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The latest in Regge's series of Endless Mountains ghost stories is available on Amazon:

The Boy in the Toy Room: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

Nora is haunted. She's haunted by the past, haunted by the future, and haunted by the boy in the toy room. Wanting desperately to fall back in love with her husband, Nora moves back to the country to work on building their dream home. Building dreams isn't easy, though: she'll have to fend off a drunken ex, contend with an interfering mother-in-law, and try to keep a battered rental house from falling down around her.

Meanwhile, someone has been breaking into the house, and her daughter's imaginary friend, the boy in the toy room, seems to be trying to burn the place down. While the men around her rage and bluster, it's Nora's job to hold things together and keep her daughter safe, whatever the cost. 

 

And don't forget Waking Up Dead: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

If Deidra Shay had known she was dead, she might have made other choices -- but she didn't. When her best friend, Jesse, finds her body and is pulled away screaming and crying, Deidra follows her home and all hell breaks loose! Friends and family are pulled into a maze of love and sex, revenge and redemption as Jesse and Deidra struggle to figure out how to go on living after waking up dead. 

This is romance, a testimony to friendship, and one answer to what life might be like beyond the grave for both the person moving on and the people left behind.

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Tuesday
Mar252014

There's More to Self-Publishing than Uploading Files

 

 The Novice Independent-Publisher

 

Insights from Regge Episale

Waking Up Dead: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

The Boy In the Toy Room: An Endless Mountains Ghost Story

 

 

I was asked to write about my experience in the world of self-publishing. What I have to say first is that I am truly learning every day. The world of self-publishing is evolving and almost anything I put in this paper may change tomorrow. Before we get started, I highly recommend a book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch called APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a book. I have a shelf and computer full of books and information and that is by far the most helpful one I’ve read.

Keep in mind, however, that the field is changing rapidly and no information should be considered the last word.

I don’t want to always self-publish. It would be wonderful to have a publishing company take care of editing and promoting my work. I wrote about my decision in my blog, and although I now see some edits I should do, think it will be helpful to you in understanding my decision. You can read it here.

First of all, let’s change from “self-publish” to “independently-publish.” The reason is simple: even though you write the original piece of work, you still need to use the processes traditional publishing companies use, such as editing, formatting, and marketing. To do this you need to have deep pockets to hire professionals or be ready to learn a whole new skill set. I believe you need to do both and so, like a general contractor who builds the basic structure of a house but hires an electrician, a plumber, and a mason, you independently put your book through the processes needed but you don’t do them all yourself. Because my experience lies mostly in novels, that’s what I will talk about, but these same steps apply to almost any genre.

You wrote a book. Wow! I’m not kidding. Writing a book, whether it’s a novelette or full novel, is an accomplishment. People say they’ll write a book. People plan on writing a book. Some people, those who make themselves work at it, actually get it done. I’ve written three books, two of which I’ve published and one that has been in revision for years and is still alive and kicking. I have a list of books I plan to write and sometimes get frustrated with how long it takes me to kick just one out. But, let’s go back to the subject. You wrote a book. Now what?

Read it from start to finish yourself. If you get bored in a passage, so will the readers. If it takes too long to get into the story, the reader will set it aside with, “I just couldn’t get into it.” Read it out loud. Now, revise it.

Get an editor. That’s easy to say but hard to do. Editors can cost from $300.00 to $1000.00 and up. They base their price on the size of the book, their level of experience, and “what everyone else is charging.” Sadly, the price doesn’t necessarily reflect the value of the editor. And there isn’t just one kind of editor. There is content editing and line editing.

A content editor is going to read the book for plot, narrative, character development, and all of those other lovely things you’ve studied in class. A good content editor is going to let you know if a word or piece of clothing doesn’t fall in the right time frame. A content editor is going to tell you if your romantic scene feels like a step-by-step instruction for sex or if it makes their heart melt.

A line editor is going to tell you that a hyphen shouldn’t be used in place of an em-dash, that you changed tenses, need a comma, don’t need a comma, need a new paragraph, used an incorrect word, forgot quotation marks, used single quotation marks incorrectly, used “your” instead of “you’re”, and a million other things you know but will miss because no one, and I mean absolutely no one, can edit their own work without developing a blind eye.

A content editor can be a line editor, and be very, very good at both jobs, but they are separate functions. You need to recognize that. I get paid to edit books for other writers, and I charge separately for each function. When I read for content I automatically do some copy editing, but that isn’t my focus. I focus on the story line and characters and flaws in the facts. When I copy edit, the book is in good shape and I read every quotation mark, every period, every comma, and every verb tense. You get my drift. When you get an editor, you need to know what you’re paying for. My editor is a college professor who is also a free-lance editor.

If you don’t have someone qualified to edit, there is a group called 10 Day Book Club that has a stable of editors. They let you read editor’s resumes and reviews from people they have worked with. They offer copy editing, line editing, and a group of beta readers (what I’ll talk about next) for different prices. They aren’t the only kid on the block, but are worth checking out.

You might have a group of published people you can talk to and get a referral for an editor or editors they have used successfully. Before you hire an editor, get your hands on something they have edited. This isn’t a case of one-shoe-fits-all. Your editor should be someone you can have honest conversations with, and someone who can and will back-up what they say with citations and links. Don’t expect your editor to agree with you all the time and don’t expect to always agree with them.

Okay, you have a book and you’ve revised it over and over again and it’s as good as you can get it. It’s time to send it out to a trusted group of readers and get some feedback. I have a group I use that is made up of a wide variety of people. I have family, friends, and acquaintances. Some are writers, some are readers, and they come from a variety of professions. After all, a book should appeal to a wide audience and there’s only one way to know if it does; have a wide audience read it. (I give signed copies of books to the members of my reader group when the book is done, and acknowledge their help in the “Acknowledgement” section of the front-matter.) After you have considered and, if necessary, addressed concerns from your readers, it’s time to format for publication.

To format for publication, you need to know which company you want to deal with. I’m not going to say who you should use, but I found CreateSpace, owned by Amazon, to be the most affordable and fastest route. There are a lot of companies (Xlibris comes to mind) who offer packages for editing, formatting, printing, distribution, and “give” you copies of books, but you lose control. I just read a book that had been “edited” and “copy edited” by Xlibris. They even listed the editors. There were so many errors in the book that the poor grammar was mentioned in most of the reviews on Amazon. They also gave the author no choice about print size or space and it is very difficult to read. All of that for a mere $6000. Ouch. If you shop wisely you can have your cover produced, book formatted, content and copy edits done, and buy your own books for far, far less and have a higher quality product. Some good places to look are Lulu, Book Baby, Lightning Source, and Blurb, depending on what type of book you are publishing, but CreateSpace was the fastest and easiest for my purposes. It was an experiment and I was aware that I didn’t know what I was doing. CreateSpace has templates for cover design and very specific format instructions.

I made some mistakes that I won’t make again. I used the CreateSpace ISBNs but in the future I’ll buy my own. I didn’t have the money to spend at the time and I’m not complaining. It was nice to get free ISBNs. However, I will now need to do second editions if I want to put them under my own publishing company and buy my own ISBNs under Endless Mountains Books. I guess that isn’t a mistake so much as something I will change in the future.

At the time I published my first book, CreateSpace charged an additional fee to upload my book to Kindle. A year and a half later, they offer to do it immediately and for no charge. That’s why understanding formatting is so important.

For a book, learning how to set the gutter, what fonts and sizes to use, the difference between section breaks and page breaks, what kind to use, how to make an index, is brain numbing work. Google the information, download CreateSpace instructions, and format like crazy. There’s too much to it for me to list here, but once you get it you’ll wonder why it was so hard. Until then you’ll wonder why you’re killing yourself trying to figure it all out.

I suggest you pick up any one of the many books on your shelf and see what is in the front matter. Create those same pages for your book. Look inside the book and notice that there are two different headings: author name on the left, title on the right. If you aren’t good at this stuff, be ready to learn a lot or hire someone to teach you or do it for you. When done, make a new copy in a second file if you want to change your layout for Kindle or any other eBook. Study that, too.

I like that CreateSpace sells you a proof. Buy it. Buy several of them and have your trusted readers read it again in print. Read it yourself, out loud if you need to, because you will find errors in print that you didn’t see reading the same book online. I’ve made the mistake twice of reading the proof on line, approving it, and then sighing at every mistake I found when reading in print. I finally gave up. I was tired of revising and my books aren’t perfect. They are getting better, though.

And now it’s time to market. I haven’t found a great company to do this for me, but they are out there and I’m hunting them down. I will say this: I sold a lot more of my first book than I did my second one, and the only difference was how much I worked at it. The Boy In the Toy Room is a better book than Waking Up Dead, but I had some family issues this year that kept me from doing the marketing I needed to do and it shows. I did write a blog on my first efforts. You can read it here: Marketing 101.

You can have the best book in the world and if no one knows it’s out there, you aren’t going to sell it. The first marketing you should do is giving your book the right search words on CreateSpace and Amazon (or whoever you chose to print it with). Mine are: paranormal, ghost stories, ghost, women, fiction, adult fiction, women’s fiction. Someone looking for your genre will search that category.

Get really good business cards made up and some post cards and give them to the grocery clerk, your waitress, every person you meet. Tell them you’re an author and you have a book. I have tried the cheap route via Vistaprint but find that Moo is well worth the price.

Be ready to give your five second pitch. Yes, that is a marketing tool you need. The five-second pitch, also known as the elevator-pitch, is a very short description of you book that doesn’t give away the ending but does inspire curiosity. It’s essential. Work on it. Write it down. Get comfortable with it.

Your cover is also a marketing tool. I have photographers and artists in my family and I got permission to use their work on my covers. Keep the cover simple and relevant. Too busy is bad. Clear and eye-catching is good.

The blurb is also an important tool. The blurb should make someone want to read your book but, again, not disclose too much. Mine reads: “If Deidra Shay had known she was dead, she might have made other choices—but she didn’t. When her best friend, Jesse, finds her body and is pulled away screaming and crying, Deidra follows her home and all hell breaks loose. Friends and family are pulled into a maze of love and sex, revenge and redemption, as Jesse and Deidra struggle to figure out how to go on living after waking up dead.”

Write a press release. Mine only got into one paper after I sent it to several, but it also got me an interview.

Give books to people who will market for you, such as DJs and KJs at your local bars. Walk into independent book stores and give the owner or manager a signed copy of your book and ask them to carry it. Donate copies to your local libraries and offer to give a reading, a talk, whatever rocks their boat. Five local book stores carry my book. I have been on a panel for ghost stories, am giving a talk on “Getting Acquainted with your Ghost” in May, and have given readings everywhere from libraries to bars. Join LinkedIn and stay active. There is a wealth of information out there. Participate in fund raisers by having a table at outdoor markets sponsored by your local organizations. Donate books for fund raisers. Attach yourself to a local charity and donate a percentage of each sale to them, and let them and everyone else know that you are doing it. My local charity is True-Friends Animal Shelter.

Blog and post links to your blog regularly on Twitter and Facebook. I have failed to keep up with those things this year and as a result my sales are way, way, down.

My next book will be published with Lightning Source. I have found that I now know how to format, am ready to buy my own ISBN numbers, and want the added exposure of the stores they market to through Ingram, a large distributing company (Google them). However, since they do not offer any author services, such as information on how to format and upload, I wasn’t ready before. Now I am, and will place larger print orders by offset press, which will result in reduced costs for me.

And I will continue to submit to publishers. Not these books—the ghost stories—but other books. To keep myself from going crazy with the time and cost of submitting, I will probably start out using Writer’s Relief, an organization that will help with the cover letter, sample chapters, book synopsis, and agent and publisher research:

The industry is changing. Big publishing houses are starting to recognize that authors are submitting manuscripts less and less. Agents are starting to work for writers, offering editing and marketing services for self-publishers. Ingram is distributing books by self-published authors who use Lightning Source. Small publishers are jumping out of the wood work—some good and some bad—many of them offering specific genre work and developing an expertise in their field. And publishers are starting to agree to re-publish self-published work that is successful. Writers have made their point: they can and will reach the public. But I also think writers have learned a hard lesson: if you spend all of your time formatting and marketing, there is a lot less time to write.

I would do it again in a heart-beat. Being a self-published writer has opened doors for me that mailing manuscript after manuscript to be lost in slush piles never, ever could have. I have a readership. I can prove that I write and people read what I write. That being done, I’d really like to get back to my stories.

 

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