Monday, March 17, 2014

Publishing Your Work Part One - The Basics

Now Playing -  Creepin' Up The Back Stairs by The Fratellis
Life -  
 Over the past few weeks I've had an unusual number of people ask me about resources for publishing their own work and I figured rather than cutting and pasting the response to everyone, I'd make a blog I could send people to.

Obviously, this is far from complete and I'm not going into extreme depth on most things in this blog, maybe later ones. This is just a list of essential steps for getting your creation into people's hands.

Step One

Write something. This is the obvious one and we'll assume you've written a novel, done a few drafts and figured it's ready to go. It's also important to note that this something should be written in a decent editing program. The more familiar you are with it and it's functions the easier and more professional everything will be. Word is great. OpenOffice also works. (And is Free )

Go back over it. Unfortunately, most aspiring authors can't afford professional editing or proofreading. If you know someone that can do it effectively, or is willing to do it on the cheap, cherish that person and never let them go. This is the first place we will spend real money on if we are ever making any of said money.

For any said novel, we typically write 2-3 drafts, do a thorough edit and proofread, then pass it off to the other person who does the same. Then we print it and do the same thing in paper form. And still miss things. Rules, odd spelling things, Simple mess-ups... Linz is especially bad with homonyms. There's nothing worse than publishing a book with english errors or spelling mistakes, but there's also only so much you can do without hiring a pro. Which will cost you. Hundreds, most likely.

On the bright side, most readers of your work will be aware that your book isn't from a major publisher and unless it's a particularly egregious error, are willing to cut you some slack. But do the best you can. In addition to the usual functions like spellcheck and grammar, we use a program called ProWritingAid. It's an online site that allows you to paste a block of text and it analyzes it a few dozen different ways. Overused words, phrases, spelling,  weird rules. It's really nice. You can also pay for it to be used as a widget in Word itself, which is really convenient and quite useful.

Step Two

Decide how you want people to read your book and where. The two major choices are physical books and as an eBook. (Naturally, you can post it online as a blog and what have you.... ) We like our novels to be available as both physical paperback novels and ebooks, but be warned, the physical copy is a LOT more work than making an ebook. For the purposes of this blog, We'll concentrate on making an ebook. Maybe I'll do a follow up on paperbacks. However, if you are interested, we use CreateSpace to make ours. It's run by Amazon, has full integration with them and most of their steps are really easy to follow. They run a print on demand service and you can order books yourself at cost.

As for where people can find your book, that's trickier. Realistically, the best way to reach the most people is to have your book on as many sites as humanly possible. That means publishing your book on, Barnes & Noble as well as sites like the Kobo store, Apple, etc.

However - Each of those stores require different formatting of the manuscript, separate accounts, different hoops and rings of fire to navigate. They even care about how you tab your manuscript and how many fonts you use.  You can publish on all of them and more however. It's just a lot of work.

There's another catch too., the obvious big daddy leader in eBooks thanks to the Kindle has a program with perks available to the author that chooses to e-pub exclusively through them. They let you run promotions, give away free books, discount books to people that own the physical copy, swell stuff like that.

We've tried it both ways and right now, we find that we get better exposure and results from being exclusive to Amazon than we did being on all of the sites. That may change as our bibliography expands and we can build a base of readers outside of the kindle, but for now we publish exclusively there. For those wondering, you can read Amazon books on other devices, it just takes a number of extra steps. I made a tutorial about it HERE. (Which is older and may be out of date.) I own a nook, and I can understand wanting to be on more than just Amazon. I'll get into the other sites at a later date. (Probably)

Step Three

Okay, so we are going to publish an eBook on, and not worry about the other sites and options. The first step is to go to and log in. You can use your sign in or create a new one for your publishing empire. KDP is the world of tools for the aspiring self-pubbed author. Not only does it get you the best exposure, the site is well laid out and walks you through things simply and intelligently (For the most part) I'll make another post later on the exact steps of publishing on KDP, but in all honesty, you probably don't need it. Just click on the yellow button labeled "Add new title" and start making a book!

If I were you, however, I would click on the Help button on the top of the page. When there, Click on, download and print the entire guide titled "Building Your Book For Kindle" not only will this walk you through each of the steps, it explains the trickier stuff, like spacing, tabs and tables of contents in a way that anyone can do it. It's a very nice guide that I still refer back to every time.

That alone should be enough to get your book into someone's digital reader. Not impossible, but it also looks misleadingly simple. There's a lot of little tricks and slang the process uses that can trip you up. Just remember to take your time and read the guides and help sections if you're stuck.

A Couple of Notes:

I would be terribly remiss if I didn't add a few things here that I think are incredibly important.

READ OTHER BOOKS. Lots of them. Pay attention to how they lay things out, the way the page looks. What the front pages look like before the story starts. Especially books in the same genre as your work.

HAVE A GOOD COVER. As an artist, I concentrate on this a lot more than other people, I'm sure, but it is vital. With the tremendous amount of ebooks available, you MUST have some way to stand out before anyone ever gets around to reading your plot synopsis. Sending people to buy your book is all well and good, but if you can't get Average Joe to buy it, you'll never become successful. If you aren't artistic at all, you can still make a decent cover. Pay attention to color and font. Look at lots of covers. Browse Amazon's listings for similar books and see what they do on theirs that makes them successful. Remember that the first time your cover is seen it's less than an inch tall. That's important to note - some covers become a jumble of ugly at thumbnail size.

If at all possible, don't go the generic "Colored background with white words" route. They scream amateur. I read over 200 books a year usually, about half are self pubbed or independent and I have never bought one with a cover like that.

At the same time, neveruse an image you found online unless you bought it for your use. Anything on the internet, whether it says so or not, is protected by copyright. There are some sites that offer images for use, but be sure to check and make sure it's okay to use for commercial matters. Some sites look like they have free images, but it's only if they're used for editorial or non-profit reasons. If all else fails, take a picture and add your title to your own photograph. That's relatively easy with free programs like PhotoScape.

Another option is to hire someone to create a cover for you. We do that on our site Octopress Books where we make custom covers and have started selling template covers that we can add your title and name to a pre-made design for a lower price than our fully custom covers. NOTE: I didn't write this blog to plug our cover services, but I couldn't write this and not mention it, could I? :)

Believe in what you write.

Both before and after publishing your novel, you have to love what you write and what you are doing. People online can be cruel or mindless and that can result in some harsh criticism. My suggestion is to ignore reviews completely if possible. Or have a trusted friend read them and forward ones that are positive, uplifting or genuinely useful. Don't ever let the haters stop you from writing and loving the process and result. Most authors hate their first works. But you have to keep writing and improving.  

(This post is being cross-posted to our other blogs, so I apologize if it's redundant to my readers that follow all of them.)