Miscellanea of July 2013

A Q&A Post

First up, I have been kindly featured in W3 Sidecar, in a Q&A post.  My thanks go out to Marissa Bell Toffoli for the opportunity!

Blog Browser Day

Yesterday’s post about the new Blog Browser Day has been greeted with phenomenal success!  I already have several blog recommendations lined up for this coming Saturday (3rd August).  I would like to thank everybody who has made recommendations and/or given their support to the idea.  It is always a delight when such feedback is received so quickly!

A Little Disappointed

Having read about the success other authors have enjoyed by releasing their books as paperbacks, usually using Print on Demand (POD), I took the plunge, as you may know.  It is rather disappointing, then, that I have, to date, had not one sale of even one of my paperbacks.  While I love having my own copies  as paperbacks, I have to seriously consider whether the effort involved in getting there is worthwhile.  Perhaps I was mistaken in not using Amazon’s Createspace as the POD service, but after receiving not one response from them to a couple of simple questions, I decided to find a more responsive service.  I am very reluctant to now turn my back on skoobebooks, who put so much work and help into the books.

If there’s anybody out there with more experience of POD, I’d love to hear from you!  You can either comment here or use the blog’s contact form (which is private).

Life, Art and Possible Misbehaviour

My good friend Seumas Gallacher raises this sticky issue in his blog.  We all know that Life imitates Art, and vice versa, but when does this become an issue for real concern?  What happens, for instance, when Art imitates Art?  What is provable when, for example, you see a film that so closely resemble something you wrote that you feel convinced there’s theft involved?  If you’re a hugely successful author, then maybe the problem isn’t so big.  You probably have the power to go into battle.  What is the situation, though, for a new author, especially a self-published Indie, in the same position?  Do we really have any choice other than to just ‘suck it up’?  I know, for sure, that there’s no way that I could afford to charge into court and demand the rectification of the situation.  It’s a sobering thought.  As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with piracy of our books by more mundane means!

And with that, I’ll close today’s miscellanea!

~ Steve

A Question of Ambition and Beyond eBooks

Why Are You Writing?

When we look at our aims, our ambitions, as authors, what do we see?  Are we honest with ourselves, or do we drift in blissful dreams of semi-delusion?  In honesty, most of us will only ever write either just for ourselves, or maybe for a small circle of friends and followers.  It’s a sad fact of life.  If we’re really lucky, and offer a free ebook, we may enjoy the feeling of our ebook being downloaded by others.  Unfortunately, most of these downloaders won’t ever actually read the ebook, and those that do probably won’t provide any feedback.  Worse, I’ve heard of some submitting cruel, viciously scathing reviews even when they haven’t read the ebook!  The internet can be a very nasty place at times.  If you attach a price, watch how few copies are bought – that will give you some insight into the often splendid number of downloads of free offerings.

Does all this mean that we should stop writing, or at least stop offering our work to others?  The answer to that depends on why you’re writing.  If you’re looking at it only as a potential means of making money, then I’d say don’t bother!  If, on the other hand, you are driven to write, then does it matter whether others ever read your work?  It’s a bit like decorating. Do you decorate your home to impress visitors, or because it pleases you?  I have been writing for many years, and most of my production in that time will never make it beyond the manuscript stage.  Indeed, much of it has been lost.  Yet I have no regrets at having made the effort to respond to that force which drives me to write!  In fact, I have a certain quiet pride of how much I’ve written, and I look back with pleasure at some passages which were particularly effective.  So, with the writing-bug driving you, then the answer has to be that you never stop writing.  It’s part of your nature and there’s no true need for validation of an intrinsic character trait.

Assuming that you are going to carry on writing, but believe that ebooks alone aren’t the only option you want to try,then read on…


Yesterday, 6th April, I happened upon a post on my Facebook Newsfeed.  It made reference to something that intrigued me.  The subject was simply referred to as FeedARead, without a link.  A quick Google search yielded a result and I pursued the link.  I discovered that FeedARead is a ‘print on demand’ (POD) service, allowing authors an opportunity to upload their manuscript and turn it into a genuine paperback edition!  They offer sales through their website alone, or through many major bookstores.  And the cost?  None, zero, zilch!  Now, if that isn’t interesting, I don’t know what is.  The royalties may not seem particularly big, but then you’re now dealing with much higher production costs.  If it gets you the opportunity to get even one book out there, and hopefully noticed, then a relatively low financial return is worth it.  The package is made even more attractive in that you don’t have to buy an ISBN first.

Consequent to this find, I have started the process of putting one of my novelettes through the system.  Important note here: download and use the Word templates that they provide free!  They offer two sizes of paperback, depending on the size of your book.  The templates allow you to create a properly formatted manuscript for the book size you have chosen.  Just make such amendments as you need to, to the pre-filled parts (the title page and the ‘rights’ page) and then copy your manuscript into the template.  The website offers excellent guidance on making your manuscript right for publication.  One note, if you use OpenOffice or one of its derivatives, such as Libre Office, then save the manuscript in Word DOC format, close the file and reopen it, recheck how the chapters look, and only then use the DOC file.  I discovered, after uploading the DOC file, that subtle differences existed between the ODT and DOC files.  There’s a cover designer on the website, including some very nice cover templates for free.  You can, of course, use your own cover images.  Note that you can’t complete the cover design for submission until you have completed the full content approval stage..  Content approval involves you waiting for a PDF proof of your manuscript to be sent to you.  This has to be checked and accepted.  One reason for this is so that the system knows how wide the spine of your paperback will be.  There’d be no point designing a cover with a spine that was too big!  I am currently awaiting the PDF proof.  When I’m able to progress further, I’ll update you on how it goes.

I’m kind of excited about this new venture.

~ Steve

Dissecting Getting Published

When I first started on this journey, I was confident of only one thing: I would have a lot to learn.  Needless to say, I wasn’t wrong.  In fact, I was being too conservative in my estimation!  Self-publishing is a wonderful, scary thing.  I had, many years ago, discovered that the world of publishing had three routes to getting into print: finding a literary agent willing to take you on (along with your money) so that they might make a deal with a large publishing house, finding a small publishing house specialising in your favoured genre, or being suckered into “vanity publishing” (whereby your masterwork is printed and bound just as you’d wish, regardless of quality, errors or other blunders, and having the delightful task of hawking your published book to every bookshop you could get to, unless you wanted stacks of boxes of your book, unread by anybody).  The one beauty of this was the simplicity of it.  Today, things are nowhere near as simple.

Very recently, I had my first ever sale of  priced ebook!  It will sound silly but I was ecstatic and would have capered with joy if able.  The ebook is self-published through Smashwords.  They provide an excellent service, and I have no complaints. In fact, I consider myself immensely lucky to have found them first, before discovering the numerous alternatives.  In a very short space of time, I have learnt that the service sites differ widely (and wildly, at times).  They may shout about a “free service”, and provide just that, but the quality of that service is another matter.  On just one issue, I have found that Smashwords is unusual.  You can publish your ebook and offer it for free, in multiple formats that will serve the vast majority of eReaders.  Some others will allow you just one format, or perhaps more than one as long as the prospective reader is willing to pay membership fees.  Many will allow you to self-publish for free, but insist on you charging a minimum price for your ebook.  There are several other factors, too.

Apart from these “free service” sites, there are publishers clamouring for submissions, allegedly. Some of these are seemingly legitimate, though I can’t vouch for any.  They offer all that you could want, from editing, through proofreading to professional cover design.  Of course, it all comes at a price, which varies considerably between publishers.  Most of these are actually offering real, printed books.  Some, if not most, of these publishers don’t print a quantity, however.  They print on demand, when an order is received.  It’s a very sensible concept, in many ways.  The potential pitfalls, however, are that your book won’t appear on any book shop’s shelves, unless it’s second-hand, and just what happens if the company folds?  You could find yourself with a pile of orders (let’s be optimistic) and no way to fill them!  How so?  Well, you’ll find that, as is commonplace with all self-publishing, you take on an enormous burden – marketing!  You will lose a significant amount of writing time to publicise your book, creating promotions, giveaways, and various other devices to try to win an audience.  Of course, you could pay another company to do all that for you, or the publisher (really more of a printer than a publisher) may offer the service for a hike in their fees.

There is, of course, still the option of finding, satisfying, and paying a literary agent to do it all for you – at least as far as getting published is concerned.  And there are still traditional publishing houses, many of whom disguise themselves under the names of various less well known names.  You will, naturally, still find the same old obstacles to dealing direct with these big publishers.

Having a publishing option sorted, you may want to recheck the terms and conditions, and any royalties arrangement.  There are services out there where you will be expected to give them exclusive rights, which really isn’t a good idea.  The amount of royalties offered varies widely, too.  Be wary on this one!  A service that has only just started up and hasn’t yet gotten a proven record of success could offer a high royalty rate, but then you may not sell anything through them. You also have to beware of things like transaction fees ns other ways to minimise what you actually receive!  So, don’t sign over any rights and make sure that royalties are fair and that fees are minimal or non-existent.

Ah, the joys of self-publishing…

~ Steve