Archive | January, 2013

Guest post: Thoughts on Modern Publishing – by Awake In the Mad World Author, Damon Ferrell Marbut

30 Jan

 

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The truth I’ve come to understand about self-publishing goes beyond the excitement of what is possible for an author beginning to develop in the current market. The self-publishing industry is still, but was a tremendous change for the literary world at first. It’s levelling out a bit, and earning respect in some regards, but I detested the notion of self-publishing for a considerable amount of time. I’ll get to why soon. But because it’s a real and thriving business enterprise now, for publishers and authors alike, who more often assume both roles, to make sense of strategy (which I don’t like discussing so much in that I only ever wanted to simply write) one should consider what they’re up against when entering this field and this market.

First off, I disagree with those who say it can all be done for free. Or scratch that. It largely can be done for free, but I don’t believe it’s done well. Some writers are great on the keys, naturally or academically trained to write stories that change how people view genres or read about certain subject matter. But then, they may not be so gifted at marketing and self-promotion. Or it can be the other way around. They can be terrific at marketing, establishing Self as a brand, but their writing can be unpolished and substandard. Many people argue, unfairly I think, that self-published authors can’t get book deals because they aren’t good enough. What motivates a person to publish a book on their own should be based on how they understand the relevance and importance of the work they have initially produced. Writing a book doesn’t mean as much these days. Yes, it’s an accomplishment that speaks to the investment of mental and emotional and financial resources, but a writer must understand two things before positioning him/herself to publish in any capacity: why he or she is writing to begin with, and what they wish to do or become once the book is “out there.” And then own it all.

So yes, it does require money. Not necessarily exorbitant amounts, but some money. I’ve seen plenty of people spend unfortunately large amounts of money on terrible, typical book covers, and some spend little to no money on fine cover images that leap from the shelves, online or physical. Or they have the ability to do it themselves, achieving a great or not so great end. And time, when you self-publish a book, redefines itself if you are serious about the legacy and impact of your book. So many books are being published daily that understanding where it belongs, and being comfortable with being wrong as you go along and discover audiences you didn’t anticipate loving your work actually responding to it more, or that the audience you pursued doesn’t care for it at all. Much of being a self-published author is surprise. There is luck in there, too.

Then there’s sacrifice. I’ve written about this recently in an article I was asked to produce on the writing process. The people in your life need to be prepared ahead of time to see less of you, as you write and as you market. You will, if you stick with it, get busier as you promote and as you simultaneously begin a new book. I’m at the point now that I almost need an assistant. And my partner is patient, my friends understand, but there exists that pull from them that occurs (in my head at least) when you know all that laughter and storytelling and coffee shop visits and dinners out have to be minimized so you can work. And it is real work.

I read a couple of books on self-publishing when I was starting with it last year at this time. I was encouraged by former professors from graduate school, and an editor who published my short fiction in New York, to go ahead and produce my own unique book and develop it in the market and then, after it was taking on a reputable life of its own, approach an agent and then a publisher to take on the book so I could relax from the effort enough to write more. I’m at that point now in talking to agents. A year ago I said I wouldn’t want to let go of the control once I committed to it, but now I’m happy to let it become its own creation in the market. I worked a great deal on telling my stories well, or to the best of my abilities, and even scratched a novel or two to get to the voice I want as my own in modern publishing.

I think most would agree that authors must determine what social media works best for them. In the beginning, I joined every group and community I found, just to learn the language of the new industry. A lot of it is disappointing and sometimes infuriating. For example, I wrote a fairly incendiary post on Goodreads after I saw an “author” asking people to give her plot lines for her book. Back story for it, actually, because she was too lazy or incapable of giving it time to come to her. And people lined up to throw in their two cents. I was horrified. Plainly spoken, many authors in the online communities aren’t realistic about their work, and can be selfish, aggressive and shameless in how they pursue the exposure of their books. Some organizations let you down, some are fantastic, some try incredibly hard but cannot handle the workloads the multitudes overwhelm them with. But it must be understood that without the good and bad I’ve experienced, the near-misses and the successes, without the fantastic enthusiasm of those who do love to write, who do wish to learn how to cultivate an online presence and, maybe one day, a career in writing if not something that leads to teaching it, without those I admire for their constant fight through the noise and nonsense that complicates the self-publishing world and earns it a bad name, I would not be as proud of myself as I am today, for working as hard as I’ve worked to be able to discuss the industry with confidence. It is business, but it is improving by the minute, and so there is no shame in producing one’s own book and elevating it to its highest potential through the online communities that are now aware of what they’ve created and work so diligently to construct an industry image worth preserving and which they can proudly claim to join.

To finish, let me go back to why I first despised the idea of self-publishing. I didn’t know anything about it. It’s that simple. I was still in love with the old, traditional publishing model of finding people to support your work. But it isn’t completely like that anymore. In self-publishing, we must make our mark first, we must earn our ways into that delicate, hopeful space before the eyes of agents, editors and publishers. They aren’t absolutely necessary anymore. But the romance of that traditional era can still be had by authors who want it, if they know why they are writing, are kind and patient, and simply continue to do the work.

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Damon Ferrell Marbut was born in Mobile, Alabama. A Southern novelist and poet, Marbut’s “Awake in the Mad World” is a contemporary fiction novel and is currently an entrant for the Pulitzer Prize. He lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana. His collection of poems, The Difference Between Young Gods, is under review with several publishing houses, as are two short fiction titles. His follow-up novel to Awake in the Mad World, which is based in New Orleans, is in progress.

You can contact Damon through his blog, like his Facebook Author Page and message him at http://www.facebook.com/DamonFMarbut, or follow him on Twitter @dfmnola.

What are your views on traditional publishing? Would you seek a traditional publishing contract once you’ve self-published your book?

Next week, I’ll be gearing up for publication!

Choosing the right cover design for my self-published book

23 Jan

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I commissioned the cover for my novel, FRY, from Designcrowd. I had always envisaged that the cover would feature a brick wall, surrounded by flames, with the word ‘FRY’ written across it in blood-red letters. This for me, sums up the essence of my novel. However, I am not a graphic designer, so I was open to any other suggestions the designers might have. I posted an outline of what I wanted, along with a synopsis of my book and then waited to see what they came up with.

I was overwhelmed by the response. In the space of a couple of weeks, I received over 60 designs from a number of designers. Some of the designs were variations on the original theme, others completely different. It was really exciting to see what the designers created. One quite captivating cover showed a chilling close up of Alicia, my villainess whilst another showed her looking sweet and innocent as she walked away from a burning building.

My cover is primarily designed to be looked at on the internet, and will mainly be viewed very small, the size of a thumbnail. It has to stand out from a lot of other covers, and I wanted people browsing for books to be able to read the title, and ideally my name. I also asked for a version that would work as a paperback cover, which meant including the spine and back cover. I don’t anticipate selling as many paperbacks as eBooks, but I realise that some people still prefer this format, and plan to release a paperback version in the summer. By then, hopefully I will have had some reviews and a chance to iron out any mistakes which are discovered in the eBook. I’d rather there weren’t any mistakes, but I know it’s quite possible there will be, and it’s much harder to correct a paperback than an eBook.

Once I had received all the designs, I had a tough job on my hands choosing the winner. There were a handful of covers I really liked, but as I don’t have a design background, I was unwilling to trust my own judgement. Luckily, Designcrowd has a polling option, so I shot off an email to a bunch of my friends and family, including a couple of graphic designers, and asked them to vote.

I was hoping that there would be an overwhelming response in favour of one design, but that’s not what happened. My friends and family picked a wide variety of different covers! If anything, this made the choice even more bewildering. However, the poll allowed them to leave comments and these were very useful in helping me to eliminate some. Someone pointed out that the girl on one of the covers was wielding a pair of scissors, which I hadn’t noticed, and would not have worked for my book. People suggested that some of the covers hinted at different genres, and so I was able to rule these out. Another cover looked appealing at first glance but on closer inspection, it looked a bit amateurish in the way that it was put together.

The cover I finally picked, designed by artist, Jose Ochoa is the one that looks most professional. It doesn’t look like three images stuck together, it doesn’t look childish or contrived, it just looks…right.  If you’d like to see more of Jose’s work, here’s a link to his website.

What do you think of my book cover? Do you think I made the right choice?

How do you choose your book covers? Do you feel they capture the essence of your book?

Next week, writer Damon Marbut will be doing a guest post on his views on self-publishing, and why he is still seeking a traditional publishing contract.

Interview with Marquita Herald, Author of ‘Boost your eBook Sales Success’

16 Jan

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Over the coming weeks, I’ll be doing a series of interviews with self-published authors about their experiences of writing and publishing their own books, so it seems appropriate to start with Marquita Herald, who has just written a book about boosting eBook sales.

Marquita is a personal growth specialist, a top 50 Personal Development Blog Award recipient for ‘IGG Tips, Tools and Tantalizing Ideas’, and the published author of 4 books on the art of living your life by design. Her latest book, “Boost your eBook Sales Success – The Essential Guide to Online Marketing Resources for KDP Select and Beyond” is available now in all popular eReader formats from her blog or from Amazon.

Aloha, Marquita! You live in Hawaii, don’t you? What’s it like living in paradise?

Yes, I live in Maui. It’s expensive and, unless you’re a tourist looking for souvenirs, shopping options definitely leave something to be desired. But it is also beautiful, the people are genuinely friendly, and the weather is mild year round. I’ve lived here most of my life so it really just seems like home to me. I’m only reminded of the distinctive nature when people ask me what it’s like to live here.

Why did you choose self-publishing?

I’m an entrepreneur at heart so I love the flexibility, challenge and opportunity to control my own destiny.

Would you consider a publishing deal, if you were offered one from a traditional publisher?

I’ve learned to never say “never,” so I’ll just say it would depend on the circumstances, and on my ability to play an active role in the decision making process.

Your latest book ‘Boost your eBook Sales Success’ should be of interest to anyone reading this blog. Can you tell us more about it?

Fundamentally it’s a “no fluff” roadmap for authors to develop the mindset they need to bridge the gap between art and entrepreneurship.

Writers will learn how to identify and reach their target audience, how to develop a marketing plan (yes, you need one), and strategies to spread the word about your book. There are also resources for author interviews, book reviews, advertising and promotion.

I’ve highlighted Amazon’s KDP Select in the book because there continues to be so much misinformation floating around about the program. While I’m not pitching the program, I have attempted to offer a perspective on how the program can be used as a springboard to future success.

Last but not least, the book also includes the most extensive list of websites and blogs ready to promote your eBook Amazon KDP Sales “free” days you’ll find anywhere, and each listing includes the site description, submission guidelines and a “hot” link directly to the submission page. Many of these sites promote a variety of genres and offer a wide range of promotional opportunities, so the resources are valuable whether or not you’re participating in KDP Select.

Like many self-published authors, I have a whole (virtual) bookshelf of books on ePublishing. What’s different about yours?

For one thing you’ll find no rules. When I first started blogging I made myself crazy trying to do everything the “gurus” said I must do or risk certain failure. I’ve also found a lot of that same style in self-publishing and associated marketing materials. In self-publishing, just like in life, to succeed you have to find the courage to listen to your heart and discover the way that is best for YOU.

In my book I share my own experiences – including the mistakes, provide plenty of information and resources, along with a hefty dose of motivation and encouragement to be willing to find your own unique path.

The other thing that sets this book apart is my emphasis on developing the right skills and mindset to treat your writing not only as your art, but as your business.

What’s your top tip for someone like me, who’s just on the verge of self-publishing their first book?

As tempting as it is to say “just go for it.” I’d have to say to start thinking about your brand identity now. It doesn’t matter that your book is not ready. Your brand is not your product. Your brand connects you to your readers on an emotional level. It’s what you stand for, it’s what makes you stand out from the crowd, and it’s your purpose. It’s not your features.

Did you make any mistakes when you published your first book? What would you not do again?

It really is what I would do more of … I’d make more mistakes, faster. There’s a pretty big learning curve associated with self-publishing, so it’s natural to look for feedback from those who are more experienced. There’s nothing wrong with asking for advice, but it can become a stall tactic. The sooner you find the courage to commit and take action – and be willing to experiment and make mistakes you can learn from along the way – the more confident you’ll become and the faster you’ll grow.

You also run a blog, don’t you? Can you tell us more about it?

I launched my blog, IGG – Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas a little over 2 years ago, and my passion is motivating readers to accept that they have the power to create their own life  experience. This mission is very personal for me because I grew up surrounded by people who viewed themselves as hapless victims; so from a young age I dedicated myself to mastering resiliency, and sharing with others how to develop those skills that enable us to not only embrace change and take responsibility for their own life choices, but to bounce back from adversity stronger than ever.

Thanks for appearing on the blog, Marquita and good luck!

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‘Boost your eBook Sales Success’ is now on sale at Amazon. You can also purchase it from Marquita’s blog, where it is available in 3 formats – .mobi, .ePub and PDF. For a limited time, you can also get a bonus gift. If you buy the book, you can also sign up for a free monthly newsletter with updates of the resources, plus additional tips on marketing, publishing and author branding.

Do you have any questions for Marquita about her book, or her blog award ?

 

To beta readers and beyond!

9 Jan

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My kids have been watching a lot of Toy Story lately. Can you tell?

Sex, Nazis, Bank robbers. This post has them all. Read on!

This week, I have been frantically proofreading my novel so that I can send it out to my beta readers to critique. This has taken significantly longer than expected. FRY comes in at under 80,000 words, so it’s hardly War and Peace, but still more than I can read in one sitting. And I’m a full-time mum by day, so I really only have the evenings to work on it, although I have just enrolled my kids in nursery one morning a week. I’m glad I’ve done this. I’ll really need a little extra time as I approach my publication date in March.

But it’s not just the late nights that are conspiring against me. I went out and bought a new printer in the January sales. Took my dad with me, actually and nodded in all the right places as he talked about duplexes and printer cables. We walked away with a black and white laser jet, which seemed perfectly adequate for my needs. However when I sat down and really thought about my requirements, I realised I had a problem. To get FRY out to my beta readers, I needed 12 copies of around 190 pages each. But my printer is not a fast one and it only does about 700 pages per cartridge. Of which I only have one, because they didn’t have any more in the shop. To get round this problem, I’ve had to order some photocopies (proto-type books, actually – they should look pretty nice.) This will inevitably delay getting the manuscript out to my beta readers. I have at least sent out email copies to the advance party, who live abroad, so it’s good to know that some copies have already reached their destinations. I had originally allowed my beta readers five weeks to comment, but given the problems I’ve encountered, some will only end up with about three and a half. I really hope that’s enough!

So what was my criteria for choosing beta readers? Well, obviously I’ve looked to friends and family first, but I wanted to get the right mix of people. I wanted some who would be the target audience for my book, but also others who have experience or skills in areas related to my book. So I asked a former policeman and a former Police Community Support Officer to read from the police perspective. I choose a couple of people with legal backgrounds to check out my court scene (lawyer types, not bank robbers). I needed a couple of friends with shop or supermarket experience, as this is where some of my key scenes are set, and another friend with a background in psychiatry to check the medical facts. Besides this, I have some avid readers on my list, and my journalistic sister-in-law to check the copy. The very last person to read it will be the ultimate Grammar Nazi, my mum (although I don’t think she’d much appreciate being labelled a Nazi.) I’m also not sure what she’ll make of my sex scene. Gulp!

How do you choose your beta readers? Would you let your mum read your sex scenes?

New Year, New Blog!

2 Jan

Greetings, readers and welcome to my new blogtopia. I will be publishing my first novel, a psychological thriller called FRY on Amazon in March and this blog will plot my trials and tribulations as a self-published writer.

As this is my first post, perhaps I should tell you all a little bit about myself. I am a politics, social psychology and European Studies graduate. I have worked mainly in the British civil service, primarily at the Home Office. I have two small children who keep me highly amused and I suppose I am a little bit quirky. I have an unlikely fondness for My Little Ponies (yup, that’s the children’s toy) and used to help organise conventions. I love the Eurovision song contest – I haven’t missed it in 15 years and nor has my poor husband. We even went to see it live for the 50th anniversary in Kiev. I once met the Dalai Lama on a plane (he smiled kindly at my son) and I am very, very fond of coffee and chocolate.

I was named after the novel, Lorna Doone, so really, I had no choice but to become a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I just hope I’m not jinxing myself by launching my first book in 2013!

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