Still not self-published?

Still not self-published?

No I’m not, and I get a feeling of jealousy every time I see a friend self-publish their work. But then I remember that I chose not to self-publish. It doesn’t mean I won’t, but I’m in no rush. So after the jealousy, I feel proud of my friends. I wish them an ocean of success.

A quick summary for those of you that don’t know me. I wrote a children’s book  with the intention of self-publishing because, unfortunately, for us amateur writers, “the odds are never in our favour“. However, to satisfy my ego, I sent my manuscript to a few agents and was pleasantly surprised to get a couple of encouraging replies amongst the general rejection emails. I would much prefer professional publication to self-publication, so I halted my self-publication process and turned to a literary consultant for some advice.

Initially, I was disheartened by the editorial report that I received, but then I followed the advice that I had been given. The result was that I completely rewrote my book. With real life going on around me,  four years passed between my original book and my new draft.

I finished my rewrite in December 2016 and I plan on starting the editing process in spring 2017. In the meantime, I am writing a completely different book which has  just flowed out of me. It’s completely different to The Book of Thoth, but I am enjoying writing it.

My plan is to edit/revise both books and enter them both in various competitions over the next two years. Eventually, there may come a time where I self-publish these books, but at the moment I am happier trying to perfect my writing.

 

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Writing, Self-Publishing, Indie authors and the Power of Social Media – revisited

I can feel the power of social media, but is there a dark side? Does it consume you? I am now on Twitter and I even understand what hashtag is all about! I have followed friends and family, and now I am feeling more comfortable about following “strangers”, too. I was worried that nobody except friends and family followed me back, or if they did, then they ‘unfollowed’ me, pretty quickly. Is it me? Am I not interesting enough? Okay, from a tweeting point of view, I may have lacked substance, so I have been working on it. I now try to tweet or retweet things that other people will find interesting. I have organised my lists so it’s easier to skim through tweets. But this has involved spending more time on social media than writing my book -aargh! There aren’t enough hours in the day as it is! Thankfully (or should I say hopefully), I think I have found my happy tweeting balance. I spend no more than a few minutes checking tweets that may lead to an interesting article, and I tweet/retweet on the go.

Blogging and tweeting both have the power to reach people. If my blog or tweeting helps someone on their writing or self-publishing journey, then that to me is just as rewarding as someone reading my book and enjoying it. Through social media, I have discovered writers that are way ahead of me on their writing journey, and I have discovered writers that are just starting out. I have learnt a lot on my journey and I still feel like a novice. When The Book of Thoth is finished, I will use the social media to market its existence. But in a funny kind of way, I am enjoying my blogging and tweeting for the sake of it. But I won’t let social media consume me; I will find the right balance.

Writing, Self-Publishing, Indie authors and the Power of Social Media

For some reason, I felt a compulsion to Google the following phrase: Is there a difference between a self-published author and an Indie author? I’m still not sure that I got the answer that I was looking for, but I did come across a lot of material that I have not come across before, and I got that overwhelming feeling of being swamped by too much information. My interior sirens went absolutely berserk. The problem is that you can spend too much time trying to figure out what to do with your “potential best-seller”, rather than spending time editing, or writing new material. I want to be a writer, not a publisher or a marketing genius. Deep sigh. Then the realisation kicks in that you have to be able to do them all, if you want to be a successful author. Most traditional authors don’t have to find their own editor, or book cover designer, but they do have to get involved in the marketing. You have to be out there to get noticed, but the self-publishing world is getting very crowded. Why on earth would someone choose your book over the other thousands, especially when some of the others are free? It’s not a question that I can answer, but what I have realised, in a short space of time, is that blogging and tweeting are probably the most powerful social media tools out there. I’ve not been here for long, but I can feel the potential power. I don’t have the perfect site, yet, but at the moment, what I write is more important than how I present my blog. But I do know that I will have to give my blog a facelift in the future. I am getting better with Twitter, too.

I have kept my website, http://www.defendersofknowledge.com/, up and running because I have had over 1000 visits to it, without any publicising, but if I had discovered WordPress first, then I think I would have done it all through WordPress. I know I still have the option to pay and upgrade my WordPress account, but it’s on the backburner, for now. What I love about my blog is the fact that I have set it up to automatically publish to Facebook and Twitter. I think this is a fantastic feature, and I would recommend this to my fellow bloggers. Since discovering the acquaintance list on Facebook, I have started sending and accepting more friend requests, as I know it is essential for successful marketing via my Facebook Book page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Defenders-of-Knowledge/206456832744827 If I am being completely honest with you, I will say that I never saw the point of Twitter, until very recently. I did sign up for an account, a couple of years back, but I never used it. But because that little voice in my head keeps whispering marketing, I knew I had to take the plunge and get to grips with Twitter. Hint, you can follow me on “Ashia Mirza @ AshPrinceWriter”. Though I was sceptical, I am already seeing the benefits of Twitter – I have already been directed to articles I found interesting, and the school Twitter account keeps me updated with everything my children have forgotten to tell me (no more hidden school reports!). I find it amazing that some bloggers, tweeters and facebook users have thousands of followers (I’m only slightly jealous!). I’m guessing it takes time to build up a social media presence. The key is to keep blogging, tweeting and posting articles that people will find useful, interesting and even amusing. I really wish I could dedicate more time to blogging!

Self-publishing writing schedule and commas

This year, I am aiming to write for half an hour every day. With work and family to look after, it’s extremely difficult to fit in time to write, but I think scheduling it into your routine makes you at least think about it. Today was a bonus, because my half an hour turned into two hours, and I felt very smug by the end of it. This evening, I also spent some time reading up on commas, yet again. Have you noticed that even though there are “rules” for commas, well-known authors don’t seem to abide by them? This makes life very difficult for us “would-bes”, but the advice seems to be unanimous: stick to the rules. This is very unfair as sometimes you feel like sticking it to the rules! I still find myself taking out commas, replacing them, taking them out … you get the drift! (Yes, I know I could take them out  and add them to this paragraph too!)

If you have been following my blog, you may be wondering what I am writing about. Is it the re-write of The Book of Thoth? Unfortunately not; it will be February/March time before I underdo that task, and it’s not down to procrastination! Now, time for the fanfare – I have started writing the second book!! End of fanfare. Yes, I have the second book more or less plotted in my head, and hope to finish writing it by the end of the year. Needless to say, it will be put on hold whilst I rewrite the first. All I can be sure of, is that this year involves a lot of writing, and I believe that’s what any would-be author should be aiming for 🙂

Formatting a self-published paperback book

If I self-publish, it will be through Createspace (CS). There are lots of other options out there, but I decided that CS was the easiest option for me. I have been through most of the processes with CS, up to receiving my second proof, and I haven’t add any problems (other than deciding that I would try the traditional publishing route first!).

Note – this blog refers to a paperback book and not an e-book.

CS has templates which you can download for the size of book that you have in mind. I had already written my book before I discovered CS, so I had to format my book afterwards. There’s plenty of advice on the CS website to show you how to do this, but here are a few tips:

1) Font – choose a font for your headings and narrative text, and make sure it is consistent throughout the whole manuscript. I used mainly Garamond for the majority of the text, and Times for my headings. Justify the main text (sorry if I am stating the obvious, but this is done by selecting the “Justify Text” option in the paragraph tab in Word, or CTRL J)

2) Page numbering – add page numbers using Word. If there are pages at the beginning and end, where you don’t want the numbers to appear, remember to select or deselect  “link to previous”. This option is available when you are in “headers or footers” in the design menu. Look it up, if you are unsure.

3) Margins – follow the CS guidelines for your book size. The gutter setting will vary depending on the number of pages in your book (think thickness of the book). See CS help pages.

4) Widow/orphans – this is automatically set in Word, but it can make the top and bottom lines in your book look out of sync, so you may want to sort out yourself. If you are unsure, Google it!

5) Make sure there are no blank lines in your header or footer, as it will appear in your book. I noticed that in my first proof, the top line of the even page was lower than the top line of the odd page. This was because of an empty line in the header!

6) Drop caps – add a drop caps at the beginning (if you want to!)

7) Page break – make sure you have one at the end of each chapter.

8) Search for double spaces and replace with one space – I was amazed at how many extra spaces I had inadvertently entered into my manuscript!

9) Images – follow the CS guidelines for pixel size. I think they have to be 300dpi. You can change this in Photoshop Elements of Paint or whatever you have access to. Also, see PDF below.

10) PDF – I changed my word document to PDF before uploading to CS. I was lucky enough to have access to Adobe, but I did have to fiddle with the image size settings (open up Adobe, select Edit, then Preferences and amend image size to 300dpi). There are some free online tools which you can use to convert your document to PDF. You know what I am going to say – Google for more info – that’s how I learnt!

11) Paragraphs – I guess this should have been higher up! Use the paragraph option in word as opposed to “tabbing” or “free spacing”.

12) Don’t forget to add your copyright page, acknowledgements etc.

The first time I uploaded my manuscript to CS, I only had 3 issues, so I was well chuffed with that. Two of the issues were to do with image size, and the other was to do with embedding an image. I sorted these out in Adobe.

The Book of Thoth looks amazing in paperback format! I keep picking up the book and flicking through the pages 🙂

I am at the stage now, where after amending the errors in my second proof, I can upload again and order the next proof. Then, when I am happy with the proof, I can approve the proof on CS and I am a few clicks away from my book being available on Amazon. I’m still tempted! However, as you will know from the beginning of my blog, and previous blogs, I am trying the traditional publishing route first (fingers crossed!). Good luck if you end up self-publishing before me!

Check out my last blog if you need help with the cover.

The Self-Published Book Cover

So I thought I had better get back to the self-publishing advice. Today, I’m going to concentrate on the book cover.

Tip of the day: get someone else to design a cover for you (unless of course you are a budding artist as well as a writer).

The thing is, I doubt many people know someone who will design their cover for free, so it could be costly. If you can afford it, great,  go ahead, but if you can’t, what do you do? Use one of the Createspace (CS) covers?

Sure why not? It’s the easy option and better than nothing.

The only other option, is to design the cover yourself. BUT REMEMBER it still needs to fit into the CS template!

I designed a cover myself using Photoshop Elements and I’ll be honest with you, it was pretty infuriating, but annoyingly addictive. I’m actually referring to Photoshop Elements as infuriating, and not the whole design process. I ended up watching lots of tutorials on YouTube, just to figure out how to use the software! Tip: you can download a trial of Photoshop Elements for free. When your trial period runs out, keep the program running and don’t shutdown your computer, and it will remain active.

For The Book of Thoth, I knew I wanted a picture of Thoth in the background, so I took lots of pictures of Thoth at the British Museum and adapted one of those. I also designed my own logo as on my website:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Defenders-of-Knowledge/206456832744827

I used the logo as the letter O in Thoth.

I surrounded the front cover and back cover wording with hieroglyphs.

Back cover, I hear you say. Yes! You have to design the back cover, too. Obviously, the back cover needs to include the blurb. Once you are happy with the design, then you upload and submit to CS. They will email you back and let you know whether it has been accepted or not. Sounds easy, hey?

There is a bit more to it than that. So here’s a list of things to remember:

1) Book cover size – make sure you adjust your page  to be the same size as the book cover, before you start designing.

2) Always save you work!

3) The CS template has a border area where you are not allowed to have any text or anything that’s important to your cover. That’s because it will be cut off when printed!  I found that this area varied between proofs, so keep this area subtly blended in with the rest of the cover.

4) Always save your work!

5) Make sure you get someone to read and “spellcheck” your blurb, I only noticed an error on the second proof!

6) Always, always save your work.

I was really pleased with the cover I designed, in fact, the only issue I had was with the spine. For some reason, the spine was always a mm or so out on the proofs, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about this. Hopefully, CS will have this problem sorted soon.

If I am unsuccessful in my attempt at finding an agent, and I end up self-publishing my book, then I hope you will all like my cover, too.

To self-publish or not to self-publish that is the question

Now that I am nearly self-published, I am having doubts. Should I try harder to get published through the more traditional route i.e. via an agent or a publisher? At the moment, my gut instinct is that I should. Ouch! After a whole year of learning the self-publishing trade. What am I thinking? But I’m a firm believer in following your feelings. (Search your feelings, Luke, you know it is true, I am your father.  I know a few Star Wars quotes, courtesy of one of my sons!)

I know some of my close followers will be disappointed, but I’m hoping they will be supportive too, once they know my reasons why. The main reason is that if I want to improve my writing, then I need to enlist some professional help. Previously, the cost of approaching a literary consultancy has put me off, but now I think about it, the same applies to anything. Learning to play tennis yourself is very different to coaching from a pro. You will get better with professional advice. However, it still doesn’t mean you will be a pro yourself, but you may get to county level or club level. And maybe going up that one level in my writing is what I need.

Tip – when you start writing your book, put away £5-£10 a month in a “writing fund”. This can be used in the future for literary advice, copy-editing or proofreading.

The chances are that after my “literary advice”, I may have to rewrite a lot of the book. That is another reason why I chose the self-publish option. Lets face it, you can get sick at the thought of editing the book again! But if rewriting will make the book better, surely I should do it? After a year of no editing, the thought of rewriting chapters does not seem as bad as before. Then there is the doubt again, what if I’m not good enough to rewrite it to the next level? Well, you don’t know till you try 🙂

The self-publish route is always open, but once you self-publish, the traditional publishing route becomes limited. I don’t think I have tried hard enough.

Read the following:

http://peggyblair.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/how-many-agents-should-you-query-before-giving-up/?blogsub=confirmed#blog_subscription-3

Step 2 Self-publishing

Enid Blyton sells millions of books worldwide and, if we listen to writing experts, apparently her writing is terrible. So there’s hope for us all – hey? Is a good story enough, or do you need to be a good writer, too? Common sense says the latter, as surely writing is a craft which improves over time? The problem is, as a would-be “good writer” trying to establish myself as a self-published author,  I am already thinking about all the mistakes that I have made as I write the first entry to this blog, and my brain is screaming at me to stop and to go back and to correct my grammar. As a blogger I am thinking do I really care if I miss out commas, question marks and write terribly constructed sentences? And here lies my first dilemma. Yes I do care, but not enough to pay someone to grammar check my blog, or to spend hours rewriting my blog 🙂 I would much rather spend that time writing my second book, or in my case, checking through the proof which arrived (finally!) in the post today – hurray!

(My second dilemma – will a reader of my blog mind if I use smiley faces?)

NOTE – it took almost 4 weeks to receive my proof through the post from Createspace (CS). Factor this into your timescales, unless you plan on paying for premium postage. Does it help if I put all the important bits in bold, so you can skip the other bits?

The facts are:

Terrible writers have written bestselling books.

Great writers have written books that nobody reads.

Truthfully? I’d be happy to fall into either category.

My guide on how to be a great writer:

Read, read and read some more (wish I had more time to read).

Write, write and write some more (wish I had more time to write).

Step 2 Self-Publishing

If you think there is just one guide out there that tells you everything that you want to know, then you are mistaken. Everybody’s journey in life is different, and so is everybody’s journey in self-publishing. Some of you may already have written a book, some of you may be further along (like myself). I found the following useful on my journey:

Writers’ &Artists’ Yearbook

Writers’ &Artists’ Yearbook Guide to Getting Published.

Collins Improve Your Grammar

Self-Printed: The Sane person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (written by a self-published author, Catherine Ryan Howard) (e-book)

Building your book for kindle (e-book)

Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle (e-book)

Forums on createspace

Youtube tutorials (on photoshop elements, mainly, but it’s also helped with my blogging!)

General googling whenever I was stuck. What would we do without the internet?