Q & A

Question #3

We had a great question from Shelby a while ago that I didn't really know the answer to so I've done some research. Please take note, this is just what I've researched so it's a good idea to make double checks before you make any final decisions.

 Shelby asked:  "Do you know anything about self-publishing and if its safer to do (you know, so you can get all the credit), if its expensive, etc. because I would much rather do self publishing when I get older."

So keeping that previous rant of mine in mind, here's part of a goldmine article:

1. Self-publishing is easy.
Here's how it works. You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.

After you officially publish your book, you can make changes to your cover and interior text by submitting new PDFs, though your book will go offline ("out of stock") for a week or two. BookSurge/CreateSpace charges $50 for uploading a new cover and $50 for a new interior.
(Lulu offers very good, detailed instructions for the DIY crowd, doesn't require any upfront fees, and is very popular as a result. Ironically, I used Lulu's how-to content to put my book together for BookSurge, which had very poor instructions for DIYers. Interesting stat: Lulu claims to publish an average of 4,000 books a week. Oddly, the company didn't offer the size of the book I wanted to create (5.25 x 8 inches--the standard size for trade paperback novels; Lulu only offers 6 x 9, which is too big).)

2. Quality has improved.
I can't speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of Booksurge's books seem quite solid. You can't do a fancy matte cover (yet), but the books look and feel like "real" books. The only giveaway that you're dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed--which, unfortunately, is too often the case.

3. Some of the more successful self-published books are about self-publishing.
I don't know what this says about the industry, but it's probably not a good thing. I didn't read any books because I was busy scouring the Internet, but there are a few that appear to have some useful information. However, take everything with a grain of salt because things change quickly in self-publishing and analysis of the industry tends to attract a lot of qualifying statements. As Mark Levine notes in a "sample" review of his The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, "Will BookPros provide a service that is $20,000 better than anyone else in this book? If your book takes off, then yes. However, if your book isn't very successful, you may not think so." In another noteworthy book, Stacie Vander Pol takes a stab at ranking top performing POD self-publishing companies based on sales performance. I'd like to see this stuff on a free website rather than a book. But that's just me.
Note: April Hamilton, the author of IndieAuthor Guide, is offering a free HTML download of her book to readers of this column. I don't agree with all her points, but her guide has a lot of useful information, particularly for DIYers.

4. Good self-published books are few and far between.
Because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every once in a while, you'll hear about someone hitting it big.

5. The odds are against you.
The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies--or 2/3 to 3/4 of your friends and family combined (and don't count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying). I don't have a source for this statistic, but I've seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled "Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks" noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.

6. Creating a "professional" book is really hard.
Barrier to entry may be low, but creating a book that looks professional and is indistinguishable from a book published by a "real" publishing house is very difficult and requires a minimum investment of a few thousand dollars (when all was said and done, I'd put in around $7500, which included about $2,500 in marketing costs). You wonder why "real" books take 9 months to produce--and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It's hard to get everything just right (if you're a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy). And once you've finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better.

7. Have a clear goal for your book.
This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity's sake (so your friends and family can read it for all eternity), you won't have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that's quite acceptable. Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky.

8. Even if it's great, there's a good chance your book won't sell.
If your book is really mediocre, don't expect it to take off. But even if it's a masterpiece, there's a good chance it won't fly off the shelves (and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don't make it into brick and mortar stores). In other words, quality isn't a guarantee of success. You'll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a "hit" that brings in some real income. Don't quit your day job yet.

These are just 8 of 25 tips this guy gave on self publishing. The website for the rest of them are here. I think that in general this is a good place to start. Second I'd suggest you find a good book website, or go to kindle's website and see what you can find. There's some ladies on my Jane Austen website (that I love) who have talked about publishing with kindle. I'd check that out.
Hope this was helpful!

-Stoss Cue
(This is also going to posted in the Q&A page, so you can go back to it for an easier reference.)

Question # 2
      So, how should I start writing a book? Should I just start writing, or do I need to write something else before I start on the actual book? Thanks!

      This is a tough question and this is coming from someone who has tried a bunch of different things, with very mixed results.
      For many years I just started the book and chugged along, I didn't have a plan and I didn't no what was happening next. While this was fun (at first) soon I hit points where I had written myself into a corner. So I took some advice that I got from some friends on a writing website:
1st: Write an outline.
       Learn what is happening in your book. It is yours and you get to know everything! It's not like when you're reading a book and guessing a head at how the plot ends, this is where you decide what happens.
2nd: Write little character maps of your characters.
       This is something that my Grandfather suggested to me. Get to know your characters, write little stories about them that shows how they individually act. This can be a fun writing exercise, and it can give you some interesting background stories to refer to in your actual book.
       Ask yourself questions like "Are they easily frightened?", "Are they gruff and crude?", "Are they scared of clowns?". Really anything. It's the little details that separate the characters from each other. Build up some basic questions. Mine looks like this:

     Stoss Cue
     Profession: Apprentice, then 5th Muse.
     Personality: Happy! Cheerful and bright, he is studious, talented and infuriatingly stubborn. He gives good advice and is fiercely loyal.  Is an orphan, raised in a city orphanage until he passed the talent spot. He was apprenticed by Famen, and they hate each other.
      Affiliations: Good friend to Amrise and later to K'mar as well. Picked on by his mentor Famen. He leaves the council (betrays it actually) and is punished by Machi who gives him the plague.
      Physical Appearance: He is an elf. Blond hair that he wears short and spiked, proudly showing his ears. He has green eyes, slender figure. 6 ft. Age 18.
      You don't have to do it this way, this is just an example, but it's something that I can go back and refer to if I have a questions about how a character should behave.
      Learn what your book is about, and learn who your characters are. Then get going! Give your book a place to go and it will go where you lead, but that only works well if you know the road maps.
- Stoss Cue

Question #1
So, I finished my book. I'm really serious about getting it published, and was wondering. How do I start to get it published. Who do I contact, or is there something else?

Hey Bree!

Congratualations! Finishing a story is a big first step! Getting all the way takes some serious dedication and commitment way to go!
First we'd like to suggest that you have family and friends read your story. Get all of the feed back that you can get. Have a list of questions ready to give them like
      Was I clear when I introduced this character?
      Did I clearly explain a certain plot line?
Also give them a chance to ask you their own questions. Almost all of the time they will see something that you missed.
      When you feel like it's time to send to the publisher I'd advise you get the book "Writer's and Illustrators Guide to Children's Book Publishers and Agents" by Ellen R. Shapiro. This book has tips on how to contact editors, how send your stuff to the publishers in such a way as to get it read and how to pick your publisher.
      It also has lists of publishers and the different genre's that they cover as well as the things that they look for in the books that they publish.
      Finally send your book to as many publishers as you can. This really encreases your chances of someone picking your book.

Good luck!

- Stoss Cue & Owner's Don't Knock