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Knowledge—and nearly fifty years of it

Posted By on April 12, 2013

Since I’m participating in the A to Z April Blogging Challenge this month—blogging all the letters of the alphabet—and blogging every day (except Sundays) I’m going to take the liberty of veering off topic today.  (The only think I could think about regarding publishing that started with a “k” is “kerning”—and that just ain’t a whole blog post!)

I’m gearing up for a birthday next month. And it’s a biggie. Fifty. A half-century. Six hundred months. Eighteen thousand two hundred sixty two days. I’m definitely no spring chicken anymore.  I am active and take good care of myself, so I feel more like 25, honestly. Maybe I’m lucky—or blind—but I don’t see 50 when I look in the mirror either. (Or as I like to tell people, “this” is what 50 looks like!) I have a five-year-old son—yes, I gave birth to him!—so getting or feeling old is just not an option.

It turns out this is becoming a big year for me. Not just because of the monumental birthday (50?! Man, that big number makes me cringe! And yes, I realize it’s way better than the alternative.), but because it is turning out to be a year of transition. I’ve made some decisions in my personal life that will change me and my son forever. I’m expanding my career to include more things I love and which I’m expecting will be satisfying and lucrative. I’m finally dealing with some things I’ve put off and which will enable to me move forward with (dare I say?) the second half (best half?) of my life.

So with age supposedly comes wisdom. Is that actual smarts or just the ability to see that there is still so much to learn? I’m leaning toward the latter. In 50 years of living, I’ve learned a lot. But it’s becoming more clear to me than ever that I still have a long way to go. Especially when it comes to insight about myself. Because if there is one thing I’ve realized, getting older doesn’t mean getting wiser unless you’ve looked within. And that is true knowledge.


Juggling the many aspects of self-publishing

Posted By on April 11, 2013

Most people go into a bookstore and pick up a book without thinking about the work that went into it. New authors are often no different.

I get a lot of phone calls from authors who have read my book, The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, and frankly, they usually sound pretty overwhelmed. One of the things that strikes them most after reading this 576-page tome (yup, it’s big!) is that there are so many details to the publishing process.

Knowledge is power, though, so what sort of balls can the self-publishing author expect to juggle throughout the process?

Obviously, first you are a writer. Without your manuscript, you aren’t in business.

You are an editor. And I don’t necessarily mean that you should be editing your manuscript yourself. I highly recommend you hire a pro and work with him or her to hone your work to a fine edge. Too many authors rush into the publishing process, only to regret it later.

You are an art director. Unless you know a program such as Adobe’s InDesign, please don’t try to design and lay out your own book. I don’t recommend you do it in Word or Publisher. And please PLEASE! don’t try to design your book cover unless you are an experienced book cover designer. Nothing is worse than authors asking for feedback on their proudly displayed book cover, only to have to tell them it looks amateurish. Make sure your self-published book doesn’t look self-published.

You are a print buyer. I’m including ebooks under this umbrella. You’ll have to decide on printing just a paper book, doing just an ebook, or both. And you’ll need to figure out all the ins and outs.

You might be a shipper/warehouse. Some authors still prefer to print the old-fashioned way (offset printing versus print on demand), so they’ll need to figure out where to store and how to ship those books.

You are a business manager. As a publisher, you’ll be responsible for the administrative details of running a business.

You are a marketeer. This is often the toughest aspect of being an indie publisher but the most important—well, other than writing the book. But you can write the most compelling book in the world—and no one will buy it if no one knows about it.

Go into the publishing process being aware of the many different aspects of it. Knowing what to expect and what needs to be done will help ensure you are able to juggle it all. There’s a lot of information out there, so educate yourself. You’ll be much more likely to succeed.

An index—Does your book need one?

Posted By on April 10, 2013

Nine out of 10 self-publishing authors of nonfiction works (novels and poetry don’t need indexes) tell me the same thing: I don’t think my book needs an index. And I’ve noticed that there seems to be a growing trend among authors to run with that theory and publish books without them.

Author, blogger, and indexer Nancy Humphrys Wordmaps Indexing brings up a valid point:

Bad indexes, and no indexes at all, both transfer the work of finding something in a book from the seller to the buyer. In my world (of self-employment and business-owning) that time spent means money lost.

An index increases a book’s usefulness and salability. Honestly, it seems kind of lazy and cheap for an author not to include one.

But how do you go about giving this mass of information shape and form? Indexing can be reasonably simple when approached logically. It is basically a series of decisions. And no one is more familiar with the material—or better equipped to make these decisions—than you.

First, think through the book; review your outline or the table of contents for a mind jog. You wouldn’t want to slight any primary idea or philosophy. This is an intellectual, as well as clerical, task that cannot be completed with software. Decide on the main concepts of your book. Consider how readers will use it. What questions will they have? What material may they wish to locate again? Look at the indexes in several books from your personal library to get a feel for format.

Here’s where some help by way of technology comes in: Virtually all the new page layout and word processing programs have powerful built-in indexing capabilities. Most allow you to create a concordance, which is a list of frequently appearing names, terms, or words. Then the indexing program automatically searches the entire book and lists each page number where the words appear.

A word about indexing software: Although indexing software is a tremendous aid to the professional indexer, it by no means creates indexes “automatically,” any more than a spelling or grammar checker can edit a text on its own. Beware of vendors who claim that the services of a professional indexer can be replaced by running a software program on the text of a book. The intellectual and analytical work of indexing is the task of the human brain, and no software program can duplicate it. Indexing programs available to professional indexers can help the indexer to produce, sort, and manipulate entries; establish subheading sequences; restyle and amend entries; and keep track of what has been indexed where. On the other hand, the indexing add-ons included with word processors and desktop publishing programs are usually far less efficient as aids to creating a high-quality index.

Honestly, if you start Googling “how do I create an index?” you may decide to hire a professional indexer. (Read “How to Index a Book [And Why I’ll Never Do It Agai]” here.) It’s not an easy or fast process. An indexer will charge you based on the number of pages in your book, and it’s well worth it for a good, thorough index.

To once again quote Humphreys:

So here’s my answer to  “When Can I Omit an Index for My Book?” Only when no one will ever want to go back and find something in it.



Hashtags on Twitter—how to create your own

Posted By on April 9, 2013

Twitter hashtags (#) are used to categorize tweets according to subject matter. If you attach relevant hashtags to them, your tweets are more readily found by others interested in your subject matter. This gives you a better chance to increase your followers and it makes it easier to interact with other “tweeps.”

I’ve compiled a list of hashtags that pertain to writers, authors, and self-publishers here. But what if you want to create your own? There are no specific rules in place for doing so, so here are some tips.

Make it short. Since each Tweet is limited to 140 characters, your hashtag should take up as little of that as possible. Try to keep your hashtag to 10 characters or less.

Make it as specific as possible. For instance, there are several genre-specific hashtags such as #SuspenseFiction and #SciFiChat. These make the conversation surrounding the hashtag more useful to people.

Make it easy to remember. #FollowFriday (or #FF) and #WriterWednesday (or #WW) are two examples of alliterative, easy-to-remember hashtags.

Make sure it isn’t already in use for another topic. There are third-party tools you can use to search this, such as HashTags.org.


Goals—why you need them before self-publishing

Posted By on April 8, 2013

I read somewhere that life is a journey, and like for any trip, an itinerary can be very helpful. The same is true for your self-publishing venture. Time and again, it has been proven that those who take the time to think through and write down the desired results in terms of specific steps are the people who achieve success. Experts tell us we can program our subconscious to help bring about things we genuinely want, including success. (Ever hear of the Law of Attraction?)

There are at least two things you need to do to obtain your goals. The first thing is to clearly identify and quantify your goals. The second is to write them down. I’ve become a firm believer in writing down goals. This year is the first time I’ve ever done it personally, and it’s amazing how different it is when you actually commit them to paper (or screen). So getting back to self-publishing goals, you can identify, quantify, and write down your goals before you’ve even written your book.

Let’s say you want to sell 2,500 copies of your book by the end of the year. So your affirmation might be, “I have sold 2,500 copies of my book as of December 31, 2013. The gross income from these sales is 25,000 dollars and the net profit is 15,000 dollars.” Or instead you might say, “I have written a book that is being very well received and is changing the way people live their lives. If you express your desired outcome in the present tense, you condition your subconscious mind to accept it as fact. This is the method taught by most successful motivators.

Don’t float along with your published book, just letting things happen. Have a very well-thought-out plan that includes goals. Write the steps involved. Break down the overall process into easily digestible chunks. Chew on them. Spit out those that don’t work. Take more generous bites of those that are satisfying. Set your goals and plan for a prosperous journey. Planting a seed of positive expectations now will set you up for success later.


The week in publishing (April 1 through April 7)

Posted By on April 8, 2013

Here’s some of the latest in industry news and views:

From Indies Unlimited: Could the “Amazon Family” Actually Be Good for Goodreads?
I like Goodreads. It’s a nice little site. Come visit if you’ve never been. Readers talk about books without all that pressure of having to put on pants and brush their hair. We form book clubs, discussion groups, have a little chat around the virtual fireplace. Literary movements have been and continue to be born there.

From Self-Publishing Resources: Copyrighted material—when is it okay to use and when isn’t it?
There is always a lot of confusion among authors as to when it’s okay to use copyrighted material with just listing the source and when permission needs to be obtained. So what are the rules? First, let us discuss “fair use,” which is using material without the need to obtain permission. The Chicago Manual of Style says that “quotations should not be so long that they diminish the value of the work from which they are taken.”

From Self-Publishing Resources: Editing your manuscript—don’t skimp on this step!
Finally. Your manuscript is finished. You proudly pat yourself on the back—writing a manuscript is hard work!!—and decide you are ready to publish. But are you? Aren’t you going to have a professional editor review it? Chances are, if you proceed with your manuscript as is, you’ll regret it. Even if your (insert a nonediting person you know here) edited it for you, it’s probably not ready to be published.

From Self-Publishing Resources: Front matter—what goes in there anyway?
Books are made up of three main portions: front matter, body of the book, and back matter. The front matter is the material that comes before page 1, or before the beginning of the body of the book. So what goes in there? And in what order? Here’s a handy list.


Front matter—what goes in there anyway?

Posted By on April 6, 2013

Books are made up of three main portions: front matter, body of the book, and back matter. The front matter is the material that comes before page 1, or before the beginning of the body of the book.

So what goes in there? And in what order? Here’s a handy list.

Half-title page:  The is often the very first page of a book and includes just the title of the book. The first page of the book is always on a right-hand page (recto). It’s often eliminated to shorten the length of the book.

Frontispiece: An illustration on the back of the half-title page (verso, or the reverse of the page).

Title page: The next recto page. It includes the full book title, author’s name, publishing company name, and city of publication. Sometimes an illustration is included here, often tying in the design of the book’s cover.

Copyright page: This is generally the back of the title page and includes the copyright notice, publication information, cataloging data, legal notices or disclaimers, and the book’s ISBN and LCCN. Often credits for editing, design, illustrations, and photographs are listed here. The publisher name and contact information is also usually included.

Dedication: This is optional but it usually follows the copyright page on the recto page.

Epigraph: If the author wishes to use a quotation at the beginning of the book, it often comes after the dedication page. However, it also often appears elsewhere, such as facing the table of contents or first page of text. Many authors also use quotations at the beginning of each chapter.

Table of contents: The section can be short, just a listing of chapter titles and page numbers, or it can be more detailed and include section titles or short descriptions of the chapters. This section is often eliminated in novels, unless the chapter titles have a name.

List of figures: If the book includes a lot of figures, it is helpful to include a list of them along with the page numbers on which they appear.

List of tables: Same as for the list of figures.

Foreword: This is the front matter element that seems to cause the most confusion for authors. First of all, note the spelling; it’s not “forward” or “foreward.” Second, it is always written by someone other than the author. It is generally a short piece, commenting on the book or perhaps the author. It lists the author’s name (the author of the piece in this instance), date, and possibly location.

Preface: This is a short piece written by the author, often describing how the book came into being. It is usually signed with the author’s name, date, and location, though not always.

Acknowledgments: In this section, the author thanks those who have had an impact on him or her, or the work.

Introduction: Here, the author provides an overview of the book, describing the purpose and goals.

Prologue: In fiction, this section sets up the story and is written from the standpoint of a character in the book, not the author.

Second half-title page: If a book has an extensive amount of front matter, this can be used to provide a visual break before the body of the book begins. It is on a right-hand page.


Remember, it is not necessary to have all of those sections. Use those that make the most sense for your book. But this is the correct order, so keep that in mind when you are organizing the front matter for your book.

Editing your manuscript—don’t skimp on this step!

Posted By on April 5, 2013

Finally. Your manuscript is finished. You proudly pat yourself on the back—writing a manuscript is hard work!!—and decide you are ready to publish. But are you? Aren’t you going to have a professional editor review it?

Chances are, if you proceed with your manuscript as is, you’ll regret it. Even if your (insert a nonediting person you know here) edited it for you, it’s probably not ready to be published.

As an editor myself—and I have been editing for a LONG time—I still need an editor. I cringe sometimes when I happen to glance at an innocuous email I sent out that includes an error that is not spotted by spellcheck or necessarily your neighbor the noneditor. And I’m a darn good editor. But I would never ever ever (did I mention ever?!) publish a book without having a pro go over it for me.  It’s the whole forest-through-the-trees thing. You just don’t see problems in your own work.

And I think it’s even worse with a manuscript. By the time you think you are finished, you’ve probably read that sucker a dozen times. There’s no way you will notice errors anymore. You might think what you’ve written is clear because you know what you mean. But does an objective other party know what you mean? Will your reader know what you mean?

Self-publishing has become extremely easy these days. But don’t get so excited to get your work out there that you put out a work you end up not being very proud of. Remember, it’s the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever. Put out a work that makes you proud and reflects well on you.

I know it can be nerve-wracking to put your work into someone else’s hands, but if you find a good editor, you’ll still sound like you—only better. Ask fellow writers for recommendations, contact the Editorial Freelancers Association or the Rocky Mountain Publishing Professionals Guild, or call me. Ask for a sample to make sure you and the editor are on the same page before you shell out any dough. If you work with a good editor, it’s an expense you will not regret.


Distribution for your self-published book—and the biggest misconception about it

Posted By on April 4, 2013

Many authors are under the impression that as long as their book has distribution, it will automatically be stocked in bookstores across the country and sales will soar. I have spoken to authors who have signed on with distributors who have made promises to promote the authors book, only to deliver nothing. And I have spoken to authors who believe they cannot get distribution for their self-published title. So what is the deal with distributors?

You’ll need distribution to get your books into the trade network. Bookstores don’t want to deal with hundreds of publishers; they want to deal with a handful of distributors. And you can indeed get a distributor as a self-published author.

But the thing to remember is this: Distributors will not sell your book for you. They will not market your book for you (in spite of the lofty promises they may make). Yes, they have sales representatives but they also have a lot of titles and not enough time to sell each one. They will more than likely focus on those that are selling well (they work on commission, after all). So what’s an author to do?

First, remember that the responsibility for promoting your title rests with you. You need to create the demand for your book so the distributors take notice.

Second, you need to communicate with your distributors. Keep them apprised of your promotion efforts on a regular basis. I usually recommend sending a monthly news flyer to them, letting them know about new reviews, TV or radio interviews, book signings, blog tours, and so on. If they know you are plugging your book, they will feel more optimistic about closing sales when it comes to your book.

Third, don’t duplicate their efforts by contacting the same people they do. You might also consider cooperating with them at trade shows, either regional or national.


All this said, some of you are probably wondering, what is the different between a distributor and a wholesaler? Sometimes people use the terms interchangeably, but that really isn’t accurate.  And I’ll cover this in a future post.  (For those of you who have picked up on my alphabetical posts this week, they’ll be going on throughout the month of April and I will cover wholesalers when I get to “W.”)


Copyrighted material—when is it okay to use and when isn’t it?

Posted By on April 3, 2013

There is always a lot of confusion among authors as to when it’s okay to use copyrighted material with just listing the source and when permission needs to be obtained. So what are the rules?

First, let us discuss “fair use,” which is using material without the need to obtain permission. The Chicago Manual of Style says that “quotations should not be so long that they diminish the value of the work from which they are taken.” In the case of books, experts usually estimate you can use an aggregate of up to three hundred words freely as long as it includes attribution. If you quote just a paragraph from a book and mention the author and title, you don’t need to obtain permission. For magazine articles, fifty words is the maximum. Straight news articles from newspapers (not features) of any length can be safely used after three months. This does not include any article that is syndicated, under a byline, or individually copyrighted. Photographs, artwork, and cartoons will also require the permission of the copyright holder.

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers), the national organizations that handle permissions for written reprints on song lyrics, will need to be contacted directly. If possible quote only a line or two in your work, which will put your quote within fair use, and you won’t need written permission.

One way to circumvent copyright problems is to paraphrase what was said. Ideas are not copyrightable—only the specific words used to express them. With all the mergers over the last decade, it’s sometimes impossible to track down a copyright owner. I generally urge clients to avoid this hassle. The best rule is to use good common sense. Don’t take from another writer something you would resent being used if you were the author.

 Of course, some things are not protected by copyright. They are considered to be in the public domain. Material goes into public domain if its original copyright was not renewed or if copyright protection has been exhausted.

Government publications are also typically in the public domain, but this can be a gray area. If you plan to use extensive sections verbatim, it is wise to have a copyright search performed. When you are using just portions, no permission is needed, but it’s a good idea to cite the specific source. Also be aware that government publications often contain illustrations and other materials that are covered by individual copyrights. Read the fine print carefully.