Self Publishing Books – Good or Bad?

November 4, 2015 in Articles, eBook publishing

Best Publishing Routes For New Book Writers

Early in the writing process, new writers should think carefully about the likely publishing options open to them for their book. We all nurture dreams of becoming bestsellers and earning a fortune; our prudent friends smile, wish us all the best, and think to themselves, keep dreaming! To write and publish a book you need to be businesslike, from the word go.

eBook Publishing and IssuesWe are all entitled to be optimists, and if your book is aimed at a well-defined and large enough readership, then I think you owe it to yourself to offer it to real publishers and literary agents first before taking the publishing risk on your own shoulders. If the manuscript of your book offers fresh insights on a topic, has been professionally edited by a book editing service, and is submitted correctly to those who market such work, then at least you have a ticket in the lottery. And don’t try just one publisher; submit to at least half a dozen at the same time. It will take months, it may not produce a deal, but at least you will have given your book a decent chance of a commercial send-off. In the meantime there is always the eBook route, an option that can be used to kick-start the process and demonstrate the potential of your written work.

Ethical Book Publishers and Literary Agents

How to Avoid the Sharks Lurking in the Publishing Shallows

Real publishers and literary agents, the kind who pay you rather than the reverse, are elusive fish, hard to catch. On the other hand their dangerous relatives, the vanity bandits, dress up in the same clothes, but can be landed without even putting a hook on your line. Just dangle your fishing rod over the water and they’ll leap out, with mouths wide open. Never in their lives will they have been so moved by such tasty bait. Your book is a masterpiece; you are indeed a budding Shakespeare. You are also about to be taken on an expensive self-publishing ride that will empty your wallet, one stage at a time, until there’s nothing left.

Self publishing books, as a paperback or ebook, is nowadays possible for the technically-minded, and not expensive to achieve, but still demands that the book’s contents are ‘as good as it gets’. In other words, the writing itself remains the important task; then follows the editing. Only after the creative work has editorially been ‘put through the wringer’ should formatters be invited to work their magic.

Book editors can mark your card as you prepare your original manuscript, then take extracts of your writing and show you how to self-edit. At the submission stage they can tweak your submission material to potential publishers so that you avoid making the mistakes novices exhibit when attempting to sell their own work. And once you have offered traditional publishers ‘the chance of a lifetime’ to have you as an author, and if they somehow fail to recognise your brilliance, you can self-publish a professional book in weeks, at surprisingly reasonable prices. Don’t be fooled by publishing packages offered by vanity bandits. The majority of these are worthless, using seductive waffle, aimed at taking your money, leaving you with all the risk, and boxes of books to sell on your own. Professional editors help you bring your book to market efficiently and ensure it has the best chance of becoming the bestseller it no doubt deserves.

Self Publishing – A Route for the Brave

October 26, 2015 in Articles, eBook publishing

Sometime the only way to get a book published is to go the self publishing route. These are the 3 steps to getting published.

Self Publishing A Book

self publishingThose who embark upon the self-publication route have two things in common: a belief in themselves and a wish to see their book in print. So far, so good. But other writers nurse dreams of great wealth and forthcoming bestsellers. They may be disappointed.

I like the idea of DIY publishing. There are many beautifully crafted books in print that deserved to be published but would never represent a commercially sound risk, from a mainstream book publisher’s standpoint. Nowadays, computers have transformed the publishing process, and when linked to dedicated machinery, can print single copies of a book in a matter of seconds. This is called Print on Demand. Authors are right to consider the merits of bringing their own work to market – once traditional publishing routes have been exhausted.

The Three Steps to Market

Step one of the self publishing process involves the creative process. A quality product in terms of content, writing skills and presentation has to be completed. No matter which publishing route you take, this step has to be accomplished professionally first. There are no short cuts. You first have to write something.

Step two is concerned with pitching or submitting a book manuscript to traditional publishers. This is a business task, not a literary one, that defeats most novice writers. Publishers receive piles of manuscripts daily; if your book proposal is poor, or long-winded, or both – your draft will be buried instantly. Seek advice to help you complete this task effectively.

Step three is concerned with the options for self-publication, once steps one and two above have been taken. You then need to seek out writers who have organised the entire publishing process themselves and take their counsel. For this you need stamina, ability, patience, selling skills, and a secondary source of finance to live off, ‘just in case’ sales don’t match expectations. And, of course, it helps if you have a well-written book, on a popular subject, with a readily identifiable market to aim at.

Getting the DIY Merits of Self Publishing Assessed

Look for a book editing service that, when asked to assess the DIY merits of a particular piece of work, either as a proposed project (relatively easy) or as a completed work (more difficult), discusses the specific skills the writer will need to see the book through its publishing stages. Few writers relish tackling each and every facet of publishing; most prefer to identify those they can handle and those they cannot. A book editing service can recommend writing services that will help them with particular aspects of production.

Look for a company that accepts no commission from such agencies; aspiring authors should know that the price they negotiate is a commercial one that will represent excellent value.

No matter what book you have in mind, they should ensure you know, in advance, precisely what your budget should be. As written elsewhere, there are bandits at large who do nothing else but play on the dreams and vanity of aspiring authors. Their charms are worth avoiding; you deserve better.

Style and Editing

Bad book editors don’t take prisoners. They delight in executions. They have a job to do. Writers have no idea how brutal their first exchange with such a beast is likely to be. Like ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, surely an unfortunate juxtaposition of terms, even considerate editors can make or break a timid writer in seconds. A top editor will never do this and overstep the mark; mediocre ones frequently do.

Where’s all this leading? To the heart of most writers’ concern: ‘won’t my writing style’s individuality be high-jacked by even the finest of book editors?’ The answer is – certainly not. No two writers express themselves in an identical way. Their mannerisms are acquired in childhood, and only a psychiatrist with a perverse mind and literary talent would have the slimmest of chances of altering the essential voice of an individual.

Top editors never attempt to go against the grain of their writers. What they can do is point out where lazy or inappropriate writing habits obscure reason or reduce the impact of the topic they are intent on expressing. Writers should be communicators; if they have habits that reduce this ability then few readers will have the patience to stay with them and will never get to know the person behind the writing.

Beginners often exhibit timidity in expressing views. It’s as though they don’t wish to offend because they are still new to their trade. An apprentice carpenter on the other hand, when first handling a plane to skim off wood, is more likely to take too much off than too little. But at least he makes an impression on the wood and learns by his mistakes. Writers should do the same. Go for it; seize the day; make cock-ups, offend the world; stuff the censor – if you don’t, who will?

If you are planning to write a book, and get published, the sooner you have a book editor to discuss things with the better. Make sure you are put in touch with a sympathetic professional who will guide you through the whole process – and save time and money.

Guide to Writing & How to Write Clearly

October 19, 2015 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

The art of writing is to appeal to your audience and the larger the audience the better. Using jargon will reduce your audience and alienate you as a writer.

How And When To Strip Out Jargon From Your Writing

Most children adore secrets. And secrets not shared with adults, especially parents, gave us our first taste of power: for once we knew something they didn’t.

Adults play similar games. All of us do. We are proprietorial about our knowledge and often use words that obfuscate; that obscure or cast less light on the subject matter in question than they should do. The word ‘obfuscate’ itself shows that I, too, can play this game. But as I have added a definition at least I’m trying to keep you with me. To share our ideas you must ‘join the club’, ‘pass our tests’, and . . . ‘learn our language’ – a language that delights in inventing words only we can play with. We are superior beings. Or so we kid ourselves.

The truly superior – those who have mastered their subject and are empathetic to the needs of those less fortunate (or able) – are happy to communicate in words most people understand. They know the jargon, but their minds are above it. And there’s good reason for this: jargon restricts progress and the acquisition of new ideas because, by its nature, it excludes contributions from the world at large; from ‘free-range’ thinkers not ring-fenced by the certainties, language and accepted ways of doing things that hamper those inside the ring. The truly superior cast their web widely, sharing their knowledge openly. In return they are rewarded with further insights from others and consolidate their supremacy in their chosen field.

How to Write Clearly, It’s Simple Really

How to write clearlyBlimey! How does all this affect me, I hear you say. Simple. In your writing, both personal and professional, avoid the use of words and phrases that mark you out as one the chosen few. Use them, and you’ll stay that way. Communicate to the world with words in everyday use and you’ll be astonished at the response. More people will get your message – and understand it. This is true for fiction writers, too. Bestselling writers know instinctively what top journalists have thrashed into them: keep things simple, use short words everyone understands – and get on with the story. That’s how to write clearly in a nutshell.

Business websites aimed at consumers and business customers alike often fail because the copy, the words, are dotted with terms and jargon that mean little or nothing to the visitor. And worse – because much of the software has been written by pimple-headed illiterates in faraway places who have no communication skills whatsoever – the effectiveness of the appeal to visitors is nothing but negative.

On your website, in your business literature, decide in advance what you want to say, and where, and then write it, using commonplace words. Assume nothing about your readers, other than that they might be interested to find out more about your product or service. And in particular, ignore most if not all the words and phrases that have crept into common use on websites and are supposedly there to guide you. The majority do nothing of the sort. An example, commonly found on millions of websites, FAQ’s – frequently asked questions. Fine you might think. Think again! If your important opening pages are failing to tackle the most ‘frequently asked questions’ and you are shuffling visitors off to another page to find things for themselves the structure of the whole website is awry. But like topsy, the use of FAQ’s has just grown and grown – because herd-followers see others doing it.

Examine every word in your commercial writing and make sure it’s relevant to you, and readily understood by non-computer-literate laypersons – in other words, 99.99% of the world’s population.Believe in yourself, in your service, and appeal to others directly so they can discover in seconds precisely what your message is. They will thank you for it, but often won’t know why. Don’t explain. Your competitors might follow your example and then you’ll lose your advantage.

Professional website designers know that the most effective sites are ones where both graphics and content focus unerringly on a common objective. This means each and every word should be treated as carefully as a painter regards every brushstroke: one slip and the Mona Lisa has the beginnings of a moustache! One word out of place or inappropriate can have a similar devastating effect. Ensure your copy is polished by a professional editor and you’ll be delighted by the results. And the cost is negligible. Copywriting and editing can be quoted for by the page.

photo credit: “How will this benefit me?” via photopin (license)

Self Editing Tips To Benefit Writers

October 12, 2015 in Articles, Book Reviews

Self editing is a cheaper option than paying an independent. One could question whether it is as effective, but with care it can be pretty close. One way or another your book will need an editing eye. If it is only to take out those silly errors and to clarify through proper punctuation.

Diamonds need polishing to sparkle

Spontaneity in writers is a smashing gift. I’m all for it. The more you shackle the muse, the greater the risk of turgid prose and robot-like drafts.

Where’s the ‘but’? I hear you ask. There isn’t one. What’s needed is a beady eye, yours or a third party’s, to edit out the dross that frequently accompanies such free-range writing.

Happy, outdoor hens lay tastier eggs – but offer sport for foxes. Liberated writers produce better drafts – but need to recognise that what for them was an exercise in creative freedom won’t necessarily delight a publishing house. There is self-editing to be done: the gems need preserving without over-attention from adverbs and adjectives, and the occasional traffic accidents where rushed thoughts have collided in a maelstrom of confusion must be swept up to ensure an easy read.

How Do You Self Edit?

self editing tips

Writers don’t edit, look at this article on Wikipedia and how many contributors actually edit their work.

Once I have my first draft completed, I leave it for a period – the longer the better; the brain needs a rest. Returning to it, I invariably find a succession of faults that scream at me from the page. These are the easy ones.

Then I read the thing out loud. More shocks. What previously appeared to read well now comes to frequent halts as faulty or missing punctuation takes its toll. This takes more care to put right, but is a chore that satisfies. The only remaining halts are now those of an experienced driver avoiding suicidal hares in the spotlights rather than a learner-driver’s foot slipping off the clutch. Two ‘hares’ in particular have to be identified, and then shot: the first appear as glorious passages of writing, the like of which few readers will have savoured, the second are sentences or phrases that oddly, look fine at first glance, but slow your reading to a crawl.

Lesson one. If you are ‘braked’ unknowingly by your own writing you can be sure it will stop readers in their tracks. You make subconscious allowances for the piece because you know where it’s heading; your reader won’t. Attend to these ‘sleeping policemen’; iron out the bumps – with a word here or there, or a complete re-write of the sentence. Surprise yourself – it won’t hurt.

Lesson two. Those ‘glorious passages’ that stand out from the page as proof of your talent have to be put under the microscope; you need to know what so caught your breath it stopped you in your tracks. One in a hundred will survive your editing scrutiny, the remainder will need to be modified so that your genius, usually an indulgence with a whiff of conceit, can be subdued and the reader’s enjoyment preserved.

No more lessons, self editing authors are a hardy bunch, but should not neglect to value the services of an independent editor, once their self-editing is completed. New writers invariably benefit from working with a professional editor – even on short pieces. An independent editor can spot in seconds where you are barking, or barking up wrong trees: and good ones will tell you.

Those are my self editing tips and here is another on another  on writing in general… enjoy your writing – inside or outside of the self editing ‘tent’.

photo credit: Aaron Swartz mention in page 158 of Lawrence Lessig’s “Remix” via photopin (license)

Getting a Book Published & Avoiding the Bear Traps

October 5, 2015 in Articles, Writing & Publishing

Getting a Book Published is Knowing What Not To Do

getting a book publishedThere are three easy steps to sink your book’s prospects

And there are many more. But let’s be charitable and assume your book is the bee’s knees. It’s beautifully written; readers are lapping up books covering your chosen theme, and you are bringing something new to the table. Publishers and agents will be delighted to hear from you.

If only. The truth is best faced sooner than later. Publishing is a cut-throat business, and one that is seldom as professional as you might imagine. For every intelligent, benevolent adviser assessing drafts from writers there are hundreds of low-paid, over-worked staff who all imagine they are God’s gift to literature and view submissions from new writers as fodder to be disposed of in record time. Offer these people the slightest opportunity to reject your work and they’ll take it – before they’ve read a word of the book itself.

Getting a book published therefore requires careful consideration of how to avoid the bear traps!

Getting Published – The Rules

1. Horses for Courses.

Don’t enter your horse for a race it can’t win. Mills and Boon are highly successful, but are unlikely to give your non-fiction survey -‘Sparrows of the Kalahari’ a moment’s thought. The better focused and businesslike publishers are, the more likely they are to know precisely what they will consider or reject. Homework, e-mails and phone calls must identify who are in the market for your future book. You must first know which market you are aiming at (not as easy as it appears) then ensure your draft is aimed at the right target.

2. Leap one hurdle at a time.

The majority of works submitted to publishers are not read. Why? Because the e-mails, letters, proposals and synopses that accompany them reveal the shoddiness of what must surely follow – in the book proper. Why should a publisher overlook woolly descriptions and amateurish summaries of an author’s work? If someone is incapable of describing the merits of their own handiwork why should others find it fruitful? One in a thousand writers may be congenitally incapable of succinctly describing their own masterpiece; no publisher or agent worth his salt can spare the time to burrow through a thousand drafts to find it. Have one objective in mind at this submission stage: to get your book or extracts at least read. Nothing more – nothing less.

3. Be economical with the truth.

A short introductory letter, accompanied by a one page synopsis and a paragraph or two describing the readership you seek to reach should be more than enough to entice a publisher to request/read extracts of your work. The letter is purely a courtesy – simply introduce yourself and your work; the synopsis should reveal the bones of your book so that the reader can instantly appreciate its essence – but don’t flesh out these bones: the extracts will do that. The few paragraphs about your intended readership will indicate to publishers that you understand what their readers wish to read.

You will not receive any Brownie points for length or literary ability; quite the reverse. The more concise, brief and businesslike you are, the more likely the reader will thank you and request sight of extracts. Remember, all you want is someone to taste the book itself, not hand out gongs for writing menus.

A book editing service can help you tune these preparatory stages. The synopsis is the most difficult, and the most important. Writing these is a business skill rather than a literary one and, where authors find it a task too far, look for editors who will do the job for you. An independent, outside view of your work usually ensures your work is read. Then it’s up to the merits of your writing to carry the day.

photo credit: 2009_03_wk3_DSC02865 via photopin (license)

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