Monday, April 25, 2016

Lessons Learned - Part III

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been writing about self-publishing. I’ve emphasized the idea of trying to find a traditional publisher first, and making sure your manuscript is as clean as possible. Yes, we all end up with a few typos, unwanted indents or missing words. It happens. If it’s a great book, most readers are willing to skip over our little mishaps, but still, don’t just assume the reader will do this.

You may have decided you’d prefer to self-publish for any number of reasons. If that’s the case, you have a whole new laundry list of things to learn.

You might choose a self-publisher that you pay and they do all the work. On the other hand, you might like to have control of your career – you might want to be your own boss. You still have to follow the guidelines set up by your self-publisher. 

Last week I suggested you research the various self-publishers. I hope you do that, and do it soon. There are some authors who have created their own publishing house for their books. It certainly looks nice to show a publisher’s name at the beginning of your book. So far, I’ve just used my own name.

Have you started promoting yet? There’s so much involved in gaining name recognition. Start early and keep the momentum going.

In the beginning I used a paid self-publisher who did everything except promotion and marketing. Well, in all fairness, they did some of those things, but the majority of the work was left up to me. I switched to two traditional publishers (one for each series), decided we had different ideas, and moved on to the newer form of self-publishing.

Here’s the thing. You’ve got to have all of your ducks in a row going in. Your book is done? It’s clean and error free? You’ve used the format the self-publisher wants you to use? You’ve created a Title Page, an Acknowledgement Page, a Dedication Page, a copyright page? If you have multiple books, you might want to include an “Also Available…” Page. Think about an “About the Author” page at the end of the book.

Now you’re ready to publish, right?
Not quite so fast. What about the book cover you need for your book? You can pay to have one created, have a relative do it, or you can create your own cover. There are a number of programs you can use. Personally, I use Photoshop, but there are other programs available to you, too. Some are actually free. I welcome commenters to mention programs they’ve had success with and to include links.

There are sites you can use for your graphics or you can use photos. If you’re artistic, you might create your cover using your own graphics. Be sure to use a font and color that can be read easily. I once read that when you create a cover you should picture it as a small, thumbnail sized cover. If it’s too busy, the reader perusing sites will often look for something less involved. Obviously, it can’t hurt if your cover has something to do with your story. I wrote about a ghost town (Old Murders Never Die) and I used a ghost town on the cover.

I discovered when using the Kindle ebook program that there is a book cover creator program you can use if necessary. There are several covers you can choose from, and there's one where you can load your own cover.

Let’s say you’ve done all of the things I mentioned above. There are more decisions to make. Do you want an ebook version, a paperback version, and an audiobook version? Start researching to decide what companies will best provide your choices.

With everything ready, it’s time to start the process.

I use as my self-publisher. That’s not a recommendation, although I’m very happy with them, but it’s a statement of fact. I use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for my ebooks, CreateSpace for my paperbacks, and I tried Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) for an audiobook. Interesting experience. While I have thirteen ebooks and paperbacks, I only have one audiobook. The three companies are related to each other.

Come back next week and I’ll go into more detail and it will be more in depth, because if everything I’ve talked about is done, then it’s time to upload your book and cover. Keep your sigh to yourself when I tell you paperwork and more decisions lie ahead.

Until next week, remember that every step of this process will make you just a bit more of a techie. For me, it’s been fun.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website.
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Monday, April 18, 2016

Lessons Learned - Part II

Last week I wrote about how I got into self-publishing. Is it for you or not? Keep reading and make your decision after you give it a lot of thought.

First, let me repeat what I said about trying to find a traditional publisher. Not only will it look good on your Writer’s Resume, but you’ll learn a lot about the publishing business. If you’re serious about a writing career, you need to know as much as possible. Research done with books will teach you, too, but having a traditional publisher will introduce you to the real world of, well, publishing.

Let’s say that you’ve decided self-publishing is right for you. Search the Internet for self-publishers. Read everything about the company, their requirements, fees (?), and contracts. Study all of the information they provide you. Read carefully and compare one to the other. Remember, they’re a business, but so are you.

Prepare yourself and your book. When the story is finished, go through it again. If need be, hire a professional editor to look at your work. Make sure everything is as perfect as it can be, from the writing to each period, comma and question mark. Do you have a lot of exclamation points in your book? Get rid of most of them. When the book is as good as it can be, prepare to move on.

Let me break the momentum for a moment. If you write a book and it’s published, who’s going to buy it if they’ve never heard of you? Start now, not after the book is published. Get your name out there. A website and a blog are always a good start. Read the blogs of others and leave comments. People will begin to recognize your name. Start a Facebook page or use whatever social media you think will benefit you. Do whatever it takes, without being obnoxious, to make your name recognizable. You’re not a joiner? Do it anyway. Name recognition is important.

Okay, back to business. Well, that last paragraph is an important part of business. Don’t take it lightly. Now back to business.

I’m published through Amazon. I can only tell you of my experiences, and I’m certainly no expert.

My books are available in ebook format through Kindle Direct Publishing, but I wanted them to be released in paperback, too. I opted for CreateSpace, which is affiliated with Amazon. I’ve been very pleased with my experiences. Even so, be sure to read everything on their sites. What’s right for me might not be for you.
 A Techie Might Just Be Your Best Friend

Are you a techie? I’m not. I know very little about technical things. I’ve learned through trial and error, and often I’ve had to fight with frustration. Frustration is not my friend. I had no one to show me how to do things, either. Try going in with a good attitude. Leave frustration out of the equation. Trust me on this one. Patience is your friend.

The programs they use to “check” your manuscript when you download it are great. They helped me a lot. One of the first things I learned is to use “automatic indents” while creating my manuscript. It saves a lot of time and heartache. Things like that can make getting started a lot easier.

I can’t speak for other self-publishers, but Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace provided me with step-by-step instructions when I was ready to download my books. You can’t simply skim the directions. You really need to understand the process.

Remember, you’re your own boss now and if there’s an error, it’s probably your own. Yes, as much as I don’t want to say it, it’s easy to make a mistake.

Be patient, take your time, and read everything carefully.

Do I sound repetitive? There’s a reason. If you’re going to self-publish, you need to get it right from the beginning. The little things matter as much as the big ones.

What do you need to do initially?
Make sure your manuscript is as perfect as possible.
Start working on name recognition.
Create a website (optional), a blog (optional), and set up a page or two in social media.
Research self-publishers and don’t rush into the process.
Research the site of the one you choose and study their requirements.
Be ready to become at least a bit of a Techie.

I gave you some general information about self-publishing and I’ll go into a little more detail next week. At least you have some idea of what you’ll be facing if you self-publish.

Time to stop “talking”. I can get carried away. If any of you have self-published and you have something you’d like to add at this point, please do, but don’t get ahead of me.

Until next time, if you’re a writer, think things over carefully. If you’re a reader, I hope this helps you to understand there’s quite a process involved, even if the author is self-published.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Monday, April 11, 2016

Lessons Learned - Part I

This week I did a guest post about self-publishing on Patricia Gligor’s blog at . Is it for your or not? One of the people who commented was Sunny Frazier of “The Posse” and she asked me to write a series about the steps and trials and errors of self-publishing.

Initially I wrote a long, boring post about how I started out and how I reached the point of changing my publishing strategy. I hit the Delete button after rereading it.

I honestly believe an author is better off if they try to find a traditional publisher before self-publishing. It may turn out to be right for you, but if it isn’t, it can’t hurt for your “resume” to include traditional publishers in your background.

My start was not an auspicious one. Often times we tend to jump in with both feet without knowing what we’re doing. I had no contact with other authors, authors’ groups or anyone with publishing knowledge, and I didn’t understand researching on the Internet. I was new to computers, too.

Long story short, someone told me about a self-publishing company at a time when self-publishing was frowned on. I didn’t know about The Big Frowning Face and tried it.

I submitted a manuscript and I was thrilled when I received an email telling me I was the best thing since sliced bread, even comparing me to some big name authors. I was elated, printed the email and taped it to my wall. I was in heaven. It took a while for me to realize that they probably sent this type of email to all of their writers.

Then the real work began. I tried marketing and promoting, but to no avail. There was that frowny face looking mean and nasty, and looking me straight in the eye.

There were issues with the self-publisher that made me sit back and take a long, hard look at what I was doing. After some work, I cancelled my contracts with the intent of going elsewhere. Was I naïve? Uh, yes.

It seems no one wanted to deal with a self-published author. Things have changed today, but that was then and this is now.

I started submitting a rewritten novel and found a taker, an epublisher. I was thrilled, and in all honestly I still feel that way. They were willing to take a chance on me and the Sandi Webster series. The first royalty check I received wasn’t for very much, but I began to feel like I’d made it. What a rush!

I started writing a second series, The Bogey Man Mysteries, which was a spinoff from the Sandi Webster series.

A long period of time had passed since I first self-published, but at that point I was feeling pretty full of myself. I decided to try to find a different publisher for the new series, and I did.

Over time I realized the two publishers were on one road, and I wanted to be on another. There was no common ground. I once again cancelled my contracts. That brings up another point. If you find a publisher, read your contract carefully. There are pitfalls and you don’t want those in your contract, but I’m not an attorney so I won’t go into detail.

My intent was to rerelease all of my books on my own. I’d been hearing great things about Amazon’s self-publishing program and had a feeling I was at the beginning of the road I wanted to take.

Jumping in with both feet again, I took my own road and I don’t regret it. However, I had no idea how much work was involved, and that’s what I want to pass on to you. You have to be your own publisher and it’s not a job for sissies.

Next week I’ll talk about where that road has led me, and how I did it. In the meantime, remember that if you’re writing as a career, not just for fun, you’re running a business. Treat what you’re doing as a business and look for the marketing plan that will work best for you.

Have any of you had similar experiences to those I had in the beginning? Were any of you as naïve as I was? I was an avid reader, and heck, since I read so much, how could writing my own book be so difficult? I have to laugh at myself when I think of how I perceived The Business.

Until next week, think long and hard about what you’re doing. Do you really want to be your own boss? Remember, it involves a lot of hard work.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Monday, April 4, 2016

Don't Curb Your Enthusiasm

My life has been very busy over the past year. Most of you know I lost my husband, sold my house in Arizona, and moved to Washington state. I didn’t write or read at all during most of that time, but things are changing. I’ve started a new book and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. Besides writing the new book, I critique another author’s books, and I’m just starting to market and promote again, plus I write this weekly blog. I also read the blogs of others, and frankly, I always find something helpful in them.

I have to remember that there’s a domestic side to life, too, including cooking, cleaning and taking care of three dogs, not necessarily in that order. The new (to me) house in Washington requires a few updates and repairs, and I still have a few things I haven’t unpacked yet.

My husband once asked me how I can continue to remain enthusiastic about writing when it involves so much more than just writing. That’s an excellent question. Sometimes I do feel frustrated and overwhelmed. It seems like there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. (I wrote about Time being one of a writer’s bosses last week.)

There are several things that keep me motivated. My work in progress (WIP) involves a lot of research since it’s a time travel mystery. It takes place in 1909 and the characters' everyday lives are very different from our lives today. Even while writing, I work on what I might do to promote the book. Writers can do a lot of promoting on the Internet, but readers frequently want to meet the author. I enjoy that part of the experience. I like meeting readers. They make my world go around.

I’ve been in contact with people from the libraries here in Clark County and I have the feeling that they’re very proactive when it comes to authors. It rains frequently here, but hopefully as the weather improves, I’ll get out and about and start meeting more people.

Those who are critiquing my new book keep me motivated, too, because they keep asking for new chapters.

Sometimes I feel tired and overwhelmed and then I remember fan letters I’ve received. I’ve achieved my goal, which is to entertain people. Those letters (and emails) are the highest compliment I can receive. Readers make my energy level soar and they renew my enthusiasm.

Do I ever worry? Yes, but then that’s just me. I sigh a lot like Sandi Webster does in her series. I’ve been told that I roll my eyes frequently, just as Pamela Cross does in the Bogey Man series. You’d probably be right if you pictured a blonde (thank you L’Oreal) author sitting in front of her computer, sighing, rolling her eyes and staring at the screen, trying to figure out what to do next. Write? Market? Promote? Throw her hands in the air and let loose with a primal scream? I also worry about whether readers will enjoy my next book. That may be a universal worry for authors.

Thankfully, my enthusiasm is back after being on hiatus. I’ll do all of the things I mentioned above over time. It’s all part of the Author Experience. What’s that old saying? No guts, no glory? If you haven’t got guts, you’d probably be better off doing something other than writing books.

Writing isn’t for sissies.Take my word for it. 

Latch on to anything and everything that gives you a lift and, whatever you do, don’t curb your enthusiasm.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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