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 – 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.

 

 

Guest Post – Self Publishing Platforms and Accessibility – by Victoria Zigler

Victoria Zigler is a prolific author, mostly of books for children and poetry. She has an impressive catalogue. She is also blind – and has visited the Library Of Erana in the past to discuss the accessibility (or otherwise) of publishing, reading and enjoying books. I’m pleased to welcome Tori back, where she discusses the issues of self-publishing on Amazon vs Smashwords.

Tori – over to you

“Which platform is best for self-publishing?”

It’s a question you’ve likely heard many, many times – one especially popular with people comparing Smashwords to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) – and one that will have a different answer, depending on who you ask, and what experiences they’ve had using one platform or the other.

Here’s another question for you though:

“Which platform is more accessible for visually impaired authors who rely on screen readers?”

This one may also come with different answers, depending on who you ask, and their personal experiences.  The screen reader and browser you use may make a difference too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does.

I’ve only ever used JAWS (Java Access With Speach) so can’t compare screen readers for you.  But I’m going to give you my opinion on which platform is more accessible if you use JAWS and Firefox, which is what I use.

Although, I can only answer it using a comparison of Smashwords and KDP, because I actually haven’t dealt directly with the other platforms.  My books may be on other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble and Kobo, but it’s because of distribution.  Something I’m very grateful exists, since it makes my life easier.  Actually, it makes things easier for a lot of people, and not just screen reader users.  But this post isn’t about distribution.  This post is about which publishing platform is more accessible for screen reader users using JAWS and Firefox.

So, what’s the answer?

The short answer is Smashwords.  They’re easier to navigate, having a less cluttered page.

Although, in all fairness to them, KDP do appear to have improved their accessibility a little.  So at least they aren’t as much of a headache to use as they were when I first started publishing, which was almost seven years ago now.  Navigation is still a little more difficult on KDP than it is on Smashwords though.  Still, any improvement helps.

Of course, there’s room for improvement on both.  There’s always room for improvement, no matter what we’re talking about.  Especially since whoever invented drop-down menus obviously hasn’t had to use a screen reader.  Then there’s how graphics happy everyone is these days…

You know, I think we should make it essential for every company’s technical department to have a team of visually impaired people whose jobs are just to check the accessibility of websites using different screen readers and browsers.  It would create more jobs, and improve accessibility for screen reader users at the same time.  It’s a win- win situation!

But, in the meantime, if I had to recommend either Smashwords or Amazon to someone, based on accessibility alone, I’d recommend Smashwords.

Unfortunately, a lot of people still prefer to go directly to Amazon for their eBooks, and you have to sell a lot of books to have your Smashwords books distributed to Amazon.  Something very few authors actually achieve.  That means your best chance of having your books listed on Amazon is to put them on there yourself.  So, as I’ve recently realized and accepted, you’re going to want to deal with both platforms.  At least, you are if you want all those people with Kindles to buy copies of your books.

***~~~***

About the author:

Victoria Zigler is a blind poet and children’s author who was born and raised in the Black Mountains of Wales, UK, and is now living on the South-East coast of England, UK, with her hubby and furkids.  Victoria – or Tori, if you prefer – has been writing since she knew how, and describes herself as a combination of Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books: Hermione’s thirst for knowledge and love of books, combined with Luna’s wandering mind and alternative way of looking at the world.  She has a wide variety of interests, designed to exercise both the creative and logical sides of her brain, and dabbles in them at random depending on what she feels like doing at any given time.

To date, Tori has published nine poetry books and more than 40 children’s books, with more planned for the future.  She makes her books available in multiple eBook formats, as well as in both paperback and audio.  She’s also contributed a story to the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Wyrd Worlds II, which is available in eBook only.

Links:

Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk

Blog: https://ziglernews.blogspot.co.uk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/toriz

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler

Google+: https://plus.google.com/106139346484856942827

 

Find Tori’s books on…

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/toriz

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Victoria-Zigler/e/B00BHS9DQ6/

…Along with a variety of other online retailers.

 

Author Interview Number Eighty-Eight – Gavin Whyte

Welcome to Gavin Whyte

Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m from West Yorkshire, UK. I was born and raised in a town called Huddersfield. Since August 2014 I’ve been residing in Taipei, Taiwan.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.I’ve seem to have slipped into the inspirational, spirituality and personal development genres, but I don’t intend to stay there (I don’t like to pigeonhole myself). My first book, Waiting for Wings, was written as a gift to help a family grieve. It’s a moving story of friendship, love and loss and is based on true events. It has a theme of life after death running throughout. The Girl with the Green-Tinted Hair is a fable about practicing the art of Being. It’s about following your heart, about accepting change and about accepting death and dying. One reviewer of my most recent book, Happiness & Honey, said it was a fantastic book on the Law of Attraction. Another fable, it’s loosely based on my own experiences about the journey one embarks upon when there is a dream to chase.

Where do you find inspiration? I read, read, read. I practice meditation and have done since I was about 18. I ask a lot of questions about life and death, and study myself meticulously. It’s through this process of self-inquiry that I’m forever refining my philosophy, and it’s through this philosophy that I get inspired.

Are your characters based on real people? My first book, Waiting for Wings, was written as a gift. I never intended to publish it. Because it was written with a grieving family in mind I put them in the story. Dan and his parents are based on real people. The rest are fictional. The Girl with the Green-Tinted Hair contains two characters. A boy and a girl. I am easily both. Reading it back feels like it’s a conversation between myself and I.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? All three of my books are driven by my philosophy on life. Waiting for Wings is all about death and how it isn’t what we have come to believe it is. The Girl with the Green-Tinted Hair is split into four chapters and each chapter is a season. Each season brings with it a lesson for the boy to grasp. Happiness & Honey is a journey about overcoming obstacles and going for what you truly believe in. Because my writing is so heavily driven by a purpose I find it difficult to write any old story. At the moment I believe this is something I need to overcome, as it can be detrimental to the writing process.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? So far my books are available on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks. The reason they’re only available on Amazon is because at the moment I’m doing this solo and it’s easier to manage. I would like to think that I will expand onto other formats and sites in the future. Watch this space.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I don’t see a problem with authors commenting on reviews. It can be nice for a reader to leave a review and know that the author has read it and responds accordingly. Responding to a negative review, though, is tricky and it has to be dealt with in a mature, professional manner. I think it’s a massive No-No for authors to get into arguments over a negative review.

Reviews are very important. I encourage readers to review my books all the time. I simply ask for them to be honest. A writer wants their work to be read – what more could proof is there than a review?

When buying a book do you read the reviews? All the time. I have bought books just going on reviews alone. I’ve been disappointed but I’ve also been very satisfied.

What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? I’m all for it. I think it’s great. Why would it be a negative thing? A writer appreciates how difficult it is to write. Let’s look after each other. Let’s support one another. I admit, I find it hard to read another’s work because it takes time. I’m not the fastest of readers and I have my own pile of books to read. I don’t accept many books to review even if it means I’ll get a review in return. I don’t think it would be fair for me to accept and not deliver, or for there to be a huge delay in my response.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

  1. Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, but especially what inspires you. Reading books in the same genre as you wish to write is great research.
  2. Don’t be scared of failure. We use failure as a springboard to getting to where we want to be. It’s going to be on whatever path you take and you can’t sidestep it. It’s nothing personal, either. It’s part of getting what you desire.
  3. Remember the 4 P’s: Perseverance (Don’t give up) – Patience (It’ll come if you don’t give up) – Positivity (Don’t knock yourself down as a writer – there will be plenty of people who will do that for you) – Practice (write as much as you can).

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I didn’t enjoy reading until I was 18 because school really put me off it. It was something teachers made me do in front of the class and it filled me with anxiety and tension. Because of this experience I’m currently making up for what I missed out as a child and teenager. I’m currently going through the back catalogue of Roald Dahl. I enjoy my Kindle immensely, which has given me access to countless classics – for free! I delve into these like a kid in a sweet shop. When I read non-fiction, I read philosophy, spirituality and psychology.

http://www.gavinwhyte.co.uk

Author Interview Number 2 – Young Adult/Fantasy Author Diana Wicker

feyronthumb 2guardian child thumbnail

Hi and welcome to the Library of Erana, a place of words and of their magic. Words are power, they are knowledge and they are freedom.

Welcome to Diana Wicker.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am an Indie author from the United States.  I wear many hats throughout my day, as I think many people do, but I try to steal a little bit of time from my busy schedule each day to work on my writing.  Writing is one of my favorite ways to relax and express creativity.  I also enjoy reading, sewing, and playing immersive RPG video games.

I do not keep a blog or website for my writing at this time, but I do have a facebook page for the series: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tales-from-Feyron-The-Ripples-of-Power/421079171274185

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.

My current works are primarily young adult fiction in the fantasy/magic and coming of age genres, although I have dabbled in other genres when writing for pure fun.  I am hoping for an ongoing series of stories under the Series Title Tales from Feyron – the Ripples of Power.

The series will be divided into sets of stories from the different historical ages of the Realm of Feyron.  Feyron is the land of magic.  It is the beginning point of all magic and the axis point where all worlds meet.  I was originally inspired by my daughter and her love for storytelling role playing to create this land as a place that she and her friends could tell their tales, and it has taken on a life of its own and continued to grow from there.

The first book, The Dreamweaver’s Journey – The Age of Awakenings Book 1, introduces the Age of Awakenings and the return of spring to the Realms of Light, the lands where the Faiekin and the Guardians of magic live.  The second book, The Guardian Child’s Return – The Age of Awakenings Book 2, is currently in the proof stage, and I hope to have it live in time for the Midsummer Solstice in June.  I have several other works in progress, including a tales of lore collection and a second historical age.

Where can readers find your book?

Amazon.com – both as an ebook and paperback http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00A111KL6

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00A111KL6

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Dreamweavers-Journey-Awakenings-Ripples/dp/1480166804

http://www.amazon.com/The-Dreamweavers-Journey-Awakenings-Ripples/dp/1480166804

Book 2  is now also available on Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/The-Guardian-Childs-Return-Awakenings/dp/1484171802

How long have you been writing and what, if anything, made you choose the genre in which you write?

I cannot actually remember a time where I was not a storyteller.  I began making up stories to tell to my younger family members and friends as a child.  In fact, the first stories I can remember making up had to do with an old chimney standing in the field behind the primary school where I attended, so that had to be kindergarten or first grade (age 5 or 6).  As a child I kept notebooks in drawers of stories that came to mind of places I had been or movies I had watched, so I was making “fan fic” long before I even knew that was a genre of writing.

Now, the reason I chose my current genre is that I had a particular audience of young people I was storytelling to, my children and their friends.  If the older children enjoy reading the story, and the younger children enjoy listening to the stories as they are read aloud, then I feel like I have done a good job on the story and pleasing my audience.  I hope other readers discover the stories and enjoy them as well.

Who or what are your inspirations/influences?

I’d have to say my inspiration comes from many places.  I have always loved a good story no matter how it is presented.  I love listening to stories, reading stories, watching stories, and even playing a well written role playing game so that I can interact with the story.  I enjoy reading from many different genres and have collected books containing fables, myths, and legends from around the world.

I have found that my writing seems to take on the feel of whatever I am absorbed in for relaxation while I am working on the tale.  Sometimes the plots for the stories or characters within them have theme songs that play through my mind while I write.  I find that these relaxing influences often become very important to helping hold together the flavor of that plot or character as I write.

Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one?

One night as I was reading the draft of book 2 to my son, he looked up and me and smiled brightly and whispered, “Mama, it’s too bad your books aren’t on TV yet.  They’re my favorite thing.”  I cannot think of anything that has made me feel happier since I started down this journey of becoming a writer.

I cannot really think of any truly negative experiences related to my writing.  I have certainly had my fair share of frustration in getting stuck on a story or redoing passages or even entire chapters when the story just would not come together, but I do not see that as necessarily a negative thing.  It is just a part of growing as a writer and gaining experience, and sometimes simply of learning to be quiet and listen for the storyteller instead of trying to drag her along to places she does not wish to go.

With the rise of e-books do you still publish in print as well? Is this medium important and why?

I do publish paperbacks through CreateSpace.  There are many readers who do not have access to e-readers, or who still prefer the feel of a real book in their hands.  And really, there is a wonderful pleasure to picking up that paperback, opening the cover, and writing a message to someone on the page below my name and handing them the book with a smile while I think to myself, “I wrote this.  I am an author.”  It is a little complicated to sign someone’s e-reader.

Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write?

I tend to prefer silence, if I can get it, and dim lighting.  I find my most vivid ideas seem to come in that relaxed state of half sleep late in the evening or early in the morning, and that many times my stories sort of play out in visions like a movie or an anime or RPG style CGI video game.

Books are important, why is this the case? What can a book provide that say a video game cannot?

Books hold our past and our present.  They remind us of who we are, where we have been, and often point us forward to where we may someday be.  Sometimes going back to read stories from the past can become an eerily enlightening experience when we see what our world has become in the present.

I think the second question could almost go both ways.  A book can educate, enlighten, uplift, and take you places that you’ve never been; but then again, a well written interactive role playing video game often feels like you are creating the story as you go by offering choices, outcomes, and consequences.  This leads to a sense of wonder, escape, fantasy, and adventure and be just as rewarding and uplifting as reading a good story.  Who knows, perhaps generations from now people may look back on the video games we have left behind and draw conclusions about our societies and cultures much as we might by sitting down to a book of tales from cultures past.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself?

According to my daughter, I randomly burst into song.  This odd habit comes from a game I used to play with my friends in school – Can you go all day and converse only in song?  No talking, just pulling lines from songs to get your point across.  I used to combine lines from songs to make poems as well.  I have a small collection of these musical poems.  My friends used to try to go through, line by line, and pick out each song borrowed from, as every line was from a different song.