Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Journey Through Self-Publishing

I've just finished (really this time) Self-Publishing my first official book. Let much rejoicing commence!

Available on

Available for Kindle

Available for Nook

Along the way, I've learned a lot about self-publishing. I've read commentaries, articles, How-Tos. I've even had a rather successful self-published author as a mentor, who has given me tips and guidance that you can't find in any Manual.

There are some tips you see all the time in the How-To world of self-publishing, tips that I either scoffed at or shrugged at. Tips that usually involved spending rather large quantities of money on your materials.

But what about those who don't have much excess cash on hand for their project? Or any at all?

It's hard to justify, at times, putting a lot of money into a project when there is no guarantee of getting money out of it. This is what makes the publishing world so hard to break in to, because you have to convince a publishing house that your book will not be a sink hole. And of all the books in the world, all the hopeful authors who send millions of queries in every year, yours being the one they choose is a rare occurrence. Which is also why self-publishing has taken such a rise.

But you see a lot of the time tips like -- Have a professional design your cover. Have a professional layout your book for press and print. Don't do it yourself.

There are merits to these tips-- merits that I have discovered. But you can also merge the two.

If you have an artistic eye and a mind for the publishing industry, go ahead and design the cover yourself—but unless you have the programming capabilities to make it a high-res print-quality file, get a professional to do it for you. Pseudo programs will not work. And if you want your paying customers and friends to pay for a blurred, shoddy quality book, you will not be pleased with the ultimate results.

I designed the cover of Shifted myself. The first printing came out beautifully, but at the same time it was really blurry, because the programs I have do not give me the option of saving high-res. For most print materials, you need to have an image quality of at least 300 dpi or your text-- title, author name, description-- will be blurry. And if you can't save high-res, it won't be high-res, even if you use high-res stock images. Which you can't determine are high-res or not, without the proper measuring tools.

For the reprint, I then got a good friend who is a professional, studying artist, to redo the design. She had the requisite tools needed to make my cover over 300 dpi in quality, and the second printing came out spectacularly. So on that front, I did a combination of professional and self. I will be getting her to help me from now on, and I will also be setting aside some money to pay her. It won't be much, but I respect her work, and as a professional, she should not be expected to work for free.

The other major element that will affect the quality of your book, beyond the writing, is layout. You have to know how to typecode your book, and if you don't know how to do that-- or what that is-- you need to have a professional help you. Luckily, I am in that industry, and so I was able to do that on my own at the very basest of levels. Now I may pay another good friend to do fancy layout details with other, more advanced programming down the road. I hope to get to that level soon. But if you know how to use style sheets and coding in as little as Microsoft Word, you can format a viable document for printing.

After that, the main question is: where? Where do you upload your book? I personally used Create Space, through, and then Kindle (the Amazon eBook) and Nook (which is Barnes & Noble, and the other major player in the eReader industry). You will need both Kindle and Nook in your repertoire if you want to publish an eBook, and the way people read these days almost demands that you put out an eBook version of your work. All of them were incredibly easy to use and upload-- it took me about a week to get both eBooks uploaded, just by downloading the Microsoft Word document of my book. It used to be you had to do a special layout and format called an 'ePub' for eBook editions, but the programming has advanced so far that it seems you no longer have to do this. You still can, if you want to use the fancy layout as I mentioned before, but it is not necessary.

Another tip I learned is that the more reviews your book gets on, the more visibility it has, on a purely marketing level. So when you distribute your book, either for free or for sales, ask for those reviews, bump those reviews. You will have so much more visibility just through mathematical formulas in search terms than you will if you just have a book floating out there bereft.

There is so much more out there, now that I've got the book published just on the marketing side, that I haven't even touched yet. My journey will continue. And as I plough through my next book, which is in the works, I will learn even more that can be applied to novels to come, making each and every new publication stronger and better.

Besides, when it comes to books, there is nothing at all like holding your book in your hands for the first time.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Writer Companionship

You never realize just how important it is to be a writer who engages frequently with other writers until you're isolated for a while...In the collegiate world I was surrounded by many scholars and writers, but not a whole lot of writers, if you understand the difference. I did not know of a single other person in my circle or world who was writing a novel or who was working on their sequel or their short story anthology. I was, in a sense, without someone to talk to or collaborate with.

When I started my new job, I was delighted to find that one of my coworkers was also a prolific writer. It is she who has encouraged me and guided me into the self-publishing world, though she far more prolifically than I, and her mere presence helped me to churn out the rest of the book I was working on at the time. I am but the grasshopper, and she yet the sensei. Every morning we could chat and gush about our favorite books, authors, writing tropes, or growl about grammar mistakes and cop outs and the publishing industry's foibles as it tries to discover how to cope with technological advancements.

Then she moved for another job that would give her more time to write, which is wonderful for her! But I, alas, was deprived of her daily presence and good conversation, and realized then just how much that conversation was a catalyst and motivator for my own work.

Don't realize how good it is until it's gone, indeed.

Luckily, she's still around the corner, and we and another coworker who is now also moving on to other projects (and is also a writer) have set up Writerly-Teas.

If you're a writer and have friends who are writers, I highly recommend this. Every writer should have a Writerly-Tea.

A Writerly-Tea is a time-- be it a lunch hour, a sunrise coffee, or, in our case, a post-work teatime-- when you get together with your fellow writers and "talk shop" (or talk plot, as the case may be).

Writers need lots of material. We need inspiration constantly, every moment of the day, by reading, by watching movies, by looking at art and listening to music, by exercising, by being out in nature. Whatever your inspiration is, you need it in great quantities and in great repetition. But what often gets overlooked and is just as important-- if not even more important, at times-- is writerly companionship.

Writers keep each other accountable. Writers set each others' schedules. Writers bounce ideas off of you and help you with your plot struggles and character development. Writers have movie nights when they're thinking about a Shakespearean interpretation and writers have write-ins on the weekends so that they actually sit and work rather than play solitaire or mess around on Facebook. They are the voices in your head personified.

We were having tea last night-- we do this once weekly, at least, at a set time that never changes, so there are no scheduling hassles barring illness or travel-- and got to talking plot after we had updated each other and shared what we were currently working on. Both of us are looking ahead to our future projects, as well as concentrating on what we're doing now, and just by churning through some rough ideas and explaining what we kind of sort of thought we might maybe possible be interested in doing, we both solidified great ideas that had been floating around but not really come down to earth yet. I have the vague idea of my two next books now in my head, whereas before I just knew I wanted to do more books of a certain spin. And I'm energized about writing like I haven't been in years and years before I started this friendship.

I'm already excited about our next Writerly-Tea. I'm excited about the write-in that we've got planned for the weekend, and the upcoming movie nights we've got in the talking-about. I'm excited that I'm excited about writing, and about the work of writing. It's not only a time to hang out with a good friend. It's time to hang out with a colleague and brother in arms.

Slide me that chai latte and give me my pencil!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Note on Social Media

So this is the second time something has gone wrong with my Twitter account...

The first time it was because someone hacked it, posting tweets I couldn't read because they were in some kind of Arabic or other sort of calligraphic language. I quickly deleted all the posts, removed whatever pages I could that they had posted, and changed my password.

Now my account is locked because of suspicious behavior.
I think I will simply delete the whole thing in a moment. I use Twitter for ideas, links, news, posts for my Facebook page, etc. I don't use it for anything else. And at this point, it is becoming more hassle than worth.

Social media is difficult. As a writer, you can't get away from it-- it has become the means by which you promote, review, show, research, and learn. That I don't mind. Facebook comes in great handy for me, as well as Google and other news websites and forums. But once the commodity is outweighed by the number of incoherent screeching noises I am making at the screen...

I think not.

So I will have to think of other ways to get news on which to write.

On the other hand...

"Robot Adept" by Piers Anthony is a sequel to a book I read many years ago called "Double Exposure" about the parallel worlds of Proton (science fiction) and Phaze (fantasy). I was delighted to discover the continuation of the tale, as well as a following book called "Unicorn Point". I highly recommend all of these books for any Anthony fans, and also to those who have not converted yet.