An Interview With Matthew Williams: A Science Fiction Writer’s Perspective on Self-Publishing

Tofino6

Matthew Williams is the author of several science fiction novels, including Source, Data Miners, and the riveting zombie thriller Whiskey Delta, all of which are self-published. I recently had an email exchange with Matt to discuss his views on self-publishing and his own experiences with this radical new form of publishing.

Rami Ungar: Matt, why did you decide to go into self-publishing?

Matthew Williams: It was a mentor of mine, Mr. Fraser Cain – creator and publisher of Universe Today – who first got me interested. For years, I had been writing and seeking a book deal, but all in vain. It seemed that publishing houses were taking less and less chances on new manuscripts and would always respond (when they responded at all) with form letters saying what my writing was “not what they were looking for.”

Mr. Cain was the one who told me that this was to be expected in this day and age, where new media and indie writing was making the traditional publishing route a thing of the past. It was a paradox, to be sure, and I understood what he meant. On the one hand, it was harder to get published because of self-publishing and new media. On the other hand, these same phenomena were offering opportunities for authors that were never before available.

After speaking about it a few times, I came to see the wisdom in what he was saying. By becoming an indie and using all the tools that were at my disposal, I could bring my message directly to an audience without the approval of the “gatekeepers” – i.e. a publishing house. This meant I would have to do all the legwork, but it would also mean I would reap all the rewards. On top of that, it would get me out of the slump I found myself in, waiting for others to recognize me and give my work its big break. This way, I could make that break happen for myself.

RU: What was your first step when you decided to self-publish?

MW: Well, the first step was finding a press where I could get my books into a readable, buyable format. I already had some experience with Print-On-Demand and did not want to repeat that, seeing as how that route requires you to shell out a chunk of money in return for basic services that do not guarantee any sales. What’s more, there are renewal fees and the price for an individual book can be prohibitively high. But after talking it over with Fraser and a few other people who are experienced on the subject, I learned of Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, Lulu, Createspace and a host of other services where you can do publish your books independently and have a far greater degree of control over the process. I shopped around and experimented for a bit, but finally found a combination I liked that allowed me to publish ebooks and paperbacks and get them to a wide audience.

RU: You have several titles out now, including the widely reviewed Whiskey Delta. After so many books, do you feel like a pro at putting together your own books and publishing them?

MW: To be honest, no. Sure, I sometimes feel like I have a lot to share whenever I’m giving advice to people who are completely new to the indie writing game. But there is always someone more experienced, as well as new and humbling experiences that make you realize you’ve still got a lot to learn. I imagine that at some point, I’ll feel like I’ve got things down pat. Perhaps when I’m moving enough books that I can dedicate myself to writing full time, or have several titles that are all making an impression. But for now, I still feel like I’m relatively new to this business and toiling in relative anonymity.

RU: What are some techniques you use to spread the word about your books?

MW: Well, there are plenty of ways. Social media presents plenty of opportunities for new authors to get the word out and online writing groups are also effective at times. These include groups like Authonomy, Wattpad, and services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And of course, it’s crucial to have a website that presents followers with updates and insight into your ideas, process, and inspirations. And the most important thing is to make sure that they are all linked, so that any and all updates can be shared across multiple forums, and potential fans are given every opportunity to see where your books can be bought.

RU: Potential fans? So that means you have some sort of fanbase. What’s that like?

MW: Ha, yeah it’s nice. It’s a modest following, but from what I can tell, some people seem to enjoy what I have to offer. It does bolster your efforts, I’ve noticed. Hearing that people like your work and are willing to pay you regular compliments really does make you feel good and spurs on your creative efforts. But it also makes you aware of the fact that now there are people out there whose approval you want to keep. When you’re starting out, the only person you want to please is yourself. So in a way, having a fan base can take away some of your creative freedom. But no artist wants to toil away in anonymity forever!

RU: Yeah, that’s true. Now here’s a question that burns in every self-published author’s mind: if a traditional publishing company offered you a contract, what would be your reaction?

MW: That is a good question, and one I’ve struggled with of late. On the one hand, I would be losing some of the freedom I have right now if I signed a deal. On the other, a publisher could offer me promotional and editorial services I don’t currently enjoy. And in the end, any indie writer has to consider whether or not they would be willing to compromise on their independence for the sake of a comfy contract. I guess it would all depend on what they could offer and if the price was right.

RU: How do you see the publishing industry as it stands today?

MW: I guess the best way to look at it would be as a shrinking community. The gatekeeper gets to decide who comes in, and membership has its privileges. But the community is shrinking and its resources are diminishing. So they’re naturally letting fewer and fewer people in and, if I may say so, lowering their standards. At some point, the community is likely to be gone altogether, though I imagine that will take some time.

RU: That sounds rather apocalyptic, in a way. My final question is what would you say to someone who is considering self-publishing and you wanted to encourage them to try it?

MW: I’d most likely say, “Good for you, because that’s the way to go these days. Most people want to be discovered, to be given a big break, but that’s rarely the case anymore. This way, you can make a name for yourself and make your own breaks happen. It might take longer, and it will all be on you – so prepare to work hard – but the rewards will be yours as well. And if it’s what you love, it will well be worth it. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing your writing in print and knowing that people are reading and enjoying it.”

Matthew Williams books are available in both digital and print formats on Amazon, Lulu, and other distributors. You can also read his work and receive the latest updates in science, science fiction, and geekdom from his blog, Stories by Williams.

NOOK Press

If you logged into PubIt recently you may have gotten this pop up:

Image1

But what is it talking about? Nook Press is Barnes & Nobles new self publishing platform. To tell you a little about it, here is the email they sent out to users today:

Dear Publisher,

Over the past two and a half years, our working partnership has made PubIt! a resounding success. Because of PubIt! publishers like you, we’ve been able to offer millions of NOOK® customers exciting new content from independent authors.

Our success is your success, and we’ve been working hard to bring you a platform that takes our partnership—and self-publishing—to the next level. Today, we’re pleased to introduce to you NOOK Press, our new and improved self-publishing platform!

NOOK Press is self-publishing made simple. With the NOOK Press platform you can write, edit, collaborate, publish and sell your eBooks all in one place—at no cost.

The NOOK Press platform features these exciting new tools and services:

  • NEW! One-stop Publishing Solution: Write, edit, format and publish your eBooks in our web-based platform, instantly reaching millions of NOOK customers within 72 hours.
  • NEW! Easy ePub Creation and Editing: Upload your manuscript file and make changes directly in NOOK Press. Editing and previewing in one session saves you time and effort.
  • NEW! Integrated Collaboration: Collaborate with editors, copyeditors, and friends, allowing them to review and comment on your manuscript without ever leaving NOOK Press.
  • Visual Sales Reporting: Our new visually-enhanced sales report makes tracking your sales progress even easier.
  • NEW! Instant Chat: Live Chat customer service is now available to quickly answer your questions Monday through Friday between 9am-9pm EST.
  • Pathway to Passionate Readers Everywhere: Publish once and reach millions of customers using NOOK and NOOK Reading Apps in the US and UK and more coming soon.
  • Same Great Terms: Our favorable PubIt! business terms and commitment to a transparent retail partnership remain unchanged.

NOOK Press Presents
Our booksellers are currently hand-selecting titles for a new merchandising program: NOOK Press Presents — Our Top 100 Picks for Summer. NOOK Press Presents will be an ongoing merchandising channel for independently published content that comes to NOOK through NOOK Press.

Once you moved your existing PubIt! account to NOOK Press your titles will be considered for this program, which will promote books across the NOOK ecosystem.

Get started with NOOK Press today! Click here to be guided through a quick, one-time account syncing process. Once completed your PubIt! account, sales, payment, and title information will automatically appear in NOOK Press. To find out more about the changeover to NOOK Press, see our support page here.

We’re excited to turn the page together on a new chapter in self-publishing!

Sincerely,
The NOOK Press Team

If you go to the NOOK Press page – https://www.nookpress.com/ –  and scroll down to the very bottom, you can find links to some Frequently Asked Questions. Among them are a few I found interesting.

One thing they tout is the manuscript editor, however:

Can I edit my old PubIt! titles in the Manuscript Editor?

No. You will not be able to access the Manuscript Editor for any titles you created in your PubIt! account. If you need to upload a replacement manuscript file for a title that was created in PubIt!, you can go back to PubIt! and upload your new manuscript file there.

Perhaps not a big deal except that the pop up clearly says PubIt is being phased out in a few months. What happens after that?

Another concern I have is this:

Can I edit my Project after I put it On Sale?

NOOK Book Details can be changed after you put your Project On Sale as a NOOK Book, but at this time, the NOOK Book itself cannot be updated or replaced. To update or replace a NOOK Book that is currently On Sale, you would need to take the Project Off Sale, download the ePub from the Project page, create a new Project, upload the downloaded ePub or create a new Manuscript in that Project, and then put that new Project On Sale as a NOOK Book

Essentially this says to me that if you need to upload a new version ie. you’ve fixed typos, or you’ve added a preview of your next book, or you’ve just updated your bio and your list of “other books by” you will lose your reviews and your ratings. Not a very cool prospect in my book. Of course, it does say “at this time”, so perhaps this is something that is coming in the future?

Because of those two questions I have not switched my PubIt account over yet, however I have shot off an email to the NOOK Press support and will happily share whatever they answer me.

Have you switched over yet? What has your experience been?

signature

Blogging, Social Networking, Answering Emails – Hey, when do I get the time to write?

Are you blogging? How often? Once a week, 3 times a week, every day?

Are you on social media? What ones? Are you posting every hour? Once a day? Are you talking about about what you ate for lunch? Or a link to your latest book?

How about answering emails? Are you answering them, or ignoring them? Do you read through all the email you get from newsletters and blog subscriptions or do you find yourself deleting them?

Now that you’ve answered some of those questions and I’m sure asked some of your own, here’s another: When do you get the time to write? Are you writing regularly?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d bet money that most of you are busy people with a day job or two, family, kids, and/or other commitments to take up your valuable time–like food, friends, and sleep. So fitting writing and book marketing into an already full schedule isn’t so easy. But it can be done. I’m going to share with you one way to help you.

The 80/20 Rule

First, I want to mention the 80/20 rule. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s basically 80% of your time should be on Marketing and 20% writing and other business related work. I’ve also heard some people say that the 80% is all business related work  that is not writing including marketing and the 20% is writing only.

Now some of the writing/publishing gurus tell you that you have to do this to succeed as an author, if you read authors like Dean Wesley Smith you’ll find his approach is very different. I’m going to suggest that you spend 80% of your time writing new fiction for your backlist, 10% of your time researching and book setup such as editing, rewriting, and setting it up for publishing, and 10% of your time on business related work like marketing, blogging, and emails. Before anyone protests, yes, it’s a slower process to making money, but if you aren’t writing, editing, and publishing new work then social media and blogging are doing you no good.

Hey, this is Ruth here. Stephannie’s letting me add my two cents to the post, so here it is. The important thing to remember is that you want to build a solid foundation.  Once you build a fanbase (even a small one), you want to get more books to that fanbase.  Why will someone keep coming to your site if you don’t have something new coming soon?  While it’s good to reach new readers, you shouldn’t neglect offering something new to your current ones.  

People get so hung up on authors who made it big like Amanda Hocking, but what they don’t remember is that she had a backlist already out there when she went into the social networking part of her career as a writer.  She didn’t just write one book and keep marketing it.  There are some authors who hit it big on one book, but if they can’t get the next one out there, then how will they satisfy their current fanbase?   Will you sell like Amanda Hocking if you have a backlist and social network like crazy?  The odds are against you.  We’re not promising that.  I have a little over 40 books total published, and I’m nowhere near making Amanda Hocking sales.  But I do know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I did if I never wrote the next book.  Plus, I started writing because I loved creating stories.  Little writing and all social media would ruin my joy.

This leads us to the second point…

Don’t Neglect your Writing

Writing is the most important aspect of business, your book is the life blood of your career. It should be your main focus. It’s why I suggest focusing 80% of the time you have on writing.

Now I’m not the most productive writer or as self-disciplined as I would like to be. I love researching and reading stuff on the Internet. I’ve also gotten in the habit of opening my emails in the morning when I start the day. Once I finished checking emails, reading blogs and newsletters, sending or answering requests for guest posts and book reviews, answering emails and comments, writing a (daily?) blog post, leaving a meaningful comments on blogs, interacting on my favorite social networks, updating my website, etc., I’d lost a valuable chunk of time from my day. And lets face it, if we aren’t writing that book or the next book after that, then all the marketing and promoting we do on social networking and blogs won’t help.

My word count goal for the last few months has been about 300 words throughout an 8 hour day. Horrible, I know. I decided I needed a change this and recently downloaded a productivity app I’d heard of called Cold Turkey. This app doesn’t allow you to access certain sites and you can add your time wasting websites to it. I highly suggest it and I get nothing from if you download it.

Since I like to write in the mornings, each night after I finish working on business for the day, I set the app up for the next day. I can still access research sites I need, but everything else is closed to me. Which means I get more writing done in a day. I’ve been averaging about 800-1000 words in a 4 hour day. I’m hoping for more when I get into the groove of things.

Ruth: What I started to do is limit the days I’ll respond to blog, Facebook, and Twitter comments.  I take 3-4 days a week to answer them.   I’ll do it less often if I’m especially busy.  I’m not as active on Facebook or Twitter as I used to be in terms of interacting with people, but I do link up blog posts to those places.  Linking blog posts can help you social network with no extra effort on your part.  That’s why I like to set up my Twitter and Facebook accounts to WordPress to link automatically on those sites.  I hit publish or schedule to publish, and WordPress does the work for me.  I also link my blog posts (from my author blog) to Goodreads.  I will share a blog post I’ve done for a deleted scene or inspiration for the book or sample scene to Pinterest.  These are time savers for me.  I love those share buttons at the bottom of the blogs.

I also love those share buttons and suggest that everyone who writes blogs and have websites install them on their website and leads into my last point.

Don’t Neglect your Author Platform

Please don’t neglect your author platforms to carve out more writing time, that’s not the point I was trying to make above. Your author platform is very important, not as important as the next book, but a close second. Why? Because your website, Twitter, Facebook, other social media sites, and blogs are your way of telling the world, both readers and fans, that you are writing a book. It’s a way to get them excited about what you are publishing and it’s counterproductive to do a disappearing act to write. It can set back your marketing efforts.

What I am suggesting is plan you platform activities carefully. I’ll use my efforts as an example.

After I finish my writing for the day, I check my emails, reading through and answer those that need to be answered. Those from fans, people wanting to guest post, answering comments on my blog and other blogs, and answering questions from authors who need book cover designs done. I wait for Saturday to read through blog posts and newsletters. Since I find social media distracting, I wait for the blog muse hit and spend a day writing blog posts and tweets. I don’t schedule them ahead of time because I like to read through them one last time before they go live. I spend about 10 minutes in the late morning and evening on Twitter (posting tweets, retweeting, talking to people, etc), about 10 minutes on Facebook (updating my status and talking to others), and about 30 minutes rereading and publishing blog posts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Once a month I like to update my website, though since me website and blog are one, every time I post I’m updating it too. LOL

I’m hijacking this post again. I’m not as organized as Stephannie on this one.  I love her idea, though.  It might be helpful to have a timer nearby.  Ten minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or another social network site is easy and doable.  The problem comes in when you get sucked into looking at pictures or reading articles that look interesting (this is where I end up spending a lot of time that takes away from my writing).  If there’s an interesting article off Twitter (a lot of good ones come from there, esp. ones that help authors), I suggest marking them as “to read” when you schedule time to do it.  (And this is all stuff I am going to mark down to do since my approach has been lacking in this area.  :D)

How to Get a Cheap Book Cover… UPDATED!

I’ve recently updated my how to book How to Get a Cheap Book Cover by Joleene Naylor. Updates include:

  • A tutorial on how to use Create Space’s cover creator
  • A tutorial on how to make an ebook cover in Paint.Net
  • Fixed broken links
  • Added new links
  • Fixed a couple of typos
  • Updated information on acceptable file types

If you’ve already purchased the book through Smashwords, I believe you can download the updated version for free. I don’t know about the other sites, such as Barnes & Noble, though it will be a few days before the changes filter through the expanded market, anyway.

Here’s what people are saying about How to Get a Cheap Book Cover:

“VERY helpful! I was like a raft adrift on the adriatic and this book was the ocean liner that came to my salvation.” –  Robin Donaruma on March 07, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“I downloaded this book to help me design the cover for my novel, A Military Republic. The book has excellent advice about licensing photos, websites for buying photos and above all an invaluable guide to using gimp for designing the cover. I definitely recommend this to cover designing beginners.” – Haythem Bastawy on Feb. 25, 2012 (on Smashwords.com)

“This was a huge help when we were creating covers for my husband’s e-books. This is the first time we’ve done any sort of e-publishing, and we were pretty ignorant of even the basics. I especially liked the information on licensing and sources for images.” –  Marjorie Farmer on Nov. 10, 2011 (on Smashwords.com)

What’s in a Genre?

complete collection of John Grisham fiction an...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s in a genre, or even better, what IS a genre? Simply put, a genre is a “category” such as sci-fi, mystery, romance, paranormal, and fantasy to name a few. (You can find  a much longer list here – http://www.bubblecow.net/a-list-of-book-genres). However, just because every book written will be crammed into a genre, it doesn’t mean the author is a genre writer. Literary fiction is generally considered non-genre writing, while the usual suspects (some of which I listed earlier) are considered “genre books”.

Confused yet?

So what is the point of genre? Logically, it’s to help a reader find a book they’d like. If you like mysteries, you want to check the Mystery shelf in your book store. If you like chick-lit, you want to hit up the chick-lit section, etc. etc. But, genre is more than just a helpful category, it is also a calling card.

Take a look at these authors below and see if you can match them with their genre:

  • Stephen King                    Sci-fi
  • John Grisham                   Comedy
  • James Patterson              Non-Fiction
  • Anne Rice                         Christian Fiction
  • Neil Gaiman                      Children’s
  • JK Rowling                       Black Comedy

How did you do? Were you able to line them up? Hint – I already did it for you. Stephen King’s time traveling sci-fi book 11-22-63 is a departure from his usual horror novels, while Skipping Christmas is far from John Grisham’s normal thrillers, and of course JK Rowling is breaking away from her young adult wizarding series with her forthcoming black comedy.

So what happens when an author writes outside their genre? That depends on many things, such as how established the author is, how far removed the new genre is from their old one and even whether the resulting book is any good. Some fans will follow an author into the adventure of a different genre, while other fans are left feeling betrayed and angry because they didn’t get exactly what they expected.

But wait, isn’t that the point of genre classification in the first place?

Yes, it is, but some readers have a habit of snatching up the newest book by their favorite author (or any author) without actually reading the description.  Why? Because they expect certain things about the book to tell them what they’re going to find inside, and one of those things is the author.

For instance, I long ago made the mistake of uploading an old children’s book I’d written to Smashwords as an example of formatting ebooks with images in them. It’s not an amazing work by any means, but it did the job. I was able to show people what an ebook with colored pictures looked like and it even got some pretty decent reviews. Fast forward two years. Despite changing the author name on the book, and attempting to move it from one author to another on Smashwords (I am going to try again soon), I’ve gotten several reviews on my short vampire stories on Barnes and Noble complaining because, unlike the other, it is “not a children’s story”.  Yes, the description clearly states that it is not a children’s story, but readers have downloaded it anyway and been disappointed, and those disappointed readers left a one star review, and enough one star reviews will drop the overall ranking. And when the overall ranking drops, your target audience, who has clicked over to check out your work, will just as quickly click away because the book/story only has one or tow stars over all and…  It turns into a quagmire.

But what if you want to write in a different genre?

You can do that. Lots of authors have done it successfully, but many use a key tool – a pen name. Sure,it’s okay, and might even be a good idea, to tell your fans “Hey, this is really me!”, but a pen name helps to keep your readers from being confused about what to expect. If you use a pen name be sure to make a SEPARATE account on Smashwords/Amazon/B&N/etcf or EACH pen name, otherwise the meta data will still list your primary author name as the publisher as you’ll be right back where you started.

How do you feel about genre? Do you think it’s a handy “tool” for quickly finding books or authors you might like, or do you think the literary world has let the tail “wag the dog” so that genre writing has become a trap?

How to Publish with PubIt

(this is an overdue companion to How to Publish on Create Space and How to Use Create Space Cover creator and How to Publish on Smashwords)

Go to http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/, log in and then choose Go to My Titles in the upper right corner

Choose “Add a Title”

This opens a new page where you need to enter your title, list price, publication date, publisher, and contributors. These are you – as the author – and then any illustrators, co-authors, etc. You are allowed up to five.

Scroll down to upload your book. B&N accept word documents, HTML, RTF and TXT files. Us the browse button to locate your file, then click Upload & Preview. (You may get warning that you have not filled in all the information, but don;t worry, we’re coming to that)

This will upload an instant preview. you can use the tabs to switch between Nook and Nook Color views. use the Prev and Next at the bottom to navigate the pages. When you’re finished use the close preview in the upper right:

If the conversion looks good, then it’s time to upload your cover. (if not, make changes to the interior file and reupload.)  Your cover image MUST be a .jpg and has to be at least 750 pixels tall, but no bigger than 2000. To upload the cover use the browse button.

The cover preview will look a little fuzzy, but it will look fine on your final page:

Now to fill out the pesky questions that caused all those crabby “errors”.  They’re pretty easy: Do you have an ISBN? Is the book part of a series? Is it available in print and, if so, how many pages is it? Is it public domain? What group is it suited for? What language is it in? Where do you have publishing rights (aka, US, IS?Canada, or World Wide) and do you want DRM protection?

Now you want to add the categories your book fits in. Click the add/edit categories button

This drops down a box, and each selection you make may open another box to the right. When you have it chosen, click the Add Category button

You can choose up to five categories for your book, though you don;t have to pick that many (I have only three). When you’re done, click Save.

Now it’s time to enter your keywords (separated by commas), your book description and your author bio. You can also enter editorial reviews if you have them.

Double check that everything is the way you want it, and then it’s time to put your title on sale! Check mark the box to confirm that you own the work and hit “Put on Sale”

And that’s it! Now you just need to wait 24 – 72 hours for your book to become available through B&N.

On a side note, there was a rumor that Barnes & Noble promotes books published through pubit over those through Smashwords, so i have done some experimenting.

I published Ties of Blood directly through PubIt because, at the time,  Smashwords was having trouble getting books out to them and I had some Nook readers who wanted to read it. Though the advice was to remove the Nook version as soon as the Smashwords version showed up, I’ve left both to see what happened.  As you can see on the listing page, the smashwords version has the priority listing and you have to use the + NOOK book button to even get the PubIt published version:

This might have to do with the fact that Smashwords has an older Publication date.  When it comes to slaes it stands thus:

PubIt edition all time: 4 (all were sold before the smashwords version cleared)

Smashwords edition (through B&N for December only): 31

So, it’s safe to say that in this case that B&N isn’t pushing the pubit version over the smashwords. Whether it happens to other people I can’t say.

 

KDP Select?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

On the back of Amazon’s announcement about Amazon.it (Italy) and Amazon.es (Spain) comes a new Kindle program; the new KDP Select program.

Each month, Amazon will make a “pool” of money – $500,000 in December. To get a cut of the money you have to enroll your book. Each time it is borrowed, you get a “point”. At the end of the month, the total points are counted, the money is divided up by that number (for example if there are 500,000 points from all authors and $500,000,  each “point” is worth $1) and you receive your share of the “pot” which would be X$ x How-many-times-your-book-was-borrowed (not purchased, but borrowed through the kindle Library lending program – which only Amazon Prime members can borrow from.)

So if no one borrows your book, you make 0% of the pot.

In Amazon’s press release, several authors such as J.A. Konrath and C.J. Lyons have gone on record, lauding the program. Meanwhile, Mark Coker has posted, explaining why this is a bad thing,  while Writer Beware has warned authors to “read the fine print”.

And you should. While at first this seems like a way to earn royalties on book borrowing, there is one condition: You must have your book (in digital format) EXCLUSIVELY published with Amazon. This means it can not be on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or even your personal website or blog (blogs and websites are specifically mentioned in the terms).  This further means that if your book is already published elsewhere you must first remove it so that Amazon is the only person who carries it.  (This does not effect paper back/dead tree versions)

Before you take your books down from B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. and enter the program, ask yourself this question, “Is my book likely to be borrowed enough times to make up the money for those lost sales?”

The answer for me is a simple “No”. Your answer may be  different, but as Writer Beware has cautioned, make sure you know what you’re getting into.

Will you enroll in KDP Select? Why or why not?

You can read the entire FAQ & terms on Amazon’s site 

EDIT: Check out Kim Wolterman’s blog Amazon: Author Friend or Foe where she explains the Kindle Lending Library.

How to Publish on Smashwords

(this is a companion to How to Publish on Create Space and How to Use Create Space Cover creator)

Go to smashwords.com, log in and click the Publish option in the overhead menu:

(You’ll notice I have a “requires attention warning – this is because I have a “test” book that is archived and unpublished that I use to test files before upload, so I haven’t given it an ISBN number. If you have this warning and don’t have something similar then it means one of your books needs an ISBN assigned.)

You will be taken to a new page. Here you will enter all the information on your book. First up is title and the short description.

You’ll see that there is a 400 character limit for the short description (not words, characters – aka letters, spaces, punctuation, etc.). This is one of the reasons I say it’s good to have several of different length ready to go.  Something to consider for shorter works: though Smashwords has the word count clearly posted on each book’s page, not all their distributors do, so it’s best to put Short Story, Novella, Short Work, etc. at the beginning of the description to avoid angry reviews on Barnes and Noble and other sites.

Now comes the “long” description.  If it’s the exact same thing as your short description then it’s up to you if you want to bother with it or not. However, if you have a good hook written up that was too long for the short description above then plug it in here.

Choose the Language of your book and whether it has adult content or not. (A note on this. Smashwords has changed its policies and when you first visit the site, or visit it without being logged in, all books marked with adult content will not show up. You now have to remove the “adult content” filter instead of having to activate it.  While I understand this change, it’s not one I’m happy with as most of my books don’t show up for a casual visitor. But, don’t try to be sneaky and skip marking it as adult content if it really is. It just hurts everyone in the long run.)

You can also see there are pricing choices. Free is obvious – your work is free for others to download. Is this a good idea? There are blogs by the thousands that tackle that topic, so I’m not going to.

The next option is Reader Sets Price.  My advice on this option is to only use it on a book you would have otherwise marked free because most people’s determined price is free. However, once in a while you run into someone who pays more (I has someone pay 10$ for one of my books when I had this option set.)

Lastly is to set your own price. Type a number in and suddenly these magical pie charts will appear:

Click to see how Smashwords divides up the “profits”

These show you what percentage of the price that everyone is getting from your book.  Again, there are articles galore on ebook pricing, so I won’t get into that here. I will say this; there are probably people out there who will pay $10 or more of an ebook (there’s at least one person!) but they are the minority.

Once your price is set determine how much sampling you want by changing the numbers. If your ebooks is free (mine is), then this will be grayed out.

What is sampling? Go to any smashwords book page (in a new window!) and scroll down past the description and you’ll see a table that looks much like this:

See where it says 50%? The author has chosen to share a 50% sample, or half the book, for free. It’s up to you how much you want to share, but I do recommend making at least the first chapter available.

Now it’s time to choose the categories your book fits in.

You’ll initially have one box and, as you choose subcategories, new boxes will appear. Find the best fit for your book. For instance, there is no vampire category (sadly) and though this particular story doesn’t really have any horror in it, the other stories in the series do, so I chose Fiction>Literature>Horror so that it is in the same category as the rest of the series.

Now add some tags

Use words that you think someone would use if they were searching for your book.  As you type them in they will appear above the box. If you decide you don’t like one – or you have a typo – then use the “remove” to take it off.

Now you need to choose what file types you’d like your book to appear in

Rule of thumb is the more formats, the more potential readers, however, some books just don’t work well in all types. For instance, plain Text means text only – no images. If your book needs pictures then you should uncheck this option.

Now we’re ready to upload the files!

Use the Choose File button to get a pop up box and find your book cover on your computer. As the box says, it must be a .jpg, .gif or .png and needs to be at least 600 pixels tall. I prefer to use high res images, myself, but it’s all a matter of choice.

Now upload your pre-formatted document.  (For help with formatting see some of our previous posts).

Check over the publishing agreement and hit the happy publish button!

Usually my browser window will sporadically pop back up to the middle of the page and stare at me for a few moments. If this happens to you, don’t panic. First, check the bottom left of your browser window and (depending on your browser) you will likely see something that says “Uploading” and has a percentage. This means your files are uploading – it can take a moment. If you don’t see that, then scroll through the page to make sure there are no red errors. If several minutes pass and still nothing has happened, then check your dashboard in a new tab to see if the book is listed. If not, then hit the publish button again or refresh the page and redo the forms.

Once the files are uploaded a new page will appear that says something like:

Your number will be different. As it says, you can leave it opened or close it out. I prefer to leave it opened.

When it has finished converting you will get an email with the conversion results – including any file errors – and the page should change. If you have no errors it will look like this:

Click on the “View this page’s Smashwords page” link.

An aside. I said the page SHOULD change. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes it will say “complete” next to all the files and just sit and stare at you. If that happens then 1- be sure to check your mail to make sure the conversion has no errors and 2 – go to your dashboard and access the book’s page from there.

Check the page over – make sure your synopsis is correct, that the book cover looks right, etc. Then scroll down to the table of download options and save the epub version to your computer (I throw mine on the desktop).

In a new tab head to http://threepress.org/document/epub-validate

Choose file (make sure it is the epub version you just downloaded and NOT the doc you used for smashwords!) and then hit the validate button.

It may take a few minutes, but if there are no errors you’ll get a screen like this:

If so, then you’re done. Share your new Smashwords link with the world and revel in your accomplishments!

But, what if you have errors?  There are too many possibilities for me to cover in this blog, so if you have errors, either in the epub or with the meatgrinder, be sure to check Smashwords FAQ at – http://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq

Assuming you have no errors, pop back to smashwords and go to your dashboard and then your ISBN manager (or if you have that handy warning on top of your page just click it!)

There is a LOOONG article describing the different types of ISBN numbers. Read it and choose the option that is right for you (I use the free ones).

When you’ve decided you’ll find, at the end of all that text, a table listing all your books and telling you whether or not you have ISBN numbers – as you can see Benjamin does not have one (and neither does my test book)

Click Assign ISBN.

You’ll go to a new page where you make your selection:

Make your choice and click “Review Order” (don’t let this scare you – it does not mean you’re paying for anything .)

You will get a new page detailing your choices (and I assume payment options if necessary). Check to make sure it is what you want and press Confirm.

And then – congratulations – a new page will appear that will list your title, ISBN, etc. on it. Save the info to your records (if you do that) and then  go back to your dashboard.

Now we need to double check the distribution, so go to your Distribution Manager

Scroll down to your book and make sure that it is opted in – and out – of everything that you want. If not, make changes. (As of this posting Smashwords is still not distributing to Amazon, however, I recommend adjusting the settings for this so that when they do you’ll be ready).

And that’s it. There’s nothing else to do until your book is approved for the Premium Distribution (you can check the status on your dashboard at any time.) It takes a few days, and even after it is approved it takes some time to ship. I uploaded Ties of Blood on September 10th and it has still not shipped a month later, despite being approved, meanwhile, the last story I uploaded shipped within two weeks, so I think it depends on volume at the time of your upload. Either way, be patient and, if it seems to be taking too long, file a ticket through the help at the top of the page.

And that’s it! Pretty easy, huh?

How to Publish on Create Space

I often get questions about the exact Create Space procedure, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to post it for everyone.This is going to look like a long post because I am using screen captures. Also of note, this si current as of this posting. Create Space may upgrade in the future and the upgrade may look different. However, it should function primarily the same.

First, if you haven’t got one already, you’ll need an account at Create Space – https://www.createspace.com/ – I’m going to assume that you have one and are pretty much ready to upload.

Log in and go to your member dashboard. You’ll see a big happy button that says “Add New Title”

A new page will display where you enter your project name and choose what kind of product it is (paperback). You can also choose what setup you want. For this article I’ve used the Guided Process. Now click “Get Started”

On the next page you’ll want to enter your title information. This is pretty self-explanatory and includes title, author, contributors, subtitle, volume number and a place to enter your book’s description. If you don’t have one yet, then don’t worry, you can enter it on a later screen. When you’re done, hit save and continue (save will save your progress where you are, while save & continue moves you to the next step)

On the next screen you will enter your physical properties, including interior type, paper color and trim size. For the interior: there’s a huge difference between the price of a color page vs the price of a black and white page, so unless your book needs color (ie. an illustrated bonk) you’ll want black and white. There is also a small price difference between cream and white paper (with cream the more expensive) but it’s nominal and basically  a matter of taste. The Trim size is the physical size of your book, aka what it is “trimmed to”. Your choice should be influenced by a number of things (including what size your manuscript is formatted for!).

On the next screen you will choose your ISBN option. I just choose the Free CS Assigned ISBN (this makes Create Space the “publisher” – you still keep all rights), but you can also choose a custom ISBN for $10 (where your own imprint is the publisher), a custom universal ISBN for $99 (Your imprint is the publisher and your distribution/publishing options are left open) or provide your own (aka one you have purchased through Bowker)

details on the free ISBN- click to enlarge

Depending on your choice, on the next page you will be given your ISBN and ISBN 13 – write these down! You will need to put them on the copyright page of your manuscript. If someone else is formatting your book for you, you will want to do this before they’ve finished. If you’re doing it yourself and the book is ready to go, then open your file and plug in your ISBN number now. Save and PDF it.

Now we’re ready to upload the interior files of your book – aka the book itself. On the next screen choose whether you want to pay 300$ to have Create Space format it for you, or whether you have one from another source. (I do my own, so I chose the second option)

The box will expand and you will see some input fields. Use the friendly Browse button to locate the PDF of your book interior. Yes, it must be a PDF. No other format is accepted. There are also bleed options. As you can see by the illustrations, if the bleed ends off the page that means your content stretches all the way to the edge, while ending before means it doesn’t. For a regular novel choose “Ends Before”. Press Save and Continue.

an “Uploading” box should pop up. If it doesn’t, try pressing Save and Continue again. (of note – if you get an error message about your trim size formatting then it means your pages are not formatted for the trim size you selected. This is very important, so make sure your page size is set to the same as your trim size.)

With the interior upload, it’s time for the cover. You have three choices: 1- Use their “cover creator” to assemble your cover online (this is actually a pretty powerful tool for simple cover designs and easy to use), 2-pay 300$ for CS to design you a cover (holy cats! I need to charge more!) or Upload your own ready-made PDF wrap around. (if you don’t know, a wraparound cover looks like this)

Make your choice and click save and Continue. If, like me, you’re uploading a print ready file you will get the same “uploading” box again. (of note, if you get an error message that your cover does not fit your book, then it means that a) your trim sizes don’t agree – ie. the cover is for a 6×9 book and your interior files are for a 5×8 – or the spine width is not correct)

On the next screen you will want to review the file names to make sure that you’ve uploaded the right files. And then it’s time to submit your files for review!

You’ll get another pop up. Click continue to finish filling out your sale information

Remember I said you can enter the description later? This is later. (you can do this in another sitting if you need to by accessing your project on your dashboard). There is a 4000 character limit on your description, so choose your words carefully. Here you will also enter your books language, the country of publication, and some search keywords to help people find your book (for instance I use vampire, vampire war, vampire romance, paranormal, action). Check the “adult content” box if applicable.

You must also choose your category – or genre – whether you like their choices or not. (I don’t. I feel they’re missing several options). Use the choose button to get a drop down box. As you choose categories new boxes will pop up along the side to help you fine tune your selection.

The next screen will be about sales channels and setting your price. You can see that there is a minimum price that must be used for each channel. For instance, I must price this book at $7.02 or higher to publish it. If I want to sell it through my CS e-store I have to charge $8.78 and, if I want it to appear on Amazon, it has to be priced at $11.70.  If you opt for the $39 “upgrade” you can price your book cheaper – but there’s a catch (besides the 39$). If you want to take advantage of those extended distribution packages (libraries, bookstores, etc) you have to jack the price up, again. However, if you pay for the upgrade but don’t choose the other distribution options,  there is a price decrease to sell on Amazon and the e-store. Is it worth it? I’ve upgraded one book, but not the other. I don’t think it’s made any difference and, as far as I know, I have sold zero through those extended channels. You may have different luck, though.

Once you set your price high enough, the CreateSpace Store and Amazon Select button will turn blue. Click them both. Under CS e-store, choose the correct Sales Region (probably US and International). Then choose “save” to turn that annoying “awaiting information” into a green checkmark (It will say pending if your book is not yet published). (Of note – this is also where you will want to go to customize your estore, such as changing colors, wallpaper and banners on your store front. If you don’t know what I mean then take a look here and you can see where I’ve customized it. When you click the customize estore link you’ll get a new page. No need to worry about that now, though.)

Now, there’s nothing to do but sit back and wait. It can take CS up to 48 hours to review your book and send you an email.

We’re going to fast forward the universe and assume that all your files were perfect and needed no corrections. Yay! Now it’s time to order your proof!

Log in to Create Space and go to your dashboard. Next to your project’s name it will say “Awaiting proof order”. Click the title of your project to go to a new screen.

This is your projects page. You can see the book cover, your description, etc. You’ll also see a row of semi-bizarre “folders” – this is where you need to look. Each “folder” is a “section” of the process: Set up (Title information, ISBN, Interior and cover files, etc), Review (Order & review Proof), Distribution and Sales and Marketing. The green check marks next to an item indicates that those steps have been completed, while a red minus sign means you need to complete a step. A yellow triangle means it requires your attention and, in this case, it’s “order proof” that requires our attention. So, click on Order Proof.

Yay! Our files are printable! You may, or may not, have the option to skip a printable proof. If you have not published the book before, then I recommend getting a proof. If you have and are simply updating a file (such as fixing typos), then you may be confident enough to skip it.  This is my first shot at Ties of Blood, so I ordered a proof.  (you’ll also note that you can change your files here, but then they will go back for review and you will need to wait for them to be approved, again. This is the case any time you change your files.)

Now we will be whisked away to our shopping cart! Check to make sure you’re only ordering one proof copy and that nothing else is in your cart (unless you want it there.) Then head to shipping.

As you can see, there is a big difference in shipping price. In this instance, the standard shipping is $3.59, while the next step up is $11.18 – almost $7 more for a five day difference, and $1598 for the “fastest”.  I placed my order on August 18th and went with the cheap shipping. My order shipped the next day and I got the proof on the 22nd of August. However, I ordered a proof last October and it took about eight or nine days to get it, using the cheap shipping, so times vary.

Review all of your information on the final screen and place your order. You have to wait 12 – 24 hours before you can then log in and approve your proof, though I recommend actually waiting to get it and reviewing it.  Once you’ve approved it, log back into your CS dashboard and in that bizarre row of folders choose “Review Proof” and then – approve it!

Be sure to finish filling out anything you slipped before, such as product description, sales channels, and customizing your estore.

And that’s it! Congratulations!

How was your CreateSpace experience? Did you find it easy to navigate, or was it confusing? What advice do you have for others publishing through CreateSpace?

Amazon DE?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...
Cover via Amazon

If your published through Amazon’s KDP program (Kindle Direct Publishing – which used to known ad DTP) you might have gotten a letter from them a few days ago telling you about an exciting new “kindle store” called Amazon.de.

What is Amazon.de? It’s Amazon in German and it’s available to residents in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

Snazzy, huh?

So what do you need to do to make sure your book is listed there? If you have already ticked the little checkbox that states you have worldwide rights to publish/distribute your book, then nothing. Amazon has already listed all books that have available rights in Germany, to the tune of 650,000 on opening day.

If you’re not sure whether you’re book is available, then you can go to Amazon.de and look yourself up. (I did! It was fun to see my books surrounded by German. It felt very international!) If it’s not there, or if you don’t feel like a search, then you can log in to your Amazon KDP account and check or edit the book’s settings.

What does this mean? Not only is it a new market for authors already published through Amazon’s KDP, but it’s likely to mean an increase in German authors and German language books, as well.  European authors will be able to choose whether to be paid in pounds, euros or U.S dollars and – more good news – Amazon is now offering European authors electronic transfer royalty payments, so they can get the money deposited directly into their bank account., which makes royalty payments faster and easier.

The opening of the new Amazon.de kindle store leaves me with just one question: What do you think is next?