That Book is a Monster

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MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 1 on formatting and publishing

  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.<<<<
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Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Positive Authorship

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

POSITIVE MARKETING

Authors, would you like to:

  • Put more readers in a good mood for your book.
  • Attract a more positive audience.
  • Make a powerful impression as an author.
  • Enjoy authorship.
  • Feel productive, creative, and energized.
  • Be part of a happier, more supportive ambiance.

The answer is simple: Foster positivity.

  • What better way to attract positive readers than to show yourself as happy in your role as author?
  • Positive people, likely to be in a good mood shortly after discovering your book through your marketing—will those people be attracted to authors who themselves radiate positivity, or will they want to read books by authors who complain, criticize, or show their frustration?
  • If you can be a rare author who handles all the struggles of authorship—from critical reviews to slow sales to technical computer challenges—with a positive, uplifting personality, more than helping to brand you as a professional author, you may even stand out as extraordinary—the kind of person other people want to surround themselves with because your presence makes their lives seem better.
  • Don’t you feel better yourself when you spread positivity among others? A smile goes a long way—so far that it comes all the way back around to you.
  • Do you feel more productive, energized, and creative when you’re complaining, criticizing, or feeling frustrated, or when you have a positive outlook?
  • Help bring about success by being positive about the future and making the most of what may come. The path to success starts by visualizing it. Negativity steers the course towards failure.
  • Spread positivity toward others and you may find yourself part of a happier, more supportive ambiance.
  • Surround yourself with positivity, and strive to bring out the best in any situation.
  • Don’t let ’em bring you down.

But carrying this out can be challenge. Especially for authors.

  • Writers can’t escape criticism. Even the best writing has its critics. Check out your favorite popular author and you may be amazed to see one-star reviews tearing your favorite popular books apart. People have many different opinions. No book can please everyone. The challenge is learning how to deal with it, and not letting it affect you negatively.
  • Editors are in the habit of identifying what’s wrong. That’s their job: find the mistakes. When we self-edit, we adopt this mindset. After several hours, we get into a critical, what’s-wrong with-this mindset. As writers, we interact with professional editors, who spend most of their time finding faults in writing. That critical nature sometimes spreads into the lives of writers, through personal interactions or on writing or publishing discussion forums.
  • One way to succeed as an author is to think of how to write a better book. You see what’s already on the market. You try to do something that you believe is better. A danger in this is carrying this too far, into the I’m-better-than-you mentality. Remember, just because you think your idea is better in some way doesn’t mean that (a) it’s better in all ways or that (b) everyone else will agree that it’s better. Maybe ‘better’ is the wrong word. You’re providing an alternative. Your idea caters to a new audience.
  • Authors have to deal with jealousy. Imagine working hard for years. You’ve studied, you’ve learned much about writing and publishing. You’ve written several books. You’ve poured so much time into it. Then you see other authors who seem to find easy, early success. Doing many of the things you’ve come to learn are ‘mistakes.’ Wouldn’t you feel jealous? Many authors do feel jealous, and they act on it, spreading negativity as a result.
  • Different authors have different beliefs and opinions, which sometimes clash. Some authors feel strongly about KDP Select, for it or against it. Some authors feel strongly that there are too many short works, while obviously those who thrive on short works feel quite defensive when others express views against short works. There are many strong debates in the publishing industry. Just imagine how much more (or how much better) we, collectively, could write if so much of our energy weren’t zapped into these whirlpools of opinion.
  • Sales fluctuate, so no matter how good your sales are, you’ll go through some valleys. And when you start out, sales tend to start out slow. Things can get very slow. It’s one more thing you can feel frustrated about.
  • Self-published authors encounter frustrating formatting issues. All authors encounter frustrating technology issues, like possible data loss (have you backed up your files lately?).
  • The publishing industry is constantly changing. This makes many writers very anxious about the future. Combine this with anxiety over sales, reviews, and everything else, and writing is an anxious lifestyle. But you can learn to accept and deal with that.

But authorship shouldn’t be a challenge:

  • We write because we enjoy it, right? So enjoy writing.
  • Force yourself to see the fun in storytelling, character development, researching something new, trying out a different genre, exploring where an idea takes you, and the many other things that make writing so much fun.
  • Train yourself to respond positively to all the negative triggers, like criticism or rants from other people, recognizing the negativity and replacing it with thoughts of things that make writing fun.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet may help you deal with stress better. Some exercise may be in order if you’re spending much time in a chair writing. More sunlight may help, too. Interact with real people, in the flesh. Mixing your life with your writing life is a difficult balancing act.
  • If you focus on the negative, you can always find some reason to be unhappy. Either sales are slow, or you heard some criticism, or you hear others complaining, or some change in the publishing industry has you anxious, etc. There is always something. However, if you focus on the positive, you can always find some reason to be happy. It’s a conscious choice. You can find the positive if you train yourself to search for it. If nothing else, you enjoy writing, right? (If not, maybe that’s the problem.)

Foster a positive ambiance not only for yourself, but also for:

  • your readers
  • new readers you’re trying to attract through marketing
  • current fans going to check you out online
  • fellow writers part of your online circles
  • your social media reach
  • yourself, as the positivity you spread often comes back to you

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Survey about Reading Habits (How do YOU Read?)

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

READING SURVEY

How do you prefer to read books?

How often do you read?

Authors, would you like to know your readers’ habits?

Readers, would you please participate in a quick survey?

I’ll leave the survey up indefinitely, so anyone who finds it can take it. Just look at the top of my blog anytime you wish to find it (look for the Surveys button).

Here are the original survey questions:

You’ll see the results after you answer each question. Select the best answer.

Please take the survey.

And tell your friends.

And spread the word.

Authors everywhere will LOVE you for it. 🙂

After you vote, you can even share a specific question with Facebook and Twitter. Or you can share the post itself (with all questions included).

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

Great Time for Authors to Shop for Promotional Supplies

Author Michelle Proulx’s cool bumper sticker.

CYBER MONDAY

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. It’s a great time to enjoy holiday savings.

But not just for t.v.’s, clothes, and gifts.

Authors can find great deals on promotional supplies, too.

It’s a great time to order bookmarks, posters, business cards—even domain names.

Look for great deals at Vista Print, for example.

Don’t get so busy shopping for gifts that you forget to look for great deals on author supplies.

I discovered author Michelle Proulx’s bumper sticker recently and thought it was pretty cool.

Michelle is currently running a successful IndieGoGo campaign, which includes this bookmark in the Swag Bag option.

http://michelleproulx.com/2014/11/29/perk-spotlight-imminent-danger-bumper-sticker

The featured book, Imminent Danger, is a great read. If you enjoy space opera, look for its re-release: It will be worth the wait.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for the price of 2) now available for both Kindle and paperback

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Word Is Good Enough

Good Word

MICROSOFT WORD

If you’re self-publishing, Microsoft Word is good enough.

Whether you’re publishing a print-on-demand paperback through CreateSpace or an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, it’s possible to create a well-formatted book using Microsoft Word.

Of course, it’s also possible to create a document that looks rather unprofessional, but that’s possible with any software. Word can produce excellent results, but it’s necessary to first learn how to make Word do this.

Some ‘experts’ like to advertise that Word isn’t good enough. There are a few simple explanations for this:

  • They may not be aware of all the little tricks that are possible in Word (like kerning and tracking, or how to prevent Word from compressing your images). Once somebody prefers different software over Word, there is no longer any incentive to master Word. So why should people who prefer other software become and remain up-to-date on all the little tricks that Word can do?
  • They may not be aware that each version of Microsoft Word has become more compatible with Kindle and CreateSpace, for example (partly from improvements in Word and partly from improvements from the publishing platforms). When Word 2007 first came out, .docx files led to formatting issues compared to .doc, but now .docx files from 2010 or 2013 in many cases work better than .doc files. Those who learned to prefer .doc in the early days may have not continued to test .docx over the years.
  • They may have an ulterior motive. Somebody who earns a living formatting books might want to advertise that Word is unsatisfactory. Some people may have a financial interest in another software program.
  • Authors or publishers who don’t use Word may wish to sell the brand that their books are better. A professional looking book does have better formatting, but all that matters is how it looks to the customer, not the process by which it was created. The truth is that if you master Word formatting, you can produce excellent formatting with it.
  • A couple of features are more convenient in other software programs, like creating different headers or page numbers in different sections. There is a straightforward way to do this in Word, but it just doesn’t seem straightforward until you learn how to do it. On the other hand, sometimes other tools that should be easy to use in other software programs don’t seem intuitive.
  • There are a couple of subtle improvements that can be made by using other software programs. For example, you can gain better control of images and you can work with em’s or percentages instead of pts in an e-book by working with HTML. If these subtleties are important to you, it doesn’t mean that you must work with different software. For example, you can save a Word file as a filtered webpage and then make these subtle improvements directly. Similarly, if you need a PDF file for your print-on-demand paperback, you can find a Word to PDF converter and print to PDF (using the convenient Save As PDF option leads to images with less than 200 DPI—but this is just one of several steps needed to avoid images with less than 300 DPI).

Microsoft Word doesn’t make formatting foolproof. For example, if you use tabs, your e-book could be a disaster (but if you simply learn how to use First Line Indent instead, and research other ways to produce good formatting—or avoid poor formatting—this won’t be a problem).

But it does provide a convenient method of formatting self-published books, and it can lead to good formatting for those who learn how to use it well.

There are many points in its favor:

  • fairly economical
  • very accessible
  • easy to get help (free tutorials from Microsoft, numerous online tutorials on Google, knowledgeable Word users on author community forums, etc.)
  • excellent formatting is possible (doesn’t matter that it was really designed as a word processor, it has grown to include the features needed to format a book quite well)
  • most features are very intuitive (and it’s easy to find helpful tutorials for anything that isn’t)
  • flexible for self-publishing as it serves as a great starting point for both print and e-book publishing
  • use of the built-in styles on the top of the Home ribbon make it easy to convert from print to e-book or vice-versa (those styles are also imperative if you want to achieve reliable e-book formatting from Word)

There are good alternatives to Word for those who prefer something else.

For print publishing, Adobe InDesign is considered by most to be top of the line. It’s not nearly as intuitive as Microsoft Word, but if you take the time to learn it, this will only be an issue for your first book. Serif Page Plus and Scribus are two other publishing software programs. Open Office is a free open-source alternative to Word.

There are a variety of alternatives for e-books, such as Jutoh, Atlantis, Calibre, and Sigil. Many of the alternatives are actually begun in Word using the styles and then improved with other software programs, even by some experts who are in the habit of faulting Word.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for the price of 2) now available for both Kindle and paperback

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Marketing the Wrong Element of Your Book

Marketing Images

THEMES & TOPICS

The big challenge of book marketing is finding what works for you.

It’s often not just what you do, but how you do it.

The difference between a successful or unsuccessful marketing technique may lie in something incredibly simple.

Like which element of your book you mention.

You do mention your book in all your marketing.

Online, at the very least, you show the title of your book or a picture of the cover.

In person, you also mention the title of your book.

Online, you include a link to your product page.

In person, you pass out a business card—or even better, a bookmark.

But the title of the book may not be enough to really show potential readers if your book really is a good fit for them.

And a lengthy description is too much to give in passing.

What you need is very brief clarification.

But not the genre. That’s not enough.

You say something like, “It’s a mystery.”

No, that’s not enough.

But your description won’t work either. That’s way too long. (Until they finally arrive at your product page.)

I know, every newbie author would be thinking, “I want every mystery lover to read my book.”

Or, more realistically, “I don’t want to lose out on a possible sale from any mystery lovers.”

You don’t want to clarify that it’s set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s because anyone who doesn’t care for Brooklyn or the 1800’s will pass it up.

Newsflash: Once they check out the Look Inside, if they really don’t like Brooklyn or the 1800’s, it’s not going to matter that you got the customer all the way to your product page.

Instead, you’re losing traffic from your specific target audience—those mystery readers (and non-mystery readers) who really would like to read a book set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s.

Those readers hear, “It’s a mystery,” and think to themselves, “So are thousands of other books.”

If instead they hear, “It’s a mystery set in Brooklyn in the 1800’s,” those who would like such a book think, “Hey, that’s a mystery that I might really enjoy.”

Think through the various elements of your book. Talk it out with others who are familiar with your book.

Which aspects of your book may attract specific target audiences?

It could be the theme (a historical novel that takes place in the Civil War), topic (a spy novel about submarines), setting (a city that many people have visited or would like to imagine living in), an era (a time period like the Renaissance), character traits (a protagonist dealing with a particular medical condition), or a number of other qualities.

What can people relate to? What might draw interest in your book? What could serve as a helpful conversation piece?

Check out the following article on Just Publishing, which describes this and nine other common book marketing mistakes:

http://www.derekhaines.ch/justpublishing/ten-book-marketing-mistakes-new-authors-make

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/read-more/#comments

Who Wants to Read Your Self-Published Book?

Love Indies Pic

SELF-PUBLISHING?

You may have read an interesting article in the Washington Post recently, entitled, “No, I don’t want to read your self-published book.”

This particular article evolved from a letter from the editor in Horn Book Magazine.

The context of the letter is to explain, essentially, to indie writers why publications that review traditionally published books can’t consider reviewing self-published books.

This is in spite of the big “BUT”—i.e. but there are a few outstanding indie books, yet there are also some bad traditionally published books.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

I think it’s great news for self-published authors:

  • In the beginning, traditional publishers and professional book reviewers simply IGNORED self-published books.
  • Self-publishing has grown tremendously. There are many millions of self-published books being sold and read each year, taking up a very significant market share.
  • We’ve finally caught the attention of traditional publishers and, now, even editors who review traditionally published books. They’ve taken notice.
  • It’s an article in the Washington Post about self-publishing. It’s angled so as to explain what’s wrong with self-publishing books, in a way.
  • Maybe it’s not just a message to authors. I read it this way: They see more and more readers enjoying self-published books, and this is a marketing attempt to sell the perception that traditionally published books are better.
  • It may be more than that, too. Traditional publishers not only want more readers to prefer their books, they also want the best indie authors to try to jump through the hoops via agents so that they will have more good material from which to choose.

But I’m looking a little beyond the actual context with my last couple of points.

What is clear is that we’ve seen many articles on various aspects of self-publishing in major publications in the past few years. Self-publishing is gaining more traction.

ART VS. BUSINESS

Writing is an art.

Publishing is a business.

Authors tend to prefer feeling like artists when they write.

Publishers tend to prefer to publish what they feel is more likely to sell.

Self-publishing opens up a fascinating possibility: Writers can write for art’s sake, not worrying if they may be sacrificing some business.

An author can choose to write for a smaller audience.

But there’s another side to this coin: Readers are paying money or, at a minimum, investing time to read books.

As a reader, if you pay for a book, you expect quality.

Unfortunately, not all self-published books have delivered on quality, which brands a poor image for self-publishing at large.

On the other hand, there are self-published books that have delivered on quality, which helps brand a good image for the possibilities of self-publishing.

And then there are traditionally published books that have failed to live up to readers’ expectations. This tends to make readers think about investing much less money on a self-published book next time.

STAMP OF APPROVAL

This brings up to an important question: How do you know what’s worth reading and what’s not?

An intuitive idea is some sort of stamp of approval; some attempt at quality control.

It might sound good at first, but it gets a bit tricky.

Traditional publishing would have you believe that their publishing label is the ultimate stamp of approval.

It may be true that most traditionally published books have better editing than most self-published books.

Nothing prevents self-published authors from hiring quality editors. There are, in fact, very well-edited self-published books.

But if editing is quite important to you, traditional publishing might be more likely to deliver on editing. Or if you can find a quality editor whose work you like, you could read books edited by that editor, traditionally published or not. There are many ways to go about this.

Some self-publishers would like their own stamp of approval. Those who believe their books are better in some way often wish to have some means of easily differentiating their books from what they believe to be worse books among customers.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky: There are many ways to judge what makes a book better. Editing is just one. Storytelling is another. There are several qualities that factor into this. And then there is more than one way to tell a great story.

To a large extent, customers judge what’s better. Sure, they can leave reviews (but let’s not open that can of worms just yet). They can also recommend books they enjoy. Let’s give the customer some credit: He or she is likely to check out the product page and Look Inside.

But there are various stamps of approval. You can get an independent review from Kirkus, for example. You can get review quotes. There are indie reviewers and publications that review indie books. There are author groups and reader groups attempting to identify quality as measured in some way.

WRITING AS ART

Imagine that we’re talking about painting, not about writing. Both are art forms, right?

Suppose we give the painters a challenge: They must paint a picture using a page from a coloring book.

Would it be fair to take all the painters who fail to stay within the lines and REJECT their chances to display their art in a gallery because they failed to meet this elementary standard?

We’d lose some brilliant masterpieces if we did this.

Staying in the lines is arguably not the most important talent that one can find in a painter. Though for some kinds of painting, this talent may be quite desirable.

Not everyone appreciate the same art. Some may prefer paintings created by artists who could easily stay within the lines; some may prefer paintings by those who couldn’t do this.

Following the rules of spelling, grammar, and style are, in a sense, like painting within the lines.

The analogy isn’t perfect though.

  • A painter can’t find an editor to polish up the painting. A painter must perfect his or her own masterpiece.
  • An author can hire an editor to polish up grammar and spelling so that more readers can appreciate the art, and so that readers won’t be distracted by hiccups along the way.

Saying that the art of storytelling is more important than the art of grammar isn’t an EXCUSE to completely ignore the latter.

RULES OF ENGLISH

Are the rules of English really rigid?

If you master the art of spelling, grammar, and style, you want credit for your strengths. These are important to you: That’s why you learned them.

You look around and see others making mistakes. You see a few immensely popular books making spurious spelling and grammar mistakes. Frustrating, isn’t it? But there is more to a good book than just spelling and grammar.

There really isn’t an excuse for books to lack spelling and grammar correctness, but, alas, it happens. Even those who are very good at these make mistakes, and those who self-edit often read what they intended to write instead of what’s actually there.

Some people believe that there is only one rule of English: To communicate your idea clearly to others.

If others can easily understand what you’ve written, then you’ve followed the rules.

Many will see an instant problem with this: As soon as most people abandon the rules of English, it will soon become a challenge to communicate clearly.

We do need some rules.

A painter must perfect every square millimeter of his or her canvas. And so a writer must perfect every character on the printed page.

IMPROVE, IMPROVE, IMPROVE

You can’t say that your writing is a work of art and therefore consider your book finished just because you’ve reached the end.

As an artist, you must work diligently to perfect your masterpiece.

As a craftsman, you must learn to master all elements of your craft.

Because there is much more to writing a great book than just writing a great story.

The way you choose your words, the way your story flows, the variation in sentence length, the choice of vocabulary to suit your intended audience, the way you present your ideas, the perspective from which you describe events, the way you develop characters—these and so many other things go into storytelling.

And, yes, spelling, grammar, and style do matter. Because when they aren’t right, they do detract from the story itself.

WHO WANTS TO READ YOUR SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK?

I do. Well, I obviously can’t read EVERY self-published book. But I do read several self-published books every year. I throw in a few classics, too, because I believe that reading these is valuable toward writing well.

I’m not the only reader out there who supports self-publishing.

There are hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of self-published authors. Many of these authors read books. Not all, but many do like to support self-publishing by reading other self-published books.

These self-published authors have families, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who also support self-publishing.

There are hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of authors who have been rejected by publishers, agents, magazines, and newspapers. Many rejected authors choose to invest their reading money on self-published books. (Yes, those polite rejections do have a cost; and the not-so-polite ones, well, maybe that wasn’t such a good business decision. Exclusivity may have benefits, but it also has disadvantages.)

Many people view traditional publishers as businesses. Guess what: They’re right! Do these businesses have writing as their top priority? Or is the top priority financial? With these questions in mind, there are many readers willing to give self-published authors a chance, hoping to find writing that was written for art’s sake, not for the sake of business. (It’s not easy to find such books, but there are books written this way, and there are readers who’d like to find them.)

Many people don’t want to read what’s popular. Many do: Bestsellers sell an insane number of copies. Many people do browse the bestseller lists, expecting those books to be better. But there are millions and millions of readers, and so a significant number do prefer to read what’s not popular. They’ve tried popular books and didn’t, for whatever reason, appreciate them. Maybe they will like a book written for a much smaller niche audience.

SELF-PUBLISHING IMAGE

The main thing is that readers want great books.

Self-publishing may have good potential, but readers need to be able to find books that they enjoy. Out of the millions to choose from.

How do you define ‘great’? One man’s trash is… you know how it goes.

But it doesn’t matter: As a reader, you want to find the kinds of books that you believe are great.

And you don’t want to find books that you can’t imagine anyone calling great.

Image counts.

When customers try self-published books and have a poor experience, they’re less likely to try self-published authors again.

Until they find themselves dissatisfied with expensive traditionally published books. Then they might reconsider.

There isn’t much that we can do about the worst of the worst at the bottom. Not all those at the bottom are bad books: There are some well-written books that simply have little audience, or just didn’t have the right cover or blurb to get attention. The problem with removing the worst books is the impossibility of efficiently identifying them. The other problem is that Amazon makes an amazing amount of money off even the books at the bottom, simply through huge numbers, and so it wouldn’t make sense financially for Amazon to remove them.

But everyone can help to improve the image. Small things go a long way:

  • We can all do our best to continually strive to improve our own books.
  • We can refrain from publicly discussing bad books, as that paints a poor perception that hurts even the best self-published books.
  • We can find great examples of excellent self-published books and mention those publicly. The more people who read and enjoy self-published books, the more readers there will be who support self-publishing.
  • We can offer tips for other self-published authors (indirectly, perhaps—not as unsolicited advice, which often has unintended effects).
  • We can educate readers about ways to find quality books.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Authors’ Best Friend Is… Ape!

The Story Reading Ape

If man’s best friend is… dog,

Then authors’ best friend is… ape.

The Story Reading Ape, that is.

Chris, the Story Reading Ape, is an avid supporter of authors:

  • Frequently supporting authors with guest blogs and promotions.
  • Housing helpful resources for authors on his blog.
  • Posting words of wisdom for authors.
  • Supporting authors with reblogs.

The Story Reading Ape’s blog is very author-centric (and therefore quite reader-centric).

Check out the resources on the Story Reading Ape’s blog:

http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com

Once there, click Authors Resources Central. Check out:

  • Author Promotion
  • Guest Author
  • Information about CreateSpace, Kindle, and Smashwords
  • Proofreaders
  • Professional Editors
  • and more

Chris, the Story Reading Ape, had no idea that I was writing this post. He is just so generous in his support of authors, I thought we should do something nice in return. 🙂

Don’t get the two Chris’s mixed up. I’m Chris McMullen, not to be confused with Chris, the Story Reading Ape.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Learn Much about Self-Publishing by… Blogging

Blog First

Hands-on Self-Publishing Experience

Blogging at WordPress can teach you more about self-publishing than you might realize.

Think about this, and strive to get the most out of it.

It would be wise to blog before self-publishing for the hands-on experience every authorpreneur needs to be successful.

But even if you’ve already self-published, it’s not too late to make the connection between blogging and indie publishing.

Here are several ways that blogging at WordPress can help you become a more successful authorpreneur:

  • Crafting the title. You have to write titles for your blog articles, so you get plenty of experience trying out titles and seeing how much attention your posts get. The title is a very important part of your book. Without blogging, most authors would have no experience or practice writing titles and seeing what interest they stimulate. Study the titles of articles from popular bloggers.
  • Content popularity. Writing about different topics, you can see which seem to be more popular or less popular among bloggers. The best way to learn what people like is through first-hand experience.
  • Keywords and categories. Gain experience choosing categories and tags for your articles at WordPress. You’ll need to choose categories and keywords when you publish. For your blog, you can type phrases in Google to see how popular they are, and for your book, you can try phrases out at Amazon’s home page. When you come across popular blog articles similar to what you write, check out the tags and categories that they used.
  • Cover design. Preparing or linking to images in your posts gives you some feedback regarding how to attract an audience visually. You also see images that evidently attract much attention to popular blog articles. The more you prepare your own images, the more you learn little tips.
  • Look Inside. In the WordPress reader, people only see a short sample. Bloggers strive to learn how to use the beginning of the article to create interest in the article. Similarly, at Amazon, you need to write an engaging blurb and Look Inside.
  • Writing practice. Blogging offers writing practice for self-published authors. You can even try out a new style or genre, with real readers to offer feedback.
  • Build your brand. At WordPress, you strive to build your blogging brand. This will carry over to becoming an authorpreneur, where you need to develop brands as an author and for your books.
  • Learn about marketing. You get firsthand experience trying to market your blog, which will carry over to book marketing. You get to see what other authors do in the way of marketing. Plus, blogging helps you build helpful relationships that can help you with your marketing when your book comes out. Some of your followers will serve as your initial fan base, too.
  • Monitor traffic. WordPress shows several stats that help you analyze your blog traffic. This can help give you a sense of the potential of your blog to help with marketing—a small percentage may be your initial fan base, but more importantly, the search engine traffic helps you see what frequency of outside visitors discover your website daily. The number of likes per post gives you some idea of your active following, which can pale in comparison to your total following; the search engine traffic is the number with the greater potential.
  • Get support. Relationships that you build on WordPress can support you with advice, reblogs, feedback, and more when you begin your self-publishing journey.
  • Explore formatting options. You have to format your posts here at WordPress. As you try new things in your articles, you gain some formatting experience. An e-book formats much like a webpage.
  • Test an idea. Got an idea that you want to test out? Try a sample on your blog and get some feedback.
  • Meet your audience. A thin slice of your WordPress following will include readers from your target audience. These interactions are golden.
  • Device management. Over time, you happen to view your blog from your pc, laptop, a friend’s iPad, a cell phone, etc. This gives you some idea about how various things format on different devices. That’s good experience for the challenge of formatting e-books that read well across all devices.
  • Analyze stats. Stats at Amazon are pretty limited—royalties, sales rank, reviews. You get many more stats here at WordPress—countries, views, likes, follows, shares, comments, etc. Such data can be valuable. You could even make a graph of your blog views for the month and compare it with your sales graph to see if there may be any correlation.
  • Website development. Indie publishers need to have websites, Facebook author or book pages, author profiles, etc. The experience you gain transforming your blog into a website will help you anytime you need to create a webpage or website.
  • SEO. You write articles hoping to pull in traffic from search engines. You gain experience with SEO as you try out categories, experiment with how to include keywords in headings and body text, etc.
  • Grow a following. You’ll develop a following here at WordPress. Setup an author page at Facebook and link to it at the end of your posts, and feed your WordPress posts into Facebook (but don’t also feed Facebook into WordPress or you’ll get double posts). Similarly, feed your blog into Twitter (but don’t feed from Twitter to WordPress or Facebook, or again you’ll get double or triple posts). Create profiles at Google Plus and LinkedIn, and your WordPress traffic can help you grow a following everywhere.
  • Build connections. Meet fellow authors, editors, graphic designers, small publishers, and more in your WordPress interactions. Indie authorship is a supportive community, for the most part.
  • Create buzz. When you release a book, your blog will help you create buzz for it.

Of course, there are many other benefits to blogging. For example, you can make some great online friends, and you can find some excellent material to read for free here at WordPress. Arguably, friendships and great reading material are the BEST parts of WordPress.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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