Tag Archives: Self-Publishing

How to get your writing noticed

Publish stories on your own website/blog

thzm0mn3jlAndy Weir, author of The Martian, first published this story on his own website one chapter at a time. He’d been posting short stories and chapters of different books on-line for ten years, growing a dedicated following.  His readers asked him to produce an ebook version of The Martian to make it easier to read, and this is when the book took off. Suddenly, he had an agent, a book deal and Fox Studios making the movie. Interestingly, the author had once taken three years off work to try and sell his writing to a traditional publisher and failed.


Use Wattpad to find a readership

176127761Wattpad has 8 million monthly visitors and a high proportion of YA users. Writers post their books chapter by chapter, and give it away for free. But some authors see it as a price worth paying in order to find a readership. Lily Carmine’s story, The Lost Boys, clocked up 33 million readers! It was quickly snapped up by Random House.




Broaden your readership using social media

Try combining your words with images for sites such as Instagram, pinterest and Facebook to expose your writing to new readers. Even on sites where visual content isn’t required, images have better visibility in the news feed. I write flash fiction for pure fun and post it on Instagram/my author blog.


 Make an ebook

stick-dogAmazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) enables authors to independently publish their books straight to Kindle. It’s not a passport to getting your work noticed, but if your writing stays in a drawer no-one is going to read it! Producing an ebook is less expensive than making a physical book and is a good way of dipping your toe into the water to see if it sells. Tom Watson, author of the picture book Stick Dog, produced his own ebook because he felt his work was “too far out there” for a traditional publisher. It went on to gain a massive following through word of mouth. Our Electrik Inc books are all available as ebooks.

Do you have any top tips for getting your writing noticed? If so, let us know. We’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading my blog!



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Self-Publishing Grows Up

Cornelia Funke’s announcement that she’s turning her back on traditional publishing to form her own printing press, Breathing Books, is a sign of the times. Interestingly, in the article about her new venture in Publisher’s Weekly the words ‘self-publishing’ and ‘independent publishing’ are nowhere to be seen. This may be partly to do with her careful choice of words and the brand image she wants to create, but I think it’s also about the language changing as self-publishing grows up. I publish my own books through a small, limited company called Squawk Books; I employ professional illustrators, cover designers and editors on a freelance basis; my press has published a school anthology as well as my own work, and my books are available in independent bookshops as well as on-line . Am I a self-published author or a director of a small press? For me, the lines are becoming increasingly blurred.

Funke cites a wish to be free of restrictions on her artistic output as one of the motivating factors in her decision. Creative freedom is important to me too. In 2012, small presses also made up 50% of the Booker shortlist . Over the last couple of years, agents have become more receptive to taking self-published authors as clients as well. Agent Madeline Milburn says, ‘It is always advantageous for you to have someone to fight your corner, and to negotiate and help handle all aspects of the book’s publication (whether that be with a traditional publisher, or not).’ In my experience, the main weakness of the independent route has been that you have no-one to handle other rights. Hopefully this is changing. Milburn continues, ‘I handle all the translation rights and film & TV rights directly for my authors. A lot of self-published authors are unable to exploit these rights.’

The Publishers Weekly article ends with Funke saying, ‘Little, Brown and others are like ocean liners that can only go to certain places. I want to be a sailboat so I can fit into other places.’

Certainly, I’ve been on journeys that have taken me to new lands. For example, I’ve extended my product range to include literary quote cards . But, remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Traditional publishing still has a lot to offer. And whether you need an ocean liner or a sailboat will depend on the book you’ve written.

As far as I’m concerned, more choice for writers has to be good news.

Thanks for reading this post!



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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:


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:

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

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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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The Price of e-Quality

I love rummaging in the 75%-off rail and finding a real gem – the dress I couldn’t afford that’s now the price of a cappuccino (well, that’s what I’d tell him) and in my size! Bliss doesn’t come any blissier. But we all know the pretend sales: the 50%-off signs that are up all year round and devalue the items because we know we’re not really getting a deal. For ‘special offer’ read ‘cheap tat we think you’re daft enough to buy’. Most of us are savvy enough to know rock-bottom prices don’t automatically mean a bargain.

So how much would you pay for a well-produced ebook for children? Think about it: new author, decent cover, seems well written, has a seal of quality (like Electrik Inc) and looks worth a read. 99p? £4.99? £8.99? Or £0?

A lot of people want free books, just as they want free films and free music. Maybe they think creative people have private incomes or rich partners, when the unpalatable truth is they’re more likely trying to hold down three part-time jobs, look after the kids, support their partner, care for mum and dad, clean the house, do the shopping, walk the dogs, feed the cats, have a tiny bit of a life and, oh, write…

Declan Burke discusses ‘Why should the price of ebooks…be on the floor?’  http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2012/0221/1224312113036.html#.T0VqEnorjeg.email  and confirms there are different kinds of readers – those who want ever-cheaper books and those who’ll pay for quality. He’s talking mainly about adult ebooks but his remarks apply to the children’s market too. I wouldn’t buy a book just because it was cheap any more than I’d buy ugly clothes just because they had 50% off. If the price is too low, something isn’t right.

Look at what you’d pay and apply it to the hours of pleasure your child would get reading the ebook. Then apply it to a year of someone’s creative life. Okay, then, six months, because we can work when everyone else is sleeping… okay, okay, three months! (wow, you’re a hard taskmaster)… because we’re all geniuses and don’t need to rewrite, or pay line editors and proofreaders to check our work. And who needs a decent design on the cover anyway? And pay Amazon a cut? Who’s Amazon?

Of course ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical books and of course prices should reflect that. But mainly, it’s only printers’ costs you save on. Next time you reach for that ‘bargain’, ask yourself if you’d go to work for six months (or three) for, let’s say, £1,980 (two thousand sales @ 99p. And that’s a lot; most new authors are lucky to sell five hundred). That’s about £165 a week, before Amazon’s cut or Apple’s (around 40% of your book’s list price, plus the VAT) or other expenses (ISBN numbers, £100 for ten), marketing, editing, proofreading, illustrations, cover design…

Rock-bottom prices for ebooks are, for me, the equivalent of the year-round 50%-off sales sign. I can’t trust them because I know the quality is probably rubbish (poor or mediocre writing, no editing, no decent design, no proofreading), so I walk away and look for something where the price fairly reflects the work that’s gone into the product. And yes, I think the Electrik Inc logo is one of the signs to look for.

I think prices will level out as more readers realise that if content is free – i.e. worth nothing – then we’re in danger of getting the writers we pay for.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts on epricing. Should children’s ebooks be cheaper than adults’? (And remember, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was much longer than Cormac McCarthy’s The Road so it’s not necessarily about the word count.)

Kay Leitch   Electrik Inc

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The Top Bunk Test

The proof copy of my first Print on Demand (POD) book has arrived. It looks like a book produced by a traditional publishing house and I am delighted with how St Viper’s School for Super Villains has turned out. It feels miraculous, like holding my baby for the first time. I can’t stop gazing at Demon and his friends on the cover. I have even placed the book on the shelf to see how it looks. My brain seems to have erased all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing and producing St Viper’s. I have shifted from thinking I am never going to do this ever again, to let’s have another ten book babies!

But not everyone is as in love with POD books as I am. Despite the success of indie authors such as Amanda Hocking, POD books have a reputation for lacking the quality of their mainstream counterparts. In The Guardian this week, Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider spy stories, asked the question: how good are self-published books? As part of his research he read a section of a novel by a leading self-published writer and found that the text could have been improved with professional editing. ‘Publishers do, I think, provide an imprimatur, a sort of quality control,’ he said. The main criticism of POD books is there is no quality control of the content. ‘Companies like AuthorHouse and iUniverse say they will accept pretty much anything for publication,’ The New York Times reported. Horowitz quoted Sam Jordison, Guardian journalist, saying, ‘What do they do if the writer delivers a damp squib? . . . On the evidence, they’ll publish it anyway.’

Our challenge is to set the standard for self-publishing in the children’s market. My book has been professionally edited and is being published because Electrik Inc members believe it is good. Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and the story will shortly be reviewed by several respected and well-known children’s writers.

The other quality issues raised about POD books is that the design can look amateurish (a professional illustrator and a designer have produced the cover for St Viper’s School for Super Villains); the cover may curl and the glue that is used for the spine is not as good as the glue used in a traditional book. So, I put my POD proof copy to The Top Bunk Test. To explain, my eight-year-old son sleeps on the top bunk bed. To save him the trouble of going up and down the ladder to get books, he keeps a pile of them by his feet, under the duvet. He pores over them during the night and I often hear a thump as they fall over the side onto the carpet. Only the toughest of books can survive the top bunk. After two weeks of being tested, I can report that the cover has curled a little, but no more than the Puffin book with it, and the pages remain firmly in place. We are good to go!

Kim Donovan

Electrik Inc

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Bubble and Strife

In the same week that Publishers’ Weekly reports Amazon is estimated to have sold six million Kindle Fire Tablets in its fourth quarter,


Ewan Morrison wonders if we’re heading for an epublishing bubble.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/30/self-e-publishing-bubble-ewan-morrison      He cites similarities in epublishing euphoria to the recent property, financial and credit bubbles, not to mention the dot.com boom and bust. And yes, epublishing does seem to be streaming ahead at an incredible rate. More and more people want to buy cheap(er) books and, paradoxically, more people want to make money from self publishing. But what happens when the price of your hard work (a decent, professionally written and edited novel isn’t produced in a few weeks) is pushed so far down you end up working for almost nothing? Or worse, writing beyond midnight so some corporate behemoth can sell your efforts for under 99p, take a large cut and give their executives a nice fat salary thank you very much. I won’t cry if that particular bubble bursts. If we want to read well-crafted, professionally produced books, we shouldn’t expect to get them for nothing.

I have faith that word of mouth will work for good ebooks just as it does for everything else. JK Rowling didn’t start off with a £million marketing budget. What sold her early books was that kids loved Harry Potter and told their friends about him.

So if there is a bubble – and there might be, because millions of us are in love with this new technology – it will burst. What would we be left with? Well, lots of ereaders and lots of books. A lot of books that won’t be read and some that will. Just as it ever was. Except this time we won’t have mountains of paper books to turn into slush. They’ll lie stillborn in the ether. E-readers will gather dust under the bed or in a cupboard and only be taken out when something good comes along. And it will. The Annual Academy Awards have handed twenty-one Oscars to films based on children’s books this year. From Hugo (The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick), to War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/50363- I know there are more great books out there.

Bubbles can grow and burst. Adults and children (and Hollywood) will always crave good books.

Kay Leitch

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