All posts by jorobinson176

South African writer.

Indies Making the Most of All Opportunites

Self-publishing today isn’t anything at all the way it used to be, where “vanity publishing” was looked at as something people did after being totally rejected by traditional publishers, and deciding to try and find customers themselves as a last resort for the huge pile of books in their garage, because their writing wasn’t good enough to be offered in bookstores. These days we make the choice to do it ourselves because we have the opportunities to produce professionally turned out products, the freedom to use social media to promote our work worldwide, and with platforms like Amazon and CreateSpace we get full control of all aspects of our business, as well as great royalty percentages.

Even though readers have a tendency to buy more Indie eBooks than they do paperbacks, it’s a good idea to make sure that you do have both versions available, and make sure that they’re available to as many corners of the world’s readership as they can be. When you publish on Amazon, choose as many territories to sell as you are allowed, and when marketing make sure to supply a global purchase link. A reader is going to have to really want a book very badly to go and look for it on their home site of Amazon UK or Amazon Canada if the link takes them to Amazon.com. Copy your book’s ASIN number and zoom over to a site that will convert it into a link that will automatically take whoever clicks on it to the Amazon page that they buy from.

Also be aware of the benefits of CreateSpace free expanded distribution, and make sure that you select it. This means that your paperbacks will be available for sale online at Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and even in corners of the world such as South Africa from major online sellers such as Takealot and Loot, even if your eBook is exclusive with KDP Select. Grab all the opportunities for worldwide visibility that you can, even if they only translate to a couple of sales a year, you never know where opportunity lurks.

We have the ability to produce quality products, pretty much indistinguishable from traditionally published books, and often much better. Even if writers today can’t afford to pay for all the things that go into getting published, with a bit of time and effort it can all mostly be done themselves. This is a great time for Indie authors, so grab every opportunity available to you now. As the industry grows and grows, hopefully you’ll look back one day and be glad that you did, when you could.

World Map
Image Courtesy Pixabay

Rotten Reviews and Terrible Trolls

You will get bad reviews. It’s inevitable, I promise you. Take comfort in the fact that it’s a rite of passage all writers go through. Every – single – one of them, and after the first one has you on the floor, bawling your eyes out, and inexplicably trying to chew your own foot off for a while, they’re not so hard to deal with. Some are pretty funny, and some are just to be ignored. There are people out there who delight in trashing books, and sometimes the authors of books too, for reasons unknown to most decent humans. Sometimes it’s jealousy, and sometimes it’s just because they’re mean. Sometimes also these one star stabs to the soul are perfectly legitimate in their author’s hearts and minds, because they really didn’t enjoy what you wrote for reasons that do or don’t make sense to you. Whatever the reasons are for your one star clanger, you must never, ever, never, never, and I repeat, never respond to them. If you really need to share your pain then talk to a friend – preferably a writer friend, who will totally get you. I personally don’t think that it’s a good idea to respond to fabulous five star rave reviews either. “Liking” that wonderful review is good enough. The reviewer might actually not appreciate being gushed at by an unknown author, no matter how much you really want to catch a plane, find them, and kiss them on the lips. Reviews are for readers, good ones and bad ones. It’s best for you to let them be.

Now the trolls on the other hand can be some crazy scary creatures. Try and avoid them at all costs, and be very wary of provoking any. After any amount of time cruising around our dear world wide web you’re guaranteed to come across a couple. Whether it’s something you’ll read in a forum or on a blog or article that enrages you so badly you act before thinking, or a troll actually infiltrating your own sites for whatever reason, you need to throw away that pointy stick without poking that horrible hairy monster, turn around very quietly and run away. On other sites you’re better off never getting involved with these people – ignore them, and they won’t even know that you were there. On your own sites use your block, ban, and report buttons with gusto in the event of any sort of blow across your bows. I have a few times and that’s been the end of that for me personally, but I have witnessed some pretty awful trollings online that were truly appalling to see, especially on Goodreads. Have no part in these things if you can help it.

When you do get a negative review, pass it on to that part of you who is the business – not the writer – figure out if there is anything to learn from it, in which case it becomes helpful, and if not, move right along and forget about it. Don’t waste your valuable online time on trolls and hurtful reviews.

How much time of every day should you spend “marketing” online, versus how much time should you spend each day writing your next book? Writing your next book must always take priority. A couple of self-published books have gone on to be NYT bestsellers with break out first novels, but that’s not the way this author life generally works. You have to produce more than one book. A little quirk that all of us readers have is the desire to read more from a writer we love. We’ll read a book that we adore, and praise it from the rafters. We’ll look for more books by the same author, and if there aren’t any, we’ll forget about it unless something pops up to remind us about it again. So schedule your daily writing time, and try and stick to it, doing other marketing and business related projects at other times of your day.

If you want to write books and earn a living from it, you are going to have to write and publish more books. If you’re writing a series you probably won’t see substantial sales until you have a couple of books out there. Don’t panic about this though. Underlying anxiety fussing about getting this done could very well knobble your creativity and leave you staring at a blank computer screen. I read an article by Hugh Howey a long time ago, where he said that he didn’t ever bother trying to market his first book until he’d published others. It was only his seventh book, Wool, that rocketed him to fame. I took his advice and I’m glad that I did. As you publish more, you learn so much more than you expect to after that bright eyed ecstasy when hitting the publish button for the very first time. Definitely do market and advertise your first book – of course you must, but don’t let disappointing first sales put you off writing the next or let marketing consume all of your time. You need time to build a readership. Patience and tenacity are what the Indie needs to succeed.

Troll

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

Article excerpt: The Absolute Indie

How to Add a Bullet List to Your Kindle Book

Here’s a short tip for you Indie writers this week. With a couple of non-fiction books in the pipeline I spent some time a while ago researching how to put bulleted lists in a Kindle book, but came up with the take home that they are a no-no. I know that use of any type of Word auto formatting in an eBook can cause havoc in the end result. It is possible to create a really good looking bulleted list in my paint software and import it as an image without anyone being the wiser, but it is extra work that I’ve just now discovered doesn’t need to be done. The secret is to avoid the auto formatting.

You could have at a bit of HTML coding if you’re so inclined, as per the example below, but I really am not so inclined right now, so I kept looking. Some people use the Styles menu effectively. I prefer a very clean manuscript for Kindle conversion though, with no hidden bits with the potential to put spanners in the works, so I kept looking.

Bullet List HTML Coding

Kindle recognises quite a few of the symbols that you can use with your Insert > Symbol feature if you stick to a common font like Times New Roman – my go to font for Amazon, and one of the symbols to insert is a bullet. All you have to do is insert it before each sentence to be in the bulleted list as you type it out, and no auto formatting will be triggered.

Insert Symbol Menu

That’s not a lot of extra work at all. If going the whole Insert Symbol route before each point seems like a schlep, then just copy the first inserted bullet and paste it in as you go. That way there will be no hidden gremlins to mess up your fabulous book. Happy publishing fellow scribblers.

 

Planning for the Holidays

Whether you have a new book coming out this year or are just concentrating on marketing your already published backlist, now is actually a great time to ponder your end of year sales campaign. I know that some authors keep at it all the time, but I find that three or four times a year is a good way to give your books a bit of publicity without irritating the daylights out of your followers. It’s also always a good idea to have a comfortable plan in place for the event all ready to go in plenty of time. Get as many goodies in your Christmas bag as you can.

First decide on a budget. It is very, very hard to sell books with a zero advertising budget, but even a little will help. When it comes to presents and bookmarks though, I’ve seen some fabulous homemade ones, so you don’t have to break the bank. Rafflecopters and events with prizes don’t always have to be about Amazon gift cards. You could have something a little more special to win – something related to one of your books or characters. And one thing’s for sure – fans absolutely adore getting something personal from a favourite writer. So – on your holiday campaign to-do list—

Pick your dates.

Allocate a budget if you can, and decide what you’re going to spend it on.

Choose one or a couple of paid book advertising newsletters and pay in advance if you can to avoid price increases. Get a list together of free sites too.

Open a new word document and copy and paste all the links you’re going to need – get your Global Amazon Links there so you don’t have to post separate links for each site, making it easy for readers to use one easy click to buy your book. Shorten your URLs in readiness for your Twitter shoutouts, and get your book covers or artwork all stashed in a file ready to go for the same thing.

Collect some fabulous short excerpts from your book and zoom over to Picmonkey to add them to images that are going to make people want to share.

Set up dates on your list to remind you to go to Amazon and create free days or countdowns for your books. Remember, that as well as your own advertising, Amazon always has a page for countdowns that a lot of readers regularly check.

Set up your swag early. Order or make bookmarks. Get your paperback giveaways ready for posting with personal notes all ready to go. An absolutely fabulous idea is to go to Zazzle and order mugs or just about any other thing on the planet with images of your book covers on them.

Best of all, boost that celebratory excitement by heading over to TSRA Book Trailers and getting yourself an awesome trailer made. These really are attention grabbers, and another wonderful way to find new readers. We all love retweeting cool trailers on Twitter.

I suggest that you do all this well before the actual celebration days begin. There are a lot of people buying books after getting Kindles for Christmas – that’s true, but you’re going to sell a lot of books when people are still in shopping mode too, so try and at least begin before the big bang and let your event zoom through till the end.

Once you have your plan in place you’ll probably find yourself so hugely inspired that you just might not be able to stop yourself from making sure that it’s going to be a brand new book that you’ll be throwing a party for. In that case, get to scribbling scribblers! You’ll find it a lot more fun having everything ready to go in December, rather than having a mad dash at the last minute.

Party

Wordbuilding – Keeping Track

I’m a big fan of sticking things on the wall behind my desk when I’m working on a plot for any of my books – convoluted or not. Sticky notes and project paper abound in my world. Real paper, right there in front of you, can be a whole lot more satisfying than having to dig around in a Word document. Worldbuilding is a lot of fun, whether you’re writing action, chicklit, or the wildest science-fiction fantasy, but if it’s not “believable” our stories are going to end up on the receiving end of some one star clangers. It’s a lot easier for mainstream fiction, but still, it’s always best not to head too far out there, and always essential to do your research, and take notes – don’t rely on memory. Most people know quite a lot. We all have various interests, some of them rather odd and unexpected, and there will always be some reader out there who will catch you out if you take just making stuff up to unacceptable heights. Thanks to Google though, you can find out seven almost reasonable ways to infiltrate most royal abodes before breakfast, as well as instructions on how to take apart, clean, and reassemble any sort of sniper’s weapon chop chop. So there’s no need for excessively wanton making of dodgy stuff up, and if you note all you need as you go along on your project page you’ll be amazed at how smoothly your writing goes.

When it comes to science-fiction, rules also apply. Generally it’s accepted that the only possible way to get anywhere faster than the speed of light is by using a good old warp drive, worm holes, or the power of the mind – some kind of mind at any rate. It has lately been discovered that a galaxy far, far away is actually zooming along faster than the speed of light – what with the universe expanding so speedily and all that lovely stuff, so anything probably is possible. Still, it’s a good idea when worldbuilding in these fantastical cases to keep proper notes as you go along with your creation of your creatures and the worlds they live in.

As well as keeping a proper list as you go of each character’s name and physical attributes, species and so on, when you’re working on a series especially, it’s a fabulous idea to buy yourself a nice big piece of project paper, stick it to your wall, and draw a map of your world on it. This way you’ll never have to dig back through pages and pages to find out forgotten particular details, like the name of a river or a species of tree. I did this with the first book in my sci-fi series, and then had to have a big sit down with pen and paper, go over the whole book very carefully, and take notes while writing the second and third books because I’d forgotten just about everything.

So you’ll mark in rivers, groves, names and attributes of trees if applicable, and areas of habitation for various alien species as you write them. You can also pencil in your heroes at the various points of their adventures. If you leave a nice broad strip to the right of your big world map blank, you can make important notes right there too, all to be got at simply by having a squiz at your wall. As well as being extremely helpful along the way, with a bit of tidying up, you could have a fabulous map to put into your actual book to delight your readers. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series had maps of Pern in them with the situations of all the Weyrs and other places of importance in them that were really great ways to bring the stories to more vivid life than her awesome storytelling already did.

Write everything down when you’re building your worlds – preferably somewhere instantly visible to you as a big picture, and you’re not likely to ever slip up enough to cause suspension of disbelief overload. Doodle pictures of your starships with notes on their modes of travel, drives and so on. Scribble in all the information that you need to know right there on your project paper map, whether it’s an actual map of your alien world, or a story map of your mainstream fiction book, and it will save you lots of possible future angst about little or large details.

Spaceship

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

 

Beta Readers

Not all writers use beta readers, and not all writers offer their services as beta readers, but both of these things can serve as a huge help in our writing. Looking at it from the writer’s side first, it’s important to know what it is that you’d like your beta reader to do for your story, if there is anything in particular that you do want. Don’t be shy to ask if you suspect a weakness in any area.

In general, as well as glaring plot holes and so on, your beta reader will spot things like continuity problems, or hair that started out blonde and suddenly changed to auburn half way through the story. These are big deal issues for your future readers and often things that we miss because of our closeness to the story. For the same reason, we may leave out crucial descriptive passages or backstory because we know what’s going on. Beta readers could help you find typos and grammar gremlins too if that’s what you want and they’re so inclined.

When looking for beta readers, firstly look for those who enjoy reading the type of book you’ve written. A sparkly vampire book will probably not appeal to someone who thinks that Dostoevsky is the greatest thing since cream cheese. Be wary of those who are blatantly overcritical online. Some people just enjoy finding fault, and that’s not who you’re going for. Other writers generally make the best beta readers, because they know how to write, and mostly they’re kind too.

Be grateful for the service they’re offering you. Beta reading requires more than just reading a book, and all writers are busy bunnies, so giving you their precious time is a favour indeed – try and return it if you can, but even if you don’t, always appreciate it.

Don’t take all input to heart. Any critique can cut like a knife, but really make sure that you never, ever react to any of it with aggression. By the same token, you don’t have to agree with it, or implement any changes suggested if you don’t think that they fit your story or your particular writing style.

When you are the beta reader, on the other hand, always try and remain neutral when it comes to any of your personal pet peeves. We all have them, and they are most certainly not universal. Some people find particular words offensive. Others demand that NO telling at all be allowed in any tale – it must all be show, and show only.

Be kind. There are ways of critiquing that don’t have to include things like, “Your entire third chapter is a load of codswallop – delete it all!” Even if you do spot glaring and tragic errors and writing that grates on your very bones, be polite when returning your comments, while still remaining truthful.

In the end, remember that when it comes to the flesh of your story, and also your unique writer’s voice, you do not have to change any of it. Be open though, to the advice of those who don’t have a vested interest in your scribbles, and just take a deep breath or twenty, and try and take it for what it is – help.

Reading

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

What’s Your Opinion?

All occupations have hazards, and one that I particularly dread in my line of work is for anything to go wrong with an eyeball.

Unfortunately this week I have been stricken in the orb department, and try as I might, I couldn’t see much of what I was trying to do with this week’s LWI article to share with you guys. So rather than post photos of the chickpeas I took shots of last week for my recipe book, in the misguided belief that they are in fact the screenshots I took for what I was planning on sharing today, I thought I’d post something that you might enjoy having a look at and discussing in the comment section.

I really enjoyed Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, so much so that I heartily recommend it to all writers and creatives. Right now, for a limited time – till 30 June only, he’s offering free copies of his latest book for anyone with access to the link. I downloaded it a couple of days ago, but zooming through it today—with said one remaining strained and not very functional, watering eyeball—I’m not sure that I would recommend it at all. So I’m going to add the link here for any of you who feel like a little discussion about it. It’s quite a short book, but even so, you can pick up quite a bit by just glossing over it. Love it or not, it’s always great to get insights into the thought processes of great authors. I look forward to seeing what you have to say one way or another.

Download Links – Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t

Book Cover

Having Fun With Procrastination

Procrastination doesn’t set in because you suddenly see your writing as work, and all work must by its very nature be nasty. Procrastination generally sets in when you subconsciously convince yourself that you are going to fail. I read a very interesting article on a pretty good way to beat procrastination. Sit down quietly and visualise yourself – you, living your life from that point on.

See yourself pointedly not writing. Making coffee, washing long departed Granny Sue’s apron by hand on the off chance that you will ever desperately need to wear it. See your manuscript – just sitting there – not growing. See this going on for the next few weeks or months – or years. Then look that future self up in your head and say, “Hi.” Tell yourself how fabulous your new jeans are, and ask your future self how she/he feels about you not making the effort to write your book way back then, when the apron seemed so important. Caring about your future self and well being is actually a very big deal in the procrastination busting department. Feel the disappointment when old Future tells you that she’s totally lost the desire to write, and that there is no way of ever knowing just how different your life would have been if that book had been brought into the world.

It’s a very odd experience feeling the hurt of hurting your future self like that by your own free choice. Odd enough maybe to just get your superhero all fired up enough to put rear in chair and get to getting on with it. If that doesn’t work though, sometimes it’s a good idea to build yourself a Procrastination Palace. I’ve been working on ideas for this for the workbook I’m working on right now, so I’ll share one of my favourites with you.

Rather than just make list of your possible plot holes, get a little crafty with your writer’s block. Buy a whole pile of sticky notes, or just cut up some paper into squares. Think of this as your procrastination busting jigsaw puzzle. Write a character on a square, together with all his fabulousnesses and foibles, and the way that he looks too. Turn it over and write a bit about his role in your book. Do this especially with people who seem not to have any further direction in your story. Write out some pivotal scenes the same way. Scenes already written, scenes that you’ve been planning to write, and scenes that just pop into your head while you’re playing with your puzzle. Move them around. Talk to them. Ask them kindly if you can assist them in any way to move forward. It’s probably not a good idea to do this in a coffee shop unless everyone there already knows that you’re a writer by the way. Amazing the stuff that we can get away with. And you may also be amazed at the ideas that pop up this way while you’re seeing the parts of your story as physically different parts, and physically interacting with them, even if in a strange way.

Go ahead. Have fun with your procrastination. Wear a jolly hat and scarf to get in the mood. It’s really hard for fear (fear = blockage) to retain its grip when you’re having a ball, and before you know it you’ll be scribbling away.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Pretty Paragraphs – Inserting Drop Caps

The best place to look for information on how to publish your book for paper with CreateSpace is actually in your collection of traditionally published fiction and non-fiction. In their eBook, Building Your Book for Kindle, Amazon suggests both indenting the first sentence of paragraphs and also inserting empty space between paragraphs. A lot of Indies, myself included, made the mistake of using the same system for our paper books.

It’s not the end of the world, and doesn’t look terrible, but the way it’s usually done is either using indents with no spaces between paragraphs – apart from the first paragraphs of every chapter, which are not indented, or having the spaces between, but not indenting any of the paragraphs. Amazon recommend paragraph indents of 0.5” in Kindle books, and again, a lot of us carried that figure over when we formatted for our paper books. It also doesn’t look terrible, and most readers probably won’t notice, but if you look again at your fiction collection, you’ll see that they mostly use smaller paragraph indents. To set yours, click on the little arrow to the right of the Paragraph box, and adjust the settings for both the indentation and the spacing there. Remember to select the portion of your book where you want this to happen accordingly.

Indent and Spacing
You might also fancy having a drop cap in the first paragraph of every chapter. All you do in Word is highlight the paragraph and click on Insert, then select Drop Cap and choose the style you want.

Drop Cap 2

If you want to use a different font to the text for your drop cap, highlight only the first letter and select Drop Cap. Go back to your Home ribbon and open the font box. As you move down and hover over selections, you’ll see the end result appear on the page.

Drop Cap 3

If you’re looking for free and paid for new fonts, head over to Font Squirrel and download away. Always be very sure to read the licence terms for any free font, as some require attribution. Most of these fonts will embed nicely in your PDF file for uploading to CreateSpace, and if they don’t, just don’t use them. All of the standard fonts that come with Word will work great. You could also use Wingdings or other font illustrations as a drop cap with a space after it and begin the paragraph normally.

Drop Cap 4

How to Create Lines for Interactive Books

I’m working on a couple of projects that require lined pages for interactive paper books for CreateSpace publishing. Note that I’m not suggesting this method for Kindle books, mainly because I haven’t tried it there yet, and fancy formatting is not a good idea at all for Mobi, but also because a lined eBook isn’t going to do anyone much good. For eBook workbooks, I’d suggest rather including a printable, downloadable PDF workbook in your Kindle book—but we’ll do that another time.

If you want to create a journal or workbook, you’re going to want lined pages, or pages with text, images, and also lines. You could probably just hit the underscore a whole lot of times but that could run into problems, and using Word’s formatting tricks works well with CreateSpace. This way you control the look of your pages very nicely. Here we go.

The first thing to do is to set up your paper size.

1Paper Size

And margins.

1Margins

I’m using a large size here, 8.5 x 11 inches, but obviously you would set your own book size and margins accordingly. The next step is to decide how long you want your lines to be. If you want them the width of the page, then simply subtract your gutter, left and right margin sizes from the width of the book. Once you have your book size, it’s easy to decide on the length of line you want—play around with it awhile before saving.

Next, place your cursor where you want your first line to appear, and toggle the Show/Hide (pilcrow) function on. Highlight the pilcrow that appears on the page. Click on the arrow beneath the Change Styles box and select Clear all, to clear the formatting on it.

1Clear Paragraph Formatting

Click on the arrow in the Paragraph box from your home tab, and then click on the Tab box at the bottom of the box that pops up. In the Tab stop position box, type in the number that you get after deducting your margins. Select Right alignment, and select 4 in the Leader box (this is for underline). Click Set and OK.

1Set Tab

Now go back to your pilcrow and hit the tab key. Your line will now zoom across the page. Right click on the pilcrow and select Save Selection as New Quick Style.

1Save Style

Type in the name of your choice and click OK. To use the lines in this manuscript now, all you have to do is select it from the Change Styles box, and click Tab and Enter.

To format your lines, open the Change Styles box and click on the little arrow that appears when you hold your cursor over your newly created style. Select Modify and then Format, and then change the Paragraph line spacing as you wish.

1Format Line

1Format Spacing
Right click on the pilcrow to change the line colour. Unclick the Show/Hide pilcrow to get back to working normally.

Remember that if you change your margins at a later time, you will have to format your lines again, but for this particular book, you’re ready to go, and don’t have to abuse the underscore key or get your head around tables.

Lastly, while we’re on the subject of journals and workbooks, you might want to explore your font horizons on Word for some really pretty or striking effects. Click on the arrow in the Font box from your home page and play around with all the effects and options available for each font. Happy creating fellow scribblers.

1Font2

1f2

Write On

Sometimes you read a book. It hooks you from the first sentence, and just keeps on getting better. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It inspires you to do better, or be better. When you reach the final page, you feel like you’ve lost the best friend you ever had. Then you open your own manuscript, and find that suddenly, from nowhere, an ominous lead ball has miraculously appeared in your gut. You could never write like the author who penned the fabulous book that you’ve just finished reading. In fact, your writing sucks. Big time. And there it is. You can’t write at all anymore. Every sentence is fiddled with. Or worse, deleted. And the next few weeks are spent trying to write just as beautifully as the magical creator of that perfect book that you can’t get out of your mind. But it’s no good. You can’t. At this point quite a few writers give up entirely, their story left to be forgotten—never to see the light of a reader’s smile.

The thing is though, that the author of that magical book probably felt exactly as you did at some point. We all feel that way sometimes. We forget that each and every writer has their very own kind of magic, but I don’t know any writers who can see that wonderful stuff. Their own magic. Writers are by their very nature sensitive. Without natural empathy, wisdom, people-savvy, and a whole lot of general knowledge, they wouldn’t be able to ply their trade very well. Sensitivity tends to go hand in hand with self-criticism a lot of the time too, so we are fabulously capable of metaphorically beating the daylights out of ourselves, without any outside help at all. Unfortunately there is quite a lot of outside help around for any scribbler looking (or even not looking) to be criticised, so we should try really hard not to do it to ourselves. Remember that Stephen King tossed Carrie into the bin, convinced that it was absolute rubbish. If his wife hadn’t fished it out—who knows where he would be today.

Don’t ever let anything stop you from writing until you’re finished. And when you’re finished don’t let anything stop you from getting published, if that is your dream. That’s when you find out whether your book is good or not—only then. And even then, you don’t know the people who will buy your book. You’ll never see the smile on their lips, or hear them laugh loudly at some little sentence that you thought was quite silly, after reading that magic book you found. But that’s alright. We don’t need to know about the readers we may have inspired, or comforted, or irritated for that matter. We just do what we must, and write on.

Writing

Never Use Tabs in Manuscripts for Kindle

When submitting manuscripts to traditional publishers, you are generally required to number your pages—apart from the title page—and to indent first lines of paragraphs, as well as various other specific to guidelines formatting related things. With this knowledge instilled, a lot of writers will set these things in place when they start writing a new book to save time later. If they’ve never formatted books for Amazon and CreateSpace before, they’re not going to be aware of how tricky it can be to remove these things. Even if you’re planning on outsourcing your formatting, it’s a much better idea to avoid any possible mistakes.

Tabs anywhere on a manuscript for Kindle can cause all sorts of really terrible issues with your published book. It’s a much better idea to stick with only the basic formatting required when you type your book on your computer. For a newbie at formatting for CreateSpace, you could end up pulling out large clumps of your hair trying to get your already numbered pages to start in the right spot, so rather than fight with all these things later, when you’re already at explosion level in the excitement of imminently getting your finished masterpiece to the eyeballs of readers, don’t use any bells and whistles at all.

Indent

Rather than tabbing your paragraph indents, set up your Word document to do that automatically. Either do this before you begin typing, or Select the whole document first. Go to your Page Layout tab, and then click on the arrow to the right of the Paragraph box. Under Special, select First Line, and then choose how many spaces you want to leave on the first line of each paragraph. Under Line Spacing, select Single, and click OK.

As well as first line indenting, don’t use tabs anywhere else in your manuscript either. Tabs are totally out for Kindle. Only your paper book gets page numbers, so don’t bother about that at all until just before you’re ready to publish. If you’ve already got a manuscript with these things in place, make very sure to remove every single one of them before trying to load your book up to Amazon, either by using the Show/Hide (pilcrow) feature in Word, or going for the blitz method by clicking on the arrow in the Change Styles box and selecting Clear All. This will take out every little bit of hidden formatting, and you’ll have to start from scratch, but at least it’s one way you can be sure to get rid of anything that could make a mess of your published book.

If you’re planning on submitting to publishers, rather make a copy of your manuscript when it’s complete, and add all of the agent/publisher required formatting to that, keeping your original totally clean, in case you decide to go Indie with it at any point.

 

Inserting Links in Word for Kindle

You can add links to various websites, your books, your table of contents to your eBooks, as well as links within your book to a glossary or section of interest. Once you’re finished with your editing and basic formatting you can start to add your links.

To add a clickable link to your website or books, go to the site or the product page of your book, and right click and save the URL. You then go to the relevant word or words that you want to add the link to. Highlight them—for instance, the title of your book, then right click on what you’ve highlighted. In the box that appears, click on Hyperlink.

H1Paste the URL into the Address box and click OK, and it’s done.

H2

We’ve already shared how to use the hyperlink functions on Word to create the required NCX Table of Contents for Amazon, so the final bit of linking advice would be for within the body of your book.

To do this, first create a bookmark by highlighting the source word or phrase that you want to link to another section in your book. Go to the Insert tab, and click on the Bookmark icon.

H3
Write the name of the bookmark in the required field, using only lower case lettering and numbers with no spaces in between. Click OK.

H4
Then go to the destination text and do the same thing with the bookmark name for that.

H5
Highlight your source word/s and from the same tab select Hyperlink.

H6
Select Place In This Document and select the destination bookmark. Click OK.

Finally repeat the process from the destination to the source, and there you have it.

Go Back and Show Don’t Tell

Something I noticed rereading the first book that I wrote, and often also notice in the first books of other scribblers, is that we should probably sometimes rewrite the first quarter of our first book. We often overwork those very first chapters to death in our newbie angst to get it all in there. There’s that fabulous moment when you realise that you’re actually going to write a book. Your eyes widen, and a whole flotilla of butterflies do an exciting rendition of the Macarena right beneath your solar plexus.

Then you get stuck in, and those first pages flow right out, and you do happy dances, and refuse to bath or cook dinner. Because this is suddenly real. Real writers don’t need to get wet all the time, and neither do they need to eat to live. You’re a WRITER. That’s all you need. Well. That first joy is indeed something that should not be forgotten, but unfortunately it is, right about when you start to believe that unless you let your readers know, without any shadow of doubt, that your heroine has blue eyes, blonde hair, is just an inch short of six feet tall, and is about to ingest a large quantity of chocolate ice-cream—unless you tell them ALL of that, they’re going to lose interest and think you’re a rotten writer.

So off we go with the newbie telling. As in: Sheona felt the warm air of the summer January day in nineteen eighty four, blow through her blonde her, while she turned and walked towards the door before opening it, and turning left to go to the kitchen, where she turned her almost six foot tall frame to the right so that she could—aaargh!

Fair enough. That is a particularly nasty example of telling rather than showing, but I doubt that there are many new writers who get it all right first time. It’s very common to read books that get off to really hiccoughy starts, but then suddenly you can see the author hit his stride, and the words flow a story through your mind, rather than make you feel that you’re looking at a list of activities. Why not go back and have a little look at your first scribbles while between books?

After you have a couple of published books under your belt, probably the last thing that you want to do is go and fiddle with the very first one that let loose on the world. You want to be forging ahead with new books, not wallowing in history. The thing is though, as you get more readers with your new books, many of them are going to like your stories well enough to look for more from you, and so you’ll find that directly after reading your latest, most polished book, in the throes of proper fanly adoration, they will zoom over to Amazon and see if you have any more for sale. They won’t check publication dates, and being readers and not writers, they probably won’t be as forgiving with newbie writing in the first bit of your first book.

So, as your backlist grows, consider heading back and giving some of your first work a bit of a polish for new readers, with your new knowledge and experience. As Indies this is indeed a wonderful bonus. You get to change anything you like, anytime you like.

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Image Courtesy Pixabay

 

Getting Edited

Some writers love being edited, and others really, really don’t. Once we’re finished with our darling that we think is absolutely perfect as it is, the last thing we want is criticism. Ann Rice refuses to be edited. Other than proofreading, her words are all written exactly as she wants them. Most other writers, famous or otherwise, tend to have their work edited.

Getting your manuscript back with comments all over the place, and your favourite scene completely trashed could very well lead to apoplectic rage or rivers of tears. If so much is wrong then obviously you must be an absolutely rubbish writer and you may just as well give up could be your next thought—the one that comes after writing the rudest, most insultingly literate letter to your editor before hopefully having the good sense to delete it.

The thing to remember is that when it comes to changing your actual story, as an Indie, only you get to decide. You don’t have to take your editor’s suggestions on board if you don’t want to. Typos and grammar, yes, those must be fixed, but at the end of the day the story is only yours, and no editor is going to be cross with you for not agreeing with their suggestions. They’re just trying to help, but their tastes are different to yours, and many other people too. Just because you’ve hired an editor doesn’t mean that you are obligated to change anything at all, so if you’re happy with any parts of your book where changes are suggested, then rather get a second opinion or simply leave it as you like it.

A useful tool to use with Microsoft Word for when you do want input from others on your manuscripts, or vice versa by the way, is to be found in the Review tab. Click on Track Changes.

Track changes in word image.

You can change words, delete or insert.

Deleting in word image.

You can add comments.

add comments in word image

Changes can be approved or rejected.

approve changes in word image

Be a Writing Warrior

One of the best books to have in your writer’s tool box is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Just like any other profession, we scribblers should have books by those who have so successfully gone before to inspire and teach us. Steven’s original claim to fame was the bestselling novel The Legend of Bagger Vance, but he has quite a few great non-fiction books out there now too.

One of our biggest stumbling blocks in our writing lives is resistance. In fact in all aspects of our lives resistance can cause us to refuse to even take on a hurdle rather than risk falling at it. Resistance is what leads to procrastination. Steven is a religious man and some disagree with him when at one point he likens it to evil. All of us have battled resistance in one form or another, and I for one agree with him. When those little voices in our head get busy trying to stop us from starting anything that will lead to our success and joy, they most certainly are evil little devils.

Steven gives a small list in his book of those activities that most commonly elicit resistance. A couple of those he mentions are:

The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, no matter how marginal.

The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise for profit or otherwise.

Any diet or health regimen.

Any program of spiritual advancement.

There are eleven altogether, but I just want to give an indication of the pursuits rather than swipe swathes of his writing. I suggest rather that you buy his book, and read it, and then read it again every time you feel too intimidated to either start writing or carry on writing.

As he does, I also see resistance as an external force, coming from all sorts of directions. People, situations, and life’s challenges. Resistance is a force, wherever it comes from, that wants to stop us from achieving the best that we can, and being the best that we can, and it must be fought at every turn. Never fear it. Always challenge it. No matter how good it appears to be to give up on your writing and just do something easier, you will always be happier in the end if you fight back and write regardless of the fear or apparent obstacle.

The bigger and more fearsome the fear of writing, or the thing or person that’s trying to stop you from writing, or doing anything really, the more important it is for you to do it anyway. So remember fellow scribblers, when it comes to writing there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Write on through – fight on through, always, no matter how dodgy the sentences look at the time. If resistance is trying to stop you, then know that you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing.

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Promote Your Backlist

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It’s true that the best thing to do after launching your book is to concentrate on writing your next one, but that doesn’t mean that shortly after launch your book should be ignored other than a tweet now and then with buy links. The thing with traditional publishing, unless you’re one of the most popular writers in the world, your book won’t always be in the limelight. Even if it’s lucky enough to be moderately successful, it will still have to make way for the latest bestsellers, and eventually it will officially be backlist and have zero promotion from the publisher. Too many other shiny new books to see to.

The nice thing about being Indie published means that you can give your book a new party anytime you like. I like the idea of doing something every three months or so. As time goes by all of your online sites will grow with new followers. Followers who weren’t around when you launched your last book, and who might quite like it if they knew a bit more about it. Most people don’t inspect every link in the sidebars of blogs that they follow unless they’re looking for specific information, or if your words have impressed them so much that they simply  must have more of them immediately.

Every couple of months, have a look at your backlist, and think of your next promotion. If you have more than one book published consider having them all at the party. You could make one or a couple free as incentive, and then set the particular book that you want to promote at ninety nine cents, either as a Kindle Countdown or manually set the price for however many days you plan on promoting it. You could ask your fellow bloggers to participate in a blog tour, or you could simply announce your special deals on your own blog. Many of your community friends will share posts like these, and with Facebook, Twitter, and shares on other platforms you’re very likely to find at least a couple of new readers. You can run some advertisements on promotion sites, either paid or free, depending on what you can afford too.

Don’t be disappointed when your first book launch only yields a few sales to begin with. As you grow and write more books and gain new readers, all new promotions of them are going to be new to new fans, so dust off your backlist, consider new covers or rebranding if they’ve been languishing for too long, and give your older books a new lease on life.

A Closer Look at Creative Commons Licensing

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We’ve spoken about copyright before on here on LWI, but a lot of scribblers are still unaware of some of the pitfalls out there, especially when it comes to the Creative Commons (CC) licenses. As I’ve often said, when it comes to copyright infringement for both content and images, it is always better to err on the side of caution.  Unless you’re a hundred percent certain that using someone else’s work can’t possibly get you sued, don’t use it.  When it comes to this issue, ignorance of the law doesn’t count.  You are always at fault even if you don’t know what copyright means, and as such, if you’re sued you’re more than likely going to have to pay up.

While titles of books are not subject to copyright, and you can use them as you please, the content of books and also songs are very much so, unless they are clearly in the public domain.  Stay well away from music.  Never use song lyrics in your books without specific written permission from the copyright holders, unless you are positive that they are in the public domain – not even a single recognisable sentence.  It’s not worth the risk.  Legally, using a phrase of ten words or less is considered fair use if you’re happy to take the chance.  Plain lists can’t be copyrighted.  For instance, a list of varieties of birds.  Recipes can’t be copyrighted either.  Unless you actually do very obviously copy and paste another writer’s recipes right down to the same words for the method. Another point to consider is that there are many images that get loaded and labelled as CC0 that are in fact not owned by the people who have loaded them. Another biggie is when using images of people. Unless you have a model release please don’t ever use free images of people for your commercial work. Free fonts downloaded onto your computer also have licences, so be sure of any limitations before you use them in your books.

Anything with a CC licence isn’t automatically free to use in any way you choose and for any purpose, so it’s always a good idea to check properly first. You’re generally safe with public domain works, although you should take note of the fact that just because something like the Mona Lisa is in the public domain and if you take a photo of it, you can indeed do anything you want to with it, photos by other photographers are subject to copyright unless they licence their images CC0. So let’s have a look at the CC licences.

Creative Commons Zero (CC0) works are purposely given this licence particularly because their authors/artists want them to be as freely available worldwide for any use by anyone. You can change them, paint moustaches on them, or use them for your commercial and non-commercial work just as you like, with the only potential problems being when they contain images of people or copyrighted places.

CC BY

Attribution

You can distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon this work, even commercially, as long as you credit the artist/author for the original creation. So in this instance all you would have to do for use in or on your book would be to place the credit in the front matter. This would apply even if the work used is only a small element of a bigger work created by yourself.

CC BY-ND

Attribution-NoDerivs

You can redistribute for both commercial and non-commercial work, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author/artist/creator. Once again, credit in your front matter, but with the added proviso that it can only be used exactly as it is. No changes at all including the use of only a portion of it.

CC BY-NC-SA

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

You can remix, tweak, and build on it non-commercially with credit to the creator, and the proviso that you licence your new creation under the identical terms. This is not going to do for your book, unless your book is permanently free, and even then I would think that you would be able to find something else suitable with a CC0 licence. For just playing around to publish on your blog, this would be fine—just don’t forget the credit.

CC BY-SA

Attribution-ShareAlike

You can remix, tweak, and build upon once again but also for commercial purposes with credit to the creator and identical licensing terms. This means that your new work using this would also have to bear the CC BY-SA licence online. You would have to REALLY want to use this for your book to go to so much trouble.

CC BY-NC

Attribution-NonCommercial

You can remix, tweak, and build upon non-commercially with credit to the creator, but you don’t have to licence your new work on the same terms.

CC BY-NC-ND

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs

You can download and share with others with credit to the creator, but you are not allowed to change them in any way or use them commercially.

So it’s good to remember that when a font, image, or article is labelled Creative Commons, especially on Wikipedia, it’s always important to look at the exact CC license it’s using before using it for your commercial project. There are many great sites, such as Pixabay and Fontsquirrel where you can download freebies to help you on your way to published awesomeness so there is no need to upload straight from Google searches. Still, it’s always best to check before using anyway.

 

 

Finding New Readers

Many authors view marketing their books as a necessary evil to be endured rather than enjoyed. This can be true if our entire focus is on simply finding people—any people—to buy our books, and sharing our book blurbs, book links, and other book related things every day, generally in the same places and with the same people. Marketing doesn’t only have to be this way though. You can find new readers without doing so to the exclusion of all else, and enjoy yourself in the process too.

Us scribblers naturally gravitate to each other, and there is a lot of fun to be had socializing with our own kind. It’s great chatting with like-minded people who are knowledgeable in our ways. Our families and “normal” friends are not going to want to talk about formatting and cover design, and are most unlikely to instigate any conversations about grammar. Authors, whether Indie or traditionally published all need the support of our tribe, whether to cheer us on when we hit walls, celebrate our successes, or generally to inspire us with their own stories and knowledge. As well as having fun with our online writer buddies, we should also find out what our “thing” is, and move around in places where we’ll find people interested in that in order to increase our readership.

So, what is your “thing”? Yes—writing is your thing, but unless you write about writing then you’re going to have something else that you’re an expert at. Do you write historical fiction? Detective thrillers? Science-fiction? All of these things also have other things within them that could be your “thing”. Are you fascinated with England’s royalty, American politics, serial killers or faster than light travel? All of these topics and thousands more have thousands of fans who are not also writers. They gather online in groups on Linkedin, G+, Facebook, or specific websites and forums.

Do you actively participate in groups that are interested in aspects of your expertise related to your fiction or non-fiction? If not, you should consider joining a few. Finding these places is easy using the search engines on each site, or even just using Google search. Don’t join in your capacity as an author and try and sell your book. Rather enjoy the fellowship of those who share your passions and let others be keen enough to seek out your books because you yourself have interested them. Obviously, don’t hide the fact that you write westerns or whatever subject it is that the group is about—just don’t talk about your books all the time. Have fun interacting as simply another person, and you could find a whole group of new readers while you’re at it.

Follow non-writing blogs, join groups, and interact in places where people share your passions as who you are and without the obvious end result being to sell your books. If you haven’t considered what your “thing” is before, then set aside a few moments to think about it. Don’t be self-deprecating with this. What are you knowledgeable about? What are you passionate about? Find your “thing” and use it to find new readers.

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