When Do You Recommend Your Friends’ Books?

The indie writing community is very tight-knit. Make one of us mad, we all get mad. I think Faleena Hopkins figured that out quick enough. We support each other; we help each other. We do free things for each other: cover help; editing; beta reading.

We even do some naughty stuff like review trading.

We tweet each other’s books.

Lately, there have been a couple of people asking for book recommendations from indie authors. They want to start a list on their website, or they want to start reviewing indie books.

There were lots of tweets, as you can imagine.

And there was something that surprised me, but I guess it shouldn’t have. Someone was recommending books they haven’t read. How do I know this? For one, I know she doesn’t read indie. Two, she’s a very picky writer, and I don’t think she would have recommended these books had she read them. (That is a polite way of saying they could have used more editing.)

This made me do one of my super researching techniques: I ran a poll on Twitter. While the participant number was low, the results still stunned me.

indie books

I’m trying to figure this out because this bothers me.

Why would you recommend a book to someone if you haven’t read it? Would you walk into a bookstore, grab any old book off the shelf, and tell your friend it was fabulous and a must-read? Of course not.

This seems to be an indie-only thing, like not full-justifying your margins in your books when you format or adding your cover designer to the book’s contributors when you publish. Indies start stuff traditionally published authors don’t do. And the more indie authors do it, the more it becomes acceptable and the more newbie authors do it.

Of course I want to support my friends. But we all know indie writers don’t read that much. We might beta read, or be a critique partner, and that’s fine. It’s a little different in that I would assume the published book is different from a draft a beta or CP read. But at least you know the gist of the story, know if the book has proper punctuation and grammar.

At least you know the story makes sense.

But what are you doing to your own credibility if you recommend a book to someone you haven’t read and that someone takes you seriously? What if that someone takes a peek at the look inside on Amazon. What if that book has no established POV, or doesn’t have a good hook (AKA boring as f*ck)? What if the formatting is messed up, or has typos in it? What if the first paragraph head-hops into five different heads?

There were a couple comments in that tweet thread that asked the question: Who doesn’t read their friends?

Well, quite a few if my own track record is anything to go by. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who have picked up Wherever He Goes and read it cover to cover.

And if you want to ask me what indies I’ve read in the past few months, I can say one. And it was someone I edited for back in February. Otherwise, I’m busy writing or reading craft books, or reading trad-pubbed romance books. I don’t read indie simply for the fact that most of my friends don’t write what I like to read–contemporary romance. And then another reason I don’t read indie much anymore is if they find out I’m reading their book, they expect a review. I won’t leave a bad indie review. I won’t do it. So I don’t want my friends to wonder where their review is because there won’t be one if I don’t like their book.

Given those reasons, I rarely recommend indie books on Twitter. I recommend how-to publishing books or marketing books. I recommend trad-pubbed books that do something well that could be used as an example to my fellow writers.

I think it’s great that we help our friends. But if we want to help our friends, we should do it in a different way. Pass along promo sites. Recommend books you’ve read on how to do proper Facebook ads or Amazon ads. Marketing your friends’ books is not your job.

Sure, I’m flattered when someone posts a picture of my book on Instagram, or tweets about it. (And yeah, less five people have done that for me anyway.) But I don’t expect it and I don’t ask. My readers aren’t on Twitter. They aren’t even following me on Instagram right now–I got sucked into the writing world there, too. {KT Daxon is a good one for this, and I have to give her credit where credit is due. She does a great job of promoting the books she reads, and she truly does read the books she says she does.}

I would only recommend books I’ve read. It’s honest.

And you want people to be able to trust you, not question your taste.

Not question how good your books are.

I know this blog post sounds like I don’t think indies can write and publish good books. That’s not the case. What I am saying is that some indie books could use more editing. And I understand why indies don’t. It’s expensive and time-consuming. Waiting for an editor to get back to you is like sitting on pins and needles, and then you have to put in all the edits once you get them back. A total edit could push your pub date back by several months. But let’s not pretend that indies aren’t impatient, and rushing to publish is a mistake a lot of indies make.

This reminds me of the trad-pubbed writing community. I’m exposed to a lot of YA on Twitter and Instagram. It seems like a lot of YA authors do read other YA authors and tweet about their books and support each other. Being trad-pubbed is like being in a club, and those authors have each other’s backs.

Romance writers are the same way:

lori foster brenda novak

Here’s Brenda Novak reading Lori Foster for a book club Brenda is going to hold in her Facebook Author Group.

That’s real support. That’s real networking and collaboration.

There’s lot of bad things to say about the traditional publishing industry, but this isn’t one of them.

Let’s support our friends the right away.

Read the books you’re recommending. Because reading a book and having a discussion about the book with its author would mean a lot to the author, and a tweeted conversation about a plot twist or an evil character is true promotion.

Do you have any good reasons for recommending books you haven’t read? Let me know!

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

More AMS (Amazon ads) Updates

I like doing these to help anyone who is afraid of dipping their toes into Amazon marketing. Ads are a scary concept, be it Amazon or Facebook. Anything that will take your money without a firm promise of ROI (return on investment) needs to be taken up with a bit of caution. Too cautious though, and you aren’t going to get the results you want.

You need to spend money to make money, and all that.

So here’s where I am so far with ads.

ams-blog-post.jpg

ams blog post 2

If you know anything about what you’re looking at, it’s pretty easy to see my bids are not high enough to be getting very many impressions or clicks. But that’s the name of the game, you know, to find the sweet spot where you’re getting impressions and clicks, but you’re also not paying a ton of money for clicks if no one is buying. You’re hoping if people are clicking on your ad, that you’ll make sales. But your clicks also have to be in line with how much you’re making from your books.

My books are priced at 2.99. If I spend 30 cents a click, and I get 2.09 from each sale, that’s a take-home royalty of 1.79 a book. (There’s a real way to determine ROI and I’m not doing that here, and I know I’m not, so you don’t have to tell me, for you die-hard ROI fans out there.)

Anyway, so anyone worried that you’re going to do some ads and Amazon is going to take all your money and you’re going to broke with no sales, well, you can go slow. You need to have patience. And some impressions are better than none, but these aren’t what I was hoping for, and these aren’t what Brian Meeks, in his book, says you can accomplish either.

I have 20 ads running simultaneously, and I’ve only spent $2.30.

I am still getting KU reads, and I’ll never know if those come from the impressions from my ads.

I’ll add a few more ads with a higher click and see if we can’t get something going. I’ll have another book coming out in November, hopefully, so I’ll have another book to promote.

The more, the better, right?

Anyway, so that’s where I’m at. If you’re interested in Brian’s book, click on the pic. He’s got a ton of great info there. amazon ads

Until next time, happy selling!

 

 

 

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

My BargainBooksy Ad from last month. How did it do?

Well, apparently, not very well since I forgot to post the update. This time, this ad was a paid ad (meaning, my book wasn’t free), and I set the price of Wherever He Goes to .99. I thought, a dollar for a book, that’s pretty good, right? Heck, I spent three months working on it, I figured a dollar was a good price.

The problem is, with doing these ads, you just WON’T KNOW why your book doesn’t sell. It could be the cover, it could be your copy. It could just be that no one wants to pay. You never know.

So, in total, I sold 40 books on the day the newsletter came out and a couple days afterward. That is nothing compared to the 4,000 books I gave away during my Freebooksy ad I did back in February. You can read about that here.

june sales for bargainbooksy ad

As far as KU page reads are concerned, you can see that the newsletter created a bit of a spike, but nothing to write home about. And this is only for Wherever He Goes. My trilogy is still getting a few page reads, but I wanted to see what my ad would do for Wherever He Goes, and unfortunately, for 80 dollars, not much.

Here is what my ad looked like in the newsletter:

bargain booksy ad

Would I do this again? I haven’t made back what I spent on the ad, so it will be a while before I try something like that again.

What I need to focus on is getting reviews, but for using any legit reviewing services, I need to pull my book out of Select because the one review service I contacted distributes the books through Bookfunnel. Amazon considers Bookfunnel as a distribution platform and will yank you out of Select if they catch you using it.

For my next book, I’m going to place my book with a review service first, before putting into Select and see what happens. Hopefully, if I get some decent reviews that way, readers will give all my books a chance.

And I think if I ever do another promo with Written Word Media (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy) I’ll do the free one, since I kind of feel like I got more bang for my buck. At least, it sounds better to say I gave away 4,000 copies than say I sold 40. It would be great if any of that had turned into reviews, but so far nothing significant on that end, either.

But, that is my experience with Bargainbooksy, and if you’ve tried them, and have gotten better results, let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

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

 

Editing: What it is, why you need it, and where you can find help.

Editing your novel can vary in cost. You can pay nothing if you can find someone to swap with, or it can cost you in the thousands if you pay for all the things.

The types of editing vary, too, and it’s wise to figure out what you need before you look for an editor.

Types of editing:

  1. Proofreading. This is a sweep looking for typos. This is probably the cheapest and easiest editing job you can hire out. Even a beta reader could probably do this for you if you give out copies of your final draft.
  2. Line Edits. This goes a lot deeper. These editors look for punctuation, grammar, incorrect word usage, syntax, repetition, subject/verb agreement. If you don’t have a strong grasp of grammar, punctuation, or have a weak vocabulary and you often use an incorrect word, then a line edit is probably mandatory so you don’t look like an ass.
  3. Developmental Editing. Developmental editors read your whole book and make notes on plot holes and incomplete character arcs. They point out pacing, passages that don’t bring anything to the story or doesn’t make sense. If you wrote yourself into a corner and pulled a deus ex machina to get yourself out, they will call you on it. Developmental editors are good for writers who haven’t finished a book and need help getting there, or for a writer who is trying to stretch their writing wings and may need guidance with a more complicated plot. Book coaches or book doulas aren’t exactly the same thing, so research who/what/when/where before you hire anyone.

As an indie, you must decide what kind of editor you need. Because also, as an indie, you aren’t going to be able to afford all three–though some of the big indies who “have made it” pay for a combination of the three because they can.

What’s an indie to do if you can’t/doesn’t want to shell out the cash?

Let’s start with the developmental edit.
Look for places online that offer a critique partner match-up. On Twitter that’s #CPmatch. If you’re part of the #amwriting crowd you could probably just tweet you’re looking for a critique partner for your new novel in your genre. But the problem with this kind of service is the expectation of reciprocation. If you’re not willing to help someone else, don’t bother to look online for someone to help you for free. Expect to pay out. You could pay a beta reader for some feedback, but I doubt they would go as deep as a developmental editor. Betas maybe will give you a sense of what’s working and what’s not–but developmental editors can tell you how to fix your issues. There are also a gazillion writing groups on Facebook. Join a couple and ask if anyone would be willing to work with you. But this kind of situation is the same as Twitter–be prepared to reciprocate in some way in the future. And be prepared to wait. Not everyone will get back to you when you’d like them to.

Join a local writing group. People will be more than happy to tell you what’s wrong with your work. If you can develop a thick skin, and admit you need help, a writing group critique can be valuable. But people have the propensity to be cruel whether online or in person. So if you really need help of this nature, it may behoove you to pay out. At least the editor will be professional about it and actually tell you what you need to know to fix your book. I’ve spoken with people who have gotten such cruel feedback from writing groups they’ve stopped writing. I don’t want this for you.

Can you be your own developmental editor? You may need to write a few books before you can get your plot points, backstory building, saggy middles, and character arcs under control. Read up on plotting and building character arcs. If you want to avoid tons of rewriting and backing yourself into a corner only a deus ex machina could get you out of, then maybe learn to plot out your books. Pantsing is okay if you know where you want to go, but just letting your mind and your characters run wild may open you up to forgotten side characters, saggy middles where no one is doing anything, and plot holes that may take forever to fix.

One of the best ways you can learn developmental editing is to chart out a book you read that you enjoyed. Write out chapter by chapter what happened (mini-cliffhangers), paying special attention to the first part of the book (what drew you in), the middle (what kept the plot moving), the couple chapters toward the end (what made you keep reading to the last page). This is why it’s important to read in your genre. Eventually, you’ll learn the rhythm and feel of your genre and it will show in what you write.

Line editing.
If you really need this kind of help, there aren’t many places you can find this type of editing for free. I line edit, and it’s time-consuming. Pointing out grammar, punctuation, syntax, incorrect word usage, and repetition takes a lot of concentration. I do “look and finds” a lot. “You used ‘walked’ 300 times. ‘Looked’ 250. ‘Saw’ 600.” Whoever line edits for you needs to be able to point out comma splices, tell you when a word like saturated is better than lingered when it comes to a scent (or did you mean smell?). Did you mean waive instead of wave? Waist instead of waste? Or if it’s April second in your novel and you wrote there was a full moon, but at that time of year, the moon would actually have been a quarter? This attention to detail that a line editor gives you cannot be produced for free. It’s just too much work. Did you mean Kleenex or tissue? Because if you’re referring to the brand, you better capitalize it. Same with Jell-O or gelatin. Does your main male character watch sports center or SportsCenter? Because only one of them is correct, and I bet you can see which one it is.

The good news is you can teach yourself a lot. Read grammar books. Self-editing books. You need to train yourself to pay attention to detail. Look up words if you don’t know their exact meanings. The best way to learn is to read a lot of fiction and non-fiction books. In time, you’ll get better. But until then, are you talking about karat, or carat when you describe your FMC’s engagement ring? If you don’t understand, or you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re going to have to find, and probably pay, someone to tell you.

Proofreading.
Proofreading is the cheapest form of editing. Don’t give your book to someone to proofread unless you are done.

Done.

Because when you go through your book fixing things, sometimes you can fix in a mistake right along with it. Your proofreader will be your last set of eyes. So don’t decide to rewrite chapter one after your proofreader has done her job. That wastes everyone’s time.

There are some software programs that can help–but a software program can’t take the place of human eyes, so take their suggestions with a (huge) grain of salt.

Grammarly. Grammarly is okay. But they are comma crazy. They are also hyphen crazy. I stopped running my manuscripts through it. You’re better off knowing your stuff and reading your MS line by line with a ruler. In my experience, no help is better than their help. **I do have Grammarly installed on my laptop, and though I don’t use it for my books anymore, it’s great for blog posts, tweets, and FB posts. I appreciate their assistance when I’m blogging, as for non-fiction, it’s an accurate help.

Hemingway Editor. The Hemingway app gives you a free sample online. Just copy and past part of your manuscript into the program and see if it would be beneficial to you. It’s only $20.00. I have it, but I don’t use it.

ProWriting Aid. I’ve used the free sample online, and it’s similar to Hemingway. They have different levels of pay (per time usage), so see what’s best for you if you like the online sample. My friend Aila loves it and wrote a great blog post about it (but please note the giveaway is over), and she’s an affiliate with them. If you decide to buy the program, I would appreciate it if you bought it from her affiliate link.

If you have trouble with syntax, natural-sounding dialogue or if you have slow areas that affect your pacing, you may want to try having your computer read to you. I love doing this–especially if you ever think you’ll turn your books into audio. The voice isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing. Some people read their manuscripts aloud, but because you know what you want it to say, you may miss things.

Here is a list of my favorite editing books:

Writing Deep POV

Self-Editing On a Penny: A Comprehensive Guide

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

VOICE: The Secret Power of Great Writing

Fix Your Damn Book!: A Self-Editing Guide for Authors: How to Painlessly Self-Edit Your Novels & Stories

Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction (Busy Writer’s Guides) (Volume 4)

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure (Helping Writers Become Authors) (Volume 7)

That should be enough to get you going. I’ve read all of these and they are my favorites.

If you hire an editor, always be sure to send a sample first. Some editors charge you for this, but if you hire them, they’ll put that fee toward your book. Give them as clean a draft as possible, because if your sample is a mess, they will quote you higher. They’ll think your book will take them a lot of time.

Writers are not always good editors, and editors don’t always make good writers. Writing and editing are different skill sets and they are not inclusive of each other.

Know what you’re getting into before forking out the cash.

Where to look for an editor:

Join Alli, the Alliance for Independent Authors. They have a great list of resources for indies. They take a stance on putting out supremely professional work though, so don’t be surprised if their resources are expensive. Unfortunately, you can’t gain access to their resources without becoming a member.

Joanna Penn makes her resources available for free. But be careful. Someone’s best fit won’t necessarily be yours.

Reedsy. Create an account and you will have their resources at your disposal. Vetted for skill and professionalism, you’ll get what you pay for. They have a lot of different freelancers for the different kinds of editing you’d be interested in.

reedsy editors

Start looking for an editor quite some time before you wish to publish. You’ll be put at the end of the queue. While you wait for them to edit your book, you can work on something else, get your author platform going, go on vacation, what have you. But you won’t be working on your timetable anymore.

I hope this blog post and resources have helped you a bit.

Next up is formatting! Fun times!

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!

 

Thoughts on the RWA

rwa header

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America. I like being part of a group of people with similar interests. I was especially proud to belong when they stepped up to bat during #cockygate. (For those interested in following along with the hashtag on Twitter, look here.) I feel it’s an organization that has my best interests at heart as a writer and author and wants to help me succeed. In fact, I’ve been a member for a while now, and I haven’t even started to explore all the resources they offer their members.

I was listening to the Sell More Books Show and they featured a blog post by Allison Brennan who left the RWA because she felt like the organization operated more for indie writers than traditionally published romance authors.

While I don’t have a problem with the RWA operating this way because I am an indie author, I did notice this, too, as I paged through the Romance Writers Report. I’ve read articles about marketing, discoverability. How to work with editors and book cover designers. These articles are written with the self-publishing author in mind (trad-pubbed authors don’t have to worry about editing their own books, or hiring their own cover designer). Even in the June issue I have on hand, some of the articles include:

  • Romance Law School is Now in Session: How to include law in your fiction in a realistic manner.
  • Fifty Ways to Show the Spark without the Heat
  • Proofreading Hats

I’m not saying traditionally published authors don’t need how-to articles like these, but I am saying that indie or new writers could find more value in them. I suppose a veteran writer could use the Fifty Ways article for writing prompts, or read the Romance Law School is Now in Session article for ideas on how to write a new series featuring a lawyer. But the Report also features ads, and they are geared to the indie writer–lots of editing, proofreading, and formatting ads no traditional published author is going to need.

So the question is, is this the right move for the RWA?

They want to support all their members, and if indie membership outweighs traditionally published author membership, then perhaps it is a good direction for them to take.

However, it feels like there are more organizations aimed at supporting indie writers than ever before. The Alliance for Independent Authors is very supportive offering an array of services from podcasts to a services directory where an author can find professional editors, cover designers, and formatting professionals. There are other organizations as well, such as the Independent Book Publishers Association.

There is support for us indies. So does Allison have a point? Where do traditionally published authors go for support if they find RWA lacking? Do they even need support? After all, they are where a lot of us hope to be someday. Is the RWA pushing them from the nest because they are ready to fly? Do traditionally published authors get enough writing and publishing support from their publishing houses and their agents? Where do they go for networking opportunities if they are slowly being ousted from the organization?

Allison does make a good point, too: if all the traditionally published authors leave the RWA because they don’t feel RWA has anything more to offer, what becomes of us who look up the traditionally-published authors? Who would judge the RWA contests? Who would be our mentors? Who would be our professional critique partners and our chapter leaders?

But let’s be honest, here, too. If the RWA wants to support writers, and by support, I mean, help them make (more) money, then self-publishing is a viable way to go. At least for romance. (If you want to read about indie romance authors dominating the self-publishing industry, click here.)

To me, it makes a lot of sense for RWA to shift. After all, the distinction between traditional and indie publishing is blurring more and more every day. And a lot of traditionally published authors are still the ones who do a lot for their books: marketing, platform building. Some authors have to set up blog tours, book signings, that kind of thing.

Being a traditionally published author today doesn’t even guarantee you’ll end up on a bookshelf. Maybe a virtual bookshelf, but the chances of seeing your book at Barnes and Noble shrink every day. I took a quick peek at Harlequin’s mail service, and if you subscribed to every line and subscribed to the maximum they mailed you in that line every month, you would receive 86 books a month. It isn’t possible that every book would find shelf space, even for just four weeks.

So what does it mean to be traditionally published? To pass the gatekeepers? Is this Allison’s main guff with RWA supporting indies? Perhaps she wants the RWA to nurture us to being published traditionally. But not one way is going to be the right way for everyone.

The publishing landscape is changing. Maybe Allison Brennan doesn’t want to see it. Maybe she sees indies as her competition, not her colleagues. Maybe she sees herself as better because she’s traditionally published. The problem is, that way of thinking divides indies from the traditionally published authors, and that’s just not the way things are anymore.

One day traditional publishing won’t give Allison what she needs, and then she’ll need the RWA to help her gain her footing in a constantly changing publishing landscape that she’s refused to acknowledge.

rwa missionRomance writers are all the same. We all want the same thing. To write quality books and make a reader swoon over a happily ever after. And the RWA supports that, no matter how those stories are published.

Issues like #cockygate affect all of us, and we all need an organization like RWA to have our backs.

I’m proud to belong.