The last time I posted an article, I wrote about submitting a short story to a magazine. And as promised, I’m following it up…with an article on following up on those submissions when a lot of time has passed.
Most magazines promise on their websites that they’ll get back to you on your submission in 2-6 months. What they don’t tell you is that work and submissions tend to pile up, especially when the magazine may be an operation run by only a few or even just one person. And imagine getting several submissions at the very least every month for short stories, articles, art pieces, and just about everything else under the sun. Your submission could be lost underneath all that.
So if you find a magazine has been taking its time getting to your submission, it can be helpful to send them an email and ask politely if your story has been looked at yet. Here’s what I normally put down in an email when I’m following up on a submission:
Dear [Insert magazine name here],
I am writing to follow up on my submission [insert story name here] which I sent in [insert how long ago or date you sent it in] to see if it is still being considered for publication. If you could please get back to me when it is convenient for you, that would be great, and thank you for your time and consideration.
Hoping you are well,
[Insert name, pen name if applicable, and contact information]
It’s also a good idea to attach your short story to the email in case it got lost somewhere among the submissions.
Normally a magazine will get back to you pretty quickly after this sort of email is sent. Even then though, it may take some time for the magazine editors to get back to you on your short story. If that’s the case, it may work in your favor to send an email every month or so inquiring about the status of your short story. That way it’ll stay in the forefront of the editors’ minds.
Also, remember to always be courteous and polite in your emails. They could just send you a form rejection letter right away, so the fact that they are taking the time to actually look at your story, no matter how long that time is, to possibly publish it is worth staying on the magazine’s good side. And when the magazine finally does take a look at your short story, no matter what the result is, be courteous and thank them for the time they took to read the story you sent them. That way, if you send them something in the future, they’ll be inclined to work with you and show you the same kindness and understanding you showed them.
Do you have any tips on following up on submissions?
Have you ever written a short story and tried to get it published in a magazine? Chances are you have. Many authors, both traditional and indie, write short stories and try to get them published in print magazines, on e-mags, or in anthologies. I’ve been published in a couple of magazines and I’m hoping for more in the future (though with my writing schedule these days, it’s hard to make time for short stories). And there are benefits to doing so, including:
Short stories are a whole different beast to tame than novels, so writing and sending out short stories lets you know what works and what people look for in a good short story. Sometimes magazines will even give you feedback if they decide to reject your story, so you get an idea on how to improve it.
At the very least, you’ll get some exposure from having your work published in a magazine. At the very most, they’ll pay you some money for a nice dinner out.
For those critics who accuse indie authors of trying to skirt around hard work and just put any old book out, this is a way of saying “Hey, we can do it your way too.”
If you haven’t ever sent a short story out to magazine, this might give you some help in going about it. If you’ve already done it before, then maybe this’ll be a useful reminder. And like I said, you should try it. You never know what’ll happen if you do.
1. Find a publication. Once you’ve written a short story and edited it to the utmost perfection, it’s time to find a magazine. Publications like Writer’s Digest’s Short Story & Novel Writer’s Market contain may useful listing of magazines in all genres, as well as contests and agencies and conferences. You can also get info from friends or family members who write. Another blogger told me about a magazine she published a short story in, and I think that I might have a short story I could submit to them, I just have to make sure it’s ready before I send it out.
Also, it’s helpful sometimes to read the short stories they publish. This generally gives you some idea of what they tend to publish, so you’ll have a better idea of what might be accepted.
2. Read over the rules. Every magazine has its own set of rules about submitting to them and the terms you’ll get should you be accepted. They may want the short story sent in a particular attachment, or they may prefer the story in the body of the message. There may be restrictions on length, subject matter, or a hundred other things. And being published by them might mean signing over all rights to the story to the magazine, or only first North American publishing rights. So know what you’re getting into when you decide, “I’ll send it to this publication.”
3. Write that query letter. A query letter is a letter stating who you are, what you’re sending, and why you’re sending it. Once you’ve done your research, write up a query letter and send it along to the magazine with your short story. Here’s an example of me sending a query letter to a fictional magazine:
Dear Darkness Abounds magazine,
I am submitting my manuscript “Hands” (5,732 words) to your publication for your consideration. I decided to submit to your magazine because your website said you were into “dark, creepy fiction with an interesting twist on old stories” and I thought my short story matched your description.
I am a self-published novelist with two novels and a collection of short stories published, as well as short stories published in Mobius Magazine, The Writing Disorder, and the Winter 2011 issue of TEA, A Magazine (now The Daily Tea). I also write for two blogs, Rami Ungar the Writer and Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. I am also a senior at The Ohio State University double majoring in English and History and expected to graduate in May 2015.
I look forward to hearing from you and would like to thank you for your time and consideration.
Hoping you are well,
[contact information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address]
Make sure to include the word count of your story (that’s an important factor in many publications), why you’re selecting the magazine, and any relevant publications. Also, don’t make your biography too long. Just keep the relevant stuff and don’t give them your life story. You can save that for your memoirs.
4. Wait. Every magazine has its own quoted turn-around time, so you might as well be patient. However, it’s not uncommon for a magazine to let work pile up and miss your short story entirely, so if you find two or three weeks have gone by and you haven’t heard anything, it might be helpful to send an email asking politely if you are still being considered for publication (I’ll write a post about that another time).
5. How to handle the reply. Assuming the magazine didn’t lose your work in the pile of submissions they get and you get a reply, the important thing is to be grateful one way or another for their reply. If you’re accepted, that’s wonderful. Talk terms with them and then decide if you want them to publish you. If you get rejected, possibly look at getting published somewhere else, and take into account any feedback you might receive on your short story as a possible way to improve the story.
What tips do you have for submitting to magazines your short stories?
I think I speak for many of us when I say we’d like to have our books in audiobook form. Besides being a possible way to connect to new readers who don’t necessarily like to sit down with a paperback or e-book and another possible source of revenue, audiobooks have a prestige to them. It’s sort of magical hearing your characters come to life in your car or in your earbuds through sound and description. It’s pretty powerful.
However creating an audiobook can be difficult. In addition to a book to narrate, you need an actor to read your book aloud if you aren’t comfortable or able to do it, plus recording equipment, maybe an engineer, something to edit the book with, and then some! And that can run up in terms of costs.
As one might expect, there’s a service that tries to make the process cost-effective and easy to do. Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, is a service through Audible.com, which in turn is owned by Amazon, aims to match authors and their books to producers so they can create the audiobook together. I heard about it from an acquaintance of mine who had her book turned into an audiobook and got interested in it. So after some research, I’m sharing with you how it works and if it can potentially help you gain a wider audience.
First, what exactly is ACX? Founded in 2011, ACX is kind of like a matchmaking/dating service with the goal of creating an audiobook. Anyone who owns the right to the audiobook of a novel (such as authors, editors, publishers, agents, etc) can go on and find audiobook producers (narrators, recording studios, engineers, etc) who would be interested in producing your audiobook. The video they have on their website (the link is below) claims that only 5% of authors get their books turned into audiobooks, so they’re trying to change that.
What do you do? If you decide to use ACX, you sign up for the service using your Amazon account. Then you search for your book through Amazon’s database. Create a Title Profile, which include a description of your book and what it’s about, as well as what you are looking for in a producer (gender, special talents or accents they can do, etc). You also must upload a short one or two page excerpt for producers to use.
What happens next is that producers will look for books that they may be interested in narrating (and hopefully they may decide to do yours if they come across it). Producers will audition by taking your excerpt and recording themselves narrating it, and then sending it to you. Once you have a few auditions, you can go over the auditions, as well as find out a little bit more about the producers auditioning for you. You can most likely find out acting and audiobook experience, hourly rate, and so on and so forth. If you find an audition you really like, you contact the producer and make them an offer.
What sort of offers are there? There are two sorts of offers you can make to a producer once you’ve made a decision, and knowing which one to use is very important, so consider them carefully before sending a producer an offer. These are the sorts of deals available:
Pay a flat out fee. This is where you pay for the production costs of the audiobook. Each producer has his or her own rates, and you pay that amount for every finished hour of audiobook there is (for example, if I have an audiobook produced of either of my novels and the finished product is eight hours long and my narrator charges one-hundred dollars per hour, I would pay $800). You pay this fee at the end of the production period when you have reviewed the final product and given it your full approval. The fees vary wildly between producers, usually somewhere between $50-$200 with the average being around $100. You can also negotiate rates with your producer on their rates. The upside of this is that you get all the royalties at the end of production of this and you can decide whether to do exclusive distribution rights (which means the audiobook can only be sold through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes and you gain 40% of the royalties) or non-exclusive rights (which means you can sell the audiobook through other distributors and receive 25% of the royalties through the companies listed above).
Royalty Share Deal. In this deal, you forego fees and instead agree to split the royalties of any sales with your producer. This deal is handy because you don’t need to pay any fees upfront. However you can only distribute your audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes with this option and you only get 20% of the royalties, with the producer getting the other 20%.
Most narrators do a combination of these methods, so you’re probably going to find someone who is willing to either of these methods. Once you’ve hashed out the details with your producer, you’ll send them the official contract, which says you’ll work together to produce the audiobook, and that Amazon can distribute it for seven years, which is how long the contract lasts.
What’s the process like? The production process takes about 3-8 weeks, depending on the length of the book and the producer’s schedule. The producer will upload the first 15 minutes of the audiobook to the ACX secure website for you to get a sample. If you don’t like it, you can stop the process there or start a dialogue with the producer to see what could be fixed. After that, the producer will upload the book chapter by chapter until the whole book is completed and the author approves the final product. Once that is done, the producer will upload the book onto Audible/Amazon/iTunes, and you as the rights holder will get a notification email.
What happens after the book is uploaded? Hopefully people will buy the audiobook. In any case, Amazon has a contract with you that allows them to distribute through them (exclusively or non-exclusively, depending on the deal you made) for 7 years. After that, you can take down the audiobook, decide to have a new version produced, or extend the contract for another year. As the rights holder, it’s all up to you.
What if I want to narrate the book myself? There’s a process for that where you can do that. Basically you produce the audiobook yourself and upload it onto ACX’s website. Makes giving an offer easier, from what I hear.
What if I decide at the last minute the whole thing’s a mess or I don’t want my book in audio form? Well, then you can cancel the contract. As the rights holder, it’s well within your rights to do so. However, if you do that you’ll have to pay a fee one way or another so that the producer can come out of this with something. Depending on what deal you took, you could pay up to 75% of the producer’s fees or $500 plus whatever costs the producer incurred for producing the book.
How do I design a cover? ACX has their own cover guidelines that are too much bother to go over here, so I’m linking the page that has the guidelines to this article. Once you have some idea of what they’re looking for, it’s up to you to create or find someone to create the cover according to these guidelines.
What’s a Bounty Payment? As I understand it, if a new buyer to Audible buys your audiobook, you get a $50 bonus from Audible. It’s a great bonus system, from what I’m told. It encourages authors to advertise about their audiobooks, so new listeners will be encouraged to get the audiobook through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.
What countries is ACX available in? At the moment ACX is only available in the US and Great Britain, though ACX is hoping to expand to other countries soon, most likely Canada and other North American countries before becoming established elsewhere. So keep your eyes peeled if you want to do an audiobook through ACX.
How much will my audiobook cost to buy? Depends on the length of the book in terms of hours. The more hours the book is, the more they charge. To guess at the price of your book, an hour of audiobook is about 9,300 words, so do some math and then visit ACX’s website and go to the price chart on the Distribution page to figure out how much your book will probably cost.
Should I do an audiobook? Well, that depends. Personally I’d recommend only going through the process if you feel there’s a demand for your audiobook. It’d suck to go through the whole production process and, whatever sort of deal you have with your producer, only receive a couple dollars here and there, or maybe nothing at all. So before deciding to try and produce an audiobook, see if there are a lot of people who’d want to buy an audio version of your book, and how much they’d be willing to pay for it.
There’s a lot of potential in audiobooks, no matter how you look at it. Perhaps your book will be read by a great many in audio form, if you decide to go this route e to produce it. Jut make sure you feel that it’s right for you, for your book, and that there is a demand for your audiobook before you do so.
Has anyone here used ACX before? What was your experience like? What tips do you have for authors considering using it?
In my last post, I wrote about writing prologues. I thought I’d follow that up by writing about epilogues. I would like to begin this article by stating that prologues and epilogues, while at opposite ends of the book, each require different needs to be fulfilled in order to be written effectively. Let’s explore that, shall we?
First, what purpose does the epilogue serve? In a way, it serves as an enhanced last chapter. If the prologue serves to set the tone of the story and usher in whatever journey that the main character or characters are about to go on, then the epilogue serves to let the reader know, usually on a very happy note, that all is well and that the characters have moved on from the journey. This is why JK Rowling only used an epilogue in the final book of Harry Potter: during the previous six books, Harry was still very much in conflict with Voldemort, even if he wasn’t always aware of it. The epilogue in Book 7, when the next generation is sent off to Hogwarts in a more peaceful era, lets us know that the conflict between Harry and Voldemort is over, and that “all is well”.
Does an epilogue have to be one chapter? Depends on the writer. Some writers prefer to have only a chapter-long epilogue, while others have written epilogues that have taken up to two to four chapters. Snake, if I remember correctly, has around five chapters in its epilogue. Like I said, depends on the writer and what they want to do with their story.
How much wrapping up do you do in an epilogue? Preferably you want to wrap up all your loose ends at the end of the book, and especially if you’re doing an epilogue. Most authors, unless they’re writing a series, will try to get rid of loose ends as they can before they get to the final chapter, so that they’ll be able to wrap things up in a neat little bow at the end. Figuring out how much wrapping up needs to be done should usually be done in the plotting stages of writing your novel, though. This helps reduce stress and any unexpected problems or questions from cropping up at the end of the book.
Of course, some authors will have an epilogue that will have a happy little scene, and then tie up their loose ends or open questions in supplemental materials after the last book, but the authors who do that usually are big-name authors with traditional publishing houses like Charlaine Harris or JK Rowling. If you would like to do the same thing though, ask yourself one question: do you have a big enough fanbase that would be interested in a lot of supplemental material released after your book? It’s an important question to answer before you start writing.
What should the tone of the epilogue be? Most epilogues I’ve read tend to end on a happy or hopeful note. “We’ve gone to hell and back, but we survived, we conquered, and we’re stronger. Things may not always be great, but they’re not always terrible either.” Of course, there are probably epilogues that let the reader know that things aren’t as nice as they could be. I sort of wrote the ending to Snake to be that way. Once again, it depends on the writer, what sort of story you are writing, and how you want to go about writing it.
What’s the best way to write an epilogue? No two writers are alike (thank God for that), so it depends greatly on the writer. The best way to write an epilogue is to practice it each time you include one in a novel, and also see what works and doesn’t work for you when you read an epilogue in someone else’s book. This will allow you to figure out how best you can write an epilogue and include them in as many novels as you desire.
Now, not every novel has to have an epilogue, just like not every novel has to have a prologue. But if you decide to put an epilogue in your novel, I hope you’ll find this article and the advice it gives rather helpful. And please let us know in the comments section if you have any more advice on creating epilogues that resonate with audiences. We would love to hear from you.
Plenty of books these days come with acknowledgements sections near the back, where the author lists everyone from research assistants (should you happen to have any) to agents (should you have one) to God (should you have one to worship). Not all novelists have them, but I find they are useful things to have. Not only do they show who was instrumental in the creation of the book, but they are also a great way of saying, “Thank you for helping me in the creation of my book. Without your part, this novel wouldn’t have been written and you wouldn’t be sitting here reading this”.
When I write acknowledgements sections in my books, I try to follow a few guidelines to make sure the sections are as nice, neat, and presentable as possible (though I sometimes forget my own rules. Nobody’s perfect). Here’s what I try to do:
1. Make a list of who to thank. You want to thank everyone who’s been instrumental in the creation, polishing, and publication of the book. Sadly, human memory is not as good as we’d like for it to be. So keep a list, so that when the time comes you won’t forget anyone.
2. Organize. I usually thank people starting with people who helped with research and writing, followed by editing, then publication. After those people, I thank my family and friends, and then I thank God. And finally I thank the reader, because honestly they deserve thanks for picking up my book and deciding to read it. It doesn’t generally have to follow this order, but keeping things organized in groups usually helps.
3. Sometimes I include a little story. One that relates to the main novel, of course. Maybe it’ll be about the process of writing, or maybe it’ll be about what created the main story of the novel in the first place. It depends upon the story in question. Of course, not every novel gets a story. The story of the novel can be enough sometimes.
Whether or not you include acknowledgements in your novels, knowing how to make one is always a handy skill. I hope you found this helpful in creating your own acknowledgements section (though if you did, you don’t have to acknowledge this blog or its writers in your next book. It’d be flattering, but it’s not what we’re here for).
Hopefully not the grammar police. Especially not for that last one. That’s a class-A spelling felony.
The statements above are recognizable to plenty of fans of science fiction and comedy-horror. They are the taglines for famous franchises: Star Wars, Alien, and Ghostbusters. And just saying them brings to mind billions of images, along with associations with and overwhelming emotions of heroism, friendship, screwball comedy, terror beyond imagination, and the possibility that anything is possible.
Based on all that, one could say that taglines are a great promotional tool. and if you aren’t lucky enough to have a publicist, coming up with the tagline for your novel or other creative work usually falls to the author. And it’s important to come up with a great, memorable tagline for your story. Doing so accomplishes two things.
Before the book is even read, it intrigues the reader enough to find out more. Hopefully their investigation to find out more means they’ll ultimately read your book.
After the book is read, the tagline (hopefully) evokes memories of flipping through the pages, wanting to know what happens next; of heroics and romance and terror and joy and characters so vivid, you’d swear they were real.
So with that goal in mind, here are some tips to creating a great tagline that will (hopefully) pull in more readers and create great associations with the book for the fans. And if nobody objects, I’ll use the tagline for my upcoming novel Snake: “How far will you go for love and revenge?”
Short, simple statements are the best. The tagline for Snake, as well as the ones I used at the beginning of the article, are all one sentence. This works to the advantage of the book, because it is easy to remember and easy to repeat. And if it’s easy to remember and easy to repeat, it’ll be more likely to be remembered and repeated. Look no further than “Who you gonna call?” for proof.
The statement evokes something in the mind of a reader. When I was writing the back cover blurb and the tagline for Snake, I wanted it to at least get potential readers interested. However, a novel where the serial killer is the main character can be…a little frightening. Somewhat off-putting. I wanted to emphasize that the main character had good intentions, even if his methods were reprehensible. So I asked myself what would I want to emphasize about the Snake in just a single statement? Well, he’s doing what he not out of any awful desires for murder. He’s doing it to save the love of his life, as well as get revenge on the ones who kidnapped her. How can I use that? Well…maybe I can phrase it as a question.
It worked. “How far will you go for love and revenge?” struck me as thought-provoking. It makes you think, “Well, I might go so far. Is the novel about someone who will go farther?” It’s why it’s the first sentence in the back cover blurb, the first image you see in the book trailer I created for it, and what I’ve been using in most of the advertising I’ve done for Snake. Hopefully it entices a few people to read it.
Get a feel for taglines. Most of all, one has to get a feel for taglines, see what works and what doesn’t work. What taglines make you excited, scared, weepy? What just make you feel disappointed? Ultimately, coming up with a tagline, just like creating a story and everything else in the business of writing and publishing, is taking in the work of those before us, and practicing and practicing until you get a feel for what works for you.
Now, you don’t need to have a tagline for your novel. As far as I’m aware, Harry Potter, anything by Stephen King, and the Bible never needed taglines. Their names and authors are enough to get their stories to millions and millions of people. But taglines are helpful. They’re great marketing tools and in some cases they can become a part of our culture and part of our fondest memories (ask any Trekkie about the phrase “Boldly go where no one’s gone before”). And the best part of being a self-published author is that you, as the author, get to create your very own tagline.
What is your favorite tagline? What are some you’ve created for your own stories?
I’ve been using WattPad for the past couple of weeks, and I thought that an article about it would be fun to write. Also, I found out this blog doesn’t have an article on WattPad yet, so I thought I’d break the ground and do a piece on it.
Throughout this article, I will try to give some sound advice on using WattPad and possibly getting some success through it. If any WattPad users have any additional tips they would like to…well, add in, please let us know. I’ll do a follow-up article with your words of wisdom.
So, first things first: What is WattPad? WattPad is a website where writers can upload and share stories with the public. It’s been in operation since 2006 and it’s been nicknamed the YouTube of storytelling. Writers can upload stories, gain feedback, create covers, and enter contests with their short stories or novels.
What sort of work is published on WattPad? Just about anything is published on WattPad. Novels, novellas, short stories, poems, non-fiction pieces, of all types and genres. Science fiction, fantasy, and YA stories tend to be the most popular, with horror and romance in a close second. There’s also a sizable amount of erotic fiction on the site, though I haven’t personally browsed that in any great detail. And technically erotica isn’t allowed on the website, but I won’t tell if you won’t.
Is it possible to get success through WattPad? Depends on what you mean by success. It is possible to spread your work to other writers and readers, maybe get feedback, and learn something from other writers by both reading and being read. And it is also possible to get the success that every author only dreams about (there’s an example of that in a recent issue of TIME magazine), but like anything in fiction, that is very hard to achieve and what can cause it is very difficult to predict.
How do you spread your work through WattPad? Tags and categorizing your work is very important, because it allows people with similar interests to search out and find your stories (and on that note, make sure to also rate your short stories appropriately. At the very least, an R-rating might deter some nine-year-old from reading a wildly inappropriate story). Also, networking with other authors, commenting on their stories, and even recommending works to authors you make friends with can be very helpful.
What are some ways to keep your readers interested in your work? Besides having interesting work, there are a couple of ways. One is to post frequently new stories or updates. Another is to post a novel on the site, but to do it in serial form. Posting new chapters on a regular basis keeps our readership up and it keeps them wanting to know more (especially if you end every chapter on a cliffhanger).
Should one copyright their work before posting? Well, that depends. Copyrights cost money and take time to process, so if you don’t mind waiting and shelling out money for the fees, then by all means get copyrights. At the very least, you should get copyrights for novels or for works you plan to sell in the future, and do it before you post it on WattPad.
I should also mention that WattPad allows users to post whether a story is copyrighted or not, so take advantage of that when you post a story. It could be seriously helpful.
If you publish a story on WattPad, can you put it on your resume as a publication? Again, that depends. This is a website where anyone can upload a story, so whether or not you want to include uploading stories onto an author’s YouTube on your resume is up to you. Some authors are comfortable, some aren’t. I know a few of both. If you are comfortable with it though, then only do it for stories that you’ve never published before in any way, shape, or form. And if you’re shopping for a publisher, definitely don’t do it!
What are these contests through WattPad you mentioned earlier? Wattpad holds a number of contests throughout the year. Most are small, but there are some big ones, including the Wattys, which are held once a year, and the Attys, which are for poetry and were started by author Margaret Atwood (yeah, she’s on the site. How cool is that?). The contests are open to all users with a WattPad account and who follow the rules of those contests.
If you are a regular WattPad user and have any other tips you’d like to mention, then please let us know. If I get enough tips, I’ll do a follow-up article on the subject with your tips in it.
Recently, CreateSpace added several new free distribution options to their distribution channels. This includes distribution to bookstores like Barnes & Noble and your local bookshop, academic institutions and libraries, and to CreateSpace Direct. These options, once available only to authors who were able to afford them, are now available to self-published authors with all sorts of incomes, writing styles, and fan followings.
Now there are definite perks to doing this. Authors would love more readers, and if they are able to reach readers in places previously unavailable to them due to monetary concerns, this can only be good for them. And bookstores, which have been suffering with the rise of the e-book and online distributors, will probably benefit being able to cater to the fans of authors whose works were before only available on certain online retailers. In a way, it’s a symbiotic relationship, both for authors and booksellers.
Not only that, but the books of self-published authors are sometimes rejected by libraries and academic institutions because they are self-publsihed in the first place, or their self-published status means that the books don’t come from certain distributors. If authors are able to get their works into libraries, that means people who don’t own e-readers or who can’t afford to buy books online can now read the books of self-published authors through this new distribution system.
And, using the expanded distribution channels means a potentially higher royalty rate for every copy sold.
However, there are drawbacks to this. Amazon, which owns CreateSpace and it’s print-on-demand services, determines minimum prices for all works published through them. They calculate these minimum prices by determining the length of the book, how much it’ll cost to print, how much they get from the sale of the book, and how much they need to give the author. Recently when I published my novel Reborn City, I saw that the minimum price they gave me was a little less than nine dollars, much higher than I’d expected. I wasn’t happy about it, but I decided to go with it and make the best of it.
When today I decided to try these expanded distribution options on RC, I found out that in order to use these expanded distribution channels, the list price would go up to at least thirteen dollars. In other words, the increase didn’t cost anything for the author, but it did cost extra for the reader.
I decided not to take these extra distribution channels because of the price hike it’d require. Some of my friends and family would not be able to afford a paperback copy because of a list price, or they’d be much more reluctant to buy it because is it not their genre in addition to being over thirteen dollars. Plus, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to make people pay too much for his work more than he wants them to actually read his work. Terrible character flaw, I know, but I live with it.
However that’s my own personal choice. If you wish to, go right ahead and sign up for these new channels. It’s your choice, which as I’ve said before is one of the best perks of self-pbulishing.
And who knows? You could see your sales go up dramatically, and your fanbase expand like a hot-air balloon. Not to mention the joy of telling friends and family that your work is now available in bookstores and libraries. That’s always something to make you feel good. And for some books, the increase in the list price might not be too high, so if you have my problem with pricing books too high, it may not be so bad after all. I might still use these channels for my collection of short stories, which is already very low-priced.
What do you think of these new distribution options? Are you planning on use them? If so, why or why not?
*Note: Since this post’s publication, I’ve had a change of heart and I’ve decided to try distributing my books through these new channels in the hope of reaching more readers. Whether or not I’m successful, we shall see. Wish me luck, as well as everyone else using these options for the first time.
Lately I’ve been wading into a debate that I thought merited some discussion on. And as you can probably tell from the title of the post, it has to do with length. The length of different pieces of fiction, to be exact. For years, I’ve subscribed to a particular set of guidelines for fiction lengths that go something like this:
•Flash fiction: 1-1000 words
•Short Story: 1000-10K words
•Novelette: 10K-20K words
•Novella: 20K-40K words
•Novel: 40K+ words
(The definitons above are based on many self-help writing books I’ve read and on the submission guidelines for National Novel Writing Month’s online contest.)
Until recently, I had no idea that there was an actual controversy on the lengths of the various forms of fiction listed above. Some people consider flash fiction only goes to five hundred words, while others argue that a short story can’t exceed 7,500 words without becoming a novelette. Most discussion is saved for novel lengths, with many arguing that forty-thousand is too small and leaves readers feeling robbed when they’re promised a novel that turns out to be too short for their tastes.
When I asked a writing group I belong to on Facebook what their thoughts on this issue were, especially when it comes to novels, I got a number of responses. Some said that fifty-thousand was a novel, though they thought it was a short one. Others said sixty or seventy-thousand was an appropriate minimum for novel length, and a few said fifty-five thousand was a good compromise as it’s right between the lowest minimum and the highest maximum values often cited in the debate. (For now, I’ve revised my definition of novel lengths to fifty-five thousand words at minimum, both for the reasons listed above and because my work usually runs much higher than that, so it works for me.)
To be truthful though, instead of making me worry if I’ve been using a bad definition for what constitutes a novel all this time, I’m pleased that authors are having this debate, especially self-published authors. One of the benefits often touted for self-published authors is that they get to write what they want, and this debate is a reflection of that in some ways. Authors are free to use their own definitions of novels and short stories and novelettes and whatever they write, rather than having to listen to what publishers and agencies believe a novel should be. It’s just another form of the freedom self-published authors are afforded.
However if in November you want to take part in the NaNoWriMo contest and decide that the threshold they give for a novel’s length works for you, then go right ahead. You’re just as welcome to exceed it and write as many words as you feel constitutes the creation of a novel. It’s your choice.
What are your definitions for the various lengths of different kinds of fiction? Why do you think that?
Go to http://kdp.amazon.com and sign in with the big yellow sign in button. You will want to use your amazon account for this, even if you have never used KDP before. I accidentally made a new account and now have two amazon accounts that use the same email address (originally they had the same password, too!) and it created quite a mess. Don’t make my mistake.
Once you’ve logged in you’ll be taken to your dashboard. Depending on whether you have books published or not, your may look slightly different. Click the yellow “Add New Title” button.
This will open a new page. The first option you’re confronted with is whether or not to enroll your book in KDP select. There are a lot of divided opinions on this, and you should do some research before deciding, but the run down is that if you join KDP select your ebook must be available ONLY on Amazon for three months and in return you get some marketing “tools” including five days that you can set your book to “Free”. There’s a lot more to it, and a lot to consider such as whether you will lose sales from other channel (again, your ebook can only be on Amazon and no where else), and I’m not going to cover all of that here, or tell you which is better. It’s a personal decision and you should do what is best for you. If you want it, check mark the box. If you don’t then do NOT check mark the box.
Scroll down and enter your book title. If your book is part of a series then check mark the series option, otherwise skip it. If you have an edition number (such as second edition) then fill it in, and if you have a publishing imprint put that under “Publisher”. I don’t, so I leave it blank.
The next option is your description, which you should have prepared. You can see the < p > in mine; this is HTML code that will make it skip a line. you can do some light html code in your description, such as bold or italics.
Scroll down and click the “Add Contributors” button
This will give you a pop up. Type in your author name and then use the drop down button to select “author”.
If you have other contributors to list then choose “Add Another”, otherwise click “Save”.
The contributors will now be listed on the page. make sure you’ve spelled them correctly, and then select the language your book is in by using the drop down box. English is default, so if it’s in English you can skip to publication date. I always leave this blank, as the publication date is whenever I publish it, but you can set it if you want to by clicking the calendar.
You’ll notice that the available days to click are today and BEFORE, not after, so this does NOT work to pre-publish or make your book available for pre-order. You can’t choose a day in the future.
Once you pick your day, be sure to drop a check mark in the “This is not a public domain work” (unless it is) and then click the “Add categories” button.
This will give you a pop up. Some categories have sub categories, for instance, under FICTION you can see that African-American has a plus sign. If we click that it will drop down with more choices such as general, christian, etc.
If you’re not sure what to classify it as then look around; go ahead and add as many as you want because you can remove them before you hit save. My particular book is Fiction>Fantasy>Paranormal. You can actually choose TWO final categories, but there isn’t another one that fits this book (I usually also file under Romance> Paranormal, but there’s not really any romance in this as it is a freebie of shorts), so I am only going to choose one. I recommend that if you can find two categories that fit to choose two. The more you have, the more lists your book will be in.
Choose them by check marking the box next to the final sub category. When you’ve got your list, use remove to whittle it down to two, if necessary, and then click save.
Your categories now appear above the button. Fill in up to seven key words that describe your book. For instance this is a collection of flash fiction “prologues” that take place the day before Heart of the Raven, my novel, takes place, so I used the series name (Amaranthine), Heart of the Raven (the novel title), short, flash-fiction (because that’s what it is), vampires and paranormal (because it’s about vampires) and add free because it is free on the other channels, so Amazon should make it free too (I will cover this later).
Now it’s time to add our cover. You have two options: Browse for your cover or use a cover creator (currently in beta). I will “cover” the cover creator in another post (ha ha!) so fir the point of this we’re going to upload our cover.
Clicking browse will open a dialog box where you can navigate to the image saved on your computer. It MUST be a .jpg or a .tiff (these are file extensions) and should be between 1000 and 2500 pixels on the longest side.
In this box click browse again to get a pop up and navigate through your files. Select the cover file and click open
Once it has the file path in the text box, hit the upload button
When it finishes you will see a thumbnail view of the cover. It will look pretty rough – this is NOT what your “official” cover thumbnail will look like, but rather a rough version so that you can make sure you’ve uploaded the right picture. The final thumbnail will be smoother.
If it looks good, hit the x in the upper right corner.
Now it’s time to upload your book and choose whether you want DRM enabled. DRM means Digital Rights Management, and is something that amazon will put in the “code” of your book to keep people from pirating, think of the old VCR tapes that used to turn the movie a rainbow color if you tried to tape them to a second tape, or DVDs that won;t copy if you try to rip them. DRM is a hot button issue, some people feel it is a waste and only makes it harder for consumers and others think it is a great idea. You will have to choose what is right for you.
Once you do, use the browse button to find your book file, the same way that you found your cover. It should be a .doc file.
After it uploads, you’ll get a little box that says:
This may take a few moments. If you have completed all required fields above, click “Save and Continue” to move forward while conversion continues.
However, I just stay there until it’s done.
When it is finished converting you will get a screen saying that it was successful, and you may get “suggested” spelling errors.
Click “view them” and a pop up will show them to you, then you can decide if they are really typos or not:
After a double check, I have determined that Hikaru is the correct spelling of his name, and free online dictionary states that “woosh” is a valid form of “whoosh”, so, for good or bad, I am going to leave them by clicking “Ignore All” (please no comments on whether you agree or disagree about woosh/whoosh). However, if you have errors you want or need to change, then you shouldn’t do that. If there’s a lot you might want to mail them to yourself, and if there are only a few then just leave the screen up, open your document and use the “find” feature of your word processing program to find and then fix them. Once you’re done, close the pop up out with the x in the upper right corner of it and reupload.
Now we’re ready to preview the book. You can either use the online previewer, or you can download and install a previewer application. I am just going to use the online feature.
The preview will pop up. Because I have been doing this for so long (taking screen caps and hopping back and forth) I had to sign in again. If you’ve taken a long time setting up, you may, too.
The previewer “looks” like a Kindle:
You can scroll through the pages and make sure they look the way you want. This is where some authors (Ruth Ann Nordin, for example) read through the whole book. I am going to admit that I don’t because by the publishing stage I have usually read it thirty times or more, and have it memorized anyway. But at the very least you should check your chapter headings and endings and your opening pages to make sure there are no strange page breaks or weird formatting.
You can use the drop down box to select different devices, such as the paper white, etc.
It’s up to you how thorough you want to be. But, when you’re finished, choose Back to Book details in the upper left of the screen. you can then upload a new version if you need to and preview again, etc. I am happy with mine, so we’re moving on.
At the bottom of the book setup page select Save and Continue to go to the next page of steps.
Now it’s time to tell Amazon where you have the rights to publish this book. If it’s yours and has never been published by another publisher, then you have worldwide rights. Mark that dot and move on. But, if your book has been published previously by a publisher, you may not have all the rights, as your publisher may still own some of them. For instance a book published through a small press in the United States may have had rights for the UK and US in the contract but not for India or other countries, in which case you would select the second option and then choose only those countries that that publisher does not have rights for. If you’re unsure, you may need to speak to your previous publisher and/or a lawyer.
My book has never been published by anyone else, so I am picking the easy option.
Now we’re going to choose our royalty – 35% or 70%. As with the other big choices, the decision depends on what is right for you. If your book will be priced below 2.99 (mine will) you have to choose the 35% option, but if it will be priced $2.99 or higher you can go for the 70% option. I will say that I have chosen 70% for those books I have published that cost more than $2.99, but the choice is yours.
In this case I have to go 35%. So I will check mark it and I will put in the price.
I just check mark the “set price automatically” feature for all the other channels, but you can set them individually if you want.
Now it’s time to decide if you want Kindle lending or not (this allows someone who has bought your book to loan it to anther person’s kindle once). If you opted for 70% royalties this will be grayed out.
Make sure to check mark that you are confirming all rights, then hit Save and Publish.
A pop up let’s you know that it’s being published and that’s it – time to go back to your dashboard and wait until you get your “congratulations” email.
But wait. Didn’t I say that I wanted this book to be free? Why did I then set the price to $.99?
Because Amazon won’t let you choose free as an option. What you have to do is use a price match. In other words, that book has to be on another retailer’s site for free. At the moment, that book is on Smashwords, B&N, and others for the low, low price of nothing. Now, I can wait until Amazon notices it and sends me that nasty little “Tut, tut,” email (which might take days) or I can speed things along by “reporting it” myself.
But, I need to wait until it’s published. I doubt you want to stare at this spot for twelve hours, so I am going to use my magic wand to fast forward time.
And look at that! The book is published! For some reason they have done something odd and linked it to Heart of the Raven the novel, but I’ll suss that out with an email later. In the meantime, let’s report that price.
Go to your book’s page and scroll down to the Product Details and click on “tell us about a lower price”.
Now you’ll get a little pop up. Click the mark next to “website”.
the box will expand with an area to paste a link into. At this point you need the link from the lower listing page – i am going to use Smashwords. Enter the url, the price (in this case 0) and the date, I dropped it back to August 1st but you don’t need to. Then click Submit Feedback.
It will then say “Thank you for your feedback” and give you a “close window” button – and that’s it. Now we just wait for Amazon to get it and say “tut-tut”.
If you set a book free via price match and later want to charge for it, can you get it switched back? I assume so, but I have never tried it, so if someone with more experience wants to chime in in the comments, that would be great!