Book Publishing Options for Independent Authors

August 3, 2014 in Articles, eBook publishing

Author Publishing OptionsIn this world of ever changing technology the mainstay of publishing and the written word, printed books, are under threat. The common, new usurper is the eBook, rapidly becoming the media choice of multitudes of avid readers.

The reason why is pretty clear, the parallel and exponential rise of mobile technology that provides a means of downloading and reading eBooks from the Internet. And we are not just talking about Kindle, Nook or Kobo dedicated ereaders, there are now apps available for any number of tablet devices or smartphones in addition to dedicated ereaders.

Highly powerful miniature computers that can literally be carried in a pocket or bag and that offer virtually all the functionality of a notebook or desktop computer with the advantages that they are small, lightweight and can be taken with you everywhere you go.

You probably only need to observe your kids, or in some cases grand-kids, to find out how they prefer to read a book these days and it is becoming obvious that a paperback version of their favorite book or novel is now much more rarely seen. So whether they are relaxing in an armchair or lounging by a pool, it is usually with their preferred mobile device in their hands. Sometimes they will be reading the latest trend on Twitter, playing games, catching up with friends on Facebook or of course reading the latest novel.

So now we come to why this presents a new and exciting opportunity for wannabe and existing authors. For a start the traditional method for publishing a book was to approach an established publisher, usually through a literary agent, to present a manuscript and then sit back and wait for months to get a decision, usually a rejection.

Then there was the cost barrier, getting a book laid out ready for printing and then actually printed can be very expensive. Even print on demand can be a bit tricky and prices need to be carefully worked out to ensure production costs are met, the books are competitive and you can actually make a little bit of profit.

But all these problems go away with eBooks, they offer a real alternative for new and existing authors. 

Formatting for publication is much more straightforward, especially for a novel devoid of graphics, and even if you don’t have the technical skills yourself there are eBook formatting services available at a much better rate than the equivalent for printed books.

Then there are the online distributors that welcome independent authors with open arms, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and even Google. They are all desperate for new books and new authors, there is no waiting time. Format your book properly and you can be published in hours.

Just one word of caution however, don’t let standards drop. You may not be being judged by a publisher taking this route, but you will certainly be judged by a paying public and reviews never come faster than when you have got it wrong. Spelling mistakes, punctuation errors and bad grammar will be homed in on and your book rubbished if you get it wrong. So don’t take shortcuts, make sure your book is properly edited and proofread.

Marketing is a big part of independent publishing and it is much harder to market a book full of errors than one that is well written, clear of spelling mistakes and with a story that flows naturally from beginning to end.

Photo – courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Where Indie Authors Can Publish Their Books

December 12, 2013 in Articles, eBook publishing

Independent PublishingEvery Indie author will either know or strongly suspect that the best place to publish their books is on Amazon. There is a lot of information on this site on how to go about doing that and plenty of other online resources have discussed and advised how to publish books via Amazon.

Using KDP for ebooks or Createspace for paperbacks are two very good options and should be a strong consideration for any indie author.

But are there other options?

The quick answer is of course ‘YES’…. there are bound to be other options besides Amazon for publishing books. But then you need to know what they are and why.

With ebook readers growing ever more popular, what many independent authors do is to publish their books on Amazon and or Createspace first and then to use a third party distributor like Smashwords to get their ebooks published with other online distributors.

There is a good reason for this and quite simply put…. it is down to administration. Smashwords, for example, has positioned itself in the ebook distribution market place as a provider of services to independent authors. What they have done is to provide comprehensive help and advice that will help most reasonably computer-competent authors format their books ready for publication and, if required, provide an ISBN for the book. Then they convert the books to multiple formats that can be used on virtually all the ereaders currently available in the market place. Also, if the book achieves premium status, they will distribute it to multiple online distributors.

Achieving premium status depends on the formatting of the book prior to submission.  In other words – all relevant formatting requirements detailed in their style guide must be met.

They collect all royalty payments from the various distributors and once they have taken their cut, which is quite modest actually, they reimburse the authors with their net royalties.

At the time of writing, Smashwords can arrange for the distribution of an ebook (that has achieved premium status) to the following list of online distributors:

  • Sony
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Page Foundry
  • Baker & Taylor Blio
  • Library Direct
  • Baker-Taylor Axis360
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster

There is an opt out function for any distributors you prefer not to distribute through, either because you have already distributed through them independently or perhaps you just prefer not to distribute through a particular channel. This list continues to grow as Smashwords make agreements with new distributors.

You can of course go to most of these sites independently to try and set up accounts so that you can publish your book with them. But there will be stringent requirements that have to be met in order to get your book accepted, particularly with respect to formatting and you will then of course have to deal with the administration yourself on a distributor by distributor basis.

For authors outside of the USA you may well find that the distributors are also forced to withhold up to 30% of your royalty payments for the tax department (IRS). The only way around this is to apply for an international tax identification number (ITIN) and send a letter to each distributor advising them that you are exempt from withholding tax (provided you are of course). If, on the other hand, you are only dealing with Amazon and Smashwords you should really only need to advise them. I should mention here that I am not a tax adviser, so please ensure you verify what you need to do with someone qualified to do so based on your own personal circumstances.

This thread on Goodreads may help for anyone trying to get an ITIN http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/756351-dealing-with-amazon-com-and-the-irs—authors

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Smashwords?

There are definitely some disadvantages to using Smashwords, here is a quick summary:

  • They take a cut of your royalties
  • Even with their comprehensive style guide, some people still struggle to get their books formatted to a standard that will get them into the premium status category. The consequence being your book will only then be distributed by Smashwords and will not go out to the other distributors listed
  • Smashwords only sell a small percentage of books directly, mostly I suspect because it is more complicated to download a file and transfer it onto an ereader (even with detailed instructions being available)
  • There are file size limitations (10MB) and graphics, where used, need to be relatively simple and straightforward in nature
  • They only publish eBooks
  • You cannot upload books with DRM (digital rights management ) protection

A Quick Summary of the Advantages of Using Smashwords

Just a quick list of what the advantages are for an independent author publishing through Smashwords:

  • The potential to get your books listed with multiple distributors and with only one account to administer
  • Your books can be converted to multiple formats to suit most ereaders using an automated process
  • You can get free ISBN’s for your book
  • Publishers and agents can also use Smashwords for their clients
  • Growing in popularity with established social media presence that can be used for book marketing
  • A range of different tools and options available for promotion campaigns
  • Free link to printed books
  • Video facility for book trailers
  • A range of author profile tools including, interviews, social media links and blog feed.
  • Books are free of DRM constraints (likely to be appreciated by potential customers)

Who else provides Similar Facilities to Smashwords?

Of course you may not like the look of Smashwords or decide their formatting style guide is just too complicated, so here are a few other successful distributors that independent authors can use:

And just in case you haven’t explored the Amazon route for publishing eBooks, then take a look here http://kdp.amazon.com/  The most popular publishing platform for independent authors and where you are most likely to make reasonable sales. You can ask Smashwords to list you with them if you want to, but to be honest this is one option you are probably better taking care of yourself.

If you need help with any aspect of getting your book published and promoted then you are free to leave a comment or get in touch via the contact-us page.

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

Publishing Books That Sell

October 4, 2013 in Articles, Book Marketing, eBook publishing, Writing & Publishing

Why Amazon are offering advice on getting a book Published? 

Amazon Breakthrough NovelsClearly Amazon are more than happy to publish your book as an independent author, but they are also interested in high quality writing that will be taken up by the public and sell in the millions. Selling books after all is one of Amazon’s primary objectives.

Recently I watched a video on Createspace that described the critical factors for ensuring that a novel would be accepted into and potentially win the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’. While I was watching the video it became very clear that this was not only great advice for submitting a book to a publisher, but also for anyone wanting to write and publish a book as an independent author or publisher.

What Publishers Want

Publishers will look for different things dependent on the type of imprint they are reading. For example if the book is a fictional ‘literary imprint’, they will be looking at the quality of the writing, the way the paragraphs are structured and the style of the writer.

On the other hand if the book is a ‘mystery imprint’ they will be more concerned with the strength of the plot, whether it stands up to scrutiny and if it reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

Understanding this means that you can focus more on the most important aspects of the type of imprint you are presenting and make sure that you deliver on those aspects. That does make sense actually, because someone reading a mystery will be very disappointed if they guess the outcome too early or feel that there is not a satisfactory conclusion to the story, but may be more forgiving of the odd misspelling or typo provided the book delivers on its main promise i.e. it’s a cracking good mystery. That said getting all aspects right will do no harm :-)

Writing Fiction Novels with Strength

What does writing with strength mean, basically it means ensuring that your book has considered the 4 main publishing criteria and delivered them to a high standard:

  • Plot Development
  • Character Development
  • Originality
  • Writing style

In addition to considering these 4 main criteria  your writing also needs to be of a high quality with properly constructed paragraphs, correct spelling, good sentence structure and accurate punctuation.

You also need to understand the market you are writing for and where your book fits into that market. This understanding should be illustrated in your synopsis i.e. tell the publisher who the book will appeal to,  why you are qualified to write on the subject and why the book will appeal.

Many successful writers authors have learned their craft through studying the books of the best authors in their genre. Never assume that there is noting to learn from others, especially the best sellers. Look for the strengths to emulate them and look for the weaknesses to avoid them.

The Pitch

The pitch can be several things, it can literally be a pitch you have written for a publisher in the form of a synopsis or it can be a pitch to your intended reader in the form of a description on the product page of your book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple etc. This is what your pitch should do:

  • Describe what your book is about and why you are qualified to write on the subject
  • It should be framed and written in a language that the intended market emphasises with and understands
  • It should convey what the book offers, its strengths, why people will want to read it and what it will deliver
  • It should not promote itself as the next best thing in an established franchise i.e. don’t compare the book to Harry Potter or Shades of Grey. It should be standalone, new, original, with its own identity and appeal

Again it is always worth looking at the best in genre and what they have written as a description for their books to see what does and doesn’t work.

The Importance of Starting Strong

You only have to consider that a paying public, when considering if they are going to buy a book, will nearly always take the time to have a little sample read of a potential book before buying. Amazon offers a ‘look inside’ feature and many of the other big distributors have an equivalent feature.  It makes sense then that your first 10 pages (or 5000 words for a publisher) should be where your best writing should sit.

Once you have caught the attention of a potential buyer, to the extent that they actually start to read a sample portion of your book, the last thing you then want to do is lose them. Now is the time to hit them between the eyes, so how do you do that exactly:

  • Provide a strong compelling opening that will make your reader want more. Use a quirky dialogue that intrigues, start with a strong plot or write in a rich engaging way that immerses the reader in your writing so they don’t want to put the book down
  • End chapters with a suggestion that there is even more and better writing to come
  • A little snippet from me:
    •  Get straight to the point, leave your accolades and thank you’s etc. until the end of the book. A reader is less likely to be interested in those than the real story or content and if the people you are thanking are worthy they will understand why and those that are interested will still find them

These are some of the books that have been recommended by Amazon for their strong starts and have been highly rated in the ‘Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award’ as a result.

Why You Need a Biography

What many authors forget is that they are not only trying to sell a book they are also trying to sell themselves. The public will be more inclined to buy a book if they can trust the provider of that book, understand a little about them and what qualifies them to write for a specific genre or market.

A biography is the best way to communicate to a potential audience exactly what you are about, why you are passionate about what you write and how you know what you know.

Writing about the places, things and events you are knowledgeable about and are genuinely interested in will ensure your passion for the subject translates into your words and will be communicated to your reader. Writing for a market or in a niche you have no real interest in will lead to a transparency that allows your audience to see that is exactly the case. And guess what, they won’t buy your books.

Writing and publishing is a tough world, there will be countless rejections and a lack of sales, so patience and determination are the traits that any writer needs in order to succeed. There is help and support out there, you can join writer communities and engage on forums to find answers, share solutions and get general support. So if you are a writer why would you not use these valuable resources?

Always remember that there is something to learn and the right people to learn from are the best in the business. Also if you write well and don’t give up, you will eventually succeed. Especially with so many new resources now available. But at the end of the day if you write a good book and no-one finds it other than you, remember that you still did it and that in itself is a worthy accomplishment.

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photo credit: cindiann via photopin cc

Samantha Ford Is Getting Ready to Publish Her Second Novel

August 21, 2013 in Articles, Author Spotlight, eBook publishing

Author of the 5 star rated The Zanzibar Affair – Samantha Ford – has her second, long awaited, novel rapidly approaching its publication date. But she needs some help deciding which cover image has the most appeal. You are invited to participate in a poll to help her decide which cover image she should use for her next book.

The Samantha Ford Cover Image Poll

Voting is now closed and the public have made their choice!

Come back soon to see the winner

 

Setting the Scene to Help You Decide

The book is set in both London and Kenya.  One of the scenes involves a very attractive man standing at the end of a wooden pier overlooking a lake in Africa with his back to a lodge. This is a recurring dream of the heroine and is the reason why there is a lakeside image versus a tented game lodge set amongst dark trees and lit by lamps as the sun is setting.

Question is which provides the most impact visually and which sets the scene in the best way for the book?

You can vote in the poll above by selecting proposal 1 or proposal 2. Then if you want to leave your comments to explain which way you voted and why, you can do that here on this post, on your favourite social media site or both. The choice is yours. Just make sure you join the debate and have some fun in the process.

You can find the Zanzibar Affair here on Amazon

How To Make The Ebook Route Your Publishing Priority

May 24, 2012 in Articles, eBook publishing

Until Amazon arrived as a major force in book retailing, aspiring writers had few choices when seeking to publish their work. And the choices themselves were fraught with dangers and delays that the publishing trade itself refused to tackle. The result: a lazy and inefficient marketplace dominated by a few powerful publishing organisations and retailers. Just the sort of place to intimidate the novice writer. Big players throw their weight around and rarely have time for newcomers. But ebooks are beyond their control. The internet, computers and ereaders mean that writers can publish to the world at large, bypassing many of the costly and time-consuming procedures associated with the traditional trade.

eBook PublishingA book can be written in weeks, months or years – that’s a matter for the writer alone. Once, however, a manuscript is accepted by a traditional publisher – and that process itself may take many months, and sometimes years – it’s highly unlikely your book will appear for sale in any bookshop for at least six months, and more likely nine. That’s the system. That was the system that faced all new writers. Daunting! Expensive! Off-putting!

If you have a well-written draft for a book, aimed at a specific readership, large or small – but well-defined, then a sensible course for you might be to publish this as an ebook, either independently, or with the help of a dedicated ebook publishing service. In a matter of weeks you will be a published author. There will be no guarantee that you will be a wealthy published author, but your book will be out there, for millions to see . . . and the cost in terms of time and money will be but a fraction of the traditional route.

Ebooks need to be edited and proofread with the same degree of care as their printed cousins. Skimp these necessities and your book will die a death and ruin your reputation. They also need to be formatted so that they read well on ereaders such as the Amazon Kindle and then professionally listed on the internet – a task for marketing specialists Attend to the above items and you will have given your book a decent chance of success. All that’s then needed is additional publicity; a task that you alone can bolster. Don’t pay anyone to do this for you. It’s money down the drain.

How much will all this cost. Not a lot!

If you have the time and ability, editing, with a professional online to guide you as you self-edit, needn’t break the bank. Beware of any service that suggests the more you pay the better the book will be. Nonsense. If you can write then that’s not true. If you can’t . . . you should be taking a writing course; much cheaper, and more productive. Formatting your manuscript and listing the book properly requires a set number of hours, depending on the length and demands of the text, but these too need not be onerous. Once your book is published, according to the deal you strike with your ebook publisher, you should be seeing a return on your investment in weeks. A brilliant and potentially lucrative alternative to the print route.

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