Over the weekend I published the ebook version of The Journey of St. Laurent. I started the whole process Saturday night with a plain text manuscript. About an hour later, I was done. As in done submitting the proper files to three different stores. Each website took whatever time it needed verifying my submission (all had done so by Sunday night, with one half exception) The novel is currently available here:
I did not have to sign up for new accounts at any of the three places, so that did save me an extra hour of waiting for confirmation emails and looking up banking information. Also, I pre-wrote the book description and other info that I was going to need when filling out publishing forms.
The secret, then, to self publishing quickly is automation.
As I’ve discussed before, I primarily use plain text editors and I format the text as I write using markdown. For fiction, this mostly means putting a “#” before chapter titles and then wrapping words/phrases that I want italicized with asterisks. So it’s not like it’s a lot of extra work or anything.
But since my novel was in markdown, and I’ve had a cover ready for almost a year now, there was very little to do.
First, I used SPAB to produce the epub for Barnes and Noble. (Yes, SPAB produces a bunch of other files that can be used, but I wanted to be extra picky about formatting.)
Second, I used Amazon’s Kindle Previewer to convert both the epub mentioned above and the zipped html (produced by SPAB) to mobi, then I picked the one that looked the best to me. That mobi went to Amazon.
Third, I used pandoc along with templates I made for the old version of SPAB to make a LibreOffice odt file. I opened LibreOffice and saved it as a word doc. The word doc got uploaded to Smashwords.
In all fairness, I probably could have just used SPAB and been done with it. However, the file that SPAB produces for Smashwords is an epub. Smashwords will take an epub, but it won’t convert that epub to the ten or so other formats it likes to sell. The book was for sale at Smashwords itself very quickly, but is still pending review to be distributed everywhere Smashwords distributes. That’s the half exception.
Still, the files I needed were ready to go within 15 minutes. Then it was a matter of uploading and filling in forms.
But writing is still hard
Publishing the book was a snap. And even if you don’t use the same method or tools I do, it is still pretty easy. But do you know what wasn’t easy? Writing the thing. Also: editing it.
I’m confident this is a much stronger novel than the last one, but the more I write, the more I recognize my writing weaknesses.
Anyway, the tools to self publish will continue to get better and easier. That only means we writers should spend the extra time bettering our craft.
At long last I’m posting a new version of SPAB! For those not in the know, SPAB! is a simple utility for authors to take a markdown-formatted book and transform it into quality-formatted, ready-to-publish files that can be uploaded to kdp.amazon.com, smashwords, and the like.
Here’s what SPAB! now produces:
An epub file to be used at Barnes and Noble’s pubit, and just about anyone else that’ll take an epub.
A smashwords specific epub.
A zipped html file to be used at kdp.amazon.com.
An 8.5 x 11 printable pdf.
A 5.5 x 8.5 pdf for paperback interior at createspace, lulu, shopmybook, or lightning source.
I need some help testing this, making sure that the files produced actually work at the various self publishing sites, and making sure that the output looks good. And of course I”m open to any other suggestions as well. If find any issues you can contact me by commenting here, or shooting me an email “bryce at storyhack.com”
Bugs that I Know About
Bold and italics are not always working correctly in the pdf outputs. Fixed in the 3.0.1 Beta
Book interior images not always working in the epubs. (cover is working fine) Fixed in the 3.0.1 Beta
So you know exactly how to use SPAB!, I’ve written up a couple of tutorials as part of my online book on self-publishing. Sorry, for now you’re on your own for creating a cover.
After that you just open up SPAB!, select your book file, then click publish.
Note: Make sure that your image references are correct if your book has pictures. Otherwise, SPAB! will just freeze with no indication that something has gone wrong. Someday I may build in useful error messages. Today is not that day. Stop whining, this is free software.
What? Windows only? But I’m a super-hip Apple addict!
Now, for you pobrezinhos who don’t have a windows machine – this has been written with cross-platform functionality in mind using the python programming language. Someday I will make you a mac installer, and probably go ahead and release the source code. Today is not that day.
You only need one, because that’s all there is to the program.
If you find this little program useful and you wish to see development continue, or you just want to say thanks, feel free to leave me a tip via the donate button below.
This series reflects the path Dane took to self-publish his short story collection via the Kindle Store and SmashWords. You can check it out prove to yourself that he knows his stuff. (And of course read some good fiction)
Thus begins my series of posts about how to self-publish an eBook on Amazon.com’s Kindle store and Smashwords.com. As I warned before, if this is not something you’re interested in, click away and I’ll see you when the series is over. I’m not sure how many parts this will run, though, so I hope at least some of you with stories you feel are entertaining and would be enjoyed by others but don’t think you have a market for them will stick around and consider this.
J. A. Konrath also suggested if you’ve got a manuscript which did its rounds – that is, you sent it out for representation and an agent didn’t pick it up or your agent sent it around and no publisher picked it up – you consider doing this with those as well. What have you got to lose? At the worst it languishes just like it is now. At best, you have an eBook bestseller on your hands and who knows what doors that will open.
I self-published my eBook for a number of reasons.
Short story markets are generally non-paying and take months and months to respond, in general, to submissions. Not all, but some. The benefit is a publishing credit, and you know what? I have those already from a non-fiction book. Why do I need them from non-paying markets?
My situation isn’t stable and my future’s a little rocky. I wanted to see results now.
I believe the buying public will let me know if story collections are still interesting or desired by the readers of the world.
EBooks are the way of the future. As many people as there are bellyaching about I’ll never give up books, I’ll never give up books, lots of figures show eBooks are currently outselling print books by a fair margin, which is only going to grow. Get with the program or be run over by it.
I can get 70% royalties with Amazon’s Kindle program. Try THAT with a mainstream publishing house. Go ‘head, I dare you.
My stories were already on my blog for free; why not try to make a little money from them?
I could keep going, but you get the point. All the money I’ve made so far is that much more money than I made with them by not publishing them on Amazon and Smashwords. I’m already ahead of the game. That’s why I did it, and it looks like I was right so far.
First things first: What you need
You’re going to need a few things, but you’ll already have most of them, and what you don’t have is free, so don’t freak. Just go get it.
A good text editor. Something like Notepad++ would be ideal, but you can use Notepad – which comes with Windows – if you’d like. If you’re not using a PC, or if you’re using a PC without Windows on it (AHEM, Bryce) [Note from Bryce: What? I use windows. I just don't use Word...], you’re on your own. But I think Notepad++ is multiplatform, so I use it and I’m going to assume you’re using it too for the rest of this tutorial series.
Amazon’s Kindle for PC or Kindle Previewer software. I prefer the latter, but I have both. I can’t speak for how Kindle for PC works; never used it. The previewer does everything I want it too. I need this; it’s the only way I can test the behavior of the file and get an idea about how it looks on a Kindle. You can’t skip this one; go get it from Amazon’s Kindle publishing page.
Microsoft Word, or something which can save as a Microsoft Word document, like OpenOffice Writer or such. Try to avoid Wordperfect; it does strange things and no one recommends it. Also Smashwords ONLY accepts Microsoft Word documents. Go figure.
Mobipocket Creator. This is the program which will transform your file into a Kindle-friendly format for you. This is completely optional; many, many people upload their HTML document straight to Amazon’s DTP (Digital Text Platform) and the conversion to the Kindle-native file format is done for them. No hassles, no hair-pulling, no cussing. What fun is that?
I like to use KompoZer – which is a free, multiplatform HTML editor (like a word processor for HTML) to do some of the heavy, repetitive lifting. It’s not necessary, but you’ll see why I use it when we get into the process.
Patience. Yep, you’re gonna need it. It’s gonna take a couple of days to get this right, but by the time you do, you’ll be a pro and can do it in your sleep.
Okay, once you’ve got all that stuff together, you’re going to need a story. Of course, that story should be imported or copied and pasted into Microsoft Word if you didn’t write it in Word. The part where you have a story, I’ll assume is done.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a free self-publishing helper tool called Pandoc ePress. Anyway, I’ve been hard at work on another version, and now I have something that should be useful to any do-it-yourself self publishing author. I streamlined the interface a touch, and added a couple more useful format targets.
The program has been renamed Self Publish A Book (SPAB!). I’m hosting it over on my self-publishing tutorial blog.
Now it can generate the files you need to immediately publish at:
Amazon’s KDP (.mobi)
Barnes & Noble’s PubIt (.epub)
Lulu, Createspace, or UniBook (.pdf)
I need some help to test it, so please go try it out, and let me know what you think. Self Publish A Book
Here’s a screenshot:
Interesting side note: the Urban Dictionary defines Spab as â€œTo stab somebody using a spoon.â€
Okay everybody. The secret project I unveiled yesterday is now up. Yes, I know it’s still rough around the edges and there are still plenty of features that I’m planning on adding. But the core functionality is there and I think it all works.
So if you have a blog and you’d be willing to let book authors do a tour stop on your blog, please go sign up and help me test the thing. Or if you have a book for sale, do the same thing.
If you have neither, please be a pal and spread the word.
I got a question from a guy named Mark over the weekend.
Could you answer a question for me? If I used a free ISBN at a printer like lulu, and I later decided to have the same book printed elsewhere, would I still be allowed to use that ISBN, even though Lulu owns it, or would I have to get a different ISBN for the same book now?
The answer: If you are using Lulu or CreateSpace and you are using their free services, then you cannot take the ISBN with you if you get it printed anywhere else. They own the ISBN. If owning it is important to you (& you’re in the US), you can buy an ISBN through the upgraded services at Lulu, or you can go obtain your own. There’s a big discount if you buy more than one.
Eldon Sarte presents This is My Night Job posted at Wordpreneur.com, saying, “Writing is everything. Or is it? Sometimes, even with the best laid plans, it needs to take second place. Temporarily at least.”
A while ago I reviewed a self-publishing company called Wwaow. A shorter while ago, they underwent some major changes by switching their name to UniBook and tweaking their business model. Here’s the press release they sent me, which I meant to post, but never did. Until now.
UniBook.com Announces Free Self-Publishing Service
UniBook has launched a revised website that allows authors to write and publish their own books without any listing or start-up costs. Authors retain ownership of their copyrights and earn money on the sale of each book sold on the website.
In contrast to other self-publishing systems that often charge their customers hundreds or even thousands of dollars to publish books, UniBook takes a different approach. â€œWhen we surveyed our customers we found that many of them felt that charging for uploads or forcing authors to pay for services or products they didn’t want was a predatory practice,â€ said Matthew Coers, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing North America. â€œOr goal is to offer a solution that maximizes flexibility and minimizes costs for the author.â€
While UniBook’s pricing has always been among the lowest in the industry, the recent changes eliminated a prior requirement that authors purchase at least five copies of their own books. The new system allows an author to upload a book at no cost, or purchase a single proof copy prior to making the book publicly available.
About UniBook: UniBook is a brand name of Peleman Industries Inc.Â UniBook caters to the self-publishing needs of writers, businesses and government agencies, and is currently available in 10 languages servicing Europe, North America and Asia.Â For more information, visit www.unibook.com.
When I got this, I promptly went back and checked them out. That’s when I clued in that they used to be Wwaow. Their website was easy to use, and I didn’t have trouble signing up for an account or anything. Since UniBook is now free to publish a book, I decided to give it a go. The pricing still did not look fantastic for paperback book printing when compared to CreateSpace or Lulu. However, the pricing was still excellent for hardcovers. It costs an extra $14 or so to upgrade to hardcover on Lulu.com, and CreateSpace has no hardcover options at all. It’s only about $2 more to go from softcover to hardcover on UniBook. And as I already had a novel ready to go, I decided to set up a hardcover release of Oasis.
I had other things going on that day, so I promptly forgot that I had set it up and never did order a copy for myself.
I have a Google alert set up to notify me when Google finds my name on a new website, which is also a pretty great tool for anyone from online universities name-checking themselves to people like me who like seeing where they’re popping up across the web.Â Yes, I am that vain. Plus, it’s nice to know what people really think about meâ€¦ but I digress. Anyway, I got a Google alert for my name that pointed to a very nice review of Oasis on the UniBook blog. (Thanks UniBook!)
And so I was reminded that I should really mention UniBook here on the blog.
Oh, and when I do get in a copy of the hardcover, I’ll let you know about the quality thereof.
Easy to use. Easy to publish. Good pricing for printing hardcovers.
I found the cover design process to be restrictive. Also, you don’t get an author discount when ordering copies of your book. You still get paid your royalty, though, so you do get that money back. It would be nice if they could streamline that and just give the author the discount up front.
I think putting your self-published book on UniBook is a good thing to do. It’s free, and you’ve already worked out the layout and cover files so that you could publish elsewhere, right?
Here are five of the best articles for the self-published author I’ve seen this month. And by best, I mean the ones I liked the best. They’ll be listed again below with the others, but if you’re short on time, just check these out.
Why I Self Publish â€“ You should know why you want to self publish, or you shouldn’t do it.
10,000 Ideas and Resources for Writers â€“ Ok, it’s too much information, but hey, once you finish reading all these, you’ll pretty much know everything. On second thought, if you’re short on time, don’t check this one out.
If you’ve got absolutely nothing to do, but you’d like to read about writing, Publetariat pointed out this article with 10,000 Ideas and Resources for Writers. While reading through the list, don’t forget: at some point, you’re still going to have to write.
It’s time to start gathering up entries for the fourth edition of the Self Published Carnival
If you have self published a book and posted or been interviewed online about it, I’d really like like to include your story. If you haven’t yet but you’d like to tell your story, I’d be happy to feature you on my blog.
Submissions will close on July 31st, and the Carnival will be posted on August 3rd.
S.M.D at The World in the Satin Bag issued a Reality Check: The Average Consumer and Books. I agree with his sentiment. Self published or traditionally published, if you expect to earn any real money, you have to earn your fans and readers one by one until you have an awful lot of them. You can’t expect readers to flock to you â€“ even if your work is great. You have to put in the hours and the effort to get your name/face/presence in front of people.
Have you ever wanted to self publish a book? In making your decision, it can help to know what other people’s experiences have been. Here’s another in my line of interviews with self published authors. This time, I caught up with K.E. Ireland, aka Aloria on the internets.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am 25, unmarried, but dating. I live in Alabama, and as a result, some Southern colloquialisms creep into my novels, which happen to be space operas at the moment. A bit incongruent, but I try to edit those out later when they simply don’t fit, or when it’s really bad grammar. My parents were air force, so half my life, I spent moving every year. My first years of schooling were in Germany, though I didn’t learn any German… except how to count.
What started you writing?
I used to hate reading and books â€“ mostly because when I was taught to read, I was forced to amuse myself with Dick and Jane. I despised Spot. As a result, I thought all books were just as boring. Back when I was about 12, I saw my mom playing a computer game. I got her to let me play it, and after I finished, Mom said the game was based after a set of books. These were not children’s books either. I sped through them as fast as I could and decided that I was imaginative, and thus capable of writing books just as good as these.
Do you have a website folks can check out?
I do. My website is www.natanfleetshow.com. I’m posting a webnovel there, updating on Mondays (unless I’m delayed for some reason, such as being incredibly sick). The website also has additional information pertaining to the universe I have created. There are files on the aliens I have made up, extra scenes that haven’t or couldn’t be included in the books I’m going to write, and artwork, both mine, and fanart.
How many books have you written?
Ha â€“ not quite sure how to answer this one, given that I’ve written several books… only to tear them apart and rewrite them again, trying to make them better. Additionally, I spent at least 8 or 10 years writing fanfiction as a mode of practice, and I have several finished stories there. I have no intention of selling them, though. That’d be mildly illegal.
How many have you self published?
I have only self-published one book so far, but I have plans to self-publish the rest of the Natan Fleet Show series. These additional books are listed in â€œThe Storyâ€ tab on my website. So far, I have five more planned, plus Ghost Talent, which once I’m finished posting it on my website, I’ll edit it again and self-publish that one.
Tell me about your most recent book.
Playing the Hero is a space opera centering on a young alien male named Vathion. When his father is assassinated, Vathion inherits his father’s fleet of twelve privateer battleships. Unfortunately, this includes all the fleets problems as well â€“ from malfunctioning equipment to spies and the annoying second in command. Gilonnia has been torn apart by a civil war that has been going on for almost an entire generation now, due to the Gilons themselves being generally new to the very idea of war. While most believe this war is due to selfishness and greed for power, there are far more insidious things going on under the surface. In Playing the Hero, Vathion is unaware of this big picture; as he is too busy trying to keep his second in command from stealing his fleet.
Why did you choose to self publish?
In the past, the â€œrouteâ€ to getting published was to write a bunch of short fiction, sell it to magazines to get your name out there, then write full-length novels and attempt to sell them to publishers. However, print magazines are going out of business, though, and it’s unclear at this time whether they’ll revive with the economy or if they’ll go completely digital. Either way, I’ve never been interested in writing short stories, nor do I have the skills required to do so. Book publishers aren’t picking up many new authors these days, and it almost seems like it’s easier to get your book into the hands of someone famous than to get your book published by a â€œlegitâ€ source. I felt that as an unknown writer, it was unlikely that my work would be picked up by a brick-and-mortar publishing house, let alone an agent.
What have you liked/disliked about self publishing?
I’ve liked the control I have over what my book looks like, and how it’s presented. What I haven’t liked so far is the fact that it’s been a one-woman-show. In short, I’ve liked and disliked it for the same reasons.
What have you done to promote your book?
So far, I have been cashing in on my time spent writing fanfiction, pestering the people who loved reading those stories to come check out my original work. I’ve been emailing people, and I have a flier I’ve designed (but haven’t had the chance to distribute anywhere yet). I’ve got an author Livejournal, and have created a community on LJ for self-published authors (specifically the ones on Createspace) to advertise their writing, as well as to ask for assistance on things they’re having trouble with. I have my website, and I’ve got word-of-mouth. I’m pondering contacting the local radio station to see if I can get them to either interview me or plug my book.
What has given you the most success?
The problem with marketing is that a lot of the time, you really never know what is working.
Do you plan on self publishing again?
I do indeed plan on doing this again. The first book was difficult to get off the ground â€“ mostly because I had no clue what I was doing, but now that I do, it shouldn’t be so hard. As a result, I’m going to finish off the Natan Fleet Show series as self-published books, then see about getting something published with a publishing house. Hopefully by the time I finish the NFS series, the economy will have gotten better and the publishers will start taking risks on new authors again.
What else should I have asked you?
What my influences are. …Given where I live, it’s no wonder I’ve become enamored with space and aliens. But other things have influenced me just as greatly â€“ those being anime and video games. As a result, there is a lot of color in my writing. Vathion has purple hair, for example. C. J. Cherryh has also been an influence. After reading her Foreigner series, Cookoo’s Egg, the Chanur series, I’ve analyzed how she creates believable aliens and have replicated it in my own style (to the best of my ability).
The high profile success stories of blog to book writers the Wife in the North and Petite Anglaise may have encouraged writers to believe blogs are a good way to get your work noticed, but is self-publishing your blog little better than vanity publishing? The internet has been called the biggest slushpile in history. Without the expertise of agents and editors to filter the good from the bad (and the downright ugly), who is the final judge of quality? Websites like Harper Collins’ innovative Authonomy give new writers the chance to reach potential readers â€“ only the most popular submissions will be published. However, print on demand services like Xlibris, Lulu and Blurb now mean that writers of blogs and traditional manuscripts can sidestep the route of agent/publisher and go it alone entirely.
The necessarily glacial pace of publishing is a familiar writer’s lament â€“ compared to months languishing on slushpiles, the appeal of POD is obvious, particularly to anyone whose book has a limited market. There is something almost magical about how fast it is to download the software, and upload your manuscript into a recognizable book format within minutes. Self-publishing has a long history â€“ at various points in their careers writers of the calibre of Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King have self published. It’s now easier than ever for any writer willing to take on their own marketing and distribution to produce their own books.
Personally, I differentiate my blog which started for fun from my â€˜real’ work writing novels. With that I have chosen the traditional agent/publisher route, and never considered self-publishing, (I’d rather write and leave the business to the professionals). Editing a year’s blog posts into book format has been an interesting insight into POD though. Blogs are usually stream-of-consciousness â€“ it’s funny how it feels every word matters more when it is going into book format, and designing the cover for â€˜What Kate Did Next’ has taken equally as much thought as the editing. WKDN is a blog for writers with daily prompts â€“ like most small blogs it has grown by word of mouth, reaching a hundred countries and tens of thousands of readers in under a year. Enough of the 150+ daily subscribers asked for it to be published in book format that I’ve produced a writer’s workbook based on the most popular posts for charity, (all profits will go to War Child). Since deciding to do this, I’ve been approached by an old (computer-phobic) writer friend to edit and publish her Beirut diaries from the 1960’s. With small projects like this the advantages of POD are obvious. Sales success is usually measured in the hundreds let alone the thousands. But when it is this easy for writers to get their work straight to their audience through â€˜one-click’ POD books and e-books what does the future hold?
Last month I reviewed a new resource for authors called FiledBy.com. (FiledBy.com Review) Sometime during the couple of days that followed, I showed up for a heartbeat on the â€œMost Viewed Authorsâ€ list at #2 â€“ right under marketing guru Seth Godin. I drank it in, for it will almost certainly be the last time I am ever on a list with Selth Godin, and even more certainly be the last time I show up on a â€œMost Viewed Authorsâ€ list.
Enough tomfoolery, let’s get on with the self publishing stuff.
The Digirati Life mentioned how prevalent self-publishing is becoming, and how there are two members of her close family that are self publishing a book this year. Book Authors Among Us
How well is your online marketing going? April Hamilton had a guest post on Editor Unleashed titled How to measure your online success. She mentions watching for online chatter, which I think is a great idea. It helps you find communities and websites where it might be beneficial to stop by and say hi or hold a giveaway for a couple of your books. She specifically mentions who’s talkin to search social media websites only. Another good way to see what folks are saying about you is to use google’s Alerts application. It will automatically let you know whenever new references to the search terms of your choice (i.e. your name) are found.
One excellent way to gain readers is by releasing some form of your fiction for free. There are several authors that recently got picked up by major publishers who have done this. You can hear one of them, Seth Harwood, explain what he did to get readers (and thus court a publisher) on another episode from the One Minute How-To. The episode is titled How to Build Your Online Author Fan Base. I may try out Seth’s main idea for my next book.
Have you ever thought of co-authoring a book? The Crafty Writer interviewed a couple of friends that recently self published a book. Find it here: Co-authoring: when two become one. Randy Ingermanson also wrote an article on this subject for his newsletter. It’s called Coauthoring Without Murder. The link goes to my repost of the article (with permission) here on StoryHack, as you have to dig through the newsletter .txt file to find the article.
I saw a tweet to this list of Free Online Writing Courses. I made a similar list a while back. There’s lots of excellent info out there, but remember â€“ you have to write or you’ll never get better.
Okay, a friend of mine (Benjamin Rogers) sent me an email with a good idea. It appears that he will not be following through with his idea for the time being, but I just can’t seem to let my version of the idea go. That idea rattled around and mutated itself until it became a blog carnival for self publishing and self published authors.
A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday, or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.
So what is The Self Published Carnival?
This blog carnival is intended to be a resource for authors of fiction or non-fiction who wish to self publish. Topics will include writing, editing, marketing, POD publishers, more traditional self-publishing company reviews, book promotion, and whatever else might be relevant for self publishing a book.
It’s not intended to be a place for book reviews (unless that book is about self-publishing). I suppose announcements for self published books are OK, but they should be books you’ve written.
Are you an author that either plans to self-publish or has already done so? Would you like to be involved?
Here’s how. You can either use the interface at blogcarnival.com to submit an article (the Self Published Carnival) or you can use my contact form to let me know about your article. If you’d like to host the carnival sometime, that’d be great, too.
I’ve had a couple of questions, so I thought I’d clarify.
If you want to participate, you can do one of two things: write an article or host the carnival.
To write an article, you:
Write an article about self-publishing and post it on your blog.
Send me a link to your written article via my already-mentioned contact form or using the interface at blogcarnival.com
When the next edition of the carnival goes live, you can write a very short post pointing to it. This is optional, but it helps more folks find it.
To host the carnival, you:
Contact me and set up a month to host it.
Go through all the submissions people have made for the month.
Write a “carnival post” where you put links to the submitted articles along with a little commentary about each.
I hope that helps.
The First Edition.
The last day of April will be the last day to submit articles for May’s carnival. May’s carnival will be hosted here on May 5th.
I recently came in contact with Vanessa Morgan, from Belgium. She’s a horror writer that recently self published a book using Llumina Press. I hadn’t heard of Llumina Press before, and as usual, I like to hear from other self published authors, so we swapped a couple of emails.
So, I just have to know, were you born in Belgium, or are you just living there?
Yes, I was born in Belgium. I’m not even a native speaker, but don’t tell anyone J
What else do you want people to know about yourself?
I’m passionate about horror movies, cats and good food. And when I say passionate, I really mean it. I get deliriously happy from watching a good horror film or kissing my cat or eating extremely spicy food (or preferably everything together). I’m 33 years old, but I still see the world as a little girl and most of my friends are way younger than I am. Have I mentioned my cat yet?
Now tell me a little bit about your book.
It may surprise you, but my work is rather dark. Don’t count on things to end well, because they won’t. I think my major quality as a writer is the ability to create a creepy atmosphere and tension. Horror movies are my main influence and people compare Drowned Sorrow to films such as The Wicker Man, Dark Water and Dead and Buried. It’s the story of a mother and her teenage daughter who get lured into a dangerous sect. It’s set in a small New England town and there’s a supernatural twist to the story.
Where can folks learn more about you or buy your books?
The easiest way to buy Drowned Sorrow is to go online. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, â€¦ carry my book and some of them give great discounts. You may also find Drowned Sorrow at your local bookstore and if they don’t have it, don’t hesitate to order it from them. If you prefer e-books, you may want to go to my publisher’s site http://www.llumina.com/store/drownedsorrowEB.htm. To learn more about me and my work, go to http://www.drowned-sorrow.com. There’s also a section with real ghost stories and a horror movie quiz with film clips.
Why did you decide to self publish?
Self-publishing was my first option. Unlike many other authors I never tried sending my work out to publishers. There were several reasons for this. First of all, I live in Belgium, a tiny country in Europe. Many Americans have never even heard of it. First-time American authors have a hard time getting accepted by major publishing houses, so it would probably have been even more difficult coming from another country. Getting a contract with a â€˜real’ publisher isn’t that important for me either. Sending out manuscripts would have cost me a lot of money and time and I preferred to use those resources to do everything myself. Second, many authors complain about the service they’re getting from small publishers, the main problem being that most books aren’t returnable which means that bookstores won’t carry them.
What self publishing house did you use?
I used Llumina Press and up until now I’m very happy with their service. One of the good things about Llumina is that they offer a lot of marketing options: bookstore and book fair representation, returnability, posters, flyers, business cards, press releases, advertising, you name it. They also edit the book. Books full of typos and errors won’t make it to their catalogue.
That said, I wanted to use another publisher first, Diggory Press. In the beginning they seem professional, but it’s a real scam. Don’t even consider using them.
Who did the cover and the interior layout for your book?
Llumina Press was responsible for the interior layout. I used a professional graphic designer for the cover of the book and I believe it’s worth the money. If the cover doesn’t look good, readers won’t pick up your book. I know I won’t. They always say that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I think that is so untrue.
Would you recommend your publisher to others?
What do you think?
How long of a process was it to set things up with Llumina?
About four months. That’s rather long, especially because the cover was already done before I contacted them. But at least it’s a serious company, so it’s worth it. And four months is a minimum to prepare your marketing. There’s so much competition, that you can never do enough of it.
What have you done to promote your books?
I’m on several networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Shelfari, Alive Not Dead and a few Ning-sites (don’t hesitate to send me a friend request or to become a fan). Thanks to those sites I got a lot of invitations for interviews and reviews, but I also contact webmasters and magazine publishers myself to ask if they’re interested in a review or an interview. I also run Google ads and paid placements on AuthorsDen. Drowned Sorrow has its own website too. It features real ghost stories and a horror movie quiz with film clips. To promote the site, I use link exchanges and I put links on all the websites mentioned above. I was very lucky to have a talented movie director make a fantastic book trailer for Drowned Sorrow; it’s on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ild3ZunVlz8. (Embedded Below) Unfortunately, I haven’t done much to promote the trailer; that’s something I should definitely work on. The sky’s the limit, so we’ll see where new marketing ideas will bring me.
What successes have you seen?
Drowned Sorrow is only out since a month, so it’s a bit early to talk about successes. Still, generally they say a self-published book is successful if it sells several hundred copies, so that means I’m already a best-selling author. Nice, huh?
What advice do you have for other authors?
Never give up on your dream. You have to make it happen. It may not be a smooth ride to the top, but it’s still a ride and if you return home because of some problems, you’ll never arrive at your destination. Prepare yourself as much as possible by learning everything you can about writing and marketing, but even more important, just write and get published. If you wait until the time is just right or your book is perfect, it’ll probably never happen.
Is there anything that I should have asked you?
You should have asked me about my cat.
Ok, I’ll bite. What about your cat?
Avalon is a 7-year-old Turkish Van cat, named after the Mamoru Oshii movie. He’s twice the size of a regular cat and he’s never more than an inch away from me. He’s the inspiration for my next novel, a story about a haunted village with more cats than one can handle. Other interesting facts: he loves peas and corn, he roars like a lion after using his litter box, and he’s afraid of my guinea pig.
Thanks for your time, Vanessa, and good luck with your book.
I recently got a comment from another self published author. It intrigued me, so I contacted him to see what his experience self-publishing has been like.
So, without further ado, here’s my interview with Joe Perrone Jr.
Ok, so tell me a little about yourself. Why did you decide to self publish?
After trying to find an agent for over two years, and coming very close twice, I decided that enough was enough. I’m nearly 64 years old, and felt it was now or never.
What is your newest book?
I published two novels this past winter. Escaping Innocence, which is a coming-of-age story set in the ’60s, and As the Twig is Bent, which is a mystery thriller set in New York City.
How long have your books been in print?
I published As the Twig is Bent with Lulu in September of 2008, I believe, and Escaping Innocence in October. Then, during December, I re-published them both with CreateSpace. I still maintain a storefront with Lulu, because they publish my books in hardcover.
How did you like the setup process with Lulu?
Considering that I didn’t know the first thing about self publishing, I would say it was very user friendly. The nice thing was that I could learn by experimenting; I think I did something like 17 revisions on As the Twig is Bent.
And with CreateSpace?
It’s hard to say, because I had gained so much knowledge from working with Lulu. One thing that CreateSpace prompted me to learn was how to make PDF files. I found several sites on the web where I could convert my files to PDF files. I will say that making a cover is a heck of a lot easier with Lulu.
Which of those two POD publishers do you like better?
I would have to say CreateSpace, so far, primarily because the cost to produce a book is so very much less than Lulu that I can offer my titles at a very competitive price, and that just might make the difference between someone buying it or not–especially since I am a relative unknown commodity. Another good thing about CreateSpace is that the books get up and running on Amazon in an amazingly fast time.
What have you done to promote your books?
I originally did some paid (and unpaid) press releases with PR.com, but truthfully I don’t really think they had much impact. I contacted my local library, and arranged for a book signing, and also did another book signing at a local community center. I did a mass emailing to all my friends and relatives. Recently, I submitted my two books to a prominent newspaper in Asheville, NC, about 25 miles from my home. I haven’t heard anything yet, but if they decide to review them I will probably sign on for a 13-week ad campaign. Also, since my book signing program went so well at my local branch, I have been invited to do another one at the main branch. I also placed some books on consignment in a shop on our town’s main street, and have already sold some copies there. I also am running sponsored search ads with Yahoo. It’s very tricky, and requires a lot of trial and error, but I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.
What do you do when you set up a book signing?
I made a three-sided sign using foam board, with images of the books and one of me, along with reviews, etc. I also custom-design bookmarks for each event. They have my contact information on them and are very popular. As far as the book signing itself, I have a very interesting program that I present. First of all, I speak about the process of creating a novel, including showing all the original hand-written notebooks and subsequent computer-generated drafts. People seem to be really impressed with all the work that goes into a book. Then, I take questions from the audience, and finally I read brief excerpts and sign books.
Have you had much success with those?
I believe so. Since I am not in a major market, it’s hard to know exactly, but I sold 15 books to a crowd of about 25 people at my first signing. I believe the next one will be much better, because it’s the main branch, and many more people should attend–I hope!
What advice do you have for other authors?
Don’t give up your dream. Don’t be discouraged by rejections from agents or publishers. But, remember that the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease,’ so make a lot of noise. It’s very hard work promoting the books, but I think it’s worth it.
Is there anything else I should have asked you?
Well, you didn’t ask if I’m currently working on a new book. The answer is: Yes! I recently began work on a new literary novel, entitled Changes. It’s about a man struck by lightning. I expect to publish it in early 2010. Last but not least, I will be appearing at a Book Fair at the Blue Ridge Community College in East Flat Rock, NC, on May 8 & 9.
Where can folks learn more about you or buy your books?
I have a website on AuthorsDen.com, and folks can also find me on MySpace.com, and Facebook.com. Also, if one goes to Amazon.com, and searches ‘books, Joe Perrone Jr.’ one will see all of my books there. Lastly, if they go to: http://stores.lulu.com/catsklgd1 they will see all my titles, and there are links there to my CreateSpace E-stores. And, if anyone wants to contact me, please do at: catsklgd1″AT”yahoo.com.
Thanks for your time!
Thanks you for interviewing me. It’s been a pleasure.