Moving my books to IngramSpark. So. Much. Fun.

going wide girl on tracks blog post

If you’ve been following my blogs about going wide, I’ve been filling you in on what a pain the butt it’s been to move stuff over.

With my ebooks situated where they need to be (except for Smashwords, and are they worth it? I tried to look for a link to give you guys, but nothing came up since 2016? I don’t now if that speaks to their relevancy or not and it will have keep for another post), I’ll explain just what is going on with Ingram and if they are worth the hassle.

As always, you need to think of your business plan. If you are wanting a store to carry your books, or you want to hold a book signing, you may find some places that will take your books on consignment (meaning you buy your own author copies and give them to the store and you get paid when a book sells). This isn’t such a bad thing. But if you’re wanting to plan a book signing at a Barnes and Noble and they ask you if your book is available in Ingram’s catalog so they can purchase copies at the discount, if your books aren’t in there, you’re going to have to say no, and that looks unprofessional.

Anyway, so I began the process of moving my books over. Read on to find some differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark, and you can decide if it’s worth doing it in both places.


kdp print logo

KDP Print is a dream. I love it. They still aren’t as good as CreateSpace used to be. They held your hand, walked you across the street, opened the door to Starbucks, and bought you a cafe mocha. But KDP Print is pretty good, too. No live people to help you anymore, but if you upload a decent cover file and formatted interior of your book, there’s nothing to worry about. It was the hand-holding CS used to give you that everyone counted on. They fixed things for you when you didn’t even know it! I know they fixed a couple covers for me without telling me and pushed my files through the review process. That was awesome, but also scary as hell because holy crap was it a surprise when “my way” didn’t work anymore.

That was almost three years ago, and if you want to look at my disastrous attempts at making covers way back when, look here for a good laugh. Since then I have found better ways of doing things, but even with all I’ve taught myself, the transition from KDP Print to IngramSpark wasn’t easy.

Big differences between KDP Print and IngramSpark

The Templates are Different

The biggest difference is the cover templates are different. This is only because the paper they use is different, making the spine thinner when IngramSpark prints them. This makes the templates just a little off on the spine.

Can you fit your KDP Print cover over an IngramSpark template? Yes, yes you can. But be prepared for your book from Ingram to not look exactly right. The text for All of Nothing on the back cover is off center a little, and it is for Wherever He Goes too. Not so much that you notice it right away . . . but just enough that it’s probably nothing you’d want to sell, or in large quantities like a book signing.

Here’s All of Nothing. Can you tell which is which? I did fix the spine on the one so it matches the front cover (that was part of my consistency stuff was talking about before).  And the prices on the back covers are updated, too.

 

 

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I make my covers in Canva and I don’t have a good way yet of using a KDP Print cover on an IngramSpark template. There are just enough differences to make your cover out of whack. I have heard of authors doing it without problems, so maybe give it a try if you don’t mind being out 3.00-7.00 dollars for a proof copy.

If you can’t see the difference–IngramSpark’s copy is on the right. The text on the back is to the left a bit, and the pink color is brighter. Besides that, the books were the same as far as I could tell. I’ll go back and fix the text on the back cover . . . some day.

I don’t own Photoshop and I don’t know GIMP well enough to build my covers from scratch using it. Besides, why would I learn when I can make beautiful covers in Canva? I’ll continue to experiment and report back. (It takes a lot of work to be this lazy, yo.)

ingram all of nothing template for blog post

This is what IngramSpark will send you when you download a template for your book.

5.5x8.5_Cream_290

This is what KDP Print sends you. Very different.

It takes time and bit of know-how to figure out how to use the PDF that IngramSpark gives you. If you hire a designer and tell them you are publishing to both platforms, they will give you two files. I asked in a Facebook indie book cover group, and it’s a good one to join if you want feedback on a cover or your blurb. There’s also Indie Book Cover Design Group 101 that focuses more on how to make covers rather than just giving you feedback. They are both closed groups, so you’ll have to ask to join, but they don’t seem discriminatory. I mean, the let me in. Just kidding. They are very friendly, and I suggest you join both.

Anyway, I have read where you can cover up the ISBN that Ingram gives you with the template and they will add it for you, wherever you leave room on the back cover. I added mine in GIMP. This is definitely the hardest and most time-consuming part of the process.

The proofing process isn’t the same.

IngramSpark will send you an eproof of the cover that looks exactly like what you sent them. They certainly do not give you the bleed lines that I have come to expect from KDP Print.

2019-04-16

If you scroll down in the PDF, they’ll show you the interior, as well. But this is the proof of the cover they sent me. Kinda looks like what I sent them. So. Thanks?

Here’s KDP Print’s online previewer:

2019-04-05 (2)

For someone who has never submitted before, knowing where the bleed lines are would be a big help. I think this is so much better than what IngramSpark gives you.

When you submit your files to Ingram, be very careful. I was used to the way KDP Print does things, and they urge you order a print proof to look over your book in person. With Ingram, my book was already in distribution, and when I ordered a copy of my book, I thought I was getting a proof, but it was really an author copy. This could be a very bad thing for a new author who was counting on being able to look at their book first.

I can take responsibility for not reading clearly (or more like, not understanding what I was reading, wherein, it’s still my fault I wasn’t asking questions) but IngramSpark does not make things very easy, either. After a quick chat with an Ingram rep, it appears there is an option to not put your book into distribution. I suppose this is their way of making the book available to you so you can purchase ARC copies before the book goes live. This is just one area where it pays to read read read. Don’t do this in a hurry, and if you don’t understand something, bring up the chat box ASAP and ask.

Price Changes Take More than 72 Hours (and we all know that KDP’s 72 hours is really like . . . 4).

With IngramSpark, if you change the price of your paperback and you have the price on the back cover, they have to match. If you change your paperback price and then redo your cover to reflect the change, your cover may be unapproved because the prices won’t match. Price changes used to take effect on the first of every month. I recently read an article that said they changed this to weekly. I didn’t know this, and the submission for my cover of Wherever He Goes stalled because the prices didn’t match. They did on my end, but not on theirs. You can get around this by not putting the prices on your book. It’s not really necessary, and it gives you more freedom to change your prices if need be. I changed mine because I wanted to remain consistent and have a plan. I hope to have a big back list, and I needed a system I was going to remember.

KDP Print doesn’t care what’s on your cover. You could have a US price of $199.99 and sell it for $7.99 and no one is going to say anything to you. I know because my prices were all over the place. Ingram taught me professionalism in consistency, so that is one thing I can thank them for.

What else can help?

  • Keep communication consistent. If you have a general question that isn’t answered in their FAQs, the chat box is great. But if they email you, they want you to email them back. I tried to chat regarding my price discrepancy, but the rep told me to answer the email they sent me so information stays with the same person. That’s good to know so you’re not wasting everyone’s time.
  • Take your time and read.
    I have a ton of patience, but I had five books to move over and for some reason, I wanted it done yesterday. Even if my friend would have helped me with the covers (she ended up having a family emergency), what I didn’t know would have given me (and her) problems, anyway. Though not having proofs beforehand would have sat easier with me, since she knows what she’s doing. I know I could have slowed down. I would have known better about the distribution process had I asked questions and read that part better. I had kind of a “f#ck it” attitude with them that I’m surprised I had. I’d heard so much about how working with them was difficult, I got myself all worked up and caused problems for myself I might not have had otherwise.
  • You might get color warnings.
    IngramSpark likes CMYK. GIMP likes RGB. And that’s fine. Photoshop uses CMYK. I received color warnings and was told that because my covers were in RGB they may not print correctly. With the five author copies that came from IngramSpark, none of the colors came out weird. Clicking the “I know my cover could print like crap” box didn’t hurt the quality of my books. But the warning is big and bright and red, and it scared me. Just remember that Print on Demand isn’t the best in quality with either IngramSpark or KDP Print, and printing errors can occur no matter which service you use.

 

I was lucky and did all this in the month of March when they were running a free promo for NaNo participants. I was able to upload all my files for free.  If you are going to (re)submit files, I would look for some kind of code otherwise fixing mistakes you didn’t know you were making will be costly. Look for promo codes to bypass the fees, or join the Independent Book Publishers Association. It states clearly that free title set up and revisions through IngramSpark are part of their benefit package. They offer a lot of other things too that are worth taking a look at. I’ve also heard that free title set up and revisions are free through The Alliance of Independent Authors, but their benefits package is not so clear, so you may want to email them and ask first.

I’ll keep offering all my books through Ingram. I want to perfect my cover process–the easier, the better. If you’re wondering why I never mentioned the interior of my books, I format using Vellum. Out of everything I do for my books, at least I know the formatting will come out looking good.

If you don’t think you’ll ever ask to have a local bookstore carry your book, or if you think you’ll never do a book signing, I can’t say for sure if Ingram is a benefit. I like to try things. Partly because I’m curious, partly because I’m stubborn, and partly because I like to pass information along.

But one thing is for sure–no matter who prints your book, it’s a thrill to hold it, isn’t it?


Still working on my Wedding Party Series!

Callie and Mitch blog graphic

Going Wide: The Saga Continues

going wide is like riding a bike

Can these guys save me? No? I guess they have better things to do! (Photo taken from Pinterest)

 

I didn’t think going wide with my books would be such a pain in the neck. Granted, it was my error, and something I should have checked and double checked, but I didn’t, so here we are. It’s not such a big thing, but it does push back my plans. A lot.

I didn’t pull one of my books out of Select. I thought I had. I thought I had pulled them all out. But I didn’t. And it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was the last book in my trilogy. I guess I just checked the wrong book one too many times, and was I surprised when I went to make sure they were all out to see that Running Scared had been automatically renewed for another three months.

That means I can’t go wide with my trilogy until May. Fine. Whatever. I could have still gone wide with the other two books, but that would have looked weird. So I put the other two back in Select and I’m just going to keep a better eye on it this time.

What am I doing, then?

I put All of Nothing and Wherever He Goes on Kobo. That’s the best I can do right now. I don’t have OCD, but I do have a certain way I like to do things, and having bits and pieces of my books all over the place would definitely give me anxiety.

I wanted to try out the Kobo landscape anyway, and uploading books to publish was surprisingly easy. The uploading process was smooth, and the online viewer worked quickly. I admit, I used a Kobo-ready file from Vellum, so that might have helped a lot. But I just put in my info, my bank stuff, uploaded, and there you go. Of course, one nice thing about Kobo is that it is run by actual human beings. Which means my book won’t be ready in the standard 72 hours KDP gives you. Kobo is closed for a holiday on Monday, and I don’t anticipate my books being fully published until next week. While that might irritate some, I think it’s great.

But this also pushed back a giveaway I wanted to do, and I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just say I’m disappointed I had to do that. But when The Years Between Us is finally edited, I’ll put it both on Amazon and Kobo.

I’m not very interested in KU. While All of Nothing got a bit of traction from my Freebooksy giveaway, I need to explore more promos that don’t involve giving my book away–at least not to that extreme. I gave away over 6,000 copies. I want those to be sales.

think big start small

Next steps in going wide? Wait. Wait for my trilogy to drop out. Put up The Years Between Us on Amazon (but not KU) and Kobo. Try a new promo. Maybe do a Goodreads giveaway for it since I haven’t done that yet. Otherwise, yeah. Just wait, keep writing my series so I can rapid release that wide and see how sales go.


If you have questions about Kobo, they have a ton of resources.

Look on the Kobo Writing Life Blog for helpful articles and podcast episodes.

Killing it on Kobo by Mark Lefebvere. The creator of Kobo Writing Life, Mark knows the ins and outs of Kobo and how to maximize sales with your books.
Order his book on Amazon.
And Kobo, of course.

 

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.

The Wedding Date–A crabby book review

the wedding dateWhen I saw The Wedding Date at Target, I picked it up. The premise was a trope I have always enjoyed–a fake date that turns into a real relationship.

When Alexa meets Drew, it’s in a hotel elevator that has stalled. Drew is there to be a groomsman at his ex’s wedding. Alexa is at the hotel visiting her sister. They get to talking; sparks fly.  That she is black and he is white does nothing to the story. In fact, because the author does not use the character’s skin color as neither a negative or positive plot device, I forgot by the middle of the book they are even different in that way. I didn’t care, anyway.

Drew and Alexa are from different California cities, and throughout most of the book, they are flying back and forth to see each other on the weekends.

Drew is a pediatric doctor, and Alexa is the chief of staff for her city’s mayor. Their occupations are thrown into the plot as little side bits in an attempt to deepen their character arcs, and it doesn’t work that well. (More on that later!)

As most long-distance relationships go, there are disagreements and misunderstandings, and I have to admit by the middle of the book I started to skim.

The book ended how I would assume a romance would–happily ever after. And no, she didn’t relocate–he did. As a romance writer, I can appreciate the author made her male main character give a little, as a lot of times in books it is the woman who makes the compromises to keep the relationship going.

But also, as an indie writer and self-published author, I have to ask, “How the F did this get published?”

This is probably one of the most annoying things about traditional publishing. Traditional publishers can publish crap, while good indie writers can’t get an agent to save their lives.

I’m not saying this book is crap or didn’t deserve to be published–but I am saying this book could have used a lot more editing.

One thing that turned me off almost from the start was the use of repetitive words and phrases. As an indie, we’re taught word needs space–but this also includes phrasing. Can your female main character look up at your male main character 10 times a page?

Yes.

Does it read well?

No.

I would have loved to get ahold of her Word document and do a search for a list of “naughty” words.

Someone needed to because Drew kept putting his arm around Alexa’s waist, and every time I read it, it made me itch.

The story itself began to grow repetitive and mundane, and like I said, about the middle of the book I began to skim. There were only so many times I could read about them flying back and forth, having sex (that mostly faded to black, so I didn’t even have the sex scenes to look forward to) and taking the texts they sent each other when they weren’t together in the wrong way.

The ending came out the way I expected, but Alexa’s job, her sister’s backstory, and a kid with cancer made the plot some kind of soupy mess.

I want to be clear here. I am not blaming the author. She had a good premise, and she put forth a good effort.

Who I am blaming is her publishing house and the editing they failed to give her.

There are a few reasons for this:.

  1. They wanted to push the book out for marketing reasons or to catch a trend.
  2. Maybe the editor who acquired the book left the publishing house and little attention was paid to the book after that. (After listening to podcasts about the publishing industry I am surprised at how often this happens, and how much this hurts the author and the book.)
  3. The editor the author was stuck with was new or had too much on his or her plate.

No matter what the reason, however, it is frustrating for an indie author to buy a traditionally published book full of mistakes we are told to stop doing in our own work.

And it’s frustrating to know an author can get a book deal when indies who have stellar books in their possession can’t find agents.

There are probably reasons for this, too. She knew someone in the industry and she used her connections. She may have won a contest. Or simply, she just got lucky.

But that won’t give me my $13 back plus tax.

And I suppose the one thing that makes me the most upset is that the midlist is shrinking. Big publishers go for the big books, the books that will bring in millions like James Patterson’s and Bill Clinton’s The President is Missing.

Few midlist books are printed every year. In fact, there are imprints who publish digital only books like Carina Press. This is disappointing to an author who hopes to see their book on a shelf. Any shelf.  Even Target. Maybe especially Target. It’s not an accident the book section is across the aisle from Toys.

What can a writer hoping to query and publish a book take from all this?

That the publishing industry is broken?

We knew that already.

It says to me I may never want to be a part of a traditional publishing industry.

Because I expect that if Roxane Gay, who is a New York Times bestselling author, would be willing to blurb a book, and that book is a Target Club Pick, it’s going to be good and worth my money.

And again, this isn’t a blast on the debut novelist. It’s a blast on the publishing industry that would publish a book that needed so much more work.

I know books aren’t for everyone and this particular book, or perhaps even author because I’ll never read her again, just wasn’t my cup of tea. (I drink coffee anyway.)

But a scan of reviews on Amazon told me it wasn’t a cup of tea for others as well. (Who also may only drink coffee.)

Even someone reading The Wedding Date as a reader and not a writer can still say a book grated on their nerves even if they can’t pinpoint why.

I don’t expect to like every book I read–that’s a given. But with the resources of a large publishing house–this book was published by Jove, an imprint of Penguin–I shouldn’t dislike a book because of the editing or lack thereof.

jasmine guilloryI wish the best to Jasmine Guillory.  I hope she can come into her own as a writer without help or she seeks it out on her own (if she happens to read reviews) because her publishing house certainly isn’t going to give her any assistance.

What do you think of the plight of a first-time querying author? Do we have a chance, or should we just give up?

Let me know!

Deciding What’s Really Worth It

Because of some personal circumstances, I went back to full-time work a couple weeks ago. To say that I have not adjusted well is an understatement. I don’t want to sound whiney, like a little kid being made to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it’s definitely a rude awakening when all of a sudden all the writing time I’ve enjoyed is gone.

I know most, if not all, my adult writer friends also have some kind of full-time job, and many of those also add small children to the mix. There, at least, I am fortunate. My son is 18 and will be graduating from high school soon. My daughter is 12 and as soon as she comes home from school, she runs and hides, all her energy gone from putting up with her peers all day long. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have laundry to do, dinner to make. By the time I have a free moment, I am spent. Not maybe physically, but emotionally, all I want to is mindlessly scroll Twitter until it’s time for bed.

So, lately, I’ve been exploring what I can give up, and what I want to keep, in order to have the time and energy to keep writing.

office-620822_1920And it’s more than that, too. I consider myself an indie writer, publisher, marketer of those books. That means staying on top of publishing trends, practicing writing, reading about craft. I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing. There is always something to do when you are an indie writer: build your platform, market your books, run ads.

What do I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis? Let’s explore:

Daily:

  1. There isn’t anything that I do absolutely every day, except be on Twitter/Facebook (and I can’t even claim I post regularly on my FB author page, either!). I enjoy it, and I follow influencers, top people in the publishing industry. Agents, editors, other writers. It’s easy to write this off as a time waster, but if you follow the right people and use it for more than watching weird gifs, it can be a great networking tool. I’m fortunate to have the account I do, and for that reason alone, I like to try to keep up with it. I have a lot of friends and support on there. Sometimes I do fall behind, and for that, I apologize.
  2. I should add writing to this, but for the most part, I can’t. Sometimes I am physically unable to write. Lack of time or whatever, sometimes I just can’t. It doesn’t help that right now I am formatting and creating my cover for my current novel. Any free time I have is going to that just to get it done. I’m tired of looking at it, and I would love to start a new book.

 

Weekly:

  1. Listen to podcasts. I try to keep up with these as they come out. To give myself a podcasts-2633018_1920two-fer, I try to go for walks as I listen, to get my exercise in. There are two that I absolutely love: The Sell More Books Show and Print Run Podcast. The Sell More Books Show talks about indie news, and I keep up on a lot of things going on in the indie-publishing world. Print Run is run by an agent and editor out of Minneapolis, and they talk about the traditional publishing industry. They’ve opened my eyes to a lot of things, and to their credit, they are candid about their jobs. Others that I try to listen to:
    a) The Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast. I don’t write fantasy, but a lot of the guests on there talk about their marketing strategies that can work for everyone.
    b) The Creative Penn. Joanna runs a great podcast and keeps you updated on everything from indie news, craft, author interviews and more. At this point, she’s a staple of the indie writing community.
  2. Write. Finally, I can put this on the list. I would go nuts if I couldn’t write. Even when I have to write longhand at work, it’s better than nothing. When I was working part-time, I could write 5,000-10,000 words a week. Especially if the story was going well. Now, well. I haven’t been working long enough to fall into a routine to see how far I can push my limits. And now with summer coming, I just don’t know. All I can do is my best, and so far, I feel like I am failing miserably.
  3. Read craft books/editing books. Being I can read at work if it’s slow, (no internet/computer/device access though, that’s why I buy my books in paperback) I can read a lot. I read Stephen King’s book in two days. I read lots of books, which is a major boon for me. It’s harder to write at work on certain days since a) I can only writing longhand and 2) if it’s busy, I lose track of what I’m doing and my writing becomes choppy. It depends on the day, and what calls I’m scheduled to take. Weekends are better for writing.

 

Monthly: 

  1. Blog. My blogging schedule leaves a lot to be desired. Some of my most dedicated arms-3404941_1920friends will crank out two blog posts a week. I can’t do that. Not only do I not have time, Good Lord, where do they find the content? I’ve added book reviews to my blog schedule (of craft and other non-fiction books) just to add some filler. But contrary to what others say about how important blogging is to your platform, this is the one that I let slip first.
  2. Helping others. Sometimes I’ll edit for free for someone just because I know how hard it is to find help at a reasonable rate. While I limited that to once maybe every three months, or when I come across someone who really needs the help and have nowhere else to turn, I fear I may not be able to do any of that anymore. Which saddens me, because I really enjoyed it.
  3. Author interviews. I don’t do this often, but this falls into blogging, and while it might be easy to email questions, formatting the answers into an enjoyable blog post (see my lovely interview with Aila Stephens) can take a lot of time.
  4. Spend some time on Goodreads. I try to add all the books I’ve read to my shelves, and give a star review, even if I can’t write a quick review on there. Sometimes I’ll try to copy and paste the review I write for my blog into the review on Goodreads, like I did for The Continent.

 

So, obviously, as an indie writer, you need to make time to write. If you’re not writing, you’re not doing much of anything. But if you are writing and publishing, it’s hard to figure out what you can drop since you’re running two or three businesses single-handedly while working a job and raising a family.

business-3385079_1920What could I drop? Blogging, probably. I blog for indie writers, and well, indie writers don’t read indie books. That is not where my audience is, and it was one of my mistakes when starting up my blog. I could give up Twitter, but it’s my main source of writerly companionship. Sometimes I don’t walk as much as I want to, and that’s sad, because MN weather is really nice right now, and I don’t want my podcasts to pile up (when I don’t walk, I listen to podcasts to make the chores and errands go a little bit faster).

This probably isn’t a good time to figure out a writing schedule since I’ve only been working full-time for three weeks, and in that time I’ve been editing Wherever He Goes and have moved on to formatting and creating the cover. I’ll have a more accurate depiction of how I can figure out a writing schedule when I start my next book.

All in all, I’ll just have to try to find some balance like everyone else I know. Pull up my big girl panties, and write when I don’t feel like it. Walk when I’d rather take a nap. Be careful not to burn out.

Lots of people seem to have a handle on it, and lots of people seem like they don’t, too. I’ll just have to look at this as a speedbump in my writing career. It’s not easy to think that way, since I write romance, and romance is notorious for the pressure. It’s not unheard of for a romance writer to publish anywhere from 5-10 books a year. I’ll never get to that point. Even if I didn’t have to work, at all. I’d never make it.

So, I’ll echo the advice I hear over and over, and something I have even told others: Find a balance. Do the best you can. Work with what you have.

It’s all you can do.

My Next Few Weeks

Vania's AprilMay Plans

Last week I finished Wherever He Goes. At 77,863 words, it’s one of the longest books I’ve written, and I’m very proud of how the story came out.

What does this mean for the next couple months in terms of my writing schedule?

Take a look:

Plot out my next book.
I left a few threads open while I wrote Wherever He Goes, and I need to decide if I want to close them up or write a companion to the book. The companion would be about Aiden’s brother Dylan. I foreshadowed a few things about him, but his story isn’t fully developed in my head yet, so I need to think, do I want to leave the threads loose in case his story comes to me, or tie them off and move on? I’m hoping a solution will come to me while I edit. For now, I have another book I need to plot out that has nothing to do with Wherever He Goes. I want to get most of the bones of that book written down before I forget any of it.

I start edits on Wherever He Goes on April 2nd. My editing process is long and contains many steps, mostly because I edit myself, but mostly because even if I did pass my book on to an editor, I would give them as clean a version as I could. My editing process includes:
Initial read-through. This is where I fix blatant typos and plot holes I noted while writing that I didn’t go back and fix. I’ll fix character discrepancies and repetition. I’ll fix my characters’ overall arcs. As I get to know them, my writing loosens up, so I’ll even out the flow of the story. All this is easier on the screen.
Print it out. I need this step because this is where I put my chapters in (I write without breaking up my book) and make sure the plot makes sense. I have an easier time with this when I can “see” the book laid out in front of me. Often this is when I beef up scenes or take out parts that don’t need to be there.
I listen to my manuscript. I have Word read my book to me. This is where I do line edits, and I pay special attention to dialogue and syntax. One day I’ll do audio for my books, so I pay special attention to this step. This step gets rid of wordiness, and it takes about four to five days to listen to it all.
I proof the proof. You can see a lot of typos and long paragraph blocks that need to be broken up when you read the proof you order from CreateSpace or wherever you publish through. You can find repetition, errors, and there have been times I’ve caught huge consistency issues. Always read your proof as a reader would. Take your time, sip on some coffee, tea, or other beverage (keep it non-alcoholic so you have a clear head). This step takes me about three days. I take my time because this is the last step, and the last time my eyes will be on it.

After I edit, I’ll put in the changes and order another proof to make sure my formatting stays perfect.

I don’t have a pre-order set up for Wherever He Goes, no blog tour set up or anything. I did a successful Freebooksy for my first book in my trilogy, so I know I have readers out there. I’ll do a soft release for this book because I hope I’ll already be a few thousand words into my new book.

I’ll still continue to blog. Lately, I’ve been doing more book reviews on the non-fiction I’ve been reading. I have a lot of time at work and I’ve accumulated a pile of books that could be useful to other indie authors. Plus, it’s content, and I’m horrible at blogging consistently.

I’m going to basically stop doing Twitter giveaways. They are useless. There is too much free stuff out there and they are a waste of money. No offense to the people still doing them–I wish you well. This includes doing a Goodreads giveaway. Until I can know for sure you get the bang for the buck, a promo site like Bargainbooksy may make more sense. And cents.

Summer is a time when things slow down, and people take vacations, do things with their families. I still would like to try to write 1,000 words a day and publish another book by the end of the summer. Trying to stick to a three-book a year schedule may be tough because I have to have a whole book in my head before I start writing. I have bits and pieces of plots bouncing around in my brain, but nothing fully realized yet. So I have this next book to plot out, then I hope something comes to me.

Vania's AprilMay Plans (1)

That’s what I’ll be doing for the next little while. I’m excited to release Wherever He Goes. I have the cover tentatively worked out, and you can see it on my Facebook Author Page.

I don’t have any writing conferences to attend this year–a few things take precedence like my son’s high school graduation. I also have a few things going on I don’t have the liberty to discuss, but I’m going to guess will be very time-consuming.

I also need a couple days to make box sets of Summer Secrets and my Tower City Romance Trilogy. It will be a pain in the butt, but worth it!

I’ll be busy between now and Fall, but I’m looking forward to the challenges!

What are your plans for the next little while?

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

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