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

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

Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft | Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

Ready or not - the Watch and Wand - www.alliepottswrites.comThis is it. The big launch week for The Watch & Wand and a few wonderful members of the blogging community have been nice enough to help spread the word.

I’ve turned off comments on this post but would encourage you to click on the link at the bottom and maybe poke around on some of the other posts you see there.


From time to time we like to feature insights by other authors here on the blog. This time, Allie Potts, a friend of the blog and victim of our internet show Writers Off Task With Friends, pays a v…

Source: Imagine working the cutting room floor: a simple trick for editing your early draft | Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR

Framing Your Story – Book Formatting Basics: The End – Guest Post by Allie Potts… | Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

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LT’s friends approve

Today I am visiting with Chris Graham, The Story Reading Ape, talking about formatting books for print using Microsoft Word. For those who aren’t as familiar with Chris, I encourage you to check out his site – not just because he was kind enough to turn it over to me for a bit but because it is full of great information about the indie publishing industry as a whole, author highlights, as well as jokes anyone in any profession could enjoy.

I know that not everyone who reads my blog is an author, aspiring author, or uses Microsoft Word, but I hope that you might still be able to find a time-saving tip or two you can use in the future.


You’ve been toiling for hours upon hours. Edited to a glossy shine, your manuscript is finally complete. Unfortunately, a complete manuscript is not the same thing as a book interior. The difference…

Click here to read the rest: Framing Your Story – Book Formatting Basics: The End – Guest Post by Allie Potts… | Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Amazon’s call to action


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I receive quite a bit of email on any given day, half of which are various email newsletters I don’t particularly recall signing up for. I delete the majority of these without doing more than scanning the headlines. One of these is from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing group and usually details how such and such author is now making so much money, not only are they making enough writing to replace their full-time job, their significant other is also leading a life of luxury.

I was surprised then to find that this week’s message was instead a call to action against publisher Hachette as part of their ongoing dispute regarding e-book pricing.

To summarize, Hachette wants to get a return on their investment by controlling the price of the books they publish, they believe their books are worth more because they are of higher quality than say, a book published without their help. They argue that unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before seeing any revenue. This investment includes: invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. All of this additional overhead is critical to their business and should be valued accordingly. You can see their full response here.

Amazon believes they would be able to sell more of Hachette’s books if only Hachette would agree to make less money on the books they (Amazon) sells. Amazon listed out several of their arguments in their email, two of which are:

  • “With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive”
  • “They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more.”

If Hachette compromises, unless they accept a lower return on their investment (a sure shareholder crowd pleaser), they will be forced to reduce staff or otherwise cut overhead, lowering either their selection or their quality standards.

If Amazon compromises, then this same fight will play out with all the other large publishers. Prices will stay where they are currently, or could even rise, making books less accessible to readers on a budget.

Which brings me back to the email. At the end, there is a call to action begging authors such as myself to write to Hachette’s CEO and carbon copy Amazon. The email even provided his email address and talking points. You can read the full letter at www.readersunited.com.

Amazon has been great to me. Without them I would not have sold half the books I’ve sold to date, and I love that they have a platform allowing a person such as myself the ability to compete with major players in the industry. I also wouldn’t have been able to do the majority of my shopping without them. As with any retailer, I believe they have the right to refuse to promote or sell goods which do not conform to their corporate strategy/image. However, and please don’t block me Amazon for saying this, I won’t be writing Hachette. Hachette has the right to charge what they believe is fair market price. If they believe that their e-books are worth $14+ then so be it. As a reader, I don’t buy their argument that there aren’t other cheaper alternatives which are just as worthwhile to read, but other readers might view this differently. As a writer, their pricing practices actually make my book easier to sell. I am not going to complain about a competitive advantage that comes my way.

This whole incident is like fighting parents bringing their children into an argument. It’s not in anyone’s benefit and should be avoided at all costs. It’s going to get ugly, things are going to get said that can never be unsaid, and no matter who wins the child is stuck with expensive therapy bills later.

Authors who have signed with Hachette’s companies might be suffering. If I was one of them, I might be upset that there were negotiations out of my control affecting my livelihood. However I am not one of them. I’d love to have their worst day’s sales. Nor am I an Amazon exclusive author. Amazon and Hachette, thank you both for enlightening me on your relative positions, but I hope you can settle this without my further involvement. Until then, I think I will continuing to support indie publishers and authors whenever possible.

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