Blog

DIY or use a Professional – wait, what was the question?

When you start out with a hobby, usually it’s just you and whatever tools that you may have had on hand to accomplishproservice your goals – whether it’s writing or BBQ smoking or most any other kind of hobby.

Once you get to a certain point you begin to get the idea that moving to a more public venue may accomplish yet more with your hobby.

With BBQ smoking, I chose to compete in contests to learn how to really cook and have a much better understanding of the process.

With writing it’s no different, but there are several options available to help that are free and easy to use.

For example I opted to move to Wattpad where I found a well organized method to expose my writing to others and begin to get feedback, participate in contests and better organize my work. There really are not a whole lot of rules that you have to follow as to how you write, what you write (within reason of course) or how you present it (again within reason of their membership agreement).

There are always rules as to what limits there are and they clearly lay them out in their agreement acceptance or FAQ pages.

Moving to a platform such as Wattpad can accomplish many things, such as giving you the courage to move yet further and begin to approach the idea of actually publishing your stories to a much broader audience, such as those who may peruse Amazon or other outlets looking for reading material.

This is where things begin to change a bit drastically as far as what rules and other norms that you now have to consider, in particular copyrights and other such legal terms for an example.

Now, if you are like me, you begin to research how others have done things as you begin to prepare your book – cover, presentation, content, webpages, blogs (much like this one for example 8)) and other bits and pieces.

Most everything involved in this process can and often does involve quite a bit of work that can be far and beyond the normal experience levels of someone who may be new to web design, art design or even project management.

Whats the best solution? Many may suggest professional services for particular parts of the process, such as your cover or editing.

itguy

An important issue with the option of involving a professional is the cost that will undoubtedly be involved. Another is finding someone who is reputable and will get you the result that you want within your budget.

Let me be clear, this is not a bad idea at all and something to seriously consider for most any part of the process.

However, should you be in a situation much like myself with a limited budget, perhaps looking into doing things yourself (DIY) can also be an option to pursue.

WordPress, for example, gives a great option for hosting your webpage and blog that can later be moved if you choose to self-host. Writers groups in your local area or on-line can also be helpful. Community Centers in most areas may even offer classes.

By far the most important thing to consider when designing a cover is due-diligence with what will be on the cover. A key word to consider is Royalty Free. What this means that you will not have to pay to use a particular image or even a font for your project.

artclassIf you find a photo or piece of artwork and can’t identify the owner, you will need to play a bit of detective using tools such as TinEye Reverse Image Search to locate the artist(s) who may have created it.

At all cost and to avoid interacting with lawyers it is best not to use something without permission. There are plenty of examples where it is cheaper to pay a high fine than fight something in court. Either way there will be significant costs to any part of such disagreements.

I once almost made the mistake of using an image of a bear for one cover that I eventually learned would have cost as much as two-hundred and fifty dollars (US) to use rather than the image I eventually purchased for roughly fifteen dollars (US).

Places such as Shutterstock.com offer images with proper licensing for fairly minimal cost that allow you to use them as you may need without legal worry. Their default license allows you to use an image up until 500,000 copies are made or sold of your product which does include e-books. At that point they offer another license that is reasonable and affordable.

Building the cover can still be a chore that brings with it much and many pratfalls along the way.

What font do you use? Is it free? Large enough? Size of title versus author name?

I happen to have a large library of books that I can look through to see how those who are professionally published have done things. Next, I went out on Amazon and looked through what is offered by others.

There will be plenty of websites, blogs, videos and such that talk about designing covers that will show you plenty of ways to approach the process.

And there are plenty on how to tell you how not to do it with examples.

toolboxPaint.net is a great tool for editing, combining or otherwise building a cover. Createspace.com also has cover building tools available.

In the end, either way that you choose to do it, the cover should be what you as the author want it to be. If you have to, stick to your guns but always leave the door open to possible suggestions that can allow you to keep what you want yet perhaps show it differently and possibly in a better fashion.

My first book, “Blood-Lines” is an example. There are key elements that I wanted in the cover and after many attempts while getting much feedback (mostly bad reviews), with the help of a friend and her simple suggestions I was able to get the cover to what it is now and retain everything that I wanted to have in it.

Does that mean those that didn’t like it before like it any better now? Maybe. Several have commented that the current version is much improved.

Editing is another area entirely. editor

It’s one thing to be an avid reader, entirely another to edit what you write.

Going rates for editorial services can lead one to do it themselves. I chose to do it myself due in part, once again, to my budget.

For a manuscript that runs 86,000+ words, professional editorial rates can be anywhere from two-thousand to five-thousand or more dollars (US).

The only advice that I will give is to be consistent in how you write your story. Watch your tense and keep things equal as best that you can in the presentation.

There are also beta reading services or other writers who will exchange such services.

What you can do is to research what to avoid happening through commentary of others that have reviewed books. While I usually skip one star reviews, they can often explain the faults found in a book that teach you what to avoid.

In the end, it is you that has to be happy with what you produce, happy with how it’s released and happy with how it’s designed.

It’s your dream and your efforts that have produced the end result.

But make your skin thick and prepare for bad reviews as there will be some without doubt.

Art is art, but everyone has an opinion on what art should be.

Do what you can with what you have available and are willing to try and you will hopefully get a result that at least you like and in the end that is what is important.

Using a professional or doing it yourself are both acceptable methods of approaching your publishing efforts.

I’m happy with mine and I hope you will be with yours.

Oh the fun and humor of Amazon Marketplace

So, I finally managed to get the nerve up to officially publish my first book, Blood-Lines:


Book I – Blood-Lines

Available on Amazon/Kindle Now

For you see, in order to create your author webpage both on Amazon and at other places, you actually have to have had something published on Amazon for them to verify your identity, which makes perfect sense.

Where the humor comes in is that I opted to publish Blood-Lines at about two in the afternoon my time and simply had to wait for things to transfer over and begin to pop up properly which they eventually did.

As I went about setting up my author page, I happened to go back to the listing for my book only to find four other vendors already were selling it for less than I had it listed for – which didn’t bother me as Amazon obviously makes deals with various distributors which undoubtedly include discounts along the way.

In reality such marketing does not affect me as my royalties are paid by CreateSpace through each order received for a printed book.

What surprised me, however, was to find a vendor listing my book as “used” for almost two dollars more than what I have it listed for. At first I was a bit confused as even I don’t yet have a released copy of my book let alone a used one.

So I took it upon myself to write to Amazon and ask about that. Apparently however vendors wish to list their products is acceptable until someone complains about it which makes sense. In this case, even if someone were to order my book as used they would be getting a brand new copy which undoubtedly would not bring complaints and even then it would be with Amazon and not me.

But now as I peruse Amazon for items of interest, I now know that sometimes used things are necessarily as used as one might expect.

As usual, keep in mind the price your paying for something whether it’s new or used.

It’s all in the marketing 8)

The Fun and Infrastructure of Going Live with First Book

I’m very happy so far with the process of moving from short stories to more cohesive tales on Wattpad to the first published book of a series using CreateSpace and KDP.


Book I – Blood-Lines

Available on Amazon/Kindle Now

Part of the many things an author goes through before publishing is setting up their “infrastructure” for their first book that will be in place for those that will follow.

Somethings, however, are left to the last minute of sorts as Amazon does not allow you to create your Author page until you have published your book, which is perfectly acceptable, but at the same time adds some angst as you patiently wait for Amazon to show your book and then set about learning what there is to set up for an author’s page.

Fortunately, I’ve done a ton of research and watched countless YouTube videos and Podcasts (shout-out here to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Podcast) where I’ve learned quite a bit from what others before me have wished they’d done or have shown step by step what they would suggest doing.

So far the only weird thing that has come out of the process of reading, re-reading, updating and fixing was an unusual highlight to lines in the Kindle version which I’ve sent a note to KDP to help me figure out. Oddly enough the odd highlights do not show up in the “Peak inside” option, so who knows.

But, this again shows that now matter how many thousand times you check something and then re-check it, more often than not the final release will have to be checked again.

So when the several copies that I’ve ordered arrive, I will be painstakingly looking through them prior to giving them out.

But, I have now checked yet another bucket list item off as I’ve become a published author.

Everything else that comes with it will be met with a smile.

And perhaps a grumble but a smile no less 8)

My Amazon Author Page

My initial book listings as print and Kindle

So Why Multiple Covers?

bloodspatter_cover_for_kindle  cover_bloodspatter9a


Simply put, covers are a lot like fishing lures.

Beyond the title of a book or series of books, the covers themselves are what can draw a reader to choose to purchase or sample a particular book. I’ve actually stumbled into the middle of a series and gone back to read from the start simply by having seen the cover of the middle book.

In this case, I had one cover that I liked as it drew your attention, while others (my Wife included) did not seem comfortable with my choice. So after communicating with CreateSpace support, I opted to change plans and will release the same book with two different covers.

As an effort not to mislead those who may think they are different books, I marked them on the back to show their separate cover options. Hopefully this will cut down on some of the confusion while with others they may want to get both covers, who knows.

At any rate, both books will have separate ISBNs and will be listed separately both in print and as e-books.

So far while planning this I have discovered that simply having a different cover can make for a price difference which I can only attribute to the larger image. Accordingly though, both books will have the same cover price while one will have a lesser profit margin than the other.

How it will play out in sales will be interesting to see and will be the focus of a future post to report what I find once I release both this winter.

The Power of Wattpad

   Wattpad has become a proven tool for novice authors to get what they write out on a platform where others can read and comment about their work.

To quote the about page for Wattpad:

Wattpad, the global multi-platform entertainment company for original stories, transforms how the world discovers, creates, and engages with stories. Since 2006, it has offered a completely social experience where people everywhere can participate and collaborate on content through comments, messages, and multimedia. Today, Wattpad connects a community of over 45 million people around the world through serialized stories about the things they love. As home to millions of fresh voices and fans who share culturally relevant stories based on local trends and current events, Wattpad has unique pop culture insights in virtually every market around the world. Wattpad Studios co-produces stories for film, television, digital, and print, to radically transform the way the entertainment industry sources and produces content. Wattpad Brand Solutions offers new and integrated ways for brands to build deep engagement with consumers. The company is proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Learn more at wattpad.com.

How this can play into a marketing campaign is to have your work on Wattpad as well as in other forms.

If you read the above quote, consider the numbers – over forty-five million people.

To get to Wattpad you have to have a network connection and become a member. It is important to also realize that as a reader you cannot download the works – you must be on-line to read them.

Unfortunately as authors have had their works accepted for formal publishing, many publishers require that the works are removed or only summarized as they move to print or e-books.

In my case, I plan to keep my works on Wattpad as a way for people to read the stories and should they choose, they can then purchase them as e-books or in print. This way it is not entirely unlike having a free e-book of sorts to gain interest as well as yet another method to gain critical commentary.

I’ve been fortunate to have had people from Europe and elsewhere who are looking forward to the release of my book(s) having read the stories as they are on-line.

If something gets someone to put their words to readable form, then it is a tool that one must consider as necessary for their toolbox.

Check it out, I enjoy using it and I’m sure you may as well.

Be Kind and Review What You Read

Whenever you purchase a book, be it for Kindle or off a shelf somewhere virtual or otherwise and once you have finished with it, please consider submitting a review of what you’ve just read.

star_review

Perhaps while the entire experience is still fresh in your mind.

Good, bad or indifferent – your opinion as a reader does matter not only to that particular author but others who may follow behind you as they peruse what options may be available for their download or purchase.

Amazon.com and its many affiliates go to great lengths to offer, collect and display any and all reviews given just for that reason.

Also consider, as part of your review, some depth of explanation as to why you feel as you do about the book.

In a comparison of sorts, as a BBQ smoker, I’ve often had people use the classic line “that’s the best I’ve ever had!” which while appreciated does not tell me exactly why it is that they may have believed that.

Was it the harsh bite of spice that I happened to add this time? The twist of taste perhaps brought on by the injection? The fact that I steamed it with brandy instead of rum just to switch things up? Or that I let the fire get away one too many times and it was the char that attracted them.

While your reviewer may not know the underlying cause of why they like it, when asked many will go on to explain from their point of view exactly how it presented such a tasty morsel as it apparently did.

Or if it was complete garbage there will also be much detail in that offering as well.

We, as authors, learn from the whole realm of reviews that come our way and can be few and far between. Even the bad reviews can help when you discover that by having selected a particular font color entirely by accident that some of your text disappears on a Kindle when evening rolls around.

So, the next time you finish a book, take a moment and consider telling others what you may have liked, disliked or even just enjoyed about the book in either the presentation, the telling or how you may or may not have followed what the author was trying to spin in their tale.

Just please fill in the details of why it was that you felt the way you did and we will greatly appreciate your efforts as you may or may not have appreciated ours.

Perhaps call it Karma of sorts … or good things that come to those who review.

 

The Power of Business Cards

bcarda

So, how do you get the word out about your books, your website, your blog?

Well, business cards can play an important part as you slip them in books that you give away or sign. Sometimes asking a library if they have post board to put one up (some do, many don’t — ask the next time you visit your local library.)

For a long time I printed my own cards which became a burden for my printer. Comparing the cost of buying the stock versus having them printed made me try out VistaPrint (listed under resources).

Now, those that know me also know that I’m a BBQ (barbecue) Pit Master with a team that I compete with. So, instead of making two different cards for each hobby/passion, I’ve opted to go with a dual sided card that I can give out.

What would the benefit be in doing that?

Well for starters, BBQ folks who get my card could also be someone who might be interested in my books (a shameless plug but it has worked for others).

Following the great design setup with VistaPrint  I was able to design a card that has two distinct sides to it.

bcarda bcardf

 

And with two very distinct personalities. To add some to the mix, you could make a run of cards with one pair of books and others with different pairings which you could then shuffle to add variety as you give them out.

Now another benefit will be that I can take the card design for either one and make it a banner/poster to hang at a competition or should I ever have a booth or showing somewhere an author’s poster to hang from my table.

Yet something else to consider as you take what may be a hobby to another level where you want folks to know who you are and where to find your works.

Word of the Day: due diligence

due dil·i·gence

NOUN
  1. law

  • reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement, especially in buying or selling something.
  • a comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential.

Once you have completed your story or the collection of stories that you want to publish, consider everything that you will be using from the font, to the artwork and at the very least to the content within your work.

Simply put, verify EVERYTHING that you will be using.

It’s too easy to believe something is public domain unless you track down who said it, wrote it or created it in the first place

On my first cover, I spent almost three days researching an image using TinEye (see link under tools) and finally located the original author through a link to a YouTube video of all things.

The next time a piece of artwork nearly caused an issue was a photo of a bear that at first had appeared to be public domain only to find out that when I contacted the artist that there would have been a significant price tag for using it.

Fortunately places like shutterstock.com (listed under resources) offer many options that are available for set fees and clearly delineated license agreements.

Specialty fonts, while freely offered, are not necessarily free to use either. Many times it may be a simple donation to the artist that allows you to use it, but make sure you contact them and verify, verify, verify.

Quotes are another tricky thing as I’ve recently discovered. Much like artwork you can find quotes on just about anything. But if a quote is used in a book,  you will need to first contact the publisher and if need be the author themselves before you can use it.

Fortunately many publishers are open to negotiating some sort of license and are more than willing to work with other writers who may want to use a quote and also verify that it is properly credited where they use it.

Just remember that what you are publishing needs to have all the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed or you may find a lawyer or two sending very official notices of copyright violation.

 

How to make a blog

So, after much tweaking, erasing, rebuilding, moving and general shuffling about, I figured I would share a great video that I used as a tool while creating my first blog.

In the video Greg Narayan takes you through step by step along several options for having your blog hosted or hosting yourself and how to get the proper bits and pieces together.

Also, he shows a way that if you want to make some money, how to place adds that could derive an income if Google opts to let you use them.

He also has a great website @ http://www.dearblogger.org/

At any rate, should you find yourself at a cross roads of how you will be building a blog, check out both the video and his blog!

Have a great day!

Bob

Welcome To My Blog!

This is the first post to get things going and let you know where things are at the moment.

Currently I’m in the final stages of preparing to publish my first ever novel “Blood-Lines” that is book one of my Weird Wild West series and will be available on Amazon in both paperback and for the Kindle.

The fun part of prcover_bloodlines6aeparing the first book is all the prep work that goes into it, such as graphics, editing and layout – and that’s just the website for the books.

Having followed the great advice of several great sources, I’ve tweaked my website to hopefully reflect the series along with my Wattpad fiction as well.

http://www.sellersjr.com

At any rate, this should get the proverbial ball rolling and I will have more to follow!

 

Thanks for reading!
Bob Sellers JR