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Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

We discussed how essential self-promotion is, whether you love doing it or hate it. And how self-promotion is the face you put out there to your followers.

Now we are getting into what you can do to self-promote, like blogging.

Having a website is as important as blogging. It’s another tool in your promotion toolbox. Think of your website as the center of everything you. It gives you a homepage to send people to for various purposes.

As with everything, there’s no one right way to do a website, but some things are better than others.

Don’t be bloggy.

It’s an easy mistake, but avoid making your website look like a blog. I made this gaffe when I started trying to do this stuff years ago. I’ve also seen it on a lot of websites. You can incorporate your blog and website together in a one-stop package, import your blog with an RRS feed, or just have a running list of links to your most recent blog articles, depending on what your website platform is capable of.

Just be sure your website looks like a website and not a blog. The first page of your website should look like a homepage. Keep the blog feed on another page they can easily find and click on, or in a lesser profile side stream.

Don’t backburner your website. Prioritize it.

I’m guilty of this and working to put more focus on updating it. In being so busy with life, family, the job that pays the bills, volunteering, blogging, trying to self-promote, and trying to get writing and editing done, I tend to forget my web page even exists. Bad bad me.

If this is your one-stop spot for people to find everything, it needs to be up to date. It should also be very easy for them to find and click links for your books and other products.

Keep it current and relevant.

If your blog feels abandoned, like an old house, it will not invite visitors in.

Your website is your homepage for all things you.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

As I said above, your website is your homepage. It’s where you can feature your newest release or product, sales, events, promotions, anything you want to focus on. You want links to follow you on social media, and to any store pages you’re selling your books or products on.

It’s your central hub pointing to and organizing the maze of media all your self-promotion is on. This also makes it easy for it to turn into a confusing web of links and plugs.

Try to do all this and keep that homepage simple and uncluttered. Easier said than done.

Your branding starts here.

As your focal point for self-promotion, your branding starts with your website. All points lead both to it and away from it.

Branding, in short, is how you shape the you your followers see. It’s something recognizable that immediately identifies you. Once you establish a branding that works for you, you want to express it consistently across all of your media from your website to your blog to your Facebook and Twitter.

Landing page vs. homepage.

You might see a website homepage referenced as a landing page. I’ve seen website homepages that were a landing page. Here is the key difference between the two:

A landing page is singularly focused. It is a standalone web page for a specific marketing or advertising campaign. It will typically have a single call-to-action link button.

For example, this newsletter signup button on the sidebar of my blog brings you to a landing page.

This landing page’s singular call to action is to signup for the newsletter. It asks the visitor to enter their email address and click “Subscribe”:

A homepage page is the first page visitors to your website see and it sets the stage for your website. It’s opening the door and stepping into your front entrance with just a glimpse of the home within behind the doors, aka pages and links.

This is my L. V. Gaudet website at the moment, and my other alias (Vivian Munnoch) website. They are both a work in process. As with all things writing, I’m forever working to improve my websites too.

Give your website personality. Make it stand out as yours.

Whether you are using a template or building your website from scratch, you want to give it your own personality. Make it yours. Make it stand out as a piece of you. You want your website to be memorable. To scream, “THIS IS MY WEBSITE AND IT’S BETTER THAN THE REST!”

Multiple pen names means having multiple websites.

If you are published under multiple pen names, you ideally want to have a website for each pen name. You can have a quick link for visitors to jump to your other nom de plume website. It means double the work. I have a visit button on both of mine linking to the other. With Wix, because I didn’t pay for a special domain name, this means both sites’ addresses start with ‘lvgaudet’.

Alternatively, you could go the route of treating it like a dual-author shared website. But having separate sites means you can focus each more on the target audience for that pen name. This is especially ideal if they are different genres. In my case they are different age groups.

Choosing the right website platform is important.

Finding the right website platform can take some trial and error. The first one you try isn’t always the best and that’s okay. There is a range of them out there from free to pricey, many with for both free and paid services, with different options and ways they work. Finding the right one for you makes the difference between a struggle or making updating your website a breeze.

Creating your website is like writing your story. You plot and draft it out, outline, change, and rearrange it. You might even scrap the whole thing and start fresh with a new page on a new website platform. It’s all part of the creative and learning process.

My webpage is on Wix.com. It is free and, once you figure it out, not too hard to use. It has limitations, but they all do. You can only link one blog to it. It is designed to be more friendly to Blogger than other blogsites like WordPress.

I chose Wix because after reading through multiple website platform reviews, it was in the top of the list with a majority of the reviewers, and because it’s free.

One of the things I don’t like is having to choose between adding new material at the bottom of your pages or the long slow process of moving all those boxes down a few at a time to organize it from the newest to oldest going down the pages.

For example, my “News & Events” page. It doesn’t make sense to list it from the oldest a the top down to the most current at the bottom. Who wants to scroll down that far for the most recent news? Maybe there is an easier way to do it on Wix, but I haven’t found it yet.

It only takes a moment to search ‘best free website platforms’ and you will have a screenful of articles to sift through and pick out which sites have what is best for your needs.


Keep writing my friends, and don’t let the challenge overwhelm you. Building a website can be time consuming, but it’s worth it in the end.

Posts: SELF-PROMOTION IS A FOUR LETTER WORD:

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How can you kill two birds with one stone? Simple. Follow that cliché! Blog.

Since most of us writers don’t make a whole lot from our writing, if you are among those that do sell any books, it doesn’t take much to put you in the red. Yes, there are ways to publish without spending a penny on it, but effective publishing, and promoting, costs money.

Blogging is one way to promote yourself and your work on any budget from, “Budget? What budget? I’m dead broke.” to “Budget? Haha, yeah, I don’t even think about what I spend. I don’t worry about money. I’ve got lots.”, and you don’t even have to blog about your work. You can make your blog about anything.

Photo by Daniel Thomas on Unsplash

Just because you write a particular genre or subject, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to focus your blog on. Maybe you’d rather discuss the plight of the Pacu Fish. If you don’t know, they have weirdly human-like teeth. Personally, I suspect this is the result of some hapless person who really angered someone big time, and was cursed that they and their generations to follow will forever live as fish.

Whatever your passion is, you can make that the subject of your blog. Write it enthusiastically. Write it well. And, the most important point, try to write it on schedule.

Consistency is magical. Stay reasonably on topic. If your passion is painting burned out skyscrapers and you grow a following blogging about those post-apocalyptic symbols, your readers likely won’t be interested in your post on tapioca pudding, unless it’s pudding found in a burnt skyscraper.

Posting occasionally and sporadically won’t grow much of a following. If you are going to do a monthly blog post, try to schedule it for the same day each month. People like consistency. They want you to be reliable.

Frequent blog posts can be a big challenge, especially with daily life and other things getting in the way. If you are going to commit, make it a schedule you can likely keep. Too frequently posting could set you up to fail, and if too frequent, is also spammy.

Don’t be spammy. Nobody likes having their email clogged with spam. If I’m getting multiple notifications a day every day on the same blogger posting, I’d stop following them pretty quickly. I find one a day every day from the same blogger too much. I don’t have the time to read that and would be just deleting the email notifications and probably killing that blog subscription.

Speaking of execution, how are you committing that murder of the second ‘bird’? Blogging serves a second purpose.

Blogging is writing practice. So, not only are you working to build a following that will hopefully result in some book sales, but you are also working at practicing and improving your writing skills.

Don’t wait. Start blogging before you publish.

While the writing practice and working to develop your writing voice is a bonus, the main purpose of your blogging is to put yourself out there and build a following. Your blog is a checkmark on your writing platform to do list.

Building a following is key to building your author platform. Any potential agent or publisher is going to be a whole lot more interested in the author with an extensive following than the one with a few dozen co-workers, family, friends, neighbors, and the odd random person they don’t know in real life.

Whether you are going traditional, with an Indie or small press, or self-publishing, that following is a pool of potential buyers of your book. The bigger that pool is when your book comes out, the better your odds are at generating sales through your blog.

You want to get your followers excited about your upcoming book if you can. Get them interested enough that they are sharing and spreading the news about your book. Only a small percentage of your followers will typically buy it, so the more reach you can get them to spread for you, the more potential buyers see it, and your list of followers can grow.

How do you start a blog?

Find yourself a blogging platform and start writing articles.

Simply put, a blog platform is a service or software for managing and publishing content on the internet in the form of a blog.

WordPress is one of the most popular platforms. It has both free and paid for themes that have a range of customization ability. There are plugins that let you do even more. You have to buy a subscription to use the plugins, but you can still do a pretty decent blog for absolutely free.

There are two variations of wordpress.

WordPress.org is a self-hosted open-source software. It’s free to use, but I’m sure there’s some catch in there for them to make money off you. Self-hosted = you need a domain name and web hosting. It lets you do more than the other WordPress, but a domain name and web hosting is not included in the “free” price tag of this software. You will need to find these and will have to pay for them. This also means that you or your web hosting service are responsible for doing all customizations, updates, and backups of your blog site.

WordPress.com is what I currently use. It is a hosting service created by Automattic, so it’s got the all-in-one on providing both the blog platform and hosting service. It has options ranging from free to crazy expensive. You are more limited in what you can do than with the .org, even more limited with the free version. You can get your own domain for a price. You have to have a paid subscription for that. They plug ads on your blog to make money off you, and you cannot plug your own ads to monetize. If you max out your storage space on the free plan, you have to upgrade to a paid subscription. When that happens, I’ll likely look into the costs of getting that domain name and web hosting to switch to the .org.

What I dislike about WordPress.com is that the new editor automatically removes all extra line breaks and color in text when you copy/paste your post into it, and doesn’t allow for font type changes within the post. I write in Word, all prettily formatted, and copy/paste it into WordPress. Then I have to go through the entire post adding back in the line breaks and re-convert sub-headers back into sub-headers and re-colorized any text that I didn’t want black. Line breaks – those empty spaces – help make your post easier to read and breaks up bits that don’t necessarily go together.

Blogger is another common one. You may have heard it called “Blogspot”. They aren’t one and the same, but they do work together to provide you a blogging platform. Blogger is the publishing platform and BlogSpot is a domain service provider. Both are available for free. You can also pay to get a custom domain name.

Warning: some authors have reported having issues with Facebook flagging Blogger blogsites as violating their anti-spam rules. Apparently Facebook lately equates Blogger with spam. Hopefully they will fix this.

There are others, and also website platforms like Wix that let you do a blog in addition to the website.

Do your research before you start. Find out what blogging platform best suits your needs.

You will find that you can auto-feed many blogging platforms to cross-pollinate your articles onto other social media sites with your blog. Where they are capable of feeding to depends largely on who owns what and who set up their sites to work together. I was able to set Blogger to feed into Wix (a website platform), but had no success trying to get WordPress to feed into Wix. Blogger also fed posts into Google+ before Google shut down that platform.

This article says you can import WordPress blog posts into Wix (you have to log into Wix to read the article). I’ll give this a try later when I get around to updating and spiffing up my Wix page.

My WordPress.com blog auto-feeds posts to my author pages on Facebook and Amazon, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. It also has a new create a podcast episode feature that lets you convert your text blog to audio. I tried it out. Cons = it sounds like a robot, tends to skip words, and will mispronounce words including names and anything that is a heteronym (same spelling, different pronunciation). There is no way to fix those errors at this time. It’s new, so hopefully they fix that, but they probably won’t be able to get it to sound human.

Vlogs are another option.

Like audiobooks, they are also increasing in popularity. Why read a blog when you can listen to a video blog while you are doing other things like ignoring the other people in the room? Right?

Vlogs have their own group of hosting platforms. You could probably get away with creating the posts on your phone, but if you want a professional feel, you’re going to have to invest in equipment, find some sound and video editing software, learn sound and video editing, and find a quiet place to record. I’m probably making it sound harder than it is.

What else are these posts on YouTube, Tik Tok, and other social media and video sites where people are essentially blogging by video if not a form of vlogging? No, not the barrage of so-called challenges and other bizarre and mindless shares. I’m talking the posters who actually use these media sites as vlogs. There are other platforms out there designed specifically for vlogging.

You also have to be capable of speaking coherently while recording yourself. I’m still working on developing that talent.

One of the benefits of the blog is the side bars and pages.

In the side bars, you can have click to follow buttons, signups for your newsletter, and photo button plugs linking your readers to buy your books and products.

Pages give you the option to set up a click away page featuring any or all of your books and products.

Readers can come for the article and see your books down the side, buy them, learn more about them, and click to follow your other social media accounts.

Keep writing my friends, and good luck on those blogs.

SELF-PROMOTION IS A FOUR LETTER WORD Posts:

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How cute you look. Dashing. Pretty. Pretty weird. Handsome. Bizarre. Tough. Tender.

What kind of appearance are you going for?

Photo by LeeAnn Cline on Unsplash

Self-promotion, in many ways, is like a Snapchat filter. Who hasn’t used one of those, right? The ‘old’ filter is fun when you’re goofing with friends, making them all see how awesome they look old. Or as one of the other wacky filters. It makes for hilarious party games.

But you see people on other social media using the Snap filters to change their appearance for the pics they put up of themselves, to make themselves look more flattering (because who doesn’t want to look better?) and it’s so obvious they used a filter.

That’s what self-promotion amounts to. The appearance of yourself that you put out there. Your public persona is the Snap filter of your real self. And that appearance isn’t really about your looks, it’s about your personality.

Whether you are going for genuine original you, or putting on a different face for your fans and followers, putting that persona out there consistently is work. And you need to be consistent. You can’t be the girl or boy next door full of sweetness and then lash out full of angry venom. You will alienate your followers that way. Don’t confuse them with different personalities on different social media platforms. Self-promotion means using multiple platforms, and trying to remember who you are on each is just too much unnecessary work.

If you are going to be a particular persona, own it. Eccentric? Own that too.

If you are going to be Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Alice Cooper, or some other character, then you have to put that act on any time you are doing anything to self-promote. Always in character. Always obvious about knowing you are a character, not real, because your followers know it. That’s exhausting.

What persona do I think works best? Just be you. The real you. Unless, of course, the real you is a jerk. Be personable, friendly, and easy-going. Be natural. Be the best and most likable real you that you can be. Although you might not be able to be all natural you. Not if, like me, you have strong introverted tendencies, are most comfortable in your own company, and feel completely awkward about promoting and talking yourself up or talking to audiences of any kind. You’ll have to fake the outgoing personality a bit then. But it gets easier and more natural feeling the more you do it. Kind of like that bike you learned to ride.

And when you get out of practice, like relearning to ride a bike (I did that), it’s easier the second time around.

Wherever and however your are promoting yourself, everyone will see through a fake façade. If you try to sound too smart, funny, or cute when you blog, when your blogging or vlogging voice just isn’t you, followers will pick up on that quickly if they meet you in person or follow you elsewhere. If you put a personal note in the front or back matter, make it real. Make it you. When you do a bio of yourself, try to put a little of your personality in it, even though you are writing it in the third person.

Here’s a secret: readers like to feel a personal connection to the author, like they know you. Like they can think of you as perhaps a distant friend or an acquaintance. I’ve listened to teenagers rave about their favorite authors and it always seems to share one common thread – they will happily tell you about something they feel is personal about the author. Something they found Googling about the author, from an author interview or article about the author, or just from following the author on social media. It might be a story the author shared about something that happened in writing or publishing a book, at a book event, in an interview, or in their personal life. That connection seems to have a bigger overall impact in that age group than the quality of the writing.

Adults seem to gravitate more to the story that enthralls them first and the author’s personality second. But if that personality fails, so does their opinion of you, and that translates to their opinion of your books.

Think before you speak. Another important tip. It only takes a single one-off offensive comment to ruin a reputation. Insulting people and making hurtful comments is not a way to sell yourself or your books. Your personal views are separate from your writing quality, but not from your reputation, and it’s that reputation you want to build. When you put respecting others first, you bring greater respect on yourself.

Do no harm. That should be first and foremost in your actions and comments. Think before putting something out there publicly that you cannot take back. You do not want to alienate entire communities of potential fans, whether it’s by being insensitive, flipflopping the public persona you put out there, or by being unlikeable.

And remember, the easiest way to not slip up on your public face is to just be you. Be nice. Be respectful. And be real.

Keep writing my friends, and think about the different ways you can self-promote you and your books.

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You hate it, but you have to do it. Self-advertising.

But what does self-advertising really look like? And why did I just call it “self-advertising” instead of the normal term “self-promotion”?

Photo by Dollar Gill on Unsplash

The two terms mean the same. Usage may be more about where you are from than anything. The point here is to get you to think outside the normal box. Draw outside the lines. Explore new clichés, invent new metaphors, and find new ways to promote yourself and your work – preferably without annoying and alienating your would-be readers with all these clichés.

Self-promotion – Oxford languages (British) describes it as:

“The action of promoting or publicizing oneself or one’s activities, especially in a forceful way.”

“she’s guilty of criminally bad taste and shameless self-promotion”

Self-advertising – Collins dictionary (USA) describes it as (Oxford apparently doesn’t want to touch it):

“Self-advertisement in British English NOUN

The act of gaining publicity for oneself and one’s activities esp through pushyextrovert behaviour and not hesitating to put oneself forward.”

Okay, so we established that whatever your preferred term to call it, self-promotion is you being a pushy bugger, putting on your extrovert gear and promoting and publicizing the hell out of yourself and your work to as many people as you can.

Just the thought of it makes me cringe. I am not an extrovert. I am much happier alone in my happy place with a glass of wine, my dogs and family nearby, watching birds, squirrels, and bunnies, and the trees outside, while writing scenes of terror from my head through the keyboard to my screen.

“But what actually is self-promotion?” you ask?

It has many faces. That Facebook friend who keeps constantly plugging their book in their feed, in others’ posts comments, and anywhere else they can. The endless list of plug-n-dash Facebook groups for blatant self-promotion where everyone just plugs their book and pops on to the next self-promo group. (Does anyone actually get sales from the plug-n-dash groups?) Giveaways, contests, paid ads, book events, they all fall into the self-promo territory. These are just the tip of the list.

It already sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

But, like the demon in a horror, it is a necessary evil.

At some point most of us who have at any time published with a publisher have questioned why the onus seems to be on the writer to promote their own book, why the publisher isn’t doing it all, or at least more.

The simple fact is that, just like you, the publisher has a limited budget they can and are willing to spend on a book they don’t have high guarantees will sell and sell well.

If you are a very famous top tier author, maybe this isn’t a thing. Your millions of copies of guaranteed sales in the first run alone gives the publisher a nice budget to invest in widespread promotion. Your very existence is promotion too.

Even well-known authors do a certain amount of self-promotion. I’ve seen Dean Koontz (I’m a fan) promoting his own books on social media.

For most of us – lower tier authors who may have awesomely fantastic viral-worthy best-seller potential books – who are maybe published with an indie press, small publisher, medium publisher, self-published, and even with big publishing houses – self-promotion is both a case of self preservation and an expectation of the publisher.

While your publisher should be doing their part with what budget and social media reach they have, the bulk of it rests on your – the author’s – shoulders. This also means the publisher should be working with you. If you are inexperienced, they should be doing everything they can to teach you how to self-promote, what inexpensive options are out there, and what in their experience has or has not worked. They should make it clear what they can do to help and what your options with them are.

Reduced price author copies should be a given. How else are you going to sell them at book events without having to over-price them to cover your costs? And yes, you will have to buy copies of your own books, and pay for the shipping, in order to have copies on hand to do book events. Your publisher is doing this as a business, to earn a profit. But if you can get them at their cost or little more, that’s no different than ordering your own self-published copies from KDP to sell at events

But what else? What other perks does your publisher offer to help you self-promote? Are they willing to offer discount sales in conjunction with you doing a self-promotion event or tour? A freebie eBook download for people subscribing to yours and their mailing lists in the hope subscribers buy your other books?

Together we will explore what self-promotion can look like. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Blogging and vlogging. Newsletters and websites. Book signings and sale events.

These past few months I have done two self-promotion things that fall under none of these.

I won a story contest. My short story, Unknown Caller, won the Manitoba Writers’ Guild 2021 Bloody Valentine short horror story contest in a blind submission. The payment was in the form of a gift certificate from McNally Robinson Booksellers and the reach was only to the Writers’ Guild’s smallish newsletter mailing list – it was published in the newsletter only. So, the promotion gain was negligible in the scheme of needing to reach wide, but it is still promotion. Even that scattering of a few hundred email subscribers who will actually open and read the story could potentially result in a book sale or two, or even better, online buzz about your writing. (“The average email open rate for all industries we analyzed is 21.33%.” -Mailchimp).

Photo by ammar sabaa on Unsplash

I (gasp) took part as a panelist for the virtual Keycon 2021 (Keycon38): Ghosts in the Machine May 22nd with fellow authors L.T. Getty (I have read and recommend her book Dreams of Mariposa if you like steampunk vampire stories – it is not a romance despite the romancey cover) and horror author Reed Alexander, who I met for the first time on this panel. The theme for this year was horror in science fiction, two things I personally feel go well together. I was terrified of doing it. As I’ve said many times, I am not a public speaker and actually find public speaking to be dread-inducing, panic time, and really awkward. While participation in the panel was small – it was their first virtual con and Winnipeg is a small but wonderful community – I do believe they intended to record and upload these panels for posterity – and potentially to laugh at my awkwardness. But really, despite my lack of experience and zero comfort zone, I actually enjoyed it and would do it again. The organizers put in a lot of hard work to pull this off and, despite technical issues with Discord, they did a pretty marvellous job for having no real budget.

And maybe, just maybe, my appearance and participation with Keycon might result in a book sale or two, or a little online buzz, or someone remembering my name at some other point.

These are just two of the faces of self-promotion and no promotion is too small if it gets you out there before a single person who never heard of you or your writing. Except for no promotion at all. That is definitely too small.

There is no way around it. Effective self-promotion is hard work. It’s a full time job in itself. It means maybe doing things you are not comfortable with, like public speaking online where a million people potentially could see you and laugh at you. It can also cost a lot of money. And no matter how much work and money you put into it, there is no guarantee that it alone will culminate in mass sales, even a small mass.

Keep writing my friends, and self-promote your asses off.

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Let's blog into the new year.
Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

Although Covid-19 is far from over, the dreaded year of 2020 is over and we start today with a new chapter.

Vaccines have been and are still being created and, despite the high toll the winter season celebrations will have on the spread of the virus in the weeks and months to come, we have every reason to look ahead with optimism. And it is exactly that, a virus. It’s not a supervillain bent on the ruination of or total domination of the world. It’s just a virus like so many others, only it’s new so we have no long-acquired immunity to it.

Hopefully our beloved local businesses will be able to open again and start picking up the pieces soon, people laid off and furloughed will be able to go back to work, and our lives will be able to return to something resembling normal.

I’ve never been a New Year Resolution kind of person. But, I am about promising myself new starts and doing better going forward, and that can happen randomly at any time throughout the year. Of course, we all know the saying about best laid plans.

Since March I’ve promised myself to blog more, write more, edit more, and read more. That despite being among the lucky few still able to be working the ‘pays the bills’ job full time and other commitments to family and the writing community.

Like so many others, I’ve been in a funk since our first shutdown in March. In roughly 2 ½ months I’ll have been working from home for a full year. It would be a dream if not for the near total isolation of seeing the world through the front window and in-person social contact being relegated only to a pair of teenagers, my partner, and two dogs. One of those dogs lives to be an asshole, but she’s still cute, cuddly, and lovable; and can cover your entire body like a blanket if she lays across you.

As socially distanced (aka physically apart) as we are, we are all in this trying time together. Let’s be together (apart), help each other, and most importantly be kind and forgiving towards each other.

Help each other, pay it forward, and be kind.
Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

Simplify your life by rehoming things of valuable use to others that you have no need of. Those out of work are struggling and have no means to buy these things.

Share a smile and a wave with a neighbor or a stranger from a distance.

Pay forward or commit an act of kindness to a stranger.

Be extra kind to those serving us daily in the stores, delivering our parcels and groceries, looking after our loved ones in hospitals and care homes, and all our first responders. They are going through an unbelievable amount of stress right now.

Give a little something of yourself, safely, to help others.

I do promise myself, again, to blog more, write, edit, and read more. And to share that to help others.

We will explore character development and story arcs, formatting and editing, platforms and self-promotion, and more. The world of writing and being a writer is as vast as the worlds we build in our stories.

You can sign up for my infrequent Author of Darkness newsletter or follow my fan blogs for my two pen names: L. V. Gaudet (adult fiction) and Vivian Munnoch (youth and YA fiction).

Let’s continue to meet (virtually) in the new year and grow together as writers, because that’s what being a writer is all about.

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If you look inside the front matter of any published book you will find an ISBN number. If you don’t know, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number.

 

The ISBN has nothing to do with copyrights. It simply is a catalogue number. If you are looking for a particular book, you can search it by its ISBN (catalogue) number.

 

An ISSN – International Standard Serial Number is the same thing as the ISBN, but is for periodical publications (ongoing series), such as magazines or a book series. You didn’t know you needed that for your book series? That’s okay. Not all books start with the intent of making them a series. With the wonders of technology, some sites will still link your series as belonging together. Just fill out that “series” box.

 

Now, if you’ve self-published with Amazon KDP, you might find they assigned you an ASIN instead of an ISBN. Oh, the horror. What have they done?

 

The ASIN (Amazon standard Identification Number) is the same thing as an ISBN, a catalogue number, only it is specific to Amazon. So, it only shows up in Amazon’s market. If you are publishing both a print and eBook at the same time, they will likely give the eBook an ASIN that is the same as the ISBN. Still, only the print book version with the ISBN will show up in ISBN searches outside of Amazon’s marketplace.

 

The EAN (European Article Number) should not be confused with an ISBN, ISSN, or ISIN. The EAN is a barcode. Think of it as the same thing as the others, but for products that are not books.

 

 

 

Breaking Down An ISBN – International Standard Book Number

The ISBN is broken down into parts.

 

  • EAN – Bookland country code. Apparently books live in a world of their own separate from ours called “Bookland”.  In the land of books, this identifies what country the book comes from.  Luckily for us non-book beings, the numbers also coincide with the countries of our own world.

 

  • Group – identifies the language the book is written in

 

  • Publisher – identifies the publisher of the book (aka the person or business who filed the ISBN number for the book)

 

* oddly enough, it seems that when a publisher exhausts its block of ISBNs, instead of receiving an additional block with the same publisher identifying number, they are given a new identifying number for the new block of ISBNs.

 

  • Title – identifies the book title

 

  • Check Digit – this is akin to a spell check for the people assigning ISBNs. If this number is not what they are looking for, then an error was made.

 

 

If you are being published with a publisher, they will look after your ISBN needs. However, if you are self-publishing, you need to do this yourself. And, you will probably need multiple ISBNs for each book.

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Why do you need multiple ISBNs for one book?

Because each format is a separate catalogue item. Every place you upload your book to sell, every print on demand printer, every eBook distribution, is a separate catalogue listing. Every ‘version’, i.e. trim size, paperback vs. hardcover vs. eBook, vs. audio book, is a separate catalogue listing. Every change that affects the description and quality of the product, like trim size or doing revisions to the book beyond fixing a few typos, creates a new catalogue item.

 

Think of it this way, each of these is a different catalogue item:

  • Print book on Amazon KDP
  • eBook on Amazon Kindle
  • Print book on Lulu
  • McNally Robinson pod printer
  • IngramSpark/Lightning Source
  • Kobo books

 

Also, each of these is a different format; therefore each is also a different catalogue item:

  • Paperback book
  • Hard cover book
  • Audio book
  • eBook mobi
  • eBook epub
  • Other eBook formats
  • Large print book
  • You uploaded your book in a new trim size
  • You uploaded a new edition (2nd edition, 3rd, etc)

 

 

 

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Getting an ISBN is not difficult. And, depending where you live, you might have to pay for it.

 

If you live in the United States, you have to buy your ISBN. ISBN’s are sold by a commercial company.  (They are cheaper in bulk!) After getting your ISBN, it is up to you to have it registered with RR Bowker, the US database for the ISBN agency.  www.bowkerlink.com

 

One of the things many large US based self-publishing companies like Draft 2 Digital, Smashwords, and Amazon KDP does to encourage authors to publish with them is they buy up mass volumes of bulk ISBNs and provide them free to authors and publishers publishing with them. Of course, that only applies to the book listed on their service. You still need ISBNs for anywhere else you upload your book to.

 

Photo by Ryan on Unsplash

The wonderful thing about being in Canada is that FREE ISBNs is one of the little ways the Canadian government supports the arts.

 

To get your ISBN visit the Library and Archives Canada website and create an ISBN Canada Account.

Once you have your ISBN Canada Account you simply login to request and update ISBNs. There is no cost for this service.

 

Once you have your ISBN and have published your book, it is recommended you submit copies of your books to the Legal deposit program with Library and Archives Canada (read the article on that for more information).

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Registration Deadline: 1 May 2020

Sign up for the program or register new titles and editions. Registration runs Feb 15th to May 1st.

 

The Public Lending Right (PLR) Program sends payments annually to creators whose works are in Canada’s public libraries. Check out their website for more information on eligibility, payments, and to register: https://publiclendingright.ca/

 

 

The Dry on the PLR:

The PLR (Public Lending Right) Commission was established under the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA) in 1986 to oversee the PLR program.

 

The PLR Commission is an elected body of writers, translators, librarians and publishers working together with non-voting representatives from the Canada Council for the Arts, Department of Canadian Heritage, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, and Library and Archives Canada. (Read the article on ISBNs to learn more about what Library and Archives Canada does).

 

‘Public Lending Right’ is your right as an author to be paid for free public use of your works in libraries. The basis of payment varies, but more than 30 countries around the world have PLR programs. In Canada, an annual survey is done one titles in public library catalogues. Payments to authors are based on the presence of their title(s) in the survey results.

 

 

Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash

The Juicy News on the PLR:

As a writer, you worked hard on what you’ve had published. It’s only right to want fair compensation for that work. Libraries that stock your writing, whether it is in print or eBook, are lending it out free to multiple users who don’t need to buy it to read it. That translates to lost sales for you in the name of providing free public access to hundreds of potential readers.

 

 

This is what is behind the US libraries’ boycott of Macmillan Publisher’s new eBook releases. Basically, because more library lending equals more readers who do not have to buy the book to read it, Macmillan sought to boost initial sales of new eBook releases by limiting the number of copies libraries can buy and lend out in the first 8 weeks after a new eBook is released. Now that was a mouthful. Macmillan has been trolled and vilified for what boils down to an economic business decision. The nerve of them wanting to make sales revenue on their investment to the detriment of faster access to that new release to all those readers not paying for it.

 

I get both sides of that argument. If I want it, if I’m excited about it, I want it now. I don’t want to wait 8 weeks to get on a waiting list to get it. And if I don’t have to pay for it, I win. Heck, most of my adult life I couldn’t afford to buy books new. I still can’t afford to fill my reading needs with the prices publishers charge. I live on books I can read free (leaving a review is an excellent way to give back to the author for that!), reduced price books, and used books. At the same time, taking a risk on that book, on that author, and publishing a book is a substantial investment for publishers. Just because it’s an eBook does not make their costs inconsequential. And it is a business. They are not producing books out of the kindness of their hearts. They have overhead and staff wages to pay. And their investors want to earn money on their investment. And, that’s not even including compensation for the author’s time. Okay, let’s get back on topic…

 

 

This is where the Public Lending Right (PLR) Program comes in.

Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

You write the book. Whatever means you take, it gets published. Libraries buy it, or maybe you donate it to a library. All those people borrowing it from the library, reading it without paying for it, are sales that won’t happen. They probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway, but they are getting to enjoy your book and you get no compensation for that.

 

Wrong. The PLR is another small way our government supports the arts. You sign up, and if your book(s) comes back in their annual library survey, you get paid compensation for the potential loss of sales from those library books.

 

Registering is not a guarantee. And they need to verify your book(s) eligibility. Libraries need to actually stock it and then it has to be picked up in the annual survey. Then you get paid.

 

It might not be enough to cover all potential lost sales earnings, but it’s something. And in today’s book market, there are no guarantees on how those sales will go.

 

 

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do you do when you just don’t know what to write?

 

It happens to all of us. Okay, maybe not to Stephen King (but it probably has at some point even if he won’t admit it), however it happens to the rest of us. You sit down to write and . . . your mind is blank. That’s where I came up with the idea for this subject. I couldn’t think of anything, so I decided to write about that.

 

But if you really wanted to write, you would just sit down and write. Right? If only it were that simple. The reasons for the blank mind syndrome are as varied as we writers trying to write are.

 

 

Perhaps the biggest culprit is self-doubt. Who hasn’t faced off to that one at some point? You might not even recognize this is the problem because self-doubt can be a sneaky thing. It is the anti-muse of a thousand wicked faces. You don’t know if you can do it. You question how to start, what to write. Will it be garbage? Will anyone like it or are you wasting your time? And those are only a few easily recognized symptoms of self-doubt.

 

No one is going to want to read it. No one will like it. Will even you like it? You doubt you’ll ever be published anyway, or find that ever elusive agent you need to get your work considered by the big publishing houses. You can give yourself any of thousands of excuses that all boil down to one simple thing . . . self-doubt.

 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Time is not on your side. We all get that. Life is busy. How many things are you juggling in your daily life? Full time or part time work; maybe both with two jobs. School, maybe both school and working; homework, studying, meetings, and volunteering. Family, extended family, friends, and pets. Household and life chores, running errands, and meeting your own basic needs.

 

Before you know it day after day has been sucked away and you haven’t had a chance to even think about writing. And, we all still need a little downtime to catch that favorite show, read a book, and just have a little bit of fun and time to unwind from the hectic everyday.

 

In the constant whirlwind of life it’s too often the just for you things like writing that get pushed back and left behind.

 

 

The story has stumped you. Fiction or nonfiction, prose, essay, short or long, whatever it is, sometimes it just stops us dead and can’t move forward. You can stare blankly at it all you want, but that inspiration just won’t come. Maybe you feel something is off, but cannot pinpoint what.

 

I always find that for me if it feels like something is off, then it turns out something is off. Maybe I need to delete the entire beginning, or it might work better moved much later in the story. Something somewhere is off track so the pieces just aren’t fitting together right like trying to force in puzzle pieces that don’t go there. Scenes need to be moved or removed, details expanded on, and bridge scenes created to fill in gaps in the story.

 

Twice I have taken the drastic step of actually tearing up and deleting an entire story, scrapping it completely because it was going nowhere. They still haunt me.

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You’ve been away from writing for too long. It can be hard to get back into it after not writing for a while. You’ve been hit by the lack of time, and now it’s compounded with self-doubt. Or maybe life just got in the way and you sidelined writing. Whatever the reason you took an extended break, you feel like you haven’t written in so long that you forgot how.

 

Or maybe writing has been that dream you wanted to do, but just have not managed to actually start yet. Does that mean you are not a writer? No. In the dry technical term of the definition, you do actually have to write something to have written. But self identity is a powerful thing and is what drives you to be a writer. Think of the age old saga of the chicken and egg. The chicken must lay the egg to birth the chicken, but the chicken came from an egg laid by a chicken, so. . . Are you a writer because you felt like a writer and were driven to write? Or because you wrote, which you would not have done had you not been driven to it?

 

 

Regardless if you are having an extended dry spell, have yet to dip your toes into your dream of writing, or are facing off against the inability to make the words flow, the result is the same . . . you are not writing. So how do you get back into it? Or start in the first place? Let’s explore some tips.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Getting back into writing can be like riding a bike. You never really forget how, but you can feel pretty rusty at it and need to get back that sense of balance and relearn the comfort zone. That takes time and practice.

 

It doesn’t have to be good. Not everyone can write a carefully thought out perfectly planned and executed word by word draft of perfection. If they did, odds are pretty good they actually wrote and rewrote it over and over in their head before committing it to the proverbial paper. The magic of editing fixes all . . . later.

 

 

There is power in small. This is one of my favorite project tools. It’s the same trick I used when overdue schoolwork snowballed out of control for my kid in grade school, or when one of my kids is overwhelmed by the size of a large project. I also use it when I just can’t think what to write when trying to work on a novel, although it probably works better if you actually outline first. I write mostly long fiction. The whole project can be daunting.

 

It is also an effective tool to combat writer’s block in all its forms. Where to start? Start small.

 

Pick a scene. If you have to number scenes and draw a number from a hat, then do it. If it’s something more epic those numbered scenes can be a mix of scenes, locations, characters, peoples or creatures; or anything else. Whatever you picked you must write. Block out everything else to do with the story, write it and own it. Put everything you have into it and make it the best little piece of writing you can. If it doesn’t fit, you can fix that later with editing. You know you’ll be editing and revising it anyway.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

 

You don’t have to write chronologically. So what if you can’t think of what to write in the next scene? Is it better to not write and mope over the next scene or keep writing? If you can write something, anything, then do it. Maybe you are on chapter two and the only inspiration is chapter 32. Go write that chapter 32 scene. The rest will fall into place in its time.

 

 

My favorite rule in writing is ‘break all the rules’. There is an overabundance of so-called ‘writing rules’. From the ‘proper’ writing rules of formal writing handed down by the generations before our time to new rules being invented on the fly, rules are everywhere. The one thing they all have in common is that in writing no rule fits every single situation.

 

Sometimes it’s our own perception of what the rules we are supposed to follow are that holds us back from writing. That ingrained fear of breaking a rule. What would our grade five English Language Arts teacher think of us? What would our mothers think? Oh, the horror.

 

Be a rebel. Get reckless. Break the rules. You are not writing a business letter to the CEO of your company or formal fifth grade essay on a book you don’t understand. You are creating literature art. Feel it and let the rules go. Nobody even has to know or read it. It can be our dark little secret. You decide when you are ready to let someone read it.

 

 

Schedule time to write. Ten minutes here, fifteen there, or multi-task it during waiting time. Everything else you do daily has at least a loosely planned schedule. You get up at a certain time to go to work or school. Meals are eaten around a certain time. Maybe you don’t really have anything to do during a spare or coffee or lunch break. Do it while you are waiting for the bus or during the bus ride. When I’m waiting for an hour during my kid’s boxing class, I’m sitting there writing or editing. Maybe you decide lunch on Tuesdays will be your writing block. Once you schedule it, stick to it. It becomes easier when it is habit.

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Use writing prompts. They are useful when you want to write but don’t have a specific project. A prompt is a tool to get the writing juices flowing. There are scores of writing prompt tools online; everything from random title generators to first lines to subjects or pictures to write about.

 

The point of a writing prompt is to make you write something, anything, about something random. If you can’t get going, start by describing it in great detail, down to every last scuff, scratch, and imagined imperfections that may be hidden beneath the surface. How it must feel in the hand, its heft and balance. How it smells. How it makes you feel to look at it. Imagine who might have conspired to create such a thing; what might have motivated them. Who might have labored to build it? Who would buy it? For themselves or someone else? For pure purposes or mischief? How did it come to be right there in that spot, in that condition, perhaps abandoned or lost, or intentional?

 

 

Edit your work. So what if you haven’t finished writing it? Who cares how long it has ‘collected dust’? Just pick it up and start working through editing it. You have to anyway. Research any little thing. This gets your head back in the game and on the story or poem, or whatever you are writing. This trick doesn’t always work for me the first time I sit down to edit. It might be the third or fourth time, but inevitably the new story ideas start to flow.

 

 

Write something else. If you really are stuck, move on. Work on writing something else and keep that writing momentum going. Your nagging sub-conscious will probably be worrying at that other piece in the background. Go back and revisit the work you are stuck on. I have multiple WIPs going all the time.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet writing hat

Create a writing trigger.  You are entering dangerous territory. Really, you are. Call it a writing trigger, focal object, behavior modifier, your process or routine; or your ‘writing hat’. Anything that works goes, within reason. Let’s keep it legal. The point is finding something that flips that writing switch on, naturally or trained. Like a bedtime routine for toddlers, it switches your brain into writing mode.

 

Maybe it’s going through certain steps to settle in to write, using a particular object, or a certain place you write. Learning to flip that switch will turn on the writer’s brain and its creative juices on command.

 

The problem with this is dependency on an object, routine, or place. Whatever you trained yourself on, if you make yourself too reliant on it, you risk being unable to write without it. Like George Stark’s Berol Black Beauty pencil (Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Half’). Thad Beaumont was an anxious writer, so he invented the pen name George Stark and the writing switch (and Stark’s author ‘thing’ to make him famous), the Berol Black Beauty pencil. Without that very specific pencil, he could not be Stark and could not write like Stark. Unfortunately, because it is a Stephen King story, the fictional Stark became real and sought to terrorize and murder his creator, Thad. Hopefully your writing trigger doesn’t do the same. Fortunately, the Berol Black Beauty pencil does not exist today.

 

 

Get an accountability buddy. Also called a ‘nag’. I’m my own best and worst nag. It could be as simple as marking a deadline on a calendar or making a phone alert; it could be posting promises on your social media, or someone who will regularly ask you about your writing progress. The point is having that niggling in your head droning on at you, “Write . . . write . . . write.” How embarrassing to always have to say, “yeah, sorry. I didn’t write again this week.”

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Just write. There is one tried and tested way to get out of that blank mind no writing funk. You have to find a way to write. It doesn’t matter how or when. It doesn’t have to be good. Just. Write.

 

Force yourself to sit down and write something. Anything. The more you make yourself write, the easier it will come. By making yourself write you can spur ideas. I started with *(blank)*, literally. I banged my head on the desk a few times (figuratively), tried to force an idea, and finally settled on, “Fine, I’ll right about not being able to write anything.”

 

I started writing that and as I did, ideas for other things came to me. Reasons for the mind block beget ideas. Thinking of how to break the cycle of being stuck beget more ideas. And now I have a list of other possible future topics. And whatever you are writing, when that other inspiration strikes note it down for later.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

What is Lulu?

Lulu Press, Inc. (Lulu.com) is a U.S. based print on demand printer and book distributor for electronic books, print books, and calendars. It is used by self-published authors and small presses.

 

Is it a ‘vanity press’? No. Lulu press, Inc. is a legitimate provider of services to small presses and self-published authors.

 

Is it cost effective to publish with Lulu? That depends. Their pricing model is based on the size of the book and volume of the order. Like other PODs, the printing cost per book is calculated on a minimum base rate plus a cost per page. So, with equal trim sizes, a 325 page book will cost more to print than a 300 page book. As the author/publisher, you can order copies for yourself to slog around stores and book events with to sell face-to-face. Like Amazon KDP, they charge a reduced publisher rate to you. You are not paying the retail rate you set for copies of your own book. Lulu does have bulk order discounts. They are more expensive than Amazon KDP for your printing cost per book if you are ordering smaller  print runs, but the good news is a search of those fabulous online click-bait coupon sites will probably produce a coupon code to reduce the cost. Comparing costs of Amazon KDP to Lulu, I only order books through Lulu if I have a coupon code. Otherwise, with shipping, the higher cost would eat up most of my small profit margin on face-to-face sales. (I use Couponfollow.com).

 

What does it cost to upload my book to Lulu?  Nothing. Like other POD and distribution companies, they do have service packages you can buy if you want someone to do the work for you. I’ve seen mixed reviews on these. But if you do the work yourself, there is no cost to upload your books to Lulu.

 

But I want to buy Canadian and/or publish Canadian. Lulu is a U.S. company. However, being in Canada you would be going through the Lulu Canada store. Those books are printed in a facility in Ontario, Canada.

 

Does Lulu distribute the books to brick and mortar stores? Yes and no. Your book (eBook or POD print) must meet all of the distribution requirements in order to be available for sale beyond the Lulu online marketplace. This includes being one of the eligible trim sizes. If it’s available only on the Lulu marketplace then people can buy your book only through the Lulu site.

 

Why is my Lulu book only available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and not in any brick and mortar book stores? Because, under Lulu’s globalREACH program, you met the distribution requirements for those two online stores. Maybe you did not meet all the requirements for the global distribution program, leaving you with limited distribution. Also, globalREACH creates a listing with the Ingram Book Company, making it available to book stores to order it. But then it’s up to the book stores to actually order it. There is no guarantee they will and Ingram’s catalog is massive.

 

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Do I need an ISBN to publish with Lulu? Yes. Lucky for us, ISBNs are free in Canada and easy to get. You also need a different ISBN for each copy of your book. I.e.) you need a different ISBN for the book published through Lulu from the book uploaded and published through Amazon KDP (Amazon will provide ISBNs, Lulu does not).

 

Can I just upload my Amazon KDP book and cover files to Lulu?  No. While your trim size and page count don’t change, the dimensions of your book spine will. You will need to redo the cover. This is because Lulu uses a lighter weight gauge of paper (thinner paper), so trim and page count being the same, your book will be thinner.

 

How is the quality of Lulu print books?  I’ve heard mixed reviews. As with any POD printer, there can be variations from batch to batch. After all, they are completely resetting the printer for every print batch run for every customer. Some swear by their quality. Some have reported issues with the spine glue in the heat. I found covers that are lighter with more colors work better, but mostly black glossy covers did not hold up to minimal handling. The cover finish on black glossy covers rubbed off, marked easily, and chipped just transporting them carefully packed to and from book events, leaving the books unsellable. Amazon KDP books stand up better to transporting them to sales with the dark glossy covers.

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Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

Photo by Zulfa Nazer on Unsplash

I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had to *fix* the formatting on a document that made me cringe, usually a work manual, formatted by a predecessor.

 

When you are formatting a book manuscript, simplicity and consistency are your best friends. Especially if you will be still writing and editing it. I recommend starting with the use of proper formatting. It will save you a lot of time later. And, if you are paying someone to format your completed manuscript, it will save them a lot of time and you a lot of money. The more time it takes them to format it, the more they will charge you. If you already started or finished the manuscript, you can still fix it.

 

First, work with only one manuscript. Don’t have one for each eBook and print version. You can do easy fixes to format for them for each later and do not want to have to do every edit fix on every manuscript copy.

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Let’s start with a few basic ‘Do Not’s. All instructions are based on using Microsoft Word because that’s what I know how to use.

 

Spaces instead of tabs. Do you hit the space bar five times instead of using a tab to indent? Don’t do this. If you are doing this, I want you to go into your ‘Home’ tab at the top left of your Word document. Click ‘Replace’ in the top right. In the ‘Find what’ box type your five spaces. The ‘Replace With’ box should be empty. Click the ‘Replace All’ button. If it asks you if you are sure you want to replace all, yes you are sure.

 

Tab key to indent sentences. Don’t do this either. Especially if you plan to later format this manuscript for eBook.  Most eBook formatting conversions do not like tabs and it could look ugly in the book on the eReader. Do the same thing you did to remove all those unwanted spaces, only with your cursor in the ‘Find what’ box (after deleting those spaces), click ‘More’ and then ‘Special’. Select ‘Tab Character’. ‘Find what’ will fill in this: ^t. Leave ‘Replace with’ blank and click ‘Replace All’. If you used double or triple tabs to move things, you will need to run this replace all multiple times.

 

Extra line spaces at the top of the page. Maybe you want your chapter header to not cling to the top of the page. Print books often have them a few lines down. If you added extra ‘Return’ (Enter) blank lines at the top of your page to push your text down, this will be a problem converting to eBook later. Electronic book readers hate this. It looks weird and you might end up with random blank pages in the eBook. Go ahead and remove all of those the same way you did the tabs, using the replace all special multiple ‘Return’ characters with nothing. NOTE: don’t do this with only a single paragraph character in the ‘Find what’ box. It will remove all your paragraph returns for every paragraph. The ‘Undo’ button is magical if you accidentally do this.

 

Hyphenating non-hyphenated words. You wanted it to look professional with the too long words breaking at the right margin and carrying down to the next line with a hyphenation word break. So, you manually hit the hyphen and enter throughout your manuscript. You don’t want this. This is the thing that dwells in a manuscript formatter’s darkest nightmares. It’s old school from the days of manual typewriters before computers were a thing. Today’s word processors adjust spacing to accommodate the text without this, and, forcing end of line hyphenations is messy and not something you want to have to go line by line fixing throughout and entire manuscript. Regardless of manuscript perfection, if your document is not the right trim size for the published book, this will have to be fixed through the entire text.

 

Hard returns. It’s the difference of hitting the Return (Enter) key and holding down Shift button while hitting Return. They can cause issues with formatting, particularly if you are using justification and in some eBook conversions. Behind the formatting they look like this:

Return (Enter): ¶

Shift+Return: 8

 

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

 

 

Now, what should you do?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Formatting With Style. In other words, using Microsoft Word’s ‘Styles’. This is a cleaner and more reliable way of formatting your manuscript, and making global format changes to it.

 

If you are writing multiple books, inevitably you will have to reformat an entire book. Every chapter, paragraph, and line. Maybe you need to change the font type or size, or the size of the indented paragraphs. What you want is the ability to do a mass manuscript reformat with minimal effort, which means minimal errors. Ideally, you will be doing this anyway to convert your print book manuscript to eBook format – after the print book manuscript is perfected in writing, editing, proofing, and formatting, and is ready to publish. For this, you want to use Word’s ‘Styles’ to essentially hard code the typeset styles into your manuscript.

 

You are also less likely to run into strange formatting occurrences if you format using Styles instead of hitting the formatting buttons at the top of the ‘Home’ tab group.

 

Using Word’s ‘Styles’, you will want to set up a few basic styles for each section of your manuscript: interior chapter first paragraph justified, and rest of the chapter text first line indent; chapter headers, front matter centered, and title page.

 

I’ll list some basic formatting below. First, take a look inside some books produced by the big publishers at how they do it. In particular, look at books in the same genre as yours.

 

 

Chapter formatting. The whole chapter can be formatted in two blocks: the first paragraph, and the rest.

 

To create a new ‘Style’, select your ‘Home’ tab in the top left of your Word document. Then click the little downward angled arrow in the ‘Styles’. Or hold down Alt + Ctrl + Shift + S buttons.

 

Select the ‘A+’ (new style) button. Set your font type, size, justification, and other settings here. You want it justified and to use a font type and size common with printed books of your genre. Since you are initially formatting for a printed book you want to choose a very dark black font color, not automatic. (Note: you need automatic for eBook). If ‘automatically update’ is checked off, all revisions to one paragraph formatted to this style will automatically change all paragraphs in the same style in the manuscript.

 

Be sure to name your new styles something you will remember what they are for, like ‘Chapter First Paragraph’. You will need to make a few new styles.

 

Select ‘Format’, then ‘Paragraph’, and ‘Indents and Spacing’.

 

 

The first paragraph is generally justified across the page with neat margins and no first line indent, but not always, because there are no hard written rules in publishing. There is often a slightly wider line space after the end of the first paragraph to set it apart from the rest of the chapter. Again, there is no hard rule that it has to be this way. I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Justified

Outline level: body

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 0 pt

Spacing – After: 8 pt

Sine spacing: Single

 

 

The rest of the chapter paragraphs will take a minor tweak to the settings when you create a new style for them. Here, I removed the space after the paragraphs. Leaving it would spread your manuscript over too many pages. I also added an automatic first line indent. This is what I changed:

 

Special: First Line      By: 0.2”

Spacing – After: 0 pt

 

 

The chapter header style can be set up with a larger font size, centered, and changing the spacing before and after. Adjust the spacing before and after to set the chapter header where you want it. Do not use added blank lines in the document (That can mess up your eBook formatting later). I use these settings:

 

Alignment: Centered

Outline level: Level 2 *

* if you are using parts as well as chapters, each ‘Part’ would be level 1 and the chapters level 2

Indentation – Left: 0”

Indentation – Right: 0”

Special: None      By: (blank)

Spacing – Before: 42 pt

Spacing – After: 40 pt

Sine spacing: Single

* Outline level is an extremely useful Word tool. Level 1 is the top level, then 2, 3, etc; and each number layers the levels down. It can help you navigate to a particular chapter (select ‘View’ at the top and check off ‘Navigation Pane’ to open a click-and-go table of contents on the side). It can aid creating an auto-created and updated table of contents in your front matter. And, you can move and rearrange entire sections (parts or chapters) by clicking and dragging them in the navigation pane on the left.

 

 

Front and back matter. The fewer styles used, the cleaner your manuscript looks, but some front matter is typically centered and some isn’t. Your title page, for example, may have a larger font than anywhere else, be centered, and spaced lower on the page, so will probably have its own ‘Style’. The title page is also probably the only place you might want to use a different font type. Beyond this, I use the first chapter paragraph justified style for justified text like the copyright ‘do not copy this’ blurb. I have a similar style set with the text centered instead of justified for the rest of the copyright information, and if I want a centered spacer (***) between scenes in a chapter. The about author and other back matter blurbs, I treat like another chapter.

 

 

Headers and footers should be used for the page numbers at the bottom and the alternating book title and author name at the top. Use the same font as the book text. Insert a section break before chapter/part 1 to separate the front matter from the rest to not have the headers and footers appear in the front matter. When you create your headers and footers in page one of the first chapter check off ‘different from previous section’, and check off ‘different odd/even pages’ in the header to have your name on one side and the book title on the other.

 

 

Editing Styles is not hard. Open the Styles panel. Select the paragraph text you want to edit. In the Styles box it should highlight the selected style. Hover over the Paragraph mark next to it and it becomes a downward triangle. Click it. Let’s say I want to change all ‘Normal’ text to my ‘Paragraph text’ style. I click ‘Select all’ under the normal style and wait for it to select all. It can take a while if there is a lot. Then click the ‘Paragraph text’ style. It should change all selected text to that style.

 

The ‘Modify’ button opens up the panel to modify the style if you want to tweak your style. If ‘Automatically update’ is checked off, it will automatically change all text in the document with that text style.

 

 

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

 

Formatting Styles for eBooks later will be simple if you followed these styles consistently. First, re-save the document to be safe. Remove all headers and footers. They don’t work in eBooks. Change your entire document page size to 8.5” x 11” (letter) with 1 inch margins all around.

 

 

 

Change all styles to:

– Remove the before and after paragraph spaces. At least minimize it to no more than 12 pt. in chapter headers and the title page.

– All fonts should be Times New Roman 12 point. You can get away with the title page and chapter headers being a slightly larger font size.

– All font color MUST be ‘Automatic’.

 

The other formatting fixes to convert to eBook are a little more work. They are finicky creatures, those eBook readers.

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