Lesser Known Pieces Of Editing Advice From 14 Publishing Pros

In the spirit of helping you write the best book possible, we’ve gathered a list of lesser-known editing tips from 14 experienced editors and authors. Between them, these ladies and gents have been through the editing wringer hundreds of times, and house worlds of wisdom we should heed.

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Beth: BZHercules.com, a low-cost editing and consulting service

In short, don’t do it [editing your own work]! It is a huge mistake that can cost an author time and money, as well as cause some embarrassment. Whether the writer is seeking to publish traditionally or to self-publish, there are certain guidelines, rules of grammar, and formatting requirements that are best left to an experienced editor. For example, many of the smaller “boutique” publishers that have popped up on the Internet require use of Chicago Manual of Style formatting for submissions. Many authors do not know what to look for regarding this style (e.g., how to write numbers, titles, and abbreviations, or indent paragraphs) and should use an editor that is familiar with it. The placement of commas is another frequent issue for authors (The serial comma is a killer!), and don’t even get me started on semi-colons (Okay, I will get started—it is necessary punctuation and it cannot just be thrown out of writing because the author doesn’t believe in it! That is punctuation-discrimination at its worst.).

If an author is self-publishing, the risks associated with posting work that is riddled with errors on many of the outlets are actually higher than submitting to publishers. At least the publishers will be discerning. When posting to the DIY outlets, there is a low filter for screening errors until the work is already out there. Often, outlets such as iTunes and Smashwords will ticket submissions that have been reported as containing mistakes, and Kindle will pull them if the “right” complaint is given. Additionally, the reviewers are another source of misery for a self-publishing author who is trying to gain readers. Reviews regarding errors found in books are not always accurate, kind, or specific and giving critics fuel for the fire is never a good idea, possibly damaging an otherwise great piece of work.

My advice, then, is to find an editor with a track record of success. If you are an author who is new to publishing (You are obviously not new to writing, but that does not make your work showroom ready.), then your editor ideally is college-educated in a writing-related field (journalism, English, education, linguistics, communications), open to collaboration, and experienced at navigating through traditional and/or self-publishing (Most editors will provide a free sample edit of a few pages to you; do not, however, ask to see the edited work of others. That is confidential information and if it is provided to you, be wary of the ethics of that editor.). As the author, expect to pay for several passes through your work (one or two isn’t going to be enough if there are thousands of changes needed—although using a couple of editors isn’t a bad idea if they have similar editing philosophies. Again, ask for samples and compare the styles.), be open to criticism, and be cognizant of what you yourself are attempting to put out in the public eye. Every author needs another set of eyes that has an experienced view.

 

Meredith Efken: Fiction Fix-It Shop

Many writers tend to discount the importance of content editing. They focus on copy or line editing, and they either believe they don’t need content help or they fear a content editor will take over the story or change their voice. However, if a story fails, it’s not usually because of a couple of typos but because the story structure itself is weak or because the character development and portrayal doesn’t ring true on an emotional level. The biggest downfalls I see in many stories are:

  1. a lack of understanding of scene structure and a wobbly or disorganized story structure, and
  2. character emotions that are either too shallow or not psychologically accurate for what the character is facing.

A good content/substantive editor should be able to help spot these problems—and do so in a way that enhances the story and your voice. But if you’re not able to hire an editor, at least study some good how-to resources on those topics. My top recs are these: For story structure, Michael Hague at storymastery.com has an excellent seminar called The Hero’s Two Journeys that explains how the outer plot meshes with the character’s inner transformation. For character emotion, Margie Lawson at margielawson.com approaches character emotions from a psychological background and explains how to convey emotions in a fresh and authentic way. For scene structure, take a look at Randy Ingermanson’s article “Writing The Perfect Scene” which draws on the concepts taught by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

 

Helen Baggott: Editor

Many writers embark on the editing process and assume it’s all about trimming things down. Often it is, but it’s too easy to edit out a crucial element that causes the plot to crumble. And because you, the writer, have the complete manuscript – warts and all – in your mind, you can’t distinguish between something that is still in the book and something that’s just a memory from a previous version. If you do decide to go for the chop, make sure you look at the bigger picture and resolve any potential issues before moving on.

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C. S. Lakin: Author, Editor

Writers should consider getting a manuscript critique or evaluation before any line editing. Most books have a lot of structural flaws and weak components that the writer can’t see, and it helps to have a professional work with the author to strengthen or fix these weak areas. I always say that getting an edit done on a flawed manuscript is like putting pretty icing on a yucky-tasting cake. The book may look nicely edited, but it’s not going to hold up. So getting that critique done first, at any stage, is so helpful.

 

Kristen Weber: Freelance book editor, Co-founder of ShelfPleasure.com

Put your manuscript away for at least a couple of weeks. When you come back to it for editing, change the size of the font. You need to make it look different so you can actually see it. It’s like when a chair in your house accidentally gets moved – you won’t notice it until you trip over it! It is important to present your eyes with something different so you see what’s really there. And then once you think it’s perfect, give it to someone else to read – and they’ll find even more to fix!

 

Chandra Clarke: Editor

As everyone knows, the problem with editing your own work is that you’re too familiar with the material. My best tip for mitigating that is to change both the font type and the font size on the document. If you’re working in a serif font, change it to something sans serif or vice versa, and make it a bit bigger. This will change the way the text looks just enough to make it seem different, and that will force you to focus more on what it actually says, as opposed to what you think it should say.

 

Gary Gibson: Author

One of the best ways to learn how to edit your own writing is to edit someone else’s. I started writing paid critiques of unpublished novels more than five years ago, and I think it did a lot to improve my understanding of my own writing and in the process made me a much better writer. Before that, I’d been an on-off member of a writer’s group in my home city for more than twenty years.
Taking part in a writer’s group can be invaluable, because you have to think about why someone’s story or novel does or doesn’t work. Even better is when you get to tell them what you like or don’t like about their work – and explain why. Doing that gets you thinking about the process, and the how-to of writing, and how to apply it to your own work. It’s a bit like the old saying: if you want to master something, teach it.

Rebecca Horsfall: Author

We’re taught at school that good writing involves using adjectives liberally in our compositions. In truth this is just plain wrong. The use of many adjectives is a sure sign of immature writing. When editing our own work it’s important to notice where we’re peppering our prose with adjectives and prune away all but the essential ones. The same is true of similes; you remember them: “his joints were as creaky as the old barn door,” or “her sudden smile was like the sun appearing from behind a cloud.” Similes almost always seem clunky and immature in prose. Same goes, in fact, for all the elaborate metaphors and figurative language so beloved of our school teachers. The more simple and uncluttered our prose, the more mature it will feel to readers (and publishers!)

Laurence Daren King: Literary Consultant

Set up the word processor for writing a novel, not an essay or letter as seems to be the default. Increase the margin size or font size until you have about eleven words to a line. You will then get a realistic idea of paragraph length. So many authors have paragraphs that are far too long. They think: ‘It’s only three quarters of a page long, I see that in novels all the time’, but they have eighteen or twenty words to a line.

Tania Hershman: Author

Change the page from portrait to landscape and change the font, to try and see your writing with fresh eyes, as if you hadn’t written it.

 

Sam Jordison: Author, Founder of Galley Beggar Press

If you can, cut the first chapter. It’s almost certain to be your worst bit of writing.

 

Fay Sampson: Author

Even after you’ve edited your book to the highest standard you can, get it professionally copy-edited. Writing consultancies like the Writers’ Workshop can put you in touch with an editor who will bring your work up to a professional standard and save you embarrassment later.
If you’re adamant on editing your own work, these professional editing tips will serve you well. After all, having a great story interspersed with mistakes and plot holes is a sure-fire way to have critics pounce, and readers close the book.
What other editing tips do you have? What do you look out for when editing your own book? And what are your most common mistakes?

16 New Year’s Resolutions For Writers

When we look back on a year of writing, we can be filled with a feeling of guilt for not having done as much as we set out to do. Or we can be overcome with pride and gratitude for everything we’ve managed to accomplish. But with each new year comes a fresh press of the reset button, enabling us to turn to those things we’ve not yet tackled.

Here are 16 new year resolutions for writers to help you choose yours. Please leave a comment letting me know which you’re taking on, and how you’re going to tackle them. Good luck!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 

If you need the text for those:

1. I resolve to call myself a writer
2. I resolve to make time to write
3. I resolve to complete that unfinished work
4. I resolve to write what I feel the calling to write
5. I resolve to read more, and to read more widely
6. I resolve to tell the world about the book I love the most
7. I resolve to find the perfect place to write
8. I resolve to try a new genre
9. I resolve to tell the truth
10. I resolve to break some rules
11. I resolve to overcome my writer’s block
12. I resolve to back-up my writing
13. I resolve to rectify my weaknesses
14. I resolve to tell people about what I’m writing
15. I resolve to publish my work
16. I resolve to be less critical of my writing

Here’s to an incredible 2016!

Make Your Self-Published Book Look Professionally-Published With These 5 Tips

The goal for any self-published author is not only write an amazing book, but to create a product that can stand out and endure the critical eye of a traditional system.

Your competition are not only other writers but other publishers too. Naturally then, you want to make sure that what you produce is nothing but as good as you can make it. This article will go through five things you must do to ensure your book looks professionally published.

Print Your Manuscript

You might see this as extra time and a waste of paper, but you would be surprised how many additional mistakes you will be able to find. Printing your manuscript out in paperback format (using a recommended type face) will give you the opportunity to view your book in “real life”.

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Reviewing your book this way will allow you to check on things like margins, overall alignment of chapter headings, paragraphs, and words placement (i.e. Are your words getting cut off mid-sentence?). Printing in this format will also get you into mindset of a reader, not a writer. As a reader you will pick up typos, missing words and incorrect word usage than if you were reading off a screen.

Here’s what to look out for:

  • Page Numbers
  • Chapter Headings: are they positioned in the same place every time and numbered correctly?
  • Paragraph indentations: are they consistent?
  • Widows and Orphans: single lines at the bottom the page or parts of lines on new pages.
  • That all Notes and Comments from Track Changes are gone.
  • All Subheadings are formatted correctly and consistently.
  • Margins are all the same.

Beta Readers

By this stage your manuscript should have already been looked over by your beta readers, but it’s recommended to give them a copy of the completed manuscript once your formatting has been finalized.

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This allows you to get one final check-over. It is a far better thing for a trusted beta to spot the mistakes in your final proofs than to release the book into the world for your readers to find: because they will. It can be embarrassing to see reviewers commenting on simple mistakes, and ths can damage your sales.

So make use of your beta readers even in the final stages. The more eyes your work sees, the higher change that any remaining errors, whether grammatical or in your typesetting, will be spotted and corrected.

Blurbs

A blurb is your back cover description. A snippet of story line to get your reader interested. It’s an industry standard that blurbs are 100–180 words in length, so be mindful of how much you are revealing.

Remember, a blurb is not a synopsis. You want to briefly introduce your protagonist and some of what they must overcome. You don’t want to give away the entire plot, nor introduce too many characters. For practice, go to your bookshelves and read the back covers of your favorite books. Try to see how they sparked your interest enough to make the purchase.

Remember Blurbs need:

  • Length: 100–180 words
  • Protagonist: ntroduce them, and create an attachment
  • Tone: this should be the same as in your novel

For more details read our blog on writing the perfect blurb.

Tagline or Testimonial

Finding a suitable tagline can take some brainstorming but it’s worth taking the time to get it right. Your tagline is your ‘hook’ to intrigue people enough to pick your book up and read your blurb.

A testimonial from an author in the same genre as you can also help. It is their stamp of approval and if you’re lucky enough to have such an author interested in your work, you want their praise on the front of your book for all to see. This can help legitimize your work and draw their fan base to yours.

Matte Vs Gloss Covers

There are many schools of thought when it comes to choosing a matte or gloss cover for your final paperback.

Some writers think that gloss paperbacks have a cheap mass market look about them. But depending on your cover design, gloss can actually bring out richer colors in dark designs and reveal more intricate details in the illustration work. Gloss tends to be favorite for non-fiction works as it can enhance cover photographs and is less likely to be handled as much as a paperback.

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Matte covers, on the other hand, provide an aesthetic quality and durability to paperbacks. These covers are less likely to peel if handled extensively and won’t show up fingerprints and scratches.

It’s worth noting, however, that fine illustration work can be hidden and colors won’t be as vibrant with matte covers. Be sure to speak to your designer about your preference so they can adjust the colors accordingly.

Matte covers can compliment the art and provide an added bonus of the sensory experience to book buyers who like soft covers. Once again, it comes down to the personal preference of you, the publisher, but it it’s important to research what is popular in your genre and choose what will compliment your design work.

What Else Can You Do?

As a writer it’s your job to create an intriguing story with memorable characters that readers will enjoy. But as a publisher, it’s as equally important for you to provide the best possible, market-standard product for your potential buyers.

Having a well crafted blurb and an effective tagline or testimonial can hook readers into wanting to read more. Printing your formatted interior before finally choosing effective covers will ensure your book looks great and will appear to both booksellers and customers alike.

What else do you think should be included to ensure a book looks at home sat along side a traditionally published book?

 

Image Credits: Manuscript by Seth Sawyers (Flickr). Reading by Shelly (Flickr)

Gaining And Dealing With Book Reviews For Self-Published Authors

It’s well-known that self-published authors need reviews in order to be successful. These reviews activate algorithms on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, which in turn helps to get your book noticed. They also inform readers on what to expect, while using word-of-mouth marketing to increase your overall reach. Today, we’re going to look at the dos and donts of reviews for self-published authors.

How To Find Book Reviewers 

If you’re lucky enough to have an email list, this is a great way to ask for reviews. In her new release, How to Market a Book, Joanna Penn recommends a soft pitch to your readers with no pressure. Offer them a free digital copy of your book with a prompt to “please leave a review if you enjoyed the book”. Many of the places you can find reviewers can be found on our article about sending out Advanced Reading Copiesbut below is a bullet-point summary:

  • Email List
  • Social Media Pages
  • Kindle Boards/ Online Forums
  • Book Bloggers
  • Other writers

A Note On a Reviewer’s Obligation

 If people have been kind enough to say they will review a book for you, remember that they are in no way obligated to give you a positive review. Most people, especially if you send your book to a book blogger, are specific when they write a review. If they dont like it they will generally tell you why. This is why it’s so impotant to only publish a book you’re proud of. And you have to make sure you’re looking for honest reviews and not simply to have your ego stroked.

Benefits of a Bad Review

Trolls mouthing-off aside, there are – surprisingly – benefits to receiving a negative review. Some people just wont like your book. You have to accept that. But if more than one person is pointing out bad spelling, or inconsistent plots, then you need to take notice. This kind of dditing is something you can fix relatively easily. If you dont, it could well harm your credibility as a writer and as a publisher. The takeaway is, if you have the power to fix something, fix it.

Etiquette for Reviewers and Authors

If a book blogger or a reviewing company is kind enough to review your book, and you would like to quote that review, make sure you extended them the courtesy of linking it back to their website or social media pages, acknowledging them properly. Also, take the time to thank them in a message or an email. Manners cost nothing, while being polite will mean they will more likely consider reviewing your next book.

What NOT To Do

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A special warning should be issued to all writers in regards to responding to negative reviews on sites such as Goodreads and Amazon. It would seem that every couple of weeks an author goes into public meltdown over a bad review, engaging in a futile online battle with amateur reviewers.

This kind of behaviour will get you noticed for all of wrong reasons. Responding aggressively to a bad review will do nothing but churn the waters. Remember that the reviewers will never look like the bad guy in this situation no matter how abusive of inflammatory their remarks are. The author will always be made to look like a petulant jerk. If you receive a bad review release any anger or disappointment privately. Bad reviews can really suck, but you are a writer and a publisher, you need grow a thick skin to survive. You will never be able to please everyone.

Making The Most Of Your Book Reviews

Reviews can be a great tool to make you feel good about your novel as well as to help you to find where you could be falling down as a writer. Being polite and professional at all times will ensure that you grow your fan base and gain a reputation for being professional.

 For further reading the below titles come highly recommend:

As a reader do you buy books based their reviews or do you ignore them? Which approaches have you used for gaining honest reviews?

Image Credits: ANGRY-ANN by Josh Jansenn (Flickr)

8 Things You Should Know About CreateSpace

There’s a lot of information out there regarding the popularity and ease of Print on Demand publishing. None is more easily accessible than Amazons’s CreateSpace. This article will highlight 8 things you should know about CreateSpace

1. Online Checking- Proofing on a Budget

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After loading all of your files into CreateSpace and their team has checked their compatibility, you have the option to order a paperback proof copy. Proofing is an extremely important step in the publishing journey, but if you’re operating from overseas you might not have the time or the money to order a paperback.

CreateSpace now have the option of an online checking system, as well as the opportunity to download a PDF version. Writers have the chance to review their books in their manuscript layout and ensure all of their formatting, margins, title pages etc. are correct. If they download the PDF, they can spend as much time as they like checking over it.

2. Extended Distribution- A Word of Caution

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CreateSpace has an option to offer your book out for Extended Distribution. This allows online stores, like The Book Depository, and independent booksellers to add your book to their catalogues. This can be a great opportunity for writers; but be careful. This option will drive the price of your book up not only to your retailers but on Amazon as well.

A 500 page novel that’s usually $15 USD can end up costing upward of $30-$40 with your royalties staying relatively low. Often times it is cheaper for independent booksellers to buy directly from you. This allows prices stay low enough that the exchange rate doesn’t dissuade your potential customers.

3. Higher Royalties through the CreateSpace Store

via GIPHY

The Amazon sites offer a lot of exposure for your new book, but as a writer you will earn higher royalties if you direct your readers to buy directly from CreateSpace store. If you’re advertising or adding links on social media, or on your web site, don’t forget to add a link to CreateSpace as well.

4. Shipping Overseas

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CreateSpace is an American Publisher and Distributer so it is important to note that you have to account for shipping times and prices. If you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller willing to stock your book, make sure that you are adding the shipping costs into your per-book price while negotiating, or charge separately for the freight. If you don’t, you could end up short changing yourself and irritating your supplier.

When preparing a launch make sure you allow 4-6 weeks for your paperbacks to arrive at your door, this way you will not be left apologizing to suppliers and readers if your freight is late.

5. Free Resources

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CreateSpace has excellent free resources and information about all aspects of self-publishing. They have their own blog and forum for their authors to connect, support, and share tips with each other. They also have some great interviews with bestselling CreateSpace authors who speak of their writing journey.

Writing can be a lonely business, so take advantage of the site to gain knowledge, and to network with other authors.

6. Marketing Packages

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CreateSpace offer a variety of services and resources, but their Marketing Packages (helping to market your book on their platform) aren’t really offering any information you can’t find yourself elsewhere. They offer a basic biography, description and keywords based on information you provide: they don’t actually read your book.

Do your research and write copy yourself that’s going to be just as effective. After all, keywords and descriptions are largely trial and error. Sometimes you’ll have to rewrite both a few times to find what’s going to work best. To learn how to write a great book description, check out our article here. Save your money and put it into cost-per-click advertising, where it’ll likely be more useful.

7. Royalties

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Like its Kindle Direct counterpart, CreatSpace will only pay your royalties in $100 blocks. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, they’ll send you a cheque through the mailing system. This can be frustrating for some writers, so know that you could have a few months to wait before you see any royalties coming in.

8. Book Descriptions and Amazon Author

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CreateSpace and KDP both give you a product description to complete that will appear on your Amazon product page. If you are using Amazon Author (and you should be) and you happen to change your book description on the Author book page, it will automatically override whatever description you have put into CreateSpace.

To be sure that your changes are correct on all pages, make sure that you update all platforms with the same one. You don’t want your ebook description to be different to your paperback – it will look sloppy and unprofessional.

CreateSpace is a great platform to get your paperback into the hands of your readers and onto shelves but it’s important to know the hidden pro’s and con’s before pressing publish.

What other great tips do you have for using CreateSpace?

 

Image Credits: Editing for the 2nd edition of How To Love Your Job or Find A New One by Joanna Penn (Flickr), Distributed Religion by The Art Gallery of Knoxville (Flickr), B767 by Bernal Saborio (Flickr), Free Daddy and His Little Shadow Girls at The Skate Park Creative Commons by Pink Sherbert Photography (Flickr), Design Blog Sociale – 23 June 2008 – Vitamin Packaging by Robert Ferrell D by SocialIsBetter (Flick), Money by PicturesOfMoney (Flickr), I accidentally brought money to a book sale. by Brittany Stevens (Flickr).

What Are Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), And How Do They work?

ARC is a commonly used acronym in the publishing industry that stands for Advanced Reading Copy. Here, we’ll go into some more detail about ARCs and why they can be a useful marketing tool for self publishers.

What are they?

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Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) are a preview of a writers upcoming release. ARCs are not always perfect copy, and they usually have a variant of the final cover, and are stamped with wording identifying it as an advanced copy.

They may also differ from the final published work if any additional editing is needed prior to publication. In general, ARCs will be sent out by publishers to reviewers, critics, magazines etc. before the launch date.

When should they get sent out?

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Three to six months used to be the official lead time for ARCs to be sent out by publishers. Yet thanks to e-reader technology, the distribution of ARCs has become a lot easier and less expensive.

Ideally as a writer you want to give your readers a chance to read your work and hopefully put together a review. This means a 6-8 week lead time is a good period. Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be a perfect copy, or include a final cover, but it at least has to be edited.

These advanced readers will not only be able to offer you genuine feedback, but you’ll also come across as a a professional who really knows what they’re doing in the publishing world.

How do you find advance readers?

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If you’re lucky enough to already have an email list, this is generally a good place to start. These are the people that are already interested in your work and would jump at the chance to read a new book before everyone else.

If you don’t have an email list, put the call out on your social media pages. People love free stuff and, like your email list, if they are following your social media, they are (hopefully) interested in your writing.

Another option is to ask other writer friends to offer you feedback in exchange for reviewing their work in future. If you’re using Kindle Boards or other forums you could advertise with a new post, but don’t be offended if people are too busy working on their own books!

Benefits of ARCs for independent publishers

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ARCs can provide authors with valuable feedback for the work they wish to release. Remember, reader feedback is different from the feedback you’ll receive from an editor.

Readers will be able to tell you how they connected with your protagonist (or didn’t) and will be the first to tell you their emotional response to it. Sometimes people just won’t like your story, but if the feedback is consistent with a problem such as grammar or spelling, this is something you need to adjust before your final release.

Reviews received from ARCs also generate interest on sites such as Good Reads and Amazon. So, having some ready before your official launch date can help to drive sales. A good technique is to make your new release free on its first day to allow Advanced Readers to download a final version, adding the important Verified Purchase label for when they lodge their reviews.

Final tip

Be honest and don’t mislead your Advanced Readers about what your book is about. The last thing you want are for people who love romance to get a horror story that they will hate. You want people who understand and enjoy the genre you are writing. They will be able to identify holes within your story that unfamiliar readers may not notice.

Offer your Advanced Readers a free copy of your final work, by using Free Day technique or emailing it out to them. This is a thank you for their help and will hopefully encourage them to rleave you an (honest) review in the future.

What are your personal experience with distributing ARCS? What do you look for as an Advanced Reader?

 

Image Credits: Reading by Moyan Brenn, Calendar* by Dafne Cholet, Reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões,  black & white Glasses & Book – exhausting read by photosteve101

How to Publish Stress Free with Kindle Direct Publishing

When Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), the way an author delivered their work to their audience changed forever. This week we’re going to give you a crash course in KDP publishing, to help make your experience as stress free as possible.

Let’s Begin!

Log into KDP using your Amazon account, or create a whole new one if you wish. When setting up your account you’ll need to add your Address, Tax details and Bank Account. This is so that Amazon can pay you directly. Be aware that you will only receive your royalties from your home country direct debited into your account. Overseas royalties are still paid via cheque.

A special note about Tax

Australian KDP users should be aware that Australia has a Tax Agreement with the US so that we can earn royalties without having to get hold of an American IRS number or lodge a US Tax Return (hooray!). We can use our Australian Tax File number, but the IRS withholds 5% of royalties (as you can see below).

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Creating Your Book

Once all of your account details are completed, click on “Bookshelf” on the top menu.

Click on “Create New Title” so you can begin to add your new book details. Most of this section is relatively straight forward but there are a few things you should have ready.

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KDP Select and Exclusivity

The first thing that KDP asks is whether or not you want to be enrolled in their KDP Select Program. KDP Select is about making your title exclusive to Amazon and Kindle which means, legally, you cannot publish your ebook on iTunes or any other digital book store not owned by Amazon.

It is a contract that you enter into 90 days at a time that allows you multiple benefits. Some of these include free book promotions, higher royalties and a cut of their Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) revenues.

At the end of the 90 days you can opt out or stay in, but you must wait the full 90 days if you choose to be in the program. KDP Select and its effectiveness is controversial, but like any contract read the fine print so you know what you’re agreeing to.

Your book description is what’s going to appear on your book’s sale page. If you haven’t read our blog on How to Write An Effective Amazon Book Description, I recommend you do that before you start.

Note: Do you have an ISBN? While technically you don’t need one to publish your boo,k it is important to have one as it can help book distributers and customers locate your title.

Pick your Categories with Care

Do you know where your book sits in the genre world? One of the most important things you need to get right is your categories. I’d recommend thinking of categories like you would think of good to think of sections in a book store. This is where your target audience will go hang out and peruse the shelves. If your book isn’t there, they won’t be able to discover you.

One great thing about KDP is that it gives you the chance to have two separate lots of category options, as you can see below. This allows you to reach more customers that wouldn’t have found you if you were only listed in one category.

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KDP also lets you have seven different key words of your choice that will link Amazon’s search results to your book. The flexibility of KDP means that you can change these up at any time if you find that they aren’t effective. It’s important to note that all changes have an average turn-around of approxmately 12 hours.

Uploading your Files

When it comes to uploading your cover and manuscript files, you must remember that KDP has formatting rules and regulations. If you haven’t gone through a designer that has already formatted your cover to correct specifications take the time to read the “Cover Guidelines.” The same applies for uploading your manuscript.
KDP also have a handy automatic spell check that will scan your book once it’s loaded. If it flags any errors, do take the time to check them to ensure there aren’t simple error’s that you can fix before the final upload. If you have lots of errors, then you aren’t ready to publish. You are a professional and you should see your book as a representation of you and your brand. You want people to buy it and enjoy it, not place it down and leave bad reviews because of sloppy grammar.

DRM

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. This is a digital lock that you can place on your ebook so that no one can convert it from the Amazon .mobi files to other formats that can be used on multiple devices. Like KDP Select, there are many conflicting views on whether or not DRM is a good thing, but be warned, once you publish your book you can’t change your DRM setting.

Preview your Book

This is a fantastic perk put in by KDP that simulates how your book will look on a Kindle screen. It gives you a chance to really pick up any formatting errors that you may have overlooked.

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Setting your Territories and Prices

If you hold worldwide rights for your book select this option so Amazon can make it available to all possible countries. If you don’t hold world wide rights (you should already know your rights before you get this far) only select the countries for ones that you do.
The pricing table you’ll be able to see allows you to enter potential sale amounts, and view the royalties that you’ll earn. Read KDP’s “Pricing Page” if you find the royalty rates confusing. Also note that you are restricted on how low or high you can price your book depending on whether you select the 35% or 70% royalties option. The 35% royalty rates mean you can sell your books cheaper, but if you go for the 70% royalties, the cheapest you can sell your book for $2.99.

Once you’ve selected (and double checked) all of your details and agreed to the Terms and Conditions, you can now press the “Save and Publish” Button. Your book and all of its details will now be reviewed by the KDP team. This can take up to 48 hours.

In Summary

KDP is a great publishing program, but make sure your cover all your bases and know what you are agreeing to, like in any other business venture. Make your publishing experience far more pleasant by being prepared before you begin.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have all of your bank account and tax details?
  • Do you have a cover that will meet KDP Standards?
  • Is your manuscript correctly formatted?
  • Do you have an ISBN?
  • Have you written an enticing book description?
  • Do you know your genre, and have you picked your key words?
  • Do you know which countries you hold rights for?

If you answered no to any of the above, take the time to do your research, ensuring you place your most professional publishing step forward.

How Authors Can Beat the Post-Publication Slump

Writers love to read about how famous writers failed before they became famous. Hundreds of articles and anecdotes abound on the Internet about how Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. And about how J.K Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

As self publishers, getting past the gate keepers is no longer the problem. For the self-publishing crowd, the biggest hit you can receive to your ego is right after you press that almighty PUBLISH button.

This article is going to deal with that post-pub slump and how to move your focus off your stats and back onto your writing.

You’re Published! So Why Aren’t You Excited?

Getting to the point where you press the publish button is a BIG deal. You’ve probably worked years towards this moment; writing your manuscript, sourcing professional editors, cover designers and formatters. It is a big journey only made possible through hard work and tenacity. The rush of the moment is there and you celebrate in whatever way you like. But then, The Slump may hit hard. This generally happens for the below reasons:

  • You’ve been working your guts out to produce your book and your body collapses from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Well hello, burnout!
  • You realise you’re a very small fish in a very large pond.
  • You’re suddenly very aware that your difficult self-promoting and marketing journey has only just begun.
  • You start obsessing over your reviews and sale stats.

The majority of writers have impressive, yet grim stories of self-doubt that they try and keep hidden. It takes focused courage to put yourself out there, open yourself up to an audience you don’t know, and to receive criticism. This does not mean you have to dwell on it and allow it to cause you to question your writing ability or style.

What Should You Do About It?

First things first; remind yourself of your massive achievement and give yourself a pat on the back. Then consider the following alternatives to slumping:

  • Take a few days to relax, binge watch a favourite tv show or read something you have been waiting for. Let your body rest and catch up (sleep and real food is good.)
  • Create a marketing and promotional plan that fits with your budget (if you don’t already have one). Allocate a few promotional ideas each month. Remember, self-publishing is marathon, not a sprint (more on this in a moment).
  • Only permit yourself to check reviews and stats once a day, maximum. Take a moment to savour the good and the bad, then let it go. There’s more to life than analytics.
  • Get focussed on planning and writing your next project. Don’t just hitch your hopes and dreams to one horse. You are a writer so get writing!

A Reminder About Trad vs Self Frameworks

Before you crawl into your sulking comfort hole with chocolate and whiskey, remember this important fact – self publishing is the art of delayed gratification.

The traditionally published writers receive their royalty cheque with instant gratification and recognition. The traditional marketing platform works to produce and sell as many books as they possibly can in order to cover their investments and the writers royalty cheque. As time passes, the marketing efforts will fade away leaving the author to wait for their 2.5 % royalty cheque to come in (sometimes months or years later depending how well the book went).

The self publishing marketing framework is a different beast. You’re building your business from scratch. More often than not, when you hear about a successful self-publisher, it’s because they have been working at it for 5-7 years, have multiple titles and are now collecting their 70% royalty reward.

How To Keep At It Without Going Crazy

Firstly, try and think of yourself as having two separate creative personas. One is the writer and the other is the publisher. As such you need to consider these things:

  • You must allocate time for writing and time for publishing. Do not cross them over.
  • If you’ve already written a few books, or have some planned, write up a release guide for the next 5 years (or as long as possible).
  • Keep in mind your goal; whether that’s to be no.1 on The New York Times best seller list or to be able to quit your day job, it doesn’t matter.
  • Remind yourself of why you chose to self-publish in the first place. If you aren’t willing to learn about the business and acquire multiple skills (or network to find people with those skills), then it may not be for you.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry, read about the ones who were successful and find out the marketing techniques they used. Not everything will work for you, but you don’t know until you try.

Publishing is a tough industry whether you’re traditionally- or self-published. As writers we have more options and opportunities than ever before, but self-doubt will always be there. Having goals, being even more guarded with your writing time, and remembering why you wanted to be in the business in the first place will ensure that you are too focussed to give self-doubt the time of day.

What do you do once you press publish? How do you stay focused on you end goal?

Image Credit: Diary Writing by Fredrik Rubensson (Flickr)

The Top 5 To-Dos Of Successful Self-Published Authors

Today we are going to discuss the Top 5 things you need to do in order to work smarter and become a successful self-published author. There is a school of thought out there, an incorrect one, that says choosing the self published road is the ‘easy’ way to get a book out there and claim you are a WRITER. For those who are self publishing, and who are taking it seriously, you know that there is nothing easy about it.

The self publishing success stories you hear about- those in the Joanna Penn, Hugh Howie and Mark Dawson categories- you will find common habits and themes that ensured their success. They wrote amazing books because they also got into a strict routine that worked for them and they stuck to it. These are 5 things that will help you kick self-publishing ass:

200Back It Up

Okay, this one should be a no brainer in any business, and yet every writer has experienced it. My big number is 10,000 words but I know others who have lost 250k+. Writers live on their computers, we pour hours of love and blood into our works. The rule: Have one back up locally, and one back up off base (in case your house burns down).

With all of the Dropboxs, iClouds, USB hard drives and multiple server technology there is no excuse not to save your work in a secure location. If you are sticking to a writing goal everyday (as you should be) than the very last thing you want to have to do is fall to weeping in front of an IT guru when he tells you that your hard drive could not be saved.

Take the time, back it up so that you don’t have to do it all again.

Recommended back up platforms for writers:

Writing Time Is Sacred

Life is busy for everyone. Talk to any wanna-be-writer and the first excuse they will give you is “I would write but I just don’t seem to have the time.” If you want to be a writer you actually have to write. You have to carve out a space in the day that is for writing alone. Even if you sit there for an hour staring blankly at the screen you make that time yours. Know when your commitments are and when your optimal writing time is. Get up an hour earlier in the morning if you know you have stuff to do after work, utilise your lunch breaks, your commute home, the hour you get after you put the kids to bed. No excuses. Life will always be busy, there will always be something else that needs to be done. Find your time, dig your heels in and claim it for your writing everyday.

Block It Out

Once you have selected that time for writing, you have to block life’s distractions out. I use the Pomodoro method- work in 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks between. It’s been said that our attention spans can last around 2 hours. So 4 ‘pomodoro’s’ and then a half hour break. Because I have a dire Facebook habit, I use a Chrome plugin called Strict Workflow which blocks websites from me for 25 minutes- but only the ones choose. So if I need to research Wikipedia I won’t put that down.

This may mean turning your wifi off so you don’t check Facebook, getting your partner to take the kids for their daily walk to the park or closing the door to your flatmates and partner. The world has no place in your writing. Be selfish, use ear plugs or noise reducing headphones, whatever it takes for you to block it out and focus at the task at hand. You only have a certain amount of time allocated to writing don’t let yourself be distracted, the new episode of Game of Thrones can wait (ha ha).
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Read

To quote urban-fantasy writer Lev Grossman,

Read everything. If you haven’t read everything, you’ll never be able to write anything.”

He is hardly the first writer to present this sentiment because it is a universal truth, good readers make great writers. Reading as a writer feeds us, , you start to see the tricks and when you don’t see them immediately you go back and disseminate in order to find it. It is harder to pull a writer into a world without them turning over every rock. It is in the rock turning that we learn about our own writing and where it is lacking. Struggling with world building? Try Tolkien, the master world builder. Writing clever crime? Read Sherlock Holmes. Know what is out there and feed your own creativity, your work will thank you for it.

Check in with your Writer World

Writing is a solitary business. We are natural introverts but occasionally checking in with the real world can help refresh you and pull you out of a writing slump. Some writer’s really thrive in writing groups and for others they are the most destructive force. Writers need other writers. These are your people, your tribe, they understand your struggles, the one’s that won’t get offended when you bring out a notebook and pen at dinner. Writers brain storm you out of writers block, pour wine as you complain about character’s and plot holes and are the best resource when dealing with writer related questions. They give constructive feedback and encouragement when you need it most.

There is no secret formula for success in self-publishing. It is a job that takes a lot of work and commitment. The writer’s that have ‘made it’ are multitasking, writing entrepreneurial machines. What works for them may not work for you, but the things that all writer’s must do, the things that will give you a solid foundation in order to become successful, are the simple things. Tangible, every day things that have exponential returns.

So remember:

  1. Back up your work so you don’t lose it
  2. Carve out a writing time that is yours (and stick to it)
  3. Block out all the world’s distractions
  4. Reading is a writer’s water so drink deeply from multiple wells, and
  5. Make sure you touch base with other writers so that you don’t end up hanging around your gloomy writing cave like a starved, wordsmith Golum.

What are some of your tips to keep you writing focused?  

 

 

 

How to write the perfect Amazon Book Description

Amazon is a powerful tool in the self publishers shed so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make it work for you. Knowing how to market your work properly in this huge book paradise can get you noticed by your target audience and drive your sales higher. Today we are going to talk about the importance of the Book Description on your Amazon page and how to get your book to sell.

 What It’s NotNo No

The term ‘Book Description’ can be very misleading in what it’s actually asking for. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive layout of your book, with all your cast of characters and exactly what happens. You don’t want to lay down a full synopsis where you tell the potential reader all of your highlights. Giving away too much of the story will annoy readers and end up turning them off purchasing it.

 What It Is

The best way to think of Amazon Book Descriptions is to consider it in the terms of an enhanced paperback cover blurb. You are writing advertising copy to attract interest and excitement in shoppers. The goal is to intrigue, entice and convince customers that they simply must know more.

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How to Lay Out Your Amazon Book Description

There are many good marketing resources geared towards the perfect Book Description but all agree that the following layout, in genre focused variations, works the most effectively:

  1. Jump onto Amazon’s #100 Best Sellers in your genre and study how their book descriptions have been assembled. Like cover design there will be a distinct difference in how your genre is marketed compared to all the others. Study them, pick up tips and tailor your description to these specifications.
  1.  If you have won any awards or accolades put them first in your description e.g. New York Times Best Seller, No.1 Amazon Best Seller. If you do not have any awards you can always start with a positive quote from a reviewer. NOT YOUR MUM. Someone who is a professional reviewer such as Kirkus Reviews or Self Publishing Review.

A good review can go a long way in establishing your credibility as a writer and publisher.

  1. The first line of your description is the most important. Try to think of it as your sales hook. Don’t be nervous about referencing other well known authors here. If you wrote a book about a young pre-adolescent boy who learns magic it doesn’t do any harm to compare it to J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter or Diana Wynne Jones’ Chrestomanci.
  1. Your book description should cover these points:
    • Don’t be vague or boring
    • Keep it simple– don’t go into too much detail
    • Don’t give your story or plot lines away
    • Introduce the character in a single line
    • Focus on your characters, and their goals
    • Short, punchy, emotive sentences.
    • Deliver the conflict, make the reader beg to see if it is resolved.
  1.  Always leave the reader wanting more. Closing with particular questions is a good way to leave a description open ended. e.g. “Will Lassie get help in time? Or will little Tommy be left alone in the dark forever?” You can also use this as a tagline on your front cover to catch a reader’s attention.

These are but a few helpful ideas to get your thoughts of your own Book Description flowing. It can be painful and time consuming activity but it’s worth taking the time to get it right as this section is the first example of your writing that readers will encounter. You need to get them interested!

Writing Book Descriptions isn’t an exact science, there is no magic formula that will work every time, but using them as a marketing tool can help attract your readers. The most important thing to remember? You can always rewrite and change it up until you find what works for you and your story!

For more information on crafting Book Descriptions the below is some helpful links and testimonials:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/10/05/the-11-ingredients-of-a-sizzling-book-description/

http://thefutureofink.com/kindle-books-sales-tool/

https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1462

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2011/best-practices-for-amazon-ebook-sales/

What have you found works well in a Books Description? As a reader and consumer what turns you off about Book Descriptions when you are shopping?