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Once More Toward Publication

Last week, I answered some questions about how to get ready to release your book out into the wild. As I did, I realized it might be easier just to go through the process, pointing out things that work for me and things that don’t. Then I remembered this week was one of those weeks where time is in short supply. So I did what any procrastinator would do: I checked our archives to see what we have on the topic. Holy crap, even things written a year or so ago are out-of-date. So here’s the quick version. I’ll try to do a more in-depth over the course of the next week or so and put it up in the Road to Publication tab.

First write.

It’s that simple. Without a story, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story or full-length novel, you have to write. So put butt in chair and get to work. This is actually a good time. NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of weeks and that’s an excellent motivator.

It doesn’t matter how you write. You may be a plotter or a pantser. You may write before your morning coffee, during your lunch break or before bed. It doesn’t matter when or where. All that does is putting words down.

Second, finish what you write.

Yes, I know. I know. That seems obvious. But you would be surprised the number of folks who want to be writers–and those who are–who find reason after reason not to finish a project. The thing is, if you don’t finish, you have nothing to publish. So push through that middle of the story blech so many of us seem to suffer from when writing the first draft. Find whatever tools work for you: you don’t have to write your story in order. You can write the ending first or the middle. There is no one right way except for finishing.

Third, beta readers.

Some of you may have an alpha reader who sees your work before you finish. They are sort of your sounding board as you write. Beta readers,however, see the finished draft. They are the folks who will tell you if the story flow works. They will let you know if you left someone hanging off the cliff without resolution. Some will be your technical experts who will let you know if the science (or magic or whatever) of your book “works”. If you are lucky, you will have one who is very good at spotting spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

Word of warning here. Many of those who claim to be the latter aren’t. You will need to have your own copies of Words in Print, Chicago Manual of Style, etc., to check what they say. Oh, and a good dictionary and thesaurus. Don’t take someone’s word for your grammar errors, etc., unless you know they understand what they’re talking about.

Also, when you ask for beta readers, if you do it via social media, expect a lot of folks to volunteer. Also expect that you won’t hear back from a number of them after you send out your mss. There are all sorts of reasons why and it doesn’t automatically mean they hated your book. So don’t go down that rabbit hole.

Fourth, edit.

Once you get the comments back from your beta readers (and be sure you give them a deadline on when you need their input back. Also, if you are looking for a certain kind of feedback, let them know) go over what they said and input your edits. Here’s an important warning. Just because one beta reader says they don’t like something or something doesn’t work, don’t automatically change it. They might be right but they also might be wrong. Sarah taught me early on to follow the writing rule of three. If three people say basically the same thing, you need to consider it. But if it is only one person, unless it is something that falls into their area of expertise, look at the comment but do so with questions in mind. And don’t be afraid to ask them to explain in more detail why they said what they did.

Five, publication date.

No, we’re not to publishing yet. But, as you are finishing your edits and finalizing your cover, you need to consider when you are going to release your book–if you haven’t already. I try to go into a new project with a tentative publication date in mind. If you don’t already have a date, now is when you need to do so. There are several reasons for it. The first is so you can start doing regular promotion of your new work. You want to be able to tell folks when to look for your book. The second is if you want to take advantage of the pre-order option offered by Amazon.

Six, to offer pre-order or not.

One of the advantages to being part of the KDP Select program as an author is the ability to offer your new titles for pre-order. Titles can be listed up to three months in advance of their release date, iirc. You need a cover, title (duh, blurb, price, etc. In fact, you fill out everything you would normally for a book to be listed. The only difference is you do not have to upload your interior file–yet. Once you do all that and once it is approved, you are on a countdown to when you have to upload your final interior file. The deadline for that is approximately 3 days before release date. The nice thing is if you go to the book’s page on your dashboard, you will see the countdown and know exactly how long you have.

Why offering pre-orders is good is simple. You have an actual order page you can link to on social media, in blog posts, etc. That lets readers know your book really is coming and, if you’ve got a good cover and a good sounding blurb, leads to sales. This also lets you promote your book on certain promotional sites like Fussy Librarian, etc., if you are conducting a paid promotion campaign.

The downside is that if you blow your deadline, you will be prevented from taking advantage of the pre-order option for a year. All those pre-orders will be canceled and you will have to work hard to win them back. So you need to weigh the benefits with the possible negatives.

Seven, have a good cover.

Some authors have a cover before they finish writing the draft. Others wait until the book is finished to do a cover. Some make their own and others hire them done. Again, there is no right way to do it save one: your cover needs to signal genre (and sub-genre) and draw the eye. And, before someone says that isn’t important in this day and age of Amazon, it really is. Even when you look at an Amazon product page, the first thing that will draw your eye is the cover. If it doesn’t “read” genre or if it looks like I drew it (trust me, you don’t want me drawing anything), the reader will automatically have a negative impression. If you’re lucky, your blurb will be strong enough to overcome that impression, but do you want to run the risk?

Eight, put the story away for at least a week (preferably at least two) and come back with fresh eyes.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need a break from it so you can see what is actually on the page and not what you thought you put on the page.

Nine, decide where you are going to release your book.

This can be done anywhere along the process and goes hand-in-hand with pre-orders. Most of the self-publishing platforms only allow pre-orders if you are exclusive to that platform or if you go through a third party aggregator. The truth is, most Indies are exclusive to Amazon because it is the main platform for books today. However, it isn’t the only platform. You can release your work through B&N, Apple, Kobo and others. Each “store” has its own requirements (like Apple requires uploads to come from an Apple product using a certain OS or higher unless you work through a 3rd party like Draft2Digital).

If you go wide, you can do it yourself, assuming you have the right equipment, etc. Or you can go through a third party like Draft2Digital. The upside to using D2D or one of its competitors is you upload your book one time, price it, blurb it, choose where to release it and then they do all the rest. Of course, they charge a percentage of your royalties to do so. Because of that, you do need to make sure you understand their rates and their payment schedule. You also need to keep on top of what you are being paid and when because they are at the mercy of the stores reporting to them and sending them money.

Ten, final edits.

Before uploading your book to Amazon or wherever, go ahead and convert it to your favorite ebook file format. Then download it onto your Kindle or iPad or whatever. The reason I recommend this is so you can not only catch formatting problems you might not have seen in your doc file but, for whatever reason, a lot of grammar, punctuation and spelling errors seem to stand out in this format that might have been missed in the doc file.

Read it through. Highlight the errors or make note of them somehow. Then correct your doc file and repeat.

There is another reason for doing this. When you are ready to upload your file to Amazon or wherever, you can upload in various formate. But, if you upload in the non-native format, you are relying on that store to convert your manuscript. If you upload a MOBI or ePUB file to Amazon (or ePUB to the other stores), that conversion becomes much less intrusive and you run a lower risk of something going wrong.

Even then, before hitting the publish button, you need to download the “converted” file and look at it on either a dedicated e-reader or through the app. Do not rely on the emulator on the product page because that is not exactly how the book will look when it is purchased and downloaded.

Also, Amazon will create a list of possible misspellings as it converts your book (or prepares it for publication as they call it). Pay attention to this list. Often, the words aren’t really misspellings–this is especially true if you write science fiction or fantasy. But I have had it catch an occasional misspelling everyone who had had eyes on the manuscript missed.

Okay, that’s the very fast, down and dirty list of steps. Each step has its own steps. Let me know what you want more information on. You can get some basic information from the Road to Publication links but be aware much of that information is out-of-date now. We will be updating it was we get time.

Until later!

15 Comments
  1. Margaret Ball #

    “Finish what you write.”

    THIS. In fact, THIS squared. Cubed. If I knew how to make this thing show exponents…

    Worth a column of its own, not just to nag, but to encourage and inspire and… thank you, Amanda! Thursday is coming, and you’ve saved me!

    October 15, 2019
  2. Zsuzsa #

    Seven, have a good cover.

    The issue I’m running into here is the question of “How do you tell if it’s good enough?” I’m not an artist, I don’t trust my own judgment, and I’m vacillating between worrying that the cover is terrible and will never get across the message I want and worrying that I’m using the cover as an excuse for why I won’t hit the publish button.

    October 15, 2019
    • Look at the best sellers in your genre/sub-genre and stack your cover up against those you see. Show yours to other folks and ask for input.

      October 15, 2019
  3. Zsuzsa #

    On a completely different subject…

    If you create a publishing corporation, what sort of contracts do you need to have with yourself? It sounds strange, but the whole point of the corporation is that even though you are CEO, CFO, and Chairman and Sole Member of the Board, the corporation is not you, and you aren’t entitled to simply dip into its funds. So do you need a contract giving You Corp LLC a license to publish your book in exchange for royalties? Do you need to sign it twice in both your personas? And how formal does this all need to be?

    I know this is really more appropriate for last week’s post, so I’m not expecting Amanda to address it, but I figure I might as well throw the questions out there in hopes that some kind commenter will have mercy on me.

    October 15, 2019
    • We’ll cover it in a week or two–promise.

      October 15, 2019
    • Draven #

      in many states, you have to have another person or two on the board in order to make a corporation…

      October 15, 2019
    • Mary #

      What sort of corporation?

      October 15, 2019
  4. Mike #

    I’m a little puzzled by your remarks about pre-orders (a facility which, as a reader, I really like, to the extent that as of today I have eight books due to turn up by the end of October, though most of them are actually for my wife).

    I initially assumed that the requirement to be in KDP Select and the dire consequences of missing a deadline are specific to non traditionally published authors but looking at my pre-orders this does not seem to be the case. What appear to be single author publishers – for example where the publisher is shown as “Maria V. Snyder” or “Lara Adrian, LLC” – are among my pre-orders and the books are not in Select and, in the case of Lara Adrian, a recent missed deadline just resulted in a “Release Date Change” email from Amazon.

    As single author publishers often hide behind more obscure names than that of the author (or their pen-name) I can’t always tell what is really going on but several more of my non KDP Select pre-orders also appear to fall into this category, including the most recent “Release Date Change” case. Maybe there is some kind of double standard here and if you’ve sold enough books you get a better deal on pre-orders?

    Finally, and changing the subject, you talk about having a page the author can link to. I have a general complaint about the approach taken by too many American authors. They basically forget/ignore the existence of non USA readers and only give links to Amazon.com, making it harder for someone in the UK to find and buy the book: is it really too much effort to give amazon.uk and amazon.ca links as well. Note: some authors give intelligent links which select a store based on your URL but these are probably best avoided as they can be confused by VPNs, being on holiday or being Irish.

    October 15, 2019
    • Mike,

      My comments regarding pre-orders were Amazon US specific. I have not tried putting up a pre-order in the UK or elsewhere, mainly because it becomes problematic to keep track of different ToS requirements.

      Also, there are some authors who have a large enough “library” and who sell enough that Amazon will waive certain ToS requirements for them. I’ve had it happen for me before and know others who have as well. But they are the exception and not the rule. That may be what you have seen regarding pre-orders or it may be a difference between “store” rules.

      As for using intelligent links or linking to the different national stores, I know I don’t do it in my social media posts or blog posts. Why? Because I have an Amazon Associates account and use links generated from there. It is an income stream for me. I also know those who read my posts who aren’t able to buy from the US store can look my books up either by title or by my name. Is it as easy for them? No, and it is something for me to think about.

      October 15, 2019
    • Mike, there are (rare) times when we have a book that cannot be sold outside the US/ Amazon.com. I have one of those, and if I link to .UK and the European countries, or Australia, I open myself to being sued under the various defamation of religion/hate-speech laws [the bad guys are manipulating a group of Islamists]. So in that case, the book is only available to customers going through .com.

      October 15, 2019
      • I’d forgotten to mention that scenario. Thanks for reminding us all. It is these same laws that make it all but imperative to make sure our covers are compliant with European laws or else we will find certain social media platforms or advertising platforms refusing to carry our promotions/ads.

        October 15, 2019
        • Mike #

          Thank you for your reply (and thanks also to TXRed). I had never considered these possible legal complications, though clearly if its not on sale outside the USA there will be no page to link to so my request would be moot (though an “only available in the USA” note would prevent fruitless searches). My suggestion was not intended to be directed at you specifically but to be something that the authors you are writing for should consider when marketing their books (particularly in newsletters as it somehow seems more frustrating there than on social media postings).

          As for your income stream, my guess would be that at some point between me clicking on your amazon.com link and my reaching the book’s page on amazon.co.uk the Amazon Associate account association will have been broken. I could be wrong of course but, if I’m not, maybe you need similar accounts with the other Amazon stores?

          October 15, 2019
      • Draven #

        I’m pretty sure at some point you won’t be able to write about fictional alien invaders in the EU because some EC bureaucrat somewhere will have decided that you can’t defame potential sentient lifeforms.

        October 15, 2019
  5. I put the first ebook up in my new series for pre-order about a month in advance. The print went live as soon as it was ready.

    On the plus side, this gave me time to sync the print and ebook, get a couple of reviews from folks who got the print edition or an advance copy, and otherwise make sure everything was in working order. For example, I always have trouble with the blurb’s formatting through Author Central.

    There were drawbacks which I recognize in hindsight. As the first in a new series with only a couple reviews it didn’t get more than a dozen pre-orders. I didn’t need a whole month to get everything in order. Two weeks would have been fine, so the second book will only get a two-week pre-order period.

    By the way, given the horror stories I’ve heard, I put the final manuscript up for pre-order. I didn’t want any last minute glitches.

    October 15, 2019
  6. I mostly agree with the Rule of Three for beta readers.

    However, one of my beta readers and I are very much on the same wave length, and even if she’s the only one to have an issue I often go with what she says. If my Inner Reader shouts “Ah,hah! She’s right!” it means I need to fix whatever she’s spotted even if no one else mentions it.

    October 15, 2019

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