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.

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Guest Post – Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort? – T R Robinson

Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort?

Guest post by T. R. Robinson

I first came across character interviews here in Alex’s Library of Erana blog. There have been a couple elsewhere but the majority have been here. Now for a bit of honesty: My initial thought? ‘Silly and pointless.’ As a consequence, I simply glanced (not even sped read) through a couple and thereafter ignored them. I now feel a little ashamed. It is not usual for me to make such determinations prior to fully investigating the validity and seeking to comprehend people’s motivations. Why I did not do so in this instance I am not sure. I suspect it may have been I was new to authoring and probably, as most when first setting out on a new career, felt under pressure to complete a work and to interact in social media. Time pressure in other words: there never seems to be enough for all we want to do. Of course, this is no excuse but I hope it helps readers understand.

Character interviews appear to remain a rarity. I certainly see few. Nevertheless, I now take more note of them. One question that occurs: Who are these interviews for? The author or the reader? I would say both. I will consider them in reverse order.

The Reader

Of what interest are character interviews to readers?

  • (Perhaps with the exception of some self-help or scientific books, the majority of readers are looking to be entertained.)
  • (Usually provide further idea of the character’s true nature, aims and goals.)
  • (Provide some backstory details which will enhance the eventual read. Assuming they do go on to read the book the character is in.)
  • (Build interest in and expectations for a story.)

 

The Author

What benefits do character interviews provide for authors?

  • Display writing skill. (Readers do not readily pick up books by unknown authors. These free interviews provide them with an idea of what they could expect from the author’s books.)
  • Avoid ‘padding’. (Able to fill-out character personalities with additional information that would not fit or be appropriate to include in the primary manuscript.)
  • Know characters. (Authors are advised, for best results, to fully know their charters by writing biographies. Interviews go part way, probably a long way, toward this aim.)
  • Refreshed mind. (Continuous writing on the same theme can lead to fatigue and some degree of stagnation. Writing something different usually breaks the trend.)
  • Marketing/Publicity. (Done right, interviews may set a story’s scene and create intrigue and interest in it.)

Of course, the above are by no means the full extent of what readers and authors may gain from these interviews. Everyone is different.

Worth the Effort?

Back to the original question.

Having now admonished and corrected myself, I may unequivocally state, as far as I am concerned, character interviews do have their place in the reading and authoring world. Now, with respect to Alex’s own books: Fantasy is not a genre I usually read, or if I am honest, really enjoy, at least that has generally tended to be my past experience. Nevertheless, I have read and reviewed Alex’s Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends and have to say I enjoyed it. That was in December 2017. I have not read any others since but admit some of the character interviews here have intrigued and inspired me to contemplate reading more in the genre.

So far I have not undertaken interviews for any of my own characters. This is primarily due to the fact I write in the memoir and biographical fiction genre where, most frequently, who the person is forms an integral part of the tale. However, in view of how much I have enjoyed Alex’s character interviews, I may consider undertaking a few for some of the fictional charters I have utilised to enhance the real events within the biographical fiction and short story collections. There, see, I have been inspired. From sceptic I am now a believer.

Thank you Alexandra for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers.

 

*********************

 

In addition to authoring T. R. Robinson provides free guidance, tips and ideas for both authors and readers.

T. R.’s Primary Website and Blog: https://trrobinsonpublications.com

T. R.’s More Personal Blog: https://trmemoirs.wordpress.com

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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

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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 – 1.2 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.

 

 

Writer Wednesdays – Guest Post – T. R. Robinson – Who Do Authors Write For?

Today we welcome Tanya Robinson – who discusses the following topic:

Who Do Authors Write For?

It would seem many authors and writers (authors to the extent they are authoring a product) forget they are not generally writing for themselves. Having said that, it has to be acknowledged there are a variety of different takes on the topic e.g. some feel it is only correct to write what they want without consideration of others; others say writing should be entirely geared toward the anticipated audience even compromising upon content to satisfy them; others suggest an amalgam of styles. Of course, in varying circumstances any of these, or a combination, may be appropriate. Nevertheless, this post is intended to be pragmatic and realistic.

When anyone writes, author or not, it is usually for others to read whether it be a book, letter, article, post etc. Consequently, authors/writers need to consider, phrase and frame their writing from the readers’ perspective. It is very easy for them to get so caught up in what they are doing as to forget who they are putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard for. This, for the readers at least, can often lead to uninteresting, dry and irrelevant narrative, commentary and dialogue which will do no one any favours. Fundamental to authorship, which is what is primarily being discussed here, is the desire for others to read the end product. The author who writes purely for their own entertainment is truly a rarity, an inspiration and a challenge to most.

Despite the above comments and observations, when it comes to books, though other forms of writing may be included, all should, at least in principle, be writing because it is what they want to do and not because they seek fame or wealth. Naturally most authors would love their books to become bestsellers but to only write with that motivation can lead to distorted, poor quality publications. Make no mistake, readers, on the whole, are not ignorant, foolish people; they will quickly note when something is below par. Nevertheless, despite all that has been said, it must be acknowledged, as a general rule, authors want their books to sell; scriptwriters want agents, producers and directors to take up their ideas; newspaper and magazine columnists want their articles read; letter writers want the recipient to comprehend all they have to say; etc. Consequently, though they may be writing out of a genuine desire to do so, most will also, inevitably, seek to formulate their writing to achieve their aim.

Regrettably there are books where it is clear the author has got caught up in their own thoughts. They understand what they are writing and expect their readers to have the same comprehension without giving thought to whether they have the same background knowledge or experience. It is really easy for authors to fall into this trap; to get carried away with what they know forgetting others will be approaching the work with different perspectives, knowledge and experience. People’s comprehension of a phrase, idea, concept or word is frequently subject to their background; social, cultural, national, religious. However, it would be a minefield to try and take in all the various possibilities. Overall, authors and writers should constrain themselves to writing within their own national understanding. It is more than likely, if a reader has chosen their book, they are either from the same national or cultural background or have a good comprehension of it.

Now to the nitty-gritty of the subject. It is not easy for an author to step back from their ‘baby’ and view it from an others perspective. Most just want to get on with ‘their’ writing and not be bothered by such distractions. Some may even be so arrogant as to consider the requirement to consider others, primarily the reader, trivial; hopefully those who think like that are a minority.

So what does it take to write for readers?

  • Research what readers want, whether it be in books, films, blogs or even letters.
  • Consider the reader’s background, if possible.
  • Authors should be aware of how things they read impact upon them; what they like and what they do not and why. They need to learn from this.
  • Erase or limit superfluous words, phrases and descriptions, which may make sense to them and their circle of acquaintances but are not in wide popular use.
  • Treat readers with respect: give them credit for being intelligent individuals.
  • If the writing is specific, bear in mind the age, and as far as they can know it, the knowledge and experience of the people they are writing for.
  • Avoid narrative or dialogue that talks ‘down’ to the reader.

These are just a few thoughts. No doubt readers of this post will think of other aspects that should or need to be considered.

One observation, regarding fictional works in particular, though the point may be extended to other genres. A book will distinctly benefit if the author is able to view the story as a film in their head. Characters, dialogue, scenery, etc. can all be based upon what they see and as a consequence may be more discernible for the reader. This is not something all writers find easy, though most, if they relax, are able to gain something from such vibrant imaginings.

The crux of the matter is simple: authors and writers should make time to stand back from their writing and take an objective view, endeavouring to see it as a reader will. If they really find they cannot do this, they should get a friend, acquaintance, editor (if they have one) or a reader to have a look. If they do not have anyone they could try asking their ‘friends’ and contacts on social media, perhaps somewhere like Goodreads. There are usually several people willing to participate in, and assist with, such ‘beta’ reading i.e. this is similar to testing  new on-line sites and systems but of course, in this instance limited to reading.

Naturally, as with anything, there are exceptions to the general rule. Some tales and stories need to be told in the author’s own style. The work may not become popular but it has to be acknowledged many interesting works would have been missed if some authors had not the courage and determination to write in the style they considered most suited their work e.g. James Joyce; William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac; etc. Sometimes a story has to be told in an individual style.

Whatever the circumstance, and no matter the style adopted, authors need to remember who they are writing for. They must avoid tunnel vision and accept, in most cases, they are not primarily writing for themselves.

T. R. Robinson is the author of memoir and biographical fiction. More about her, her writing and life may be found at https://trrobinsonpublications.com

Writer Wednesdays – Debbie Mumford #WriterWednesday #Indies #Writing

Here is the first of the new 2018 Writer Wednesday posts. Today we welcome Debbie Mumford, a writer who has had a busy year in 2017. I have to say I’m envious, I plan to write far more than I do, and I have great respect for writers like Debbie who have the discipline to write as much as she does.

Happy 2018! 

A Writer Welcomes the New Year – A Guest Post by Debbie Mumford

2017 was a good year for me. I achieved some goals and failed spectacularly at others, but all in all, when the year ended I was pleased to find that I’d failed forward!

A large part of that forward motion is due to my yearly review in late December and the goals I put in place for the coming year. Stretch goals, not easy ones. Goals I’ll have to work to achieve, but goals that will carry me forward even if I fail to meet all of them. And I’m realistic enough to know that some of them won’t be met.

An important part of this process is recognizing what is and is not a goal. I’m not talking about resolutions. Everyone makes those in early January … and most people have forgotten what they were by February or March. I’m talking about really, truly GOALS.

I like to use S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are, by definition:

  • Specific: Goals need to be specific, not some loose, vague, impossible to quantify statement. “I will write better this year″ is not a specific goal. “I will write 2 pages a day” qualifies.
  • Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. Again, a concrete goal is far better than an amorphous wish. You need to know whether or not you achieved it! “I will write for 45 minutes a day” is a measurable goal.
  • Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by shooting for the moon. “I will complete the first draft of my 90,000 word novel in 6 months″ is much more achievable than “I will write a 90,000 word novel in January.” Also, as I mentioned above, make sure your goals are within your control. “I will write the first draft of my novel” is achievable and within your control. “I will become a NY Times bestselling author” is not.
  • Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. Evaluate your time and your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. Set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic for who you are and how you live.
  • Time-Bound: Goals need to have a time frame. Lots of people dream of writing a novel…someday. But without a deadline, a time pressure, there’s no reason to do anything today. Put a date on your goal and then get started on it today. When you reach the specified date, you’ll know whether or not you accomplished your goal.

One of my goals for 2017 was to publish 18 new titles. I write under two names for two very different audiences: Debbie Mumford writes speculative fiction, often with romantic elements, for grown-ups, and Deb Logan writes contemporary fantasy for middle grade and teen readers, so my actual goal read something like this: “During 2017 I will publish one title a month as Debbie Mumford and one title every other month as Deb Logan.“

That qualified as a SMART goal. It was specific – one title (short story, novella, novel, collection) for Debbie every single month and one for Deb every other month; it was measurable – at the end of the month, I knew whether or not I’d accomplished the task; it was achievable – I had a backlog of published stories where the rights had reverted to me plus a selection of new work that I was ready to release into the wild; it was realistic – I knew I could create the covers and run the manuscripts through Vellum (my formatting tool of choice) in a timely fashion; and it was time-bound – everything would happen in the 2017 calendar year.

I achieved that goal, plus a little bit more. The final breakdown for 2017 was 14 short stories (9 of Debbie’s + 5 of Deb’s), 3 collections (all Debbie’s) and 1 novelette (Deb’s) published digitally, plus 3 novels, 2 novellas, and 3 collections released in print. (The print titles were already available digitally, so they didn’t count toward the actual goal, but the print release was a task that needed to be accomplished.)

I also had a goal in place to grow my newsletter lists. I didn’t put a specific number on this goal, but I did record a starting number for each list and I had a plan in place as to how I would accomplish the task: by searching out and taking advantage of promotional opportunities on Kobo, Amazon, and Instafreebie. I’m pleased to say that I accomplished this goal as well – each list more than doubled in 2017.

Where I fell down, rather spectacularly, was in my production goals. I intended to write at least three novels in 2017 and as many short stories as I could squeeze in. Since I’m still working a full-time day job, this goal probably didn’t qualify as SMART – it failed the “realistic” test. Still, I managed to write a short story a month in addition to all the publishing and promoting, so I failed in the right direction.

So what’s in store for 2018? Recognizing that life happens and the day-job must be done, publishing will take a back seat to production this year. I’ll be published in 2018, but it will be in anthologies and magazines rather than under my own imprint … at least, that’s the plan!

How about you? Have you mapped out your intended journey for 2018? I hope your destination will be grand and glorious. I’m sure I won’t end up exactly where I’m planning to go, but I’m positive the journey will be amazing!

Links:

Debbie Mumford’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/a2q5l8

Deb Logan’s Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/s1c9o3

Websites:

http://debbiemumford.com/

http://wdmpublishing.com

https://deblogan.wordpress.com/

 

 

A noob’s guide to audio books with ACX – part 1 #audio #writers #writingtips

I love having audio books, and I love listening to audio books. Recently I was helping another author with advice on getting her books converted to audio. I thought I’d share my notes.

A quick guide on turning your book into an audio book with ACX – part 1

  • Why should I turn my book into an audio edition?

Audio books are very popular – they are great for the commute to work (which is usually when I listen to them), around the house, in bed or just about anywhere. Many people don’t have the time to sit and read, but as an audio book can be playing whilst you do other things a listener can hear and appreciate the story and not need to put time aside to look at a book. They are also, of course, a great format for people with restricted sight, who might find it difficult or impossible to read from a book or e-reader.

As an author, it is also very useful to have your books in as many accessible formats as possible. More avenues of sale = more potential sales.

 

  • What is ACX and how do I sign up?

https://www.acx.com/help/authors/200484540 – author help and advice

ACX distributes to Amazon, Audible (an Amazon company) and I-books and if you have an Amazon account then you can use that to log in. Otherwise, it’s a case of setting it up. ACX has a reasonable set of help pages https://www.acx.com/help/about-acx/200484860 and it’s useful to start there. Do read the TOS and the FAQ, it will save a lot of heartache later if something goes wrong or you don’t understand something.

You have to provide your bank details, tax info and all the usual legal and financial malarky otherwise you won’t get paid. And yes, if you aren’t a US citizen you still need to provide your tax details – the IRS states that ANY goods sold in or through the US are subject to tax. This is NOT Amazon’s rule – it’s the law. If you are not a US citizen and your country has a withholding agreement hopefully you will not actually have to pay the tax – it still gets declared though. Anyway enough of that tedium.

‘Anyone who holds the rights to an audiobook (a Rights Holder) can connect with the people who can get those audiobooks made (the Producers).’

https://www.acx.com/help/a-marketplace-for-you/200487070

Basically, if you are the copyright holder you can turn your book into an audio edition.

https://www.acx.com/help/how-it-works/200484210ACX image 1

  • What are the royalties?

ROYALTY SHARE it will 20% for you and 20% for the narrator. ACX sets the price so you won’t necessarily know what you’ll get.

NON ROYALTY SHARE means you’ll get 40% but you will have to pay the narrator up front. Narrators will state their fee (expect to pay out quite a bit for a novel) but of course, once it’s paid then any royalties are all yours.

Some narrators only work for money up front so royalty share does restrict your pool of talent – but it still quite large.

There is also $50 bonus scheme – put simply this means if yours is the first book a new customer buys with their audible credits you get a bonus ($25 if royalty share).

Royalties are paid monthly, at the end of the second month (So Jan paid in Feb, Feb in March etc). Personally, I find the payments confusing – as there are payments for:

AL: Audible Listener – purchases made by members with membership credits.

ALOP: Audible Listener Over Plan – purchases made by members with cash (not with membership credits).

ALC: A la carte – purchases made by customers, not in an Audible Listener membership.

Basically, members buying with credits, members without credits and non-members with cash.

Thus far I have not managed to work out how ACX defines the separate payments for these.

You’ll be sent an email saying royalties are now payable. Log in to your sales dashboard and this will show you how many of each title you’ve sold.  Below this is the earnings report page – you can download a summary report (says how many you’ve sold of each title per month) and a royalty report (how much money is coming your way).ACX sales page image for blog

 

More information to follow on how to upload your book, and finding a narrator.

Guest Post – Publishing on Bundle Rabbit – Barbara Tarn

So, you joined BundleRabbit… great! You’re just another hopeful author waiting to be picked up! And when you do get picked up, all you have to do is follow Diane’s advice – she is one of the authors of my first bundle and I couldn’t have said it better. She explains everything about how BR works for authors.

But wait, months go by and nobody requests anything. You see dozens of other great authors and start thinking… why not? Maybe I should become a curator! How hard can it be?

Putting bundles together at BundleRabbit is great fun, but it’s also exhausting. Not very hard, but there is a small learning curve.

First of all, you apply for “curator” status. Create a draft with your vision (it can include your book or not) and choose a release date, but check what else is coming out that month.

Try to book a release date that is not already taken. When too many bundles come out at the same time, even though they’re not in the same genre, it kind of clutters even BundleRabbit’s page… So please take a look at the calendar and select a date – and keep in mind it takes at least a couple of weeks for the whole publishing process, so it can’t be tomorrow because you’re so excited and just can’t wait!

Then you start browsing the marketplace. Since not all authors upload a preview, if you’re not already familiar with their work, I suggest you read at least an excerpt before choosing someone for your awesome bundle.

Even though BundleRabbit allows bundling from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 25 books, try to stick to 10, especially if it’s novels, and don’t price them too low. You can always make a sale for a holiday, a special occasion, etc.

Create a Sales Blurb telling about all the great stories included and in the About section write some kind of curator’s note – like how fun it was to gather these people together and things like that. Don’t just repeat the Sales Blurb or the Vision! And don’t forget to fill the Thank You note!

You only need to provide a 2D cover and a background image – BR will take care of making the 3D cover, cover fan and… contributor’s copy, plus the “ads” for each title. You can use the forum of the bundle at first to communicate with authors (I did it with the fantasy bundle to ask their world’s name), but then you better create a mailing list, since not everyone wants to check the BR forums (or gets the email notifications).

And when your bundle is publishing, and you see the contributor’s copy is ready, please tell the authors they can download their own copy by going to their dashboard – bundles you’re in – and to the book in the bundle (where they will also find the “ad” a few days later).

It’s up to you or not to make a Facebook page for the bundle(s). I made just one for all my SFF bundles, both the ones I curate and the ones I’m in. Send out clear messages to the authors: when the bundle will go live on BR (it goes on pre-order on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes&Noble), when you do a sale on BR – and if you have a bundle that allows coupons, ask the authors if they need any for their giveaways.

Try to coordinate the efforts to boost the signal! And have fun!

Barbara G.Tarn

http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com

www.unicornproductionsbooks.com

https://www.patreon.com/BarbaraGTarn

https://vimeo.com/user65901088

1000 posts! Blogging and its merits

This is the 1001st post on this blog. Hurrah! OK, so I know some folks post way more than that, and I don’t post every day but when I began the blog I wasn’t even sure it would last ten posts.  New content is welcome, and followers don’t want the same old articles, or hear moaning every day – that is what Facebook is for…

I try and keep a mix, and hence the gaps. Also some days there is simply not enough useful content. I am sure most of you don’t give a damn I wrote 200 words, or saw a squirrel in the garden, or had a cold. I don’t know – do you?

So what’s happened over the last thousand posts:

Author interviews – many, many author interviews from a whole range of folks in a whole range of countries, writing a whole range of genres – fantasy, historical, science fiction, biography, books for kids, LGBTQ fiction, paranormal, romance, poets, black fiction, erotica, literary fiction and multi-genre.

Character interviews – I must say these are my favourite interviews. We’ve met gods, demons, vampires, demi-gods, an undead horse, heroes, villains, animals, men, women, gay folks, straight folks, folks who aren’t sure/bothered about that sort of thing, aliens, royalty, slaves and more.

Cover artists, narrators, editors and, of course, readers.

I’ve posted guides to Self-Pubbing on KDP and audio books; reviews; text speech and the evolution of language; the challenges facing authors and readers who have lost, or are losing, their sight; course reviews (historical fantasy, magic in medieval Europe, writing, social media marketing, Roman history); articles about how useful reviews are (or not); Hell Week promoting the Perseid Press Heroes in Hell series (look out for Hell Week 2017; Monsters and Myth; Greek Mythology; the influence of Fantasy in our society; Guest posts about research; important military anniversaries; Thunderclap. And information and news about my own books.

Blogging has brought me friends, useful contacts, a wider pool of resources (very useful – it’s amazing what you learn whilst looking for other things), and led me to look at articles I wouldn’t else have found.  Blogging has taught me the uses of social media. Not to mention the wide and supportive network of indie authors out there, the challenges we face and the joys and successes of writing and publishing. It can be daunting and lonely, especially when new to the arena, but the world of social media, is large indeed. And blogging can bring promotion, laughs, support, information, advice and a field as wide as the world if used correctly.   It’s also a good diary, a good way of processing thoughts and organising things (unless you’re me) and a good sounding board.

Yippee for blogs! May there be many more posts to come.