Welcome to June’s Guest Blogger, author Elaine Calloway. I first met Elaine online over five years ago. I was just getting started on Twitter and she was one of the first to welcome and “follow” me. I’ve followed her progression as a writer and watched her success unfold over the years. She’s worked hard to achieve a solid reputation (as we all know being an Indie Author is an undulating path), and her Elemental Clan series is garnering high praise. Elaine and I have some things in common – New Orleans, love of cemeteries, things strange and ethereal, and good seafood. I firmly believe she is part gypsy moth whose blood runs in sepia ink. She makes magic with her imagination. I’m proud to have Elaine as this month’s guest and I present her insights on Self Publishing with some solid advice.
As always, Elaine will monitor and respond to all comments and questions thru June 30.
Tips for Indie Publishing
Ah, Indie Publishing, more commonly called Self Publishing. It’s the craze these days, on Twitter, Amazon, Wattpad, and all the social networking sites. Authors prefer it because they can take control of the reins from “The Big 6” in New York and put the responsibility for success or failure on personal shoulders.
Many like to make this process seem easy. It is easy, isn’t it? I can skip so many steps if I do it on my own!
Don’t mistake what I’m saying. Choosing to upload a book yourself and handle all the cover art, editing, promo, etc. on your own is a wonderful feeling. But it isn’t necessarily easier, and you definitely still need to have professionals work on part of the process.
Step One. Make sure you have written, rewritten and edited your book. Make sure you’ve had people besides your family read and comment on your book. Your mom may be your biggest fan, but she likely won’t tell you that your plot has holes or your heroine isn’t believable. An objective person can.
Besides, those amazing plots that sound wonderful in your head may not make sense to the average reader. You need a good critique partner or group to tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are. We all use certain phrases too much, forget to add in emotion in some scenes, cause more confusion than clarity on occasion, etc. We’re human. We need feedback.
I can’t stress enough that writing is also a solitary process. You need to connect to others for support, whether it’s in-person at a local writers group or a virtual option like Twitter chats or challenges like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
The point of writing is to enjoy the process. Writing is solitary; we live inside our heads with our characters. Make sure you’re getting some objective feedback before you upload your book to the world. Then edit, edit, edit. And then edit again.
Step Two. You need a cover artist. Yes, a professional. Even if you know a thing or two about graphic design, I still maintain you need a pro to design your book cover. And let me dispel a myth for you. You CAN get a cover design done for less than $1,000. When I first began researching cover art, many writers said that a decent graphic designer costs at minimum $500 and up to $1,000 was not out of the question.
But wait! I don’t have that kind of money!
Relax. You don’t need to have that much money in the bank. There are plenty of pros as well as art students who upload images to Deviant Art (www.deviantart.com) and often will charge reasonable rates for book covers. Also, Amazon has creative people who can do book covers for you. Some top-notch authors have their covers done for less than $300. Start browsing the site. Sign up for a free account so you can download your favorite images to reference later.
One good tip is to gather Web links for a few images you’re fond of, and ask some friends what they think of say, 3 or 4 images. Find out which is their favorite and why.
To my surprise, the image I fell in love with, no one liked. But everyone seemed intrigued by the close-up of an eye. I took that feedback, browsed Deviant Art some more, and began to contact those artists whose work I liked. You can send notes to artists on the site easily.
One thing to remember: in addition to looking for visual talent, you also want someone you can work with. Some of the artists on Deviant Art have still not even opened my note or responded (from 8 months ago). Those people, regardless of how beautiful their designs, will not make good subcontractors if you want to keep a schedule for your book release.
Out of the six or seven artists I contacted, the one who responded the quickest is the woman I hired. She was prompt, I loved her work, and most especially, she was willing to work with my ideas, with shaping something that I only had a vague idea about. I could not be more pleased with the cover she came up with. Take this link to see my latest! http://www.thewriterscanvas.com/waters-blood-book-one/
Another thing to watch out for is that some artists don’t have the rights to the images they make on Deviant Art. The professionals do, but some just play with images and don’t ever intend to sell them for professional purposes. Be aware. I found quite a few artists whose work I loved, but I learned they didn’t have the rights to the images, and not only that, the person who did have the rights (or the stock photo company they took the image from) had gone out of business. Not a place you want to be in.
Use your best judgment. You want someone collaborative, who responds in a reasonable amount of time to email, is willing to do PayPal or another easy form of payment, etc. A picture is worth a thousand words. Make your book cover count!
Step Three. Formatting your manuscript. I’ll make this tip short and sweet: If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, creating and applying styles to various sentences/paragraphs/fonts, then my suggestion is to format the book yourself. I found the process took about two hours from start to finish, including going through the entire manuscript, removing extra paragraph returns, making headings into a bold style, etc.
Every digital option (Smashwords, Amazon, etc.) has its own rules. If you are not comfortable applying styles, then hire someone to do the book formatting for you. I’ve seen prices from $50-$100 to do this service. Honestly, I didn’t shop it much because I was able to do it myself.
One word of caution: keep a back-up copy of each type of digital format you complete! There’s nothing worse than having to start over.
Step Four. Upload your book to the Web! This is the simplest part of the process, though I will mention that it usually takes 24-72 hours before the book is “live” and available for purchase online. If you’re marketing a book release for a specific date, be sure to keep this in mind. Upload the book 2 days early to promote a 5/1 release, for example.
Step Five. Write more books & market your current one! Don’t overdo it. If you tweet about your book, make sure only about one in 20 tweets is about your book. Nobody likes a pest. Blog about it, mention on Facebook, definitely get the word out, but keep writing! The main way to gain a following is to keep producing the stories that touch human souls and make us want to read more.
Hope that provides some insight to future indie authors. Now, go forth and write!
Yours between the lines,