Monday, 30 June 2014

Busting Self-Publishing Myths

The world of self-publishing is filled with many myths. Unfortunately, those myths often scare writers, artists and other creative folks from attempting to publish and profit from their work. Yes, it can be a scary world and there is lots of misinformation. If that misinformation has stopped you from publishing your work, then let me set your mind at ease with my very own session of myth busting.

Myth: Self-publishing is for people who give up.

Self-Publishing is hard work and not at all for those who give up. As your own boss, you will be in charge of your own decisions and make all the tough choices. However, the benefit is that you reap all the rewards, never have to compromise, and keep most of the royalties.

Myth: Self-publishing is expensive.

It can be expensive if you pay top dollar for the big three: editing, formatting and cover design. However, you can do much of this work for free or very cheaply if you do it yourself or make friends with people with these skills. With a little know-how, research, and gumption, you can do it yourself.

Myth: You need to be tech savvy to self-publish.

The tech and computer skills you will need can easily be learned. In order to format your work into an e-book, you will need to understand some very basic html. Or there are some inexpensive programs to use that do most of the hard work for you, like Scrivner. It costs $40 and in addition to being a great program to write a novel on, it can compile manuscripts into e-books for you. Try is for free 30 times before you have to pay for it. I am not a tech savvy person and the first time I formatted my full length novel, it took me about six hours. The second time it took two hours and now I can get it done in about an hour. You can do it too! 

Myth: You need to know graphic design to self-publish.

Although understanding graphic design would be helpful, you don't need to. I designed one book cover using the extremely user friendly site Photobucket. It took about twenty minutes and a royalty free image I purchased for $7. If that is still too scary, you could buy a pre-made cover for about $30 from Go On Write. Did you check out our post on Inkscape? Take a look and get some free ideas. There are cheap and easy options out there. Use them!

Myth: You need to have a diverse platform before you self-publish.

Having a platform that includes Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ connections with a thriving website or blog will definitely help you on your self-publishing way. However, you can build this as you go. I know I did with my first novel. Yet each time I've published a work, it got easier. Build as you go.

There is no wrong way to self-publish, just lots of different pathways. So don't let the myths and misinformation stop you. Give it a try. You've got nothing to lose but some time and elbow grease.

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Importance of Beta Readers

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, as I am swiftly approaching the point (with at least one of my WIPs) where I will need to start recruiting a few new beta readers of my own. I believe they are one of the most vital parts of any Indie authors’ ‘toolbox’.
The simple fact is that for a lot of Indie authors, myself included, the amount of money spent preparing an MS for publishing is a big issue, and getting a professional editor simply may not fit into the budget. And if you can’t afford one the next best option is a beta reader – or more than one if you can find them.
One of the biggest challenges with editing a book is that often as the writer we are simply too close to it to see the errors. We know what we meant to say, so it’s hard to tell when we haven’t quite achieved our goal. The typos are invisible to us.
I know that first hand! I edited The Last Knight before I published it a million times (more or less) and never once noticed that I had the word ‘roast’ in place of the word ‘road’. A pretty glaring error you would think.
The same goes for grammar. Sometimes you catch the errors, and sometimes you don’t. Another set of eyes can be an enormous help.
But a beta reader is more than just a human version of spell check. Your beta reader is quite often the first person who will see the novel. They’re the first person to lay eyes on this baby you’ve created. And they should be able to tell you which darlings you need to kill.
Your beta reader is also a good barometer of how your novel is going to be received by other readers. Did it make sense to them? Did it make them laugh? Or cry?
But finding a good beta reader is more than just handing your MS off to the first person who offers to read it. You need to trust them. Not only because you need to be sure they’re going to give you an honest opinion.
A good beta reader is going to tell you to change things – quite possibly things that you might love. You need to be able to trust their judgement.
Here’s where it becomes helpful to have more than one beta reader. Personally I like three. That way I’m not relying on one person’s opinion. After all, reading is such a subjective thing. I like three because then if one person tells me they dislike something, or think something is a problem, but the other two disagree I probably won’t change it. If two out of the three agree then I know I need to take a serious look at the problem they’re pointing out. If all three of them agree then I don’t even hesitate to change it. It’s worked for me so far.
Here are the things I think you should be asking your beta reader to look out for:
The small stuff like:
Typos (Obviously)
Missing words, sentences that don’t work etc.
The big stuff:
Plot, plot, plot. Does it make sense? Are there glaring holes? Overly confusing twists?
Dialogue. This is one of the hardest things to get right. And unrealistic dialogue can destroy an otherwise good book.
Overall feel of the book. If you’re going for something darker, have you created the right atmosphere? If it’s comedy, is it lighthearted enough?
Characters. Which characters do they love? Which ones drive them nuts? If you intended the character to be annoying that’s good, but if they’re finding your MC infuriating you might need to think again.
At the end of the day however your beta readers will only be able to make suggestions. In the end it’s up to you what you change and what you don’t.
Now go and rock on!