Dream Big/Plan Smart Notes

Slide 1

HI everyone, I’m Elizabeth Harmon, and I’m very glad you’re here. Thanks for giving up a Saturday in the middle of back to school season, and I hope that the next two hours gives you a chance to think about something besides shopping lists. This afternoon, we’re going to look at where we want to be this coming year, and create a roadmap to help us get there.

A little about me: I’m the author of seven romances, five are published, three are traditionally pubbed by Carina Press, two are indie releases. My debut series Red Hot Russians is sports romance set in competitive figure skating. By day, I’m a reference library associate, and also teach classes on Self-Publishing at a community college in my area. I’m also a married mom of two sons, both college students, so like all of you, I juggle writing around a lot of responsibilities.  This year, I’ve taken time to work on my marketing and website, and look forward to plunging into a new writing project this fall.

Creating this workshop– which is based on a session I presented at Spring Fling 2018, which is my RWA chapter’s bi-annual conference, was also an occasion for me to evaluate and revise my own plan, to get on track for the fall.

Slide 2

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Slide 3

That was pretty much my reaction too. I’ve worked in Corporate America. I know all about strategic plans full of meaningless gobbeldy-gook.  I also was a self-employed freelance writer for a long time, and every year, usually around January I’d start thinking, “yeah…I ought to have a business plan.” So I’d Google “how to write a business plan”, and dig into the process, which was always geared to people like this guy…

Slide 4

It was all about numbers, business-y stuff. Calculate my incremental sales percentage. What does that even mean? If I knew, I’d have my MBA and I’d be making a lot more money. So year after year, I continued to ignore this very basic practice.

Slide 5

But in 2015, as I was trying to figure out my way as a newly published author, I read a series of articles in Romance Writers Report– I have them listed at the end of the presentation, which helped shift my thinking. Creating a business plan and thinking strategically was really just a matter of thinking about what I wanted to accomplish and what I needed to get there– whether that was time, money, or just a sense of direction.

It made me stop thinking about numbers, and start thinking about how to use what I had at my disposal.  Which brought me back to three basic things we all possess: Time, Talent and Treasure.

We all have these things, but they look different for each person and none are unlimited.  So what’s the best way to allocate them?  That’s what we’ll be talking about this afternoon.

Slide 6

What’s nice about this method is that components of the plan build off one another.

This afternoon we’ll work through six steps. I’ll explain each one, give examples of what my components look like, then give you time to work on your own.

We’ll start with a broadly focused Vision Statement, define what’s most important to use and create a list of Values and Strategies to those values into actions. We’ll use that to create a Mission Statement which serves as a roadmap, as we set Goals, and look at the specific steps we’ll need to accomplish them, our Tactics. Lastly, we’ll look at the resources we have available, and identify gaps we need to fill, as well as brainstorm ways to make that happen.

Slide 7

I have learned a lot from the process over the years I’ve done it.  It takes a little time and effort to create the first plan, but subsequent plans go more quickly.

And they’ll be different– not just in terms of what you want to accomplish, but also why. Some things will drop off your plan, new things will replace them. That’s okay. The point isn’t to be rigid but to consciously adapt– rather than just reacting to whatever comes along.

I like to create a printed document I can refer back to, and use a template from Publisher. Use whatever is most comfortable, and accessible. I brought a copy of my 2019 plan so you can see how I use it, and how the information we’re going to talk about is integrated.

No plan works perfectly, and recognizing that from the start can take a lot of the pressure off.  In 2018, my plan was completely disrupted two months in, after I started a new full-time job. Four months later,  when was laid off from that job and had to find a new one, the book I’d intended to write was shoved to the backburner.  In October, I started a new position, I had no desire to go back and work on that project. So I came into this year with no writing project at all. Instead, I focused on some of the things I’d always meant to tend to, but never had time for, such as creating a new website. Planning gave me the focus to work on what I could, and not feel guilty about what I wasn’t working on.

Which leads me to my next point: Not every goal is going to be met, and that’s okay.  Simply taking the time to think through your goals and resources and create a plan, even if it’s not perfect, will help you achieve more than you would have with no plan at all.

Slide 8

Because we’re writers, I’ll start with Talent, which is the foundation of what we do. The first steps of the process involve looking at why we do what we do.  In fact, the entire point of the first part of this exercise is looking at identifying your own foundation and core values…whatever they happens to be.

Slide 9

No matter where we are in our career, there’s always the feeling that we need to be doing more. Taking a little time to think about what’s important to us, will allow us to create goals that reflect those things and to be more deliberate in what we do, rather than dashing around trying to do everything.

The three personal statements we’re going to work on narrow the scope from:

Vision Statement- the broadest and most general

A list of Values/Strategies- still broad but a little more specific

Mission Statement-  a bit more specific

Slide 10

Our Vision Statement is our personal logline. 

We’re all familiar with loglines, we do them for our books, and also for our brands. But have you ever done one for yourself on a personal level?

Why do we need them? This statement will become our compass– pointing us in the right direction in terms of the big picture.

Think about quotes on your wall at home. Something you have tucked in your purse. A line of poetry, Scripture, or philosophy. If you have something in mind…take a moment to jot it down.

A Vision Statement uses affirmative, assertive language…to describe what inspires you, and what matters to you.

It probably won’t change dramatically year to year. But it can. Mine has. 

Slide 11

For several years I’d used a verse from Proverbs: Commit your plans to the Lord and you will succeed.  But the word “succeed” kept tripping me up, because my definition of success was too focused on best-seller lists, making lots of money. That’s great if I write bestsellers, but some reflection taught me that really isn’t the reason why I write. I write for the love of a story, rather than focusing so much on its commercial appeal. And my Vision Statement spoke “money” to me. So I changed it.

My new Vision Statements….and yes, you can have more than one are:

The first is a reminder that whatever happens in my writing career, something good will come from it and the second is permission to do what I’ve always done– write the books I want to read, which don’t otherwise exist.

So between St. Paul and Toni Morrison I feel like I’m on the right track.

Slide 12

We’re going to take about 10 minutes for you to work on your Vision Statement. You might have something in mind already, but if not, I’ve brought along some lists of quotes to inspire you. I’ll put copies out to share, or if you prefer, you can pull up the lists on your phone or laptop. The websites are listed on the Resources page at the end of the presentation.

When you find the quote that feels right, write it down on the next to last page with the under the heading Vision Statement


Anyone like to share what you chose and why?

Slide 13

So if Vision is our COMPASS, our values and strategies define the impact we’re going to have on the world.

When we talk about the world, we can mean something far reaching, or focused on the world right around us– our community, a smaller groups of readers or writers, friends, family, whomever you want to impact.

Think about your Vision Statement. These values conveyed in this statement, are clues what matters to you personally, and what kind of an impact you want to have with your writing and writing related activities.

Narrows the focus further onto specific activities that will guide our Mission Statement, which defines the goals we’ll set and the ways we’ll spend our time.

Slide 14

As an example, I’ve listed some of my values– which are the things that are important to me, and the strategies I use to bring them to the world.

Slide 15

Next, we’re going to work on your Values/Strategies list.  Start by brainstorming a list of words that describe who you are and what you stand for. These can be things like kindness, perseverance, positivity, honesty, persistence, helping others. Come up with as many as you can, then group similar items under a single word. For example; persistence, consistency, diligence all have similar meanings. Narrow your list down to about 10 words that describe you.

Next, consider what actions these words suggest.  Perseverance might suggest finishing a book rather than abandoning a project. Helping others could mean critiquing another writer’s work, it could mean serving on a committee in your chapter, it could mean teaching or mentoring. What does “success” or fulfillment mean to you? “Writing more,” “writing faster,” “effectively promoting my books,” etc.

List the actions on the worksheet under Values/Strategies


Anyone like to share what your list and what they inspired?

Slide 16

Now it’s time to craft our strategies into a mission statement, which is your personal roadmap .

Go to the strategies list, and get even more specific. Instead of “writing romance,” what kind of romance will you write? What values will it convey. If leadership is important, how will you lead? Who will you lead? These are the things you want to include in your Mission Statement.

A mission statement uses assertive language– I will, I commit, rather than I want to, I hope to, I’ll try to, etc.

This may change year to year as your career evolves. Early on, I focused on networking, learning and building sales. Not that I’m not focused on those things still, but my primary focus has shifted a bit.

Slide 17

Here’s an example of mine, an old one and the one I’m using right now.  Since  I have shifted from writing full-time, to working full time, to working part-time, teaching part-time and writing part-time my mission statement has changed to reflect that.

Breaking it down:

The word professional reminds me that this isn’t a hobby I’m approaching casually– or ignorantly.  Unique touches upon my Vision Statement– one of them. Reaching readers to the best of my ability. I don’t have hours each day to work on promo, this acknowledges that… and shifts further away from the whole “hit a list” definition of success.

Continually improving craft and business knowledge– these are things I love doing, and can accomplish by coming to conferences, reading, taking online workshops.

Sharing my knowledge with others speaks to teaching.

Slide 18

Now it’s time to craft our strategies into a Mission Statement that will guide how we use our time.

Return to your Values and Strategies lists and get more specific, further defining what you want to accomplishHere’s where you can get even more specific in terms of actions, your audience, your genre, etc.  Consider non-writing activities…do you want teach others, serve in a leadership position, launch an editing business?

Keep in mind that this is a draft, so you’ll likely refine it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s a place to start. Add it to your worksheet under Mission Statement


Anyone like to share what you wrote?

Slide 19

This is a good place to take a short break, before we jump into time management. We’ll come back at TEN MINUTES LATER. Meanwhile, if you want to ask me any questions, come on up!

Now that we’ve figured out what we’re going to do with our time, now we’ll look at ways to accomplish our goals.

Slide 20

Our Values and Strategies had a baby– the Mission Statement.  Now our Mission Statement is going to give birth to our Goals.

Goals are the focused objectives we want to accomplish:  Publish a book, Query agents, Re-do our website, etc. Depending on how large those goals are, and how much time we have to devote to them, we might choose three to five. Any more than that, which tends to be my trap, you get overwhelmed and discouraged because you don’t accomplish as much as you hoped.

Think about your work style. Are you someone who can juggle multiple goals simultaneously, or do you work better concentrating on a single goal, completing it, and moving on to something else. When I was at home writing full time, juggling several projects was fairly easy. But when I started working a non-writing job, I didn’t have nearly as much time to devote to writing. Jumping from thing to thing was too distracting and I never felt like I was getting ahead. This year, I’ve focused on just one or two projects at the same time, and I accomplished a lot more. While I worked on my website, and developed classes, I didn’t write. Now that the website is finished, and the courses have been developed, I’ll turn my attention to writing.

Goal setting helps identify activities that don’t further your mission. Chances are, new opportunities– or distractions– will surface. When they do, knowing what your mission is from the beginning can help us decide if this new thing is something we want to spend our time on. For example, if one of my goals is to teach, and I Iearn about an opportunity to present at a conference, that might be something I want to pursue, but I would also be aware that I might have to set aside something else.

Goals should be SMART– which means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. While it’s okay to reach for the stars, there should also be some goals that are within your reach, otherwise it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s also important that they be something you can control. Hitting a best-seller list or finaling in the RITAs are wonderful things, but they’re not something you have control over. Better goals might be to join in a boxed set or anthology project that could potentially hit a best-seller list; or enter your book in the RITAs.

Slide 21

Our goals tell us what we want to accomplish in the broader sense…but how does that translate into what we do day by day?

Think about the Strategies you listed earlier: Mine are Write/Edit/Publish, Improve, Reach, Teach. Your Mission Statement defined them a little more. Your Goals are focused objective for each strategy.

You can also work your way from broad to specific by going back to your brainstorm list, taking a few of those big goals and breaking them down into steps you’ll need to get there (aka) Tactics.

Slide 22

Some of my tools: a dry erase board, paper planner with each day divided into columns and time tracking sheets. 

Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It, encourages you to think about the time you have available during a week, after plugging in hours for work, family, personal time and yes, sleep.

While I don’t use track all the time, but when I have a lot to accomplish it can help me see how I’m allocating my time, and where I might be able to find more hours to put toward my goals.

Slide 23

Now we’re going to turn our Mission Statement into specific goals, and break those goals down into steps we’ll need to accomplish them. From your Mission Statement, come up with 3-5 things you would like to accomplish this year. Beneath each one, list the smaller tasks you need to complete them.  Some goals will only have a few tactics, other goals will have many. That’s fine. It just means you’re going to need more time for that goal, and that even if you don’t meet it, you’re making progress.

Enter your goals and tactics into the Monthly Goals page.


Anyone like to share what you wrote?

Slide 25

The final step in the process is identifying and managing the resources you’ll need to meet your goals.

This step might require additional research, especially if your goals are things like Attend RWA National in 2020, or Self-Publish a book. You might not know the exact cost of attending National, hotels, flights, meals, etc., but you can start with an estimate and work from there.

If you estimate registration at say, $500, airfare at $1000, hotel at $1000 and another $500 for meals and incidentals, you can use a preliminary figure of around $3000. With roughly 11 months between now and RWA2020, you know you’re going to need to set aside about $275 each month between now and then to cover the cost.

Anyone who’s done basic budgeting knows these steps, but thinking them through when you’re setting your goals can do two things:

It can help you prioritize budget intensive goals. For instance, if funds aren’t unlimited, you might have to decide that attending RWA AND self-publishing in the same year, aren’t feasible. Maybe going to RWA to learn everything you can about self-publishing might be a better use of your resources, so you can tackle self-publishing next year,.

It can also help you find creative ways to manage your resources. If attending RWA2020 is a must, you can look for ways to trim your cost, such as finding roommates, combining the conference with your family’s vacation.

Slide 26

I felt like a real professional when I graduated from a sheet of notebook paper to an Excel spreadsheet, which I’m showing a little of here. On the left I have expenses on the top, revenue sources at the bottom. Each column lists the month that the expense will come due.

This process will be ongoing, as you refine your plans. Going back and looking at credit card or bank statements from previous years can also give you an idea of what you spent when, such as conference registration, memebership renewals, advertising etc.

And if you are published, or are going to be– either traditionally or self-published, open a dedicated checking account for your writing business. It will help you manage your income and expenses a lot more easily.

Slide 27

The final piece of our plan is a tentative budget that determines how much our goals will cost, and identifies potential revenue sources, or possibly, creative ways we can meet some of those expenses.

If you already know your costs, great, otherwise, you can do quick internet searches, or share information with one another, especially authors you know who have self-published and might be willing to share.


Anyone like to share what you learned?

Slide 28

I used this illustration of a baseball player for a couple of reasons:

Baseball players have a psychologically demanding job, because hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult feats in sports. Even good players strike out at least half the time.  Sometimes they swing and miss, sometimes they don’t swing at all, and sometimes they hit the ball with the sweet spot of the bat and knock it out of the park. But they’re constantly assessing their progress and making adjustments when they need to.

That’s what you’re doing too. Not every goal you set for this year is going to be met. But my guess is, you’re in this writing thing for longer than just a year. So your plan will stick around longer too.  There are some things you can do to improve your chances of meeting at least some of your goals:

Make it real. Talk about it, with your critique partners, with your family. Get them excited about the goals you’ve set, and update them on your progress. Celebrate when you achieve a goal, or even get a challenging tactic accomplished.  I also recommend you print a copy of your plan and keep it someplace where you’ll see it often. I keep mine in my yearly planner, where it serves as a bookmark for the current month. Your goals will guide your monthly and weekly to-do lists.

Keeping your plan handy also helps you check in regularly.  Your Vision, Values and Mission will remind you why you’re doing this. Tracking your expenses and savings can help you gauge your progress.  When adjustments are needed, because of life demands, budget issues, or whatever, you’re in a better position to make them and stay on track.

That’s the process. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and found it helpful, and best of luck with your goals for the coming year.


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Publish It Yourself! Session 4 Lecture Notes

Slide 4

Promotion can feel overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of promotional opportunities out there, and more every day. It can feel like you need to be everywhere, and do everything, which is impossible– especially if you’re writing the next book.

So I’ve narrowed the discussion down to what I’ll call Must-Dos, in that they’re a good foundation for you to start. Some may consider even this too much, and if  that fits with your personal book goals, that’s fine.  But for authors who want to promote their books and try to reach new readers, but don’t want to feel married to their computers, this is a good starting point. 

Online, you should have an author website, an Amazon Author Page, a Goodreads page, a social media presence all of which can help you get reviews for your book.

Your in person promotion can include networking with booksellers, libraries, fans and other authors, through live events like signings, book talks and conferences. Print copies of your book are a must if you’re considering any of these, and marketing materials that support your author brand are also nice to have

Slide 6

Who here has started a website?

As we talked about in Session 2, your beginning author website should include basic information about you and your book. That can include your biography, a photo, and information about your book, like the cover, the description, reviews, bonus content which can be a lot of fun to create, and links to your sales pages w/the various online retailers.

It can also include a mailing list sign-up, links to your social media accounts, and possibly, a blog.

Blogging can be extremely helpful for non-fiction authors to establish their expertise in their subject area, share excerpts from their book, or posts about topics that are related to the book, but not actually in it. For fiction authors, it’s helpful as well, to give readers a behind the scenes look at the book, your writing process, or things about you that aren’t related to writing at all, but make you an interesting well-rounded person. These can include your job, other hobbies, your family, pets, food, whatever you choose.

Slide 7

This is my new website, still under construction, but I’ll walk you through some of the things I’ve done.

My domain name is elizabethharmonauthor, which matches my Facebook page name and my Twitter handle, eharmonauthor. 

At the top is my author tagline, “Feel good fiction with a dash of different, and authentic heart” and I’ve used red as an accent color throughout the site, to give my marketing a cohesive look.  I have a Welcome letter that talks about my writing and my books, and I hope will entice visitors to look around.

The page on the left is actually the last page of the website, and it’s where I plan to host periodic contests and giveaways which I’ll promote through social media. The idea is to build traffic to the site, and improve it’s visibility, while introducing more people to my books.

Slide 8

Each of my books has a dedicated page on my website, that includes the cover, descriptive copy, buy links, blurbs from reviewers, and that fun bonus content I mentioned.

I created trailers for my books using Windows Movie Maker, which I’ve also posted on YouTube and other social media.  I also have photos that relate to the book and characters.

Slide 9

This is the contact page which features a link to contact me through email, links to my social media, and a mailing list sign-up. Actually the mailing list sign up is on each of the pages. I’ve heard said that the mailing list is an authors most valuable promotional tool. I’m not sure I agree with that– I’ve honestly found in person networking and social media to be more effective, but its still worth building a list.  I have added subscribers through my mailing list, through giveaways I’ve run on romance blogs, social media, and also through a sign-up sheet at book signings.

I began by using MailChimp which is an excellent, easy to use platform that’s free until you reach 2000 subscribers. After that, it’s $35 a month, which was more than I wanted to pay, since I only send email when I have news to share– no more than 3-6 times a year. When I redid my site, I added a mailing list plug in which is free. I’m still learning to use it, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but I can’t complain about the price.

Another thing I plan to add before my next release is a media kit about myself and my work. I created it to help with outreach for my previous release and found it enormously helpful.  During a book release, authors are asked to provide the same information over and over, so having that collected in one easy file was great.

Slide 10

The last component of my website is my blog.  I call it Ramblings of a Romance Writer Girl which incorporated my original domain name, and also the sweet nickname my husband bestowed on me back when I first started writing. The blog mostly covers writing or book-related topics. I don’t write a lot about my personal life or my family– because their lives aren’t fair game for posts.  Occasionally, I’ll write about controversies going on in the publishing world– or the larger one– but generally I keep things light and friendly and want everyone to feel welcome. But a blog is a very personal thing, so what’s most important is that it’s an authentic expression of who you are.

A few blogging guidelines- 300 words is a good average length. Use photos that you’ve taken when possible, as it avoids the issue of copyright infringement and having to get permission to use an image. That said, there are some good options out there for royalty-free images– Creative Commons offers a search feature to let you search for photos that are free for public use, or ask only for attribution. You can also subscribe to a stock art service, which is a good idea if you’re also doing a lot book promotion creating ads and book trailers. These can run about $100 for a year. I’ve used Deposit Photo and like being able to go in and quickly find a photo when I need one.

Lastly, promote your blog posts on your social media accounts, your Amazon Author page and Goodreads. You can do this either by manually posting links to your blog, or by setting up an automatic cross-posting option.

Slide 11

Which brings me to the Amazon Author page.

This is a  neat little feature that you can access through Amazon Author Central and includes a lot of the same info that your website has. It’s also an opportunity for readers to follow you and learn about new releases, blog posts, and more. It’s also where people are shopping for books, so it’s very useful to authors that people visiting your author page have easy access to buy more of your books.

Can you use this instead of a website? You could, but Amazon owns the real estate and makes the rules, you don’t. Also if you’re selling on other retail sites beside Amazon, not all of them offer comparable pages, so you’re missing valuable opportunity to connect with those customers.

Slide 12

Who is familiar with Goodreads?

If you’re not, you should definitely get acquainted. It’s a social media site dedicated to readers and authors. Most users join as readers to list and review the books they’ve read, but GR also allows authors to set up a page for themselves and for their books.

Books can include links to your social media, retailer buy links and more. Mine links to my social media pages, my Amazon page and also to my blog. I’ve put the book trailers and a short excerpt of each book up too.

GR offers a paid advertising program, and opportunities to do giveaways.

Slide 13

All of these online connections can be used to help you get one of the most important promotional tools– reviews.  Here are a few Dos and Don’ts for getting them.

First, reach out to bloggers and reviewers in your genre, if possible well ahead of your publication. Because most bloggers and reviewers are overwhelmed by requests, it can take months to get a review Follow their submission instructions exactly, be polite and be patient.

It’s fine to encourage your readers to leave reviews on Goodreads and retail sites. The reviews don’t have to be long, a star rating and a few sentences count, and will help boost your visibility and your social credibility. That goes for less flattering reviews, too. Think about it. When you a product with nothing but stellar 5 star reviews, what’s your reaction?  Having some more critical reviews gives readers a sense that your book is being reviewed by actual readers and can be believed.

Which leads me to our list of Review Don’ts.  Top on the list, is purchase reviews. Like everything else with self-publishing, there are vendors to provide book reviews as well. Some like Kirkus have credibility, but are very expensive, roughly $500. If you’re going to work your personal contacts for reviews– and most authors do– caution them not to disclose your relationship in the review, because Amazon will take the review. While they’re lax about enforcing some rules, they’re strict on that one.

If you’re in Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited, where your payment is determined by the number of pages read, don’t resort to click-farming, book stuffing and other sleazy tactics. While Amazon doesn’t seem as vigilant about police this, your fellow authors will hate you.

Waiting until release day to start blogger coverage. It’s helpful to have reviews and coverage up when your book goes live, and the bigger your release day splash is, the more people are likely to find you. So because bloggers are so backed up, it can take months for a review to post, so start early.  Keep in mind, that these are best practices, and advance coverage isn’t always possible. Promoting your book is a long game, rather that a short one

Slide 14

Social media is the biggest piece of your online promotion. I’ll go through each of the major sites to give you an idea of how they work, and who is using them. Remember, you don’t have to be everywhere. Decide which is the best for reaching your audience and focus your efforts. Most of these sites offer paid advertising to help expand your reach.

Slide 15

I’m going in order of the most used social media sites.

You Tube is number one  with both adults and teens, and as you probably know is a video sharing site. It’s a great place for your book trailers, you can also use it for video talks about writing, or your book topic. Authors with non-fiction books can use it for demonstrations, to record live audience events, or little clips that relate to your book topic. Fiction authors can use it much the same way.

Facebook is the second most widely used social media site, with a demographic that’s growing older each year. This probably has more to do with the core audience aging, rather than a big influx of new users who happen to be seniors, but if your ideal reader is over 35, this is definitely a place you want to be. You can be on Facebook two ways– with either a Personal Profile, which is what most social users have, and a Professional Page, which is what businesses use. Personal Profiles collect Friends, Pages collect Likes and Followers. While you can promote your book on a Personal Profile, you’re capped at a certain number of Friends (2000, I think) and being too promotional is going to annoy people.  There’s also the issue of keeping your personal life and author life separately.  I use a Page as my primary posting point, and share it with my Personal Profile. For items I only want close friends and family to see, I post it directly to my Personal Profile, and don’t put it on the Page at all.

Slide 16

Instagram is popular with teens and young adults, and emphasizes visual content. It’s owned by Facebook, so there’s the opportunity to link your accounts and share content. If you’re a YA author, but also have strong adult readership, this might be a good strategy to consider.

Pinterest is an excellent social media site to consider if your audience is women, as mine is, and if you enjoy posting photos and image-based content. I know of fiction authors who create Pinterest boards for each of their books, with pictures of characters, locations, things that inspired them. It’s also a platform that doesn’t need a lot of interaction, so if time or being “present” on social media is an issue, Pinterest might be a good fit.

Slide 17

If you’re trying to reach teens and young adults, Snapchat should be part of your mix. Posts can be different types of content, similar to FB, but the difference is that the content is short lived, so there’s always something new. Since I don’t use this one, I can’t speak specifically about how it works best but there’s a lot of good information out there, and I’d advise, as with any of these others, to simply open an account and observe other users, especially following other authors for ideas.

LinkedIn is a professional site, and if you’re a fiction author, it’s probably not going to be part of your mix. Non-fiction authors however should consider this, especially if your book sells your professional expertise, such as tax or legal advice, job hunting, or if you want to use your book to obtain other work– such as freelance writing assignments.

Slide 18

The last social media option I’ll talk about is Twitter, which is used by about a quarter of U.S. adults and a third of teens. Twitter’s short post format fits the elevator pitch format well, but it’s really geared toward conversation. If you’re a person who likes to share your opinions, start debates, this can be a really good way to interact with readers, and have them get to know you and what you care about.

Slide 21

Like in business, marketing yourself as an author is all about making connections. But instead of networking at your local Chamber of Commerce mixer, you’re going to be networking with other authors. We’ve talked already about writers groups, and I should mention that there are also lots of online writers groups you can join, particularly on Facebook, and likely those will lead you to in person events like workshops and conferences.

If your book is in print, you’ll be reaching out to local booksellers as well. Many will offer a local author a book signing, and this can be lots of fun– though I’ll be honest, there are times when I’ve not sold a single book at one of these events. If possible, partner with a couple of other local authors, and promote the event though social media posts targeting a certain geographic area.  Booksellers will often want to work with you on a consignment basis, which means that you provide books for them to sell and set the price, while they take a percentage of the sale price, Many have written policies for independent authors, so check their website before you approach them. It’s also helpful to visit the store and see what they carry.  We have a lovely independent bookstore in my area, that’s happy to carry books by local authors– ‘provided they don’t write romance novels.

Libraries will hold events catering to writers, so this is a good place to network with other authors, and also to meet the people at the library.  Libraries are awesome places to work on your book too, so this can be a great way to open a door. You might offer to give a program about your book’s topic, or donate a book to the library. Some libraries hold large group signings, and though I’ve done several of these, I find them more useful for networking with writers and library staff, than for selling books.

Slide 22

If you’re planning to do in person events, print copies of your book are a necessity. As of yet, there’s no easy way to sign eBooks, other than using post cards, or printed samples. Most often, book signing purchases are impulse buys, so if you don’t have copies readily available, it’s hard to take advantage of that.

You can purchase books for signings at a discounted rate through retailers or your aggregator, if they offer print. Order well in advance, because the turnaround can be slow. Get as many as you can comfortable store- but I’d say no more than 50. They’re also great to donate for prize baskets, libraries, and online giveaways.

Slide 23

When you’re doing a signing, you’ll want to have an attractive table that might have some items that attract people to come over and talk to you about your book. I have a Team USA scarf draped across my table which pertains to my Olympic figure skater characters, and I’ve also given out Russian candy, which is a great conversation starter.

Here’s an excellent article about social media that includes examples of authors effectively using each platform:


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Publish It Yourself! Session 3 Lecture Notes

Slide 2

This week we’ll talk about many of the decisions you’ll need to make in regard to where you’ll sell your book, how much you’ll sell it for and many other details. I’ll also walk you through some best practices for laying out your print and eBook, as well as cleaning up your Word document to make conversion to print and digital easy. Last, we’ll go step by step through the process of setting your book up on Amazon.

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Slide 3

Who would like to share their next steps?

Slide 5

First, your publishing platform, which is the means you use to produce your book and get it into the marketplace.

You have two options; you can work directly with each retailer or you can use an aggregator. We’ll get more into the pros and cons of each approach in a minute, but if you choose to go direct, here’s where you’ll be placing your book. Amazon, which is the biggest book retailer, B&N which is struggling but still has a loyal following, the iTunes book store, and Kobo, which is very popular in Canada and Europe. You don’t have to choose all of them, but these are the major players.

Some of the retail sites allow you to create print and audio versions of your books. Amazon will allow you to distribute your print and audio to other retailers, but I can’t say for certain about the others.  Be sure to check their terms of agreement.

Your other option is to use an aggregator, which is a single upload and distribution point for multiple retailers, plus services like Overdrive which provide books to libraries. They also provide sales data, author pages and other services, including an ISBN. I’ve listed the four main aggregators.  Not every retailer works with every aggregator and it’s possible to use an aggregator for certain retailers and work direct with others. Some retailers, including Google Play, currently accept placement only through aggregators.  Agreements change frequently, so it’s a good idea to visit the different sites and see who their retail partners are.

Opening accounts with retailers and aggregators is free, through Ingram Spark has a setup fee of around $100, but is said to offer a higher quality print book than when you get through Amazon’s KDP. If you’re going direct you receive a royalty check directly from each retailer, if you’re using an aggregator, they pay you and deduct 10-15% for their services.

Slide 6

Uploading your book is a fairly easy process, especially if you use an aggregator. Going direct means repeating the process with each retailer, however you have the ability to customize your sales links in the back of your book, which is nice if you’re selling a multiple title series.

Pricing- Aggregators allow you to set your price once and have it posted across all retailers. Going direct means that you go into each retailer’s site and change it. The advantage here is that you have more control over how quickly the change goes into effect, but the downside is the time it takes to actually make the change. Going direct allows you to create customized sales links to your other books sold by that retailer. In other words, a book sold on Barnes and Noble must include sales links only to Barnes and Noble– not Amazon. So if you have multiple books for sale, it’s a benefit to be able to have custom buy links so readers can easily purchase more of your work.

Uploading your book might sound like its difficult, but it isn’t. The book needs to be correctly formatted, which you can either hire someone to do, or do yourself using some tools I’ll talk about in a moment. Again, your choice.

Finally pricing. One of the advantages of self-publishing is the freedom to change your book’s price quickly and easily.  You also get to keep all of your royalties, rather than pay an aggregator for their service.

A disadvantage is that dealing direct with each retailer can be time consuming and confusing.

The biggest advantage to an aggregator is that it’s a single place to upload your book, change prices, change sales copy, on so on.  Draft2Digital, which I use, has a very simple upload interface, and good customer service, which to me is worth paying a little extra, since I find troubleshooting tech stressful and frustrating.

Typically the aggregators provide an ISBN for your book, and offer other benefits, like an author page, a universal sales link, which you can use in the back of your book. The universal link takes readers to a page where they can select the retailer of their choice to purchase your next book. While it’s an extra step in the purchase process, it’s a good workaround for the retailer-specific sales link, and the aggregator sets it up for you.

An aggregator will also provide access to smaller retailers and to retailers and services like Google Play and Overdrive that don’t allow you to upload your work directly.

 They’re paid through a commission of your book’s retail list price—10-15 percent, which come out of the royalties you’re paid by the various retailers.

Slide 7

Related to the question of whether to work direct or use an aggregator is the question of distribution.

Choosing wide distribution means that your book is available with all of the major online retailers, and possibly smaller ones. While the bulk of your sales are probably going to come through Amazon, there are readers who are loyal to the other retailers as well, especially Kobo, which is popular in Canada and Europe.

Going wide means you’ll either use an aggregator, or go direct, as we just talked about.

Finally, it helps more readers discover and purchase your books– especially if you have books available through a traditional publisher, which tend to use wide distribution.

Going exclusive means your book is only available with one retailer– Amazon.  If you enroll in the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program, you’ll also be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which is a subscription service that allows readers to pay a monthly fee and download as many books as they want. Authors are paid from a pool of money, based on the basis of downloads and pages reads. KU authors also have promotional opportunities not offered to authors outside the program. Some authors have made a lot of money being in KU, and for an unknown author, it’s a way for new readers to discover your work.

It’s also a short term commitment, of 90 days and at the end, you can decide whether to re-up or not. Some authors like to release a new book through KU to get the extra promotion offered through the program, and then switch to wide distribution at the end of the first three or six months.

Slide 8

Your book’s ISBN, which is the number used to identify it.  EBooks aren’t required to have one, but print and audio books are.

Aggregators and publishing platforms will offer you a free one, but whomever issues the number will be named as the publisher– whether that’s the retailer, or the aggregator.  If you leave that aggregator or retailer, you can’t take their ISBN with you. You’ll have to assign a new one from your new aggregator, which can be a hassle. I had my books with a different aggregator before I went with Draft2Digital, and when that aggregator closed, I had to relist my books to the retail sites using a new ISBN issued by Draft2Digital. Not fun.

If you are looking at self-publishing as something ongoing, it might make sense to purchase a bundle through Bowker.com. Not only can you keep the same number attached to your book permanently, you will be issued as the publisher. If you want create a little imprint of your own, than you can attach that name to the ISBN and give your book a nice professional touch.  I believe a bundle of 100 ISBNs is around $500, and it’s something I’m considering in a couple of years, when the rights to my books with Carina Press revert back to me.

Slide 9

I included this because the issue of plagiarism comes up frequently when I present on writing and self-publishing.

While I’m not a lawyer, and my comments on copyright comes from a layperson’s perspective, it’s been my understanding that by creating a work you assume ownership. Yes, work is plagiarized but the likelihood of someone swiping your prose– when there is much more visible work out there, is pretty slim. Also when people ask this question, it’s often their idea that they’re worried about someone stealing.  And ideas aren’t subject to copyright.

That said, on the chance that someone does steal your work– and I mean your actual work, not just your idea– having registered copyright will allow you to sue them for infringement. Registering your book with the U.S. Copyright office is fairly simple matter. It can be done online and costs around $50, so if it helps you sleep at night, go for it….UNLESS your first choice is to sell your book to a traditional publisher, and are looking at self-pub as your second choice.

If you are considering submitting your book to a traditional publisher, it can complicate the process because if the publisher buys the book, they’ll submit it for copyright in the author’s name.  I listened to some bad advice that I should have one of my books copyrighted, and when the book sold to a publisher, their lawyers had to undo the copyright I’d done, and have a new one created which was a huge headache and came close to derailing the entire deal.

Digital Rights Management is a way of protecting your work from piracy. In theory this sounds like a good idea, but in practice it can prevent readers from reading your book on both their phone and reader, it can prevent you from distributing free copies of your book to reviewers and contest winners, and if someone gets a new digital reader, they would have to repurchase the book. My trade pub books are not DRM protected which was my publisher’s decision, and I’ve done the same with my self-published books.

Piracy is a bigger worry for well-known authors, so this is a case where obscurity is your friend. For a new author, you’ll probably spend more money on advertising than you lose to pirates, so you can always look at it as another tool for people to discover your work.

Slide 10

There’s no exact way to price your book, other than to look at other books on the market and use that as a guideline. Aggregators allow you to set your price once and have it posted across all retailers. Going direct means that you go into each retailer’s site and change it.  It also allows you to run site-specific promotions, though the other sites will eventually price match your discount. The advantage here is that you have more control over how quickly the change goes into effect, but the downside is the time it takes to actually make the change.

Authors will often price their new release at a lower price for a set period of time, while they’re doing heavy promo, and then raise it when the promotional push winds down.

With print books, the retailer will show the production cost and how much you will make at various price points. Since my print books are primarily a tool for hand-selling at signings, and conferences, where books typically are priced at $12-$15, I have my online price set right around that.

Slide 12

You’re going to layout your digital book a little differently than how a print book is laid out.

One of the biggest things is that page numbers, font size, headers, footers, are irrelevant in a digital book, because the file needs to be flexible enough to fit different devices and reader preferences.

You’ll also want to keep front matter to a minimum. Amazon requires the Table of Contents and the copyright page to be in the front, but everything else should go at the end. This allows readers who are using the Look Inside feature to read a sample (usually the first 10 percent of your book) to actually get a taste of your book, rather than wade through pages of extra stuff.

For the back of the book, this is prime promotional real estate, so your goal should be to encourage readers to purchase your next book, if you have one. Include a sample chapter of your next work, and links to purchase or pre-order it. If you don’t have another book, lead off with a mailing list sign-up, or invitations to follow you on social media, so they can learn about your public appearances, new books, and other things.  Your acknowledgements, about the author section, should go in the back.

Slide 13

The first thing you want to do is a Save As of your manuscript, so if completely mess it up, your original copy is intact. Give the Save As a unique name. I used my book title, then added FORMAT at the end.

Open your duplicated copy, and in the ribbon at the top, under the HOME tab, select the Paragraph symbol, which looks like a backward P. This will show things that are usually hidden, such as spaced indents, tabs and returns.

If you used manual tabs for paragraph indents, you want to delete them, and use the Paragraph indent setting under Paragraph. Click the little arrow at the bottom of the Paragraph heading,

Remove any decorative fonts and dropped capitals at the beginning of your chapters. Keep your fonts and the look of your eBook as simple as possible.

Use the Find and Replace to search for double spaces, and tabs.  To do this, go to Replace and when the box opens, choose Special at the bottom. Click FIND WHAT and then select what you want to replace from the drop down list. Click on REPLACE WITH and type in a single space or in the case of Tabs, nothing at all.

Slide 14

Select Heading 1 for each chapter heading, or heading you want to show up in your TOC. A small dot will appear just to the left of each chapter heading, or heading so that tells you the page break you inserted at the end of the previous chapter comes before the start of this one.

When you’ve finished with these steps, go to the Reference tab to create your TOC

Slide 15

The Table of Contents icon has a drop down. Select it, and go to the bottom to select Custom Table of Contents.

Slide 16

That opens a box that gives you the option to turn off page numbers and use hyperlinks instead of page numbers. Check the box and click okay. The links won’t actually show up until you convert your Word document into digital formats.

Slide 17

There are a number of different converters available for you to look at your book before you upload. One of the more popular is called Calibre (caliber) and it’s free to download.

The bar across the top has a Convert Books function that will take a Word document and create a MOBI, EPUB, PDF and other formats very quickly. It’s an easy way to see if there are problems that you need to fix before the upload.  Calibre also has an Edit Books option which will let you fix problems within the program, but it takes you into HTML code. For some that’s not an issue, for me it is, so I do my fixes within Word and keep doing conversions in Calibre until I like how it looks.

It’s also possible that once you upload, Amazon or your aggregator will flag issues that you need to fix. In that case, it’s the same process of going back into the Word document and making the changes before you try your upload again.

Slide 18

The first step is to know the size of book you want. Amazon will give you various options. For fiction, I like 5.25 x 8. But what you choose is a matter of personal preference.

Amazon offers a print template that you can download and simply follow, to set up your print layout.

If you’re not using this, you should decide how you want to set up your front and end matter. Because your print book won’t have sales links, you can list your other books, include your acknowledgements in either place.

As with digital, you should start by creating a Save As of your MS, turn on the proofing marks, insert page breaks, remove tabs and use the paragraph indent tool I talked about earlier.

Headers, footers and chapter headings should be consistent, but you have more leeway to use decorative fonts.

Finally, you’ll want to decide which pages you want numbered and divide the manuscript into sections which will be numbered a certain way. This can be tricky, so I suggest practicing on a manuscript draft before you try it on your actual book.

Finally, if you are using Ingram Spark, you’ll need to save your book as a PDF-A. Otherwise, Amazon and most other platforms will accept a Word document.

Slide 19

This is where you find the Amazon print template, along with tabs about other topics related to your print book.

The Kindle Direct Publishing site and the discussion forum Kboards offer a ton of information that you can access once you’ve opened a KDP account, which we’ll do in a few minutes.

Slide 22

You’ll walk through the initial account set-up.

I’m not sure if there’s a link to KDP through the Amazon retail site. How I always get there is by typing Kindle Direct Publishing into my browser.

Once you’re there, you’ll create an account, or if you have an Amazon retail account, the site may recognize your existing user name and password and allow you to sign in with that.

Right below the sign-in are links that will take you to popular KDP topics. Even if you’re not ready to publish, it’s worth setting up an account just to have access to the articles.

Slide 23

The bookshelf is your starting point. It will show other books you’ve published and give you the option to create a new project.

But before we jump into setting up our book, I want to call your attention to the topics across the top of the page.

Reports will give you all kinds of information about how your published book is performing in the Amazon store.

Community is your access point to the Kindle Boards user forums.

KDP Select is the program that puts your book exclusively on Amazon for a minimum of 90 days.  It also enrolls your book in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program where members can download it for free. The Select program is voluntary. Some authors love it, some avoid it. For a new author with one book, it can be a good way to build an audience, but the choice is up to you.

The box below it, announcing that Create Space is moving to Publishing is just an announcement that Amazon’s Create Space print book platform, which used to operate separately, has been rolled into KDP. If you don’t have any books published with Create Space, ignore it.

Below that is your new project box that you’ll use to set up your eBook and print book. We’ll start with an eBook, so select that one.

Since I’m not setting up a new project at this time, I’ll walk you through the steps using my existing book, Heating It Up.

Slide 24

You’ll start your new project with the Kindle EBook Details page, which takes you through a long list of prompts.

Remember when I said this was decision week?

This is where you’ll be making them.

We’ll walk through each option together.

Slide 25

Language- select English.

Book Title- Enter exactly what you want to go on the cover.

I titled this book as Heating It Up for the main title, and used a subtitle, A Red Hot Russians Novella.  You may not use a subtitle at all, in which case, leave subtitle blank.

If the book is in a series, even if it’s the first book, enter the series name and book number here.

Slide 26

Edition- in most cases, this is going to be left blank, unless you’re substantially revising a book you’ve published before.

Author is you, or your pen name.

Contributors this gives you the option to credit others who worked on the book with you. This might apply in the case of a ghostwriting situation, for an anthology of others’ work, or a children’s book that has an illustrator.  This is not the acknowledgements section, o if you don’t have a direct contributor, leave it blank.

Slide 27

Description- here’s where you’ll use your back cover copy that you wrote this week. You can also add the book’s tagline in if you like. Whatever you think will entice readers to buy your book.

Publishing Rights is where you specify that you own the rights to publish the book.

Slide 28

Keywords and Categories are where you’ll enter the terms that people will use to search for your book.  Ideally, you’ve done a little research into this earlier, when you were working on descriptive copy, or finding other books similar to yours. If you haven’t, this might be a good place to Save your work as a Draft, and search for some of these keywords. There are various ways to do this, what I’ve done is type words that describe my book into Amazon’s search bar, and see what other terms show up.  You can enter up to seven, and your entries can have more than one word.

For Categories, these are the sub-categories where readers might be browsing for books like yours.  You get to choose two only, and you want to get as specific as you can. Not all subcategories are available for fiction. I used a non-fiction category for Polar Regions because there was no fiction equivalent, and so far, Amazon hasn’t booted me out.  Again, these are easy to change, so feel free to experiment.

Slide 29

This applies to children’s books, so you can target your age range and reading level. If it’s not a kids book, you can ignore it.

The last item is an option to set up a pre-order, which means that people can place advance orders up to three months before release. This is nice if you’re doing a lot of advance promotion, because on release day, all those sales will post and it will give you a nice little bump in the rankings, which means some extra visibility.

If you’re not doing advance promotion, you don’t need to worry about this one either.

Slide 30

The next page, eBook content, has these items

Slide 31

Digital Rights Management is the means that your book is protected against piracy but it can also create other issues if you’re interested in distributing free copies of your book to bloggers, reviewers or using them as prizes. I decided that piracy wasn’t a big enough issue to make the hassle worthwhile, so chose No. Other authors feel differently. Again, this is more about your comfort than anything else. If you’re unsure, save your work and do some additional research.

The next item is where you upload your edited and formatted eBook. As you can see it will accept a number of formats, include Word. However, if you’ve formatted a MOBI using Calibre or another software, you can upload this as well.

Slide 32

And below it, you can use Cover Creator to produce a cover of your own, or upload a cover you already have. I’m not sure why I checked the Cover Creator option for this because I had a designer produce it. Possibly because it was in PDF format…I honestly don’t recall. But obviously it worked, so we’re good.

Next is the option to view a Preview copy of your book so you can see how it looks in kindle format. Even if you’ve used software to perfect it, it’s still a good idea to take a final look.

Slide 33

For ISBN, I chose not to have Amazon issue an ISBN for my eBook, because I already had an ISBN issued through my aggregator Draft2Digital, which I use to distribute to other retailers. But I can’t use that ISBN on Amazon. So rather than have another ISBN only for Amazon– which I felt would be very confusing—I opted not to have one for Amazon. Amazon issues their own ID number called an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) that functions as an ISBN does within Amazon.

ISBNs aren’t required for eBooks, but they are for print.

Slide 34

The final page lets you select where you want your book sold, and how much to sell it for.

Slide 35

Here’s where you can opt to enroll in Kindle Select, which means that your book is available only on Amazon. Again, it’s up to the author, there are pros and cons to wide and exclusive distribution. I’ve not used Kindle Select, so I can’t speak from experience, but I’ve heard it’s a nice option for brand new authors publishing their first book.  If you’re not interested in enrolling, skip to the next item.

Territories refers to the countries where Amazon publishes. You have the option of choosing all of them, which is what I did, or cherry-picking where you want your book sold. Keep in mind that even if you choose overseas distribution, your book is still in English. That means you’ll probably have minimal sales in non-English speaking countries, but I still get a few here and there, so I’ve stayed with worldwide distribution.

Slide 36

If your book is priced at $2.99 or below, you must select 35% royalty. Because this is a novella, I chose a lower price point to encourage readers to try it.

This page also shows your royalties per book, and if you click the drop down for other marketplaces, you’ll see what the book is priced for each of them, and the royalties you’ll earn.

You can play around with this, raise or lower your price to fit your promotional strategy.

Slide 37

Matchbook lets you set a lower price on the eBook for customers who purchase a print book. I don’t know that this has added many sales to my book, but it’s an option I’ve enjoyed on books I’ve purchased, especially reference books that are nice to have on my phone, when I’m working away from home. I have a friend who is publishing a religious reference book, that’s fairly expensive and I encouraged him to use this option as an incentive for people to purchase the print book, that they would get the  eBook for free.

Lending allows someone who has purchased your eBook to share it with someone else. Again, I’ve used this option on other books I’ve purchased and appreciate it when authors allow me to do it.

Terms and conditions means you agree to Amazon’s rules for publishing your book.

The last item, is Publish.  Keep in mind, that even if you’re just making little changes, such as your price, you still have to hit Publish again, to save those changes.

After you’ve selected Publish, it can take up to 3 days for your book to go live, but in my experience, its much faster.

Congratulations, you’re about to become a published author!

EXTRA: This article has some helpful tips to improve your descriptive copy, which we covered in Session 2. It also talks about Keywords, which we cover in this session.

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Publish It Yourself! Session 2 Lecture Notes

Slide 2- Outline

  • Tonight we’ll be focusing on self-publishing essentials, which will cover both the professionals you’ll need to help bring your project to life, and your project itself.
  • As I structured this course, I tried to think about the order in which you’ll need to have the various skills and information I present. That way, if you are referring back to the materials once the class is over, the presentations will give you a general overview of the self-publishing steps and the order in which they should happen.  Tonight, is going to be the exception to that.  Ideally, we would be talking about your book, your website, tagline and sales copy, before you go out into the freelance marketplace looking for people to help you with editing, cover, etc.
  • But because part of tonight’s class will be a chance for you to actually start working on your sales description using resources that are here in the library, I decided to move that part of the class to the end, so we’ll have time get through the material and use the final hour of our class for a description workshop. You’ll be up moving around the library, so if you want to take a little break, you’ll have an opportunity then. Is everyone okay with that?  
  • So I suggest making a note that the items presented in Your Book and Your Brand ideally come before Assembling Your Team.

Slide 3- Discussion

Would anyone like to share their thoughts and decisions about their projects?

Slide 4- Essentials

Now we’re going to talk about the professionals– the editor, designers, formatter, who will be helping you turn your manuscript into a full-fledged book, what they do, and how to find them

Side 5- Editor Funnel

  • Having an editor is extremely important to producing a professional quality book, and there are several different kinds of editors.
  • There’s also a lot of confusion about the different types of editors, which to hire when.  The best image I can give you is to think of it as a funnel– going from a wide, bird’s-eye view of your manuscript, down to the nitty-gritty of typos.

Slide 6- Editors

  • A Developmental Editor will assist with big picture issues like your characters, plot and pacing.  They’re also the most expensive. The DE I used charged about $500 for 30,000 word novella, and $1600 for a full length manuscript, which included 2 editing passes. Some price by page, others by flat rate.
  • Line Editors review your prose, check for accuracy, and story details such as timing, and continuity.  My developmental editor offer included a line edit in her second editorial pass. Hiring one individually, will cost around $1000.
  • Copy editors check your grammar, punctuation and spelling. The grammar cops. To hire one, is going to be likely between $500 and $1000, depending upon book length. There are less expensive options out there, such as ProWriting Aid and Grammerly, but there’s also a learning curve attached to both, and in having used this on one project, I was less pleased with the results.
  • Last is proofreading.  Proofreaders are the final eyes that check for typos, formatting, page numbering. Can sometimes be rolled into Copy Editing, but it comes at the end, after all other revisions are made.

Slide 7- Formatter

  • A formatter is the person who takes your Word document and makes sure that it’s laid out correctly before it’s uploaded to your publishing platform. Digital books and print books have different design needs, which I’ll cover in more detail next week. For now, just know that you start with a Word document and come out with three different versions of your book:  a MOBI file for Amazon, an EPUB file for everyone else, and a PDF for print. If you intend to publish a print version, have your book formatted BEFORE you have your cover designed.  Final page count will influence the book’s spine size– I learned this the hard way and ended up having to pay my cover designer extra to do a revision. If you’re only doing an eBook, the cover design can be done first
  • Formatting a book generally doesn’t cost a lot. I paid my formatter about $150 to create my eBook and print formats, but I’ve seen services advertised on Fiverr for much less. It’s a time saver, and with so many other details to take care of, it can be nice to hand this one off to someone else.  If your book has a lot of pictures, graphs or charts, I strongly recommend hiring a professional. While my book was just text, this part of the process scared me a little, so I used a professional formatter, though learning to do it myself is a skill I want to develop for future books.
  • Many authors do their own formatting and there are advantages to doing it yourself, aside from the cost savings.  It’s much easier to make changes to your manuscript, such as correcting a typo, or adding information in the back about your next release.
  • If you decide to try formatting, there are a number of ways to go about it, and there are several kinds of software that will help you. Vellum and Scrivener are probably the two most popular software for formatting. Scrivener is a creative writing software that has a formatting function, Vellum is Mac based and is supposed to be easy to use. Aggregators like Draft2Digital, Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing offer free online converters to which you can upload a Word document. Calibre is open-source software that will do the conversion for you, which gives you even more control over how the final product looks. Next week, I’ll cover some tips for cleaning up your Word manuscript to make the conversion smoother.

Slide 8- Cover Design

  • A major decision you’ll make is your book’s cover.
  • It’s your bestselling tool, it can also be a major detriment. A great looking cover will draw readers in, an amateurish cover will reflect poorly on what’s inside.
  • Designing an eBook cover is a specialized skill, in that your cover must display well in a thumbnail sized image.
  • A cover designer is going to use stock art to create your cover, while an artist will create something one of a kind.
  • Amazon offers some free preformatted options within the KDP platform. They’re kind of generic, but worth taking a look at if you’re on a very tight budget.
  • Canva is a free graphic design platform that you can use to design a cover yourself. Once again though, if you don’t have a design background, and are new to the world of publishing, this might be an area best left to a pro.
  • A cover designer is going to use stock art to create your cover, while an artist will create something one of a kind. An artist is going to cost more.
  • You can opt for a freelancer, or a cover design agency.
  • Both will work with stock photo sites to access images they are licensed to use. Its fine to ask which stock photo sites they use, and you can even go to those sites and look for images you like and make suggestions. My designer actually asked me to do this, and it made the process easier for both of us, plus it was fun!
  • But before you hire anyone, ask to see their portfolio, make sure they have e book design experience in your genre.
  • Frequently design firms may offer premade covers that can be purchased for less than the cost of custom design.  They’re usually grouped by genre, they’re fun to look at, and you might find something that works perfectly. 
  • While you’ll be using the same cover image for your eBook, print and audio, keep in mind that print  require a book spine, and a back cover, which will add to your cost. Make sure your designer knows this going in, as it will save you money.

Slide 9- Bad Covers

This site actually exists, and it’s interesting to look at some of the mistakes authors make in this area. It can also help you avoid making the same ones.

Slide 10- Narrators

  • This is a newer area for self-published authors but a growing category.
  • There are two ways to approach hiring audio talent. The first is to pay up front, the second is to offer the narrator a share of the royalty.
  • The upfront charge will be based upon an hourly rate– which will vary according to the narrator. Findaway Voices sets the cost of a 50K word audio book at between 1000-2000.
  • Royalties are usually 50/50 arrangements based on the prior months sales.
  • Reading your book yourself is an option if you have speaking or voice over experience.

Slide 11- Finding Providers

  • Attending writer’s conferences and talking to other authors, especially in your genre, is one of the best ways to locate reliable providers.
  • Word of mouth– ask other authors who they recommend, or look in the acknowledgements of self-published books you’ve enjoyed. Often, the author will name the editor. They’re sometimes listed on the copyright page as well. 
  • You can also take advantage of listings provided by writers’ organizations, and professional organizations for freelancers.
  • Also some how-to guides will have recommended provider lists as well.

Slide 12- Building Your Team

  • When you reach out to a freelancer, you should be as specific as you can about the services you need, and about your project itself.
  • Most editors will want to see a sample of your work and will offer ideas for how they would approach your project.
  • With a designer, you’ll want to look at their portfolio of covers and see if their style fits your book.
  • Most providers will allow a set number of changes, so determine what that is upfront.
  • You’ll also want to find out if they’re available to work on your project within the time frame that you’ll need it.

Slide 14- Author Brand

  • Marketing yourself as an author is an integral part of marketing your book.
  • This is especially true in non-fiction, when you are selling your expertise or experience with a particular topic.
  • But even in fiction, your marketing should define what makes your work unique.
  • You’ll be coming up with a tagline for yourself, just as you came up with one for your book.

Slide 15- Author Website

  • I’ll talk more about websites in the next session, but getting a basic site set up before your book is formatted and published will save you serious time and money down the road, and make some of the things I’ll talk about this week much easier. So I’m going to give you a little information about websites now, and we’ll get into more detail in the next session.
  • Basically your website is like your online office, and a place where you can connect with readers.  You’ll likely be using social media too, but social media sites come and go. You also don’t have control over them, where with a website, you do. It’s also a place where readers can connect with you online, and sign up for your mailing list. You don’t need a list yet, but once the book is out, you will.
  • Hosting means that you contract with a company to put your site on the internet. There are a number of companies out there, some offer free sites, others charge an annual fee. Which you choose will depend upon your budget, the services you want and the amount of customer support you prefer.
  • Your domain name and URL is just your address on the web.  SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is how people find you online.
  • SSL is a security certification that assures visitors you’ve taken precautions to guard against hackers.
  • Privacy policy simply explains what you’ll do with any data you collect.
  • The domain is another basic marketing tool, and it’s best to go with something simple, like your first and last name, followed by a .com.  If your name isn’t available, trying adding “books” “author” or “writer” to your name, until you have a unique domain that you can purchase, like www.maryjonesauthor.com Usually domains can be had for less than $50 per year. WordPress and Blogger also offer free domains, but the domain will include their name: www.maryjonesauthor.wordpress.com . If money is an issue, it’s fine to use the free domain at first, but plan to purchase your domain as soon as you can. Not only does it look more professional, you cannot move a domain that you don’t own. While changing hosts may not seem like a major consideration now, there’s an excellent chance you’ll eventually outgrow your first website. When that happens, you don’t want to have to start over with a brand-new name.
  • Also don’t use the title of your book as your domain name.  If you write another book you’ll have to change it and if people find you through social media or author’s pages on Amazon, it’s easier to have the names consistent.

Slide 16- Website

  • You can hire a designer to create a website for you, which will start at around $200 and go up from there. You can also create your own for free on WordPress or Blogger. If you’re comfortable with technology, setting up a basic site isn’t difficult. The downside to these hosting companies, is that there’s little in the way customer service. If you need more hands-on help, I recommend Go Daddy.  A basic website will cost around $150 a year, includes your domain name, and the company’s Website Builder software is free and easy to use. It doesn’t offer as much customizing as WordPress, but it’s good for starting out. The best part about Go Daddy is their telephone customer service, which is extremely helpful.
  • If you decide to try it yourself, I recently took an online course through the Margie Lawson Writer’s Academy, called Crazy-Easy Author Websites. It’s around $100 and it’s excellent. There’s a web link on the resource page at the end of this presentation.
  • Your website doesn’t need to include much at first. Just information about you, your book, how people can get in touch with you and an SSL certificate and privacy policy are sufficient to start.

Slide 17- Janice

  • We’re going to pick on my friend Janice a little, using her author’s website as an example.
  • She created it on WordPress, and it’s only two pages, a home page that includes her photo, her author tagline and a short biography.
  • She’s not published yet, and is pursuing a traditional publishing deal, but her site is available for editors and agents to see. It adds a layer of professionalism and gives a sense of who she is and what she writes.
  • Her author tagline is “Heartfelt Historical Romance,” and her photo, which has kind of a 1940s-1950s vibe to it, reflects the era she writes about– World War 2 and the post-war.
  • She’s still using the WordPress owned domain, but she has her own name in the domain which is good. She has also added the word “dotcom” after her name, which I wouldn’t advise. It’s one of those cutesy add-ons that will likely be confusing and or annoying down the road, so I’d advise her to drop it, if she can.

Slide 18- The Book

  • We’re not going to spend time on writing craft in this class for a couple of reasons.  First, not everyone is working on the same type of book.  A children’s book, a romance novel and a non-fiction how-to book are all very different, so seek out the best instruction you can find for the type of book you’re writing.
  • Second, writing a good book takes a lot longer than four weeks. Many authors, myself included, write three drafts of the book before showing it to critique partners or beta readers. 
  • Beta readers are going to be your first audience. They should be people who are familiar with your genre, and if they’re writers too, that’s a bonus. My beta readers include people who are easy to please, as well as those who are more critical. My reason is that it’s important to know what works in your story, as well as what doesn’t, so if your mom, spouse or best friend reads your genre, go for it! I recommend 3-5, because an odd number of beta readers avoids split decisions. If three people out five like or don’t like something, you have more consensus.

Slide 19- Title

  • You probably have a title for your book already, or at least have one in mind, but the title is so important that it deserves special consideration.
  • Remember that eBook covers aren’t large, so if you have a lengthy title, it’s going to impact the look of your book.
  • A good way to see how your title will work in the marketplace is to go on Amazon or iTunes Books and look at the top sellers in your genre. Does your title “sound” like a romance, or a cozy mystery or a how-to? 
  • You should also look and see if your title is being used, and if so, was the book published recently?  Is it a book that might hurt yours if readers got them confused? I ran into this with two of my titles. My first book, Pairing Off, originally had a different title. But when my publisher did a search of that title, they found an erotic romance that had some pretty bad reviews on Amazon and strongly suggested I change it.   When I published Shining Through, I found a World War 2 novel by Susan Isaacs. While it’s a fairly well known book, it came out over 10 years ago, so there wasn’t likely people would confuse it with mine.

You might be wondering about using someone else’s title. Titles cannot be copyrighted, and you frequently see song titles recycled as book titles, though you’d want to be careful about using a lyric, or a song title that is rephrased as a lyric. For example “She Loves You,” would be okay, but “She Loves You Yeah-Yeah-Yeah” wouldn’t be.  Likewise, public domain poetry, and literary references such as Shakespeare’s works are commonly used, but I’m not an attorney, so I’d recommend doing research into fair use first.

Slide 20- Tagline

  • Your tagline is a simple sentence that communicates what your book is about, and snags a reader’s interest– all in less than thirty words. Are they hard to write? Yes, they can be, but they’re worth the effort because you’ll use your tagline in so many ways.
  • You might also hear it called an elevator pitch, which comes from the world of screenwriting. If a screenwriter gets on an elevator with a hot-shot producer and the producer asks about his latest project, the writer wants to be able to explain AND sell the story, in the time it takes to go to the third floor.  You’ll be more likely to use it in casual conversation with a potential reader, on social media, or as product description for an online retailer.
  • Fiction taglines follow a few rules of thumb. Reference the story’s setting.  Describe your character, rather than use their name. State the main character’s goal, why they want it and what stands in their way.  Non-fiction taglines specify a problem the reader has and how the book will help solve it.
  • Internet Movie Database is a great resource to help you learn the rhythm of taglines, long and short.

Slide 21- Description

  • This is a longer version of your tagline, up to about 150 words. It’s the marketing copy that traditionally went on the back cover of a paperback.
  • Again, this is more about selling your book and enticing readers than it is about 100 percent point-by-point accuracy. As they saying goes, you’re selling the sizzle, not the steak.  If there’s a way to use some buzz-words from your genre into your description, do so.  The description for Shining Through refers to the love interest, Daniil, as a Russian bad boy. Which is he, but bad boy romance is a currently popular sub-genre and Russian bad boys are well represented. So of course, I was going to use that description for my book.
  • For prescriptive non-fiction, use bullet points and a short list of topic headings, as well as action words– learn, discover, increase, etc. to describe how your book will benefit a prospective reader.
  • Knowing what your potential reader is looking for– either in terms of how-to knowledge, or an emotional experience can help you as you show them how your book meets that promise.
  • You can actually go to Amazon and start searching books like your, and look at other terms that come up on the autofill. Jot those down, you’ll be using them when you set up your Amazon account.

Slide 22- Workshop

  • For the rest of our class period, you’re going to be working on descriptions, pitchlines and taglines for your books.
  • A good place to start is by finding books similar to yours and getting a feel for how the descriptions are written.
  • Because it can be easier to write the longer copy first, I suggest you start there, and use that as a starting point for your pitch line and tagline.

Slide 23- Next Steps

  • This coming week, take your project a little further. I’ve listed several ideas for things you could do, so choose whichever fit best with your project and your schedule.
  • We’ll meet back in our regular classroom next week, and I encourage everyone to bring their laptop so we can walk through the process of setting up your Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing account together.
  • I’ll also post my lecture notes on my website.

I’m adding a link to an article you might find interesting. It covers much of the material we went over in Session 1, but it’s a good reference and a starting point for more online research into self-publishing.

Share this!

Publish It Yourself- Lecture notes/Session 1

Session 1 Notes

Slide 4- Trad Pub.

  • Traditional publishing, which you’ll alos hear called “trad-pub” or “trade pub,” used to be the only respected path to publication.
  • The defining characteristic of a traditional publisher is that the company pays the author for the right to publish their work, for a set period of time, usually 3-5 years, and assumes the financial risk of bringing the work to market. After purchasing the work, the publisher provides various services that typically include professional editing, a cover, formatting, some level of promotion, and distribution to retailers, both brick and mortar stores, and online. Often publishers sell books directly from their websites. There are no upfront fees, or charges for editing, covers, print production or anything like that.  Some publishing companies do charge fees, and we’ll talk about those eventually, but for right now, we’ll limit our discussion to companies that pay the author, not the other way around.
  • How are the authors paid? Large publishers will pay an advance before a book is published, which is a portion of what they think the book will eventually earn. The larger the advance, the higher the sales expectation, and usually publishers will put more promotional money behind these books. The reality is that most books do not “earn out” their advance, but the author does not have to pay the publisher back.  After the book is published, authors are paid a royalty, which is a percentage of their sales.
  • Distribution often includes brick and mortar retail stores in addition to online sales, though unless the book is a top seller, it may not remain on the shelves for longer than a few months. However, online sales can continue for as long as the publisher holds the rights to the book.
  • Because the publisher is assuming the financial risk, there is always an expectation that the company will make money. This is why traditional publishing, like every entertainment company– from Walt Disney Pictures, to that two woman digital publishing company specializing in erotic romance– is a balance of commerce and art.

Slide 5- Trad. Pub.

  • Traditional publishers range from conglomerates with hundreds of imprints, to small presses serving specific markets, academic publishers, to digital presses with a staff of two.  Essentially though, what defines a traditional publisher is that the publisher assumes the financial risk in bringing the book to market.
  • The so-called Big 5, are the largest and best-known companies. They’re based in New York, or at least have a New York presence and may publish hundreds of different imprints. Anyone know what an imprint is?
  • An imprint is kind of like a mini publishing company within the big one, and typically it’s dedicated to a particular type of work. For example, within Harper Collins, there’s the Harlequin imprint, which is dedicated to romance and women’s fiction, and the Zondervan imprint, which is its Christian publishing branch. What gets complicated is that even the imprints can have imprints, which are usually referred to as “lines  The little logo on the spine of the book, or for digital books, on the cover, identifies the imprint. The copyright page at the front of the book will tell you who the publisher is.
  • The medium sized houses, we’ll call them the Next 5– though I listed six here and there are lots more I could have included. They can be based anywhere. Sourcebooks is actually in Naperville. They’re sometimes specialized– Baker is a religious publisher, Scholastic specializes in books for kids and teens. These publishers also have imprints dedicated to specific types of books.
  • You’ll noticed that Amazon is on the list. A lot of people don’t realize that Amazon has a traditional publishing arm, which is different from it’s self-publishing platforms. Amazon’s traditional publishing imprints include Montlake, which is romance, Thomas & Mercer, suspense; Little A for literary fiction; Waterbrook, which is religious, and many more. Amazon’s traditionally published books are sold through major retailers, and include digital, print and audiobooks.

Slide 6

  • Small presses generally have just a few imprints, small staffs and budgets. That doesn’t mean that they don’t produce high quality books, some are extremely selective in the works they accept. But the companies may have less distribution to book stores, though the books are available online. But because publishing is a difficult business, the companies often come and go.  Within my genre, romance I can think of at least 3 well-known small publishers (Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, and LooseID) that have closed their doors within the last three years.
  • The advantage to a small or specialized company is that they’re often more open to accepting new and lesser-known authors, and some even specialize in the types of works that larger commercial publishers ignore, such as literary short fiction and poetry.
  • I include academic publishers in this category, not because they’re small, but because they’re highly specialized.
  • Last are the small companies that specialize in particular type of book, or serve an industry.

Slide 7- Trad. Pub. Positives

  • Among the benefits of working with a traditional publisher is that the publisher can do things for the author they can’t do for themselves– such as get them into major retail stores, gain attention from major media, etc. 
  • An author won’t have a significant financial outlay, so it will take less time before she begins to profit from her writing.
  • And while self-publishing has gained respect in the industry, there’s still a prestige factor to traditional publishing. Reviewers are more willing to review traditionally published books, retailers are willing to stock them, and so on.  It’s highly competitive, so the fact that a book sells to a traditional publisher gives it a stamp of credibility.
  • The final product tends to look very professional. The company’s reputation is riding on it.
  • And while traditional publishers don’t offer new authors a lot of marketing support, they do offer some. They often will have contacts with bloggers and reviewers that a new author won’t, so for a first time author, it’s an opportunity to learn where and how to market their books.
  • Finally, the thrill of seeing your book for sale in a store. Retail sales are a much smaller piece of the pie than they used to be, but can be immensely valuable in helping an author get discovered by new readers.

Slide 8- Trad. Pub. Negatives

  • There are downsides too.
  • It’s tough to sell to a traditional publisher, and you very likely will need a literary agent to do it. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.
  • In terms of title, marketing, cover, editorial, the publisher calls the shots.  My first book sold with the title “Falling Hard,” but my publisher felt there were too many books with that title– including a recent erotic romance release, so they changed the name to Pairing Off.  It took me a while to get used to it, and my mom still insists that Falling Hard was the better title.
  • A combination of low royalties and modest sales can make it hard for a new traditionally published author to make money.
  • The industry is in flux, so you see a lot of changes. Editors come and go. Publishers come and go. Not only is this unsettling for an author, they can also lose money when a publisher suddenly closes. Just as digital platforms have empowered authors, they’ve also empowered start-up publishers, who may go in with the best of intentions, but aren’t savvy enough to survive. They’re also opportunities for scammers who promise big and deliver nothing, bad contract terms and poor quality. So especially in the case of small presses, it’s important for authors to do their homework.

Slide 10- Self Pub Overview

  • While self-publishing has been around for years, previously it was done through vanity publishers, which were paid by the author and produced several hundred print copies which the author was responsible for selling on their own.  But the internet changed that.
  • How?
  • The major shift began around 2007 and 2008, when two things happened.  First,  Amazon introduced its Kindle e-reader, which was immediately popular with readers, even through there was a limited amount of material available.  In 2008, the recession caused publishers to cut imprints, editors and as a result, authors.  Some of these authors saw an opportunity to continue their careers, through Amazon’s new self-publishing platform.
  • By 2010, a Kindle was only $139, and other companies had introduced their own e-readers. There was also a wealth of high quality digital books available for less than $5.00 each. That launched a boom in the industry that continued for years afterward.
  • Romance and erotica writers were among the first to embrace digital publishing, sci-fi and fantasy writers were also early adopters. Even today, those genres dominate self-publishing.
  • Most fiction sales are ebooks, though print is essential for hand-selling, and it’s also preferred for certain types of books, such as children’s books and non-fiction. Audiobooks are also a rising trend.
  • Though the gold-rush is behind us, there’s still plenty of opportunity in self-publishing

Slide 11- Reasons to Self Publish

  • One of the biggest advantages of self-publishing is that authors have complete creative control, in regard to content, title, cover and how it’s marketed.
  • It’s an opportunity for the author to run a small business of their own product, that can supplement their family’s income. Every author earns something, some earn a lot.
  • Self-published authors earn higher royalties than traditional publishers, and many are unagented, which means that they keep more of their royalties.
  • It’s a way to bring your project to life, even if it’s not a book with mass commercial appeal.
  • If you enjoy learning new things, it’s fun, it’s creative and there’s lots of information out there to help you. Throughout our lessons, I’ll list books and websites I’ve found helpful.
  • While its true that everyone can publish, it doesn’t mean everyone should. Tridtional publishers used to act as gatekeepers, but now that’s gone, which is both a good and a bad thing.  I see a lot of classes, blogs, etc. that teach you how to publish your first novel.  But a lot of first novels aren’t ready for prime time– at least not initially–, so it’s important to be honest with yourself and make sure that you’re putting out the best book you can.
  • If you’re writing non-fiction, its important to take time to establish your platform, which can consist of a website, blog, speaking engagements, your business, or all of the above. That does two things– it creates an existing audience for your book, and helps establish you as an expert for readers who are just discovering you.

Slide 12- Reasons for Caution

  • I’d originally titled this slide Reasons Not To Self-Publish, but  I don’t want to discourage anyone. But there are some common misconceptions out there, and simply things you should be aware of:
  • First, most self-published books are not going to be picked up by a traditional publsiher. There are exceptions The Martian, 50 Shades), but what’s much more likely to  happen is that an author will self-publish, have some success with a book or series, then approach a trade publisher with a new project.
  • Its your first book. I touched on this before, that you shouldn’t be in a rush to  self-pub. Give yourself time to create the best book you can, so readers will return for the next book, and the one after that.
  • If you’re not comfortable working on a computer or online, or if you don’t have much time to invest, you can hire someone to publish your book for you, but it’s going to be more expensive.  Self-publishing can be done inexpensively, but there is still going to be a cost outlay for services you can’t do yourself. We’ll talk more about that as we move into the specific steps involved in publishing.
  • You want to be in stores everywhere.  While many local independent book sellers do a great job of supporting self-published authors, the responsibility of getting your book into those stores is yours. Mass distribution through Barnes and Noble stores, Walmart, etc. is extremely unlikely, unless your book is a major best-seller like 50 Shades or The Martian, and maybe not even then.

Slide 13- Expections

  • This one deserves a slide of its own, because there’s plenty of bad info out there about how much authors, particularly self-published ones make.
  • You may have heard about self-published authors making huge amounts of money from their writing, and those successes exist. Many launched their careers in the early days of self-publishing, before the market was as crowded.  Some are using less than scrupulous means, such as purchasing reviews, and click farming, to boost their book’s ranking and earning. Others are fortunate enough to hit upon a trend, have a great book and the right marketing at the right time.
  • It’s something that every author hopes will happen, but the fact is, there are MILLIONS of books for sale on Amazon. While they don’t release official numbers, the current estimate is something like 6 million. Obviously, it’s hard to get noticed and visibility is one of the author’s major challenges. We’ll get more into that when we talk about marketing.
  • The truth is, that most writers– traditional or self-published don’t earn a living off their books. My first royalty check from three months of sales– with a publisher’s promotional push, was around $200.  Subsequent checks have been around that. I’m not unusual.  According to the blog Inkandquills.com, the average traditionally published book sells around 250 copies per year, and about 3,000 in its lifetime.  A self published book sells about 250 copies– in its lifetime.
  • I tell you this not to discourage you, but to encourage you to measure your success in different ways.  When my first book came out, I was focused exclusively on my sales. My publisher was, so it made sense for me to be too. I was trying very hard to make a splash on the market but I was one book out of millions, and I was not a marketing expert. Most authors aren’t. 
  • So my advice is to set some publishing goals that aren’t sales or income related. Good reviews, participating in book signings, speaking at a writers’ conference, publishing the next book…these are all valid ways to measure success, that are going to leave you feeling much better about what you’ve accomplished.

Slide 14

There are actually 2 approaches to self-publishing.  DIY– do-it-yourself–is what we’re gong to focus on in this course.  But there’s another route, one which most people are familiar with because of TV ads.

That’s Assisted Self-Publishing.

Slide 15- Assisted Self-Pub

  • Remember when we were talking about the traditional publishing model, being one where the publisher pays the author? With assisted self-publishing, the author is paying the publisher.
  • Years ago, this was called “vanity publishing.”  While that label is largely gone, but the pay to play model still continues.  The companies are sometimes called “hybrid publishers.” Authors might query and submit their work to an editor, just like a traditional publisher, but upon acceptance, the author is expected to make some sort of financial commitment to publish the book. This can include editing costs, cover design, agreeing to purchase a set number of print copies, or paying for promotion.
  • For authors with more money than time, or who only intend to publish one book, say a family history, it can help them get their book out fairly easily. 
  • Publishing packages can start at around $1,000 and will include various services. The problem is that the services can be overpriced– you’re paying a premium for convenience, and may not be of the quality you expect. Editing might simply be proofreading.  The companies charge for things like uploading your book to Amazon, which are actually free. A frequent promise is that these companies will get your book into bookstores. Don’t believe it. Most likely, your book will be listed in a catalog that is mailed out to retailers, and that’s about it. 

While there are some legitimate companies out there– the Alliance of Independent Authors rates providers– there are a lot of scams too.  Buyers, beware.

Slide 17- DIY

DIY– do it yourself– self-publishing is what we’re going to be talking about in this class.

The term is also a bit of a misnomer.

While you might do some things yourself, you’re going to find freelance providers to do the things you can’t. And while that might sound a little intimidating– most people don’t just happen to know a great cover designer or editor– we’re going to talk about that, and a lot more, in the next three weeks.

Slide 18- Good Fit for DIY

  • Projects that are good fit for DIY self-publishing. include fiction that may not have as wide of a commercial appeal as traditional publishing. This can mean a genre that’s been popular in the past, but isn’t currently as popular; stories that  don’t follow genre expectations, or something experimental.
  • DIY authors are usually those who see themselves as publishing more than one book, and who not only want to control the creative aspects of their work, but also enjoy the business end of their work. They might have some of the essential skills,  or just look  forward to learning them.
  • They’re also authors who perfer to be able to set their own publishing schedules, rather than have one imposed on them.

Slide 19- DIY Advantages

  • A few of the advantages we talked about before. The author has complete control over content, cover, marketing and pricing.  Even if you’re using a freelance provider, you as the author have final say.
  • Though some self-published authors work with agents who shop the book’s subsidiary rights– such as film rights,  and world language rights, that doesn’t apply to most new self-published authors, so the money you earn from book sales is yours to keep.
  • Uploading your ebook and print book are to most self-publishing platforms is free, or in a few cases, there is a nominal set up cost of $50-$100. Print on demand means that you don’t have inventory to store.
  • You choose the people you want to work with.
  • Your book never goes out of print, and if you have a number of books available, that means more money in your pocket, as sales of new titles drives sales of older ones.

Slide 20- Royalties

  • Self-publishing royalties are also higher than in tradition publishing.
  • While this can vary somewhat by publisher and contract, these rates are a pretty typical.
  • Hardcover deals tend to be those with the highest sales expectations. But more typically, a new author in commercial fiction isn’t going to get a hardcover deal. She’ll likely get paperback and ebook, with the potential for audio if the book hits a sales target of maybe 10,000 copies– which is not easy for a newbie author.
  • A new author who sells 10,000 copies is considered a success, though most authors don’t hit that mark, at least not on their first book.  Which is why traditional publishing is more of a long game that a one-shot deal. If that new author releases a sequel to her first book, even it if it doesn’t sell as sell as the first book—which is typical– that second book will drive sales of the first book. If she releases another book, it will drive sales of the first and second, and so on.

Slide 21- Self-Pub Royalties

  • Now compare that to self-publishing royalties, which can also vary, depending on how your book is priced. But even Amazon’s lowest royalty rate of 35%, is higher than the best rates offered by traditional publishers.
  • Royalty rates vary by retailer, the price of your book, in some cases, the size, and whether you place direct, or use an aggregator, which is a service that places your book on multiple retailers.  Because Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform also offers a way to produce print books that can be sold both on Amazon  and distributed to other retailers, the royalty on print after printing costs, is 60 percent for books sold on Amazon, and 40 percent for Amazon-produced print books sold everywhere else.
  • Barnes and Nobel also offers a print option too, but I’m not sure if it offers distribution outside of B&N.
  • Itune’s royalty structure differs for books placed direct, verses those placed through an aggregator. We’ll talk more about aggregator’s in next week’s class.

Slide 22- Formats and Audiences

  • Self-publishers can offer their books in three formats: Ebooks, print and audio.
  • Ebooks are popular with authors because they’re inexpensive to produce, and require no inventory. Readers like them because they’re portable, require no physical storage and they’re inexpensive to purchase.  Ebooks appeal to younger readers, and those who are comfortable with technology.
  • Print books appeal to older readers, and to those who want a book they can easily refer back to, highlight or make notations. How-to books, cookbooks, and reference books are all popular formats for prints.  For authors who intend to sell their work at signings, and speaking engagements, print is essential. The nice thing is that Print on Demand means an author can purchase a small inventory of print books as needed, rather than having to store hundreds of copies.
  • Audiobooks are a newer entry into the self-publishing market, and companies like Amazon, and Draft2Digital offer authors a turnkey way to produce an audio book.

Slide 23- Distribution

  • There are a number of ways for self-published authors to get their work to readers.
  • The biggest avenue is through online retailers. There are the giant booksellers, like Amazon and B&N, and Kobo, plus the shopping sites for large retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. Placing your book directly with the major booksellers isn’t difficult, although Google Play may still be closed to indie authors. And getting your book carried by Walmart or Target isn’t easy for any author, but self-published works in particular.
  • Local/regional bookstores are often open to selling books by independent authors, especially iff there is a local connection to either the author or the subject.
  • If you are a non-fiction author, selling your books in person as part of a presentation is probably going to be an important part of your marketing strategy. More authors are selling their books direct from their own websites, and this is become a more popular option for fiction authors too.

Slide 24- Your Project/Fiction

  • Commercial fiction covers the biggest selling genres. It’s also referred to as “genre fiction.”  The emphasis is on story, and  there are pretty clearly defined expectations for your story, in terms of settings, characters, and plot.  A romance novel ends with the central couple together. A mystery ends with the crime solved.  In a thriller, the good guy wins, and so on. This where you find your mega bestselling authors– James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, John Grisham.
  • Literary Fiction can upend those conventions. There’s less emphasis on story-telling and more focus on the quality of its writing. Which isn’t to say that commercial fiction can’t be well written  or artistic, or that literary fiction can’t be entertaining, because we can all think of examples.  But literary fiction is less sales driven, and more prestige driven. Some of these authors include Jonathan Franzen, Meg Wolitzer, Tom Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates.
  • Children’s three broad categories– Picture books tell their story with illustrations, and minimal text. I saw a stat somewhere that picture books have around 2,000 words and are roughly 35 pages long. Middle grade books are for kids who are independent readers. The books may still have some illustration, but they’re heavier on text, divided into chapters. Usually these are series books– The Magic Treehouse, the American Girl series.  YA are longer and more complex novels that appeal to preteens, teens and even adults. Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, the Fault in our Stars.

Slide 25- Your Project/Non-Fiction

  • Non-fiction accounts for a large percentage of published works.70% was one figure I read.
  •  Prescriptive works are aimed at helping the reader achieve or learn something. These include the writing guides I love so much. Cookbooks, craft books, diet books. Anyone working on a book like this?
  • Narrative non-fiction includes books that tell a story or an event. While there might be a teaching element, or a lesson to be drawn, it’s not the primary goal. Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” and Jeanette Walls’ “The Glass Castle” fall into this category.
  • Is anyone working on something like that?
  • Academic books are intended to be used in a classroom or teaching setting, and are going to be of limited interest to commercial/non-academic publishers. 
  • Finally, there are anthologies of short writing, such as essays, blog posts, devotionals.  Usually these authors are well known and have an audience before they publish.  David Sedaris, Roxanne Gay, Angela Davis, William F. Buckley and C.S. Lewis are a few examples.

Slide 26- Formats and Genres

  • Ebooks and audio work well for most types of fiction and narrative non-fiction, such as memoirs.
  • These are also good formats for books that are targeting a younger reader, as more ebooks are purchased by younger readers. As for audiobooks, I see a lot of older people checking these out from the library where I work, either to enjoy on long roadtrips, or because vision problems interfere with reading.
  • Books that have few images, for obvious reasons, and books that will be sold online.
  • Print is a good format choice for fiction, narrative non-fiction, and also prescriptive non-fiction– reference books, how to guides. People like to be able to skip around in these books, and make notes.
  • Print appeals to older readers, and is also a more popular format for reaching children, especially if your book has a lot of illustration.

Print is also crucial if you plan to sell copies of your book at events such as signings, conferences and speaking engagements.

Announcements: Next week we’ll be meeting in the Harper College Library, in the David K. Hill Family Library building (F).

Bring a pen and notebook—we’ll be drafting sales descriptions for our books.

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