Self-Publishing 2

14 01 2020

Blood sugar restored and after some sleep I’m feeling less whiny. Why was I obsessing about format and covers when I won’t see the format after it is published and I don’t pay much attention to covers?

I do have to see the format while checking the conversion process and will probably check it again when published, but if I need to read my work I’ll do it in my manuscript version and can format that to whatever I want.

Covers are still a dilemma, I’m still quibbling about them because I can’t quite get my head around why it is better to have something that looks just like all the competition out there. But as I don’t pay that much attention to covers (because I can’t really see any detail on thumbnails) is that really a problem?

I have found three istock photos that I like for the covers of ‘Persistence Pays’ and ‘A Scary Package’. I think they are all of the same couple. The hair colour isn’t quite right but the skin tones are. I was going to use the same photo for both stories as they are about the same couple, but now I’m tempted to use two photos. Only that doubles the cost…

There is a cute cartoon one that might be free, only my definition of free is obviously wrong when applied to cover images. I mean ‘no cost to me’ and the sites seem to mean ‘no further cost after you’ve paid for using it’. The cartoon would fit with the stories, but not with the other mm romance covers.

Really over-thinking this for 99p short stories.

I was very brave and created my KDP account despite my abject panic on finding out that my old ITIN had ‘expired’ on 31st Jan 2019 before I started. There was a single mention on the US Tax site about it still being valid if a third party was using it and if I wasn’t filing a US tax return. That was buried in a lot of info on making sure you renew and hurry up about it. KDP had no problem with my old ITIN and even the dreaded two stage validation thing before I got that far worked.

As covers were on my mind I decided to see what the free KDP cover creator offered. Not a lot as it turns out because I can’t see the detail on the photos. I found a hand-holding one but suspect it is a man and woman – one hairy arm, one not so hairy – it doesn’t look too bad to me, but could well give the wrong message to anyone with good eyesight.

At least I did get both stories uploaded and ready for publishing – once I stop dithering about the covers.

Of course that did raise another question. KDP does a spell-check while processing the manuscript and I got big green ticks for no spelling mistakes on either. Yay! But both stories are US spelling and grammar, so would I still get a green tick if I converted them back to UK spelling and grammar?

The standard advice is to use US English for all books because US readers can’t cope with UK English, but because UK readers have been exposed to so much US English that they can accept it. Hmm.  I’m still not convinced that US readers as a group are that much less intelligent than UK readers.

And there’s a decision for another day. All the old manuscripts I am planning to put up on KDP are already in US English so will stay that way; although I might try rewording sentences that have the shudder-inducing ‘gotten’ in them. Maybe I can build a list of alternative phrases…

Self-Publishing 1

12 01 2020

There are so many questions to answer before I can self-pub anything. And every time I get an answer it generates more questions!

So I have made some tentative decisions about what, where and when – subject to some more answers…

I’ve listed the previously published work – about 20 items between 2009 and 2014. I’ve put them into order to re-publish. After studying the list I decided to move some of the short stories to my Free Fiction page instead. I’ve combined a few related stories and decided not to do anything with a couple more. All of which leaves me with 12 almost ready-to-go manuscripts.

Two short stories are ready after a read through and a few minor changes – a few words changed or moved around in the sentence. I decided to format them for publishing following the Smashwords guidelines which are recommended in other ‘how to’ books.

‘Now’ abruptly collides with ten years ago. Now fiction e-books should be formatted with indented paragraphs and no space between paragraphs; only non-fiction should be done in block paragraphs with a space between. Duh? Readers prefer this. Double duh?

I’m a reader. Maybe even a Reader with a capital R. I like blank lines between paragraphs. I don’t like indents. For me that is easier to read.

Ten years ago print books were formatted indent/no space and e-books were block/space because that was easier to read on screen. All my previously published stuff is block/space. My works in progress are block/space. I picked my original publisher because they wanted manuscripts formatted in my default style…

I did format my print version on Lulu as indent/no space as it was traditional/expected and reduced the number of pages, so reduced the print book price; the e-book version was block/indent. Two different master documents; two different outputs.

I followed the instructions and formatted both stories as indent/no space. They don’t look good to me. I checked some of the e-books I have on my Kindle and yes the newer ones are indented, some with spaces and some without. I can only get about one paragraph on screen so I’m not looking at a big splodge of text and the lack of space between paragraphs isn’t as obvious as it is on a computer screen. Most of them are more than single line spacing though and the ones that aren’t look cramped.

So it looks like I’ll be reformatting those two stories again. Line spacing a bit over 1 and with a small trailing space to separate the paragraphs. Or maybe to block/space…

Another thing that’s changed is using Word’s formatting rather than manual – that was a no-no ten years ago. Microsoft Word internal formats did not translate well and often caused problems on conversion. So manuscripts had to be manual format rather than automatic. A lot of the auto-format options still have to be turned off, but now some are needed and spacing paragraphs with a blank line can cause problems…

A big question has surfaced from all this: why am I struggling to do this? Why self-publish these old manuscripts? What do I want to achieve?

Fame and fortune? No, not really. I don’t want all the attention that fame would bring – and the chances of getting any favourable fame from a pile of stories that didn’t do that well ten years ago are remote. I’d like to earn a modest living from writing, but that is unlikely as well because I am very bad at marketing.

So why self-publish? Why bother? Why not just put them all up as free reads?

I can see the stats for this blog – not a lot of interest in my free reads. Maybe there was some interest back in 2011 when I posted most of them. And I’d like to get them to a wider audience – getting paid is also a good thing even if it is just pocket money to buy more books for me to read.

But do I want to publish something that ticks all the boxes for the fads and fashions or do I want to publish something that I am pleased and proud to call mine? Even if nobody likes it or buys it?

Now that is a really big question.



10 01 2020

Is this the year I’ll pluck up enough courage to self-publish my writing? And why does that need courage? I figured out the process with Lulu over ten years ago, so why is it a problem now when it is so much easier to do?

Probably because I’m over-thinking it now; ten years of added wisdom (or confusion) make it a much bigger deal than it was back then. Slapping a self-edited het fantasy romance up on Lulu with a homemade cover was a big event. And holding a paperback copy of that book in my hands a few weeks later was an even bigger event. But it wasn’t exactly professional.

The world did not sit up and take notice and the thrill of achievement ebbed away. I think it has sold three copies and I never noticed any royalties slipping into my bank account.

Back then there was still a stigma about self-published work and it was considered vanity publishing for the most part (even when it didn’t cost a penny); or was a sign that the book wasn’t good enough to be published by a real publisher.

A year or so later I had a real contract for a mm sci-fi novel with a real publisher. Validation! Some stranger thought my writing was good enough for them to make money from. Yay! I was a professional author!

Cue gibbering panic and elation – a weird combination but then my reactions are rarely simple – and then frustration was added to the mix.

My lovely shiny new contract was for online serialisation – do you remember the chapter-a-month subscription services? – and when the serial completed an e-book would be produced and added to the catalogue. No print version, but why would I want that option? E-books were the way to go – despite comments from nearest and dearest that it wasn’t a real book…

Because of pressure of work my editor asked if I’d be okay with editing one chapter a month rather than doing the whole 95K in one go. I naturally said yes. The edits were all small things and didn’t take long for either of us.

So there I was a published author with nothing to promote for the next 15 months. Persuading someone to part with a fiver to read your book is difficult enough but asking them to subscribe at a tenner a month for 15 months? Too big a job for me.

At the time I thought of myself as a novelist. I wrote novels. I wrote long novels. I couldn’t write short stories as short stories were much more difficult. Every idea I came up with for a short story morphed into a potential novel or novella.

The publisher was desperate for short stories as they churned out several a week; but I couldn’t write them, I knew that I couldn’t write a decent short story. But then there was a second (desperate) call for a pirate story to go in a three-story collection about – you guessed it – Pirates. This could be slightly longer than a standard short story – I had those word counts per format memorised – and they wanted it now with publication a few weeks later.

As part of my frustrating author-name promoting I had a regular spot on the publisher’s LJ account and had written some very short ficlets about the Ninja Pirate Ballet Company. They were fun and foolish attempts to entertain people on LJ that had been well received – crack fic, for those that remember the term.

Without any expectation of success I cobbled some of the ficlets together and added some extra content before submitting the manuscript for the Pirate anthology. Much to my shock it was accepted. And the editing began; different editor with different criteria. There was a house style that I hadn’t conformed to – huh? There were conventions that I wasn’t following – double huh? It took a lot of questions for me to understand the hoops to jump through and get a reluctant pass on the manuscript – deadline approaching remember. I felt it had lost a lot of its manic bounce by then, but at least I had a product up for sale on the website and two co-authors to help promote it. I think we sold about 200 copies between us. At least I now knew I could write short stories.

I produced several short stories, a couple of novellas and a contemporary novel over the next few years for the same publisher – I wrote things on request for my editor or just on spec; and nothing was turned down. There were sales and I got royalties, but not even enough to cover my book buying after the serialisation money stopped.

The publisher changed hands and wasn’t such a nice, familiar place to be anymore. I didn’t submit any more manuscripts and waited for what was published to run out of contract. The publisher went bust before my last contract ended and I discovered that I should have been getting some sort of ‘reversion of rights’ document when the contracts finished. I do have one for the last thing, but not for any of the others.

All my eggs in one basket? Not quite but nearly. I had a couple of fairytale stories in an anthology (after another subscription serialisation) with another publisher. And a short story and a 500-word ficlet in collections for the UK Meet. I also had a short competition entry get to the third round(?) and be included in a free collection of the entries. None of these earned me any royalties and only the UK Meet stories are still available out there.

So I have a clump of professionally edited manuscripts of varying length that I should self-publish – not to mention various other complete and near-complete manuscripts that wouldn’t take much to sort out.

And I am still dithering.