Adventures in Self-Publishing – Why Write for Anthologies – Part 1

 

Why write for anthologies? Part 1

The first anthology I became involved with was A Splendid Salmagundi – put together from the UK based Goodreads group. They’d done one the year before and had some success with it. The royalties were fed back into the group for various uses – promotion and get-togethers for example. That wasn’t the point, however – it was a good way to get an author’s work in front of a new set of readers. Salmagundi was a mixed genre book – with everything from fantasy, to romance, to sci-fi, to mystery and beyond. I remember reading a heartbreaking story about a woman who was suffering from an incurable illness, and the tenderness her husband showed. That story touched me profoundly, as it wasn’t long after my own mother passed away. I cried. Some of the stories made me laugh, some I wasn’t as bothered with, but all were well crafted, and gave a good insight into the author’s style.

Not all the stories were for everyone – it depends on the reader’s tastes but there was bound to be something enjoyable, and that’s the point. A reader may take a chance of a short story from an author they aren’t familiar with – and enjoy their work.

Several groups write anthologies for charity – A Fifth of Boo! for example. I became involved with this one, and it’s predecessor through a writers’ Facebook Group. I usually see at least one anthology asking for submissions every couple of months. Now it’s not guaranteed your story would be accepted – some of the anthos have strict guidelines – but it’s worth a try.

For Boo! I wrote a ghost story based around the mysterious bunker at the site where I work.  It was a story wanting to be written every time I walked past that damn building. It is good fun to get involved with a genre outside my normal fantasy writing. It’s also great writing practice. Anthologies are a great way to find a home for those stories which pop up at 3am and don’t have a place in the main body of your work.

Single shorts are a hard sell – especially very short ones – after all, are you, a reader, going to pay 99p or 99c for a 500-word story? Probably not. You might pay for a collection of stories, however. And thus find a new author.

There is definitely a knack to writing shorts – after all the author has to introduce the characters and the world, get the action going and then conclude within a relatively short space. No flowery descriptions there, or protracted scenes.  I’ve read some super shorts and some crap ones, but that’s the same for novels. That said, I’m far more likely to persevere with a short than a novel I am not enjoying. There will be a post of writing short stories at a later date.

Anthologies are a great lunchtime read, or on the bus, or the half hour before sleep, or even on the toilet! All those times when a reader has a few minutes but not enough to get really involved.

Finding Anthologies

The places I’ve found anthologies:

Goodreads author groups, Facebook Groups (either via links or directly through the groups), word of mouth. Networking is a must for indie authors, and once you build these relationships it’s far easier to find this information. Indies tend to be supportive, but also needy (in the nicest way – it goes with the territory) and are often looking for people to join anthologies. Ask in groups, check online.

https://www.authorspublish.com

https://thejohnfox.com/publishers-of-short-story-collections/

https://www.mywordpublishing.com/2017/08/first-time-writers-self-publish-anthology/

https://www.janefriedman.com/getting-an-anthology-published/

 

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews -Part 2

I remember the first ‘bad’ review I got for my first book. It was 2-star review on Goodreads, and I was angry, upset and lots of negative emotions.  How dare someone think that! Of course, now I have moved on, and I realise it is just one reader’s views, nothing more, nothing less.

My point is – for new writers a bad review feels terrible. Someone who doesn’t care how much time you spent writing, what sacrifices you made etc. Correct – the reader doesn’t give a damn about that. He or she just wanted a good experience with the book they spent money on. If you go to a restaurant and order a meal, it arrives and it’s not what you expected, or you think it’s too cold, or too hot, or has garlic in then you will complain. You don’t care that the chef has a headache, or his car broke down on the way in. You want a nice meal. It’s the same principle.

I have a mix of ratings on my books from 1 star to 5 stars, some great comments and some… less than great comments. The books I write are NOT mainstream. Light Beyond the Storm features violence against women, murder, sex, slavery and other contentious topics. I’ve been told it can be difficult to read. Am I going to change it? No. The issues therein are part of the story and the world of Erana: Elves are slaves, Dii (the main female character) is an Elven woman who is not only a slave but a magic user. She has no rights in that society – and her very existence is illegal. The poor girl is at the bottom of the social heap. Olek and Archos are the good guys (and I use that term relatively), but they aren’t nice. Olek is a thief and an assassin – he kills, he steals, he blackmails. Archos is a sorcerer and he deceives, he kills, he flouts the law, and he is, essentially, a crimelord. There are very few really ‘good people’ – except Dii and Ozena. I can understand why readers might be shocked by what happens, or upset by the violence. Some folks are. But then again some aren’t.

Books are a varied as the authors – everyone is different. Readers are different.

So how to deal with ‘bad’ reviews.

  1. DO NOT COMMENT – Really just don’t. It’s unprofessional, it’s likely to backfire. A few years ago there were some individuals on Goodreads who had rated a particular author’s book with a low rating and unfavourable review; said author then started bitching about these reviewers. There was name calling, trolling and general nastiness. No one came out well, least of all the author. Such behaviour tarnishes other authors (and readers) who don’t behave like that and indie author suffers.
  2. ANALYSE THEM – is the reader just unhappy because the story didn’t fulfil their expectations? Or are they reporting technical issues? The first you as the author can’t do much about, but technical issues can and should be fixed.
  3. DO NOT GO BITCHING ON YOUR BLOG – this relates back to 1. Yes, you might be annoyed or upset but venting online will not help. People forget what is said online can be deleted but not removed. By that I mean if someone sees it, then it’s ‘out there’ – it can be copied, or shared. If you feel you must vent do it privately.
  4. MOVE ON – pretty much every book from Shakespeare’s plays to Game of Thrones will have a bad review. It happens.
  5. KEEP WRITING – don’t give up. Writing is a craft, and it takes practice, and commitment. One or two bad reviews can knock your confidence – but just shrug and keep writing. Look for how you can improve – which is pretty much the same as in everything.
  6. DO NOT COMMENT. Yep it’s that important I am saying it twice.

There are blogs offering reviews – and they can be useful. But don’t buy a good review – it will show and many sites (such as Amazon) will remove ‘fake’ reviews. This also goes for review swaps (I read your book and rate it high if you do mine).  Indies don’t have the best reputation and behaviour like that doesn’t do anyone any good.

Don’t get your mum/brother/cat to post a review. They may indeed like your work but the review will be biased. Again most review sites will remove those, and in some places, your publishing account can be revoked.

Wait. Reviews will come. Not every reader reviews.

Good reviews are nice to have, but it’s not the end of the world if they are few.

As I said in my previous article you can’t please everyone. There will always be someone who doesn’t enjoy your work, and that’s fine. Move on. Keep writing.

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews – Part 1

Reviews…writers crave them and fear them. Readers utilise them, write them, ignore them. So what is the point?

A good deal of advice for writers states solicit reviews at all costs, but it this good advice? Yes and No. Let me get this clear – a review is one person’s opinion of a product, be it socks, a movie, or a book. And this is where the issue lies. Every individual who reads a book views it differently. Each person has expectations of a book (possibly based on having read previous reviews), prejudices – and we all have an unconscious bias – experiences/education, and mood.

For example – I like world-building; descriptive prose; great, and believable characters; emotive and lyrical writing. I read: Fantasy, gothic horror, science fiction, historical fiction, classics, mythic, erotica, true crime, historical mystery, science and medicine books. The expectations I have for a particular genre vary – I want my science, history and crime to be well-researched and not dry, but not overly complicated as I am reading for interest not a profession. I want my science fiction believable, or at least consistent, but with an element of the fantastic. I want my fantasy to be rich, amazing and well-developed. I want my gothic horror to be creepy, dark and deadly but not terrifying. And so on. So if I review a book I have read I need to apply this – my expectations for say, Les Miserables or Tess of the D’Urbevilles are not the same as for Cadfael or Sacred Band.

And so you have an opinion by an individual with a mix of views, expectations etc. No review is right. And no review is wrong. They are all subjective. And that’s the point and the difficulty.

As a reader, I seldom read reviews for books – basically because they don’t influence my choice much.  However, I do read reviews for electronics, clothes, movies and pretty much everything else. Yes, I’m weird. Many readers aren’t like me, they put great store by reviews – looking for merits and flaws from like-minded people.

There are readers who have certain criteria:

Engaging characters, well written, free from errors, believable.

But then there’s too much description/not enough? Too much sex/romance/violence/swearing or not enough. How much IS enough? Not a clue. It’s subjective.

I posted on a facebook group – name a couple of books you thought you should like and didn’t. As expected the results were varied. Books I love were thought utter drivel, and books I hate were thought wonderful. This was the picture across the board.

There are a minority of readers who look for the errors in a book or take great delight in bitching about the book/author. It is a small, vocal minority.  But they are there. This is particularly the case for indie-authored books. I’ll discuss how to handle reviews like this in a later post.

I review books for many reasons: I have a bad memory and it’s a form of note-taking; I want to share what I think of a book, although given the fact I rarely read book reviews this is rather hypocritical on my part; I want to support an author.  But people review for many reasons, and in many ways.

Reviews are opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

I’d be interested in what criteria my readers use to review, and if they read reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Book Bundles – Bundle Rabbit

I can’t believe it’s 18 months since I first started using Bundle Rabbit. How time flies!

As you know I love Bundle Rabbit – but what is it? What does it do? Why should you consider publishing there?

What is Bundle Rabbit and what does it do? Bundle Rabbit is a book bundling service – a ‘curator’ decides on a theme – Merfolk, Fairies, Zombie, Cats etc. and requests the books which are added to the site by authors or their publishers to add to his or ‘vision.’ An author can refuse their book if they don’t think it meets the bundle vision, or wishes to use it elsewhere. Once an author approves the book the curator adds it to the bundle. A reader can then purchase a bundle with several books or short stories for a far lower price than the books retail for individually.

The idea is that Reader Bob buys a Dragon Bundle with, say, a dozen books in, he may have read work from one or two of the authors but is unfamiliar with the rest. He works through the bundle and finds that the other authors are great – and goes out to check their other work or other bundles. Bingo! Everyone is happy. The reader has lots of new books and authors to read, and authors get a new fan.

The bundles run from a few weeks – say around Valentine’s Day or Halloween – to long term. It’s up to the curator, but bundles which haven’t sold for a while may get retired.

Bundle Rabbit for authors

2019-01-20 (1)

You retain the rights to your work, no one can sell it or add it to a bundle without your permission.

How much do authors get paid?

‘For outside sales channels (Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) a sale appears on your royalty statement two months after the sale occurs. For example, let’s say a bundle you’re in is sold on June 15th at Amazon. We will receive the payment for that sale from Amazon on August 29th, thus it appears on your August royalty statement. Your August royalties are then paid the first week of September.’ https://www.bundlerabbit.com/home/faq

There is also the ability to create  Bundle Rabbit Series   – this is something I am in the process of doing presently. If you decide to curate for Bundle Rabbit and have a series planned – such as the Nightly Bites vampire series, or, in my case the Here Be/Myth, Monsters and Mayhem series you can add all the books to the series and have a single link. Hopefully, this will encourage readers to check out other bundles.

The reports page is easy to understand, the reporting is regular and reliable. There is a tally of bundles sold this month, with historical reports available, and also a total. You can break it down by bundle as well. There is a tab for the reported royalties – so you know how much you get per book. It pays out once $10 is reached in any given period (since Paypal put their fees up). So on a quiet month it might roll over.

Curating for Bundle Rabbit

I love being a curator for Bundle Rabbit. It’s a lot of fun, and quite a lot of work. That said it’s really rewarding. For a start, it’s an awesome way to network – which is important for indies. As there is a relatively small pool of authors involved and most of the authors there have multiple books then often the same authors will appear in many bundles. This has its pros and cons – you know what you’re getting with an author and his or her book but being a smallish pool there is not the diversity there might be elsewhere. The community is growing – I have encouraged four or five authors I know to add their books.

The curator needs to source a suitable cover for the book (which can cost), and promote, but Chuck – the owner of Bundle Rabbit – provides some awesome banners, fan-art and montages for you to use and share. I have to say Chuck makes Bundle Rabbit a breeze. If there are problems or questions he responds quickly, politely and fixes them (if able). I wish the support on Amazon was as good.

Why should authors consider Bundle Rabbit?

It’s true the share that one gets through the bundle does not amount to large amounts – but a sale is a sale – and one that may well not have happened otherwise.

Pros: It’s great for networking; it’s another channel to sell books; it’s great for finding new books; if you aren’t planning to curate then once you add your books you just have to wait for a curator to find your book – then it’s go…

Cons: It’s a little fiddly at first; you have to do your own taxes; there are authors who don’t respond to the book requests; if an author wishes to leave a bundle (to go to KDP Select for example) the entire bundle has to be retired – which is a pain in the whatsit. That said, there is a message board and the curator can contact the authors and check.

I would highly recommend authors (and readers) checking out BundleRabbit – as far as I can see, after the initial sign up and book uploading (you need Velum or E-pub) then unless you’re a curator you have to do very little.

I have not yet checked out the other bundle services – but I plan to do so. If any of my followers have experience of these then feel free to post/reply.

 

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – 1.3 – the basics – Smashwords 1.1

https://www.smashwords.com/

I like Smashwords – but uploading the MS is a bit of a pain. The meatgrinder as it’s known is notoriously fickle. On the plus side, it will throw the MS back and tell you what to fix. It can take several attempts before it goes through. The help pages on Smashwords are good and will offer advice.

One of the benefits of SW is the Premium Catalog https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/channelManager/

You can submit your book, and have it distributed to a multitude of other sites – including Barnes and Noble, Kobo, I-books and many others. The most useful aspect I have found for Smashy is the coupons. You can produce a coupon to reduce a specific book, for a specific time. It’s great for gifts, review copies etc.  Smashwords pay monthly (sort of). But the distribution stores pay at different times so it’s a little fiddly to keep track. That said it all goes through Smashwords and they pay via Paypal in USD.  Or you can just stick with SW.

SW add your book.PNG

https://www.smashwords.com/upload

I have only added the pic for the first bit (as it’s quite long), but pretty self-explanatory.

You can also have a publisher account with SW. So, if you write under a pen name or publish on behalf of others then that works out nicely. It’s far more awkward on KDP – where you can publish under a pen name. The publisher account is helpful.

The dashboard for SW is reasonably easy to fathom and it’s easier to make changes to a book than on KDP and it’s better for readers as it offers Mobi, Epub and other formats (Amazon only offers the Amazon Mobi and it’s Kindle/Kindle app only).

SW Dashboard.PNG

sw dashboard help

Smashwords requires an ISBN but will provide one free if you don’t have one. This is required for access into the premium catalog, but not solely publishing on SW.

If you can manage the meatgrinder then Smashwords is a great way to get that wider reach.

It’s more accessible than KDP (see the other posts about this).

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Marketing 1.1

One of the primary skills needed to sell your book is marketing. Many people don’t like pushy sales people – so don’t be pushy. If little and often works then go for it but if someone doesn’t want to buy your book then, they don’t. Don’t pester folks.

  1. Marketing
  • Marketing (no one is going to buy your book if they don’t know it’s there. Many people don’t like the pushy salesperson (I certainly don’t), but there are ways and means. I took a course (Diploma in social media marketing) with Shaw Academy. This was a bargain – the course is usually a couple of hundred pounds but a friend put me onto Living Social which offers all sorts of stuff at real bargain prices. It has everything from weekend breaks, to courses, to laptops or whatever. As I understand it – they have a small amount at the low price and when they are gone they are gone.  Check out these bargain sites – you’d be surprised what you find.
  • Facebook – There are zillions of pages and groups on FB. Set up an author page (you can do this from your main account). If you have somehow managed to avoid FB then I’m sorry it’s a good idea to get an account. There are lots of groups devoted to blogging, genre books, author groups, writing groups, promo groups – you name it there will be  FB group for it. Join a few – and CHECK THE RULES. Some let you promo, some let you promo with restrictions (once a week/once a day), and some are non-promo but good for advice and networking. Facebook really wants you to spend your money and buy ads. I haven’t as yet – and I have heard mixed reviews on whether it’s useful. But I understand you can spend a small amount to have a small ad. You can promote in some groups for free – but the reach is limited. Prepare to spend a lot of time on social media…
  • Twitter/Tweetdeck – If you are going to use Twitter to promote then get Tweetdeck. It’s free and it makes managing your Tweets much easier. You can schedule tweets, add graphics, and see what you’ve booked in and when. You can attach more than one Twitter account to it.  Does Twitter help? Probably – there are a lot of cross-tweeting groups, and many people follow there.
  • Linked-in – This is more of a professional site – many employers look there. I’ve been contacted via LI more than once about jobs (all of which were utterly unsuitable), but it’s another forum. 
  • Pinterest – I love pinterest. I set up a page for all the interviews and promo from the blog, but mostly I use it for pics of animals, Phantom of the Opera, and random interesting stuff.  Again there are reader and author groups.

There are countless others but keep in mind how many sites you’re going to have to manage. Even with Hootsuite (for FB, Linked in, Tumblr and Twitter) and Tweetdeck it’s still a couple of hours a night for me. That’s two hours not writing…

You could ignore the marketing, do less than I do and it MIGHT work, but then again it might not. Promotion of your book will get you sales. No one knows it’s there – no one buys it. Simple as.

Blogging/Website. 

Set up an author website if you can – again if you aren’t very good at that kind of thing then look for a course or watch You-Tube. There is plenty of free/cheap advice about if you look. WordPress is fairly easy (and free for the basic package), Wix, Squarespace, Blogger etc are other options. Also, set up a blog. My website is the ‘official’ author site – it lists the books, about me and is updated when there is something new. The blog is more informal (and gets more traffic). You can blog about anything – books you’ve written, books you’ve read, your cat/dog/rabbit/degu, plants, recipes or whatever. It’s good writing practice – builds a network of followers who might check out your book(s) and it’s fun. I will say this – pick what you blog about carefully. If you want to go rant about some reviewer leaving your book a 1-star review on Amazon; politics; what someone famous has or hasn’t done then go ahead but keep in mind what goes on the internet stays on the internet. It’s easy for a reader to misunderstand a comment, and if you start bitching then someone will notice and it’s likely to end up with a slanging match – which is public. You’re the author, you’re the brand. Being a jerk can harm this brand. You can’t undo it. I’ve seen authors behave badly – slagging off readers who rated a book low, or making some derogatory comment about a reader’s opinion or intelligence. It didn’t end well.  You have been warned.

 

 

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – 1.2 the Basics cont. KDP.

 

So, your book is written, edited (hopefully), and you have sourced a decent cover. What are your choices?

KDP – Amazon. The biggest slice of the pie BUT they are known to be a little picky and have the usual issues with big business (don’t care about the little guy – you). Some authors don’t like the big bad Zon’s business practices – but they ARE the biggest marketplace. They are also issues with authors getting account bans because of content violations, multiple accounts or other, vaguer issues.

READ THE FAQ and TOS. You can ONLY have one account. ONE. You can have an account for buying things, and a different login and password for KDP but only the single KDP account. KDP is hot on this, they will close your account. I’ve heard of people sharing computers with separate accounts being caught out. I assume it’s done partially on IP address. There’s a regular feature on people forgetting their login, and accidentally set up a new account. There’s a post on the forum about this at least once a week. Keep your original log in safe – if you do inadvertently set up another account, contact KDP and explain, asking them to remove the duplicate.

There are lots of password safe programmes and apps – you can save your logins there and only need remember the one password to log in. I googled password storage and at least 10 pages of links came up.

Watch out for KDP Select. If you want to sell your e-book anywhere else do NOT join Select.

I will talk about print books in another post.

Content violations: This is a vague term but usually means:

The type of smut – (some erotica is allowed but anything ‘illegal’ or ‘dubious’ will end up in the dungeon (pardon the pun). Amazon is a bit foggy about what is and isn’t allowed so erotica authors do get caught out. You have to tick the ADULT CONTENT criteria. On the subject of covers.- Amazon is pretty lenient but they do not allow nipples, genitals or bare backsides on covers. If you write that sort of material then have your images with a bit of modesty,

Public Domain – PD books are allowed but there are strict criteria. Your version has to be substantially different to what’s already out there. I’ve seen ‘authors’ with hundreds of titles get banned – because they uploaded some version and put the odd comment in here and there. Public domain is a minefield – tread carefully.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200743940 – public domain

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200672390 – content guidelines

Plagiarism  – GRRR don’t get me started on this. Basically – did you write what you are submitting? Do you have the copyright? Yes – good then go ahead. No – then crawl off somewhere and stop stealing other authors work.  Just because it was available on the web, or you found it on one of the plethora of pirate sites doesn’t mean it’s yours.

Complaints – if your work is not up to standard and lots of readers complain you MIGHT get a content violation. Usually, Amazon will contact you about this and let you rectify it/remove the book.

Amazon does usually send an email if a book is taken down, or there is an account issue. Check your spam filters too. Respond to what they say promptly, politely and they MAY rectify the issue.

Uploading to KDP is fairly easy. You can use a Word document. It converts it to mobi (or if you have a mobi generator I think you can use that. Check through on the previewer and fix any issues. It usually takes a few days to permeate the stores.

There will be later posts on SMASHWORDS, DRAFT2DIGITAL and LULU.

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Part 1.1 – The Basics

(C)A L Butcher

I have been trying to think of useful and interesting posts to share in 2019. I love the interviews, and these will continue, but I’m going to try the ‘Adventures in Self-Publishing’ series of posts – detailing advice, pitfalls, highs and lows and upskilling.

When I read the KDP forums (that’s Kindle Direct Publishing – Amazon’s publishing system), it never ceases to amaze me the newbies who write a book (or occasionally scrape content from the internet, or upload a public domain book with barely any new changes) and then wonder why they aren’t the next Stephen King or JK Rowling.

I’ve posted up KDP advice before:

KDP: A Noob’s Guide

KDP: A Noob’s Guide Part 2

KDP: a Noob’s Guide Part 3

However there is a lot more on offer than just KDP, and a lot more to do that writing.

Most indie authors have little or no money to spend buying services or advertising – so the easiest way to get around this is to learn how to do these things yourself, network (really important), or trade skills.

I published my first book in 2012 (yep that long ago), and since then I have learned about many, many things.

Depending on your genre you may do research (I love research but I am easily distracted), but there is more to it. Unless you’re a wiz at everything (If so I hate you) then you’ll probably need to be proficient in the following:

Marketing, cover design, editing, networking, formatting. And that’s just the start. If you can write, then you can learn these things. It takes time, and patience.

Let me see in the 6 and  half years since Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles was published I have learned:

Networking (this is really important); editing (currently editing for Perseid Press so I can’t be that bad); cover design (I’m learning Photoshop); marketing; formatting; how to convert to Epub/Mobi etc; how to produce audiobooks; how to format for paperbacks; MSWord; Calibre, Book bundles. Not to mention courses on creative writing, grammar, historical fiction writing, copyrighting and lots of other fascinating (mostly) stuff.

If you are on a low budget then check around. Sites like the ones below are useful.

  • Living Social – offers bargain prices on courses. I got the Diploma in social media marketing and the Creative Writing Certificate for less than 20 GBP each, instead of several hundred pounds.
  • Udemy  – discounted online courses – currently using for Photoshop, and they have lots of writing/marketing based courses. You can pay full price but usually if you wait then a course will appear in the sale – for as little as $10 or $20. You can do them in your own time.
  • Coursera – mostly free but you can pay for the more advanced ones.

And there is You-tube of course.

Much of it comes with practice, but it’s not a simple case of writing a couple of hundred thousand words down and whacking it onto KDP (not that writing is simple – I’m not belittling the craft). None of the publishing sites which let authors publish for free will edit/format or promote the book. That’s the author’s job. It’s a steep learning curve.

Look out for more posts on Adventures in Self Publishing.