Monday, March 17, 2014

Publishing Your Own Novel - Part One - The Basics

Now Playing -  Creepin' Up The Back Stairs by The Fratellis
Life -  
 Over the past few weeks I've had an unusual number of people ask me about resources for publishing their own work and I figured rather than cutting and pasting the response to everyone, I'd make a blog I could send people to.

Obviously, this is far from complete and I'm not going into extreme depth on most things in this blog, maybe later ones. This is just a list of essential steps for getting your creation into people's hands.

Step One

Write something. This is the obvious one and we'll assume you've written a novel, done a few drafts and figured it's ready to go. It's also important to note that this something should be written in a decent editing program. The more familiar you are with it and it's functions the easier and more professional everything will be. Word is great. OpenOffice also works. (And is Free )

Go back over it. Unfortunately, most aspiring authors can't afford professional editing or proofreading. If you know someone that can do it effectively, or is willing to do it on the cheap, cherish that person and never let them go. This is the first place we will spend real money on if we are ever making any of said money.

For any said novel, we typically write 2-3 drafts, do a thorough edit and proofread, then pass it off to the other person who does the same. Then we print it and do the same thing in paper form. And still miss things. Rules, odd spelling things, Simple mess-ups... Linz is especially bad with homonyms. There's nothing worse than publishing a book with english errors or spelling mistakes, but there's also only so much you can do without hiring a pro. Which will cost you. Hundreds, most likely.

On the bright side, most readers of your work will be aware that your book isn't from a major publisher and unless it's a particularly egregious error, are willing to cut you some slack. But do the best you can. In addition to the usual functions like spellcheck and grammar, we use a program called ProWritingAid. It's an online site that allows you to paste a block of text and it analyzes it a few dozen different ways. Overused words, phrases, spelling,  weird rules. It's really nice. You can also pay for it to be used as a widget in Word itself, which is really convenient and quite useful.

Step Two

Decide how you want people to read your book and where. The two major choices are physical books and as an eBook. (Naturally, you can post it online as a blog and what have you.... ) We like our novels to be available as both physical paperback novels and ebooks, but be warned, the physical copy is a LOT more work than making an ebook. For the purposes of this blog, We'll concentrate on making an ebook. Maybe I'll do a follow up on paperbacks. However, if you are interested, we use CreateSpace to make ours. It's run by Amazon, has full integration with them and most of their steps are really easy to follow. They run a print on demand service and you can order books yourself at cost.

As for where people can find your book, that's trickier. Realistically, the best way to reach the most people is to have your book on as many sites as humanly possible. That means publishing your book on, Barnes & Noble as well as sites like the Kobo store, Apple, etc.

However - Each of those stores require different formatting of the manuscript, separate accounts, different hoops and rings of fire to navigate. They even care about how you tab your manuscript and how many fonts you use.  You can publish on all of them and more however. It's just a lot of work.

There's another catch too., the obvious big daddy leader in eBooks thanks to the Kindle has a program with perks available to the author that chooses to e-pub exclusively through them. They let you run promotions, give away free books, discount books to people that own the physical copy, swell stuff like that.

We've tried it both ways and right now, we find that we get better exposure and results from being exclusive to Amazon than we did being on all of the sites. That may change as our bibliography expands and we can build a base of readers outside of the kindle, but for now we publish exclusively there. For those wondering, you can read Amazon books on other devices, it just takes a number of extra steps. I made a tutorial about it HERE. (Which is older and may be out of date.) I own a nook, and I can understand wanting to be on more than just Amazon. I'll get into the other sites at a later date. (Probably)

Step Three

Okay, so we are going to publish an eBook on, and not worry about the other sites and options. The first step is to go to and log in. You can use your sign in or create a new one for your publishing empire. KDP is the world of tools for the aspiring self-pubbed author. Not only does it get you the best exposure, the site is well laid out and walks you through things simply and intelligently (For the most part) I'll make another post later on the exact steps of publishing on KDP, but in all honesty, you probably don't need it. Just click on the yellow button labeled "Add new title" and start making a book!

If I were you, however, I would click on the Help button on the top of the page. When there, Click on, download and print the entire guide titled "Building Your Book For Kindle" not only will this walk you through each of the steps, it explains the trickier stuff, like spacing, tabs and tables of contents in a way that anyone can do it. It's a very nice guide that I still refer back to every time.

That alone should be enough to get your book into someone's digital reader. Not impossible, but it also looks misleadingly simple. There's a lot of little tricks and slang the process uses that can trip you up. Just remember to take your time and read the guides and help sections if you're stuck.

A Couple of Notes:

I would be terribly remiss if I didn't add a few things here that I think are incredibly important.

READ OTHER BOOKS. Lots of them. Pay attention to how they lay things out, the way the page looks. What the front pages look like before the story starts. Especially books in the same genre as your work.

HAVE A GOOD COVER. As an artist, I concentrate on this a lot more than other people, I'm sure, but it is vital. With the tremendous amount of ebooks available, you MUST have some way to stand out before anyone ever gets around to reading your plot synopsis. Sending people to buy your book is all well and good, but if you can't get Average Joe to buy it, you'll never become successful. If you aren't artistic at all, you can still make a decent cover. Pay attention to color and font. Look at lots of covers. Browse Amazon's listings for similar books and see what they do on theirs that makes them successful. Remember that the first time your cover is seen it's less than an inch tall. That's important to note - some covers become a jumble of ugly at thumbnail size.

If at all possible, don't go the generic "Colored background with white words" route. They scream amateur. I read over 200 books a year usually, about half are self pubbed or independent and I have never bought one with a cover like that.

At the same time, neveruse an image you found online unless you bought it for your use. Anything on the internet, whether it says so or not, is protected by copyright. There are some sites that offer images for use, but be sure to check and make sure it's okay to use for commercial matters. Some sites look like they have free images, but it's only if they're used for editorial or non-profit reasons. If all else fails, take a picture and add your title to your own photograph. That's relatively easy with free programs like PhotoScape.

Another option is to hire someone to create a cover for you. We do that on our site Octopress Books where we make custom covers and have started selling template covers that we can add your title and name to a pre-made design for a lower price than our fully custom covers. NOTE: I didn't write this blog to plug our cover services, but I couldn't write this and not mention it, could I? :)

Believe in what you write.

Both before and after publishing your novel, you have to love what you write and what you are doing. People online can be cruel or mindless and that can result in some harsh criticism. My suggestion is to ignore reviews completely if possible. Or have a trusted friend read them and forward ones that are positive, uplifting or genuinely useful. Don't ever let the haters stop you from writing and loving the process and result. Most authors hate their first works. But you have to keep writing and improving.  

(This post is being cross-posted to our other blogs, so I apologize if it's redundant to my readers that follow all of them.)


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The night shift is winding down...

Challenges. I love them. But sometimes? I just want to say forget it and walk away. For years now, literally years, I have been working on the same book. Inspired by my time working the overnight shift at a drug store, I started writing a zombie novel that encompasses one single night on the graveyard shift on the night the infection really takes hold in the town of Missoula Montana. There's no huge sweeping military assaults or convenient ammo stashes in the pharmacy, just normal, screwed up people trying to survive. One thing I did do that seemed ambitious was make the choice to write it James Patterson style, with short, 500-700 word chapters, usually switching characters for each.

I have still not finished this book. I'm closer, finally. I have all but the last few chapters completed and I've started in on the third and mostly final draft of revisions for the first third of the novel. I dig it. It's a fun little horror novel and I cannot wait to finish it up, but it's frustrating to think of how long it took to get this close to finishing a 100,000 word book.

I'm just a slow typist and time has become exceedingly rare for me lately, to say nothing of my other novels in progress.... four at last count. So sometimes I just want to quit and console myself with the idea that there's lots of other great books out there to read. But I have so many ideas. They fill my brain and threaten to destroy me if they aren't released unto the world.

And finally having a cover to attach to the book helps. It's a real doozy from Deeply Dapper and I love it. It, more than anything motivates me to finally finish this damned book.

Walk Write!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Progress Report

Well, it's taken a while but I'm finally back on track with my writing. Sad to say it, but, while life is still doing its darndest to derail things it was actually Neal himself that did it this time. For the last few years, I've stored my writing on an SD memory card with the words "current novels" scrawled on the front in marker. Not the most high-tech method of safekeeping, I know. I still occasionally emailed myself backup copies or saved it on whichever random computer I happened to be on, but for the most part it was that one little slip of blue plastic that held all of my work.

Man was that stupid. Obviously, as it was bound to happen, that card got... lets say misplaced rather than lost. It sounds nicer. I fond a few other version of GRAVES, the zombie book I'm trying to finish up but they were all woefully out of date. Like six thousand words out of date.

After much scavenging and a bit of cussing as well, it finally resurfaced a few weeks later and all was right with the world. And yeah... I went right back to saving it exclusively on the card again. Stupid me. 

Then something miraculous happened. My wife broke and let me buy something I've been wanting for a while - a wi-fi enabled hard drive. Seagate had a 2T version on sale at Staples for a decent price and we went for it. Initially, the plan was to make it easier for us to watch our downloaded movies on any computer, which works like a dream, by the way. We even found a channel on the Roku that allows us to watch movies and TV shows through the TV. (If they're the right format) I love it.

And I finally started saving my novels in a location that I can't drop in a cup of coffee or lose under a piece of paper. Now obviously, I need to have a backup location as well - I have Dropbox and Apple Cloud accounts I never use, but for now being able to access and write from any spot in the house and have it all saved to a central location is EXCELLENT.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reviews - A New Way Of Looking At Things

The totally awesome Blythe Woolston posted an interesting blog the other day about reviews. Unlike  other authors, who recommend NOT reading reviews, she uses them to fuel her writing and make her a better author. It seems like there's about a 60/40 split on that logic, from what I've seen. I don't have that many reviews right now... In fact Mr. Pale has gotten a grand total of one so far, but her idea is something I'm totally going to use eventually.

In an attempt to create a subjective picture of the reviews for her novels, she takes the reviews, clumps 'em together and creates a Wordle of them. What's a wordle? That image above. The program takes your text and assigns a size based on frequency of use, then assembles it in an eye catching little bubble like that. I dig it. It's actually a semi-useful tool for writing to spot over-used words but it's also just a great way to waste time playing with colors and layout.

The great thing about doing this with reviews is that it gives you a picture of what words are used without the context, allowing you to focus subjectively on the overall impression of the reviews. No personalizing with the reviewer or anything like that. Very interesting idea.


Just after writing this, I noticed that I'd actually gotten a second review of my book on Amazon, which is great. Amusingly, my reviews have both been quick two or three sentence things. Mr. Pale would approve of the brevity.  So I made a Wordle.

My book is GOOD READ. 'Nuff Said! hahaha

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thoughts on the reading of books now.

Against all of my instincts, I'm becoming converted, almost against my knowing to the digital eBook cult. This is kind of maddening to me; because I thought the idea of eBooks was intriguing, but also a little bit stupid. How could anyone ever possibly choose a plastic hunk over a rich, textured, beautiful hardcover book?

Then we moved to Maine. This was planned to be a brief trip, not more than five years until we either set up a permanent residence or moved on to something better. So my entire library of books and comics and everything else I'd surrounded myself with was left behind in Idaho. I brought a few select titles, A couple Lawrence Watt-Evans, a Marshal Karp, Douglas Adams, Stuff that I loved to read over and over, but there was a snag. The other source of my books (The roughly 200 a year I read) had to come from library borrowing.

Turns out that libraries in small town Maine are kind of few and far between and have erratic collections and hours, mostly falling right between my times at work. My wife decided my best solution was to get an E-Reader. After a bit of research, I went with the original nook reader, primarily because is used the epub file format rather than the format and programs that the Kindle went with. I also like the layout of the reader better than the Kindle.

It took some getting used to but I eventually fell in love with books again and got quite used to the experience of reading on the device. There was also something seductive about the idea of making a few clicks and having a new title ready to read. Hey Presto!

I built up my library quickly, mostly through cheap collections and promotions and trading files with online friends, much like swapping paperbacks. Every now and then, I'd be browsing through my collection and feel a pang of desire to see the real covers, judge a book by them and the heft of the paper, whether I wanted to read it based off of the blurb on the back, but overall I was pretty happy.

Since then, my digital reader zoo has been enlarged. The old original nook, its bezel cracked and chipped after hundreds of books was set aside, replaced by a pocket edition Sony reader and books side loaded on my iPod touch. I also started listening to a lot of books on tape on my long commutes. Then I picked up the newest nook, the Glow edition. Man, I love that little thing. Lightweight, intuitive, quick, and I use the glow feature all of the time. I used to use the iPod for in bed reading but adjusting the super bright light was a bit of a pain and I hated the strain my eyes felt but the new nook allowed me to pretty much wander the darkened hall of my house as I prepared for bed, reading and winding down after a long day. I even use it as I wander the block-long driveway to get the mail.

I was the kid growing up that walked into street signs because he was reading constantly and I was back again.

Recently, my wife laid a bit of an ultimatum down on me – Go through the books on our slowly growing and overflowing bookshelf. For, although I've been good, I cannot fully resist books. They're drawn to me – Old pulp novels in back corners of antique shops, book drop off bins in grocery stores, yard sales, co-workers and friends unloading their old books on me. I take everything.

The problem is that I don't read everything. Despite my moaning about my missing library, I let the collection of books build, mostly unread. But now, change is on the wind. We are planning a move back to the West in about a year and things have to be thinned. So before another book may be bought, these orphan books must be read. If they find a permanent home with us, great. If not, they have to go, but I have to read every one first.

My nook has sat in its case for a week now, almost two. Its last screen the last page in a Robert B. Parker novel while I read through odd paperback editions of “Romance Thrillers” and gothic suspense and westerns from the forties. Some are quite good, some are Nora Roberts. I adore the texture of the paper and the simple joy of holding my place with a finger. I still love REAL BOOKS.

Then I'll go to bed and realize to read my book without waking the wife, I'll need to dig out the fiddly book light, or I'll try to hold the book in some awkward way that I'd usually find quite simple with the nook and be scuttled. I'm really surprised how the natural movements I've developed with the reader are at odds with a paperback.

My solution? I have no idea. The simple fact is that I'm happier when I'm in a room filled with books. If I visit someone and I don't see at least a few novels strewn about, my respect for them drops a notch or two, whether I mean it or not. I think a happy balance would be keeping the rare stuff, the old pulps and the nice hardbacks that I love, maybe enough for a two story library and keep the rest on my reader. That oughtta work.

How about you? Have you converted to digital exclusively? Is it from convenience or do you actually like the way of reading better?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mr. Pale Finally Steps Out!
Today, my post apocalyptic alternate history noir crime pulp NoirVella is available on!
Buy it for less than three bones HERE!
Paperback coming soon. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Finally finished Mr. Pale... a year behind schedule. Now to double check things and schedule a release date!!!