A Quick Publishing Story

Okay, so I’m going to be volunteering some time at a local school teaching a programming class. I have things arranged at work and I’m pretty excited about it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been going over there to set up a computer lab for them. This has given me a much need full on nerd experience. I used Edubuntu to set up a server and a bunch of thin clients. It’s totally slick. Big thanks to the folks who developed the Linux Terminal Server Project and those who built it into the Edubuntu distribution. You all made me feel like a hero.

Anyway, because I’m basically in total control of the class, I had to figure out what to teach. After much hair-pulling (okay not really, as I’ve been shaving my head for over a year now…) I settled on scratch. It’s a simple programming language developed by MIT. It has a simple gui interface and through it you can learn a good overview of programming concepts. One of the big selling points for me is that Harvard has produced and open sourced a curriculum for scratch. As in, a curriculum that can be used with kids, not CS majors in college.

There’s only one issue I had with it – there are only pdfs available for the teacher’s manual and the student workbook. I didn’t want to have to print off 119 pages of worksheets for each student. That sounds too much like work.

Fortunately, I have experience self publishing!

I would like to stress at this point that Harvard has released the manual and workbook under a creative commons share alike licence, and they have made no physical books available, only the pdfs.

Anyway, as you probably guessed, that means I have taken matters into my own hands. I took the pdf for the workbook, made a simple cover, and uploaded to createspace. I’m not really looking to get into the educational publishing market, but dang it, I need printed cheap workbooks for my class. So I have it all set up now and published. I’m charging only enough so that I can use the global distribution and make it available everywhere. The book’s live on Amazon now.

And then I realized that the pdf didn’t include page numbers. Sigh. Now, Harvard does make a .doc available of the workbook, so I could open that up and try to mess with whatever formatting they have going on, but again, that sounds like too much work. So I searched around and found A-PDF Watermark, which is in fact pay software, but it’s a lot less than the full adobe acrobat, and it let me overlay page numbers in a way that looks nice. Anyway, things should update soon and then no one can complain about the books at all.

And that’s my story. I should probably do the instructor manual, too.

Merry Christmas, all.

Self Publishing is Easy; Writing Still Hard


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:

Gee, Bryce,  how did you do it so fast?

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.

SPAB! v.3 Beta


What is SPAB!?

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:

  1. An epub file to be used at Barnes and Noble’s pubit, and just about anyone else that’ll take an epub.
  2. A smashwords specific epub.
  3. A zipped html file to be used at kdp.amazon.com.
  4. An 8.5 x 11 printable pdf.
  5. 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.

  1. What is Markdown?
  2. Getting your book into markdown
  3. Preparing your Markdown-flavored book file to use in SPAB!

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.


 Download SPAB! v3.0.1 Beta now (Windows Only – 4.7 mb)

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.

Tip Jar

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.

The Trials and Tribulations of Self-Publishing Top 10

Moved as part of my HowToSelfPublishABook.org redesign. This is a guest post from Hillary Peak, Author of Wings of Hope and Cappuccino is the Answer for Job Dissatisfaction.

Her personal website is www.HillaryEPeak.com

10. So far, I’ve spent a lot more than I’ve made.

9. In my experience, good reviews sell more books than anything else. Check out bookrooster.com

8. It isn’t worth it to spend money to try and win an award.

7. The frugal ereader is worth the money.

6. Those free days on amazon are exciting–until you realize that you didn’t make any money. Plus, I haven’t seen the pick-up in reviews I’d hoped.

5. There are a lot of opportunities out there that are free or fairly cheap–particularly goodreads and facebook.

4. Facebook ads work, as do goodreads ads, if you are willing to spend a little money.

3. Doing a blog tour is really fun–and a lot of work.

2. Get into the Indie world, there is a lot of great information, help, support and new ideas!

1. If you have a good product, you can sell it, but it requires a lot of time and effort.


E-Book Self Publishing: Part 1 by J. Dane Tyler

This article was written by J. Dane Tyler and originally appeared on one of his blogs. You should also check out his fiction blog. It’s one of the guest posts I’m moving over from my self publishing blog.

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.

Next time, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts.

See ya then!

Pandoc ePress is Dead. Long live SPAB!

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)
  • Smashwords  (.doc)
  • 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 “To stab somebody using a spoon.”

BlogTour.org now up.

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.


P.S. And to those who were hoping for a new chapter today – I’m sorry. I suck. I’m lower than low. I have no new chapter. I hereby promise to finish the chapter I’m working on and post it next week.

Question on ISBNs

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.

So if you do want to buy an ISBN straight from the “Manufacturer” you need to visit: https://www.myidentifiers.com

Again: buying two single ISBNs costs the same as buying a block of 10.

The Self Published Carnival #5

This edition of the self published carnival is going to be just a little different. I’ve changed the way I put it together in hopes of getting a little more time to work on one of my projects.


First up: Here’s 5 of August’s most interesting/useful posts. If you don’t have all day, just read these.

  1. Maybe you don’t judge a book by its cover…
  2. Selling To Foreign Language Markets
  3. The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits On One Page – This one is actually the culmination of his recent excellent series on Story Structure.
  4. What Is ‘Value Added’ And What Does It Have To Do With Indie Authorship?
  5. How to Market Your Book on a Shoe-String Budget – Great collection of links at the bottom of the article.

And here’s the full list:

self publishing

How to Organize Your Small Book Project

Is there a good reason why someone should NOT self-publish their book?

How Do Successful Writers Deal With Competition?

Self-publishing, Literature and Pop Culture

Publishing is NOT Advanced Writing

What Is ‘Value Added’ And What Does It Have To Do With Indie Authorship?

Here’s a POD, There’s a POD, Everywhere a POD POD


C.F. Jackson presents Top Four Key Success Factors of Online Business posted at Website Makeover Workshop, saying, “How can I get traffic to my website? How do you make a website? I need help and I just don’t know where to start! And with the internet growing by leaps and bounds it can seem overwhelming. http://www.WebsiteMakeoverWorkshop.com”

Monica O’Brien presents The right and wrong book launch strategies – and 4 ways authors can get blog publicity for their book posted at Twenty Set.

Hints for Conducting Telephone Interviews for Radio Shows

Why Turning a Website Visitor into a Subscriber is Important

How to Market Your Book on a Shoe-String Budget

How to Market While on Vacation

Sell More Books By Changing How You Do It

Business Cards for Books

Pitch Your Nonfiction Book in One-Minute Segments

The Dont’s of Pitching Your Self-Published Book to Producers

The Do’s of Pitching Your Self-Published Book to Producers

Selling To Foreign Language Markets

Book Buying Behavior


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.”

Joshua Dodson presents Proprioceptive Writing: The Rules and Concluding Questions posted at Writers Community.

Joshua Dodson presents How to Craft a Great Metaphor or Simile posted at Writers Community.

Joshua Dodson presents Movement in Writing posted at Writers Community.

Joshua Dodson presents How Writers Turn People Into Words posted at Writers Community.

Jon Bard presents Want to Write Children’s Books? You Need These Four Things! posted at Children’s Writing Web Journal.

The Writing Life: I Don’t Believe In Writer’s Block

You Gotta Love The Conflict!

The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits On One Page

book design

Maybe you don’t judge a book by its cover…

What is the difference between a $149 cover design and one that costs $1500?

self published books

Self-Published Book Review of the Week: Mediterranean Madness

Self-Published Book Review of the Week: Pajama School

Self-Published Book Review of the Week: Moaning Banshee


Chain Bookstores: The Rise, Struggle and Downfall?

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the self-published carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


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. “When 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,” said Matthew Coers, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing North America. “Or goal is to offer a solution that maximizes flexibility and minimizes costs for the author.”

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.  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.  For more information, visit www.unibook.com.

My experience

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. Yes, I am that vain. Plus, it’s nice to know what people really think about me… 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.

The pros

Easy to use. Easy to publish. Good pricing for printing hardcovers.

The cons

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.

The conclusion

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?

The Self Published Carnival #4

Another month, another carnival.


The Best

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.

  1. Why I Self Publish – You should know why you want to self publish, or you shouldn’t do it.
  2. 10,000 Ideas and Resources for Writers – 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.
  3. How To Build Community Around Your Fiction – Do this or unless you are interested in being the only reader of your work.
  4. 7 Ways to Develop an Affordable Marketing Plan – One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as I self published my novel is that I need a plan.
  5. How To Get Retweeted – Hey! Stastical evidence!

Self Publishing

Why do you Self Publish? I’ve attempted to answer this question for myself on the blog before (see Why Did I Self Publish?). Morris Rosenthal at Self Publishing 2.0 blogged in June about why he self published. It’s the most delicious reason I’ve ever come across. Read Why I Self Publish to learn his reasoning. Also, he’s got a great article this month called Drawing A Line Under Amazon Kindle Numbers.

Why do self publishers get a bad rap? Check out these Media Comments on Self Published Books.

Joe Wikert mused about current issues with ebooks with Cheap Copies of the Original.

Novelr had an article titled Making Money From Online Fiction – I’ve Done It, So Can You. It has some good stuff to consider.

It’s not quite self-publishing, it’s Co-Publishing. The Crafty Writer has an article titled Co Publishing Pros and Cons. I’m still not sure what I think of the concept.

Self Publishing Companies

Mick Rooney of Ireland has a short critique of Lulu at Lulu’s Faux Pas.


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.

If you’re interested in self-publishing children’s books, Jon Bard has a little video with some tips on How To Write a Picture Book That Shines.

Another couple of exercises geared toward the fiction-writing set. Putting Images Into Words (via Writers Community)

Hyper Modern Writing reviews a new writing tool FastPencil: Practical Features and Practical Fiction.


Publetariat pointed out a great article on finding an editor for your work by Alan Rinzler on The Book Deal. Read Choosing a freelance editor: What you need to know.


I came across a post from 2008 on novelr titled How To Build Community Around Your Fiction.

Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger gave the world 13 Lessons Learned Launching an eBook. It all seems like a lot of work to me, but I suppose success doesn’t come without effort. And as it ends up, Darren has been quite successful.

Marketing uberguru Seth Godin wrote something you should think about: The Law of the Little Shovel.

Want to get the word out via twitter? Mashable had a few stastically sound suggestions on How To Get Retweeted.

Is blogging and twittering even worth it? Charlotte Abbot seeks answers in Do Twitter and Blogs Really Drive Book Sales? Manna Stephenson also has some thoughts on How Blogging and Feeds Benefit Authors.

Dana Lynn Smith from The Book Marketing Maven blogged about Finding Promotional Hooks for Novels. This is an interesting thought, and I stumbled across this with my novel Oasis. I’ve had a bunch of folks say they tried it out because they are nurses, and the lead character is a nurse. Dana also posted some ideas for using video to promote your book. 7 Ways to Promote Your Book With Video

Joanna Penn (of the Creative Penn) had a guest article on the Book Marketing Maven on Why Freemium is an Excellent Opportunity for Authors. If you don’t know what Freemium is, you’d better go check it out.

Another great find on Publetariat was a link to this article: Victoria Strauss — Authorfail: When Authors Attack. Here’s the point – if someone doesn’t like your book and says so online, don’t freak out. It’s not cool. I mean, hey, if I can keep a lid on it when someone calls my book a literary bean burrito from Taco Bell, you can brush off what they say about yours.

Sell It! on the Web has a little Guide for Writing an Effective Press Release.

Writer’s Digest has a good little article on 7 Ways to Develop an Affordable Marketing Plan.

An article that put into words what I have long suspected – 4 Reasons Why Authors Should Avoid MySpace.

Marketing Christian Books blogged about One Creative Book Promotion Idea.

The End.

See you next time.

Call for Entries – Self Published Carnival #4

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.

If you don’t know what The Self-Published Carnival is, check out this post.

And remember – if I can’t figure out how your article or blog post could be useful to self-publishing authors, it won’t be included.

As with last time, you can submit via the blog carnival interface or by using the contact form here on the site.

Also, If you are interested in having your blog play host to the Self-Published Carnival some time, let me know.



The Self Published Carnival #3

I started doing the Self Published Carnival as an experiment. Is anybody out there finding these useful? How could the self-published carnival be made better?


Self Publishing

Jennifer Ferroland from Jen’s Writing Journey sought answers this month to the age old question – If a Book Is Good, Does It Matter How It Was Published?

Want to know where to self-publish your work? Timothy Pontious from The Pencil Place wrote a great list of POD publishers. Publishing Comparisons (POD vs POD). (Thanks to Publitariat for pointing this out.)

Here’s a great reminder from Patricia Fry at Writing and Publishing News: Your writing and your publishing are two separate entities. When you self publish, you’re really building two skills. Read her article The Business of Authorship.

On Publitariat, Alan Baxter wished that he had started selling ebooks sooner. Free Books And Ebooks And Promos, Oh My!

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 – 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.


Jon Bard over at Children’s Writing Web Journal offered a Smart Promotion Tip for Children’s Book Authors.

Peter Jones at the Bauu Institute has another great article, this time about setting up book signings. Seven Tips for Book Signing And Author Writing Events

Tiffany Colter continued her series on getting readers to pick you at writing examiner with How Readers Decide What To Read and Presenting Yourself Well (Which happens to be good advice to everybody, not just writers.)

Morris Rosenthal over at Self Publishing 2.0 showed us how he used a YouTube video to boost the sales of a non-fiction book. Book Video Drives Book and eBook Sales Increase.

Natalie from Journey to Self Publishing posted some Tips for Sending Press Releases. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

The Creative Penn pointed out a few Lessons You Can Learn from Scott Sigler, Author and Podcaster. Sigler has been very successful, so it’d be a good idea to at least know how he did it.

Anne Leedom had an article on Publishing Basics called Online Publicity: Economic Survival Tips You Need to Know. There’s nothing new here, but sometimes we need to hear things many times before we actually do them.


There was another article on Publishing Basics, this time by Patricia Fry, with a vital reminder: Yes, You DO Need an Editor.

Jon Bard at the Children’s Writing Web Journal has a short video with 5 Ways to Improve Your Manuscript. (Hint: edit your work)


John Bard had a a couple of interesting ideas for using wordle. Unique Tool For Writers: Wordle

Self Publishing Experiences

I posted an article from Kate Lord Brown about her experiences self publishing a book of blog posts. Vanity Fair?

A Self-Published Space Opera

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 – 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 – 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 “The Story” 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 – 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 “route” 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 “legit” 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 – 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 – 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).

Thanks, K.E. and best of luck with your writing.

More about K.E. and her work can be found at:

If you are interested in hearing more self-published authors’s stories, check out some of my other interviews:

If you’re a self published author and you would like an interview here on Story Hack, just use the contact page and let me know.

Vanity Fair?

note: This is a guest post by Katie Lord Brown.

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 – 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 – 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 – 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 ‘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 – it’s funny how it feels every word matters more when it is going into book format, and designing the cover for ‘What Kate Did Next’ has taken equally as much thought as the editing.  WKDN is a blog for writers with daily prompts – 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 ‘one-click’ POD books and e-books what does the future hold?

‘What Kate Did Next’ is available from Blurb

Further details through a link at www.katelordbrown.com

This article first appeared in The Bookseller 2009

Call For Entries: The Self-Published Carnival #3

The second edition of the self published carnival is out. Thanks to everyone who submitted.

Now it’s time to start gathering up entries for the second edition. Do any of you have any self-publishing success stories (or links to such stories)? I’d love to feature a couple in the next edition.

Submissions will close on May 31st, and the second edition will be out on June 5th.

If you don’t know what The Self-Published Carnival is, check out this post.

And remember – if I can’t figure out how you’re article or blog post could be useful to self-publishing authors, it probably won’t be included.

As with last time, you can submit via the blog carnival interface or by using the contact form here on the site.

Also, If you are interested in having your blog play host to the Self-Published Carnival some time, let me know.

The Self Published Carnival #2

Almost Famous Edition


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 “Most Viewed Authors” list at #2 – 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 “Most Viewed Authors” 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 

BlogCritics.org had an interesting article about the changing world of self-publishing: Self Published Authors and New Self Respect.

Natalie at Journey to Self Publishing blogged about different Printing Options for the Self Publisher.


Do you have a hard time getting up the gumption to market yourself? One Minute How-To has up a podcast episode titled How To Build Confidence In Your Self-Promotion Skills.

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.

Peter Jones at the Bauu Institute suggested something else you can do to help your book along – prepare some material so a book club could use your book. 6 Tips For Creating Book Club or Reading Group Discussion Questions. All you have to do after that is, you know, find some book clubs.

C.F. Jackson presents How To Promote A Self-Published Book Online posted at Website Makeover Workshop. She’s put up a video to help get you started building traffic by using social bookmarking. She also asks a question worth answering – Who Is Your Audience?

How do you plan to get new readers for your work? It doesn’t just happen. It’s something you need to consider. Tiffany Colter recently posted an article on the writing examiner that lays some groundwork for establishing a readership in Getting readers to pick you.

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.

Patricia Fry at Matilija Press suggests you Go to a Book Fair and Train as a Public Speaker.

Kelly at Self Publishing Advice put up a list of resources you can use when looking for places to promote your work. Publicity Tools for Self-Published Authors. She also pointed out a “Hot or Not” for Self Published Books.

Self Publishing Companies

Great little tool – Brian Astbury pointed out this calculator for comparing Lulu and CreateSpace pricing http://www.lugaru.com/lulucalc.html

Fiction Writing

Jon Bard at  Children’s Writing Web Journal posted a couple of writing exercises to keep your skills sharp. See Point of View, Voice & Character Descriptions. He also suggested some resources to help Add Realism to Your Writing.

Courtney Vail posted a whole bunch of writing exercises during May – one for (almost) every day of the month. There’s lots of good ideas here. May Mania ~ Stretch #1, May Mania ~ Stretch #2, May Mania ~ Stretch #3, May Mania ~ Stretch #4, May Mania ~ Stretch #5, May Mania ~ Stretch #6, May Mania ~ Stretch #7, May Mania ~ Stretch #8, May Mania ~ Stretch #9, May Mania ~ Stretch #10 , May Mania ~ Stretch #11 , May Mania ~ Stretch #12 , May Mania ~ Stretch #13 , May Mania ~ Stretch #14 , May Mania ~ Stretch #15 , May Mania ~ Stretch #16 , May Mania ~ Stretch #17 , May Mania ~ Stretch #18 , May Mania ~ Stretch #19, May Mania ~ Stretch #20, May Mania ~ Stretch #21, May Mania ~ Stretch #22, May Mania ~ Stretch #23, May Mania ~ Stretch #24, May Mania ~ Stretch #25, May Mania ~ Stretch #26, May Mania ~ Stretch #27, May Mania ~ Stretch #28,

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 – you have to write or you’ll never get better.

Non-Fiction Writing

Joshua Seth gives some ideas on How to Write Your Book in a Month.


Publitariat had a nice collection of links to editing resources earlier this month. Focus on Editing. I especially liked Five Common Grammar Errors as Illustrated by Zombies

That’s About It For This Month

Do any of you have any self-publishing success stories? I’d love to hear them.

Also, If you are interested in having your blog play host to the Self-Published Carnival some time, let me know.

Call For Entries: The Self-Published Carnival #2

The first edition of the self published carnival will be out in a couple of days. Thanks to everyone who submitted.

Now it’s time to start gathering up entries for the second edition.

Submissions will close on May 31st, and the second edition will be out on June 5th.

If you don’t know what The Self-Published Carnival is, check out this post.

And remember – if I can’t figure out how you’re article or blog post could be useful to self-publishing authors, it probably won’t be included.

As with last time, you can submit via the blog carnival interface or by using the contact form here on the site.

The Self-Published Carnival

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.


What is a Blog Carnival?

(From BlogCarnival.com)

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:

  1. Write an article about self-publishing and post it on your blog.
  2. Send me a link to your written article via my already-mentioned contact form or using the interface at blogcarnival.com
  3. 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:

  1. Contact me and set up a month to host it.
  2. Go through all the submissions people have made for the month.
  3. 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.

Self Publishing, Belgian Horror, and Cats.

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, … 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 ‘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.

You learn more about Vanessa by visiting http://www.drowned-sorrow.com

Self-Publishied Interview: Joe Perrone Jr.

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.

Why did I self publish?

A StoryHack reader writes: What made you decide to self-publish instead of going the normal route?  Can you really make money that way?

That’s a very good question. I did submit to one publisher, Permuted Press, during their open submission time. They are small and they only publish apocalyptic fiction. That was months and months ago. I eventually got impatient and figured they had no interest. So I decided to self-publish. Now, I shot myself in the foot a little, at least with Oasis, by self publishing. The guy from permuted press emailed me the very day Oasis went live on Amazon, telling me Oasis had made the first cut and they wanted a copy of the full manuscript. As things turned out, they weren’t interesting in taking a reprint right now so they passed on my book. Maybe they’ll be interested after I’ve finished the second book. You never know. So would they have published Oasis? Who knows. At least I know I’m good enough to pass round one.

Can you make money self publishing?

Sure. The problem is getting your work out there. You’ll make a higher percentage (depending of course on how you price things) by self-publishing, but you have a much harder time of getting your work in front of people. I set the price of Oasis to be what I thought was competitive for it’s market. For the quality of printing and everything, I may have been able to bump it up to $20, but I figured why push my luck? At $15, I can make about 3x for a sale on Amazon than I would for a retail sale after being published by Permuted. And I make a little more when I sell it through the createspace store.

Of course self-publishing means no advance check as well.

Do I expect to make real money from this? No. Writing is a hobby right now and if I work at it long enough, you never know, maybe I’ll get good enough to make a living at it. Actually, making a living is more a function of being popular than being good, but being good doesn’t hurt.

So if it isn’t for money, why did I self publish?

  1. Exposure – having my work in more places means more opportunity to get seen by people. If I can manage to get enough people to check me out, that means every time I seek “traditional” publishing, I’ll have a little (but getting bigger) built in audience. I think that’d look fairly attractive to a publisher.
  2. Speed – From my “doing the layout” to “available on Amazon” of Oasis was just under a month.
  3. Control – The cover ended up just how I wanted it, and for better or worse, the story was kept to what I thought it should be, not what an editor thought it should be.
  4. Closure – I’ve got a product declared “finished.” Emotionally I can move on to other stuff (sequels, other novels, etc.) without the nagging desire to go back and “fix” things.
  5. Guarantee – I knew I could definitely make it happen if I self published. No guarantees with a traditional publisher.
  6. Practice – It’s still just my first book. I hear most authors write 3 or 4 before they get published. Why let this one sit in on a shelf forever? It’s still a fun book, and I’ll get better and even more “traditionally publishable” with the next one. (& the next one)
  7. Cool factor – it’s neat to be able to hand somebody a copy and say “I wrote that.” It just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. Let’s be honest here, this should probably been #1.

And what if a publisher called tomorrow?

I’d still probably take whatever they offered. I view self-publishing as a good thing by itself, a way to better myself as an author and as a possible route to traditional publishing (by building audience).

Choosing a “free” POD publisher: Lulu vs Createspace

A while ago I wrote about Choosing a Cheap Self Publishing Solution. Some things have changed, and now I’d like to do a more in-depth review of what I think are currently your best options.

If you’re just trying to publish your book without a lot of hassle or expense, you pretty much have two choices right now – Lulu.com and CreateSpace.com. Sure, there are others you can try, like wordclay.com or wwaow.com or even cafepress book publishing. But for exposure, price, and features, you’re generally better off starting at lulu or createspace.

So which one is better? It depends.

It Depends?

Yes, it depends. Both services have good points that may or may not be useful to you (and your book.) So without further ado, let’s take a look at the differences.

Book Sizes


The standard sizes CreateSpace offers for books with black and white interiors are: 5.25×8″, 5.5×8″, 6×9″, 7×10″, 8×10″, 8.25×8.25″ and 8.25×6″. So there are plenty of choices as long as you want that middle size range. There is no “pocket novel” format though, and 8×10″ is as large as it gets, so it may not work for folks doing big print family history stuff or textbooks. But then again maybe it is.


Lulu has a ton of options depending on what type of book you want to print. They cover a slightly larger range of sizes, though. Specifically, they offer a “pocket” size (4.25×6.875) and they offer some option all the way up to 8.5×11″, which is, of course, way bigger (13.5 square inches, to be exact…) than the measly 8×10 of CreateSpace. They also have a variety of specialty sizes for photo books, cookbooks, and other stuff.

Book Bindings


Lulu has perfect bound (softcover) and hardcover. For hardcover books, you have a choice – with or without dust jacket.

Those are the best choices for novels, but Lulu has other options as well, such as saddlestitched (folded in half and stapled) and plasticoil (wire bound), which is great for scripts and workbooks.


CreateSpace’s choices are similar to what Henry Ford said about customers who wanted different colored cars. “You can have any color you’d like, as long as its black.”

CreateSpace says “You can have any binding you want, as long as it’s softcover.” So yes, Perfect binding (softcover) only.



Lulu currently offers 3 distribution “plans.”

  1. Basic – Free. This means your book only shows up in Lulu’s online bookstore.
  2. Published by Lulu – Also free. Besides the Lulu store, your book gets listed at Amazon.com.
  3. Published by you – $99. Besides Lulu’s store and Amazon, your book is made available to pretty much all book stores and sellers. (Barnes and Noble, etc.)


CreateSpace offers two channels of distribution.

  1. CreateSpace E-Stores. Createspace has a page automatically generated for you to sell your book. You can turn it off and on. You do get a higher percentage of the revenue when your book sells here.
  2. Amazon. You can set whether or not you want your book available on Amazon. You get a lesser percentage of the revenue when your book sells on Amazon. Of course, you can reach a much larger crowd on there.

Cover Creation


Lulu has a pretty slick cover generator with tons of options. You can also design your own front and back covers (which is nice if you’re using a template, since they are standardized sizes.) Or if you don’t want any restrictions, you can design a full wraparound cover. Lulu gives you the dimensions you’ll need to work up your own template.


It used to be that Lulu was a clear winner in the “ease of cover creation” category. However, CreateSpace just released a cover creator of their own. They also offer you a downloadable template that you can use to create your own full wraparound cover. You do have to massage the cover into a pdf before uploading, though.

Printing Cost


Remember at Lulu you have a choice of bindings. As of right now (Dec. ’08) the base cost for each of these is:

  1. Hardcover with dust jacket – $18
  2. Hardcover without dust jacket – $17
  3. Plastic Coil – $6
  4. Softcover, Saddlestitched – $4.50
  5. Softcover (publisher grade {only certain sizes}) – $2.50

After you find your base “binding” price, you add the pages cost. Lulu gives you three choices:

  1. Color – ($1 extra for color paperback binding) and $0.20 per Page
  2. Standard Grade – $0.02 per Page
  3. Publisher Grade – $0.015 per Page. Again, this is only available on certain sizes.

Now, I couldn’t find a place on Lulu where it just has a price list anymore, so I had to back all those numbers out using my dusty algebra skills and their “Cost Calculator”. I may have erred, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.


Createspace has two plans that you can choose, standard and pro.

Standardis free. Pro costs you $39 to set up and then $5 a year to maintain. Right now (through the end of Dec, 2008) they are offering free upgrades to pro. When you upgrade to pro, you basically buy a cheaper rate for printing costs.

The printing costs are as follows (for black and white books with at least 110 pages):

  1. Standard
    $1.50 + $0.02 * Number of pages = Printing Cost
    A 400 page book costs $9.50 to print.
  2. Pro
    $0.85 + $0.012 * Number of pages = Printing Cost
    A 400 page book costs $5.65 to print.

So for a 400 page book, after you’ve printed about 10 copies, you’ve made up the $39 you paid to upgrade.

You can always order copies of your book for the printing cost.

You can also create full color books. Here are those costs (for books over 40 pages):

  1. Standard
    $1.75 + $0.12 * Number of pages = Printing Cost
  2. Pro
    $0.85 + $0.07 * Number of pages = Printing Cost

Author Revenue


When you publish using basic distribution, here’s how your revenue is calculated. You set the retail price. The difference between the publishing cost and the retail price is the profit. 20% of that profit is Lulu’s commission for selling your book.

When you do one of the other distribution programs, things get hairy. Lulu uses a different printer to fulfill the books for “Published by Lulu” and “Published by you”. This results in lower printing costs. However, now a middleman has to squeeze in a profit, too. So you choose how much you want to make per copy. Let’s say you choose $1. Lulu gets a $0.25 profit when you make a buck. Lulu then calculates the new printing cost + your profit + lulu’s profit and doubles it. That is the retail price of your book. That means lulu sells the book at 50% of the retail price to distributers who can now make a profit.

Or you can set the retail price and Lulu will calculate things out that way. If you choose a price that is too low for the manufacturing cost, Lulu will automatically bump it up.

Keep in mind that the “publisher quality” printed books are not eligible for the upgraded distribution plans.


Createspace uses a slightly different calulation to figure your revenue.

  • For books sold via amazon:
    Retail Price – (40% of Retail price + printing costs) = Your revenue
  • For books sold via createspace:
    Retail Price – (20% of Retail price + printing costs) = Your revenue

Quick Revenue Comparisons

I was going to put a table here, but it got to unwieldy. So I made a pdf instead.

Revenue Comparisons

Ease Of Use

If you had asked me a week ago, before I had seen CreateSpace’s new cover creator, I would have said Lulu hands down. But with the new cover creator CreateSpace has evened things up a little. I think I’d still give the edge to Lulu, though.


Each of these publishers has pros and cons. Hopefully I’ve laid it out so that you can make the choice that works best for you.