I Want To Self-Publish – Now What?

I recognize that not all of my readers are also writers, nor are all my reader-writers considering the self-publishing path. However, for those that are, I thought I’d peel back the curtain, so to speak, and provide another glimpse at the wild and wonderful world that is taking control of your literary destiny. The next few articles are for you.

self-published: now what

So you’ve made the decision to self-publish. Congratulations! You, like me, are now in control of your book’s publication. Unfortunately, that was only the first of a number of decisions you still need to make before you will get to see your book on the shelf. So perhaps I should be offering my condolences instead.

You may have decided self-publishing is for you before you’ve finished writing your manuscript. If so, nice work! This means you are already thinking about how you want to go to market, which will only help you build your author platform well before your launch date.

That said, if you don’t have your manuscript ready it’s probably better if you simply bookmark these instructions for future reference as there is little that you can do with them until you have a completed (and preferably edited) manuscript. Bonus points if it is formatted too, but I digress.

Now, if you have your completed manuscript, fantastic! That’s an enormous accomplishment and I hope you took at least an evening to celebrate.

So now what?

From here, it is time to familiarize yourself with publishing terminology while answering a number of questions. This will, in turn, help you determine what your next steps are. Luckily there are no wrong answers—just some answers are more work or more costly than others.

Some of the most basic questions you need to answer for yourself are these:

What do I want to publish?

A book, sure. But let’s get more specific. Exactly what kind of book do you want to publish and what format do you want that book to take? There are three different formats you can choose for your book: Ebook, paperback, and hardback, although paperback and hardback are fairly similar. Each have their own audiences, benefits, and drawbacks.

How do I want to distribute my book?

Amazon, or simply the ‘Zon as it is called in some circles, pretty much owns the book market at this point. Therefore, your best chance of earning a living wage off your writing, and your writing alone, is to publish on their platform. However, you don’t have to have an exclusive relationship with them if you don’t want to. Some authors take advantage of their Kindle Select program for ebooks, which offers things like countdown deals and enrollment in Kindle Unlimited (their subscription reading program), while also publishing the print version of their books on other platforms. Others publish ebooks and print books alike on multiple publishing platforms.

Who do I want to list as the Publisher of Record?

If you are only publishing an ebook, then this question isn’t as important. However, if you want your own name or brand name to be listed as the publisher of record for a printed book, then you will need to purchase an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for each version of your book before you publish. In other words, if you want to have a paperback and a hardback version of your book, you will need to have two ISBNs.

How do I want readers to find me?

ISBNs help booksellers keep track of which book sale belongs to which author, but if you want readers to find you, you will need to hone up on your SEO knowledge. SEO stands for search engine optimization and it is just as important for improving your search rank on retail sites as it is on Google or Bing.

How much do I want to charge for my book?

Some authors set their first book in a series at an extremely low price point, knowing it might cost more to advertise the book than they expect to make off the sale because they expect readers to buy the follow-up books in the series at full price. Others decided to charge full price for all of their books as they believe it shows the reader that the book is high-quality. The choice, like everything in self-publishing, is up to you.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry, I will be expanding on some of these topics so that by the end of this series, you’ll feel a little less apprehensive about the publishing process. It’s only as scary as you let it be – just don’t expect it to be easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it.


Other posts in this series include:

However, if you would prefer not to navigate through a number of posts, I have also consolidated the entire series into a single downloadable PDF, which you can access by clicking here.

5 Reasons Your Book Takes Forever (and a Day) to Launch

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — writing the book is the easy part. For the past several weeks I have been practically chained to my desk getting Lies & Legacy ready for its big debut. Why does it take so long to publish a book after announcing the manuscript is done? I’m glad you asked.

If you are going to market via the traditional, or in some cases, the small press route, this is because the publishing house only wants to release a certain number of books at any given time so as not to compete against themselves. It’s an understandable concern, but frustrating from both the reader’s and the author’s perspective who are eager to get their hands on the book.

If you are publishing independently, it’s because of the following reasons:

1. Title Setup Forms

To independently sell a book, in a bookshop or online, it needs to first be setup in a retailer’s database. This means there are forms. So many forms. You have to register your book’s ISBN, which is an identification number used in the US and other markets by booksellers to ensure that books with the same title or author name don’t get mixed up on orders.

Then there are retail setup forms that need to be to filled out. If you are feeling masochistic ambitious, you can set up your book on each of the retail platforms individually. WideWizard is a browser extension that can help speed up this process. However, a distributor like Draft2Digital (affiliate link) will do this for you (but some take a portion of your sales, so there’s that).

2. Author Proofs

If you’re only interested in publishing an ebook, you can skip this step. However, if you are like me and want an actual physical book to gaze at lovingly, place on display like a trophy for all the world to see, or simply read, there’s the proof stage.

Technically, you can approve a book on Amazon or IngramSpark without ever actually laying your hands on a physical page, but I don’t particularly recommend it. I’ve learned the hard way that gremlins delight in sneaking in last-minute typos — the type you can’t catch in electronic format, no matter how many times you run your manuscript through editing software.

Unfortunately, this means you have to wait for your book to be printed, bound, packaged, and shipped to your door before you can move on to the next step. That said, there is something magical about receiving that first proof copy — even if it is has a big banner on the cover making it clear the book is ‘not for resale’ or if it does contain more than a few errors.

3. Revisions

As I mentioned, there are gremlins in publishing. I’ve received proofs with my name cut off on the spine, page numbers missing, length too tall, and random blank pages inserted in the middle seemingly with no sense of rhyme or reason. Seriously, NEVER publish a book without requesting a physical proof.

This means your files will require a round of revision. You’ll have to update your files and make sure that this time you REALLY take the time to visually inspect each and every single page (all 300+ of them, in my case). I don’t care how sick you are of reading your own story. DO IT.

4. Buzz Building

Superfans are awesome. Superfans count down the minute to your launch. They add your launch date to their calendars in permanent ink and put in a request to take the day after your launch off of work if only so they can stay up all night reading. Unfortunately, most people aren’t superfans — no matter how much they say they love your work.

excerpt of Lies and LegacyYou have to build excitement while reminding people you have a book coming out. There are a number of ways to do this: post repeatedly on Facebook (but not too much or you can get yourself reported as spam. You can hop around other people’s blogs or post sneak previews on your own. (Psst – You can see an excerpt of Lies & Legacy on mine).

You can pay to get featured in a newsletter or negotiate a swap. You can also signup with a service like BookSweeps.com to be a part of a giveaway. Just note, you often have to schedule these at least six weeks in advance.

5. Reviews

While there’s no one way to launch a book, you’ll have the most success if you have reviews to go with it, as apparently few people (outside of the superfans) enjoy being the first to give your book a try. But it’s getting harder and harder every day to ensure your book has reviews when it is time to go live.

Amazon will flag reviews it deems as coming from a potentially biased connection. Sure, occasionally a real-life friend or acquaintance’s review will still get past Amazon’s quality checks, but I know of reviews being reduced to digital ether simply because the review came from an author’s Facebook page follower.

I’ve reached out to known book bloggers in the past, and will continue to do so in the future, offering an advance copy in the hopes they might provide an honest review. However, they are under no obligation to do so and there is always the risk Amazon won’t accept the review, which is why they also are free to post it when and wherever they want. It’s totally up to them.

This is why I have also started using BookSprout.co to handle my advance review requests. It takes me out of the equation. (It also has a sales report and keyword research tool if you are interested).

All I had to do was give them my ebook files and links where I’d like to see reviews posted. They take care of all the rest.

I worried about pirates the first time I used them, but the site seems to police itself. I also worried about the quality of the reviews, but all I’ve thus far received have been thoughtful and well-written.

By the way, if you want to give them a try as a reader, I should mention there are a handful of advanced review copies of Lies & Legacy still available.

T-minus next to only a few more days to go.

Lies & Legacy: Project Gene Assist Book 3 launches March 26, 2020

Editing Tools For Writers

Writers, whether they pursue traditional publication under the writer-agent model, publish under their own name, or sign with a smaller imprint, need to edit their work prior to submission. However, while some authors believe their background makes them a grammatical expert, the truth is no one should rely on a single set of eyes.

Unfortunately, professional editing services cost money, and as most reputable editors charge by the word, the cost to help you polish a full-fledged novel quickly adds up. I understand the temptation to do without. That said, I’ve also spent more than I would like to admit on editing services for words that, upon hindsight, never stood a chance of making it to the final proof copy.

Thankfully, while no online editing tool or plug-in is good enough to replace a set of human eyes—for now, there are several programs on the market today that can help you identify more than the occasional typo. Many can now check for tone, misused words, readability, and even provide recommendations to help your pacing. Even better, many of them are offered for free or at a price point that is low enough to pay for itself in short order.

As a result, editing software programs are critical applications for every aspiring author’s toolbox and can help you bridge the gap between rough draft and editor ready. I’ve used dozens over the years, some with more success than others. To save you from making many of the mistakes I have, I’ve compiled this list of those I’ve found to be the best for fiction and non-fiction writing.

editing tools for writers

Grammarly

According to my Grammarly dashboard, the program has been correcting my text since 2015, so it’s a tool that has definitely impacted my writing. In fact, it has caught at least three errors in this paragraph since I started typing. That said, I’ve found the program misses errors occasionally when I’ve used it with Google Docs and I’ve had to disable it altogether on certain websites, like VistaPrint, as it doesn’t play nice with their text box editor.

Occasional bug aside, Grammarly has a free plan that works well as a spellchecker online via its browser extensions or as a Word plugin. However, there is also a premium version of the service, which can help you check tone, sentence variability, and make sure you aren’t inadvertently plagiarising online content.

Grammarly Achievements

  • Pros – It’s hard to beat free and is great for catching things like passive voice, incorrect punctuation, or misused homonyms in your daily writing. Plus, Grammarly sends out weekly progress reports telling you fun things like how unique your vocabulary is or how long you’ve kept your writing streak going which is great for staying motivated.
  • Cons – It’s much better suited for shorter business or online writing than creative long-form writing as it requires you to disable features like track changes in Word to operate.

ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid is another editing tool you can download and run as a plug-in with Word or Scrivener to check your writing or to check your writing online using its browser extension. Like Grammarly, its Chrome extension is free, however, in my opinion, its paid features, like its overused, cliche, echo, and consistency reports are well worth signing up for the premium version if you are a novelist.

prowritingaid reports

  • Pros – I can’t even begin to describe how much time this tool has helped me save looking for things like a missing quotation mark at the end of dialogue and identifying my clutch words and phrases. It is also more stable than Grammarly in certain web forms.
  • Cons – The plug-in for Word doesn’t always load correctly the first time, which has caused me to shut down Word and re-open my file on a semi-regular basis. In addition, the reports it runs can be somewhat overwhelming and do take a while to complete a check for a full manuscript.

Fictionary

Full disclosure, I am somewhat biased as I was invited to help test an early version of Fictionary, but I absolutely love what this program has to offer (they’ve also added a ton of extra features since then). Unlike all the other tools in this list, which I consider more copy-editing software, Fictionary is designed to help you automate a development edit.

To use it, all you have to do is upload your manuscript and tag where your plot points are located. Fictionary will then tell you if your pacing is too fast or too slow with a graphical representation of the story arc. It can also help point out things that can help strengthen your story like are the five senses represented in each scene of your writing, has a character gone missing from the story, or are you varying your openings and closings enough to keep your reader interested.

Fictionary Story Arc
graphical representation of the story arc from Fictionary.com
  • Pros – While I still put more stock in beta reader feedback than I do a computer program, allowed me to perform a proactive developmental edit before I risked my reputation or burdened advance readers with a two-dimensional story.
  • Cons – Fictionary advertises that it can help you evaluate and revise your manuscript against 38 story elements. This sounds like a pro, until you are actually ready to make all those edits. If you are a pantser rather than plotter, you may not have had a goal for each scene in mind related to the overall plot or may have included scenes you loved to write, but don’t serve any purpose. Tagging all these elements in the software can be overwhelming as well as time-consuming. It’s also not free, which is understandable given its value but does offer a free trial.

Hemingway App

The Hemingway App, also known as the Hemingway Editor is offered as either a online editing tool or as a desktop app designed around making your prose more like Ernest Hemingway’s. That is to say, it will help your writing get right to the point, which is clearly something I need more help with. The tool highlights sentences that it deems too long, identifies adverbs that are keeping you from showing rather than telling, and warns you about passive voice, and gives you a readability score which can help you better connect with your target audience.

HemingwayApp

  • Pros – The free online tool loads quickly and features easy to interpret color codes which change in real-time as you edit your copy. The paid desktop version also lets you publish directly to WordPress and Medium, making it a great editing option for serialized stories.
  • Cons – Not everyone is a fan of Ernest Hemingway’s style of writing. Was I forced to read 127 pages about an old man trying to reel in a marlin? Yes, I was. Did I enjoy it? No, I did not. Also, it does not integrate directly into other word processing programs, meaning you can use it to tweak your copy, but then will need to export it to Word, text, or PDF before you can do anything with it.

EditMinion

Before I bit the bullet and purchased the premium version of ProWritingAid, I used EditMinion to help polish up my work before sending it out for a professional edit. EditMinion is a completely free online editing program, that helps identify cliche phrases, passive voice, adverbs, and missing dialogue tags. However, it relies on copy and paste, and can only check a chapter of your text at a time.

EditMinion

  • Pros – It’s simple and you can’t beat the price point. Also, because there is absolutely nothing to download, you don’t risk corrupting your files or crashing other applications.
  • Cons – Copying and pasting each chapter one by one into the program can feel agonizingly slow, especially when you feel like you are so close to the literary finish line you can practically taste it. The tool also does not help your writing outside of the app or let you know if you have accidentally misspelled a character name. As a result, I use it when I need a second opinion but rely on the other products for heavier edits.

I am delighted to report I have reached the end of an editing project yet again and will be releasing my fifth full-length novel, Lies and Legacy: Project Gene Assist Book 3 to the general public in March 2020. You can read more about this series by visiting my Project Gene Assist book page, or by visiting your favorite online retailer to pre-order a copy.

Project Gene Assist Series Banner

How Not to Launch a Book in Ten Easy Steps

This time next week, I’ll officially have four novels with my name on them. Four. I can hardly believe it, but it’s true. You would think that this would mean that I’m quite the expert on launching a book, but sadly this is another example of something I’m far more qualified on the topic of what not to do.

1. If it is your first project, don’t wait to start building up a presence on social media, blogs, or working on growing your mailing list until after the book is for sale. For some strange reasons telling people about your book after it is officially on sale doesn’t exactly make for the best opening weekend.

2. If it is a sequel to that first project, consider launching it within a year of the first in the series, if not sooner. You might have been obsessed with your characters and the world over that time, but apparently, readers move on during that time. Readers can be fickle like that.

3. If you do mistakenly wait for more than a year (or five), consider re-reading your original time or two before attempting to write the sequel. You might think the fact that you read and re-read your original novel twenty-gajillion times during the editing process would mean you have your character’s mannerisms and tone etched into your bone. You’d be wrong.

4. If you go ahead and write the novel without revisiting your original story and send out a half-baked manuscript to early readers, don’t be surprised when they tell you your story is flat (but in the nicest, most constructive, supportive way).

5. If you did send out a half-baked story, don’t spend more than a week questioning all your life choices leading up to this moment of misery while pondering if it might be better to change your name and start again in Idaho (which I hear is lovely), or similar place.

6. If you do decide to give yourself a break by pushing out your self-imposed publishing calendar from the Spring to the Fall, don’t think all that extra time means you can’t still be working on it.

7. If the stress of working on a seemingly never-ending project did get to you and you found yourself going on a vacation, savor that time with your family or friends, but know you will have to kick the work into overdrive the minute you get back.

8. If you did allow bad habits to creep back into your process while you indulged in a few weeks of rest and relaxation, write out a marketing and production plan the day you return so you can start planning out your tasks and get your head back into the game as quickly as possible if only to make up for lost time.

9. If the words “marketing” or “production” plan put you on edge, know you are in good company. However, know that you still have to do these things even if you’d rather put your fingers in your ear and sing lalalalalalala. Therefore, you might as well get over yourself and find a way to write that stuff down, but more importantly, follow-through. You’ll save yourself a ton of heartache later.

10. If your eyes completed glossed over #9 as some sort of mental denial, or you are already coming up with a dozen or more reasons why there was always something else more pressing to do, well then you too might just find yourself a week from launch day in a state of mild panic realizing that while you do have a completely re-written book itching to go on sale, you only a handful of advanced reviews scheduled, and absolutely no blog tour stops or social media events planned on your calendar.

It’s not an insurmountable situation, but the alternative is much to be preferred.

And that, my friends, is how not to launch a book.


Living happily ever after is a full-time job.

Uncertain-Confidence-www.alliepottswrites.comCharlotte’s life is on an upward swing. She’s in business with her best friend and her art is finally getting noticed.

Nothing could possibly go wrong … until everything does.

One disastrous night out ends with the sudden collapse of her best friend’s husband, putting him in the hospital and leaving Charlotte to manage things alone.

Uncertain about her ability to keep her business and her aspirations for artistic stardom afloat, Charlotte enlists the help of a stranger who promises to make her dreams come true. But in doing so, Charlotte may learn just how dangerous trusting the wrong person with your dreams can be.

Will Charlotte’s confidence prove to be her greatest strength or will it be her greatest mistake yet?

An Uncertain Confidence is a sweet contemporary story and fast read about friendship, trust, and the lengths we often go to protect those we love.

On Sale Oct 24th

Read an excerpt

5 Free Alternatives to Vellum – The Ebook Conversion Edition

Vellum Alternatives for Ebook Conversion - www.alliepottswrites.com

While downloading ebooks to your reader is simple, getting them up on the cloud in the first place requires some work. I write my books using Word, however, just because you can import your manuscript’s formatted-for-print-ready Word document into Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

For example, you may want to include a table of contents in your ebook for easy navigation, but don’t want one in the print version, or you may want to include links in your ebook pointing readers directly to your other books, making purchasing faster. There are also other distributors besides Amazon that require a specific format for ebooks called epub. This leads me to the next step in the book publishing process – ebook conversion.

Vellum

Vellum offers formatting for print as well as ebook conversion. However, lacking a Mac or a bottomless checkbook, I’ve only been able to appreciate its service as a reader. I can tell it must be awesome to use though based on the number of books I’ve read featuring one of its telltale templates. Don’t get me wrong – it creates highly readable ebooks. I’ve just seen enough of the same decorative flourishes to recognize a Vellum ebook as soon as a chapter opens.

  • Pro: Super easy to use
  • Con: Costly at $199.99, it’s not available for non-Mac users (unless you go through a third-party service like MacinCloud), and your book looks like dozens of others making it more difficult for your author brand to stand out from the crowd.

Smashwords

Smashwords is an ebook conversion service and distribution channel. It is also one of the most difficult ebook conversion tools I’ve ever used. This is because Smashwords distributes your book to channels like Apple books, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble for you, and those channels may have slightly different requirements for an ebook’s file’s layout. Therefore, Smashwords is VERY particular about how your manuscript is formatted prior to releasing it to partner sites and works best with Word files. Fail their checks during the process they call “the Meatgrinder” and your book goes nowhere.

  • Pro: Converts to all major ebook formats including mobi, epub, and pdf for free
  • Con: I am serious when I say this service is NOT recommended for people who don’t know how to use Word styles or are unwilling to read through an entire book of “style guides” prior to attempting to convert their file. There is a reason you can find people to hire on Fiverr to get your file ready for you. Also, once your book passes inspection, it is put up for sale without going through a secondary preview approval step. This means there is a risk your book could be published with typos or with a missing chapter as long as stylistically it fit within the Smashwords Style Guides.

Draft2Digital

Draft2Digital (affiliate link) is like Smashwords in that it is a distributor that also offers ebook conversion. However, it is much, much simpler to use. Upload your word doc, select a template, and then add in things like your social media links, mailing list link, or author page, and Draft2Digital spits out a book file you can either take and distribute through other channels yourself or distribute through them for a portion of future book sales.

  • Pro: It is fast, simple, and lets you download mobi, epub, and sample length versions of your ebook for free – even if you don’t distribute with them.
  • Con: Draft2Digital does not allow you to edit your file once it has been uploaded. Therefore, if you see a typo or a weird chapter heading, you have to go back to your original document, correct the error on the word doc and upload again.

Kindle Create

Kindle Create is still in its infancy, in software terms, and therefore is somewhat limited in what it can do compared to some of the other ebook conversion programs out there. For example, there are only a handful of templates to choose from and it only exports a special non-mobi kindle-ready format. It also requires you to download the software rather than work online. However, it’s another free option that produces nice, clean ebook files, and unlike Draft2Digital, gives you the ability to tweak chapter headings or resize images without leaving the user interface.

  • Pro: It’s even easier to use than Draft2Digital, includes a kindle previewer tool that lets you see how your book will look on multiple device sizes, and free!
  • Con: It doesn’t export to epub or mobi file, which limits your ability to use it to create advance copies of your ebook that can be sent via email or service like ProlificWorks, Bookfunnel, or via email to early reviewers.

Reedsy

When you format a book with Reedsy (affiliate link) you have the option to either have them email you a print-ready file or send you an epub or mobi file you can then take to the ebook distributor of your choice. Like Kindle Create, you can edit your ebook’s appearance in the user interface, which is great, but its editing capability is limited compared to Kindle Create. For example, while you can correct a typo in your text without re-uploading, you can’t resize an image. I also had a very difficult time getting the program to properly format my character point of view sub-headings without messing up drop caps.

  • Pro: The ability to edit your book without leaving the user interface is a big plus over Draft2Digital the fact you can download in both epub and mobi is a great benefit compared to Kindle Create
  • Con: Reedsy does not allow you to select chapter-specific settings. For example, if you say you want to feature drop caps at the beginning of each chapter, the program inserts drop caps in every chapter—even in the glossary at the end, which can be distracting to the reader. Downloads aren’t as instantaneous as the other options either. You have to wait for an email and can only request a download every ten minutes. There are also only three templates to choose from.

Calibre and Sigil

While you can technically use either of these programs by themselves, they really work best together. Calibre has the ability to take a Word Doc (saved as HTML) and turn it into epub or mobi file using the headers, fonts, or other decorative touches you specify. This makes layouts more flexible, and gives your books a more custom look than what you can do with the other programs.

Sigil is more of clean-up tool than a conversion program. You can import an epub file you created with Calibre or with any of the programs above (except Kindle Create as it doesn’t offer epub), then tweak it until it looks the way you want, giving you the ability to customize the files generated by other programs. It makes fixing those pesky typos that somehow managed to sneak past your edit process super fast once you get the hang of it, but until then…

To be clear, neither of these programs are for the technologically challenged, and both require some comfort with programming. Personally, I love Sigil now, but it was a hard-won love.

  • Pro: This combination gives you the greatest range of customization for your ebook’s appearance and both programs are free to us
  • Con: Both programs have a rather steep learning curve and may cause a person to shake their fist in the air, sob into the phone while wondering what they ever did to deserve such agony, or be driven to drink.

I am sure there are other programs out there, but these are the ones I’ve used the most. Now, one step done, one million other little things left to go.


Rocky Row Novels - www.alliepottswrites.com
An Uncertain Confidence: Now available