decepticons___megatron_by_jasta_ru-d31jngx

Virtual Overlords: A (Mostly) Comedic Take On The Future of Digital Publishing

e-book

By Liberty & Steven Montano

Here’s a glimpse at what the world will look like in 20 years thanks to e-publishing.  Please be warned that while a lot of these ideas are possible (perhaps even probable), we do end up going off the deep end…

Google_Glass_with_frame-1940x1056

1. Because of Google Glass, people will literally read all of the time, because they’ll have the power to load books directly in front of their eyeballs 24/7. Unfortunately, due to the rewiring of our brains thanks to excessive internet usage, we’ll retain only a fraction of what we actually read.

2. Self-driving cars will allow us to read while commuting. Ironically, texting while driving will still be banned in most states.

pill

3. Building on the success of the Alzheimer mouse trials, scientists will produce books in pill or gum form for easy consumption.

4. In defiance of e-publishing, the world will see the rise of dangerous paperback gangs who smuggle rare printed books.

5. 3D printed custom book covers will go viral. The book gangs will not be happy.

6. Virtual reality (oculus rift) will lead to holographic novels and new heights of book addiction.

eye tribe

7. For a short time, all E-Readers will utilize Eye Tribe, and the resulting eye fatigue will increase sales of Google glass.

8. Creating an e-book will become part of school curriculum, and will become an expected skill in the job market.

9. Publishing houses will give way to marketplaces, resulting in the death of bookstores.

10. Overhead displays + “erotic material” will become a problem for law enforcement.  Porn book cafes will replace head shops.

11. Legislation to end book printing will be introduced by environmentalists. The legislature will fail, but the decline in printing continues.

12. The price of e-books will level out. People will reminisce to when a book only cost $.99 $4.99 $7.99.

13. The sale of bookshelves will plummet.  IKEA stock prices will take a hit.

14. The internet will tell you what to read based on a complicated algorithm that determines the “right” book for you. More often than not, the internet will be right.

15. The rise of holographic novels will render book-to-movie adaptations redundant.

cat vs. dog

16. Books/media created for pets will hit the virtual shelves. The war over whether dogs or cats are better rages on.

17. Implants will allow a person to completely write a book in their head. Intellectual copyright lawyers find themselves in huge demand.

18. Classic e-books will be upgraded to integrate with Google maps to provide a visual experience, while music appropriate to the setting will be embedded in the e-book data files.

19. Olfactory capability in e-books will lead to disgustingly cliche books being created for tween boys.

robo-writer

20. Big media houses will perfect bot-written books, which quickly become the junk food of the literary world.

21. Obesity rates will fall as ingesting media becomes more interactive.

22. Elementary schools see a major makeover. Desks become less common, but the dependence on VR decreases interpersonal contact.

23. The human population growth rate slows, maybe even goes negative due to our escaping into VR media.

24. Radio stations broadcast book files instead of music.

25. The weekly release of serial novels becomes incredibly popular. NBC takes command of the book industry.

26. Access to the internet via implants allows for an unprecedented consumption rate of e-books. This also renders notions of traditional learning moot.

27. Implants remove the need for keyboard, televisions, and interpersonal communication.

young-frankenstein

28. The increased consumption rate of hard scientific data will increase interest in theoretical knowledge, resulting in a dark era of mad scientists.

29. The third world will have an explosion of tech advances. The so-called first world will go out of fashion and “poor” living will become chic.

30. New mental illnesses tied to digital consumption will run rampant.

31. Implants will allow us to communicate with our pets, and later all forms of animal life. The number of vegetarians will increase exponentially.

32. The internet will become our collective subconsciousness.

33. Computer viruses will become a battlefield weapon, as all soldiers will have tactical implants.

34. Malls will disappear, replaced by virtual shopping. Demolition jobs will be in high demand, until robots take over that field.

decepticons___megatron_by_jasta_ru-d31jngx

35. Once they take over the construction and demolition fields (and, thanks to big publisher “ingenuity”, writing the books that humans learn from), robots eventually take over the world.

36. A few stalwart humans refuse to accept implants and are driven into hiding. Every young man’s dreams of living in a Terminator-like future become a reality.

Pre História-gathers

37. E-books ascend to Godhood. Our collective digital consciousness is sucked into data clouds, leaving our bodies free to roam and wander like the primitive nomads we were always meant to be.

 

About the Authors

My wife Lib is pretty awesome. She’s also psychic. And she has pyrokinesis. So you probably don’t want to piss her off.

When she isn’t busy designing book covers, editing my crappy work or maintaining my website and social media presence, Lib ponders the future of E-Publishing, dog training, self-sustained living, and life as we know it.  She’s also the author of Novel Blogging: A Writer’s Guide to Blogging.

As for me, I do accounting and write books.  Learn more at my site, if you dare!

If the Baby is Ugly….

You know that thing you do, that thing where you justify the reactions others have to your work?

I wrote a book once. Well, actually I wrote several books. None of them sold very well, and I took to saying “It is because my genius is not knowable.”

Have you ever said that? Really, now. You know you have. Maybe not in those words, and maybe not aloud, but you know what I’m talking about. People just don’t get it.

You know what that is? It’s the use of self-affirmation to ease the pain of what you perceive as different from what you expected. We practice this technique quite a bit, but some of where it starts is with the dissonance we feel when what we say may not be what we really mean.

Cognitive dissonance, defined, is “an internal state that results when individuals notice inconsistency between two or more attitudes or between their attitudes and their behavior.”

In English, man!

In simple terms, it’s that slightly uncomfortable feeling you get when the baby is ugly but you say “He’s soooooo cute!”

uglybabyIf the baby is ugly, the baby is ugly. Why do we say it’s not? Because the parents are friends and we don’t want to upset them? Yes, that’s probably the motivation behind the lie.

It’s the same with reviews, you know.

Think about that for a moment: Why say “This book is the greatest ever written!!!!1!” when you know the writing is horrible, the story doesn’t go anywhere, and you would rather watch paint dry than read another chapter?

You know why.

It’s cognitive dissonance and what you’re saying right now (“They are writer friends and I want to help”) is self-affirmation. You’re saying something to cover your butt, to make yourself feel better for leaving that five-star review on Amazon for a book that should be one (or fewer stars).

Who are you helping with that?

Are you disillusioning the writer or are you making yourself feel better by “helping” someone else out who is an independent like you?

If the baby is ugly….

Bruce Blake, who might be known to some here (*wink*), once edited a manuscript of mine. It had errors. There were problems and inconsistencies and “farthers” where there should have been “furthers.” Between his edits and Scott Bury’s (who might also be known to some here (*wink*)) were kind enough to say “you know, this baby is ugly.”

You know what I did with that knowledge? I edited my manuscript, breathed a little, and still published it. The book sold little, and in my head I thought “it is because my genius is not knowable.” So while there was honesty in the reviews, I still thought what others had to say was off the mark and practiced self-affirmation when I should have practiced rewriting draft 52 (or 53…I lost count).

So what is needed in our industry? What is needed, I think, is a bit of honesty. If a manuscript sucks, regardless of how many other published manuscripts an author has or the size of their publishing house, the writer needs to know their baby is ugly.

I wrote a two-star review of a David Morrell book once. It felt good. I didn’t lie.

Will he care? He’s Rambo. Of course not.

But if an up-and-coming writer really wants to improve, if they really want to give the baby plastic surgery so-to-speak, they need to know the truth and we (as readers and writers and reviewers) need to be able to tell them that truth.

Cognitive dissonance is a thing. Self-affirmation is what helps ease the discomfort.

In the words of Bob Newhart: “Stop it.

If the baby is ugly….


Benjamin X. Wretlind ran with scissors when he was five. He now writes. He is the author of A Difficult Mirror, Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors, and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang.

He also gets up before 4am to milk (words, not cows).

Real numbers: The truth about self-publishing

By Scott Bury

Last January, Digital Book World reported that nearly 80 percent of self-published authors and more than half of traditionally published authors earn less than $1,000 a year from their efforts.

That report has generated a lot of debate. Some very honest and brave independent authors have put their own statistics up against this argument:

Hugh Howey — arguably the most successful indie author these days — and another, anonymous indie author compiled statistical research and put the lie to the DBW claim. They point out that the DBW report is so broad as to be useless — it includes books of all types, and does not include ebooks sold by Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the world.

Howey and his unnamed partner dug deep and found that e-books account for 86 percent of all genre fiction, and that  independent authors outsell the Big 5 commercial publishers combined in genre fiction.  There’s a lot of analysis in the report, and I recommend you read it.

Toby Neal, bestselling author of the Lei Crime series and paranormal fantasy Island Fire, candidly revealed her own sales, revenues and cost figures on her books. While Toby treats the writing as an art, she approaches publishing as a business. She invested $12,000 in editing, design, production and marketing of her first book, Blood Orchids, and netted over $100,000. She still makes money on that book, and views all her nine books (with one more coming in March).
Independent author Jami Gold blogged about two more analytical reports that took apart the DBW claim about most independent authors making under $1,000. Jami’s original post was reblogged by book consultant Kristen Lamb. It turns out that professional independent authors, those who use professional editors and designers, market their books as a business and continue to publish several titles, make considerably more money.

 

About 50% of respondents make more than $10K when they have 4-7 self-published books available, and 20% make more than $50K. At 12-20 books available, over 50% of respondents are making 50K or more, and 30% are over $100K.

In short, independent writers who treat writing as a business or profession, rather than as just a hobby or game, can make a comfortable living at it.

What’s a professional writer?

Being professional means:

  • publishing regularly, developing a catalog of titles
  • using a professional editor – someone with background experience in the publishing industry
  • using a professional cover designer
  • marketing and promoting strategically and using professional services appropriately.

Getting into the category will cost money, but not as much as the 90% of book sales a commercial publisher takes, and certainly not as much as forking out thousands to a vanity publisher or something like one of those “become a published author” scams. And it won’t cost as much as you give up by not doing these things.

I have to admit, I’m remiss on one dimension: the regularity of my publishing my own books. It’s been a year since I published my last novel, Army of Worn Soles, and it’s going to be at least three more months before the next title is ready for publication.

It’s so refreshing, indeed inspiring, to get this honest number-crunching from some people who are making a profession from being independent authors, and showing us all there is a business model and a path that work.

Want to find more indie fantasy authors who are working the dream? In addition to those mentioned above, check out:

And many more that I just don’t have time or space to list here, and many I haven’t had the chance to read, yet. But keep coming back to the blog for reviews and interviews with independent authors.

Pic-ScottBuryScott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Visit his bio page on Guild of Dreams.

The Same Old Argument

By Bruce Blake

—–

I did something unusual this weekend…I had a Saturday off. If you heard angels singing, now you know why.

While it’s not typical for me to have a day off from the ole day job on a Saturday, it wasn’t a surprise. Mainly, it didn’t surprise me because I asked for the day off. Those guys sure  know how to reward good work.

038575440XI took the day off because a friend of mine who is a traditionally published author was doing a book signing at a local book store. My friend–Jordan Stratford, author of the fantastic Wollstonecraft Detective Agency books for young readers–has a very interesting story that we can all feel jealous of (check it out here), but that’s not the subject of today’s post. No, today’s post is inspired by the conversation Jordan and I had regarding the differences between being self-published or published by one of the Big 5. As many of you might recall, I’ve recently signed on to have my Small Gods series with a publisher, but that is a ‘small press,’ so I kinda still count that as self-published (but with a great deal of help).

Now let me qualify first…I don’t want this to degenerate into a ‘which is better’ post. My conversation with Jordan simply highlighted a few differences, so here they are in no particular order.

1. Editing – when I send my finished novel off to my editor, I generally have it back within a week. In that time, she  reads it twice (have I ever mentioned how much I love my editor? Ella is amazing!), makes notes and suggestions, and sometimes manages to make fun of me to keep my head from ballooning. Jordan told me that he sent the third book in the series to his  editor in August and recently found out it hasn’t been read yet.

2. Timelines – I write a book, it gets edited, it gets published. When I was writing full-time, that entire process might have taken only two months. It’s longer now that I’m back at work, to be sure, but I think 6 months wouldn’t be an unreasonable estimate beginning to end. The second book of the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series was finished in 2013 and is set for publication in August of 2015.

3. Money – he got an advance. He even gets to use phrases like ‘earn out.’ I didn’t and I don’t. Need I say more?

4. Promo – I don’t know what they do, but I did notice that Jordan’s site lists two publicists–one for the US, one for Canada. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have a publicist.

5. Contracts – contracts?

6. Reporting – I can obsessively check the sales of my self-published books as many times per day as I want. Jordan can check his rank on Amazon but otherwise uses his time wisely for other things…like writing. A definite win for the big guys.

7. Media attention – When I Googled Jordan (unbelievable that Google has become a verb), I found articles publishedth1 about him and Wollstonecraft on such places as CBC (that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for you non-Canadians out there), Yahoo news, Huffington Post, and Reading Rainbow. Google me and you find my blog and a nice note my  mom once wrote about me. Too bad, I’ve always wanted to be on Reading Rainbow. (It should be noted that, when Googling Jordan, I also came up with a story titled “Daredevil Stratford Pilot Becomes Jordan Princess.” I chuckled at that).

I’m sure there a ton of other differences, but those were my observations. You can easily argue one way or the other–both have their advantages and disadvantages. I think I like this place I’ve found in between–the small press. Maybe we’ll tackle that in another post. Or maybe I’ll see if we can get it right from the horse’s mouth.

What are your thoughts on self- vs, trad publishing?

—–

Bruce Blake is a writer.

Archetypes, with a dash of numerology

Icarus falling from the sky

Daedalus and Icarus

By Scott Bury

In the last couple of blog posts, Autumn Birt and Joshua Johnson have been writing about archetypal characters in fantasy. As this will be my I thought I would take the opportunity to delve a little deeper into one particular archetypal character: the father.

As much of a planner as I am, one thing I have learned from writing fiction is that your characters teach you. Another is that the archetypal role a character begins with can change, depending on circumstances and the needs of the plot.

The father figure is very important in every genre. The good father, bad father, the limited, damaged, drunken, evil or absent fathers all have a distinct yet equally vital impact on the hero and on the development of the story.

Three parts, three fathers

In my first full-length novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth, the number three plays an important role in its own right. I originally envisioned the book as the first volume in a trilogy called the Dark Age. Each book would be divided into three parts.

In each part of the first book in The Bones of the Earth, a different character is a father-figure to the protagonist, Javor. In Part One, Initiation Rites, Javor’s literal father is the father figure.

I presented Swat (all names are historically accurate) as realistically, rather than mythically or fantastically, as I could. Javor’s father is gentle and kind. He raised his last surviving son more by example and demonstration than through instruction or command. He’s also practical, instead of heroic. He literally holds Javor back from a fight he cannot win.

I this sense, Swat is the opposite of the legendary heroic father figure, the kind who, like Zeus, sets up challenges that will reveal his son’s heroic nature. Instead, Swat acted like I hope I would if my son wanted to attack armed men with nothing but his bare fists (formidable as they may be).

Finally, Swat dies—typical for a fathers in fantasy—defending his family against a foe he could not ever hope to match. But literally backed against a wall,he had no choice. So that part was true to character as well as to archetype.

A character’s shift

In Part Two, Tests, the character introduced in Part One as the Mysterious Stranger, the interloper with arcane knowledge who is both a threat and a guide, fills the father figure role. Photius guides and instructs Javor in fighting, languages, philosophy and in knowledge about the world. He also imparts his own values.

Image of the mysterious stranger

The mysterious stranger

At the end of Part Two, Photius dies protecting Javor. Hmm. I seem to be very hard on fathers. Nothing personal, Dad!

The father-figure in Part Three, The Mission, is the most aloof and formal of all. Austinus is the head of a religious order and, despite objections of his advisors, accepts Javor into this faith family. He is protective of Javor and spends a lot of time teaching him philosophy, history and religion.

Austinus is also closest to the archetypical father-figure of legend and myth. He ensures that Javor learns military fighting skills and brings Javor into danger, putting him in a situation that will bring out Javor’s true heroic nature.

Three stories, three different takes on the father character. They in no way exhaust the subject of the father-son relationship, but I found their creation rewarding.

In my next contribution to the Guild of Dreams blog, I am going to ask the bigger question: do we need archetypal characters, or should we be reaching further and digging deeper when creating characters?

 

Still Relevant

***DISCLAIMER: This is actually a happy post because I’m very happy with where I am right now.***

Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl With ScissorsOn March 27, 2011 Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl With Scissors was released into the world with grand fanfare. There were ticker tape parades, breaking news updates and a whole host of community events focused around the novel. People from all walks of life were seen standing in lines to purchase this book, talk shows were all abuzz, and apps were created for the iPhone. There was even talk of a Made-for-TV movie.

When I woke up from that dream, I had sold one copy online. It was exciting. I knew for a fact I was going to see my numbers exponentially rise week by week to unheard of heights. So, week by week I watched the numbers…rise, fall, rise, fall, stay steady, disappear, come back, go around a corner and hide then peek out for a day or two. Months and months later, I still expected that exponential rise in numbers. Word of mouth would be the book’s savior if not my mad marketing skills (or “skillz” as my oldest son would write). It was going to happen.

Or not.

As it is, Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl With Scissors has not achieved the numbers I dreamed of back in March 2011. In fact, it has so far failed to achieve anything remotely resembling a “success” in terms of sales. So…what did I do wrong? For that matter…did I do anything wrong, or can I call this whole experiment a success as I decide what that is?

Let’s back up a minute. What defines “success?” To you, it’s likely something different than what it is to me. Then again, it may be the same thing. Stephen King is, no doubt, successful. He’s written many things, made much money, and gosh darn it, people like him. Even Glenn Beck is successful, if what you define in terms of success is something akin to being well-known and/or rich but much vilified. The point is, success is not always what the world wants us to believe it is. Is Nicole Polizzi (Snooki…and I can’t believe I just used that name) successful? According to the world, she is…or was. To me, she’s no more successful at being an author than the guy who paints “Kidz With Kanz” on the side of a train in a downtown Los Angeles train yard.

You see, what what I didn’t do when writing/editing/publishing Castles was this: I didn’t define what I would term its success. I didn’t say “a hundred books a month” = success. I didn’t say “fifty five-star reviews” = success. I didn’t say “making it to Oprah’s reading list” = success. What I did was akin to throwing a baby in the ocean and expecting it to swim to Cuba in an hour.*

So what did I do?

I failed.

Rather than give you another blog post about how to sell your books like a self-publishing genius–and haven’t we all read enough of those?–I thought I’d give you a little view into how not to sell a book. Or, in Pooh terms: How to Fail While Really Trying. In other words, these are all the things I tried, how I tried them, and how they failed.

***

Step 1: Edit, Edit, Edit. Was Castles edited? Hell, yes. The novel was written over a period of seven years, and during that time so many eyes looked on it the thing has a complex. On the final edit, only two egregious errors were noted out of 50,000 words. That’s, um, 0.004%. Not too bad considering the four errors I noted myself in the last Simon & Schuster novel I read.

You know editing is important. I know it’s important. That’s why Castles was edited to death and then microwaved on high for hours. Is it really spotless? Is any book spotless or did it finally escape the editor’s pen?

Step 2: Make a Pretty Cover. I’m not a graphic designer by profession, but I believe I have an eye for art, design and complimentary colors. If I don’t, my significant other (the wife of wonders) does have a collegiate education in the field of graphic design and marketing. I did a lot of research on how my cover should look and leaned on my wife for guidance. What did similar titles look like? What fonts were used? Was it simple or complex? All of these things factored into the cover currently in existence, to include the psychology behind the white background. Does it capture your eye?

Judging by sales, however, the cover isn’t a selling point.

(My wife is also a counselor, which helps in more ways than you think.)

Step 3: Write a Description that Sells. The description for Castles, much like the novel itself, was written over several years and vetted by many, many people–and I don’t really like those people much. When I hear someone say “that synopsis has me hooked” then I know it’s okay.

Is it perfect? No. Could it be better? Yes. Did Elaine from Seinfeld write it like she did that wonderful catalog copy back in the day? If you answered no to that question, then you’re old enough to have watched the show. Anyway, it’s all subjective, isn’t it? There are books out there I’ve picked up in spite of the description, not because of it. There are also books I’ve picked up because of the description and have been really, really pissed off about.

I guess it’s all a game, isn’t it? You can write a description until your eyes bleed, but it won’t be the same thing the next guy wrote.

Step 4: Solicit Reviews. I admit: I’m not very good at this. In the beginning, I sent out a few requests with the obligatory free copy of the book. I asked a few author friends I knew to read it and give me their feedback. However, my view of reviews is probably different from most self-published authors: why solicit them when the ones that come in out of the blue from total strangers are probably more representative of reality?

The reviews I’ve received for Castles have been wonderful. Very few of them were solicited. That, in itself, makes me happy…but it doesn’t sell books.

Step 5: Solicit Interviews/Guest Blog. Now this is where I really failed. I think I expected people to knock down my door and ask to interview me. Since this didn’t happen, I decided to ask if anyone wanted to interview me for their blog. Now that sounds pretty desperate, doesn’t it? “Hey, you. Stranger. Can you interview me for your blog because no one else wants to talk to me?” Well, the two or three or four interviews I’ve done so far have been more than fun. They’ve been awesome.

Anyway…are interviews the key to getting your name out there? Does writing a blog post on another person’s page (who probably gets as many views as you do) really pave the way to Amanda Hocking fame and fortune? I guess that’s an honest question to ask, but I’m in no position to debate it since I failed miserably at this step. Still, I’m guessing it doesn’t have as much of an impact as the pundits say it does.

Step 6: Buy Advertising/Send out Press Releases. I did this. I bought targeted Facebook and Goodreads ads. I think the only thing these ads did was increase the exposure a fraction of a fraction of a percent. I certainly didn’t see any increase in sales. I didn’t even see an increase in sales of other books, which would have indicated the click-thru netted some attention. Clicks on paid ads were not worth it. Why?

Well, I had to step back and examine my own time on Facebook or Goodreads. Do I even look at ads? Not really, unless I’m trying to find a way to hide a flashy one that’s give me seizures. So, if I don’t do it, why would the rest of the world do it?

What about those Press Releases? You know the ones: they’re a pain to write, they sound fake and they’re eventually sent out to the press in a shotgun approach hoping it nets at least one kill. Did I do this? Not with the shotgun method. I did sent out a few, but they were very targeted to the publication. The net result of my efforts: 0.

Step 7: Schedule Book Signings. People scare me. Actually, if I didn’t have to work for a living, I’d probably be a recluse with long fingernails, yelling at the sidewalk people.

Step 8: Run Contests/Do Giveaways. Since Castles has been out, I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold. This is par for the course, isn’t it? The idea behind contests is this: the winner of a contest is so excited to have won something, they will immediately read your book, like it so much they tell their friends, and then those friends will tell other friends until–BAM!–your book is optioned for a movie staring Brad Pitt.

Guess what? All contests do is create one fan, and that fan may not be a fan after they’ve read your book and thought it was about puppies when it was really about killing puppies. Contests are confidence builders (“I’m a WINNER!”)…but not necessarily for the writer.

Giveaways are totally different. Giveaways (or free promotions) get your work out to the world by the hundreds or thousands. Think of all those people who downloaded your free book from amazon.com? Those 500 people are going to read your work and want more! Then they will buy the rest of your books! Then they will tell their friends! Then those friends will tell their friends! Then…

Did you catch my sarcastic tone? Giveaways do the following: they enhance your sense of potential, give you an idea of what it’s like to see your sales jump through the roof, make you swoon. But think about it: if ten percent of the 1,524 people who downloaded your free book during a promotion actually read it and aren’t of the variety that thinks filling their Kindle with books is cool…and if ten percent of those people like it…and if ten percent of those people tell a friend they read a book and liked it…and if ten percent of those friends actually go out and purchase the book after the giveaway has ended…

…you’ve gained 0.1524 fans. Congrats. I have a few of those.

Step 9: Social Network Like a Pro. See Step 7.

Step 10: Publish So Many Books You Look Like J. A. Konrath on Steroids. I’m not a fast writer. In fact, I’m slow. Castles was written over 7 years. My second novel, Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, took only 2 years. My third novel, A Difficult Mirror was started 22 years ago and finished in 2013.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll take 7 or 30 years to write the next book. In fact, my average for publication (not writing) is probably around a year for a good novel, edited, vetted, polished, done. In contrast, there are authors we’ve all heard of who write a book a month. If you have 10 of those books available, and each one sells a copy a day, you’re selling 10 copies a day or 300 a month. If you have 20 of those books, 600 copies a month. I think you can do the math for 30 books, etc.

Writing, to me, is an art form. It takes time for me to form the words right and get the story on the page the way I want it to look. That said, I pushed Sketches from the Spanish Mustang out over year in increments, like a serialized novel that’s not a serialized novel. The expectation I had was what you’d expect: have more books out and people would buy more.

What do you think this did for the sales numbers on Castles?

Step 11: Passive-aggressively Fill Your Blog Posts. I’m not. So there.

Step 12: Get Lucky. I’m not.

***

*I have never thrown a baby in the ocean. Just so you know.

How to format your book for print

Gutenberg Bible

Are you ready to go to print?

By Scott Bury

I just finished setting up my second book for print output through Createspace, and it struck me how different, and more complex, it is than publishing an e-book.

(No, it’s not a fantasy — well, not in the sense we define “fantasy” in the Guild of Dreams — so I won’t go into the book; if you’re curious, check my website or blog.)

In today’s publishing environment, writers — particularly independent authors — are responsible for formatting as well as writing.

Several decades ago, my first job post-university was with one of the big publishers (it was so long ago, there were more big publishers — they hadn’t all merged, yet). I learned a few things about these aspects that readers take for granted in print books. In the 21st-century publishing environment, I though I’d pass on a few tips to my fellow independent fantasy writers who want to make their books available in print.

The easy errors

Some of the early e-books that I read made some pretty amateurish mistakes.

  • straight quotes/inch marks instead of opposite open and closing quotation marks
  • inch marks instead of apostrophes
  • open quote ‘ instead of apostrophe ’
  • double-spacing between paragraphs, instead of indents
  • self-made, amateurish covers
  • hyphens instead of dashes, or only slightly better, two or three hyphens instead of a long dash.

Thankfully, Microsoft Word, Pages and other modern word processors automatically correct much of this. Just make sure that, in your Preferences or Options, you have turned on “curly quotes.” Use the Ruler to set up an automatic indent for the first line of a new paragraph, and also that you do NOT indent the first paragraph of a new chapter or section.

Rule of thumb: after any heading or subheading, the first paragraph is NOT indented.

Learn the difference between a hyphen, an en-dash, and an em-dash.

  • The hyphen is the shortest. Use it to join words, like north-west.
  • The en-dash is twice as long as the hyphen. Use it in numbers, like “June 3–4.” It’s usually selected with Alt-Hyphen or Option-Hyphen (on a Mac).
  • The em-dash is twice as long as the en-dash. Use it to indicate a break in your text. Select it with Shift-Alt-Hyphen, or on a Mac, Shift-Option-Hyphen.

Think about print

When I was working for one of the Big 6 publishers I learned to think about the “page spread” as opposed to just the page. When someone reads a print book, they see two pages side by side, even though they focus on a line at a time.

A page spread consists of two pages: a left, or verso page, and a right, or recto. In the West, where we read left to right, we tend to start with a right-hand page, so the left is the back, or verso, of the right-hand page.

Left hand pages have even numbers, right pages have odd numbers, because we start page 1 on the right-hand side, then turn it over.

Format your book for print

Word allows “mirroring margins,” so that you have opposite left and right margins, and a different setting for the “gutter.”

Depending on whom you talk to, the outside margin — left on the verso (left) page, right on the recto — should be either wider or narrower than when laying out pages that are to be printed on one side only (the recto — think about your high-school reports).

Createspace asks for a wider gutter — right margin on the left page, opposite on the other side — because of the perfect binding — the flat, glued spine of the book. With a thick, perfect-bound book, text too close to the spine is harder to read. Createspace offers a Word template that has a suggested width for left, right and gutter margins.

Headers and footers

With opposite pages, you can have opposite formats for headers and footers.

The first thing to realize here is that the first page of every document and every chapter has a different format. In Word, choose “Different first page” from the Layout menu. In Apple’s Pages, select Setup–Section–“Hide (Headers and footers) on first page of section.”

The second thing to remember is that left and right pages necessarily have opposite treatments of page numbering.

Traditionally, when it comes to fiction, publishers have not done much about this. Looking at some old books I have, I notice that typically, the verso page has the author’s name, while the recto bears the title of the book. Page numbers are centred on the bottom, or the footer.

Personally, I think it’s much better to have the page number (folio, in publishing jargon) on the outside corner — that is, on the far left of the header or footer of the left-hand/verso page, and on the far right of the recto.

Sometimes for very long books or anthologies, the header has the page number on the outside corner (left side for left page, right side for right page — this makes it easier to find the page you want); one header may have the name of the author of that chapter, while the other page has the title of the whole anthology, or sometimes the theme of the current section.

For example, my 1999 edition of The Lord of the Rings, three-volume set has the book title (eg. The Fellowship of the Ring) on the left/verso, and the chapter title, eg. “A Short Cut to Mushrooms,” on the right/recto. The page numbers are on the outside corners of the header, and the footers are blank.

The textbooks that I worked on had a much more complex treatment. Headers or footers would show the part and chapter titles, along with the page number, in the outside corner.

It’s important to put the folio in the outside corner. Think about how you use a book. Pick up a print book, the one closest to you right now. Turn to page 96. How do you do that? You hold the book’s spine in one hand, and use the opposite thumb to flip through the pages. How much more difficult it will be to find page 96 if the folio were in the gutter, instead of on the outside?

How to accomplish this

In Word or Pages, you can put a different header/footer by:

selecting “different first page” from the Header and Footer or Page Layout menu

inserting a Section Break for each chapter and deselecting the “Continue from previous” button in the Header/Footer menu.

This gives you four areas to put four different kinds of information:

  • book title
  • part title
  • chapter title
  • author.

When I was writing my first novel, I sent a preliminary draft to a beta reader who had pretensions to being a publisher. I thought I would send something that would imitate a professionally printed book, as far as possible with the technology and my experience at the time, so I did those very things:

  • set up facing pages
  • put the folios (page numbers) on the outside corners
  • put the name of the series of the book (The Dark Age) on the left (verso) footer
  • put the name of the book (The Bones of the Earth) on the recto footer
  • put the part title (Part 1, Initiation Rites; Part 2: Tests; Part 3: The Mission) on the left header
  • put the chapter title in the right header.

The beta reader went ballistic on this. “What are you doing! A publisher just wants to see the page numbers in the header or the footer. This is way too fancy.” But why? It’s information that adds to the experience for the reader. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look — in fact, when we read a book, this fades into the background.

While Word makes this pretty straightforward, Apple’s Pages word processing program has no facing pages option, so this is very frustrating.

In the interest of professionalism…

… think about these things. You don’t have to have such complex layout, but if you start to take advantage of the options that today’s word processing programs give you, you can add value for your readers. And all this helps to bolster the professional image of you, the independent author, and all us independent authors in general.

Scott Bury is a journalist, editor and writer living in Ottawa. His articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Picture of Scott Bury
Read more of Scott’s writing at Written Wordsand Scott’s Travel Blog, and on his website, The Written Word. Follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

5 Ways to Edit (and when to use them)

by Autumn Birt

You finished your novel and you know the next step is to edit, right? I mean, everyone keeps saying to edit. But what does that mean? You read through it a couple of times, run spell check and any fancy apps you might have to check for comnas and such. Then hit publish, right?

No, NO, NO!!

This is a mistake that over half of all first time Indie authors make. And it has given us ALL a bad rap for poorly edited novels. I’d like to think the stereotype is changing… but I’m so wrapped up in writing and editing that I might be missing the complaints.

Editing is a skill, just like writing. But if you haven’t recently taken a writing class that focused on editing, you might not know where to start. I didn’t. It took research, listening to other author’s on how to edit, and then practicing A LOT to figure out some steps that work for me. I had to break the process down into a strategy with a purpose.

So, this post is for all those other first timers, as well as anyone else, struggling with what editing means beyond a few read throughs.

1. Overall flow, missed plot lines, and content edit.
Editing - when a writer gets their hands dirty!

Editing – when a writer gets their hands dirty!

This is the first read through after you finish that first draft. Some people like to put their work away and let it rest a bit. Not me. I’ve just finished writing the ending, it is fresh in my mind. I’m dying to know if what I just wrote is crap. I flip (scroll) back to page 1 and start reading. But that isn’t all I’m doing.

For this edit, I keep notes on Chapter number (I’ve missed numbers before, especially if things get moved around), POV of chapter (my novels usually have a few POVs), new names (so I can keep the spelling consistent), notes on the main plot lines and events in the chapters (just a few sentences), and finally, what needs work. This last part is where I write things like ‘polish,’ ‘needs tension,’ ‘good,’ and ‘REWRITE!!!’ In one case the note reads: “When did you write this??? It doesn’t even have a chapter number!!” Yeah, problems like THAT.

As I mentioned, I do this right after I finish writing. I know what plot lines made it to the end. Now I can double check they were there in the beginning. And find any ideas that I dropped before reaching the last page (without a resolution).

By the time I’d done with this stage, I have a solid book outline with lots of notes and know where things are weak or disappeared. I usually fix easy spelling mistakes and such, but that isn’t the point of this edit. If I find I used the word ‘picaro’ three times in a paragraph, I just highlight it and move on. This isn’t the editing round to deal with word choice. After all, I may be deleting the sentence/paragraph/chapter where there are problems. I’m just not sure yet.

2. Rewrite, Reorganize

This is the point when I take those notes and head back to the problems. Chapters might need to be moved to make the tension and pacing flow better. Chapters might need to be added! POV might need to be switched. Sections of lost plot lines need to be added: sometimes sentences, sometimes scenes.. And those chapters where I marked ‘rewrite,’ well they need to be dealt with. In the end, the writing that remains is what I’m planning on keeping. Cleaning up the whole novel to what, I hope, is the finished organization is the point of this round.

3. Spelling, grammar, and rough edges

Now that I know the sentences in the novel are the ones I’m hoping to keep, its time to clean them up. Run spell check, read it all again, add commas. Does every sentence end with some sort of punctuation (mostly periods). All the dialogue has quotation marks? No extra spaces in front of paragraph beginnings, right? No weird paragraph breaks in the middle of a sentence? I’m assuming you know what a formatted novel should look like. If not, there is a slew of help out there. Make it look pretty and make it technically sound.

4. Word choice

Word ChoiceNo, you’re not done. Now you should read through the whole thing again out of order and preferably backwards (most author’s say they are sick of their novel by the time they are done with edits. I’ve never reached that point, but I am usually VERY much ready to move on to a new project by the time editing is done. Keep this in mind as a standard. If you aren’t sick of it, keep going.).

Seriously. This is not a read through. This is not to check for dropped plot lines or incomplete action. You should have caught that all by now. This is an edit to look for those mistakes you’ve breezed over without even seeing it. But you have to fool your mind into SEEING them. I’ve heard people advocate changing the font size to something larger or reading aloud. Use whatever tactic you must, but you want to NOT be reading your novel and getting caught up in all that clever writing. You want to see what you actually wrote.

My tactic is to start at the end and read backwards paragraph by paragraph. It is amazing how many flaws are there that I’ve never noticed before. Misspellings, words reused too many times, words that could simply be more outstanding or gripping. They jump out at with this method. Fix them. And yes, I do occasionally find that someone makes an exit without my having written that they walked off screen. It is amazing what you, the author, think is there but that you never clued anyone in on.

5. Send your manuscript to a professional editor

Seriously. You think you got them all. Hah!

My only note here is that expense does not always equal quality, nor does cheapness necessarily equate with poor quality. Look around, shop around, get samples. If they won’t edit a few pages for you for free as a demo, don’t use them. If you don’t have much money, check the Goodreads forum. Search Twitter and Facebook using #editor or #editing. Don’t just google ‘book editors!’

Once you get your novel back, read through the editor’s suggestions. Make more corrections. After that… well, you are on your own. Beta readers are great. Maybe you should let it sit a bit, read again, and then make a few more corrections. Maybe you are ready to publish. Don’t forget final formatting based on the site where you publish!

I do highly recommend sitting back at this point and enjoying the realization that you just wrote a novel. And its awesome. 🙂

__

Do you want to help make Spirit of Life, book 3 in my epic fantasy series, happen? I’m running a Pubslush campaign and would love your support. What, you’ve never heard of Pubslush?! Follow the link and check it, and my campaign, out. I’d love to hear what you think!

– Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy series on elemental magic, the Rise of the Fifth Order. She just survived the editing process outlined above for the final book in the series, Spirit of Life. Expect to see it this spring! And now… she is VERY happily moving on to another WIP. 🙂

Independent authors are making progress

By Scott Bury

‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore’, Moonbot Studios, William Joyce, Brandon Oldenburg, made available to Europeana through Ars Electronica and Kulturpool, CC BY-NC-ND

I don’t know what, specifically, is going on, but my admittedly very slow sales have picked up since mid-January.

My sales numbers are still far from huge, but I’m not complaining. I’m seeing daily sales numbers for The Bones of the Earth, Initiation Rites (which is Part 1 of The Bones of the Earth), and even my short story, Dark Clouds, rise almost each day. Most of this is happening in the UK, but sales are up strongly in the US, too.

Naturally, I’m happy. I might attribute it to the general improvement in the economy, six long years after the “financial crisis.” Maybe it’s Obama’s doing. Or maybe a post-Olympic high.

Seriously, though, I am sensing a surge in mainstream acceptance of the independent author and e-books.

Yes, e-books are mainstream. And independent, self-publishing authors are mainstream, too. The commercial publishing industry just hasn’t figured it out, yet.

I may feel chuffed by a relative, if absolutely tiny, increase in sales over the past six weeks. But then I see something like independent publishing machine, Russell Blake’s

Writing machine Russell Blake

post on Facebook, and I get depressed.

Wow. Just doing the accounting for January and February. Looks like a milestone. 500K books sold! Woohoo! How the hell did that happen?

How indeed?

Russell’s not the only one. Toby Neal, independent author of thrillers, published candid numbers on her blog. She invested $12,000 in the editing, design, production and marketing of her first book, Blood Orchids, and netted over $100,000 over the last three or four years.

Now, thrillers are the second-biggest selling genre, after romance, and far ahead of fantasy in the overall book sales picture. But paranormal author Jami Gold pulled together some analysis by other authors and found that writers who treat publishing as a business and keep putting out good product are more likely to make a living at it. More than half of authors who have written more than 12 books are making over $50,000 a year or more, she found.

Probably the best-selling self-published novelist of all, Hugh Howey, author of Wool, has stirred up a lot of dust by publishing an analysis of sales numbers posted by Amazon and major publishers. When it comes to genre fiction, e-books account for 86 percent of books sold, and independent authors outsell the Big 5 commercial publishers combined.

Writing is an art, but publishing is a business

As I mentioned in my December post on this blog, we independent authors of genre fiction need to approach publishing as a business. And since we individually don’t have the depth of pocket to compete with the Big 5 in marketing, we need to find other ways to reach audiences.

We need to work together in a coordinated way to raise our profiles and promote books. Together, we can provide all the functions and intelligence that a commercial enterprise can bring to bear.

I recommend to anyone who wants to know how to reach a wider audience to read Martin Crosbie’s excellent book, How I Sold 30,000 EBooks on Amazon’s Kindle — An Easy-to-follow self-publishing guidebook. It’s exactly what it promises: a step-by-step guide on establishing relationships with authors and audiences, building goodwill and promoting your book. He also spells out in detail how to use Kindle Select, free promotions and discounts to boost sales, and on what techniques work and what don’t.

Maybe we should prevail on Russell Blake to detail “How I sold half a million books in two months.”

How do we reach wider audiences? The answer is obvious: treat selling your books like a business. Have a strategy that involves cooperating with other independent writers. Cross-promotion, group sales events, using social media effectively.

So what do you say, fellow authors? Who is ready to spend their promotional time more effectively by coming together and working strategically

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Scott Bury is author of Initiation Rites, The Bones of the Earth, Dark Clouds and One Shade of Red.

The Modern Writer: Pace

Continuing with the theme of the Modern Writer, today I wanted to touch on Pace.

With the advent of all of the modern technology that I’ve talked about in previous posts, and the explosion of self-publishing websites and services, the pace of writing has increased by a massive factor. But how fast is too fast, and how slow is too slow?

I know that every writer is different and that stories will come out when they come out, but at some point there’s the risk of losing readers if you’re too slow, or risking a non-quality product if you rush them out too fast.

For some authors, there isn’t really a pace that needs to be maintained. Whenever a new Honor Harrington novel comes out from David Weber, I’ll go buy it; millions are waiting for the next George RR Martin A Song of Ice and Fire novel (though we may be waiting a while yet on that one if history is any indicator). These authors have gathered such a reputation for their work that it doesn’t matter how long it takes for the next book: people will buy it in droves.

But on the flip side there are authors whose books I enjoyed and would have gladly continued reading, but they took too long to release the next one. I got distracted and never returned to the series.

Personally, I’ve been shooting for 1 book per year and I feel that if you aren’t a pop sensation or an author with a rock solid fan base, this might be a good pace to maintain. I’ve been a bit behind because of a variety of factors over the last 12 months, but I’m getting back on track. But what do you think? Is there a pace that you think that there is a pace that the average reader will accept? If you’re an author, what is your writing goal?