Tag Archives: print on demand

Thinking Of Independent Publishing?

It’s been a good year for independent publishing. Mark Coker of Smashwords is feeling confident for the future, as is Electrik Inc.

But what about the many stages writers go through before they press the button that uploads their print on demand or ebook file? I thought I’d mention a few of the important stages we go through, from the very beginning.

You’ve written your novel. It’s complete. What now? A good start is having an online presence on some of the excellent writers’ forums out there: Here are just a few:

absolutewrite.com
youwriteon
writers-forum.com

We’ve found most writers’ forums have members who are very generous with information and help for all stages of writing and book production.

Also, consider having your entire manuscript assessed by a professional editor. This kind of help is invaluable because most writers don’t see where the plot is weak, most writers don’t see their own typos. See under for more tips on professional editing.

?*********************? This row of asterisks represents what you should be doing right now. Go on, guess. 🙂 I’ll tell you later.

Post some of your work on a writing forum. There are lots of writing forums out there, just google them. Getting feedback on your work is invaluable. The general comments will tell you if your novel is looking professional, or is ‘nearly there’. Too many typos? Grammar a bit dodgy? Well, that takes us to the next stage, one which every serious writer should consider before even thinking about pressing the ‘publish’ button:

Get yourself a professional editor and/or proofreader. There are lots out there, some better than others. Without one, your novel is destined to stay in the ‘amateur’ corner. That’s why traditional publishing houses have editors, because even people who work as editors need other editors – they know every writer needs another pair of eyes. A professional editor won’t just tell you how great your novel is, though hopefully they’ll do that too, but they’ll suggest improvements, mention when pace stalls and what you could tighten to get it moving again, when dialogue goes on too long, or where conflict is non-existent.

The editorial process we employ for Electrik Inc books is stringent, from reading the novel that’s put forward, assessing it and suggesting rewrites, to line editing, proofreading, and advising on blurb and cover.

Traditional publishers don’t send a book out into the world without investing time and editorial services on it, and neither should you.

Organise your cover. It’s early days yet, and you may still have lots of corrections to do in your body copy, but you should know what kind of image you want your book to present to the world. Your cover is your shop front. It’s vital to get it right. You’ll need an illustrator (see our previous blog on this) and a graphic designer: someone who can take your image file and place the title, author name and any strap line (the bit that entices your reader into the book). Sometimes one person does both. If you’re doing print on demand as well as ebook, then your graphic designer will ensure the cover meets the printers’ guidelines (remember, front AND back cover for print). Ebooks are easier in that you need only the front, but it’s still wise to have a graphic designer place all type and make sure the picture is the right size.

Buy ISBN for your book (Smashwords offers one free). If you’re producing an ebook with Amazon, for example, your ISBN will be different to the one you put on the inside page of your print-on-demand book. You can buy a single ISBN for £15 from the Independent Publishers Network. However, they ask that you become a member of their organisation first. This appears to be free but do check the small print: http://www.ipubnet.co.uk/buy-isbn-numbers/

Alternatively, contact nielsenbook.co.uk and buy a set of ten for £132. Remember, if you change something in the bodycopy of your e-book, you need only re-upload the file. But if you make any changes to the physical copy of your book, that will require a new ISBN.

You’ll have to decide on which print on demand or e-book company is best for you, Put self publishing into Google and you’ll be knee deep in companies vying for your manuscript and your money, but here are a few to start with:
Createspace.com
Lightningsource.com
Lulu.com
Smashwords.com

Formatting the interior file. There are different formatting requirements for ebooks and physical books. Smashwords has a list of designers for ebook covers, and people who will format your book for you. They also have downloadable, easy-to-follow instructions for this on their site – well worth reading if you want to do the formatting yourself.

CreateSpace also offers lots of help, including providing templates for physical books. And they have a good forum where people discuss formatting problems. You can often find the answer you’re looking for here – post your question and some kind independent publisher will try to answer it, whichever company you’re printing with. Lightning Source has a document setting out its print requirements, too.

If you decide on print on demand as well as ebook, it’s wise to get a physical proof of the paperback. It will cost you a little more, but not as much as if you pass it all unseen and something isn’t right.

Yes, formatting takes time to get right, but it’s worth persevering if you want complete control over your work. However, you can also hire people to do the formatting for you and usually it isn’t too expensive, though of course that depends how large the book is. As mentioned, Smashwords has a list of recommended designers and formatters. This is another area where writers’ forums can help. Ask for recommendations, or check online.

Okay, your novel is ready. You’ve had some great feedback, everyone loves it. You’ve paid a professional editor to line edit it for you. You’ve taken in their suggested corrections, you’ve paid for a proof reader. You’ve got the ISBN and your cover is looking fab – all ready to go. You’re going to upload it to print on demand, get some paperback copies, and have the ebook available for everyone who wants it. You’re even thinking of having a launch. Yippee.

Now you just have to sell it…. which takes us right back to that row of asterisks at the beginning of this blog:

************************ Marketing begins before production. Not after it.
(see our previous blogs for tips on marketing and independent publishing.)

These are just some of the steps you have to take once you decide independent publishing is for you. Don’t just write a book and throw it out into the ether – that’s what clogs ups the online shelves with poor produce.

Your readers deserve the best, and so does your novel.

Good luck.
Kay Leitch
Author of Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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Ten Tips For Successful Marketing (ebooks and print on demand)

First, make a plan. It’s okay to write your book without any kind of plan, if that’s your preferred way of working. But if you adopt that strategy for marketing, you’ll seriously restrict your book’s chances.

A lot depends on how much time you have. I don’t subscribe to the ‘make the time’ school of thought, either for writing, reading or marketing. Too many writers also work, full time or part time, and many don’t even get sitting down to eat until way after 7 pm. Since the laws of physics are immutable, ‘making time’ is impossible, so don’t beat yourself up about it. What it really means is that if you want to write and market your books, and you also have to work, then some other part of your life will have to be sacrificed: eating, sleeping, watching tv, spending time with loved ones … take your pick.

All this means is that choosing a marketing strategy that works best for you is more important than trying to fit everything in and then wondering why you’re exhausted, bad tempered and have just noticed a horrible mistake on the last page of your printed book.

For example, you may not be able to do school visits (if writing for children) but you could fit in a few hours of social media marketing a week: reviewing others’ books, putting your own up for review, joining forums, being helpful, guiding people to your own blog (and your own book) … When your spare time is so precious, make every hour count. Don’t waste time on Facebook if you’re not comfortable with it – find another way. Forums can offer more anonymity, if that’s what you want. But bear in mind that these days, everyone wants to ‘see’ who you are.

A typical marketing plan might look something like:

1 Do a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Example: Strength: you write well. Weakness: you have limited time. Opportunity: independent publishing is becoming easier, and there are some very bad books out there. Threat: There are also a lot of very good, independently published books out there, and someone might write a book similar to yours but have greater resources with which to market it.

Your strengths and weaknesses will be unique to you, but the opportunities and threats will alter with the state of the market. Know where you stand within your chosen market. Keep an eye on it.

2 Sit down … I have some news … You are now a brand. I know. I’m so sorry, but it seemed best just to break it to you.

Even if you’ve never been image conscious or interested in fashions and fads, you need to start looking at yourself (the writer) as a product (a good book) that people (readers) want to buy. It’s your job to ensure those people know your product is available to buy and that they can be assured of a consistent image/style (and quality) within that product.

For example, if you write dark YA fantasy, your blog shouldn’t look and read like something from a knitting or gardening magazine (unless there’s an intelligent, psychotic plant that shape-shifts into … well, you know what I mean). This can be a hard idea to take in, because it encompasses so many things: your style of writing, your genre, how people (readers) see you, your image, your blog, your tweets … all of these should have your unique stamp on them.

3 Make a list of social media sites you might be interested in. As I mentioned in my Ten Tips for Successful Independent Publishing, join forums and review sites such as Goodreads or Booklikes. Start reviewing. Play nice! Ask others to review your book – but be prepared for them to be brutal. Stay professional. And build on the online relationships you make. Consider guest blogging (yours and theirs), give useful links. Be interesting. The idea is to drive traffic (people) to your blog or website, where they can find out more about you and possibly buy your book.

4 Your cover is an important marketing tools. Get it right. Organise a cover designer. Be prepared to pay for this – set a budget. Do homework. Check other book covers you like. Have a strong idea of what you want your cover to be, don’t expect the designer/illustrator to work to a blank canvas. Be prepared to pay a kill fee if you don’t like their attempts. Use your cover wherever you can in your marketing material – any press releases should have your picture and your cover on them. Your cover should definitely be on your blog and any Facebook page. Give your book, and cover, a page of their own, rather than just presenting it as a normal blog, which usually disappears down the list and makes way for the next blog.

5 Put your book into one of CreateSpace’s interior book templates to see how many pages it will make in the book size you want. Then work out what discount you will have to give to the major print on demand distributors (anything from 20% to 55%, depending on what you think you can get away with). They will all take a cut and the longer your book is, the more your print costs will be, giving you less profit. Once you know an approximate page size, you can work out roughly how much you will make on each sale. Then you can work out how many books you will have to sell to a) break even; b) make a profit; and c) earn a living from writing.

Caveat: this is the point where you may consider sticking your head in the gas oven, or running away to join a Circus in the Balkans so I think it’s worth pointing out that you need to accept you’re in this for the long haul and not the fast buck (excuse the mixed metaphor). Time and again I’ve heard it can take at least a year or two, or a book or three before you begin to make any decent money from writing.

6 Consider an online launch if you are launching an ebook only. It’s a good way of spreading the word to your online friends and associates that you have a book coming out. Read more about these at spiritauthors.com – a great site for all sorts of information on independent publishing.

7 Consider a bricks and mortar launch if your book is also print on demand. (Remember the book store will likely want to see the kind of book you plan to publish so let them see any book proof.) Don’t restrict yourself to independent book stores for your launch. There are some great Bars out there that would be happy to host a local author’s book launch, especially mid-week when it’s usually quieter. Or, again, consider something completely different. If your house is big enough, host the launch there, or at a friend’s. Theme it. Make it fun. Invite more people than you think will come; there will always be those who can’t make it.

8 Make up postcards with your cover on one side and your blurb and contact details on the other. Consider bookmarks (if appropriate), T-shirts, notebooks – anything you can think of that would add perceived value to your book. Always link these back to your book (cover or other visuals). Vistaprint.co.uk and other companies offer these kinds of products, often with discounts. But don’t spend money if you don’t have to. No point making up lots of T-shirts or fridge magnets just for the sake of it. Stick to items your intended readership might like, or find fun. Build this into your budget but don’t overdo it. Also, make sure you have a professional business card and carry it with you – for example when you visit your local book stores to ask if they’ll stock your book (see 10).

9 Consider an author Facebook page for your book and characters. Tweets and u-tube are other options (short readings, fun videos). But remember, as ever, to choose what works best for you and the time constraints you may be under. I’m making a list here so you have options; you don’t have to do it all.

10 Go round local book stores, especially the independents. Ask if they’ll consider stocking a few copies of your book. As an unknown, you don’t have a lot of leverage so if you’ve had any media coverage, take along a copy. Offer sale or return (times are hard for everyone). They’ll likely check the book’s ISBN to ensure they can order it from their usual wholesalers and if your print on demand company has done its job properly, your book should come up in all the right places. Ask for window space for a small display – they probably have their own plans for that but it’s worth asking. Sometimes they’ll offer you a window display ‘in a few months’. Fine. Keep in touch and take them up on it.

And here’s one extra tip – for those of you who actually want to write, rather than spend your creative time and energy on the social media marketing treadmill:

11 FIND ANOTHER WAY.

Read what Lionel Shriver says in her feature How to Succeed as an Author: Give up on Writing

Read some of what Michael Alvear says in his book How to Make a Killing on Kindle (Without Blogging, Facebook or Twitter) and then decide if you want to buy it.

As ever, it’s about balance. I hope you find it.

Good luck.

Kay
Originally posted on kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com
Author of Treasure This
Co-founder of Electrik Inc

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MAGIC MOMENTS

ELECTRIK INC’S FIRST BOOK LAUNCH

Super Villains pretending to be Ultra Ordinaries

Magical moments come in all shapes and sizes and can brighten our lives at any time. Some are a pleasant surprise, like rainbows on a cloudy day. Others are the realisation of a dream. The kind of dream that encompasses hard work, perseverance, talent, patience, and the ability to run around doing twenty-five things at once while still maintaining the outward appearance of sanity. The kind of dream that starts with a blank sheet of paper and ends in a local bookshop filled to the rafters with screaming, whooping, whistling, clapping children. All practising their evil laugh, just like Dr Super Evil in St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

Kim Donovan launching St Viper’s School for Super Villains at Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath

This was Kim Donovan’s magic moment: Friday 15th June, at Topping & Company, an independent book store in Bath, when the launch of St Vipers proved that all her tenacity (writing, rewriting, proofreading, editing, organising illustrations, correcting illustrations, formatting pages, swearing at the computer, re-formatting pages, banging head against the wall and re-re-formatting pages, marketing, organising, writing to schools etc etc…) – all that hard work was worth it.

Writer slave!

Green balloons bobbed everywhere, the kids wore super-villain masks and yelled their evil laughs and bought the book until the tills were smoking. St Viper’s School for Super Villains was a sell out and Toppings had to break into the box of books which had been set aside for school visits and brought along ‘just in case they need them’. Boy, did they need them. Kim signed books while the queue grew ever longer.

The Team. From the left: Jenny, Kay and Janine

It was a magic moment for Electrik Inc, too, and the culmination of all our blood, sweat and proofreading,  seeing our first ‘baby’ safely delivered – and so well received. Toppings declared it a ‘great success’, parents beamed, and the kids lapped it up. They loved the story, they loved Petherick’s illustrations, they loved the characters. Just seeing them jumping around pretending to be Demon, or Stretch, or Wolfie, made me realise how fantastic it is to write books that children love. There they were, up late, in a wonderful book shop, wearing fun masks and being read to by a lovely woman who told a story about a school where it was not only okay to be very naughty but was actively encouraged and on the curriculum. Unblinkinbelievable! What bliss. So this was their magic moment too. And that’s what it’s all about.

The Author, Kim Donovan

Here’s to more magic.

Kay Leitch

The Illustrator, Petherick

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Independent Publishing – My Story So Far

St Viper’s School for Super Villains is about to be independently published and I’ve been reflecting on the last few months – the things I enjoyed, what drove me bananas, the challenges that lie ahead. And knowing what I know now whether I should be clever/stupid/crazy enough to do it again.

WHAT I ENJOYED

Taking control. I have nearly been published through the traditional route a couple of times. For a little while I had a lovely literary agent (the agency closed their children’s list). Movie companies even read one of my manuscripts with a view to buying the film option. But somehow my timing has never been quite right and luck hasn’t been on my side (Note – we inklings all have very different stories!). I needed to try something new to get my books in the hands of children or give up and earn a proper living. Then we had that Electrik moment in the Jazz Cafe which Jenny blogged about. Professional Independent Publishing was born.

It has felt incredibly liberating challenging the norm, creating a way to independently publish high-quality children’s books, in a way that meets our needs, building on both the strengths of traditional and self-publishing. I’m proud that we have been brave enough to have a go and of the product we’ve created.

Working with other children’s writers.  I loved being a creative writing student and really missed bouncing ideas around with other writers after the MA finished. It can be lonely working on a book on your own. Being part of Electrik Inc has allowed me to write and publish in a supportive environment. We have had a laugh too.

Seeing my book looking gorgeous St Viper’s has been professionally and lovingly line edited over and over again and it shows. The reviews of the book are brilliant. I also have the cover and illustrations I wanted. I’m a happy writer.

WHAT DROVE ME BANANAS

Where to start? Having to buy a new laptop because the old one wasn’t up to the job and Adobe Acrobat Pro to meet the printer’s requirements.  Researching POD companies and finding out after hours and hours of reading that our preferred supplier would only sell my book on Amazon.com not Amazon.co.uk and in American dollars (which they failed to mention). Generally trying to fit square pegs into round holes. We are a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing and nothing quite fits us. I must say that the ebook has been a walk in the park compared to producing a print on demand book. Mostly, what has driven me bananas is the time form filling and buying services has taken away from my writing. But on balance I think all the work has been worth it to get the book I want.

THE CHALLENGES THAT LIE AHEAD

I’m happy blogging, tweeting and squawking but I could do with a whole army of clones to visit bookshops and schools to talk about St Viper’s. ‘Who is your rep?’ ‘Who are you using for PR?’ I am frequently asked in stores. ‘Err…that’s me.’ I feel incredibly small, like Julia Donaldson’s snail in the Snail and the Whale in a big world. It should become easier when we start marketing our books together, but for the time being it’s just St Viper’s. We will have to be inventive in the way we market my book. We must write fantastic stories that children talk about. It’s all possible. Like Donaldson’s snails on the rock it would be easier to be quiet, sit still and stay put, but I’d rather carry on with the adventure.

Kim Donovan

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e-dapt or die

Attention all writers huddled in garrets, knee-deep in crumpled paper and empty mugs! Okay, today you’re more likely to be hunched over a keyboard, with lower back pain, a furrowed brow, incipient psychosis and about 133 different drafts of your Work In Progress on a computer. Either way, you need to look up from the page. The world has changed. Thought perfecting your prose would bring publishers running and readers reading? Thought it was all about writing your best novel? Whatever gave you that idea? Writing isn’t about writing any more. It’s about self promotion, marketing, pre-release hype, playing the social media game, building a readership before you’ve even typed The End, blogging, tweeting, webbing, glugging, plugging and (if you’re me) shrugging. It’s about building a brand.

This isn’t just one publisher’s advertising department gone mad. It’s the world. It has changed. Technology has brought us incredible opportunities with ebooks and physical books printed on demand; Electrik Inc is proof of that. It has also created a whole new set of shackles. For writers, that means although you can now share your work with the world, you also cannot just sit at home, write a book, get it published and turn up to book signings. You must engage your reader in every technological way possible. A lot more of your time will be spent away from the garret – sorry, keyboard – while you twit, blog, email, visit schools (okay, that could be fun) promote pre-launch ‘buzz’, whatever that is, and find new links you hope will grow your fanbase.

Otis Chandler, CEO of Goodreads.com says twitting and Facebooking aren’t nearly as good for promoting books as word of mouth. (Yes! One point to tradition!) He also warns video chats between authors and their readers will become increasingly important.

Video chats? You mean, like, my face? On a screen? Along with my Uh-oh-she’s-off-on-one-again Scottish accent? Are you kidding me? I’ll look like a cornered Bobcat.

But, like so many endangered species, the writer-who-just-wants-to-write, must adapt or be swallowed by history unheard – and unread.  In the interests of journalistic integrity, I checked up on my analogy with Bobcats. On one site they’re described as cantankerous, solitary, secretive, and adaptable. Oh dear. Sounds like someone I know.

And guess what? Like you, I’m going to have to stop howling into the wind and sit down and work out how to twit and buzz and self promote. Yes, I’d rather stick my head in a mincer. And no, there won’t be any wee video chats winging across the ether any time soon. But, as a writer, I’m going to have to adapt to the changes transforming the eworld. Because the eworld is not going to adapt to me.

Kay Leitch

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