I am constantly amazed at how many errors there are in my manuscripts.
And I don't mean the first draft.
Nothing is more frustrating for me than finding errors in my books, or worse, having others point them out. As well as being patently unprofessional I feel it shows a lack of respect for the work, not to mention the reader. I suppose this could be resolved by hiring a professional copyeditor.
Bookbaby's Copy Editing services include, "A word-by-word edit that addresses grammar, usage, and consistency issues." My soon-to-be-released novella, Cold-Blooded, The Mattie Saunders Series Book II, is about 100 pages and would cost $700.00 to be copyedited by Bookbaby
If I sell the e-book edition of Cold-Blooded for $3.99 on Amazon my royalty will be $1.40, which means I'd have to sell 500 copies to pay for the copy editing alone (in my dreams). So I'd rather recruit non-professionals who are committed to making my work error free.
Beta readers can be anyone, though I tend to shy away from friends and absolutely won't use family. I'm not asking them to review or comment on the story (though I don't discourage it), just read it and make note of the errors. Right now I have two who had previously reviewed my books (favourably). I contacted them to see if they'd like to beta-read my new works. The other one is a friend. None are professionals and they all do it for a free copy of the finished book with their name on the acknowledgements page.
Prior to sending the manuscript to my beta readers, I've developed a process to make it as error-free as possible.
1. Each time I sit down to write I re-read and revise what I wrote during the previous session.
2. After I finish a rough draft I revise it thoroughly, then let it rest.
3. After I've got the story out of my system, which means I no longer have instant recall for each line written (minimum three months), I pull it out and revise it again with fresh eyes.
4. Then comes the computer spell-check.
Then I send it out to my three beta readers.
I used to be pretty confident once I'd done all that I'd caught at least most of the typos and filled in the dropped words, but it's embarrassing how many errors they still find. It's also remarkable how what one misses the other catches.
Once they get back to me I do the corrections which entails another revision. Finally, uploading it to Smashwords, Kindle and Draft2Digital gives me another opportunity to check it since I always do a visual review for formatting glitches.
I strongly urge you to begin recruiting beta readers - from your email list, through your website, on social media, a supportive friend, a note pinned on the bulletin board in the local library, or like I'm doing here in a Booklikes blog (see below). You simply cannot have too many and they tend to fall away.
If you're patient, methodical and persevere you can self-published a respectable book.
Besides, there are no guarantees a professionally edited, self-published book will have any more success than one that is carefully vetted by a group amateurs committed to making your work the best it can be.
Plus you'll save a lot of money.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
If you'd like to become a beta reader and have an opportunity to read (and improve) my new work free, please send me an email at email@example.com
Web links associated with this article:
Bookbaby Editing Services https://www.bookbaby.com/book-editing-services
Kindle Direct Publishing https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US
Rod Raglin's Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
So what works when it comes to marketing your self-published book?
Well, maybe that's being overly cynical. You may find some things work infinitesimally, but let me assure you there is no book marketing "silver bullet". At least that's been my experience over the past seven years with my eight novels and two plays.
But, hey, I'm ever the optimistic (what's the alternative?) and so when I received a promotional email (no personalized salutation) from an indie author saying she noticed I’d reviewed a book similar to one she had just written and if she sent me a free e-pub edition would I be interested in reviewing hers, I was curious as to know how she culled my email address from the millions on Amazon.
So I agreed to review her book on the condition she tell me how she got my email address and any other tips she might have on marketing. She responded favourably and was very forthcoming.
This all transpired in early October 2017 and I wrote a blog (see my previous blog entitled Book Launch Case Study) about what she had undertaken to produce and market her novel on October 18th.
As promised I read and reviewed her novel and rated it two stars. It was classically amateur. As well as posting the review I sent her a long, constructive (at least I thought it was) email with suggestions on improving the book and her overall writing.
She sent a terse reply saying I clearly did not enjoy the genre and her book obviously was not for me.
So I thought I would wait and see if the money she spent on marketing would increase the popularity of what I considered a bad book.
Her book was published Sept. 27, 2017 and here's what she'd done and spent up to the point of sending it to me:
- To produce her book she hired two beta readers at $50 each and got a book cover artist from her writers’ group to design her cover for $65. No editor was needed she said as she just happened to be one herself.
- She purchased a Book Review Targeter app for $200 (that's how she got my email address).
- She uploaded the culled emails into Group Mailer and had "about forty-five people agree to read and review a free version of the book and an additional twenty who declined the free copy and purchased the book to review it.”
That's 65 people who agreed to review her book. Keep that number in mind.
In addition, she said she had another three or four lists (from additional similar books) she had yet process.
- At the end of October she was running a 99¢ campaign for the e-book edition for two days on Amazon and one-day free book promotions on Pretty-Hot Books and Discountbookman, spending ten dollars for a featured promotion on bookreadermagazine and running a giveaway on Goodreads.
- Let's not forget her friends, colleagues and clients whom she apparently had no problem asking to buy and review her book. She also asked writers in her writers’ groups to share information about her book on their Facebook pages and had started looking for blogs to ask bloggers to mention it.
All this cost her $375, and, I might think a bit of personal integrity and perhaps even a friend or two. But who isn't prepared to sacrifice their integrity, friends and even money if it means hitting the Amazon Best Seller list?
In the 71 days since her book was released she's had 7 customer reviews on Amazon with an average 4 star rating. Her book is currently ranked 3,359,000 on Amazon.
So what's the take away from this book launch case study?
Am I happy she fell flat on her face? No. Am I vindicated that her efforts fell miles short of what I imagine her expectations were? No (well, maybe a little).
Mostly I hope she's gained some knowledge, maybe a bit of humility and carries on, but with emphasis on improving her craft rather than her marketing schemes. Maybe even get that email I sent out of the deleted file and take a look at what I suggested.
And always remember what Nietzsche said, "Art is the proper task in life."
And that would be whether it sells or not.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs
Author Amazon Page https:www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
Whenever I search the internet trying to find some information to resolve a self-publishing issue invariably an article written by Joel Friedlander comes up.
I've read a number of them and found them professional, helpful and, most importantly, understandable.
When I was offered all this knowledge free in his book Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander - Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books it was a no-brainer.
Book Construction Blueprint is a comprehensive guide and includes preparing your manuscript, interior book design, cover design, printing and working with professionals.
A good deal of it wasn't relevant for my needs but some was invaluable including the section Cleaning Up Your Word Files. Pretty much all the problems you're confronted with when you upload your original manuscript to a self-publishing platform can be attributed to formatting glitches in your Word file. Friedlander has some nifty tips, accompanied by screen shots, that saved me countless hours of hair-pulling frustration. They're now incorporated into my pre-upload check-list.
Ever wonder about the order of your book's front matter? What goes on the Copyright Page and does the Dedication Page come before Acknowledgements? It's all spelled out in Friedlander's book.
He also has some great suggestions on what components make an eye-catching cover, designing running heads and font choices.
I try to review a lot of new indie authors and it's very distracting and unprofessional to read poorly or incorrectly formatted books. I know what a challenge it is and mine still aren't perfect, but they'll be a lot better now that I have Book Construction Blueprint by Joel Friedlander - Expert Advice for Creating Industry-Standard Print Books to refer to.
I downloaded this book free from the BookBaby Blog
According to Michael Kozlowski, Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader, the leading news website devoted to digital publishing, e-books, and e-reader news I'm a bad writer.
How does he come to that conclusion? In his own words, "You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer... the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers. Once we can define a good writer from a bad, we can start to segregate them."
Which brings us to another of his suggestions, segregating self-published books according to sales.
"My suggestion is for all major online bookstores that take submitted indie content to create their own sections for self-published writers. These titles should not be listed side by side with the traditional press. Indie titles should have their own dedicated sections until such time as they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore."
Why, you ask, does Kozlowski think this is necessary?
"There are a copious number of online self-publishing companies that promise aspiring authors the opportunity to distribute their e-book all over the world. Millions of authors publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press and Smashwords. Most “authors” who self-publish an e-book never sell more than a handful and over seventy-five percent of all authors never earn a living through their writing."
And the result of this plethora of self-published dreck (my word) is that "We live in a world full of terrible e-book titles that ruin e-book discovery and make it difficult to find a good book. It is no small wonder why e-book sales have plummeted in recent years."
The comments on Kozlowski's blog https://goodereader.com/blog/author/michael-kozlowski on this topic are mostly specious in that they don't respond to the problem he's addressing. They range from outright denial to dismissing his ideas because there's a typo in his text.
As one who actually reads and reviews the work of unknown, randomly selected indie authors I'd have to agree with his assessment and his solution.
When I decided to write fiction about ten years ago I had about forty years of journalism as a formative base. But even though I'd written hundreds of thousands of words up to that point it, fiction was a different style of writing. To learn how to write fiction I attended writer's groups, joined online critique sites and read dozens of books and I continue to do so.
Writing fiction is a craft and it can be learned and mastered, to some degree, by learning the fundamentals and then practicing - a lot. It's evident that the vast majority of the indie authors I've read haven't even bothered to learn the basics and have spent no where near enough time practicing.
As Kozlowski says "Indie titles have no quality and control, often they are merely submitting a Word document to Amazon and clicking publish."
Kozlowski's not suggesting all self-published books are crap and all traditionally published books are classics, just that "there is some expectation of quality" in reading a traditionally published book", and that's definitely not the case with reading a self-published work.
From the beginning of my venture into writing and publishing fiction it became apparent to me the only way to measure success was with book sales. This is an industry of illusion and delusion and the majority those involved are, as Kozlowski suggested, subject to the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
“Unskilled individuals that suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”
I have come to accept that I am "inept" until my book sales prove otherwise.
Accordingly, I'm prepared to have all my books segregated in "dedicated sections until such time as they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore."
I'm sure there will be very good books that never attain that threshold (mine?) and I'm just as sure there will be those who, rather than hone their craft to the point they can write a good book, will find ways of attaining that threshold fraudulently.
However, this is a solution I am prepared to considered in hopes "the cream might rise to the top".
If Kozlowski's is right that by 2020, fifty percent of all digital books will be written by indie authors and that will account for 25,000 new titles a month being submitted to online bookstores than something, indeed, has to be done.
Amazon has author and sales ranking graphs that are updated hourly. On Sept. 5, 2017, someone purchased one (1) e-book edition of my novel Saving Spirit Bear. That single sale boosted the novel's ranking from 8,787,432 to 201,692 an increase of 8,585,740 points. My author ranking subsequently increased 582,673 points from 825,278 to 242,605.
What do these numbers mean? I'd say a few sales a month and an indie author would be among the top 100,000 selling authors on Amazon. Would that get you into "the majors"?
Who cares, you'd still be making peanuts.
Stay calm, be brave, watch for the signs.
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