Self publishing for family historians (again)

For the good people who attended the Society of Genealogists workshop on self publishing on Saturday 8th July, here as promised is the gist of what we covered:

First off, it is important to find out as much as possible about the process in order to avoid getting confused and/or ripped off. There are sharks out there.

Self publishing  is ideal for family historians for several reasons:

  • You get to control everything: the length of the book and the look of it including the cover
  • You can mix the genres (ie history/family history/memoir and fiction)
  • It doesn’t matter if you only intend to sell a few copies (see POD below)
  • You can edit the text, images and/or cover at any time and re-publish the book at no extra cost
  • Your book never goes out of print

PRINT ON DEMAND (POD)

This is what has made self publishing in print form possible and financially viable. Instead of having to print off hundreds or thousands of copies of your book, and find somewhere to store them, Amazon (or whoever) files your book electronically and only prints a copy when someone orders one. Unit costs per copy are the same no matter how many you order. Shipping costs on top vary according to the country the buyer lives in and how many copies he/she is ordering. So if for example you order ten copies to be sent to the same address it will not cost ten times as much as ordering one copy.

BEFORE PUBLISHING

EDITING

Having written your book and polished it to within an inch of its life, it’s a good idea to have it professionally edited. Every writer no matter how successful or experienced needs an outside eye to check for overall structure, clarity, repetition and consistency.

(That said, if you are only intending to publish for your immediate family this may not be essential, though the right editor can always improve any book.)

COPY EDITING & PROOFREADING

Copy editing means checking the book for grammar and sentence structure. Some editors will do this for you, but don’t expect it.

Proofreading means checking for typos. You should be able to get a sharp-eyed friend or colleague to do this for you.

Once your book has been written, rewritten, edited and proofread, the next step is to gather it together in two documents:

  • INTERIOR
  • COVER

The interior consists of Front matter, text and End matter. What goes where is a matter of choice but generally speaking this is what I go for:

INTERIOR FRONT MATTER  

  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Dedication/quote page
  • Map/family tree/photo
  • Table of contents

INTERIOR END MATTER

  • Afterword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Appendix & chapter notes (or notes if you have footnoes)
  • Bibliography
  • Author biography
  • Index

FOOTNOTES

In my first book The Worst Country in the World I didn’t use footnotes for various reasons: a) I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the text and b) footnotes don’t generally work in ebooks. Instead I referenced my sources in the Appendix and Chapter Notes, and expanded on various things only the seriously interested, such as family members, might want to know. This was a personal choice however. With my current book I may rethink.

DESIGN

Whether you decide to go it alone or get people to help you it is useful to have some idea of what you want your book to look like. It can be helpful to find a book whose layout you like and use it as a template. (I chose Kate Grenville’s The Secret River for the plainness of style, clarity and size of font and relatively generous margins.) These are the considerations:

  • Page/trim size: Amazon’s POD templates are limited to standard book sizes such as 5” x 8” (standard novel), 6” x 9” (standard non fiction) etc. (I chose 6” x 9”)
  • Font and font size: (I chose Palatino 11 point – on the large size, deliberately; I experimented with different fonts and sizes, & margins,  by printing out a few pages and cutting them down to the relevant size, but it’s difficult to see how it looks until you can see the full printed proof)
  • Margins: (mine were top & bottom 1.9cm, inner 2 outer 1.5, gutter .33)
  • Chapter headings layout: (Aligned L, R or C, upper or lower case, start some way down the page)
  • Extras: such as drop caps (1st letter of 1st sentence in each chapter enlarged), small caps at beginning of new chapter, headers
  • Images: (photos, maps, family trees) – see below for copyright

COVER

Received wisdom says don’t try to create your own book cover unless you are an experienced graphic designer or au fait with Photoshop. Professionals know what is eye-catching and what is not and what is appropriate for the genre. They should also be clear about how many versions and amendments they are willing to provide for their fee. Fees differ according to how much they are required to do; original artwork will obviously cost more than if you provide your own image, or if they are able to use stock images from copyright free sources. Expect to pay from around £250 upwards.

Recommended cover designers

Alternatively look online for cover designers and if you find one you like, contact them direct. Likewise in a bookshop: the designer’s name may be on the fly-leaf of the book, otherwise contact them through the publisher.

COPYRIGHT

As we touched on in the workshop copyright is a minefield, and I cannot pretend to be an expert. However I did come up against a copyright issue when I wanted to use a 19th century painting by Australian painter Tom Roberts for my cover. The image itself was out of copyright but the high-resolution photo of the image online belonged to an art gallery in Ballarat, Australia. They allowed me to use it on condition I signed a detailed license form stating I would not change the image or superimpose text on top of it, and that I would send the final proof to them for their approval. In the end my cover designer decided she couldn’t comply with their demands, so we didn’t use it.

So while an image may be out of copyright the online photo of the image – or in the case of books or documents, the scanned version uploaded online by an organisation or library – may not be.

BLURB

This is what appears on the back of a paperback or on your Amazon page. The blurb is notoriously difficult to write, but it is your selling tool, and should be:

  • Brief – no more than 200 words
  • Written in the third person present tense
  • A selling tool not a synopsis

Here for what it’s worth, is my blurb for Worst Country:

In 1787 a handful of people – convicts, marines and government servants – sail across the world to settle a new colony and call it New South Wales.

In 1801 Mary Pitt, a widow with five children, migrates to New South Wales from her home in Dorset to live among these same convicts.

Two hundred odd years later Mary’s great great great great granddaughter travels to what is now Australia to discover why her ancestress risked the lives of her entire family to make her home in a penal colony. She uncovers tales of astonishing bravery and bloody-mindedness, the origins of a unique form of class distinction, why her own Australian/English mother was the person she was and how what was once regarded as the worst country in the world became one of the ‘luckiest’.  (135 words)

I’m not saying this is an ideal example (nowadays I think I’d edit it down a tad), but what I’ve set out to do in three paragraphs is:

1) The original story
2) My family’s part in the original story
3) My quest to investigate 1) and 2)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

HOW TO GO ABOUT SELF PUBLISHING

There are three basic options

  • DIY using POD with either Amazon Createspace or Ingram Spark – the cheapest option
  • AIDED – through a reputable publishing company or individual
  • HIGH-END – custom-made with special paper, size and shape and/or binding, eg coffee table book. Ideal for image-heavy books.

DIY – This is the option I chose but I would only recommend it if you have a lot of time and patience. I formatted both the paperback and ebook versions of my book – it took me longer than it should have or than it would do now. It isn’t that difficult, you don’t need any particular IT skills no matter what the books tell you.

If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of doing things yourself you can find more technical details here

Amazon Createspace: https://www.createspace.com Amazon are the market leaders for self publishers. They may be behemoths, and tough employers, but they are very efficient and easy to deal with. Their submission guidelines are very straightforward and easy to follow. They can also show you what kind of royalties you can expect to receive according to how your book is priced. The submission process is free, they don’t start to make money until you start to sell books. They also provide their own free ISBNs and barcodes.

Ingram Spark: http://www.ingramspark.com Ingram have been around forever but Ingram Spark, the self publishing arm, is relatively new on the scene. The advantages of IS are they have print outlets in the UK and Australia as well as the US (Amazon CS is US-based), their distribution is considered to be better, and for the Amazonphobes, they are not Amazon. The quality of print is also slightly better, in my experience. The drawbacks are you have to provide your own ISBN (available in the UK in batches of 10 through Nielsen – http://www.isbn.nielsenbook.co.uk/controller.php?page=121) – and you have to pay a small fee to submit your ms (unless you are a member of ALLi, see below).

AIDED – Here is where you get someone else to do the work for you. You can buy in services a la carte so to speak, in other words you can provide the cover yourself but hire someone to proofread the book, or to format it.

Before contacting an outside organisation, there are things to be wary of.

  • DO be clear exactly what you are looking for
  • DO make sure you hang onto the rights to your book: if you’re using a self pub company pay the one-off fee to get the book up there and that’s it
  • DO make sure the royalties come straight to you and not through a third party: otherwise you’re dealing with vanity publishing and have the worst of all worlds and will make zilch money
  • DON’T sign any long-term contracts

Recommended organisations:

I Am Self Publishing https://www.iamselfpublishing.com. A young brother and sister organisation, very friendly, very savvy, experienced in producing all kinds of books. They offer an initial no-obligation consultation, either in person or on the phone.

SilverWood http://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/packages – Silver, Gold and Platinum service. Much recommended by fellow indie publishers.

Matador  http://www.troubador.co.uk/matador.asp  A large organisation with a rather confusing website. Probably American but also based in the UK. Again recommended by indie authors.

HIGH END – Custom-made, recommended:

I Am Self Publishing – see above
Lifelines Presswww.lifelinespress.com
Pynto – as above

WEBSITES

If you don’t already have your own family history website I would recommend creating one. It is an excellent way for other family members to get in touch with you. I have a static (ie not a blog) site at marymatchampitt.wordpress.com and I’ve had all manner of distant relatives contact me with very useful information. You can create one for free, or for a small annual hosting fee, at WordPress.

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

ALLi guidebook
Published by ALLi and available on Amazon and elsewhere*
ALLi 2
Published by ALLi and available on Amazon and elsewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*There seems to be a problem with this Amazon link. I will query it with ALLi and repost.

RECOMMENDED WEBSITES

An organisation run by indie authors for indie authors. They publish a list of recommended service providers (available to members only) and books (available to all). They also have a closed Facebook page and monthly meetups in London and elsewhere, plus they offer other perks such as reduced rates with Ingram Spark and free entry to the London Book Fair, among other things. If you want to know more, click on the ALLi logo on the top right of this page.

MARKETING

Not of great relevance to family historians necessarily. But if you want to submit an article or ask for reviews here are some online magazines.

For example when I contacted Who Do You Think You Are for a review they were pretty sniffy, but I sent them a copy anyway and heard nothing more. However they do – or did – have a feature in their magazine called ‘My Family Hero’ and when approached were very keen to include a story about my ancestress.

EBOOKS

Whether or not you are thinking of publishing in e-form (not so suitable for picture-based books), ebooks are easy to produce – again on your own or with help – and you receive a higher royalty (70% through Amazon compared with around 20-25% for paperbacks). Most indie authors sell more ebooks than paperbacks, partly because bookshops are generally reluctant to stock  indie published books, and partly because of the cost of POD. My sales are 90% + ebook, and of those, 95% are through Amazon Kindle.

Submission is straightforward, and free, through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: https://kdp.amazon.com/

For other e-devices such as Apple iBook, Nook and Kobo, you can use one site to distribute to all platforms such as Ingram Spark or

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com
Draft2Digital: https://www.draft2digital.com/

Again it is free to submit your book.

That’s about it. If there is anything you would like to add or comment on, or if you have any further queries, please either comment on this post or email me at patsytrench@gmail.com.

 

 

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Judging a book – hints about cover design

No, I’m not going to tell you how to design your book cover. I will say find a professional to do it for you as there’s nothing worse than a shoddy cover, and I speak from painful experience.

I decided to change the cover of my non fiction book about my Australian ancestors. The book has been out for nearly four years and is selling reasonably well, but I figured it could do with a boost, and besides it received a general thumbs-down from my writer colleagues on the ALLi Facebook forum.

Print scanned
The original cover

The photo is of the Hawkesbury River, where my story is largely set, and was taken by my good self a few years ago. Criticisms of it included the fact that it was not obviously about Australia, that the colour was wrong for that country, that the image contradicted the title (which was the point) and that it was too contemporary.  Of all those the one comment that made sense to me was the last.

I found a designer, recommended by ALLi and as it happens Australian, and I found an image I liked – a 19th century painting of the Hawkesbury River by an artist called William Pigeunit. It had just the right element of threat.

Hawkesbury Piguenit cropped
Hawkesbury River with Figures in Boat: On the Nepean 1881 (wikipedia)

Unfortunately while the picture itself is in the public domain I could not find a copy of it with a high enough resolution – I think that’s the term – ie, 1MB or more.

So I found another painting – A Summer Morning Tiff by Tom Roberts – again in the public domain but in the possession of an art gallery in Victoria, Australia. They wanted a fee to provide me with a high res image, and they also sent me a licence to sign promising we would not alter the image in any way, and asking to approve a proof of the cover before publishing. My designer (Jessica Bell) decided one way or another she couldn’t work with the picture without making alterations. So back to square one. In the end she worked on my original image, and the end result, which I am very happy with, is below.

3rd draft
Cover by Jessica Bell

Jessica has managed not just to make the picture a good deal more vivid (by comparison the original looks decidedly drab), she has added depth and interest, and the font suggests a story not set in contemporary times. The miniature silhouette of the woman’s head adds a touch of human interest and hints the book is about a woman, which it is.

So, I’ve learned a few things I didn’t know before in my many years of self publishing, and here they are for the edification of anyone out there contemplating using an existing painting for their book cover.

  • Make sure the image is out of copyright and in the public domain.
  • Make sure the image is at least 1MB.
  • Even if you’ve found an image in the public domain if it is not a high enough res you may have to pay for one that is.
  • It is up to the writer rather than the designer to check image copyright.
  • Your designer may and probably will have access to copyright-free images, so discuss it with her or him.
  • If your book is about a person or persons a touch of human interest in the cover is a good idea.
  • The writer isn’t necessarily the best judge of the sort of cover that will make a book sell.

That’s it really. I wish you the best of luck with your cover design adventure, and again if you have any queries get in touch!

Patsy Trench
patsytrench@gmail.com

Self publishing: the nuts and bolts

In response to some queries I’ve been receiving recently from writers thinking about self publishing, here is an update on the nuts and bolts of what it entails.

Self publishing offers exciting opportunities for writers …

  • You get to be in control of everything, including
  • When you publish
  • What you publish
  • The look of the book, including cover design
  • The price

… It also entails a certain amount of hard work, but depending on your inclination and your budget you can get other people to do all or some of it for you. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Write the best book you can and have it professionally edited and proofread
  • Hire a professional cover designer
  • Convert the manuscript into ebook for Amazon and other online retailers
  • Publish the ebook on Amazon direct, and/or through Smashwords
  • Design and publish the paperback
  • Market it!

Amazon is the leading online retailer but there are other important outlets as well, including Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks. It is possible to publish your book on all of them for free.

There is also Ingram Spark. They publish and distribute ebooks and paperbacks globally. The pros and cons of IS are

  • Their worldwide distribution is better than Amazon’s
  • The quality of paper and print is marginally better than Amazon’s
  • You have a better chance of selling your book through retailers who don’t like Amazon
  • They have print outlets in the UK and in Australia, as well as the USA
  • Unlike Amazon and the rest however you will need your own ISBN. These are available to buy in a minimum of 10 through Neilsen (in the UK).

Marketing your book is a challenge, there’s no doubt about that, and the more writers choose to self publish the harder it is to get anyone to read your book. In my experience non fiction is easier to market than fiction as you can target a specific readership. That said, you can do as little or as much marketing as you like depending on whether you are hoping to make money out of your writing or are just happy to have your book out there.

For more information on the whole process, plus how to find people to help you, please click on https://patsytrench.com/2015/08/16/self-publishing-for-family-historians/

If you are serious about self publishing you might consider joining The Alliance of Independent Authors. They have a private Facebook forum where you can get advice on all aspects of independent publishing, and there are also regular online conferences and physical meetups. Click on the ALLi sidebar on this page to find out more.

Good luck with your indie publishing enterprise, and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Patsy Trench
patsytrench@gmail.com

Ingram Spark (& others)

On Tuesday evening courtesy of ALLI (The Alliance of Independent Authors) we had the pleasure of a talk from Andy Bromley from Ingram Spark.

Ingram Spark with border

When I first published The World Country in the World back in 2012 the only option for indie publishers was Amazon. Ingram, a family firm (then and now), existed as book distributors only, and their print arm Lightning Source was aimed largely at traditional publishers.

All that has now changed with the ‘Spark’ added specifically for independent authors.

The great advantage of Ingram Spark is that they have print outlets not just in the US but here in the UK (in Milton Keynes) and in Australia (Melbourne). This cuts down on both shipping costs and delivery time (although paradoxically ordering a book to be sent from the UK to Australia is, though quicker, more expensive if printed there – due presumably to GST). I’ve had my latest novel The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faraday printed by both Ingram Spark and Amazon Createspace and quality-wise there’s very little to choose between them except that the print on the IS version is very slightly clearer.

Createspace with border

Ingram Spark is growing all the time and, much as we all love and hate Amazon it’s very good to see some competition. Submission is almost as easy as with Createspace, the only differences are:

  • The submission costs on Ingram Spark are $US49 for ebook and print or for print only, and $US25 for ebook only (ALLI members get a discount), as opposed to free on Createspace.
  • Amazon Createspace provides its own ISBN, for free, but this means your book will have Createspace printed on it, which tells everyone it’s self published. With Ingram Spark you provide your own ISBN (in the UK from Neilson, minimum of 10 costing £144), but you get to create and name your own publishing outfit so nobody can tell whether you are self- or traditionally published.
  • International – ie outside the US – distribution is cheaper and easier through Ingram Spark.

Received wisdom, confirmed by Andy Bromley, recommends for print versions of your book to use BOTH Amazon Createspace AND Ingram Spark. If you submit your book to Createspace and DON’T click on Expanded Distribution then all sales outside the US will go through Ingram Spark, under your own publisher’s name.

Happy days!

And another thing for Australian writers: The Book Depository (owned by Amazon) is apparently about to open up in Australia, and offers free worldwide delivery. Since Australian Amazon handles ebooks only it’s good to see another online company providing competition for print retailers such as Booktopia.

Wordery with border

Also on the heels of Amazon is Wordery, an online bookshop handling print books only and offering free worldwide delivery (and currently better deals on both my books!).

Patsy Trench
patsytrench@gmail.com

Exercises in marketing 2

Self publishing is not free.

It’s true you can upload your book onto the Amazon site and to Smashwords for free, but if you want a professional job done you will have to pay for parts of it.

Barney and books
Barney the book salesman

At a rough estimate it costs at the very least £500 to self publish a book, to include editing and cover design and other odds and ends such as fliers or postcards, review copies etc. (The dog comes free, bribed by biscuits.) If you’re hiring help with creating your paperback and converting to ebook that will bump the costs up; and if you’re publishing through Ingram Spark there’s a small fee to upload your book, plus £144 for ISBNS (sold in a minimum of 10).

It’s also a good idea to set aside something for marketing. I had my first go at promoting The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faraday at the weekend using an online site called ebooksoda. You register, upload your book details, blurb and price, and choose a category – historical romance in my case – and in return for a fee of $15 (£10 or so) they promote your book to their subscribers by email on one specified day; though the book remains on their site, further down the page, for a few days afterwards. It’s good to offer a discount, so you need to make sure this is in place on the day of the promotion. Amazon changed the price almost immediately, Smashwords likewise except for Nook, which took around 24 hours. (NB The price on the amazon.com site was showing up as $3.03 in the UK, but $2.99 in the US, for some reason.)

Result? Zilch. No sales whatsoever.

However, when I emailed ebooksoda to tell them I had registered with them but not received any emails or made any sales they responded swiftly, pointed out a blip in my registration and refunded the fee, even though there had been some click-throughs apparently. So thank you ebooksoda.

As I said before however each author, each book, each day is quite different. My next promotion is with bargainbooksy later this month. Better luck this time hopefully.

 

Exercises in marketing

You’ve written your book, rewritten it, rewritten it, had it edited, cover designed, beautifully produced and published, it looks gorgeous. Nobody is buying it.

Neglected book with border
Sketch by Anna de Polnay

I have been self publishing since 2012 (only 3 books so far) but surprisingly maybe I’ve never before had to find a marketing stategy, perhaps because my first two books are non fiction.

I have however read everything there is to know about marketing, becoming an entrepreneur, building a platform, creating your brand and all those other ghastly business-oriented terms. I have also discovered some useful things, such as:

  • Marketing that works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another.
  • Marketing that works for one kind of book doesn’t always work for another.
  • Non fiction is easier to market than fiction.
  • Above all it’s vital to find a strategy that you are comfortable with. If you are physically unable to accost people in the street or tell everyone you come upon from bus drivers to checkout people about your book (as am I), then don’t. Think of something else.
  • Try and make it fun.

To this end I am for the first time trying some online promotion sites for my 1920s novel The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faradaybeginning tomorrow, December 19. I’ll be blogging about my progress.

Patsy Trench
patsytrench@gmail.com

 

NaNoWriMo

Write a novel in a month? You have to be joking.

NaNoWriMo.org
NaNoWriMo.org

There’s a certain amount of pressure on indie authors these days to churn out several books a year. (Never mind the quality, feel the width.) If you believe some of the hype coming usually from the US there are self published writers out there earning zillions, because they’re writing a dozen books a year, in series, therefore building a ‘platform’ and a loyal readership.

There is sense in this, though for many of us the words ‘platform’ and ‘entrepreneur’ – another favourite – fill us with fear and trembing. Most indie authors don’t make much money, or expect to. We write because we want to write, because, perhaps, we are vain enough to think other people might be prepared to devote a few hours to reading what we have to say. No matter how shy you might be it is true to say you’ve got be quite arrogant to be a writer.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – began a few years ago, in the US of course. The idea is you register on the website and over the 30 days of November you churn out 50,000 words – which is not quite a novel but is quite an achievement. It works out at just under 2,000 words a day.

I’d known about NaNoWriMo for a while but thought it was nothing more than a gimmick with an ugly name. But this year, it being November and not a lot going on, I thought I’d give it a go. We’re only a week in but here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

  • If you are a fastidious writer who likes to waste time going over your first 20 pages until you’re blue in the face, this is for you.
  • If you are easily distracted, can’t wait to sharpen pencils or clean the windows or more likely glance quickly at Facebook, this is for you.
  • If you are full of doubt about your ability to write in the first place, or to build a plot or create characters, this is for you.
  • If you are inclined to spend a ridiculous amount of time researching, both before and during the writing process, because you really really have to get it right, this is for you.

I am all of these things. That’s partly why it took me six years to write my first book (The Worst Country in the World – though here was a lot of genuine research involved in this) – and a couple of years to write my second (The Unlikely Adventures of Claudia Faraday, absolutely no excuses there). The novel I’m embarking on as part of NaNoWriMo features a character in my last book, as it happens, which makes it part of a series as it happens. But I have absolutely no idea how my story is going to proceed, I have no plan, every day I’m starting out with an empty screen and a blank mind.

Knowing you’re expected to produce all those words, every day of the week, is liberating. It liberates you from going over and over that difficult passage that quite likely will be jettisoned from the final draft of your book anyway. It frees you from having to research every item, moment in history or, in my case, actual person, and then finding it impossible not to include everything you’ve learned just to show off. It frees you from dithering – shall we switch to a passionate romance in the South of France in the next chapter or shall we stage a momentous marital row leading to divorce? – stalled by thinking the decision you make is crucial, and irrevocable.

Whether or not you, or I, end up with any kind of a product at the end of the month isn’t really the point. What is exciting about writing is discovery. You wake up in the morning without an idea in your head and a couple of hours later, there you are with a brand new character doing stuff you never dreamed you would dream up in a million years. It’s childish in some ways, in the best ways, playing with your imagination and seeing where it will take you. Writing through (is it through or by?) the seat of your pants as the expression goes may not suit every writer. But I would actually recommend it, even to the meticulous planners, if only as an experiment. You might surprise yourself. Which is ultimately what writing is all about.

NaNoWriMo.org

The Oldie workshop

To the gracious people attending The Oldie workshop on 22 October on writing Memoir and Biography here is the gist of my brief talk on self publishing, with some recommendations of people who can help you along the way.

~~~~~~~~~

If you are deciding to self publish it is important to arm yourself with as much information on  the process as possible from the start. Even if you intend to hand over much of it to other people you need to know exactly what it is you are asking them to do. The better armed you are the less likely you will fall under the spell of the sharks (excuse the mixed metaphor).

shark

Suggestions and recommendations for reputable service providers are below.

The pros of self publishing:

  • You get to control everything: what kind of book you write, its length, the look of it, the cover, when you are ready to publish, how it is priced and marketed.
  • You get to keep a good percentage of the royalties yourself: with Amazon it’s 70% for ebooks, in most countries.
  • If you are not aiming at a mass market then marketing need not be too much of a headache.

The cons of self publishing:

  • You get to control everything: with no necessary prior experience of publishing you are turning yourself, an individual, into a publisher. You are taking on the work of an experienced team of professionals.
  • Marketing for self publishers is a challenge. Without a publishing house behind you you are less likely to be reviewed or interviewed in the national newspapers, or to be able to sell your book in major bookshops. (Though neither of these is impossible.)

1)         What does self publishing involve?

  • Write your book. Rewrite it. When it is as good as it could possibly be
  • Find an editor. (Suggestions below.) This is crucial for all writers, no matter how experienced or talented. Hunt around to find the right editor, who understands the genre you are writing in and respects your style without wanting to rewrite your book. This could be the biggest financial outlay in the whole process (it was for me) but it is worth it.
  • Have the book proofread. An editor is not necessarily a proofreader, so it’s important to find someone – a close-eyed friend is fine – to read your book and spot the typos. There are bound to be some no matter how many times you checked.
  • Choose a cover. Unless you are an experienced graphic designer it’s best to hand this to a professional. Print and ebooks have different requirements although both will appear on online retail sites in ‘thumbnail’ size, so make sure the wording is legible.
  • Write the blurb. Online retailers usually ask for a short description of your book (up to 400 characters) and a long one (up to 4000 characters). This is a selling tool – along with the cover it could be the difference between someone deciding to buy your book or not. Basic guidelines are:
    i)  Write in the third person present tense.
    ii)  Don’t try to tell the whole story.
    iii)  Write in the style the book is written in. (ie Comic if your book is comic, punchy if your book is likewise, etc.)
    iv)  Including extracts from reviews is fine.

As with the book cover, it’s a good idea to spend time in a bookshop looking at books and analysing why some make you want to pick them up and read them and some don’t.

  • Create your book interior (paperback): you may want to outsource this too (although it is not difficult to do yourself). It is useful to use a published book you like the look of as a template, and copy the design. You can choose your own font and font size, page (trim) size, margins and chapter layout. Alternatively you can buy ready-formatted templates from the likes of The Book Designer: http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/
  • Convert your manuscript into ebook form: this basically involves removing hidden codes embedded in your word processor and creating internal links. Click here for details.
  • Submit your book. There are currently two main options:
  1.  AMAZON. https://kdp.amazon.com Whatever you think of their business practices they have opened up the self publishing business and made it possible and simple for independent writers to upload their books onto their site. Submission is free: they provide you with their own form of ISBN. The submission process is extremely simple, just follow their clear instructions.
    Amazon have a print ‘arm’ called CREATESPACE:www.createspace.com/ Again this is free and easy to understand.
    Amazon is for Kindle ebook only of course. For other e-devices use
    SMASHWORDS. www.smashwords.com Again the submission is simple, and free, and they will convert your Word manuscript into the correct formats for Kobo, Nook, Apple and so forth.

2) INGRAM SPARK. www.ingramspark.com/ Ingram have been around for centuries but only recently opened up to make it easy for self publishers to submit their books. The advantage over Amazon is a) they are not Amazon (bookshops don’t hate them) and b) their global distribution of print books is better. Also c) they offer more print options, such as colour, page size, hardback etc. The disadvantage is the submission process is less customer-friendly and you have to provide your own ISBN. (Of which more later.)

  • Marketing
    This is a whole different ballgame and may not be relevant if you are only planning on distributing your book to family and friends. However if you want a broader reach, first
    i) Define your target audience
    ii) Try for reviews in family history/memoir magazines, or in the local press
    iii) Approach your local independent bookshop and ask if they will stock your book, or even help you host a book launch
    iv) Social media is an important part of marketing, including author websites

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2)         How can I go about it?

There are three main options:

  • Do it yourself (apart from editing and cover design).
  • Get partial help with, for instance, cover and interior design and converting to ebook.
  • Hand the whole thing over to a service provider. There are things professionals can do that we can’t. But BE VERY CAREFUL who you deal with and make sure you know what you are paying for, and that you hang onto your rights.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

Generally tried and tested, some by me and others by ALLI (The Alliance of Independent Authors).

Cover and/or interior print design:

Editors

The following are recommended by ALLI.

Averill Buchanan: www.averillbuchanan.com/
Katherine D’Souza: www.katharinedsouza.co.uk/
Sally Vince: www.editorsal.com/
Alison Shakespeare: http://shakspeareeditorial.org/

Cornerstonses and The Literary Consultancy are manuscript assessors and they also offer some editing services.

Full help

The following two companies are consistently held to be efficient, honest and trustworthy:

You can buy in part service from them (ebook conversion only for instance) or full service.

Ebook conversion

If you do decide to do the whole thing yourself take a look at my self publishing pages. Or buy my book (available on Amazon at £1.99)!

Digital book thumbnail

Self publishing may seem daunting, and is, but the more research you do the more sense it makes. It is a fantastic resource for memoir writers.

If you are serious about it you might consider joining The Alliance of Independent Authors. If you click on the logo on the sidebar of this page it will take you directly to their site.

GOOD LUCK with your publishing enterprise. And If you have any other specific questions on things I haven’t covered please email me at

patsytrench@gmail.com

 Recommended books

Choosing a Self Publishing Service, published by ALLI

 

Self publishing for family historians part 2

What to look out for before contacting a self publishing service.

  • DO be clear exactly what you are looking for
  • DO make sure you hang onto the rights to your book
  • DO make sure the royalties come straight to you and not through a third party

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SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT ONLINE

The online market leader is Amazon/CreateSpace, but there is also Ingram/Spark and Lulu. I have no direct experience of these last two, but I do know that while Amazon/CreateSpace charge nothing to upload your book or to re-upload later amended versions of it, Ingram do charge for both. The advantage of Ingram is that I believe they offer different qualities of, for instance, paper, and the shipping may be cheaper as they have an outlet here in the UK, and in Australia.

CreateSpace is the print arm of Amazon and their website is very user-friendly.

https://www.createspace.com

https://www.ingramspark.com

Once you’ve uploaded your title and chosen your dimensions and page colour you will be taken to a Pricing page. You can price your book in US$ and the other currencies will calculated automatically, if you wish. (Or you can adjust this.)

The ISBN is provided free through CreateSpace but not on Ingram. You can buy your own ISBN which then belongs to you no matter who you publish through. CreateSpace also have a forum, or ‘Community’, where you can post queries and with a bit of luck someone will get back to you pretty quickly, especially if you post in the afternoon when America has woken up.

Categories and keywords: we didn’t get to discuss these in the workshop, but they do help to sell books if you get them right. Amazon/CreateSpace offers a selection of categories to choose from, and you can pick your own keywords (up to 7, if I remember correctly).

Ordering copiesWith Print on Demand unit costs of printing are very reasonable. My 318-page book costs $4.64 to print out, per copy. There are various shipping options but as a guide, Expedited Shipping (3 weeks or so) costs $7.99. Obviously shipping costs per book are less per item the more you order in one go. You can also order copies to be sent direct to other people, all round the Globe.

DIY: 

If you do decide to do it all yourself (and if I can do it anyone can) I have produced a book aimed at the technically challenged, available on Amazon.

Digital book thumbnail

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MARKETING

This may not be a priority for the family historian but it’s worth mentioning.

Social media is an option obviously, but has to be handled carefully (ie no constant hard selling). What is a good idea is to have a website with a recognisable family name as a title as this will lead other family members to you. Mine, named after my ancestress (marymatchampitt.wordpress.com), has introduced me to several distant relatives with interesting tales to tell.  It’s also worth considering a website and Facebook page dedicated to your book.

Reviews are also worth going for, especially from family history magazines.

‘Who do you think you are’ magazine also has a feature at the back called ‘My Family Hero’, and they are often looking out for people to fill it.

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EBOOKS

Why not? It doesn’t cost much to have your manuscript converted into the suitable formats for Kindle, Kobo, Nook and whatever other devices there are out there. For some reason self publishers tend to sell more ebooks than paperbacks. In my case 90% of my sales are ebooks.

FINALLY (almost):  An update on cover design

It’s worth taking a look at this site:

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/08/e-book-cover-design-awards-july-2015/

Joel Friedlander is a book cover and interior designer (he also offers page templates). This is the result of a competition where writers submit their covers and he comments on them and chooses winners. It’s useful as you can compare your opinion with his! (And comment if you want to.)

Which reminds me:

USEFUL WEBSITES on self publishing:  (or to follow on Twitter)

http://www.thebookdesigner.com

https://www.janefriedman.com 

Frances Caballo:  http://www.socialmediajustforwriters.com

Joanna Penn: http://www.thecreativepenn.com/

And if you are looking for advice on everything to do with self publishing you could consider joining ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). Click the ALLi logo on my site. Their subscription fees are £75 for a published (self- or otherwise) author. ALLi have also produced some useful books on self publishing such as:

Blank white book w/path

That is really it. Good luck with your various projects, and please email me on patsytrench@gmail.com if you have any queries (or interesting tales about your self publishing experience).

Goodbye!

 

Self publishing for family historians

As promised to the gentle folk at the Society of Genealogists on Saturday’s workshop on self publishing, here are my notes, posted in two parts.

WHERE I am coming from

What I know about self publishing comes from hard-earned experience publishing my book The Worst Country in the World, which after six years of writing (on and off) evolved into a hybrid mix of family history, early colonial Australian history, memoir and novel. For that reason alone I did not attempt to get it traditionally published. (Nor I realise would any publisher want to take on a book that is not likely to be a mass seller.)

Having read up everything I could find on self publishing and sent off for and received quotes that would entail taking out a mortgage, I decided to do everything myself: convert the book into ebook and design the paperback. The only things I paid for were for editing and cover design. (This not necessarily a path I would recommend unless you have plenty of time and endless patience.)

img094
Sketch by Anna de Polnay

WHAT is self publishing?

Self publishing is ideal for family historians for the following reasons:

  • You get to control everything:
  • You can write the book you want to write
  • You can choose exactly how you want it to look
  • You can spend as much or as little as you want to
  • It doesn’t matter if you’re only expecting to sell a few copies

Print on Demand (POD), which means your manuscript is stored on some electronic device and only printed out when someone orders it, has revolutionised the publishing business. The unit cost of a book is the same whether you order one copy or five hundred. No book goes out of print, and there is no wastage.

However whether or not you decide to buy in professional services or advice it’s important to have a clear idea of what you are looking for with your book. There are sharks out there who are only too happy to charge a small fortune for not very much indeed.

Having done a lot of asking around two companies cropped up frequently, known to offer an efficient, professional and trustworthy service.

Matador’s charges are (according to Choosing a Self-Publishing Service, published by ALLi)

  • Setup, including ISBN, barcode, custom cover design: £680
  • Ebook conversion:  £150
  • Copy edit:  £390
  • Proofread: £340

They do not provide editors, but they do offer marketing and the possibility of getting your book into bookshops (apparently).

SilverWood’s charges are similar, though I’m told they offer a slightly more personal service, and they don’t take on every book.

Also worth considering:

A husband and wife team who offer cover design (at £240), book interior design, setting up of websites, marketing etc.

At the high end of the market:

A bespoke, personal service for print books only, offering everything from ghost writing to editing to the end production of a beautiful work of art, printed on paper of your choice, handbound in leather or anything else you choose.

Before you approach any of these companies however:

What you need to think of

EDITING:   Every writer needs an editor no matter how experienced or successful they are. There are three main types of editor:

  • Structural edit – checking for clarity, over-writing, under-writing, repetition, overall structure
  • Copy editing – line by line checking for grammar, clumsy writing, repetition, clarity
  • Proof reading – checking for mistakes and typos

There is a certain amount of blurring between these three tasks, but do not expect an editor to proofread your book. It is not his/her job. She/he may correct mistakes if they spot them but it is a different process altogether, and one a sharp-eyed friend might be able to do for you (as she did in my case).

For editors you could do worse than taking a look at the readers at the following manuscript assessment companies:

DESIGN of the book

  • Cover
  • Interior

Received wisdom says do not try to create your own book cover unless you are an experienced graphic designer or au fait with Photoshop or other graphic software. For cover designers:

  • https://www.99designs.co.uk UK-based. Your cover remit is ‘put out to tender’ to a number of designers who are invited to submit their designs, and you get to choose your favourite. The more you pay (from £189 up) the more designers you are likely to attract. This has the advantage of being able to choose between several completely different approaches.
  • http://www.lawstondesign.com/index.html UK-based. Rebecca Lawston, a highly experienced designer who works for several major publishing companies. Her fees start at £500 for print, £150 for ebook, to include branding and marketing material.
  • http://www.customebookcovers.com/fiction.html US-based. Uses stock images which they manipulate. Charges $150 for print, $100 for ebook, $150 for ebook and print.
  • http://www.coverbistro.com/  US-based. Uses ‘off-the-peg’ templates at $30, or custom design from $35
  • pynto.com  As above

Matador and SilverWood also offer cover design.

In addition as one helpful participant suggested, it might be worth your while contacting local HE colleges for  graphic design students who might offer their services at a modest fee, in return for experience and publicity. (I have yet to check if this is possible.)

BOOK INTERIOR:  First, find a book whose layout you like to use as a template. Consider:

  • SIZE:  Of the book; standard non fiction is 6”x9”, fiction 8”x5” (but you can choose what you like).  Mine was 6”x9”.
  • TYPEFACE AND TYPEFACE SIZE:  There are specifically recommended fonts. I used Palatino 11 point. It’s not a bad idea to print out a few pages in various typefaces and sizes in your chosen page size to see what it looks like
  • MARGINS:  Mine were quite generous at: top, bottom 1.9cm, inner 2 outer 1.5, gutter .33
  • CHAPTER TITLE LAYOUT:  Centred or left-aligned, upper or lower case, etc.
  • TRIMMINGS:  Drop caps, headers, small caps etc
  • IMAGES:  (photos, maps, family trees) Be aware of copyright: some owners may charge for the use of the image and/or map.

FRONT MATTER : What goes before the main text. This is a matter of choice, but for ebooks certainly it’s good to keep it to a minimum (especially for readers who have downloaded a free sample). Mine are:

  • Title page
  • Copyright page
  • Dedication/quote page.This explained the title of my book
  • Table of contents. Not essential (except in ebooks, for internal links), but standard for non fiction.

END MATTER  :  What comes after the main text. Mine are:

  • Afterword  :  A dedication to my late aunt, who started me off on my genealogical journey
  • Acknowledgements
  • Appendix & chapter notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Author biog

You can also include reviews, if you have them, or  books you’ve already written.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY:  This is important to readers, so it’s a good idea to make yourself sound interesting and likeable!

  • Keep it brief
  • To the point and in the context of the book.
  • Write in the third person

BLURB: The blurb is crucial – it’s what makes a person read a book or pass on. Mine is on the back cover of my book, and also on my Amazon page.

  • Again, keep it brief – no more than 200 words
  • Write in the third person present tense
  • Remember it is a selling tool not a synopsis, so don’t attempt to tell the whole story

The blurb also acts as a reminder of why you decided to write the book in the first place, and what it was made you think other people might like to read it!

Enough for now. The sun is over the yardarm.

COMING NEXT:  DOs and DON’Ts, marketing; ebooks etc.

Sketch by Anna de Polnay
Sketch by Anna de Polnay