The Savvy Author


Tips for Becoming a Successful E-Book Author

If the publishing world is changing it is because of the many ways authors are choosing to find and expand their audiences through self-publishing. One of the newest ways to find an audience is by being an ebook-only author. Believe it or not, these authors who write only in the digital form have gotten great results as well as sales.

There is an art to creating ebooks and writing a good readable story is only part of the process.

Ebooks are real books and you need to prepare them for your readers with the same sense of professional attention to detail as you do for your print books.

Basically authors begin writing their ebook the same way as they would a print book; they prepare their manuscript by writing it in a word document and then turn it into a pdf. This makes it easy to upload into any ebook venue. A word to the wise here; when your writing is finished get a professional editor to proof read your ebook. This is an important part of the publishing process. Grammatical errors, proper spacing, and spelling are as important in a digital version of a book as it is in a print one. Spacing is especially crucial for digital books as there are times when the sentences can be "off the line." A solid professional editor knows how to edit to avoid this potential problem.

After your manuscript has been proofed, and well before you upload it, you need to think about presentation. You want to give your book a professional look and that means having an eye-catching cover, a title that will capture readers' imaginations, and a great presentation on the inside. A good online site for design and help with ebook development is Book Resource. They have links to many other legitimate sites which supply valuable information.

As for book covers, there are more choices today than ever before. I have purchased pictures and images from iStock for my both my print and ebook covers; the images work well for both. Some authors I know use Fiverr, a site for ebook design only. Both sites are not expensive. Traditional publishers, my own included, use iStock and other digital images accounts for book covers as well. It cuts production expenses way down. Gone are the days when professional illustrators and photographers were on retainer for publishing houses; publishing is paring expenses in all areas.

That being said, you do have options other than digital images sites. You may want to use a photo or illustration of your own that you think will work for your book cover. This has been successfully done by author D.L. Cocchio who writes YA paranormal novels and by Nancy Jill Thames, author of a successful series of cozy murder mysteries.

If you feel you absolutely can't do the presentation work yourself, consider using legitimate professionals in the field. It's well worth spending a few hundred dollars to get a professional design for your book. Don't hesitate to ask tons of questions from this pro so you can learn to do this work yourself for your future books.

To be successful as an ebook author you simply need to follow a few rules.

Find the genre that works best for you and create your own niche.

Brand yourself through your fiction; successful authors let readers hear their distinctive personality through their words and writing style.

Be professional and get professional help when needed.

Use social media to promote your ebook and include the price of it. Many readers will be interested because it is lower-priced than a print book.

If you plan to make your ebook manuscript into a physical book at a later date, it is certainly do-able. I recommend that you check out the places where you will be uploading your ebook to make sure this is possible. Kindling Publishing uses CreateSpace for a physical edition, Nook ebooks uses Nook Press; both are good and inexpensive for this process. Click on the links these sites provide for a step by step publishing guide. These will help you create both the digital and the printed versions of your book for best results.

If you have any thoughts of publishing an ebook, don't hesitate. The publishing landscape is changing dramatically and self-publishing will only become more common.


The Keys to Publishing Success Are In Your Hands

Getting your book published is no longer a 'wait-and-hope' proposition. There are so many ways to get published today that no author has to go through the process of submitting a proposal (non-fiction) or a full manuscript (fiction) to literary agents and endure the agonizing wait to see if it's accepted by them and then wait some more for the agent to make a deal with a publisher.

Publishing has undergone major changes, not all good. From a business perspective and in practical terms, the process a publisher faces in publishing a book by a new author is extensive and expensive. Publishing houses have staffers to read proposals and manuscripts, teams of editors, cover designers, book layout designers, printers, and distributors; all this is done with no certainty that the book will find its audience. They're hesitant to take a chance.

Every new author poses a risk for a publishing house because there's no sure way to tell which books will sell well, hopefully making the best-seller lists, and which ones will do poorly. It's risky and costly for the publishing house.

But don't get discouraged because, as the title says, the keys to publishing are literally in your own hands. The following are a few ways to get your book published. The first one is something that has started to become a favorite of many new, as well as established, authors; hybrid publishing.

Hybrid publishing has a few possible variations. It's neither self-publishing nor traditional publishing but a comfortable combination of the two. It isn't just for a single book; it can establish your entire career as an author and you may continue to stay with this form of press.

Who uses hybrid publishing? One example is the author whose career started with traditionally published books and has now decided to go with a hybrid publisher for deadline and financial control. When you publish with a traditional press, there is a long waiting period, sometimes more than a year, from finished book to launch date. With hybrid publishing the waiting time for your book to be published is cut dramatically. You're calling the shots as far as deadlines and launch date of the book. Book covers, layout, it's your call and all sales revenue from your book are yours alone.

Hybrid publishing is also becoming increasingly popular with boutique publishing. This is usually a group of authors, some traditionally published, some not, who have joined together to form their own publishing house or press. It makes good sense for them to go with hybrid publishing.

The hybrid publisher, many times associated with a traditional publisher, does all the work of editing, layout, and printing. After expenses are paid for this work, all revenue go to the individual authors. It shouldn't be surprising that many traditionally published authors, including me, like the control an author has with hybrid publishing.

Hybrid publishing has benefits for traditional publishers as well as authors. These houses will actively woo new authors who may have begun to have establish an audience through this form of publishing. It's a lower-risk investment for the publisher and a good deal for a new author.

Then there's the self-published author. Self-publishing is not the dirty hyphenated word it once was in the publishing industry. Once called 'vanity press' self-publishing actually has a rather storied and best-seller history. This is just a short list of best-selling self-published authors but it is impressive: Mark Twain, John Grisham, Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandberg, Gertrude Stein, Deepak Chopra, Upton Sinclair, D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, e.e. cummings, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, EL James and Amanda Hocking. Nice company, right?

Many of these authors kept on self-publishing even after their books hit best-selling status because they were able to maintain control of how their books were marketed and did not have to share royalties with publishers.

As with hybrid publishing you are in charge which isn't a bad thing. It's your business and you are the CEO and CFO of the company. Keep in mind that with hiring an editor, purchasing the cover art or photo, as well as the work done by the hybrid publisher, you may be spending $1800 to $2500 to bring your book to print. However many authors feel that it is worth the initial cost.

The third way to publish is through the digital world. It has been a real boon for authors. Ebooks are big business and many authors are choosing to only create digital versions of their work. Marketing an ebook is easier than marketing a print version. For one thing the ebook is less expensive and therefore more attractive to readers. The benefit to authors choosing to go this route is less cash outlay. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have easy uploads for your books with simple step-by-step directions. Again, you set the price and gain the royalties. The great thing is that once you establish yourself and gain readers, you can do a print version through CreateSpace, IngramSpark, or Nook Publishing for about $400 to $500.

Major upheavals and changes in publishing benefit authors who now have choices other than the traditional press. Whichever route you choose, getting your book out in the reading world is key to your success. You can be an exceptionally good author but unless your work gets read, no one will ever know.

Happy writing!


The Author & Editor Relationship: Professional Sparring Partners 

A friend of mine who is about to join the ranks of published authors emailed me in a panic. His new manuscript was in editing with a small but well-respected press and the edits he was receiving from their top-notch editor were not at all to his liking. "This guy is making changes that completely sabotage my original manuscript! Everything is getting altered. Any suggestions?"

I called him and basically talked him down from the ledge of editing disaster. I told him to seriously consider all edits, not as a form of sabotage, but as possibilities and see if maybe a compromise in the manuscript could be made.

"You're not suggesting that I allow my book to be so edited by this person so that it doesn't even resemble my original work, are you?"

Not at all. I then told him that if he truly wasn't comfortable with the amount of edits or inserts, he should stand his ground and not accept the edits. "It's your book, after all."

Editors and authors have a long relationship in the world of writing. Most experienced editors make small positive changes that enhance the story. You can accept the edits or not but sometimes you can see that the edits don't change the original story at all; they simply help it flow a little more easily. No really good editor will want to drastically change a manuscript that has been accepted by a publisher.

Going over the edits from the first book in my Cate Harlow Private Investigation series I was surprised at a line my editor had inserted for my main male character, Detective Will Benigni, to say. The line came after a somewhat heated exchange between that character and another male character, Giles Barrett. The original scene that I had written had Will make an "obscene gesture" towards Giles after the argument and then walk away. I knew that any readers of the book would know what that meant.

But my editor wanted it to go further and inserted certain words that can accompany that gesture. I balked. I had created the character and that wasn't what I felt would happen in that scene. My character wouldn't say it; he would just walk away. I knew that the gesture was enough. We went back and forth over that one edit for quite a few emails and SKYPE sessions while my editor, a man I knew and respected, tried to convince me to keep the line in. I firmly refused and the line was deleted.

Now I didn't feel smug as in an "I-won-you-lost" scenario; of course not. But I did feel a certain satisfaction that I had been true to my character by holding my ground. My editor went on to make a few very good minor changes which I accepted and our working relationship continued to be a good one. We even jokingly called each other "my favorite sparring partner."

Every editor with whom I have had the pleasure of working has been more than professional and fair. I have the utmost respect for editors. It is their job to see that your book is readable and flows from start to finish. There will always be times, however, when disagreements about characters, lines, and scenes are going to happen. And those disagreements are a good thing. As the author you need to be practical about any possible edits and try to see if certain changes make for a better read. You also need to understand that, as the author, you always have the last word. I have never met an editor who would blatantly disregard an author not accepting their edits, or who would make major changes to a manuscript without author permission.

Publishing houses and presses tend to hire good, solid editors. Trust is at the core of the editor-author relationship. They work with you not against you. If you feel uncomfortable with a particular editor speak up and see how you can both work together. The editor only knows what you say, not how you feel inside.

During the editorial process the editor will offer honest feedback and constructive advice. It is the editor's responsibility to work with the author in a professional manner. She or he respects the author's point of view, the genre, and the style. As far as edits go, don't see the editor as supercritical of your work. Rather see this professional as someone who is working with you to make your book as excellent as it can be in terms of both content and quality.

As for my friend, the new author, after we spoke several times he understood that the editor was not "his enemy" or trying to sabotage his manuscript. Several subtle changes and one major one were accepted and he admitted that the changes really did make a positive difference.

In a good sense you and your editor are co-workers, working to make your book into a top-seller.
Happy writing!


Writing As Your Opposite Gender Can Be Successful


Authors love to tweak the imaginations of our readers; we love to provide those who have spent good money on our books a little something extra. While most writers write main characters in their own gender, many others, quite successfully, cross over and write as their characters in the  opposite gender. Anne Rice’s Lestat, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and Alexander McCall Smith’s lady detective, Precious Ramotswe, have all been written in the opposing gender of their authors. And while character Mikael Blomkvist is technically the protagonist in author Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, his character of Lisbeth Salander is definitely the female protaganist.

Authors of both genders have consistently use narrators and protagonists of the opposite sex to weave a story and it can work very well. Struck by the number of women writing from male viewpoints, Natasha Walter, a member of a literature judging panel, has been quoted as saying that she was struck by how many female writers were now writing from a male viewpoint.  "I'm not trying to make some big generalization out of it … but if you think back to Virginia Woolf saying that her ideal for women writers is that they shouldn't be seen as women, they should be able to be androgynous. Well, maybe we are getting more towards that."

Almost all of my books have a female protagonist; Cate Harlow in the Cate Harlow Private Investigation series, is the latest in my line-up of literary women. There is only one exception to this gallery; Teddy Jameson in Welcome to Hell – The Teddy Jameson Chronicles. I can tell you that he was incredible fun to create and bring to ‘life.’ I enjoyed speaking in Teddy’s somewhat sarcastic voice and bravado, bringing him slowly to the realization of where he is and why. And while I have no problem whatsoever with my female characters cursing, (Cate can have some very choice words when working a frustrating case), I gave a more colorful vocabulary to my character of Teddy Jameson.

One thing to remember when writing in your opposite gender voice is that your character is unique and not a metaphor for the entire gender. The same is true when writing about race, religion, or class. Truthfully, most authors who create a new story are simply hoping that what we write will grab readers’ attention and they will find our characters interesting. As far as characters go, it pays to remember that not all women think and behave alike, and neither do all men.

The whole point of creating fiction is to entertain readers and to expand their experience of life. In the writer’s imagination there is neither male nor female. Some writers will enter into alternate minds better than others, but the success of the attempt will depend upon talent and technique, not gender.





You’re an Author? So You’re Really Not Working, Right?

Most authors have some sort of a home office which is good and bad. Good in the sense that you have a quiet place to weave your stories without major disturbances from co-workers. Bad because your neighbors and family members know that you’re home and they don’t understand the reality of writing. They don’t see it as a “real job.”

“Hey, Kristen, listen,” says Dan, a neighbor of mine, an accountant, who is basically a very nice man.“I was waiting for a delivery from Home Depot but I’ve got to get back to the office. Would you mind watching out for the delivery truck and signing for the lawn mower? Oh, and yeah, if they don’t come by 3:30, can you call this number and find out why? Let me know what’s going on, okay?”

Now I can say, “Sure, Dan, no problem,” but I’ve got a deadline to meet with my new book and it is crucial that I finish the last 2 chapters before it goes off to my editor. So I politely tell him I would like to help out but that I have writing to do. Dan looks at me in surprise, shakes his head, and says, “But you can do that at any time, right? You’re not going to get fired if you’re late, right?” I shake my head, tell him I’m sorry, and say I have a solid deadline. He walks away miffed and muttering, “God, it’s not like you have a real job.”

But I do have a real job. What Dan and many others don’t understand is that my writing, (my novels, my short stories, my articles, my columns), is a real job and my bread-and-butter. I am lucky enough to make a nice living out of the stories and ideas that swirl around in my head and it is my profession. Unfortunately Dan isn’t the only one who views writing as not being a “real job.” Many of my others neighbors and friends have Dan’s attitude about what I do. Parents of two children under the age of ten who live down my block, asked me if I wanted to baby-sit their kids during the summer. The mother told me, “I mean you write so it’s not like you’re really busy.” As Charlie Brown would say, “A-r-r-g-h!!!!!

Until my first book was sold my Aunt May always referred to my writing as a hobby. And while she was pleased and happy for me when I received a book deal, even now she feels that what I do is not real work and that she can call me to pick her up for a shopping excursion on any given afternoon. When I ask why she doesn’t call her daughter Karen, she informs me that, “I can’t disturb her at work. She has a real job.”

And my husband, my biggest fan, used to think nothing of calling from his office and interrupting me while I was in the middle of putting together a story. “You can get back to it, honey. Just listen to this.” The problem was I couldn’t always get back to it. I convinced him that my hours writing are sacrosanct and, unless it is of major importance, no interruptions, please darling!

As a writer I have to say that  I feel a job is a job, a profession is a profession. What makes one job or chosen profession more real than another? Is it that we tend to define real jobs in a certain fixed category? Does a “real job” have to meet the following criteria such as a full-time position with set hours, a position that pays a set salary, and gives you health insurance/sick leave/paid vacation? Is this it? 

I’ve had a so-called real job; teaching world languages in high school. While it was something that was lucrative and which I found pleasurable and rewarding, it did not satisfy the creative hunger in me that needed a writing outlet.

The idea that writers are “always available and not really working” is not only erroneous but a bit insulting. Writing is a profession that is time-consuming and doesn’t always have set hours. Distractions can have a negative impact on creativity. Concentration is an absolute necessity as is meeting deadlines whether set by an editor, publisher, or even yourself. This work is not something that can “be done later.” It is as important as any other job or profession. If you, as a writer, don’t see the importance of your work, you are doing yourself a big disservice. Your work is important and no one, least of all you, should treat it as any less than a profession.  

While writing for a living is chancy and a calculated financial risk, I would rather be doing this than anything else because I find it to be  fulfilling, stimulating, rewarding, and enjoyable! That’s the definition of a real job to me.

 Happy writing!

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