self publishing

A Writer’s Miscellany

AnotherReadThroughI kind of love the word miscellany, whose official definition according to the Google is ” a group or collection of different items, a mixture.”  It sounds charming and old-school and like it would be said by a schoolmarm wearing a Little House on the Prairie outfit.  And honestly? The word and all its implications is way more grandiose than the collection of items I have for you today.

Which all have to do with me. I hope that still makes them a  miscellany.  Anyway:

Thing #1: I’m doing a special love-themed reading in honor of Valentine’s Day at my favorite Portland bookstore, Another Read Through.  The date is February 13th, from 1:30 – 3 and I’m appearing with several other local authors. Since the theme is love, I’m pondering reading the sex scene from Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. (Which for reasons unknown to me is selling in the used section of Amazon for $58 and up, even though it is still available new.)

And since this is a miscellany, I’ll tell you a funny story about the sex scene, besides that it was the one thing agents commented on over and over when I was shopping the novel.  Anyway, my daughter and son-in-law have a habit of reading books out loud to each other in the evenings (at least they did, before they managed to produce two boy children).  It was Russell who read the sex scene out loud and when he was finished, put the book done and was silent for a moment, then said, “My mother-in-law wrote that. Not sure how I feel about that.”

But reading it out loud in the comfort of your own home and reading it out loud in front of a group of people are two different things. So I’ll probably chicken out.

Thing #2: The very next weekend, in the very same location, my biz partner Debbie and I will be presenting the second round of our workshop, The Ins and Outs of Publishing.  It is a day-long workshop with lunch provided and our first group loved it and learned a lot.  We cover the entirety of the publishing world and bring in our friend Angela Sanders to cover self publishing. You can read more here. But let me also add that the bookstore is a great spot to hold a workshop.  Elisa has a cool upstairs loft that we use and we sit surrounded by the mystery section. I dare you to attend and not buy a pile of books (since the bookstore is mostly used, you can go home with a stack for not that much money).

So that’s it, that’s my miscellany.  And now I am off to the bi-weekly writing group, loosely called Wednesday Writers, that Debbie and I torture run.

What’s going on in your writing world?

Photo from the Another Read Through website.

Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

In my previous blog post on my time at AWP, I promised an article on how you, as an author, can utilize some of the many services Amazon offers.  So here it is.

First, let's get clear on a couple of things:

1. I am by no means an expert on this topic.   Many others, who have actual publishing experience with Amazon, are far better versed on the subject than I. Over the last couple of months I've been educating myself, however, and I've accumulated a bit of knowledge.  I also attended two panels at AWP last week and gleaned more information to share.

2.  I am not an apologist for Amazon, nor am I a hater.  I do not subscribe to the view that Jeff Bezos is the devil and his website the Evil Empire.  I think we have to admit that Bezos has changed publishing forever and that Amazon offers fantastic opportunities for writers.  On the other hand, I also lament the ongoing demise of bookstores, especially independent ones, that his reign has hastened.  In other words, I get both sides of the debate.  And I believe one of the reasons it is so heated is that we are standing smack-dab in the middle of a revolution in publishing.  Revolutions are always hard, because one side triumphs and the other slinks away.  But I take the view that there's room for both the old and the new.

So all that being said, let's look at what I've learned.  At one of the panels I attended, the moderator put up a slide with a quote from Jeff Bezos that encapsulates his goal: "Any book ever written in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

Yeah.  That tells you something right there.  Bezos wants to get every book ever written anywhere on his site.  This means he's probably going to some day rule the world.  Kidding.  Sort of.  But it also means:

Opportunities for writers on Amazon are incredible.

Not only does Amazon widen the reach of legacy published books, it offers the chance to others who are tired of knocking on the doors of New York houses to publish their own work.  (I'll write more about the actual programs to do this in part two of this post.)

Self publishing, now more often called indie publishing, is no longer quite so frowned upon, especially with the success of authors such as Amanda Hocking, J. A. Konrath, and Hugh Howey. Some stats I picked up from one of the panels: 

  • In 2013, 1/4 of the top 100 on Amazon were indie-published titles.  In 2014, the company expects that figure to go higher.
  • In Germany, the number of indie published books in the top 100 was more like 50%.  In the United Kingdom, 30%.  In India (where Amazon has only been established a couple of years) it was 20%.

Those figures astound me.  As some have said, it's the wild west for authors these days.  (I'm also not good at looking beyond the obvious with statistics.  I'm a writer, not a mathematician.  Though I did manage to raise one.  Anyway, if you see a way we should dig deeper into those figures, let me know.)

And I'm about to divulge some stats that will make you run for your nearest computer to upload your work.  The afore-mentioned Hugh Howey, a writer of science fiction, sold 40,000 Ebooks of his title Wool in May of 2012, to the tune of $150,00 income.  In one month.

Hugh Howey is the current poster boy for Amazon success.  He did so well with his Ebooks that when legacy publishing came knocking at his door, he decided to sell them only his print rights and hang onto the rest himself.  (That a writer was able to negotiate such a contract with the big boys and girls is somewhat of a revolution in and of itself.)

Hugh sat on one of the panels I attended and he's a lovely man, gracious and willing to share his ideas about his success.  He writes an informative blog about his writing and publishing and his books are pretty damn good–I'm currently reading Wool.

By the way, Howey recently created waves a tsunami across the internet, with his report on genre indie author earning.  Read it here.  You can also read a story about it here.

And, all those wonderful, mind-blowing figures aside, there's this:

Discoverability is still a crap shoot.

Discoverability is the new buzz word in indie publishing circles.  It refers, as you have no doubt inferred, to the process of getting your books found among the noise.  I consulted the Google for advice on how many books are published on Amazon and other sites each year, and wasn't able to come up with a definitive answer (though I did read some fascinating articles when I should have been writing).  But we all know that there are a lot of books out there, some excellent, some mediocre, some awful.

The question is how to make yours findable in the midst of the field.   The answer to that deserves a post of its own, one I will no doubt write soon.  But Howey said on the panel that spending time writing good work is the most important thing.  He had put up multiple titles before he actually spent much time marketing his work (and then he used mostly social media).  Many genre indie publishers are finding success with old-fashioned serials, releasing their novels one segment at a time, as Howey did with Wool.  Others augment their novels with shorter works set in the same world.  And most all of them write in series and write a lot.

Amazon says it is working on the discoverability issue.  And one thing I came away from the AWP panels feeling was that they really do have the interests of authors at heart, especially when said authors are making them lots of money. (Because, at the end of the day, Amazon is, after all a corporation, and corporations exist to make money.)

Okay, that's it for part one.  Look for part two in the next few days.  In that post, I'll talk about the various programs that Amazon offers.  And by the way, I'm certainly not against the other indie publishing platfroms out there, including Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords and a gazillion others.  It's just that I've learned more about Amazon, and let's face it, our buddies in Seattle dominate the market.

So what about you?  Are you planning to indie publish?  Or are you dedicated to going the legacy publishing route?  Do you have experience with either?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

PS.  I'm experimenting with the font size on posts.  It suddenly occurred to me the default font size was a bit smallish.  But this font looks big to me. Weigh in, please–which do you prefer?

So You Want to Be a Kindle Author

Please welcome my good friend Derek Ayre to the site today, as he relates his adventures in publishing for Amazon. For more information on Derek, visit his blog, or this post.

So You Want to be a Kindle Author
by Derek Ayre

Writing for Amazon Kindle seems like a godsend for a new author. The fact that you can actually see your book up for sale on Amazon, available to a world-wide audience, is in itself a wonderful experience.

Over the years, like me, you may have submitted your manuscript to publishing houses and agents only to receive a generic letter of rejection. I have often wondered, whether or not a new author’s work even gets read… Anyway, for me, all that printing of hard-copy with the addition of supplying return postage and packing is now a thing of the past. I have written and converted two Kindle books, Gavin’s Music a story for adults based on my experiences as a musician back in the 1960s and The Corridor, a fantasy book for kids from the age of around 10 years.

My E-Publishing Experience

Uploads are made to the KDP section of Amazon and if you already havean account with Amazon, you simply sign in with your e-mail address and password. Next you will be taken through a few forms requesting name, address, bank details for payment and the usual IRS forms for U.S and tax exempt declarations for non U.S. citizens.

And then you are ready to get down to the business of uploading your e-book.

The first thing I realized was that before it went live, my e-book would need a cover and using an artist or specialized e-book cover creator could be expensive, so I took a few photographs and then used my trusty Adobe Photoshop Elements to create a cover. My first book, Gavin’s Music, was the story of a young musician (pianist) working and playing his way through the world of the sixties British nightclub scene, which was based on my own experience. I have my own piano, so I took a photograph of the keyboard and as a background, a photograph of a musical score and layered one on top of the other. It took me quite a while tweaking the cover and showing it to writing friends before deciding on the finished article, but the finished cover can be seen here.

Before I went ahead with my first upload, I procrastinated a lot. This is something that did not occur when I used to send off my hard copies, possibly something to do with the fact that KDP was going to publish my book for all the world to see right now! Wow!

I also heard that getting the right format for the Kindle which is .mobi file, could be more than a little tricky. However, when I finally disciplined myself and got around to it, I found the whole process easy because I cheated… I purchased a software program specifically created for the task that really took the stress out of converting from my word processor to a .mobi file called The UEC (Ultimate E-book Creator).

This piece of software certainly didn’t disappoint and the format of my books proved to be excellent as I could create them as they would appear on a Kindle on my computer before uploading to Amazon.

What I Did

I copied and pasted my book chapter by chapter from my word processor files into the UEC software and then attached my Kindle to my computer and loaded the finished book onto it. There was something wrong though. The spaces between paragraphs looked huge on the smaller screen, so I decided to get rid of the double spacing between paragraphs and opt for indented paragraphing instead. Perfect!

For current price of $67, the UEC software, in my opinion, was worth every penny. It is available here and a full video demo of the product is available on their home page explaining how it all works in greater detail.

The Alternative

You can upload as a Word document or an html file, but I have heard that often times it can all go terribly wrong… the formatting can change in the conversion process. How true that is I do not know, because coward that I am, I never even ventured to try! But let me explain.

I consider myself fairly savvy at html and most other computer tasks, having written my own websites using html code, but I had a lot of “what ifs” regarding the technical side of presenting a whole novel, and what ran through my nagging mind was that I would risk embarrassment if the format of my book looked a mess to the first people who read it.

But through the process, I later discovered that whatever method you use you will get the opportunity to preview your e-book exactly how it would appear on a Kindle whilst still in draft mode on Amazon, and it will stay in draft mode until you select and click “Publish”. Amazon then does a spell check, and does seem to be able to detect names and nicknames and other obvious non-dictionary words and ignore them. I had practically proof-read my novel to death but Amazon found just one typing error. I quickly changed that, resaved my UEC .mobi file and uploaded it again within minutes. Another spell check and it registered zero spelling mistakes.

So my book is up on Amazon and now people need to know it is there. I need to promote it. So far I have tweeted, and also posted to my Facebook account. There has been some downloads and interest in the book from friends and I’ve had one review on Amazon. I have also started a blog on and have done some Google searches on novel e-book promotion. But this is early days and I hope to come back sometime in the future with a post telling all about my great success.. Well, one has to stay positive!

Thanks for reading.

Book Links:

Gavin’s Music
The Corridor

My Blog

Do you have experience with Amazon Kindle publishing? Please comment!

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Publishing

Okay, it's not exactly everything, but it's a lot about what I learned in the process of getting Emma Jean out into the world.  And it is–you guessed it–another interview.  This one is over at Patrick Ross's blog, the Artist's Road.

I feel a bit smug about Patrick because I was one of the first to discover his blog, right after he returned from a cross-country road trip to interview creatives of all stripes.  He's shot right to the top with his blog, being chosen last year as a Top 10 Writer's Blog.  And it was all because of me discovering him.  Actually, we all know that is not in any way true.  It's because he writes an awesome blog, which always features thoughtful posts.

So head on over there today and read my thoughts on all aspects of the current publishing world, including the big New York houses, indie presses, and self-publishing.

And by the way, I just found out that I'm having trouble with comments going into a spam file.  I kept wondering why I wasn't getting any comments and then I found a ton of them stashed there.  So if you've commented in the last couple weeks and haven't seen it post, that's why.  I now know to look in the spam file while Typepad works to fix this problem, so please, please, please feel free to comment again!


Interview with Author Pamela Jeanne

I'm pleased to present an interview with naturopath Dr. Pamela Jeanne.  She and I worked together on her just-released book, Healing Matters, and in this interview she opens a window into the self-publishing process.

HealingMattersCould you start by telling a bit about the book?

The main theme of the book is celebrating and honoring the value women bring to healing. My writing addresses the fact that medical historical information both past and current, of the contributions by women on all levels of health care, has been missing and/or undervalued throughout recorded time. Most medical books have been written by men, moreover, there have been important works by women in which full credit was not given and even worse some works were co-opted by male writers.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

My original inspiration came when my first year history professor in medical school failed to present in the course work any woman or her contributions to medical care. I remember becoming quite furious at the end of that school term! He is a really great guy but lacked the consciousness that women have made and still make tremendous contributions in medical care.

How long did you work on it from start to finish?

I’d say about 3 years from actually sitting down to begin the writing process to the actual ‘birth’ of this baby. Many of my ideas, however have been percolating for more than 25 years!

What was the writing process for you? PamelaJeanne

It has come to me that writing is an art form, a process and a tremendous opportunity for growth. My prior belief was that I could not write, but I stayed with my clear intention and was able to attract into this project, all the best people to help me. I call them my angels as each appeared at the right time when I needed extra coaching or help to complete this dream. Charlotte Dixon was one of those angels. (Editorial comment:  thank you!)

What was the process of publication for you? Can you speak a bit about self publishing?

Again, as I progressed deeper and deeper into my writing, and could see a shape appearing, the next person would appear. Mostly it was effortless. I was led to a publishing company, through my women’s network, who specialized in helping women authors to self publish. Wyatt-MacKenzie Publisher is owned by Nancy Cleary and I have only praise for her support, responsiveness and clarity. There was no groping around looking for answers in a very complex publishing industry; Nancy led the way to help with a successful self-publishing event. Early on in my book project, I felt I needed to find a publisher, but later decided that self publishing was best for me. I was ready to self promote and did not want a company to own my work and then decide to stop printing if sales were not up to their quota. This is a good route for first time writers.

How will you do future books–the same? Different?

I would do the same for future books because it went so well. Yes, there were a few glitches, but Wyatt-MacKenzie has been very responsive to the problems that came up. This is a service I really appreciate.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Here is what I have learned still continues to teach me: Publishing a book is a tremendous accomplishment. At first whole task seems daunting, but my intention remained firm and clear. I did not waver because of the message I wanted to get out to the world via the book. So if you have something that is burning inside of you, get clear what that is, set your intention, be open for what comes up, then don’t waver from the outcome you’d like to see. Also it helps to have a few cheerleaders on the sidelines. My partner was that for me; she did not waver either!

Thanks so much for your insight into your publishing process, Pamela Jeanne!  For more information on Dr. Jeanne and her work, please visit her website.

What about you–have you considered self publishing?  Feel free to comment.

Photos courtesy of the author.