2017 Writing Goals #PoweredByIndie

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Image from ShutterStock

2017 WRITING GOALS

I’m trying to focus on my main writing goal for 2017:

DEVOTE MORE TIME FOR WRITING!

I think it’s a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

And I’m off to a good start, wearing out my seat cushion and rubbing off the letters from my keyboard as I pound away.

Mostly about physics for now, as I’m wrapping up a BIG project, but I have many writing plans for 2017, and I’m anxious to start on them.

I also hope to spend more time on my blogs in the near future.

A couple of other related goals include:

  • read even more indie books
  • find more time to write reviews

I have a lot of specific goals, and timelines for projects. Goals and timelines help me be productive and stay motivated.

But I’m trying to focus on the main three, posted above.

What are your writing goals for 2017?

Remember to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag when you post about them on social media.

Amazon is sponsoring this hashtag and supporting indies.

I was lucky, as KDP mentioned my main goal (to devote more time for writing) on their Twitter site.

Check out Amazon KDP on Facebook and Twitter. You can see other great writing goals, and they often share links to valuable publishing tips.

Amazon also has indie New Year’s stories to share: http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • 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.

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Amazon’s Kindle Scout Publishing Program

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE SCOUT

Most authors know that you can self-publish with Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing or CreateSpace.

But not everyone knows that you can also land a contract with Amazon’s Kindle Scout publishing program.

If your book gets published through Kindle Scout, it’s published, not self-published. But it’s not the label that matters. (Right?)

You have better odds with Kindle Scout compared to many other forms of traditional publishing.

  • You need a complete, edited, ready-to-publish, never-before-published professional manuscript. That already limits the pool. You’re not pitching an idea or a rough draft. It needs to be complete, professional, and ready to go. Most authors who reach that stage are eager to press the self-publish button. Less competition gives you better odds.
  • You don’t need an agent for Kindle Scout. You don’t have to buy an expensive book listing addresses of publishers. You don’t have to write a query letter and make a self-addressed stamped envelope. Yet still it’s much less competitive.
  • It’s reader-powered publishing. It’s not one editor with a room filled with manuscripts deciding what deserves to get published. The Kindle Scout team does get involved, but readers play a strong role.

Better odds still isn’t a guarantee. But what’s there to lose? The worst that can happen is that your book doesn’t get published. The campaign only lasts 30 days, so it’s relatively quick decision.

Whether or not you land a publishing deal with Kindle Scout, there is still much to gain from the process:

  • First of all, they’re looking for polished, edited, complete manuscripts. This motivates you to go the extra distance to polish your work. That will pay off whether or not your book gets chosen.
  • The program motivates you to think about marketing. A good cover improves your chances of creating reader interest, and it will help you even if you wind up self-publishing. You want to create reader interest in your Kindle Scout submission, which encourages you to learn and practice some basic marketing skills to help create buzz for your book—helpful no matter how you publish.
  • Your submission itself can create reader interest. Readers check out Kindle Scout and nominate books that catch their interest. They have an incentive as they can get free books from their nominations. So whether or not you get published through Kindle Scout, your nomination can help build an initial audience for your book.

Here is an example: The Garden of Hestia by Ellen Larson. You can explore the Kindle Scout page for this book by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Click to view this title at Kindle Scout.

Why try Kindle Scout?

  • The $1500 advance is compelling. Many self-published authors earn far less. For an author who doesn’t already tend to earn more than this, this advance is attractive.
  • Although the royalty rate of 50% is less than the 70% you can earn through Kindle Direct Publishing, there are benefits to offset this difference. For one, you would be published, not self-published. For another, if they are paying a $1500 advance, they must expect Kindle Scout titles to sell pretty well.
  • Your book would have the Kindle Press label in the publishing field. Kindle Scout seeks polished work, which gives some value to the Kindle Press label.
  • Visit the Kindle Scout page, scroll to the bottom, and check out books that have been published through Kindle Scout. Or better yet, visit Amazon, choose the Kindle Store, and click on Advanced Search. Type Kindle Press in the publisher field. I found several books with numerous customer reviews and overall sales ranks below 10,000. Not every book was like this, but enough were to show me that books published through Kindle Scout have strong potential.
  • It’s different from traditional publishing in that it’s Kindle focused. It’s not bookstore oriented; it’s not print oriented at all. You can self-publish the print edition with CreateSpace even while the Kindle edition is published with Kindle Press. Many novels sell far more in Kindle than print anyway, and what better way to reach the Kindle market than through one of Amazon’s own publishing programs?

As a reader, have you checked out Kindle Scout? Have you nominated any books? Have you read any books from Kindle Press?

As an author, have you submitted to Kindle Scout? Was your book accepted? How was your experience?

If I ever finish my sci-fi novel, I might submit it to Kindle Scout. It looks attractive.

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
  • 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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Did you know? Amazon has Several Publishing Options. Not just KDP.

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Image from ShutterStock

PUBLISHING WITH AMAZON

There are at least a half dozen different ways to publish a book with Amazon.

Most people think of Kindle Direct Publishing, but that’s just one of many options:

  • Amazon has multiple imprints, such as 47 North. However, like most major traditional publishers, Amazon Publishing does not accept unsolicited manuscript submissions.
  • Another way to publish with Amazon as your “publisher” is through the new Kindle Scout program. This option is based on reader voting, not solely on an editor’s decision.
  • For those who would like to write fan fiction, there is Kindle Worlds.
  • Kindle Singles is a competitive publishing option for certain kinds of shorter Kindle e-books.
  • Anyone can self-publish with Amazon using Kindle Direct Publishing.
  • You can also self-publish a paperback book with Amazon using CreateSpace.
  • The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) lets you publish an audiobook that will be available through Amazon.

AMAZON IMPRINTS

Amazon Publishing includes multiple imprints. However, they don’t currently accept unsolicited submissions.

  • Montlake Romance for romance novels.
  • Thomas & Mercer for mysteries, thrillers, and suspense.
  • 47 North for science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
  • Skyscape for teen and young adult.
  • Amazon Publishing for nonfiction, memoirs, and general fiction.
  • Lake Union Publishing for contemporary and historical fiction, memoirs, and popular nonfiction.
  • Two Lions for children’s picture books, chapter books, and novels.
  • Little A for literary fiction.
  • Jet City Comics for comics and graphic novels.
  • Grand Harbor Press for personal growth and self-help.
  • Waterfall Crest for Christian nonfiction and fiction.
  • Story Front for short fiction.
  • Amazon Encore for rediscovered works.
  • AmazonCrossing for translated works.

You can learn more at Amazon Publishing here:

http://www.apub.com

KINDLE SCOUT

Unlike Amazon Publishing, Kindle Scout is open to submissions from US authors. Categories currently include:

  • Science fiction and fantasy
  • Romance
  • Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense
  • Action and adventure
  • Literature and contemporary fiction

You submit a complete copy-edited, never-before-published manuscript with at least 50,000 words. Readers will nominate books based on the first 3000 words (and the cover, title, description, and your biography). Nominations help you earn consideration, but having the most nominations by itself doesn’t guarantee acceptance. They stress that they are looking for professional, copy-edited manuscripts. If accepted, they pay a $1500 advance and 50% royalty (less than KDP’s 70% royalty, but perhaps the stamp of approval will help authors make up the difference).

You can learn more about Kindle Scout here:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com

KINDLE WORLDS

You can publish fan fiction through Kindle Worlds.

Learn about Kindle Worlds here:

https://kindleworlds.amazon.com

Once there, click See All Worlds and How It Works. Make sure that you adhere to the content guidelines and rules, otherwise you’ll have wasted your time and effort.

KINDLE SINGLES

You can publish a shorter e-book, with 5,000 to 30,000 words, with Kindle Singles, if it is “exceptional ideas–well researched, well argued, and well illustrated.”

This is a competitive process, and you submit your idea much like submitting to a traditional publisher or agent. In addition to an exceptional idea, they may also be considering the marketing aspect, much like a traditional publisher would, and why you should be the one to write book. (If someone else has better qualifications to fulfill that role, what’s to prevent them from asking a more qualified candidate to write a similar book? Nothing, really. You can copyright the words, but not the general idea that you’re trying to get published.)

KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

Anyone can self-publish an e-book on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

http://kdp.amazon.com

Read Amazon’s free guide, available in PDF form, before you publish. Also, preview your book carefully on each device before you publish.

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK

Click on the Kindle Tips link at the top of my website for more free help.

CREATESPACE

Anyone can also self-publish a paperback book on Amazon with CreateSpace:

https://www.createspace.com

If you’re writing your book in Word, click on the Microsoft Word Tutorials link at the top of my website for free formatting help (e.g. with page numbers and headers).

AUDIOBOOK CREATION EXCHANGE

Learn more about creating an audiobook with the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX):

https://www.acx.com

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.

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Survey about Reading Habits (How do YOU Read?)

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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

Amazon’s Incentives for Lower e-book Prices

Low Prices

LOWER PRICES

Amazon and Hachette settled their months-long dispute over e-book prices.

The agreement includes incentives for Hachette when the publisher chooses to deliver lower e-book prices to customers.

Simon & Schuster reached an agreement with Amazon last month, which also included an incentive for delivering lower e-book prices to customers.

How low? That’s a good question.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has provided such an incentive for years: e-books prices above $9.99 pay a royalty of 35%, whereas book prices between $2.99 and $9.99 pay a royalty of 70% (minus delivery costs).

The terms are no doubt different for the big publishers. The percentages won’t be the same, for one. But the KDP model offers some idea for what to expect.

Don’t expect bestselling traditionally published e-books to dive down to $2.99 or 99 cents. I’m thinking closer to $9.99.

Who wins?

  • The readers win with more affordable e-book prices. The readers are most important, as the entire business fails to exist without them.
  • The big publishers win with incentives to offer lower e-book prices. In addition to the incentives, it may actually be a more profitable business model; if so, that will be an added bonus.
  • Traditionally published authors win, too. In addition to the publishers’ incentives for lower e-book prices and perhaps reaping greater overall royalties as a result, Hachette titles will now “be prominently features in promotions,” according to a joint statement from Amazon and Hachette.
  • Amazon wins by helping to create more affordable e-books for customers.

There don’t have to be any losers. There is such a thing as a win-win solution, or in this case, a win-win-win-win.

As a reader, I thank Amazon for pushing for this. I realize that not everyone will agree that this is a good thing, and others will question the motivation and the future, but personally I believe this is a good step for the future of e-publishing.

The holidays are almost here. No doubt this timing helped this dispute reach its conclusion.

FURTHER READING

  • Hugh Howey offers some great insights on this:

http://www.hughhowey.com/amazon-and-hachette-come-to-terms

  • Yahoo Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-hachette-end-monthslong-dispute-171616398.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons&soc_trk=tw

  • CNN Money:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/media/amazon-hachette-reach-deal/index.html

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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Authors: Don’t Be Afraid to Strike Out

Strike Out

AUTHOR SUCCESS

Sometimes, the only difference between an author who becomes highly successful and thousands who struggle to get discovered is this:

The author who became highly successful wasn’t afraid to strike out swinging.

Many authors don’t try to find an agent or traditional publisher. They’re afraid to strike out.

Many authors who do try to find an agent or traditional publisher give up after a few rejections. Having struck out a few times, they’d rather not strike out again.

Many authors don’t try to get their books stocked in local bookstores. They might strike out.

Many authors don’t try to get the press to cover their stories. The answer could be NO.

Many authors give up after self-publishing a couple of books. Striking out is no fun.

Many authors are afraid to seek advice from successful authors.

Many authors ignore big opportunities and focus only on the smallest ones.

But you can’t hit a grand slam if you don’t step up to the plate.

Chances are that you will strike out a lot.

But the solution isn’t to give up.

If you don’t like striking out, work on your approach so that the next time you have a better shot.

It may not be as simple as asking.

There is a little more to it than that.

You have to learn to ask the right way.

For example, there are better and worse ways to prepare a press release kit or a query letter.

Keep working on your story idea and pitch until you nail them.

And experience is a big factor.

You have to strike out several times to gain that experience.

Do your research, as that helps much, too.

You can learn much from others who’ve stepped to the plate many times and finally learned how to get on base.

Work hard to improve as an author.

Work hard writing as that hard work can go a long way.

That hard work and experience give you a solid foundation to stand on.

Build connections.

Seek advice.

Start with small things to build confidence, but don’t stop with the small things.

Visualize the successful outcome you wish to achieve and work toward it.

Remind yourself that you CAN do it.

Odds are in your favor when you play the long game.

ASK FOR IT

A little over a year ago, I had this idea for a Black Friday just for books.

I mentioned it on my blog and received much initial support, but it was just an idea and there were only a couple of months to the big event.

I asked for help.

Authors generously helped spread the word and signed up.

I sought help with a press release and publicity and received much support.

I took a few chances, asking for really BIG opportunities for exposure or help.

One of these came through this year.

The simple fact is that if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with hundreds (surely, thousands) of self-published authors.

A surprising number of those I’ve met have achieved some nice levels of success.

Most of the highly successful authors whom I’ve met are not afraid to strike out.

They’ve gone to the plate many times and struck out many times, but finally learned how to make contact.

Don’t be afraid to strike out.

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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Authors: Have Your Manuscript Ready for a… Surprise?

Cover Problems Pic

AMAZON PUBLISHING

It appears that Amazon is launching a new publishing program. Look for an announcement to come in the next couple of weeks.

The reason for this article is just to give a heads-up. If you happen to have a novel in the works and this program may be of interest to you, you have a chance to get your manuscript and packaging in gear.

The terms may not (but may) interest bestselling published authors or thriving self-published authors, but may attract midlist published authors and many self-published authors.

Evidently, the program will include Amazon-featured marketing. This is likely to draw huge interest, assuming that it means more than the usual customers-also-bought lists and such. For example, if it includes featured placement or small ads, that could make an incredible difference. Amazon will have a vested interest in these books, so there is compelling reason for Amazon to include featured marketing in the offer.

You might be wondering, “How do we know about this?”

  • Amazon sent an email to select authors, notifying them about the program. The email included a link to an Amazon page, allowing authors to sign up for additional emails.
  • The Digital Reader and Publisher’s Weekly made initial announcements about this program on September 22, 2014.
  • Amazon sent a follow-up email this morning.
  • (Well, if you want to be a pessimist, you’ll ‘know’ if and when Amazon makes an official announcement.)

Update: The program is now live. It’s called Kindle Scout: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit.

It will begin with just the following genres:

  • romance
  • mystery
  • thriller
  • science fiction
  • fantasy

This new Amazon publishing program will be like a publishing deal for Kindle. The terms are better than many traditionally published terms, though the royalty rate isn’t as high as self-publishing with KDP.

  • $1500 advance. (Many indie authors are already excited.)
  • 50% royalties for e-books. (20% less than self-publishing, but it includes Amazon-featured marketing, which may easily make up the difference.)
  • A 45-day exclusivity period and easy rights reversions (unlike many traditional publishing contracts that make reversions difficult to come by). (There are some conditions. You’ll want to read these carefully when the program launches.)
  • Amazon only wants exclusive rights for e-books and audio in all languages. You get to keep the print rights (so you can self-publish with CreateSpace and keep 100% of your usual print royalties.)

What exactly is Amazon-featured marketing?

That’s the big question. If it included on-site advertising, that would be awesome. If it just means customers-also-bought lists and the usual benefits of publishing with KDP, then it would be a dud. (Basically, you’d be trading 20% of your royalties for a $1500 advance.)

The Digital Reader defined Amazon-featured marketing to mean enrollment in KOLL and Kindle Unlimited (well, you could get that by self-publishing!) and eligibility for targeted emails and promotions. This sounds great, except for that tricky word, “eligibility.” You’d hate to get no extra on-site publicity or featured placement at all.

Well, Amazon would have a vested interest in the success of books in this program. It seems reasonable to expect Amazon-featured marketing to be more than what’s merely automatic with KDP. I think we need to wait for the program to launch and see how it goes.

Get ready!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Complete manuscript. (Never before published. Or self-published, I suspect, but you can ask Amazon for clarification.)
  • 500 character (or less) book description. (Does that include spaces? Probably.)
  • One-liner (45 characters or less) to grab interest.
  • Biography and picture.

Any author who’s interested in this program (even if you’re unsure), has a chance to get ready. Advance preparation could make the difference.

If you prepare now and decide later that it’s not for you, what have you lost? Everything you prepared will still serve its purpose when you instead self-publish or traditionally publish your book.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Finish your manuscript. This is required.
  • Perfect the first 3000 words. This part will be publicly visible. Voting will be based on this. You want to show your best stuff early, and grab attention right off the bat.
  • Get a great cover that fits your book well. This will surely make a difference in catching interest. It will make a difference in selling the book, too, if published.
  • Perfect the blurb. Don’t summarize the book. Arouse interest. Keep it short.
  • Perfect your one-liner. Observe the character counts.
  • Get ample feedback on your cover, one-liner, title, blurb, and first 3000 words.
  • Build interest in your book and create buzz. Voting is involved in the process. (Not sure how this will be regulated or applied.)
  • I’m thinking minimal front matter (just whatever the program requires, if anything). It’s about creating interest in your story and selling your idea.

Effective marketing skills will surely help. You need good packaging (cover, blurb, look inside) and the ability to create interest in your book.

There will be a brief Q&A opportunity with readers to sell your story (and the story behind you coming up with the story—you know, like all those amazing success stories you read about).

Good luck!

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.

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Pros & Cons of Publishing with Adobe

Creative Cloud

Publishing Software

Microsoft Word is easy to recommend as publishing software for a few good reasons:

  • It’s accessible. Many writers already have Word. If not, it’s fairly inexpensive and easy to find. If price is a factor, Open Office is an alternative.
  • It’s convenient. Most writers already have familiarity with how to use some of Word’s functions. It’s also fairly intuitive. When it’s not, a Google search or a question in the CreateSpace or Kindle community forum will usually help out.
  • It’s functional. It’s possible to make a very nicely formatted print book. You can set the leading, inside and outside margins, add different styles of headers and page numbers, adjust the kerning, and even deal with widows. Not everything is easy, like using section breaks to change the header style or preventing Word from compressing images, but the potential is there and it’s relatively painless once you master the tricks.
  • It’s Kindle-friendly. Using Word’s style functions, it’s possible to make a Word document that converts very well to Kindle format. KDP continues to improve this.

Adobe is considered to be more professional for publishing print books, formatting images, and converting to PDF (note that PDF isn’t very e-book friendly, while Word is, although Adobe does have software features oriented toward making e-books). It’s not that you can’t learn how to format a Word document that looks professional, but more that once you master Adobe’s features, some of the formatting features become easier to perfect in Adobe InDesign. Most book designers who are equally fluent in both Word and InDesign prefer InDesign.

Here are some of the advantages of using Adobe:

  • Acrobat XI provides many options for conversion to PDF, such as flattening transparency, selecting output resolution, and embedding fonts. Most free or low-cost Word-to-PDF converters don’t have as many options to choose from. Very often, the free and low-cost converters provide a quality conversion, but when it doesn’t work, there isn’t much you can do but look for an alternative. Sometimes, you settle for PDF output that’s not quite what you desire because you didn’t have the options you needed.
  • Acrobat XI allows you to do some editing of your PDF, which is sometimes more convenient than returning to the original source file.
  • InDesign includes many professional book formatting features, namely page layout and typography. Many of these features are more convenient in InDesign once you master how to implement them.
  • PhotoShop is professional image-editing software, great for using photos to design covers or make illustrations. Word likes to compress images unless you take pains to avoid this, while Adobe’s products make it easy to achieve high resolution.
  • Illustrator is great for drawing, illustrating, and formatting text and images together.

Adobe does come with some drawbacks:

  • There is a steep learning curve. Many of the basic features aren’t as intuitive as Word, and most writers have no experience with Adobe until they purchase it. You can get help with Adobe software, though it’s probably somewhat easier to get help with Microsoft Word simply because more people use it.
  • Some of Adobe’s software is fairly expensive compared to Microsoft Word and especially compared to Open Office. However, there is now a monthly payment option that provides instant access to just about everything.
  • You must decide among your options. Do you need PhotoShop or Illustrator for your images? Do you just need Acrobat XI to convert to PDF and edit that, or do you need InDesign to prepare your books? But if you go with the Creative Cloud, then you don’t have to decide—you get all of this and more.

There are other software programs besides Word, Open Office, and Adobe. For example, Serif Page Plus is a fairly affordable alternative.

Creative Cloud

For years, I had considered purchasing InDesign, Acrobat XI, PhotoShop, or Illustrator. But the cost was more than I wanted to invest up front, I didn’t like having to choose between programs, and until you try it out, you’re not confident that it will be worth the investment. So I continued to postpone my purchase. In the meantime, Microsoft Word was fulfilling all of my needs.

I didn’t realize that you can download a free trial of Adobe’s products. If you’re thinking about using one of these programs, you can actually try it out for a limited time and see if you like it.

A new purchasing option came about that drew my interest. You no longer need to buy the program up front. An alternative is to buy a monthly subscription. For about $20 per month with a one-year commitment, you can purchase a subscription to use one of these programs. Or for about $50 per month, you can opt for the Creative Cloud, which gives you access to all of the software programs that I’ve described, plus more. This also allows you to keep your software constantly up-to-date.

In the long run, i.e. after a few years, it may cost more than buying just the programs you need (or maybe not, since you otherwise may have invested money in updates). But what attracted me was that I didn’t need a large upfront investment to get started. For $50, I was immediately able to start using Acrobat XI, InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator, TypeKit, and more. And I downloaded all of these on the first day and started exploring them avidly.

For me, this made very expensive software quite accessible. It starts to add up after several months (it’s like paying an extra cable t.v. bill), but for me it was worth it.

I wish I’d seen this option a few years ago. There were times where I would only have needed these software programs for a couple of months. I could have bought a temporary subscription (the price is higher if you don’t commit to a full year), and then not renewed it for a year or so until I next needed them.

But that’s not the case now. I’m using all of these programs avidly and will continue to do so.

That’s the big factor:

  • What are your needs? If you’ll be using these programs regularly, then it’s probably worth it. If you might just use them occasionally, the commitment may not be a good value. In that case, you might try the free download to better assess the value, or you might take the higher-priced short-term subscription to fill your temporary needs and then stop using it.
  • If you’re publishing multiple books a year, you’ll probably be using the software more. If you reach a point where you earn $1000 or more per month from net royalties, then investing 5% into professional software may be a reasonable expense. If instead you’re making like $100 per month, half your earnings are going into the software (then factor in the IRS and not much is left, although you will have substantial expenses to deduct).

One thing I like is how the Creative Cloud makes professional publishing software accessible to the self-publisher without a large upfront cost.

I was surprised when I was shopping for guides on Amazon for how to best utilize the software. I had purchased the Creative Cloud directly from Adobe. When I was shopping for guides, I discovered that I could have supported Amazon with my purchase (it was the same price at the time).

What was shocking was that Creative Cloud had 35 reviews with an average of two stars (**). The top four most helpful reviews on the product page were all one-star (*) reviews.

Wait a minute. Adobe is the best publishing software, right? So why does it have all these one-star reviews?

This became apparent when I started reading the reviews. There was a great pricing debate going on. Many people who had purchased the products at full price in the past were displeased that they hadn’t been grandfathered into the Creative Cloud. Maybe I would have been upset, too.

But still. As an author, I know it’s no fun to receive low-star reviews, let alone a string of reviews that don’t say anything at all about the content of the book.

Adobe is a large company, not an indie author, but still. People, like you and I, worked on Adobe’s software. Imagine how they feel to see all those one- and two-star reviews of their hard work. Reviews that don’t describe how well the software works, but mostly focus on the pricing model. Again, I understand those reviewers’ frustration. But those reviews didn’t seem fair, and they didn’t help me as a customer to decide whether or not to make the purchase.

Fortunately, I had already made the purchase from Adobe, so those reviews didn’t have the opportunity to scare me away. Personally, the Creative Cloud is a good fit for my needs, as I’m making extensive use of it, and I’m very pleased with my purchase.

Is it the right choice for you? Maybe, maybe not. If you have Word and already have some experience with it, that’s a convenient option, too. Would you use the Adobe software often enough to get your money’s worth, and would it make a difference for you compared to Word? Those may be the questions to consider.

About Me

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.

Should You Self-Publish?

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For most authors, the decision of whether to self-publish or search for a traditional publisher is a tough one. I wrestled with this decision (it fought like a crocodile) in the years leading up to 2008. Even after self-publishing multiple books in 2008 (I had one completely written and the material for several others already well-prepared), I continued to wrestle the crocodile for another seven months. Then sales of two of my books erupted and later the next summer I launched a series that became popular enough that I no longer questioned my decision.

That’s what you hope for, when you’re wondering which route to take. You’re hoping that a day will come when you no longer look back over your shoulder, wondering about the other road (that road you didn’t take is such a clichéd road, it really isn’t worth any anguish).

Not an Easy Way Out

Self-publishing isn’t the easy way out. It might seem that way at first:

You don’t have to find a publisher or an agent, you don’t need to write query letters, you don’t need to put a book proposal together, you don’t need to buy Writer’s Market, you don’t need to meet the right people, you don’t need to write sample chapters for a book that might never get published, you don’t need to make marketing commitments, and you don’t need to wait years hoping to get lucky.

You also won’t have to deal with a pile of rejection letters:

Self-publishing is a sure thing, baby! (Well, at least as far as getting published is concerned; whether or not you’ll sell a copy to anyone other than your grandma, that’s another question.)

But self-publishing is still a lot of work. You’re the writer (so you still need to learn the craft), you’re the editor (which means a great deal more work once the book is written), you’re the formatter (which means learning a new art and how to use the software to pull it off), you’re the illustrator (can you draw, too?), you are your own marketing department (put Executive on your name badge), and you are your only public relations specialist (if you fail at this job, you can kill all your hard work faster than your favorite speedy cliché).

That’s a lot of work for someone who just wants to write. It might just be easier to find an agent or publisher after all.

And you don’t really escape the pain of rejection… because anybody can post a critical review right in plain sight where the whole world can see it (stock up on thread to mend your bleeding heart).

You’re not Really Alone

It really isn’t self-publishing. It’s indie publishing.

You only do it all yourself if you choose to do so:

  • There is an abundance of free information available to help authors learn writing skills, editing skills, cover design skills, marketing skills, and publishing skills.
  • The CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing community forums have many knowledgeable participants to help out if you have a question.
  • You have the option of joining a writing group or organizing a focus group from within your target audience to help provide valuable feedback.
  • You can recruit extra pairs of eyes to help you proofread.
  • Services are available for editing, formatting, or cover design if you need to hire help. You may find affordable service at high quality if you do your homework well.
  • What you lack in financial resources you can make up for in time (it’s money, right?). You can choose to take your time to get it right.
  • You can find support from others, such as this wonderful WordPress community.

Changing Tides

It wasn’t long ago that self-publishing equated to hundreds of books piled in an author’s garage (though somehow I still have hundreds in my home office…).

For most authors, it was either traditional publishing, vanity publishing, or no publishing (and too often, the latter was the case).

Print-on-demand services like CreateSpace and e-readers like Kindle have revolutionized the publishing industry. Now anyone can  publish (and, believe it or not, there are even some authors who have their dogs publish, so if you hear this expression, there is a little truth to it—a photo book about dogs, surely; why shouldn’t it be written by, narrated by, and published by the dog?).

And hundreds of thousands of indie authors are publishing.

Self-publishing was ripe when it first came out. Many readers weren’t aware of the new concept in the early years. There were fewer authors and books, too. E-readers were new and quite appealing. The market was growing rapidly.

Then word started to spread about books with editing, formatting, and content problems. Many customers discovered these problems firsthand. Some review abuse from authors didn’t help the image (fortunately, Amazon has made great strides toward limiting this in the past couple of years). There were also some people (perhaps the extremists we will not label as authors) who had heard of amazing success stories, who were hoping to make a quick fortune with little effort (you can easily spot them because they have deep scars where they continue to scratch their heads).

Yet the number of indie authors and indie books continued to grow, and support for them grew with it. Take tens of thousands of authors, add their families, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, and you can see that there is ample support for the concept of self-publishing. Many indie authors read indie books; many more people who know indie authors read indie books (and not just by authors they know). It’s not uncommon to search Amazon for “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” to try to find a good self-published book to read.

Amazon and traditional publishers both did indie authors some huge favors. Amazon’s role is obvious: Thank Amazon for the beautiful red carpet. Every big traditional publisher must yearn badly for a time machine. How has indie authorship come to take so much of the current market share? Would the publishers change their e-book pricing strategies if they could dial the calendar back several years? Would they focus more of their efforts on the advantages of digital books? Would they try to get to market faster? Would they encourage their authors to utilize more marketing strategies that top indies have come to thrive on? You might sooner solve the Tootsie Roll riddle…

Traditional publishers have responded to the effects of print-on-demand and e-books. But they also have the disadvantages of being big business: especially, s.l.o.w. response time. Things continue to change, though. They are looking ahead, they have a great deal of publishing experience, and they have many resources. They haven’t disappeared; they just haven’t dominated the market like they once did. Definitely, don’t count them out.

Several bookstores, especially chains, might wish they could turn back the clock, too. So many indie books selling each year. Some bookstores have taken advantage of this opportunity; some have avoided it at all cost. It may have been silly for them to blindly stock several copies of every indie book. But there were some good opportunities to get some of this traffic.

The image of indie publishing seems to be rebounding. Customers have realized that they can filter out what’s good to read by careful study of the product page and Look Inside. Excellent content is good to read regardless of how it is published. Some indie books have exceptional covers, wonderful editing and formatting, and great stories, too. Indie authors have the freedom to provide content that traditional publishers would never have published in the past. An indie author can choose to write to a smaller audience; that smaller audience may appreciate this. Many indie authors provide personal experiences with their marketing, which helps to attract new readers. The best indie books are competing with the best traditionally published books.

Successful indie authors are opening doors for everyone else. Some are even turning down lucrative offers from traditional publishers (check out this article, recently referred to from the CreateSpace community forum). If you do sign with a traditional publisher, you risk having your digital or other rights tied up for a very long time (if you can get a little success, by that point in time you might do much better than the advance offered up front).

Success Still Isn’t Easy

Amazon and other companies are giving indie authors the opportunity to publish. But everyone won’t be striking gold. You might not even strike dirt.

There are millions of books available for sale. Only the top 200,000 or so sold one copy in the past day. Most books don’t even sell a copy per day, on average.

You put so much time into writing, editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing (what you don’t do yourself, you still put time and money into arranging). You invest months, perhaps years of hard work, and you may also invest good money along with it. But sales aren’t guaranteed.

Sales are still hard to come by.

Traditional publishers and agents do have benefits to offer (you might also wonder if they are receiving fewer submission: are your chances better now?). They may be able to help with editing and formatting. They might help a little in the way of marketing, like getting your foot in the door for television or radio interviews, hooking you up with an effective publicist, sending out advance review copies, and listing your title in their catalogs. You’ll probably still be expected to market. You might receive an advance, though it may be $5,000 or less, not the big number you’ve always dreamed about. You have better prospects for getting your book stocked in a chain bookstore (then you get to learn the reality of returnability and big discounts).

No matter how you publish, the key to success is hard work combined with marketable content.

In the end, to the customer it’s the quality of the book that you’ve produced that really matters, not how you got it published.

Option Three

It isn’t indie publishing versus traditional publishing. Both have merit, not just to authors, but to readers, too.

Some authors are choosing both.

Traditional publishers can only produce books so quickly. Some authors write books faster than they can be published. Other authors write a few books that interest big publishers, but several other books that may not. One way to publish all their books is to traditionally publish some and self-publish the rest (sometimes, with a pseudonym). More and more traditional authors are exploring self-publishing.

On the other side, many authors are starting out with self-publishing, hoping to attract traditional publishers.

This can work two ways. If you self-publish a book that scarcely sells, it will be hard to convince a publisher to take up your book. But if you grow a large following and gain frequent sales and many reviews, a publisher may be interested in publishing a subsequent book (or even republishing the same book). They’ll want to be impressed with your success and your marketing platform, and it won’t be easy, but the potential is there.

Yet if you can build a large following and earn frequent sales on your own, why would you want to sign a contract with a publisher, tie up your rights, and take a big cut in royalties (even though a large sum up front would be enticing)? If you can be self-made, why give that up? It’s easy to fantasize about receiving a lucrative offer and turning it down, but if you wind up wearing these shoes, it might not turn out to be so easy. It would sure be a nice problem to have, though, wouldn’t it?

Other authors wonder if the grass may be greener on the other side. Some authors try self-publishing, then try to find an agent or publisher when that doesn’t pan out. Some authors land a contract with a traditional publisher, but don’t make what they were expecting, and switch to self-publishing.

Conclusions

There are a lot of opinions out there on whether self-publishing or traditional publishing is better.

Personally, I think it’s the wrong question to ask.

What’s better for you may not be the same as what’s better for someone else. Other people’s lists of advantages and disadvantages can help you collect ideas for your own list, but your list of pros and cons will be unique.

I believe both options can be good, and so is “option three” (i.e. both).

Nothing beats the feeling of holding your book in your hands, knowing that you gave it your best, believing it to be done professionally. That’s what you should strive for. Whether you do this yourself, with help as an indie author, or via a traditional publisher or agent, the end result is still the same—you shared your passion with readers.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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