A Literary Legacy

At the end of November 2019 my father passed away after a long illness. When discussing what to put in the Eulogy with my sisters we all agreed on the legacy he’d left us – a legacy far more valuable and less easy to quantify than money or a house. A love of reading and storytelling.

Dad left school at 16 with a basic education – he was, apparently, rubbish at art, woodwork and behaving himself but excelled at English, maths and history. He was a born storyteller. Times were different then, and even had he wanted to continue in education it would have not been possible financially. He joined the army at 19, was wounded in action and left partially sighted after being hit by a roadside bomb. (Not much changes in war).

Despite this he still loved to read – mostly westerns and historical books – but struggled with the print size to the end of his days. Both parents encouraged us to read, and both read avidly. Often the sitting room would be filled with people – noses buried in books and there were always books in the house. A trip to the local library was a treat.

Dad told stories about runaway pork pies and mischievous sausages, not to mention household implements which rose up against their masters. I vividly remember the wicked saucepan that hit its owner when it was replaced, and a hosepipe that went on the rampage. All told with my father’s wicked wit and gleaming eyes.

He loved poetry, particularly Kipling, and even a week before his death was able to recite one of his favourites word perfectly (even though his memory was going, he was confused about most things, in pain and on a whole raft of meds). His whole face was aglow when he spoke poetry.

Cargoes – by John Masefield was one of his favourites. The first verses would be read with wonder and then the final verse – well that was read very fast and loud. Reflecting the beauty of the old, fine ships and the somewhat less elegant British ships…

Of all the things Daddy gave us – love, a sense of humour, a belief in ourselves, not taking crap from anyone, to me the love of the written word was the finest – and the most ensuring.

I’m a writer and a poet, both my nieces write, my sister teaches English and drama, and the other sister is an artist and loves history. We all love books, and have FAR too many in the house.  The love of reading and storytelling will live on, and so it should. Storytelling is what makes us human, and it brings us freedom, adventure and emotion.

Thanks Dad, we will miss you.

This is one of Dad’s (and my) favourite poems Twenty Bridges from Tower to Kew

 

Guest Post – 14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets – Kathy Steinemann

14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets

Don’t press the Publish button until you read this post.

Whether you self-publish or work with a traditional publisher, you should perform a thorough check for hidden codes that might hinder your book’s conversion.

Even if you’re not at the publishing stage, a professional-looking document will impress agents and slush readers. A haphazard mess will have them reaching for antacids.

Save yourself the embarrassment.

This article discusses a few common formatting blunders and how to fix them in Microsoft Word. If you prefer a different word processor, you can still use the information here to isolate the same problems in your software.

Before we begin, open your WIP in Word.

You’ll need to activate the function that allows you to see paragraph marks and other invisible symbols:

Navigate to the Home tab of Word and press the ¶ icon.

Tip #1: Never copy and paste from a website.

If you’ve already done this, you might be in for a bumpy ride.

And I’m not talking about legal issues if you’ve hijacked information from internet pages. You’d never do that, right?

No matter what you copy online, you could pick up weird spacing, tables, headings, undesired page breaks, non-standard colors and font sizes, tabs, highlighting, special characters, et al. These unexpected anomalies could prevent conversion to eBook format.

Tip #2: Select a standard font such as Times New Roman or Cambria.

Comic Sans MS won’t impress an agent or an editor. But if you’re self-publishing a printed children’s book, go for it.

Tip #3: Avoid tables.

Some eBook aggregators or programs won’t accept tables, or they do a sloppy conversion job. If you need a table, one option is to produce a graphic instead. It’s beyond the scope of a short article to explain the mechanics, but for guidance, you can search online for how to take a screenshot.

Tip #4: Remove non-breaking spaces.

These spaces, which require a Ctrl-Shift-Space key sequence in Word, mysteriously appear in some documents and will make them fail EPUBCheck validation.

Non-breaking spaces create sentences that look like this:

The°quick°red°fox°jumps°over°the°lazy°brown°dog.

instead of this:

The·quick·red·fox·jumps·over·the·lazy·brown·dog.

To replace them:

Search for [space]
Replace with [space]

Word is smart enough to replace all spaces, including non-breaking spaces, with regular ones.

Tip #5: Eliminate double returns after paragraphs.

Do you see something like the following in your manuscript?

The quick red fox.¶

Tsk, tsk. That’s what styles are for.

Search for ^p^p
Replace with ^p

If you want extra room after each paragraph, access the style you need to change and modify its spacing:

Modify -> Format -> Paragraph -> Spacing: After

Not sure how to use Word styles?

Microsoft provides how-tos for several versions of Word at the following link:

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/customize-or-create-new-styles-in-word-d38d6e47-f6fc-48eb-a607-1eb120dec563

Tip #6: Delete linefeeds, and replace them with paragraph returns.

Linefeeds eliminate extra spacing between paragraphs. They’re produced with Shift-Enter, and are helpful when writing articles for blogs. This post contains a few, because they work well in WordPress. However, they don’t belong in manuscripts.

Word expects all text joined by linefeeds to be part of the same style. An added annoyance: They hinder edits to hyperlinks and bookmarks.

Search for ^l
Replace with ^p

[That’s ^ell, not ^one.]

Tip #7: Replace double spaces with single spaces.

Double spaces between words were the norm when everyone created manuscripts on typewriters. Nowadays they’re unnecessary, and they can cause spacing anomalies.

For instance, if a line break occurs in the middle of a double space, you’ll end up with a single space at the end of the first line and another single space at the beginning of the next. Given the number of double spaces that would occur in a typical manuscript, the probability of several such anomalies is close to 100%.

Search for [space][space]
Replace with [space]

Tip #8: Remove extraneous spaces at the end and beginning of paragraphs.

No matter how careful you are, these spaces appear as you write and revise. They’re easy to replace.

Search for [space]^p
Replace with ^p

and then

Search for ^p[space]
Replace with ^p

Tip #9: Edit apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Consider this sentence:

“But I don’t trust ‘im,” he said.

Note the punctuation that replaces the missing h at the beginning of ‘im. It looks like a quotation mark.

Here’s how you would fix it. Type:

[h][i][m][cursor left x 2][‘][cursor left][backspace][cursor right x 3]

This is an excellent reason to avoid words that drop initial letters.

Instead of: ’E’s doing it again.

Try: He’s doin’ it again.

Instead of: He’s going with ’em.

Try: He’s goin’ with them.

Instead of: I’m not against ’t, honest.

Try: I’m not agin it, honest.

Plan your dialect before you write your story, and keep a file with the quirks for each person. Characters should have unique speech characteristics that enable readers to differentiate them, but the dialogue should be easy to read.

Tip #10: Replace tabs.

Search for ^t
Replace with [nothing]

Tabs don’t belong in a manuscript. Neither do multiple spaces. If you want to indent the beginning of each paragraph, set up a style for that.

Indented paragraphs function well for novels.

Block-formatted paragraphs work better for books such as cookbooks and instructional manuals, where special formatting like bulleted lists, block indents, and hanging indents often appear.

Tip #11: If you’re preparing your document for eBook conversion, find and replace these codes with [nothing]:

^b (section break)

^m (manual page break)

Tip #12: Never do this.

Do you remember the tip about double returns after paragraphs?

Here’s a practice that’s even worse: multiple presses of the Enter key to reach the top of a new page, to insert a blank page, or to set up for a section break.

In eBooks, free-flowing text, font changes by readers, and varying screen sizes will transform extra lines into a mess. You might get away with it in a paperback or hardcover edition, but a minor edit before you print could alter your paging and introduce other glitches.

Instead, on the Insert tab, select:

Pages -> Blank Page

or

Pages -> Page Break

Tip #13: Search and replace cautiously.

Why?

Consider the following, for example. Sometimes authors want to replace all ‘s (straight quotes) with ‘s (curly quotes). This is how they do it:

Search for ‘
Replace with ‘

However, when they do this, all words such as ’e’s, ’em, and ’t end up with apostrophes that face the wrong way.

Can you imagine the time-consuming mess you’ll have to clean up afterward?

Always, and I repeat, always double check your entire document after performing blanket search-and-replace operations. Yes, it takes time, but quality is worth the effort.

Tip #14: When all else fails …

Are you receiving obscure errors from EPUBCheck or your book aggregator’s conversion process?

If you can’t locate the problems via Word’s Find function, you might have to:

  1. Copy the text from your manuscript into a text file.
  2. Begin a new manuscript.
  3. Select the contents of the text file, copy, and then paste into the new manuscript. This removes all formatting.
  4. Start at the beginning and reformat the @#$%&! thing.

Imagine how long that will take. The painless approach would be to avoid the errors in the first place.

A program like Jutoh, which contains EPUBCheck and works well in tandem with Calibre, provides meaningful errors. Jutoh also allows direct edits, saves your project, and converts to multiple file formats.

Don’t give up if you experience formatting difficulties.

And remember: Today’s words are tomorrow’s legacy. Keep writing.

© Kathy Steinemann

Kathy Steinemann, Grandma Birdie to her grandkids, is a parrot-loving grandma involved in a passionate affair with words, especially when the words are frightening or futuristic or funny.

As a child, she scribbled prose and poetry, and won public-speaking and writing awards. As an adult, she worked as a small-town paper editor, and taught a couple of college courses. She has won or placed in multiple short fiction contests.

If you were to follow her around for a day, you might see her wince when a character on TV says “lay” instead of “lie” or when a social media post confuses “your” with “you’re.” And please don’t get her started on gratuitous apostrophes in pluralized words.

Her popular books in The Writer’s Lexicon series are touted by writers as “phenomenal,” a “secret weapon,” and “better than a thesaurus.”

You’ll find her at KathySteinemann.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

kathy-510x510-alex.jpg

 

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

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.

 

 

Reading for the Blind – Interview with Matt Jenkins

Reading for the Blind interview

Name: Matt Jenkins

I understand you are involved with one of the services providing spoken word material for the visually impaired – tell us a bit more about this work.

Yes. I am the “technical editor” for the local Talking Newspaper charity.  Every two weeks we take the local newspapers from the past fortnight, pick out the 30-or-so most interesting and relevant pieces, and record them to audio CD. My job involves the technical aspects of the work – the recording, editing and mixing of the audio.  I rarely get to do the actual reading – there is usually a team of 4 or 5 readers that do the reading – although we do also provide audio recording facilities to a couple of other local services – the local housing association and the support services for carers – and I get to read on those, which is nice.

How did you become involved with this?

A friend of the family is one of the trustees of the charity. She heard me reading at my parents’ church one christmas (yes, I sometimes get roped in for that kind of thing…) and said “We need you!” so I went along.  I rapidly progressed from reading to editing (by rapidly I mean instantly) since they had a lack of anyone with any skills whatsoever in that regard. Now I’m in charge of that side of the operation.

Why is this an important part of your work?

It’s what got me into audiobook reading. A friend at the charity mentioned ACX one day and said I should read audiobooks – so I did. And now here I am. Without the talking newspaper I’d never have heard of ACX and never got into reading audiobooks.

Do you think there are enough resources available to support those who are visually impaired enjoy books, newspapers and magazine? What more can be done?

Yes, I think there probably is enough. With the likes of Audible and iTunes making it easy and cost effective to get audiobooks while at the same time always increasing the library of available books, enjoying books has never been easier.  Magazines and newspapers, on the other hand, are a different matter. Most areas in the UK have a talking newspaper service, but certainly, more rural areas are somewhat lacking. Magazines, however – I am unaware of any commercial publications that provide any audio formats for their magazines, but RNIB do provide some of them with thanks to third-party readers. But, with the advances in speech synthesis and screen reading, if you’re online you can get most articles read for you by your computer. It’s not quite the same as a real human voice, but technology is going a long way to filling the gap.

If a person wanted to become involved with this kind of work how would they go about it?

There is a good chance there is a talking newspaper in your area. The best places to go to find out about it would be your local newspaper (all the papers we read from are donated by the local newspaper), or speak to someone at your local council services offices or library.  If there are any local visual impairment charities they may also know of (or be instrumental) in your local talking newspaper.

The RNIB also provide a service for national publications (http://www.tnauk.org.uk/) if you want to get more involved at a national level.

How does this differ to narrating an audiobook?

It’s a lot more rough-and-ready. We have limited time between the papers being published on Thursday and the CDs being dispatched on Friday. We get about 3 hours to do all the recording and editing. It’s more important to get the news out on time than to make it sound studio-quality perfect. Although we do strive to get it as good as possible, we don’t mind the odd mistake and stumble over words – to edit out and re-take all that would take longer than we have available (we rent a room from the local Royal Volunteer Service to do all our work).

Anything else you wish to add?

Talking Newspaper societies are always looking for more readers. And if our society is anything to go by they’re crying out for people with technical audio production skills.

But thanks to the internet and technology our listenership has dwindled away to a fraction of what it was. There is still a demand for our services, and we will keep going until the last subscriber cancels.

Where can we find your work?

The Talking Newspaper is not publically accessible – it’s a subscription service. And unless you’re a carer in my local area (and it’s not just people that with visual impairment that like audio versions of documents – there are those that can’t, or have difficulty, reading, or don’t read English well enough) you won’t have access to the material we record.