A Facebook acquaintence suggested I try GetCovers in my quest to see how a new cover affects sales of my two earlier horse mysteries, King of the Roses and Blood Lies. The price was astonishing, to say the least: $35 for the ebook and paperback package. Certainly worth a try!
GetCovers is part of the “Miblgroup family of brands,” which, my author friend wrote on FB, has a somewhat pricier line of covers, but one that is still highly affordable (starting at $100). It would be interesting to know how the services differ: for example, whether the extra expense gives you access to a different group of designers, perhaps with more experience. Anyone know?
I can report that the experience was positive. A major plus: they were fast. I received my first drafts within a week, and subsequent revisions arrived within a few days. The final cover for King of the Roses (below) was okay, well worth a try to see if it earns more clicks in my ad campaigns. After an off-base first submission (the persona of the woman was too cruel and scheming), I supplied the image of the woman; this is the same image as the one on the prior King of the Roses cover, though that designer did some tweaking to soften the woman’s stare a little.
The only indication I had that the designer was just possibly inexperienced occurred in the back-cover text. In the first paperback submission, the first short paragraph contained multiple hyphenations. I indicated that I’d rather not have hyphenations in this short text and suggested centering the blurb to remove them. In the next submission, the text had been centered, removing hyphenation from the top paragraph—but introducing it into the second! I suggested using strategic returns as necessary to force the breaks to appear between words rather than inside them. I believe the final version used spacing to achieve the necessary result.
Because the process was so quick, these corrections took only a single weekend.
In any case, I will go back to GetCovers for an experimental revision to my Blood Lies cover. At such a reasonable price, I can afford to give it a try.
The Amazon sages have to deliver final judgment, but the proof looked fine, so I’m assuming I’ll pass muster.
I’ll post some pyrotechnics once the paperback is live.
In the meantime, if anyone reading this is thinking of paying a “packager” even a few hundred dollars to “publish” a book, whether an ebook or a paperback: THINK HARD before committing your cash. Yes, it takes a bit of time and some hassle to format your own books. But you don’t have to pay for this!
Of course, if you can write three new books in your best-selling series in the time you spend making formatting decisions and wrestling with templates, then the arithmetic comes out different. But like everything else, as you repeat a process it becomes easier and goes faster. In any case, don’t hire a packager because you think you can’t do it without one. You can.
It took longer than it should—no surprise there. I kept getting an error message in my ISBN block. I asked for an Amazon callback and got an immediate response. Turns out that the “imprint” I was supposed to enter meant my name as publisher, although what it said was to enter where you bought your ISBN, which was Bowker. Danielle, my Amazon helper, was incredibly patient, waited with me until both the pdf and the cover were successfully uploaded.
This will teach me to wait so long between books. If it hadn’t been so long since I uploaded my paperback files for King of the Roses, I might remember more of the process.
I reviewed page-by-page in the Previewer, but have ordered a proof copy. When I get a look at it, I will announce
In keeping with my plan to post on my experiences as I publish and learn to market a new book (after too long!), I’m sharing my recent experiences with the kind of basic stuff I’m sure most folks don’t need to be told about. But maybe somebody out there will understand the learning curves involved and will either find my struggles familiar or will point me in the right direction as I take many wrong turns.
I realized at long last that if I was going to start a newsletter, which I am assured I must do, I needed to be able to upload digital files, that is, epubs and mobis as well as the standard pdfs. A little bit of exploration suggested to me that a basic Draft2Digital account would allow me to convert my Word files into these formats.
Yes, I found I could download files from Smashwords, but when I did so, they opened in an iBooks folder that did not allow me to upload the latest version. Moreover, I wanted the Amazon files as well as the Smashwords files. Creating and downloading the D2D files to a dedicated folder, where I could verify the dates and versions, seemed like a good idea.
(Here’s where I suspect experts know how to move files to my desktop from the iBooks program that opens them.)
As I began work on uploading my Word text to D2D, I confirmed what I had already begun to expect from working on my paperback interior for my new book: templates promise easy formatting—IF you can stop them from wrestling you to the mat and beating all hope out of you!
Okay, hyperbole. But what I discovered was that the only way to make a D2D template work on the first or hopefully at least the second try is to strip all that fancy formatting you did in hopes of making your book look as if it has been traditionally published rather than a homemade little orphan.
Following the instructions exactly is a start. I had set up my TOC using bookmarks and anchors, but unfortunately, I hadn’t bookmarked the chapter titles (Chapter 1, etc.) but rather first words of chapters. D2D read my first paragraphs as chapter titles and converted them all to Heading 1 font. Grim.
I learned about this mistake by emailing for help. The great news is that the help came almost immediately in a detailed and sympathetic response email. Rather than rebookmark and reanchor 44 chapters plus an epilogue, I converted all chapter titles to Heading 1 as suggested. However, my work at customizing the Heading 1 style—for example, to all-caps—was wasted. The D2D template made the font decisions for me, in the process introducing formatting errors in the TOC that took me six uploads to correct.
Equally maddening was that D2D can’t recognize such frivolity as “small caps.” Formatting first lines in first-chapter paragraphs in small caps created leading changes in those first paragraphs. Only plain old Normal with a first-line indent led to a clean upload.
I had already discovered that the little graphics I had tried to insert in an earlier version had to be positioned just so to function the way I envisioned. After two full days of struggling with my new upload, I gave up on the images I had wanted to insert at the beginning of each chapter. By that time, all I wanted was the plain-Jane file. My end-of-book graphics linking to my other books, I am glad to say, did load correctly and do work as I planned.
Moral: when using a template, join it in battle at your peril. In D2D, stay simple. They have their own folderols you can choose if you like.
At least uploading to Bookfunnel was comparatively easy. (Gripes on that front to come.)
Want the free copy of Three Strides Out I’ve complained so mightily over? Here’s the Bookfunnel link. You’ll have to leave me an email address so I can see where the free books I’m hoping to use for reviews are going, but you don’t have to sign up for anything—assuming I correctly figured out all the ins and outs of my Bookfunnel landing page. If you run into trouble downloading, write me from my website and I’ll try to figure out how to get a copy to you. Oh, and puhleeeese leave a review!
A common complaint I see in social media and reviews of indie books is that the grammatical slips that often litter these works distract from good stories. So yes, there are plenty of “rules,” guidelines, and conventions that writers really must adhere to if they want to be taken seriously by agents and editors, as well as many readers. Since many of these grammatical issues matter to clear writing, it’s not surprising that they get in the way of what the writer wants to say.
But there are some instructions that are regularly handed down as rules that don’t interfere with clear writing and that, in some cases, were never really “rules” anyway, not in the sense of something a writer should work hard to observe. In fact, struggling to follow some of them at all costs can turn perfectly straightforward sentences into gobbledygook.
Here are three you can let go of with no harm done.
Ending sentences with prepositions. Yes, you can!
My father used to tell me it was Winston Churchill who said, “That is something up with which I will not put.” Since then, I’ve seen that line inserted into the mouths of many different luminaries; regardless of who said it, the point is the same. Shoehorning the prepositions “up” and “with” into the middle of a sentence can throw the whole construction out of kilter.
This probably apocryphal example is interesting because “Put up with” is actually one of the English verbs in which the prepositions are actually part of the whole deal, so that some of the absurdity of “up with which” is that it separates essential parts of the verb phrase “put up with” from each other.
But even ordinary prepositions banished from the natural end point wreak havoc on the sentences they are meant to clean up. “What is that book about?” has to become “About what is that book?” And heaven forbid you try to restructure “Who did you go with?” The result, “With whom did you go?” now forces you to confront the difference between “who” and “whom” (which is actually a real distinction but another one you can ignore).
Splitting infinitives. Yes, you can!
Way back in the annals of time, language mavens revered mostly by the small class of literati experienced an inferiority complex, believing that for English to grow up, it needed to become more like classical Latin. Well, in Latin and in most languages that are largely based on its rules, “infinitives” consist of one word. In English, which is not a Latin-based “romance” language but rather has roots in what we can most simply think of as Germanic, “infinitives” are created with the word “to” and the root form of the verb. Thus, in French, a romance language, “manger” means “to eat.” You’d have a hard time splitting “manger,” but “to eat” is a completely different animal. So feel free to say “To boldly go,” with the added perk of thus being able to use the same “meter,” iambic pentameter, that Shakespeare used.
Misusing “which” when you should have used “that.”
No one who’s not specifically on the lookout for this mistake will care.
I do notice this mistake because I’m sensitive to the restrictive/nonrestrictive issue, which many people struggle to punctuate properly, often leaving me struggling to figure out where a nonrestrictive phrase ends and the main sentence resumes. But my point is that if your story is sweeping your readers along, this is the kind of mistake most of them will be swept right past. If you use whichever option sounds right in your sentence, you probably won’t spend your valuable creative energy thinking about the choice at all.
Bottom Line: If you have doubts about your command of “grammar,” or the correct kinds of usage that will make your writing clear and accessible, concentrate on punctuation, which above all is about clarity, and on verb forms, like the choice between “he had came home” and “he had come home,” a variation from the standard that will make it look as if you haven’t mastered your tools. Ignore even Microsoft Word if it tells you it’s not okay to write “Grammar is a skill I wish I was better at.”
A cautionary tale from Chris McMullen. My past experience with pirated books echoes his sense that for many of the sites claiming to carry unauthorized copies, tracking them down is a lifelong enterprise. But this looks like something you can spot on Amazon if it happens to you. Thanks, Chris!
Earlier this year, after publishing a new book, I visited Amazon to check it out. When I finished inspecting the Amazon detail page for my new book, I clicked the link by my author photo to visit my Author Central page. And, boy, was I surprised by what I found.
(A little background: Author Central now shows only my Kindle eBooks by default. Customers have to click the Paperback tab to find my paperback books.)
I noticed one of my better selling books near the top of the list. What stood out is that book is only available in paperback. (For good reason. With thousands of math problems, this particular workbook would not be ideal for Kindle.) Yet, there it was on the list of my Kindle eBooks.
At first thought, I had hoped that Amazon was finally starting to show all…
Here’s a very helpful post from that wizard, Jane Friedman, via Chris the Story Reading Ape (also a wizard). I am not a wizard, but to this comprehensive description of the ways you can publish, I must add this: If you really want to publish, don’t go on Facebook or Twitter and ask, “Can someone tell me how to publish a book?” Your respondents would have to spend the rest of their afternoon telling you what’s available on sites like Friedman’s—she’s an excellent portal. Check through my posts for links to many, many other terrific sites for directions and advice.
My point is, if you really want the answer, it’s out there. Do your research! You can jumpstart your process by following Chris and Jane.
Since 2013, I have been regularly updating this informational chart about the key book publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download (from Jane’s original blog post)—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—plus the full text is also below.
One of the biggest questions I hear from authors today: Should I traditionally publish or self-publish?
This is an increasingly complicated question to answer because:
I’ve been AWOL recently because I’ve been busy writing! I’m trying to slide Book 3 of my mystery trilogy into a channel where it will start floating right along (I suspect you get that metaphor), and I’ve been keyboarding the longhand draft of my “Horse Show Book” (great titles, huh?) that I just completed last week. My hope is that the closing scenes of this psychological suspense/mystery will work as well when I type them as they seemed when I (literally) penned them. We’ll see.
Apropos of that milestone, I had the following conversation with a non-writer friend the other day. I wonder if only writers will “get” this:
Friend: When are you going to publish your Horse Show Book?