Self-publishing 101: Don’t Rush It!

The world of publishing has forever been changed, thanks to the onset of print-on-demand (POD) services and e-readers, such as the Kindle and Nook. While this is fabulous for aspiring writers, it can also be a terrible, terrible thing for them, too. Now, with competition so fierce, the pressure is on to “Hurry and Deliver” as much as possible. If you hurry to publish, you may be setting yourself up to fail.

Hurried works are obvious

While the market was flooded with every novelist’s hastily-published books, self-publishing got a bad name. Millions dove in with their first or second-drafts complete with misaligned bullets, mixed-up fonts, crazy page breaks, Wordart logos, and incorrect usage of its vs it’s.

It’s amateurish, and it shows.

Get help with your layout

Hard copy is tough, Kindle is tougher. When you do the formatting of your book, what does the finished product look like to everyone else? Don’t guess – talk to a pro. Your well-crafted book may sink or swim based on its visual readability.

Have someone else do your cover art

The line drawing you made in college art class may look pretty cool in theory, but it isn’t a dynamic book cover. There is a psychology involved in selecting colors, angles, photos and fonts for book covers.  Then there are years of study to use the right dpi, color matching and bleeds, cropping and placing. Don’t know what some of those things are? You don’t have to! Your job is to write. Let someone who has the background help you with your cover. People really do judge your book by its cover.

Good books are written, then re-written

As a speaker, I have heard (and lived) over and over that a great speech is written, re-written, and re-written again. In fact, no speech is ever “final” – there is always room for improvement.

While this is a little harder for books – it’s got to be “final” at some point or it will never be published! – you cannot toss up your rough draft and expect it to be palatable to the literate public. There is always a better (and, typically, more succinct) way to say what you’ve said. Good writing gets read and referred.

Hurried authors skip important steps

Beta readers

Even self-publishers must do market research. You may think you know your audience – but your audience is more diverse and demanding than you are, always. Run your book(s) by some beta testers – other than your immediate family and close friends. Yes, this means giving out some copies for free, and yes, this means opening yourself up for some constructive criticism. It also means learning a great deal and being able to correct major issues before going public and getting criticized on a wide-scale, career-killing forum such as Amazon.

Professional Editing

Many writers feel that, since writing is their gig, they simply don’t need to seek an outside editor. Nothing could be further from the truth! When you are very close to the work, you will often miss really obvious mistakes. Even as a professional editor, I seek a second opinion before I hit the “upload” button on anything!

No writer is perfect. That’s why editors exist. Even editors aren’t perfect. That’s why other editors exist. Your niece, spouse, or 13-year-old son is not a good editor of your work – seek a pro. Make sure you find one with experience in your genre. They know what to look for because many before you have made the same mistakes.

Proofing

Many PODs offer or require that you purchase a proof copy of your work before it goes live. I have seen forums full of authors complaining about this crucial step. “Why should I have to pay for a proof copy when I’ve already edited the book numerous times?”

Simply, because you may catch something in a different medium that you had glanced over many, many times. Here’s an example from one of my own books:

 Copy error in my book, Nose-to-Nose Networking

Do you see it? Some have to read it several times before they catch it, but this is a prime example of a glaring error that can be blipped right over if you go too fast. I just caught it accidentally while brushing up for a workshop. I was horrified.

This book has sold several thousand copies – both Kindle and hard copy – and not one person (including my crack team of editors) caught the error. When someone catches a simple mistake like this, your credibility goes down in their eyes. They may be able to forgive one such error, if it’s the only one, but when your book is riddled with typos and grammar issues, you will not be able to sell a second book, and your credibility is nil.

Deadlines do not mean rushing

You can set and meet deadlines for yourself without turning out hastily written, formatted and edited work. Even just two hours a day can give you the dedicated time to turn out a really good novel in 30 days. Make this commitment to yourself and your readers, and then seek the advice of a professional editor and designer for your final work. It will be worth it in the long run, especially if you want to get paid!

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Self-publishing 101: 3 Reasons Self-Publishing is a Viable Option

Before the onset of print-on-demand (POD) services, the only way you could self-publish was to pay a vanity press lots and lots of money for setup and printing of multiple copies, then huck them yourself out of your trunk. You really had to do a lot of footwork to make back what you invested. The good thing about those bad old days is that most people would not invest that amount of money and time for something they hadn’t worked really, really hard on (read: had professionally edited and formatted). Now, however, anyone can upload a file in an afternoon and – viola! – a new book is born.

Toss in a little social media and a speaking engagement or two, and you can easily outsell trunk-boy in a week or two. Plus, the profits are higher. Of course the big publishers have their panties in a twist over the whole idea. They’re losing money left and right.

So, is self-publishing a viable alternative to submitting query letters and manuscripts and praying that some conglomerate will deem you worthy? Absolutely. Following are three reasons why.

Cartoon about big publishers

1. Little money up front, a lot more per book

Few new authors understand that those big-time authors (or those in the middle of their 15 minutes of fame) who get a huge advance MUST sell enough of their books to make up for that advance – or they have to pay it back. If they hit that magic number, they will continue to collect royalties – equaling an average of $0.03 per book sold.

Yes, you read that right – three cents. What most novice writers also do not realize is that the best-selling author typically isn’t rich and rarely lives in a mansion. Even with millions sold, they still only make pennies per copy. Who rakes in all the dough? The publisher and the agent. The bookstore makes more per sale than the author ever will. Depressing, isn’t it?

2. No short runs: you keep your rights

Traditional publishers print a certain number copies of a book based on how many they think will sell within a certain time. If momentum gathers after their little window – tough noogies. They’ve already moved on. Unless you wrote Moby Dick or the Bible, you won’t get another run. Oh, yes, and you sold the rights, so forget about running it by another publisher.

If you self-publish, you can take time to cultivate a loyal following. Then, you can sell as many copies of your book as you want for as long as you want.

3. Publishers do not market new books

Big-time publishers don’t do much for emerging authors. Unless you are Stephen King or a former US president, be prepared to do most, if not all, of your own marketing. Since you’re doing it anyway, why not get the bulk of the return from it?

Don’t let the stigma stop you

It’s only the big publishers and newspapers that buy into it anymore. How many are left? How many do you think will be around in ten years? Yeah…thought so…

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Self-publishing 101: New series

Self-published book

Welcome to SKP’s new series: Self-publishing 101

Self-publishing is not admitting defeat or giving up on “traditional” publishers. Quite frankly, it’s the wave of the future.

As an editor and ghostwriter, I spend a large amount of time with authors who intend to self-publish. There is a lot to learn if you are new to the idea. Luckily, there are many who have blazed the trail ahead of you. Therefore, I offer the Self-publishing 101 series to enlighten and encourage budding authors.

You may not be a first-time author, in fact, many authors who have seen success with traditional publishers are buying back the rights to their books so that they can re-release on their own label (to steal a phrase from the music industry). hat’s OK, too. The learning curve isn’t much different.

Doing it all alone is hard. It’s also dangerous: one wrong move, and you could lose enough credibility that you may not be able to recover.

Let’s make this the go-to FAQ about self-publishing

We’re in this together: from those of us who are testing the waters to those of us who have battled the rapids and made it to the other side (and are considering another dip). Let’s learn from each other and earn back the pride in our industry! The more quality books are out there, the less junk our readers will have to wade through to find us.

If you have burning questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section, below. You will be helping fellow authors who have the same questions you do.

If you have a horror story or some sage advice, let me know – we’d love to have you as a guest blogger.

I’ll post a new edition each week!

Meanwhile, if you are just getting started with your masterpiece, consider ordering the Memoir Kit or the Ghostwriter Kit. They’ll give you a head start on your dream of finishing your first book.

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Happy 7th birthday, Twitter

Wow, can you believe that Twitter has been around for 7 years? Do you remember social media without it? It amazes me that so many businesses are still balking at the idea of using one of the most powerful and popular engagement sites and search engines in existence.

And, what better way for Twitter to make the announcement? By using the #1 search engine, of course!

Youtube recently announced that it gets over 1 billion (yup, with a “B”) visitors each month. If you aren’t creating quality content and sharing it on both – you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to engage with your clients and increase your bottom line.

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Formally of the Eagles? (Guest post)

Don Feldes, formally of the Eagles

AN INCREASINGLY RARE RANT FROM JAMES MONIZ…

All right, maybe I shouldn’t be so anal. I’m looking at the front page of the Las Vegas Sun Online Edition, and I see a huge, professionally produced ad for the Pearl Concert Theater At the Palms Resort. The ad is for an upcoming concert by Don Felder, IMHO an often-overlooked guitar player and songwriter. So far, so good. The ad then states that he is “FORMALLY OF THE EAGLES.”

Ahem…

No, he is not formally of the Eagles. Formally, he was with the band from 1974 until their breakup in the 80s, and then again for their reunions in the 1990s. Formally, he has multiple gold and platinum records to his credit, most notably THE EAGLES-THEIR GREATEST HITS 1971-1975, which to date has sold an astonishing 42 million copies, including one to me. Formally, his ass was booted out of the band by Don Henley and Glen Frey years ago for reasons unknown and uncared-for by me.

Informally?

Fire the &%$% yutz who wrote this ad, so he or she can be FORMERLY employed by The Palms, just as Don Felder was FORMERLY of the Eagles. Numb nuts.

That is all.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne quote

“Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

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When quotes are “scary” or “random”

Random quote marks

If read as is, the “cheese” in the burgers could actually be made of recycled cat food, and the store making sandwiches defines “fresh” as anything properly rinsed after hitting the floor within the last two weeks. “Meat Service” could only mean that someone has seen Sweeney Todd one too many times, and “restrooms” – I don’t even want to know.

If you feel that any of these writers employed quotations correctly, then you may just have a “problem.”

Why are quotation marks so misunderstood?

It’s easy to get tangled in grammar, but quotation marks should never trip you up. They are used to denote something someone has said, surround titles or works, or to set aside special terms. Yes, that’s it.

Because English has no other way to denote sarcasm or irony in print, quotes are sometimes used in this capacity. Also called “scare quotes,” they surround a term that may actually mean the opposite of what is written. You can see how that would (often hilariously) affect the meanings of all the signs above.

No matter what anyone might believe, quotes are NEVER used for emphasis. You have caps, bold, and italics to play with – sometimes even color – but never, ever quotes.

Use quotes sparingly, in fact, this particular punctuation should not be used on signage. I’d love to hear your exceptions, below.

Trust me. You don’t want your customers believing that “massage” and “wash hands” are euphemisms for…well, you just don’t!

 

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Nodding and Shrugging

As an editor and writing coach, one of my pet peeves is when someone writes that a character “nodded his head” or “shrugged her shoulders.” I find this even in best-selling novels and it makes me cringe every time. An author of that caliber should know better. The editor should be fired.

If you do not understand, or have found yourself guilty of this misuse, please humor me by doing the following:

Shrug something. Anything. In fact, shrug as many things as you can.

What did you shrug?

shrugging diagramYes, of course – your shoulders! By very definition, “A shrug is a form of nonverbal communication that is performed by lifting both shoulders up…”

See? It is redundant to say someone shrugged his shoulders. It makes you sound like an amateur. You may simply say, “He shrugged.”

Now that you know better you can try something else. If you want to get more colorful, try variations of the shrug with some of these phrases:

  • He lifted one shoulder in doubt.
  • He gave a half-shrug and rolled his eyes.
  • He rolled his shoulders and threw his hands out in exasperation.

These are but a few – go ahead and be creative – but for all that is holy, please do not have your character shrug his shoulders. What else would he shrug?

The same is true for nodding. If you repeat the above exercise, you’ll see that there is absolutely nothing else you can nod. Nodding, by definition is “to make a slight, quick downward bending forward of the head.” See? You don’t need to nod your head – if you are nodding, you are already using your head.

Here are some different ways you can show your character is nodding:

  • She dipped her chin in agreement.
  • She gave a half nod, and then smiled.
  • Her curt nod informed me that I was dismissed.
  • She bobbed her head enthusiastically and clapped in glee.

You can save on word count and save those like me from ripping out our hair by paying close attention to the words you use. After all, you ARE a writer, and that is your job, correct? You might as well do it as best you can. Have fun, be creative, enjoy having your characters nod and shrug – just do it responsibly.

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This food is Vegan Free!

This food is vegan free - woohoo!

Some people must believe that no one reads their packaging – or else they’d hire a professional editor before they printed their labels.

I am happy to report that I am no longer eating vegans. It’s nice that products such as these reassure me that I’m getting only the purest carnivore-containing foods.

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Opal Pickles chimes in about your vs. you’re

Pickles comic about your vs.  you're

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