konia. Read the letters sent home from Ahri Vestesson, crowkeeper for the Order of the Orthodox Knights of Fyrndell’s Crusade Army, as he wrestles with matters of faith and purpose while longing to return home to his betrothed. The letters of Marshal Taves Khest, veteran general of the Imperial Expedition Force of the Mhedorian Empire, will demonstrate his duty and ability while he leads his army to and through the desert to claim the glory of capturing the Tomb of Konia in the name of his empress.

But the desert holds many secrets and even more dangers still, for both armies will encounter a brutish and violent warband sworn to the service of Tavradyss, God-Prince of Conflict, and led by the even more vicious Nextiarc.

IN CROWS’ CLAWS is a tale full of action, ambiguous divinity, and heartbreak as three armies converge on the Tomb of Konia, desperate to lay claim to its hidden secrets…

 

Check Dan on these awesome platforms and thanks for reading!

crowAmazon   crow  Goodreads  crow  Twitter  crow  Facebook crow

Where’d ya go, Chance Carter? (And other thoughts on author/reader loyalty.)

Actually, that question is pretty rhetorical. We all know what happened to Chance Carter. The self-proclaimed bad boy was very naughty, and not in a fun way, and Amazon punished him, and also again, not in a fun way.

But for those of you who don’t know what he did, I’ll just give you a quick recap:

Mainly Chance Carter got caught book stuffing. Meaning, he put more than one book into an e-book, made the reader “flip” to the end of the “book” to read the new content, and cashed in on page reads through Kindle Unlimited. Some books to the tune of over 2,000 pages. I hate math, so I won’t do it, but that’s a lot of page reads in KU when you think that a normal book might only be about 200+ pages depending on genre.

I wasn’t even aware of this term until whistleblowers David Gaughran and Nate Hoffelder blogged loud and long about people who violated Amazon’s terms of service. 

He did other things too, like offering raffles to readers who would review, and the biggest giveaway he did before his books were pulled was offer a chance to win Tiffany diamonds to anyone who would review.

This isn’t a blog post for trying to figure out if he was wrong or right, or dissecting his ethics when it comes to scamming.

What I want to talk about is our obligation to readers.

Chance had it going on. He had thousands of followers.  Thousands.

chance carter blog post 7_LI

Having that kind of following would be a dream for any author.

Even his fan groups were crazy with members.

chance carter blog post 8

When you have that kind of following, you owe it to your readers to be real. To be honest. I mean, that’s neither here nor there now, but once he was ousted,

he didn’t even say goodbye.

 

No press release, no private message to one person who could spread the word. Nothing.

chance carter blog post 2_LI

 

chance carter blog post 3_LI

chance carter blog post 4_LI

chance carter blog post 6_LI

Not an apology. Not an, I’ll fix this and I’ll be back.

He completely disappeared.

I see a lot of indie authors maintain a cavalier attitude toward their readers. Mainly because they don’t think they have readers.

But do you have a responsibility? Even if you just have one or two readers? Do you care what they think? Do you care if a friend is waiting for your next book? Your neighbor? Your followers on Twitter? The forty-five people who like your Facebook Author Page?

Maybe you don’t think your readers matter until your followers and readers are up into the thousands like Chance’s.

When your readers write you open letters asking you where you are and if you’re coming back. 

First, I guess you have to ask yourself, why are you publishing? What is your goal? I can think of two off the top of my head: Readers and Money. Maybe you don’t care so much about money and you publish on Wattpad, or you write fanfic and publish it to fanfic.net. But if you’re publishing on Amazon, or Smashwords, and/or everything in between, you’re probably hoping to make a little money. With hoping for sales you would like to become well-known for your books.

But not only books. Authors like Chance know their brand. They build their reputations from the ground up, by showing up, being present. By engaging with the people who read their books.

Readers who read books by consistent authors like Chance know what they are getting. Even his covers look similar.

chance carter blog post 9

That’s a series, but his other books, look similar too:

Pecs and abs. It’s not too hard to figure out why these were popular with the ladies.

 

But what does that mean about loyalty for you?

  • Publishing consistently. Self-publishing is a fast-moving wheel that waits for no one. There are a million books out there to read. If you want a following, you need to give your readers something to follow.
  • Do you genre hop? Do you write contemporary romance, then throw in a bit of horror? Do you write historical fiction then jump into sci-fi when the fancy strikes? It’s okay to write what you like, but not all readers will follow you to every new path you want to take when that shiny new idea takes over.
  • Are you accessible? Do you have an email address that you check and respond to? Do you engage on social media? Do you post to an author page? When someone shoots you a tweet, or mentions you in a blog post, do you respond? Do you use a real photo? I’m not saying all those are musts, but if you take a look at Chance’s social media history, you’ll see consistent posting, videos. He shared bits and pieces of his life.  Chance Carter probably wasn’t his real name, but he was real–to 122,000 people.
  • Do you have follow-through? If you say you’re going to do it, do it. Changing up plans in mid-stream because you don’t feel like you have enough of a positive response will teach your fans you can’t be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do.

It’s tough starting out. You feel like you’re writing for no one. But it takes time and patience to build your audience. Chance didn’t wake up one day and decide to have 122,000 followers on his FB page.

It’s too bad that he didn’t treat his followers with more respect. His readers liked his books and kept buying them. They didn’t need to be scammed into reading his books or leaving reviews. They would have done that on their own. Simply because they liked him and his work.

Now they feel betrayed, cheated, abandoned. Leaving messages on his FB Page:

chance carter blog post 5

 

Uncle Ben said, With great power comes great responsibility. Actually, I looked it up, and he stole it, but the idea is still the same.

If you’re looking for a large number of readers, treat the ones you have with respect and loyalty.

Begin as you wish to continue.

And all you Chance Carter fans out there–I’m building my Contemporary Romance audience. I may not be a bad boy like Chance, but I can write a sexy and kind hero too–and I can guarantee, he will always get his girl.

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Whine a Little . . . Over There

There’s been lots of whining on Twitter lately. More specifically, authors whining about not seeing books sales. Even more specifically, authors not seeing their books sell.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer, or people aren’t looking forward to school starting, or the crap we’re all going to have to deal with when THE HOLIDAYS start in full-swing October first.Dog Days of Summer

But whatever it is, it needs to stop. Because YOU, and nobody else but you, can make sales happen for your book.

Mostly, this is on Twitter. I can say it louder for the people in the back. TWITTER ISN’T FOR SELLING BOOKS. If you’re a member of Writer Twitter, you’re a member of WRITER Twitter. There’s a reason why it’s called that. Because we’re writers. Join READER Twitter. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe #amreading is wedged between #IhateTrump and #turtlesareweird. If you’re convinced Twitter is the only way to sell books, or it’s the only way you want to try, break into the #amreading crowd. Or try. I’ll leave a light on for ya.

But if you want to take stab at moving books instead of whining about it, explore these ideas. First though, you need to take a look at your book.

  • Cover needs to be decent. Needs to depict the genre, needs to fit in, but stand out (in a good way.) Join an FB cover group and get some critiques. Taking a second look at your cover and if it’s not up to snuff, fix it. It’s killing your sales before they start.
    Books to consider:

    Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices
    Why Does My Book Not Sell? 20 Simple Fixes (Writer’s Craft)

  • Make your blurb awesome! This is easier said than done. Bryan Cohen is great at this. He teaches webinars and he runs a business doing this. And he makes very good money doing it. But he shares his knowledge, so don’t just moan you don’t know how to do it. Read about it. You’re a writer. Research. Here’s his book. He breaks it down so you can do it, too. With his guidance, I write my blurbs in half an hour. Here’s a Book Description Critique with Bryan Cohen hosted by Reedsy. Watch it.
  • Make sure you have a decent title. No one told me this before I published, and now my very first book has a stupid title I can’t change because I don’t want to waste the money I spent on my ISBN number. If you don’t have any reviews and didn’t purchase your ISBN number, you can change your title. Changing your title and ISBN number will lose you reviews so if you only have one from your best friend Angie, she’ll probably post it again if you republish with a better title.
    Grab some ideas from Dave Chesson; he’s got some good ones.
  • Make sure your “look insides” (first sample pages) are decent. This can make or break you if all the other parts about your book are spot on. If you don’t have a solid POV, if you have typos, if your formatting is messed up, the best cover in the world won’t save you. Try to get your hook within the first few pages of your book so it’s included in the look inside. Turn that browser into a buyer!

Now that we covered that and your book is up to par, you’ll need to ask yourself what you’re doing to help your book sell. Tweeting every day isn’t going to help. So what can you do to spike sales?

  • Are you spending any money?  You have to spend money to make money. I’m not kidding. Lots of people are like, “I don’t have any money to put toward selling my book.” Then you’re not going to sell your books. No business has ever opened that didn’t need seed money. Investors. Start-up money. You buy stock for your shelves, you fork over for rental space. You pay for wages for your employees before you’ve even sold one thing. Your book isn’t any different. Nobody ever went into business for themselves because they needed money yesterday. Starting a business is a lifelong endeavor. What can you put your money toward?

    *Pay for promos. I spent 80 dollars to give away 4,000 copies of Don’t Run Away in a free book promo for FreeBooksy. It got me some reviews, and lots of KU reads for the whole trilogy. I made my money back and then some.

    *Pay for giveaways. Goodreads did away with their free giveaways but because you have to pay, the market for giveaways isn’t so saturated. People have debated as to whether or not it’s a good thing, but I think it is. I haven’t tried them yet, but in the spirit of trying one new thing with each new release, I’ll be trying it when I publish All of Nothing this fall. Read about them here.

    *Pay for ads on Amazon. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. I’ve been blogging about my experience. It won’t break the bank to give it a try, but it’s important to do it correctly. Brian Meeks has a wonderful book about it. Amazon changed the platform a bit, so his instructions are already outdated even though his book is only a year old. But his advice is still as good as gold, and just as valuable.

    *Pay for ads on Facebook. These are trickier than Amazon ads. At least, I’ve read that they are. I haven’t tried Facebook ads, and if you don’t have the money to spare, I would suggest going with Amazon ads first. I’ve spent under five dollars experimenting with Amazon Ads. But if you want to try FB ads, again, do it correctly. Michael Cooper has a super great book about it. It’s important to try ads correctly, otherwise you’ll blow through money, claim they don’t work, and you may write off a great way to let people know about your books!

    *Pay for a blog tour. I used to hear a lot about these two years ago when I joined Twitter, but not so much anymore. You don’t have to pay someone to set up a blog tour, but if you pay a legit person they’ll know the best blogs to submit your book to. I’ve never tried one of these. They’re time-consuming. Either you have to fill out an interview sheet or compose a guest post for that blog. If you’re doing a full tour, that could consist of anywhere between 5 to 20 or even more blog sites. That’s a lot of guest blogging and interviews when maybe you should be writing your next book.

    *Reviews. If you do this in a legitimate fashion, this can be a coup for you. I have not tried it because the service I wanted to try distributes the books to readers through BookFunnel and that goes against KDP Select’s terms of service. I pulled Wherever He Goes out of Select to try this review service, and it comes out September 3rd. It wasn’t doing well in KU anyway, so I didn’t see the harm in trying. I’m going to try Happy Book Reviews. I’ve heard good things and so-so things about results. But if you have a good book with a good blurb and good cover, and the plot/genre isn’t too weird, you may get good results. Give it a shot.

  • Are you writing more books? The best marketing you can do is release new books. Lots of debate on quality versus quantity, but if you just can’t scrape up the cash to put toward your book’s promo, at least writing and releasing is free. *As free as you can get without spending money on cover, editing, etc. I’ve heard you drop off the Amazon algorithms after three months, so you want to release something every three months. Try releasing tie-in novellas. Or just dig in your heels and write the next book. I see lots of people trying to build careers on one book, and that only works if you write a non-fiction book and your career is already based on that book. Readers expect more from you. Keep them happy.
  • Offer to guest blog on other people’s websites in your genre. Ask “up.” Someone in your genre who has more followers than you. Someone whose website gets a bit more traction than yours. This is where your tweeting should come in handy–you’ve made connections, don’t be afraid to ask. Most people would love to host a guest blogger. It frees up their schedule for the week. But make sure your book is up to snuff or they’ll turn you down. And be prepared to giveaway a book. That seems counterproductive to sales, but lots of bloggers want to reward their readers for showing up.
  • Think local. Ask your town’s newspaper’s lifestyle section to do an article on you. If you have local small magazines, ask them to do a profile. Ask your indie bookstore if you can do a signing, or if they’ll sell your book. Heck, maybe get together with a couple of indies in your area and ask Barnes and Noble if they’re willing to do an Indie Night. Asking is hard. We’re introverts at heart, but even if the answer is no, at least you can say you tried.
  • Take a hard look at your book. Besides the cover, the editing, the blurb, the title, ask yourself, is this something someone would want to read? Especially if this is your first book. Indies like to experiment when they’re starting out. We’re finding our niche; we’re finding our passion. Experimenting with your hamster detective series is cool, but can you get sales? Maybe not. So take a hard look at your book before you throw money at it. It may not do any good. And that’s the sad truth. If you can be honest with yourself and say yes, my book has readers, all I have to do is fine them, then good luck!

Whining about lack of sales isn’t going to help you sell books. After a while it becomes annoying, and you end up tarnishing your reputation. If your first book isn’t working, then move on. Write something else. Write something better. We get better at our craft with every book we write.

book marketing challengeRachel Thompson says we don’t get traction with our careers until we have at least 6-10 books under our belts. As the self-publishing industry gets more competitive, that number may get higher. If you’d like to read her awesome book about marketing, you can look for it here.

Book sales are subjective. What works for you may not work for someone else.

The best advice I can give you is write well, and publish often. Stay consistent. Build your brand on a genre you love to write.

Sales take time.

Have patience, and good luck!

 

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Changing Your Book Over From CreateSpace to KDP Print

This is the big bad everyone is talking about–moving your books over.

Do you want to move your books from CreateSpace to KDP print? I think, yes. Because if you’ve been following what CreateSpace has been doing (ie, cutting staff, removing services) then you know that Amazon is in the slow process of getting rid of it. Not that anyone from Amazon has admitted it.

If you’ve been avoiding it because you think it’s going to be hard, don’t worry! It will be fine. I did it just to see how it would go, and I ended up doing half my books.

Let me tell you how.

First, you go to your dashboard on KDP. The one you check when you want to see your lack of sales.

Then, what you need to do is find the corresponding book that you have on Kindle, and choose Create Paperback.

blog going from cs to kdpp5

 

After that, there is a place for you to enter the ISBN number you used for CreateSpace. Log into your CreateSpace account and copy and paste the ISBN number from your paperback into the space.  After you type in the number, you have to hit ENTER, and the yellow button will highlight so you can click it. I don’t have a screenshot of that, but just take my word for it. They tell you in pretty green that yes, you are the owner of the title. 🙂 Thanks, KDP Print!

blog going from cs to kdpp

The categories don’t come with your manuscript or your cover, so you need to choose the categories over again. I didn’t, and I got the error message.

blog going from cs to kdpp4

Choose the option “you have published this book on CreateSpace.” That’s the whole point to this exercise.

Also, another good thing to know is you can’t change your trim size and your interior since those things are attached to your ISBN number.

blog going from cs to kdpp2

But after that, you’ll see that everything has ported over:

blog going from cs to kdpp3

After the cover and manuscript are processed, you can take a look at it through the online viewer. I open it just to be sure, because KDP Print is a lot more clear on cover and manuscript requirements.

There is one thing I found out the hard way:

If CreateSpace tweaked your cover in any way to make it passable for publication, those changes do not carry over. 

Apparently, when I did my covers for Summer Secrets, I did them wrong, and the lovely customer service people at CreateSpace fixed them for me. They didn’t bother to tell me I was doing them incorrectly. When I did a cover for one of my books in my trilogy, I called them for something completely unrelated, but the rep I spoke with pointed out that error as well. I thought since they were publishable, I wouldn’t have a problem, but I did.

I wouldn’t bring this up except for the fact that I don’t know how may covers CreateSpace helped along with no notice to the author. Is it bad? No, not at all. But if they tweaked your cover and KDP Print tells you something is wrong now, I hope you have the skills to do what CreateSpace did to fix it in the first place. Or if you hired a designer, you’ll have to ask them to make the changes.

Don’t worry if KDP Print tells you something is wrong–they get very precise when pointing out the errors. They won’t leave you guessing, and they let you know right away–in the information bar on the left-hand side of the online viewer.

It was just a surprise to me that KDP Print didn’t approve my covers when CreateSpace had published them.

You won’t know right away if they pass, even if there aren’t any errors in the online viewer–they do go into review, and you’ll get an email saying if they pass or not. And if they don’t, the email will explain why. But it is faster than the 24 hour time period that CreateSpace used to take. I got my emails back in 12 hours. The online viewer is similar to the one on CreateSpace. Sometimes it seems like it will take forever for the viewer to populate your content, but I just hit REFRESH and that seems to do the trick to get it moving.

Don’t forget to hit SAVE AND PUBLISH.

And that’s all there is to it, really. I messed with the insides of 1700, so I ordered a new proof, just to be sure.

The link to order the proof is small, and it’s on the bottom of the page, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for it if you want to order a new proof.

I didn’t mess with the insides of Summer Secrets, so I didn’t order a proof of either of those. Proofs take a lot longer to come than they did using CreateSpace, and author copies, too. Definitely plan extra time into your publishing schedule.

All in all, I was happy with the experience. It will go smoothly for you if don’t have cover issues and if you don’t change anything with the interior. Although, now is a good time to do those changes, if that’s what you were going to do at some point. All you would have to do is upload the new file and replace the ported file from CreateSpace with the file you made changes to.

Always order a proof if you make interior changes, unless you are prepared to flip through every page with the online viewer.

KDP offers instructions and offers advice, and you can read about that here.

Otherwise, there’s not much else to tell you. I plan to do the trilogy soon. Oh, and if you’re selling paperbacks like hotcakes right now, you probably don’t want to do this until your sales die down because as you switch over, your paperbacks aren’t available for purchase.

If you’re worried, try not to be. I was a new author when I did my covers, but I’m better at it now. If you used a cover designer or in any way were more experienced than me when publishing your book, you’ll be just fine.

Jump, don’t be pushed.

Good luck!

 

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What do You do with Promo Photos? And Better Yet, WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

We all see these cute photos of people’s books, you know? If you don’t know, you’re not on Twitter much, or you haven’t liked many Facebook author pages. Let me give you some examples. Hold on while I dredge some up.

wherever he goes promo composite

This is mine for my latest book I put out in June. That looks pretty cool, right? Or how about Aila’s, when she did her cover reveal for her new Women’s Fiction, Alabama Rain:

alia's cover reveal

Hers is pretty fancy; those books stacked on that nice shelf. And I love her cover. I am so excited to read this book. She made an awesome trailer, too, and you can watch it here. Anyway, I can make something similar with mine (but not the same because her skill set and my skill set vary greatly):

whereverhegoespromowithsunflower

The best part about the 3D mockup maker I use is that you can download a PNG without any background, which makes it very easy to place your book onto a different background, and you can make a super cute promo like this:

aila's promo

But what the heck are you going to do with it?

Aila says she puts hers at the end of her blog posts, making the photo clickable and driving traffic to her Amazon page. That’s not a bad idea. But she blogs–a lot. And consistently. Who can say they do that? Not me. But you should totally check out her blog. She writes very informative posts about the indie publishing industry, and she knows a lot of writing resources she generously shares.

I mean, you want photos out there. Someone might Pin It, or Retweet it, if it’s cute. I found this one somewhere and saved it for reference because I’m terrible at design:

book promo idea

Text is good, you know? A tagline, a teaser.

I made this messing around in Canva, trying to practice, develop my eye:

He's her boss, but he's got his eye on her. She doesn't know what she wants.He has demons to spare.And she has an ex that just won't quit.

Canva is good for stuff like that. It makes placing photos in composites a lot easier if you don’t know your way around GIMP or Photoshop. I made this in Canva using my Kindle cover for the first book in my trilogy:

Don't Run Away Promo

Of course, you need to make sure the photos you are using, like the sunflower on the shelf, and this work photo, are okay for commercial use since you’re trying to sell your books. At least, I’m going to assume you are.

But the problem is, there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and it’s annoying. You can Tweet it all the time but people will unfollow you. You can’t post it on Instagram all the time, because then you’re pegged a self-promoter and no one will follow your account.

So, I make promo photos, and then I don’t do anything with them.

But part of this blog post was to tell you where you can do this stuff, so take a look at the programs I’ve used:

FREE ONLINE BOOK MOCKUP MAKER
Derek Murphy runs this site, and he’s got a lot of great information about making covers yourself. He has a YouTube channel, and it’s worth checking out. I used this to make the first picture in this blog post, and I’ve done it for my friends, just to see how it looks with other covers:

stealing home promo

wolves of dynamoThis is a free site, though the positions of the books are somewhat limited. But it’s free and the program places the covers for you, so you take what you can get, right? If you want to place the books anywhere else, like a shelf, you need to use a program to place them onto a different background. I use GIMP to keep my hand in (I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the very small percentage of what I do know); it’s a free version of Photoshop. But you can use Canva, too, which is a lot easier to figure out.

shelf with sailboatandbook
I bought the shelf photo from canstockphoto.com. Wolves of Dynamo is a fantasy YA geared for both boys and girls, so I didn’t want to put with anything too girlie, or something that wouldn’t fit the genre. (I showed it to the author, and Gareth gave me a tough time. LOL)

Anyway, so give the mockup maker a try. Use pixabay.com and find workstation photos. All their photos are free for commercial use. Placing your book’s cover onto a Kindle mockup is easy using Canva. Just like any software, it may take a little bit to get used to, but that’s part of the fun of making these, right?

Because it’s not like you can shove them in people’s faces all day long–people will get bored with you, fast.

This is the quick mockup I made of David’s book:

shelf with lampstealinghome

If you make a lot of these, you probably want to experiment with different ways your book looks. Stacks, like Aila’s above, or just one, or all your mockups will start to look the same.

If you do the stacks, you’ll need to have a picture of your spine and better skills because the 3D maker I linked you to doesn’t have a stacks option. I haven’t bothered with that, just because there’s only so much time I want to take messing around. And it takes a lot of time to make these things if you don’t know the software; it takes a bit of practice.

It can be a nice break though, from writing, to mess around with this kind of thing.

Aila used a different website to find her mockups, and she put a lot of work into those, but she knows Photoshop really well, and she makes her own book covers, too. I think she does a fantastic job!

Also, you can get a lot of ideas just Googling book cover mockups. On Twitter, I’ve seen people advertising to do this for you but they charge a bit. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire someone from Fiverr. Sometimes if you hire a cover designer, they’ll make a couple of these for you, too. But again, it’s like, what are you really going to do with them? You know? If you like design and want to put the time in, practice so you can get to know the software for other things like, maybe eventually you’ll want to make your own covers. Then you don’t have to bother your cover designer or ask their permission every time you want to create a mockup.

I’ve given you some ideas on the book cover mockups for promos, and where you can go to make them. But don’t be wasting your time messing around with these when you should be writing. It’s fun to learn how to do these, but if you don’t have a book to market, it’s all pretty pointless, anyway.

Have fun, and good luck!

Vanias Books Promo

 

Formatting Your Book for Publication

If you don’t want to format yourself, yet you don’t want to have to pay too much, then there aren’t many things you can do.

Let’s start with Kindle, since more than likely 100% of you will publish on Amazon through KDP. What are your options if you don’t want to format your file for Kindle?

1. Actually, just format it, FFS. It’s easy. I pulled this out of an old blog post I did last year. Some of the info isn’t correct anymore, but you can still take a look at it here.

First, make a copy of your manuscript (just in case something goes wrong). This one shouldn’t have any headers or footers. If you have page numbers and/or a don’t steal my shit copyright header for your beta readers, remove them all.

The biggest thing with conversion is Tabs will screw everything up. If you use the Tab key to make your indents for your paragraphs, you’re going to have one messed up converted file. Here are the steps to take out your Tabs:

Removing Tabs

Press the Paragraph Show/Hide button in the Paragraph section of the Home tab so you can see the formatting marks.
Highlight (select) your whole document.
At the far right of the Home tab in the Editing section, click on the Replace button.
Click the More/Special button in the bottom left corner of the box.

taking out tabs

Select the Tab Character.

2018-06-25_LI

Leave the Replace with field empty and click Replace All. This removes all the Tabs.

This should have taken them out. If, for some reason, you used the Spacebar to make a tab, go into Replace, and in the Find field hit the number of times you used the Spacebar to make the Tab (maybe five? Six?), leave the Replace line empty and hopefully Word will find all the Spacebar spaces you used for tabs and pull them out.

But now you have a whole book that doesn’t have any indentations. I’ve seen books like this. Don’t do it. You want your book to look as professional as possible so put them back in:

Putting your Tabs Back In

Again, select or highlight your whole document.
Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph menu in the Home tab. Or right-click your mouse and select Paragraph from the menu.

tabs

In the Indentation section of the box change Special to First Line and enter 0.25. This is how long your Tab is going to be. If you want it shorter you can do 0.23 or something. I use 0.25.

Click OK.

This puts all the Tabs back into your document, but you don’t want the first paragraph of your Chapters and/or scenes to be indented (traditionally published books usually do not have the first paragraph of Chapters or scenes indented) so you will have to go through your whole novel(la), look for the Chapter starts and scene breaks and take the tab out of the first paragraph. When you find those, put your cursor in front of the first letter of the first word, right click your mouse, select Paragraph and in the Indentation section, change By to 0. This will manually take the one Tab out.

When you start a new document, it’s easier to go into Paragraph, change First Line to 0.25 from the beginning, then you don’t have to go through all this after you’re done. It will take a little getting used to, to not have to hit the Tab button at the beginning of every new paragraph, but it will be worth it in the long run.

KDP Formatting Instructions at a Glance:

Take out all the Tabs, put them back in with the instructions above. Don’t indent Chapter starts. First paragraphs after scene breaks have started to become optional.

If there is any in your document, remove headers, footers, and page numbers.

Use a common font. I use Georgia for my Kindle, Garamond for the paperback.

Drop caps are not e-reader friendly, at least not in my experience, and I don’t have enough patience to make them work. Remove those as they will probably mess up your paragraph during conversion.

Set your margins to .5 all around–top, bottom, left, right.

Set your line spacing to 1.5. Not single, not double.

Select your all your text and set to Full Justified.

Don’t use a bunch of Hard Enters to make new pages. Please insert page breaks to create new pages. Lots of hard enters will not convert well. Insert page breaks after you Title Page, Copyright page, dedication page, acknowledgments, Table of Contents, and after each Chapter End. Use them to separate your back matter from your author page.

insert page break

If you have spaces between your paragraphs, you’ll need to select your file again, go into Paragraph and change After in Spacing to 0 pt. This takes out all the unnecessary spacing between paragraphs. (You will want to do this so you are not accused of making your book longer for the extra KU page reads.)

tabs_LI

To add your website or author page in the back, say, on your author page, use https:// with the rest of the website in the link.

What you’ve done is made your file as simple as possible. If you have graphics or formulas or are publishing a nonfiction book with all the bells and whistles, then I would suggest buying a book or researching how to format a complicated document. These instructions are for a fiction book with the general front matter and back matter only.


If you follow those guidelines for your Word document, you should be good to go conversion-wise. But if you don’t even want to do that then you can:

2. Use Kindle Create to format your file. The file won’t belong to you–you format it and then publish right to KDP. So you wouldn’t be able to use the file for other platforms like Apple Books or Kobo. But if you all want to do is publish to Amazon, download the App, upload your book into it and just fiddle with it until you like what you see. Watch the videos to learn how. I played around with it, and I formatted a 50,000-word book in an hour. Look here for details.

3. Use a template. The templates are already set so all you do is copy and paste your document into it. Most of these cost money, so look at these at your own discretion. You can start here: Beautiful Templates for Book Design Success

4. Draft2Digital says they’ll let you format your book on their site for free, and let you use that file wherever you want. You can even use them just to make a file for Kindle. You don’t have to go wide to use their free services. I haven’t ever tried them simply because once you get down how to format a file for Kindle, you don’t need anyone’s help. But if you just want to upload your document into D2D after you create an account, give it a try.

5. Buy a Mac and buy Vellum. I  hear Vellum is the best at formatting e-books and paperbacks. I don’t have a Mac but I plan to treat myself this summer so I can buy Vellum (although, if it’s as good as I hear, I’ll be tempted to redo all my books). If you don’t have a Mac or Vellum, and can’t afford either one, maybe you can ask someone who does to format for you. Maybe offer to trade for the favor. You never know.

6. I also hear Scrivener has formatting capabilities. I don’t use it–I write in Word. But if you use Scrivener, you can try it and see how you like it.

You’ll note that I don’t have the instructions on how to put a Table of Contents in your file. I think they are stupid for fiction. But that’s just my opinion and not a very popular one at that. If you want to know how to make a clickable ToC for your e-reader file, read the instructions I had to hunt down when I made a box-set for Summer Secrets a couple months ago.


Formatting your paperback is a bit harder.

1. I will always recommend using an interior template from CreateSpace or KDP Print. These templates are the same, you just download them from different websites. Choose the formatted template which has all the headers, footers, and end sections in place so your page numbers and your author name and book’s title are on the pages they are supposed to be on. If you take a look at any trad-pubbed book, you’ll see there aren’t headers on Chapter start pages, or headers or footers on front matter or back matter. The interior templates takes care of most of this for you. The only issue I had with them at all is that I usually have more chapters than the template allows, so I have to monkey with the end section breaks myself to create more chapters. Most of the time I just copy and paste the section end break of a previous chapter into the end of the next chapter and that works for me. If you have any working knowledge of Word at all, you should be able to do this without any hassles. The front matter and back matter is all laid out for you as well, so just copy and paste page by page, or chapter by chapter. The template is “chunked” meaning you can’t copy and paste your whole document into the template at one time. The chapters and front and back matter are broken up by section end breaks.

Have patience. If you do 98% of the work, I’m willing to bet you have a friend who would look it over and do the other 2% if you just can’t get it right.

2. If you don’t want to go this route, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do for free besides get a very good working knowledge of Word and start from scratch to do it all yourself. I took a college class in Word, and I still couldn’t do my formatting without at least getting a good start with the template. But you can always look for a paid template. Most websites that sell e-reader templates sell interiors for paperbacks too.

3. Pay for a formatter. Reedsy has freelance interior design recommendations. They maybe be a bit expensive–that’s my guess just by looking at their qualifications. Fiverr pulled up a lot of options for interior formatting as well, and what I saw were reasonably priced. Of course, always ask for referrals, or other books they’ve done to get an idea of how their books look.


 

As always, I recommend learning how to do this yourself. If you’re going to be a prolific writer, or even if you’re just going to write a book or two a year, you might as well learn how to do it. Hey, you might even get good at it and you can trade services with other people. That’s what the writing community is all about: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. If you can format for someone, maybe they’ll beta read for you, etc.

I know there’s stuff I’m forgetting. I mentioned Draft2Digital but not Smashwords. If you want to publish through Smashwords, they have their own system, and I’ve read their how-to-format-your-file book so that it will convert through their “meatgrinder” process.  I’ve never published through them, so if you’re interested, here is their STYLEGUIDE that will help you format your file to upload to Smashwords. It’s long, but Mark Coker makes it funny, so there is that.

When I first started formatting, it was a lot of trial and error. Make use of the interior viewer on KDP, KDP Print, and CreateSpace. Trust me when I say what you see is what you’ll get. If you get caught in an upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix pattern and you feel like you’re going to go mad, take a step back, go outside and come back later with a clear head. There is nothing worse than trying to format when you are quivering with rage.

Try practicing on short stories or novella. It’s a lot easier to work with few words then build up to a complete MS when you kind of know what’s going on.

I hope this blog post helps you format!

Good luck!

Up next is cover design!

Thanks for reading.

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!