Category Archives: Self-publishing

What Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book?

Gutenberg rocks!

A friend who’s active in a lively writer’s group send along an infographic showing what Reedsy, an ambitious outfit providing services to self-publishing authors, estimates to be the cost of self-publishing, based on its own internal data

It’s pretty interesting. After many little pictures and much self-promotion, the authors conclude that the cost of a self-published book runs from $2,500 to $4,000.

I’m not going to argue with their figures, except to say that if they’re charging less than two cents a word for their contract editors, then their editors, who presumably split the fee with the referring company, are not earning market rates. Not by a long shot. This would mean many or most of them are in Third World countries — India, for example, does a brisk business in providing editorial and design services at less than US minimum wage. Reedsy’s site features editors living in the UK, but without signing up for their service, you can’t see more than two or three bios.

What I will argue with, though, is the assertion that the costs they’ve included add up to “how much it costs to self-publish a book.”

The figures they offer do not include marketing, distribution, or fulfillment. And truth to tell: if no one knows about your book, no one is gonna buy it.

Marketing is and should be a major line item in your self-publishing business plan budget.

And once you’ve sold the book to a customer or two, getting it to them isn’t free, either. Although some people will tell you that CreateSpace will print and distribute your hard-copy book for free, that is not true.

Amazon itself takes a cut of 20% to 40% of sale price. CreateSpace then takes its cut: a fixed charge and a per-page charge. These depend on the length and design of the book:

Fixed Charges

Fixed charges vary depending on your book’s page count and whether your book’s interior is black and white or full-color.

Amazon.com, CreateSpace eStore, and Expanded Distribution
Black and white books with 24-108 pages $2.15 per book
Black and white books with 110-828 pages $0.85 per book
Full-color books with 24-40 pages $3.65 per book
Full-color books with 42-500 pages $0.85 per book
Amazon Europe
Books printed in Great Britain £0.70 per book
Books printed in continental Europe €0.60 per book

Per-Page Charge

Books with higher page counts may also have a per-page charge.

Amazon.com, CreateSpace eStore, and Expanded Distribution
Black and white books with 24-108 pages None
Black and white books with 110-828 pages $0.012 per page
Full-color books with 24-40 pages None
Full-color books with 42-500 pages $0.07 per page
Amazon Europe
Black and white books printed in Great Britain £0.01 per page
Full-color books printed in Great Britain £0.045 per page
Black and white books printed in continental Europe €0.012 per page
Full-color books printed in continental Europe €0.06 per page

That is not free, especially when Amazon (of which CreateSpace is a creature) constantly exerts downward pressure on pricing.

Let’s take a look at what some other folks say about the cost of a self-published book.

Over at The Creative Penn, a pretty credible and dependable site, proprietor Joanna Penn ticks off a list of standard services:

Editing: $300 to $2,000
Cover design: $50 to $300
Formatting: $50 to $200

That gives a range of $400 to $2,500…again not counting marketing, printing (for hard copy), and fulfillment. (“Fulfillment” in publishing means the process of delivering a book, magazine, or newspaper.)

The Write Life got four writers to report costs for editing; cover design; interior layout, formatting, and ebook conversion (odd, because these are three different things); printing; sales and distribution costs (most of the writers mistakenly believed these were free through Amazon or Smashwords), and launch and marketing costs.

The results here, I’m afraid, reflect the respondents’ naiveté. Sales and distribution, as explained above, are not free services: you pay a cut of the sales price to Amazon and (for print books) to CreateSpace. The so-called “royalty” you receive (more properly termed “net revenue”) reflects these cuts.

Additionally, some of the respondents did one or more of the publishing tasks themselves. This is fine if you’re an editor and a trained designer; otherwise…well, you’re in “where angels fear to tread” territory.

The four authors self-report their costs:

Hope: $250 for cover design; all other aspects DIY
Catherine: $1,250 for ebook conversion, cover design, and editing
Joanna: $1,650 for “editing and print formatting, bartering for cover design, plus BookBub ad fees”
Dana: $150 for editing and illustration, and “$5 per month for distribution”

That’s a far cry from $2,500 to $4,000. On the other hand, with that much amateur editing and design, you can be sure the low-end books looked like their authors spent next to nothing on them. Nothing but their time, that is.

Let’s visit one more site: MediaShift. There we find a different set of estimates for what is described as “a high-quality book” of about 70,000 words.

Developmental editing: $2,520 to $18,200
Copyediting: $840 to $7,000
Cover design: $150 to $3,500
Formatting for print and digital conversion: free to $2,500
ISBN: $125 for one (if you buy in bulk the per-item price is much lower)
Distribution: free (again, this is questionable)
Printing: depends on length and design (I pay $6 to $8 per book, give or take)
Pre-publication reviews: Kirkus, $425; BlueInk Reviews, $396; PW Select, $149
Marketing and PR: $100 to $5,000

Since the other websites neglect to mention the cost of marketing, selling, and distribution, by way of comparing apples and oranges let’s pull out the editing, design and e-book conversion, then add up the cost of peddling the thing, and then tote up all the costs.

  • Editing, copyediting, cover design, and formatting: $3,510 to $31,200
    ISBN, distribution, printing (for, let us say, 100 books), reviews (low end: one review on PW Select, high end, all three outlets), and marketing and PR: $974 to $6,895
  • Total: $4484 to $38,095

Holy sh!t.

Welp, I’d advise that you are screaming crazy if you pony up $39,000 to self-publish your book.

On the other hand, you’re not much less crazy if you try to do most or all of the job yourself —  unless, of course, you’re an expert in writing, editing, design, layout, book marketing, and fulfillment.

The problem is, some of us may indeed be expert in some of these areas. If you know how to do page layout or cover design, you can save some dollars in book production. If you’re a really good writer (in reality, not in your own mind) and you have some copyediting skills, maybe you can cut some costs there, though you should at least have a proofreader go over the manuscript before taking the thing to press. But most of us are not expert in all the areas.

In my experience — which is now considerable, for I have self-published five books and published three others through real, mainline presses — the Creative Penn’s estimates for editing, cover design, and formatting are about right. Though I think MediaShift’s low-end guess for all the rest of the necessary services is too low, as a start-up cost for printing, distribution, and marketing, $975 is about right. Seven grand for those services seems a little high, unless you’re making money on the book; probably a realistic figure is $2,000 to $5,000. If you’re not turning a profit by the time you’ve spent that much, it’s time to cut your losses.

So, what does it cost to self-publish a book? You can do it on the cheap, if you don’t care how the product looks or how many copies you sell: maybe $150 to around $1,250. If you’re serious about selling it, probably something upward of $4,000.

AH HAH! Moment: A new use for indexes

So here I am, dragging through the index for 420 pages of the new book, The Complete Writer.

On the side, I index books for a living. I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the past several years. But must admit: indexing makes my eyes glaze over.

After I’d compiled this index, a previously unnoticed pagination error surfaced in the content. This dork-up required me to rewrite the whole damn index — that would be SEVEN single-spaced pages in 10-point type and double columns.

Then as I was contemplating the result, it occurred to me that the example I’d used for the chapter on how to write sex scenes was so tame that…well..it wasn’t really a sex scene. I’d tried to be nicey-nice, not wanting to offend anyone’s dainty sensibilities. Bad idea: offend no one, accomplish nothing. So I lifted a livelier scene from one of the Roberta Stuart books, a romp concocted by one of Camptown Races’ best writers. That changed the pagination again, from page 235 forward.

{sigh}

So now I had to rewrite the effing index again. It’s finally done, all the way from A for abstraction ladder to Z for Zinsser.

For writers: How to jump-start your creative engine when you're stuck

W… “How to Beat Writer’s Block”

As I got about into the R’s, it occurred to me an index to a book would serve nicely as an index to public speaking topics.

Yeah…

One of the plans for marketing this book entails doing presentations for groups of writers, students, and the like, at which I will offer folks a marvelous opportunity to buy the thing.

R…
….Revision
……..six-step strategy, 57-66

Et voilà! There’s a dog-&-pony show: “Six Steps to Revising Your Book”!

S…
….Scams, 343-49

S...Six Scams to Avoid

S…”Six Scams to Avoid”

Yeah! “Avoid these Five Scams for Writers”!

Too, too good, isn’t it? Nowhere near as good as

S…
….Sex scenes, writing, 343-49

Woo hoo! “How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes!”

It gets better and better.

Well, come Thursday I have to give a presentation to a business group I belong to. Now’s my chance to start practicing these things! 😀 I think probably “Scams for Writers” would be better for this august bunch than, say, “Sizzling Sex Scenes.” Not that they wouldn’t enjoy contemplating that particular aspect of the writer’s art. Just that…well…I’d never hear the end of it from that bunch. 😀

So there you go, fellow scribblers. If you have a nonfiction book that’s substantial enough for an index, use the index as a source for public speaking topics. The index entries work a lot better for the purpose than does the table of contents, because they’re much more specific: better focused. And if your index is complete, it’ll point you right to the material you need to create a presentation.

S...How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes

S…”How to Write Sizzling Sex Scenes”

Let’s Get Real…About Self-Publishing

Yes. Let’s get real. In self-publishing, a few people make a little money on their books. A very few make a lot of money on their books. But most self-publishers run in the red.

Tips to help make writing a priority when life is busy.

One of these days…

P&S Press makes a little money (very little) on its proprietor’s golden words. But most of the press’s revenues have come from helping others prepare their books for publication: that is to say, The Copyeditor’s Desk is the main driver of income for the entire incorporated enterprise.

In consideration of that reality, some time ago I stopped actively trying to sell Plain & Simple books. Revenues from Amazon have remained the same, whether I hustle as hard as I can or whether I just let the stuff sit there: about $15 to $19 a month.

Fifteen bucks a month…on over 40 titles. That’s combined Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races output. And no, speaking of Camptown Races: soft-core “erotica” does not sell better than ordinary nonfiction or genre novels.

A couple new books of my own are in the works — but they get put aside whenever paying work comes in from a client.

That means, in effect, they’re always set aside. Every single time I sit down to format the boob book for print or finish off the guide to writing & publishing, someone shows up at the virtual door asking me to edit this magnum opus or to index that scholarly tome. So…I’m always busy, but rarely busy on my own stuff.

“My own stuff” is, de facto, no longer a business but a hobby.

Nor was it ever much other than a hobby, given that it ran the S-corporation deep into the red. If I land the indexing project presently under consideration, that fee will bring the bottom line back to where it was before I took to sailin’ the Amazon. But just barely. And it’s taken over a year to do it.

The plan now is to keep on writing, in idle hours, to publish the stuff on Amazon, to make it available in hard copy whenever there’s something to publish. But I’m not spending any more money on it. And it will always go on the back burner whenever a paying customer shows up.

My own writing will revert to hobby status, to be posted on Amazon much as one displays one’s quilts or needlework or pecan pies at the County Fair.

If I can get one or more of the local colleges to let me teach extension courses — the “lifelong learning” sort of thing — I may use the writing guide as a “suggested text” (we’re not allowed to require people to buy our own books). That will sell a few. But otherwise, that will be about it in the marketing department.

Marketing is what costs you money. And time.

Since time supposedly is money, you could say book marketing costs you money in spades. It’s a huge time suck, and unless you like marketing, have nothing else to do, and love diddling away your time on social media, it’s an ongoing annoyance.

If you enjoy sales and marketing, I’m sure it’s fun. I personally don’t: if I were good at marketing, as we scribble I’d be making a decent living selling cars or refrigerators or radio ad space. Writers don’t live in their garrets because they so love hustling wares, their own or anyone else’s.

 

Pen-Names, Pseudonyms: When, Where, Why, and How?

When and how to write under a pen name - useful stuffA friend, in the course of chatting about the Publishing Empire, asked how you go about using a pen-name, and by the way…when and where would you use a pseudonym, and why?

Well, the why can be pretty obvious: if you’re tattling on the President of the United States and the CIA, it’s probably wise to call yourself something like Deep Throat.

There are other reasons, of course. You might publish a memoir or a piece of autobiographical fiction that reflects dimly on a relative. Or maybe you write Edwardian-period romance novels and think a by-line that sounds aristocratically romantic will help sell books. Or maybe you’re doing a corporate project written by a number of people and, to avoid confusion, choose a single (real or fake) by-line.

TravelerCover-LORES-764x1024In our case, for example,Roberta Stuart” is actually five writers, all emanating pulp fiction for the Camptown Races Press imprint. Each has written several Roberta Stuart stories over time. The reason we decided to put them all out under the same pen-name was to build brand recognition: a Roberta Stuart story is short, often witty or outright hilarious, sometimes marked by magical realism, and always genially erotic. An incidental benefit is that our authors can choose to or not to reveal their role in creating the persona of the pseudonymous pornography queen. Some of their friends and relatives know nothing; other CR authors are fairly open about this aspect of their writing careers.

How do you go about it? Simply choose a name and put it on the title and the copyright page. When you apply for an ISBN at Bowker (this is an international cataloguing code — you need it to get your magnum opus into Books in Print), the form will ask you for the name of the author, which may be different from the name of the copyright holder. For all the Racy Books, I always list Roberta as the “author.”

You also can list a pseudonym at Amazon. There, it’s a little more problematic, because Amazon limits the number of pseudonyms you can use. If you publish a lot and you’ve published under more than one version of your own name, this can put a crimp on your style, because Amazon regards every version of your real name as a “pseudonym.”

This, of course, is incorrect. If your name is Robert Smith and you write as Bob Smith in some places and Rob Smith in others, none of those are “pseudo” (i.e., false) names: they’re all variants of your name.

But no amount of arguing with Amazon factotums will bring about a change in this inconvenient policy.

robert sidneyI find it particularly annoying because Amazon has glommed publications that I’ve emitted under three variants of my name. My first book, The Life of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, was published under my full, formal name: Millicent V. Hay. A scholarly biography, it came out at a time when I still hoped for a full-bore academic career, and so I wanted it to appear under the name that appears on my curriculum vitae.

But…I happen to hate that name. As a little girl, I was bullied so fiercely throughout grade school that I became suicidal. The sappy name was a ripe target for the little monsters who made my life so miserable that at the age of 10 or 12, I wanted to end it. To this day, the name “Millicent” elicits a physical cringe reflex.

When I escaped that school and that country and started attending schools in the US, I called myself “Vicky,” a familiar version of my middle name. This worked well because it was so plain vanilla it provided no ammunition and never did spur any significant meanness among my stateside classmates.

essential featureIn the fullness of time, I became a magazine journalist: a writer and editor for a variety of local and regional publications. My byline was the name that everyone knew: Vicky Hay. I never wrote a journalistic article under any other name, and my guide to newspaper and magazine writing, The Essential Feature, came out under that name.

With the vast encyclopedia of contacts I built — I knew or knew of every top-flight writer, editor, graphic artist, and photographer in the Southwest — I decided to start a kind of finder’s service. We would put publishing clients in touch with editorial and graphic talent and, if desired, package books and other publications for them. At this time I took on a business partner, a guy who had been a public relations professional for decades.

He felt that “Vicky” was way too informal. He asked me to start using my full middle name: “Victoria.”

MathMagicWe put a lot of stuff out under that name. In one book, where I didn’t want an essay inside the book to coincide with the publisher’s name, I used my mother’s maiden name, Julie DeLong, as a pen-name. Eventually, I cowrote Math Magic with a fellow named Scott Flansburg, and of course used the fancy middle name: Victoria Hay, Ph.D. That one turned into a best-seller, thanks to Scott’s high-level marketing skills.

Now I decide to experiment with self-publishing, pretty much for the Hell of it…and that’s when Amazon informs me that I can’t publish under the name Roberta Stuart because I already have three pseudonyms.

Which are NOT pseudonyms.

So how do you copyright material written under pen names? Anything you create in a reproducible medium — including writing — is automatically copyrighted as you create it. You own the copyright on it by virtue of your having made it. You can publish it and copyright it under any pen name you please. The copyright will always belong to you, unless you choose to sell some or all of your rights in the work.

Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races Press are both imprints (effectively DBAs) of an S-corporation, The Copyeditor’s Desk. Because receipts come in to the corporation and contractors’ fees are paid by the corporation, I register the copyrights in our works to the corporation. The corporation buys all rights to subcontracted works, and the corporation owns the copyright in everything it publishes.

This provides a corporate veil between the principals (me and a business partner) and the doings of the business. Sometimes this can come in handy. And it certainly simplifies the tax accounting.

If you’re just one little person publishing one little book or one series of books, there’s no reason for you to get elaborate, as long as you dutifully pay your income taxes. Just publish the thing under whatever name you please.

Speaking of Scams for Wannabe Authors…

ScamAlert Depositphotos_80149964_m-2015The ever-engaging New Zealand Muse draws our attention to this spot of light from Laura Jane Williams over at The Financial Diet. She shares some straight talk about the financial facts of life enjoyed by a #1 best-selling author — that would be one published through a real publisher (yea verily, a Big Four publisher) that pays a real advance. Without going into detail, let’s just note that she’s trying to support herself as a part-time nanny.

Now and again, I’ve held forth here about the multilfarious scams to which would-be writers are subject. One could argue that, for most authors, the whole publishing industry is a bit of a scam, at least for those who don’t understand their real occupation will not be “author” but “ad copy hack and self-employed marketer.” That’s most egregiously true for people who style themselves “indie authors” and self-publish on Amazon.

Very few writers ever make earn a living at their craft. Publisher’s Weekly, the sine qua non of trade journals for the publishing industry, reports that most authors’ earnings fall below the poverty line, and what is more, author income has been dropping since 2008.

Authorearnings.com reports optimistically that 1,340 writers earn over $100,000 a year, and half of those are indies. This revelation is extracted from a mind-numbing aggregation of data gleaned from Amazon. AE claims, probably correctly, that the share of the market for books sold on Amazon is increasingly going to independent (i.e., self-) publishers. This is no doubt true: “publishing” on Amazon is the hot new thing to do. But that you are in a market does not mean you’re making any money in the market.

1340 people: let’s think about that. It’s not very many, when you consider that Amazon has 14 million books online. If half of those six-figure writers are indies, then only 670 self-publishing writers in the whole world are making a credibly good living at their trade.

Amazon sold 22 million copies of Kindle books alone in 2010. How many authors are required to produce 22 million sales?

Amazon itself deems only 40 self-published authors “successful.”

Between Amazon’s price-fixing practices and the enormous saturation of the book market, independent publishers and authors face daunting challenges. Getting a self-published book on the shelves of a real, physical store is not easy. The other day I learned that the pre-eminent independent bookstore in Arizona charges indie authors $300 for shelf space — and I can assure you, your chance of selling $300 worth of books there is almost nil. The sources through which real-world bookstores order their stock do not carry self-published books. You can get access through IndieReader and Ingram Spark…assuming you can afford to pay for it. Additionally, attracting media coverage from recognized mainstream newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters is extremely difficult: indie authors just don’t get no respect.

I’m often told that instead of clinging to my pessimistic view of life — the one in which one is never disappointed — I should try to be an optimist.

The optimist, then, would say about those 40 “successful” authors, Why shouldn’t I be one of those?

But I can’t get past the realist’s challenge: Why should you?

Image: DepositPhoto: © Aleutie

How to Format Your Book in Kindle (and When NOT to…)

Here's how to format a book for Kindle using Word.An interesting conversation is going on at my favorite Facebook group of nonfiction scribblers. One of the members asked if it’s very difficult to format your own book in Word and upload it from Word to Kindle. The answers are “yes and no.” That makes sense, because the answer is “yes and no.”

First, let’s look at the “When NOT to” embark on a DIY ebook formatting expedition. You should hire a professional ebook formatter who knows HTML and CSS like a native language when your book contains any kind of graphics. ANY kind: that means tables, graphs, charts, maps, photographs, drawings…anything that is not plain narrative with one (count it, 1) level of subhead below the chapter heading level.

I’m not going to go into the  horrors here, but trust me: you do not want to try to get even one image or other graphic into a Kindle book from Word on your own.

But if what you have is a novel, or a piece of nonfiction that contains nothing but plain, unadorned narrative, you can get that up on Kindle as easily as the next guy. It’s really very simple.

Here’s how, assuming you’re working in Word…

Step 1: Set your program to save every five minutes. Word is squirrelly and fully capable of crashing at random (as you probably know by now…). Better to lose three or four minutes’ worth of work than ten minutes’ worth. In this process, loss of ten or fifteen minutes of work will be intensely frustrating, because it’s mind-numbing work and because you can get a fair amount done in that period and you will not feel happy about having to do it all over again.

The font does not matter, because Kindle readers can choose whatever font and size they wish and Amazon will arrogate your copy unto itself and use a standard font for the Kindle production. I have my Word set to default to Times New Roman 12 points, no space before or after paragraphs, because I dislike Word’s current default font and hate having air around my grafs. However, for your purposes, it doesn’t matter because your font formatting will go away in Kindle, so…use the plainest standard font formatting as your default.

Similarly, e-books do not have running headers and footers. Do not insert a running header with page numbers plus your name or the book title or the chapter title, because these will not appear in the Kindle version.

Step 2: Insert a table of contents field, if you know how. I personally like Joel Friedlander’s Word templates from Book Design Templates, because they’re extremely easy to use and they come with the TofC field built in. For best results, select one that switch-hits between print and e-book formatting.

Step 3: Format ALL content using Word’s “styles” function. Format the chapter headings (known as “level 1 heads”) as Heading 1 and any subheads under that (known as “level 2 heads”) as Heading 2.

WordStyles

Use Word’s “Styles” to format your MS for Amazon.

Word, which is extremely rigid, sets these things in blue type. Some of us find that annoying. You can either manually change the color to black, or you can reset the Heading 1 and Heading 2 styles with Format > Styles > [select the style to change] > Modify. Once in there, explore around: you’ll find commands to set the font color and size and the paragraph formatting.

Format the paragraphs as well as the heads and subheads using “Styles.” If you’re not using a template, use the style titled “Normal.” To format a paragraph, highlight it and go to Format > Style > Normal. You can highlight a whole series of paragraphs at once, or you can format one paragraph and use the formatting brush icon to spread the selected format around to other paragraphs.

Step 4. Format all italic, bold face, and small caps using “Styles.” Styles for this purpose come with a commercial template; if you’re using a plain ordinary Word document, you may have to create a new style. Format > Style > New. Be sure it’s set for the font and size you’ve chosen. Then, in Format > Style > New, click the down arrow in the “Format” box. In the pane that appears, under “Formatting” you’ll be able to choose whatever you like. If you want to create a style for italic, for example, simply click on the i icon for italic. Name the Style “Italic.” (Or bold face or small caps or whatever.)

What you can’t do:

Do not try to insert drop caps. Although it’s possible to do so, you need to know coding to make it work. Converting an ordinary Word file with drop caps will create a screw-up. If you want to decorate opening lines, set the first few words in all caps (not small caps!), and set the first line of a first paragraph under a heading or subheading flush left. This is ditzy, especially if your book is long, and it’s not necessary. Avoid if you don’t know what you’re doing or you have no design background at all.

Ditto images: they do not convert easily from a plain Word file to Kindle. They’re likely to come out in tiny sub-postage-stamp size and in weird places. If you have images or other graphics, hire a book formatter to do this job!

Don’t try to change fonts around. For example, don’t try to set normal paragraphs in, say, Times New Roman 12 points and block quotations in, say, Calibri 11 points. This can create a mish-mash. Set the entire document in the same typeface (what Word calls a “font”) and use only boldface and italic for variety.

Don’t lay out interior copy in standard print form — that is, with all first pages on recto pages. There is no recto and verso in an e-book.

Step 5. Update the table of contents. Right-click in the TofC field and in the pop-up menu, select Update Field > Update Entire Table.

If you are using a Macintosh you will need to update the table of contents on a PC!!!!!!!!! Endlessly annoying Amazon will not read a table of contents generated on a Mac or updated on a Mac. In that case, email the document to a friend with a PC and explain to the person how to to update the TofC, or else copy the file to a flash drive, traipse to a public library that has PCs, and update it on that machine.

Step 6. Proofread, proofread, proofread! Ideally, get someone else to proofread the document at least once, since you now are so accustomed to reading it that your mind subconsciously “corrects” errors as you trudge through the copy for the 147th time, and you will not see all of the typos.

Get the front matter right. If you do not know what a copyright page is supposed to look like, get a book from an established publishing house and copy the format carefully on your own copyright page. You probably will not have the Library of Congress data, but otherwise do not leave any of the copyright page elements out.

I will not go in to the question of whether you should get an ISBN or let Amazon assign its own inventory number to your book (that is not an ISBN; don’t let anybody tell you it is). All I can say is you’re better off to get an ISBN of your own, and yes, you do need a separate ISBN for each format in which you publish: .mobi, ePub, print, whatEVER.

Step 7. List your keywords and write a short, enticing description of your book. Save to disk, so as to be sure these notes do not disappear.

Step 8. Go to your author dashboard in Amazon and click on the box that says “Create New Title.” It’s at the top of the page next to “New Title Checklist. No Amazon page yet? Tsk. If you haven’t established an account yet, do so now. Here are some clues to that process.

Step 9. Fill in the blanks on the form. You’ll need to decide whether you’re going to select KDP Select, which is a program that supposedly gives you a little marketing boost and that allows you to price your book lower than $2.99. Its drawback is that Amazon embargoes your book for 90 days — you can’t sell it anywhere else, not even from your own website. Some people are not bothered by this; in any event, you can exit the program any time you wish.

Jump through all the hoops required on the first page, inserting the keywords and description you’ve thought through carefully and written out. You’ll upload your cover as a JPEG and then upload the content of your book as a .doc or .docx file. Where it asks if you want to enable digital rights management: Amazon suggests you do NOT choose this option because it annoys readers who would like to share your book with others. It also may complicate Amazon’s plan to use your work in its lending program. If you do not mind pirating — DRM does provide some protection against theft — select “do not enable.” If you care whether people steal your book, select “enable digital rights managment.”

Step 10. Preview your book and download a copy of the MOBI file. Amazon will suggest you use the online previewer. Do NOT do this. The online previewer gives you a very weak idea of how the book will look on a real Kindle. Download the computer-resident Kindle previewer that Amazon offers at this stage. It will take awhile — go have lunch and come back. Now download the .mobi file into your Kindle previewer. This will give you a rough idea of the book’s appearance on a reading device — it’s not perfect, but it’ll have to do. If you have an iPad, you can get the Kindle App and email the MOBI file to yourself as an attachment. Open the file on the iPad and it will come up in the Kindle app. This will give you a better idea of how the thing will look on a Kindle reader.

Get the MOBI file by downloading it into Amazon’s previewer on your computer, finding the file in your downloads, and saving to the desired folder in your records.

Step 11. Proofread, proofread, proofread! Do NOT imagine the file will go up without a hitch. It will not. Go over the entire document in the Kindle reader. Fix each glitch in your Word file.

Use Amazon’s spell check tool, which creates a list of what it thinks are misspelled words at the time you upload your file. It will choke on place names, unusual personal names, and foreign words…but it will catch typos. This is extremely useful. But you still must proofread the book from beginning to end before your final post.

When you’re satisfied with what you have, upload the final corrected file again. And preview and proofread it again. This process may take awhile. You probably will have to re-upload the file at least twice — possibly several times — to get it right. It can be time-consuming, so allow an hour or two. Once you’re  happy with it, click “Save and Continue” to move on to the next page to set your price and tell Amazon where you’re selling the book. Fill in the blanks there and click “Publish.”

Et voilà! You’re a “published” author. And now the real work begins: selling it…

You can see my own and our authors’ published works here at Plain & Simple Press and also at Camptown Races Press. Please be forewarned that Camptown Races publishes “Racy Books for Racy Readers” — they’re romantic erotica, not intended for minors or for adults with delicate sensibilities.

And remember: Every Writer Needs an Editor. 😉

Lose 40 Pounds in 4 Months

woo HOO! The finished product!

Building the Print Empire

Okay, okay: “the print anthill.” What can one say?

Manager at a local Whole Foods opined that 30 Pounds/4 Months might find a place on the store’s shelves. However, the buyer for that segment of the store had left and they hadn’t replaced him yet; he suggested I come back in a few weeks and try again.

Well, that’s heartening. It’s not the only WF in town, not by a long shot. Plus we have a local chain of gourmet stores that really is friendly to local businesses. One of my neighbors started baking and selling very fancy (indeed!) cookies after she and her husband were laid off during the Recession. She started with Local Gourmet right down the street, and before she knew it had more business than she could handle. The income kept the wolf from the door: they did not lose their home, nor did financial disaster befall them when they had a baby in the middle of all this.

I figure a diet book that urges people to buy nothing but whole, fresh foods and shows how to fix them should be right up the alley for those worthy grocery purveyors.

Also, believe it or not we still have one surviving REAL bookstore here. It’s much beloved and is doing well enough to branch out. It has two stores, one of them right down the road. And I’m told the owner has said she will consider peddling self-published books if they look professionally designed. Dorkish, no…but if you’ve done a decent job of writing & design: maybe.

So my plan is to take the 30 Pounds and Slave Labor in her direction, also bearing with me the fistful of books I’ve emitted through “traditional” publishers, so she’ll know I’m more than the average little old lady with a publishing hobby.

Accordingly, I decided to order a copy of Slave Labor and one of the first collected Fire-Rider volumes through the new PoD vendor. Thought it would be a piece of cake…but it turned into a humongous project that absorbed the entire day.

An old friend who used to do design for Arizona Highways and was the art director at Scottsdale Magazine for years did the Slave Labor cover. And a very nice job of it he did, indeed. It was the first of my little publishing efforts, and so it never occurred to me to ask him to provide not just a PDF but also a high-resolution JPEG or TIFF. At the time, I didn’t know any better.

Asked for the latter, he couldn’t find one. The PDF he’d sent me was 72 dpi. Why? No clue. But that was all I had.

I’d created a wrap-around cover for Slave Labor quite some time ago, but it also seems only to exist in PDF. To sell the book through a retailer, I needed to add a bar code, which I hadn’t done before because I had no intention of selling a print version at all. There seemed to be no way to add a new design element to a PDF.

So I had to take the PDF of the Kindle cover (72dpi????? HOW did I get this thing on Amazon?) and convert that to a JPEG and then create a new cover and then add the bar code.

In converting from PDF to JPEG on a Mac, you can tell Preview to save a 72 dps file at a resolution of 300 dps. That’s rather futile, because if you don’t have 300 dps to start with, you’re not going to end up with anything like a real 300 dps image. It’s kind of like trying to turn a piece of gauze into percale: yeah, you can weave more lengths of cotton thread into it, and yeah, you’ll probably end up with a sturdier piece of cloth. But it ain’t a-gonna be percale. Similarly, your system can “guess” at the colors of the missing pixels and where they might have been, but the result ain’t a-gonna be a true 300 dps image.

It certainly won’t print with the perfect definition. But I think it’ll be good enough for government work. I hope. I reproduced the back cover and tightened up the back cover copy. Looks OK, I think. I hope.

USE THIS SL cover

The copy was easy enough: it was already formatted and just went right up there.

Posting the Fire-Rider collection to the PoD folks’ site was another matter altogether. The cover was ready to go, but as I looked at the content…not so much.

Among the many fixes that needed to be made: one chapter’s first page, which which should have appeared on a recto (odd-numbered) page…well, it did so, but only with an extra blank page (i.e., two blank pages) in front of it.

Say what?

Fixing that screwed up the TofC, but that’s not such a big deal with a print book.

Then I realized…waaaaiiitaminit here! If this were a real print book, when a verso page is left blank it would also be unnumbered. Well, no: it would be numbered but the page number and running header or footer would not appear on that page, just as they do not appear on the opening page of a chapter.

It’s easy to persuade Wyrd to refrain from showing headers & page numbers on first pages. But…that’s about as far as it goes.

The fix is simple, but it’s (urk!) manual. To hide the running header/footer on a blank verso page, you have to insert a “shape” (a rectangle will do the trick), set it to show no fill, no line, no shadow (yes, goddamn Wyrd auto-inserts a freaking shadow on those things). Then bring it forward, keep it in the body (not in the header or footer) and slide it over so it will cover the offending characters. Works like a charm, as long as you’re not bothered by activities best described as “time-consuming, ditzy, and annoying.” It helps a great deal if your bookoid is not 320 pages long…

That and a few other housekeeping tasks helped to fill a good 12 hours. But I think the result will be very attractive.

FR Hard Copy 1 Take 3 LoRes. jpg

If you’d like to buy a five-star reviewed sci-fi saga, lemme know in the comments below. I figure to make a profit selling it in a bookstore, I’d need to charge $12 to $14. But because you’re You, I’ll discount it to $9 + shipping and handling.

Publishing Polka: Gearing back up

The publishing empire has gone quiet for the past few weeks. Between the holiday hecticity and the first seriously annoying cold I’ve had in two or three years, a fair amount of momentum has been lost. But now we’re beginning to gear back up.

Racy Books: The latest story in The Travelers’ Tales went online yesterday. It’s kind of a funny little story about an antiques dealer who meets a painter in the course of his business…and finds a new occupation.

Presentation6 LoResTwo more stories are upcoming in that series. Then we have several free-standing stories hanging fire, which we’ll be publishing in February and March.

One of the liveliest “Roberta Stuart” writers — she’s responsible for most of Roberta’s tales — has learned to use Calibre and figured out how to convert our .mobi files into ePub books pretty smoothly. She believes they look good. My iPad is refusing to let my MacMail stay open and will not access my gmail accounts, so I haven’t been able to examine our first efforts “in the wild,” as it were. But as soon as we’re sure the conversion looks good, we’ll start mounting the Racy Books on AllRomanceEbooks and possibly on Smashwords. Or possibly on Nook alone…we’re still studying that.

Plain & Simple Books: We’ve moved to a new PoD vendor, Author2Market, with whom so far I’ve been very pleased. Their price is much better than the outfit we’ve been working with, and they’re located in town, so I can run down to their plant to pick up books. This will be good.

A2M also will help with fulfillment by shipping direct to your customers. Not only that, but they’ll make you a mailing label with your logo on it! 😀

Dark Kindle LoResThe diet/cookbook is in production (again!), and the new page proofs should be ready the first part of next week. We’ve already presold four hard copies, and I’ve had almost nothing to say about it to anything. The thing is practically selling itself. Tomorrow I’ll take the page proofs to a scribblers’ meeting, where I hope to peddle a few more of the things.

fire book 2aiThe middle of this month, I’ll post the third and last collection of Fire-Rider stories, also a production of Plain & Simple Press. That assumes I have time to put the package together, which may not be the case. If I can’t find time to compile the thing, it’ll have to wait until February.

Fire-Rider is one of two loci for a new marketing campaign we have under way. I’ve hired a marketing agent, who is launching a Facebook Ads campaign to try to get some attention to that saga of speculative fiction.

Sagas, though, seem to be a dime a dozen, and so I’m not holding my breath until we all get rich. It would just be nice to come up with enough to pay the writers and the marketing lady.

Also in the marketing department, we plan to purchase a lot more ad space at SmartBitches/Trashy Books. Probably December wasn’t the ideal month to experiment with an ad campaign, Christmas being…whatever it is. However, we did learn that SBTB generates a healthy number of impressions. Clicks on ads: less so, but a helluva lot better than we’ve been doing through Twitter.

Do clicks on ads convert to sales? Not evident. We’re still not headed for the Riviera to live on the proceeds of our pornographic publishing empire. But we did a little better than we did last month.

Meanwhile, as usual nothing will do but what every client I’ve ever had — and a few new ones to boot — descend on me in the middle of

a) the holidays
b) a house guest/temporary roommate moving in for six or eight weeks
b) a cold or flu that has hung on for over two weeks
c) enough self-assigned work to keep me busy for the next three months.

So the copyediting business is thundering away — not altogether to the disadvantage of the publishing enterprise. One of the clients, a prolific writer who has had an interesting life, is completing a memoir whose interest he thinks will be limited mostly to friends and family. He’d like to publish the thing through Plain & Simple Press.

Very nice! Not only do I get paid for editing a 300-page manuscript, but Plain &  Simple Press gets to add to its list. He has several other books in progress, so if we manage to keep him happy, it looks like we’ll be in business awhile longer.

The present magnum opus, when poured into one of my layout templates, came to 535 pages…and that was without the images. Holy sh!t.

Our scholarly journal’s editors dumped an entire issue’s worth of copy on us last Monday, asking if we couldn’t please turn it around in a week.

Well. No.

My associate editor, on whom I usually foist this material, happens to edit the largest journal of organizational management on the planet. Some of its editorial is run through Oxford, whose email system was hacked shortly before Christmas. The Brits, as those of you who’ve ever spent time in England will know, take their vacation time seriously. Nary a thing was to be done for the crisis until after the first. By that time, she had some 2,000 frantic messages waiting for her.

I’d managed to get through one article — copyediting it but not doing the mark-up, a chore I truly hate — by the time Honored Client walked in the door. You may be sure the guy who pays sixty bucks an hour will be privileged over the outfit that pays a flat rate for an entire semiannual journal.

Moving on, the child of another old client surfaced, hoping to get some advice on a couple of college admissions essays. Adorable! Young people are so full of energy and ginger. Very promising…let’s hope she goes a long way.

One of the mathematicians e-mailed: can we translate his Chinglish into academicese? And do it by Friday? Oh, sure… Foisted that on a subcontractor; haven’t heard a word back.

And what can I tell you about writing, editing, and publishing?

Get a job as a Walmart greeter, dears. You’ll make a better living at it. And not work as hard.

😀

 

 

Dodging the Perils of Kindle

Have you ever tried re-upload a corrected manuscript to Amazon’s Kindle publishing function, only to find the corrections don’t go across? What you see is what you HAD, not what you WANT NOW.

This annoyance is most likely to occur after you’ve clicked “Save and Continue,” as opposed to “Save as Draft,” but I’ve had it happen pre-save or while I was in “save as draft” mode.

There’s a simple work-around.

Each time you run a manuscript through the “preview” process in Kindle  and find something to correct, save the corrected MS under a new filename.

Let’s say you’ve uploaded ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate.docx.

You’ve downloaded it to your(!) [not Amazon’s online!!!!!] Kindle previewer and found some damnfool thing you should never have missed in the first go-around.

You’ve gone into ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate.docx and fixed the errors.

Now save your file as ThePerilsofPaulineTemplate1.docx and re-upload.

And hallelujah brothers and sisters! This is far more likely to overwrite the first file than than the corrected file saved under the original filename.

Why, I do not know.

All I know is that this is so.

Every time you need to make corrections in a file you’ve already uploaded from .doc or .docx to .mobi, CHANGE THE FILENAME before the re-upload.

Vast numbers of intensely frustrating minutes will be saved.

Today I sat and watched the gear grind endlessly as I re-uploaded this book a good half-dozen times before the fix dawned on me…

cabinFevercoverLORES

…and so, my loves: Do as I say, not as I do!

The Writing Life: Never Rains but It Pours

Have you ever noticed that weeks and even months can go by without much  happening, and then all of a sudden everything pops at once? It’s been like that around here.

Last week what should come in the door but…well…not one, not two, not three, not even four, but FIVE editing projects! I haven’t seen a lonely scribbler all summer long, and now here’s a mob of them at my door, just as I’m trying to crank 87 gerjillion Camptown Races Press books for the holiday season!

Speaking of the which, we’re about to promulgate our first Hallowe’en Treat: Janet and the Djinn, a whimsical story of a despairing jilted wife who answers a Craig’s List ad and gets a much more spirited romp than she expected. If you’d like an advance copy, come on over to Camptown Ladies Talk and grab one TODAY, before it hits Amazon. Sign up for the newsletter there (the form’s at the top of the page) and we’ll send you a .mobi or a PDF version ASAP.

Craig's List Janet LoResAdvance copy NOW!
Camptown Ladies Talk

So, back to the issue at hand: five freaking editorial projects when we’re trying to crank eight books this month, one of which I STILL HAVE TO FINISH WRITING!

Lordie! I haven’t been able to get to my own stuff in weeks. But I really couldn’t turn them down. We need the money to keep the business going. Not only do I have to cover the regular overhead — the Cox bill, the web hosting bill, the web wrangler’s bill, the association dues, the paper, the ink, the you-name-it — I now have four (maybe five, soon!) writers to pay. Pay for three of these projects, taken together, will keep us going another two months past the date I figured we’d go broke if we’re not turning a profit.

Crazy-making!

But last week I tried a plan that shows some serious promise: divide up the day in chunks, and devote each chunk to one (count it, 1) specific task. Don’t do anything else during that period, no matter how tempting or urgent it seems to be. Okay.

So, Friday went like this:

Three hours: Post Bobbi and the Biker. Publicize: Build widgets, manage Twitter and post tweets there, write blog posts, plan marketing campaign.
Three hours: Edit copy
Three hours: Write scene for The Taming of Bonnie (Ouija Lover II)

Et voilà! There’s a nine-hour day, right there.

I ended up spending another three hours cleaning up some very messy computer files and backing them up to a gigantic flash drive and then to the iMac. That was quite a job, but it’s going to make life a lot easier.

Saturday was blown away with a three-hour meeting of a writer’s group I habituate — plus the two hours it takes to get there and back. When I got home, I discovered the power had gone out while I was gone, and it had knocked the wireless off the air. Try as I might, I could NOT get the wireless back online. I called my son, who was pissed that I bothered him on the weekend and not very friendly about the prospect of having to help me fix it. Continued to struggle with it. Went to bed with no wireless Internet access.

Naturally. Just as I needed to push HARD to publicize our first Racy Book for Racy Readers.

Sunday morning I managed to get the system back online and then fly out the door to choir. Singing occupied the rest of the morning.

I fell in the choir loft when one of my platform sandals came loose and dropped off my foot. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt, other than a few mild aches, but it was embarrassing and disturbing. Got home and had a drink with lunch. And then another. And then didn’t feel a whole lot like writing or editing. Blew off the afternoon with a nap and reading someone else’s naughty book.

So spent all of Sunday evening, way into the night, editing copy.

Today I’m going to try the three/three/three schedule again. It’s already almost 7 a.m. and I haven’t had anything to eat or walked the dogs, but hope to squeeze those things in before sitting down to work. Started around 5 and I’ve updated the Twitter buzz, posted the FREE ADVANCECOPY OFFER(!!!!!) at Camptown Ladies Talk and here, answered comments at Funny about Money, built widgets here and at Ladies Talk, reviewed copy I wrote on Friday, checked a subcontractor’s edits and sent her work, with a bill, to the Chinese academic client, worked briefly on the Mongolian expat client’s work, fielded e-mail, and…not gotten a heck of a lot else done.

It’s starting to rain: that gets me out of having to walk the dogs — they hate rain. Thank goodness!

And so, to post this, plug it on Twitter, and slap up a post at Funny about Money. Then: breakfast. Then: real work.