Tag Archives: Joel Friedlander

People! RESEARCH “How to Publish.” It’s Not Hard!

Editing tips for writers

Yet again, on a Facebook page for writers of fiction, someone asked about a clear vanity press scam. Page members quickly jumped in with the appropriate answer for such a query: RUN!

But what amazes me is that I see so many of these kinds of questions. I’m not a particularly patient soul myself, so I had to throttle my immediate response: Don’t you have a computer? Don’t you know how to Google? Shouldn’t basic research be the first step for someone thinking about publishing? Doesn’t it occur to folks that in this day and age, How-To is there for the asking? All you have to do is look.

I consider the answer I composed reasonably tactful (for me):

These days, when we all clearly have access to the Internet, it surprises me that people don’t actively search for information on “how to publish a book.” Of course, a search like that will turn up lots of scams and vanity presses, but it will also turn up many useful sites that offer advice. Everyone who is thinking seriously about publishing should be compiling a personal list of the most helpful FREE sites that lay out the ins and outs of today’s publishing options. A search for “best websites for writers” would yield a ton of these. Yes, you will get some conflicting opinions–some people love Amazon, some hate it–but you’ll begin to get the lay of the land. After a while you begin to get a sense of which bloggers know their business and which don’t. In my earlier comment, I listed Jane Friedman and Victoria Strauss (Writer Beware): invaluable. I also recommend The Book Designer (Joel Friedlander). You can buy books by the carload that will walk you through every step; most are cheap enough as ebooks that you can buy more than one and get a wider set of options. Takes a little time, yes, but not nearly as much time as you have devoted to writing your book, and this basic research will save you many hours by helping you make the best choice for you. Chris the Story Reading Ape also offers regular links to excellent advice. I found these people by Googling, attending conferences, and searching Amazon. Don’t put less energy into this than you would in buying a car!

Okay, I get it that posting questions to Facebook groups is a step in this process. But Facebook friends can’t offer the kind of education we writers need. Learning about style and grammar and showing-not-telling are basic skills, but so are the fundamentals of the business you are thinking of entering. For example, one respondent said she couldn’t afford to self-publish! Facebook friends can’t possibly slap up a full explanation of why this comment is unfounded. They basically have to say, “Go look it up!”

So that’s what I’m saying: Want to be a writer? Go look it up.

Am I completely off base here?

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Filed under Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, business of writing, ebooks, indie publishing, Money!, Myths and Truths, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, publishing contracts, Scams, Self-publishing, Writing

New Writers’ Comprehensive Reality Check!

Whimsical road Depositphotos_17645691_s-2015Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer shares this comprehensive discussion of myths and truths for first-time novelists from Florence Osmund. I would argue that you CAN format your books yourself if they’re not graphically complicated (i.e., just text). Check out my InDesign Beginner’s Cheat Sheet series. But this advice is worth taking to heart!

 

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Filed under book design, business of writing, Editing, indie publishing, Marketing books, Myths and Truths, novels, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing

Crazy Journey: Designing My Own Book for IngramSpark

Magic book

Advice from a number of other self-published authors and bloggers led me to decide that my preferred path to getting my two previously published horse-racing mysteries out in print under my own copyright was to buy my own ISBN and start out at Ingram before moving on to Amazon’s CreateSpace. But I’m probably not alone in my panicked reaction at downloading the IngramSpark “file creation” specs.

My experience creating my ebooks for both Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon was a breeze. I formatted my mss. in Word, uploaded them, and voilà, I had books. No errors, no “tickets.” But IngramSpark? Holy barf, Batman! What does all this stuff mean!

I hereby report that I am moving forward in my quest to conquer Ingram’s formatting requirements. I thought I would post progress reports, perhaps in hopes of encouraging others whose guts churn like mine did at the site of all those incomprehensible and unfamiliar commands.

Frustrated man at typewriter

If you’ve been through this, I hope you’ll take a moment in the comments to share your experiences, good or bad! (Even to tell me I’m just plain nuts. I won’t be offended! Really!)

 

Please note up front: The posts I envision chronicling my journey for better or worse are NOT how-tos! I am not an expert on InDesign, on formatting books, or on Ingram’s requirements. I can’t possibly match the expertise of professional book designers. I am simply sharing some observations and experiences, ideally as encouragement or in solidarity with others.

I have no idea where this effort will land me. I may be wasting my time on a task that doesn’t lend itself to amateur efforts. And after all, Ingram will sell you a template for around $50, as will other book designers—I haven’t tried a ready-made template, but might for the next book. I do have a funny feeling there’ll be some of the same technical work and correcting that I’m doing for my InDesign proof. We’ll see.

But here’s my rationale for moving forward on my own:

green smiley happy

  • First and foremost, it’s possible that I CAN do it. I won’t know till I try.
  • Trying this out is not prohibitively expensive. One blogger who considered Ingram’s requirements beyond the pale counted $500 in purchased ISBNs as part of his costs; I haven’t made a decision about that phase of the process, but I do know I won’t be writing 500 books in the next few years—and I’d still have to buy ISBNs if I want to be distributed through Ingram, whether I hire a professional designer or not. In the meantime, I’m making a $20/month investment in software and an hour or so a day in time.
  • I’m not on a strict deadline: I see this whole business of learning to market my books as a long-term project. Okay, so it takes me a month to do what a professional designer could do in a day. That’s not prohibitive, either, though for others it well might be.
  • Besides, I like learning new skills. Weirdly, I find this fun! It empowers me to see how well I can accomplish what, at the start, looked so daunting. And maybe I’ll put these skills to use in the future. So if it turns out I have to give up and hire a professional, I’ll be out a nominal sum but I’ll have gained an experience I value. Again, my idea of value is probably not everyone’s.
  • I’m not alone! Book designers are wonderfully generous with their expertise. I spent a whole day reading almost every article on Joel Friedlander’s superb site. I’ve found other marvelous sites I’ll share.

Bleu curve

Since this is a preliminary report, I’ll start with some preliminary stuff. Baby stuff.

Like figuring out what “trim size” means.

Basically, it’s about how big (height and width, not page length) I want my book to be. (Here’s an infographic on trim size.) Ingram supplies a list of options, and I measured a few of the trade paperbacks on my shelves with a ruler. Smaller trim size means more pages. I started out choosing 5.5X8.5.

Like figuring out that I needed some software.

Working with the graphic-design program at my university to produce a slick magazine told me that the designers’ preferred platform was Adobe InDesign. But InDesign came with some built-in liabilities:

It’s expensive.

It’s scary as hell.

Could I just use good ol’ Word? After all, even my ancient “2008 for Mac” version offers all kinds of formatting options that I’d already mastered for my ebooks.

Q mark flowersI invested some time searching for “InDesign vs. Word” online. Not surprisingly, the professionals gravitate to InDesign as offering more control and more options even for plain text documents like mine. Not surprisingly, the comments sections were sprinkled with claims that a) everybody already had Word so it was effectively free; b) Word works fine; and occasionally, c) sure, professionals tout something we all have to pay them to do.

To me, comments like c) denigrate professionals and the expertise they’ve built up over the years. But were the rebels right? Could Word do the kind of job Ingram accepts (and readers want)?

I actually don’t know the answer to that. (Do you? Share!)

You can use Word: the File-Creation Guide at Ingram directs you to be to sure to create your pdf using the print dialogue box, which is where you can find the specific Adobe Acrobat formats you need.

But the Guide specifically says that they can’t support material created in Word. So using Word looks as if it might limit my chances for getting help from Ingram if I need it.

According to the designers, justification in Word can’t match an apparent algorithm in InDesign that prevents “rivers” of white space from irregular word spacing and other anomalies from marring your pages. It does seem that InDesign’s kerning, tracking, and leading options are more sophisticated. (Are they? What do you think?)

alarmed smileyChallenge: Money! Adobe stuff costs $$$.

Solution: Adobe allows a 30-day free trial and then the $20 monthly subscription plan. Twenty dollars for a few months—the cost of one meal out each month—doesn’t seem outrageous, especially when I’m having fun.

worried smileyChallenge: Learning Curve! Adobe stuff is hard!

Solution: Buy a freakin’ book! Sorry, all you sweet video producers. A, I can’t watch your videos from home because they devour my data; and B, I can’t remember enough and have to watch again and again. At my university, we have access to the inestimable Lynda.com; I’ve watched the videos several times. But when you’re sitting at home staring at a blinking cursor, you must be able to thumb through the index and look things up!

My local Barnes and Noble offered a few alternatives. I chose Classroom in a Book because I liked the pictures. Uh, okay, I chose it because it did look as if it gave me a step-by-step combination of visual and text instructions. I’ll review it as a learning tool down the line.

I’ll end this first post with a quick word of encouragement: if you’ve ever delved at all into formatting with Word—using Styles, for example—or if you’ve ever worked with an app like the Mac “Preview” program, or “Paint” on a PC, where you can select, resize, edit graphics, etc., you already have a majority of the skills you’ll need to do basic text formatting in InDesign.

big smile smiley.jpg

So, today’s takeaway:

  • You can get definitions and guidance through some terrific online resources.
  • You may or may not need software. If you do decide tackle InDesign, it’s not prohibitively expensive.
  • You can learn the software. You’re probably two-thirds of the way there! I’ll report on how I did it in future posts.

 

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Filed under business of writing, indie publishing, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing