Archive | February, 2012

Tell Me Your Self-Publishing Story

29 Feb

You may or may not know that I also blog about self-publishing over on Self-Printed on Writing.ie.

You might well not know this because in the past few months I’ve been terrible at keeping it updated, but one of my goals for 2012 was to… well, get significantly less terrible at it. My problem is that I write reeeeeally long posts for Catherine, Caffeinated, and so I was thinking I should be writing reeeeeeally long posts for Self-Printed too. But that feels too much like hard work, so I’d keep putting it off and putting it off, and then one week would be come two, and then two weeks would become a month and half, and so on until Self-Printed began to grow cobwebs.

Well, no more. I have an action plan now for ensuring that Self-Printed gets updated by moi on a weekly basis—as it should—and that involves two key elements, one of which is mixing it up. (The other is allowing myself to post posts shorter than a few thousand words from time to time…) I’m going to do something different each week, rotating it on a four-week schedule, like this:

Week 1: Self-Printing 101

300 words-ish explaining some basic element of self-publishing, like a definition of a term or a summary of a website or other self-publishing service.

Week 2: Self-Printing Replay

A replay of one of my loooooooong posts from here. I really think you should dig out golden oldies whenever you can, because blog posts take so long to write it seems ridiculous to only give them one day’s worth of chances to be read. Plus I can tell by hits, comments, etc. which ones people found most useful.

Week 3: This Is Where You Come In

I’ll tell you about this in a second…

Week 4: Self-Publishing Roundup

5 of the most interesting and useful self-publishing links I’ve come across over the previous four weeks.

So, going back to Week 3. I think the best place to get ideas and inspiration for your own self-publishing adventures is to hear about the experiences of other self-publishers. So, I want to hear about yours. And then I want to post it on Writing.ie. This is not only an opportunity to share any tips or tricks with other authors, but it’s also (let’s be honest) an opportunity to advertise your book—Writing.ie gets tens of thousands of unique visitors a month from all over the world.

If you’d like to get involved, there’s some guidelines:

  • We want to hear about why you self-published, how you self-published and what you’ve learned since you did
  • Link to one listing on Amazon.com, your website and your Twitter account—but please, keep the live links at that
  • You must send the post, in MS Word with the links embedded if possible, to info[at]catherineryanhoward.com
  • The post must not have previously appeared anywhere else; no material only, pretty please
  • Attach ONE book cover image and ONE author image
  • Please keep it between 400-1,000 words.

(I’m afraid I can’t say when your post will be posted, although I will let you know when it is.)

Previous guest posters here can of course submit new posts—the more the merrier. It doesn’t where you’re from either, or how recently or how long ago you self-published your book. I really hope you’ll want to be involved because I am genuinely fascinated by everyone else’s stories, especially if you have some tricks I can try too…

Could Your Self-Published Book Pass THIS Test?

27 Feb

Once upon a time, Mousetrapped was 400 sheets of double-spaced text resting in a Muji kraft box under my bed and its destiny was to remain there forever. I had no intention of self-publishing it, not least of all because I figured self-publishing was for delusional losers who despite being rejected by one literary agent and five publishing houses just couldn’t take a hint.* But then a friend sent me a link to Lulu, which led me to CreateSpace, which started the wheels in my rejection-filled head turning…

The book that started it all...

Soon, the decision was made. I’d self-publish using the cheapest and easiest form of Print on Demand, or POD. I’d already checked the manuscript a few times during my agent/publisher hunt, so I was pretty confident it was mistake-free. All I had to do was re-format it and convert the Word document into a PDF. I could throw together some kind of cover using the software provided by CreateSpace and then point people in the direction of its Amazon listing. The whole thing might take a Saturday, a weekend at the most.

Right?

Um, no. Not even close.

In fact, the process took three more months. During this time, I worked with an editor on the manuscript itself. She pointed out spelling mistakes, grammar abuse, confused thoughts, contradictions and a vast collection of inconsistencies. (Like e-mail and email, for example.) We even re-wrote some parts. Each time a round of corrections was finished, she’d give me the manuscript to check again, and then she’d check my checking. We passed it back and forth maybe four or five times. Meanwhile I was also working with a designer on my cover. I’d made a mock-up of what I wanted, and he made it happen with some vast improvements.  I emailed a few writerly friends for their advice on the blurb and we went back and forth over the many versions and when that was settled, there were a few more rounds on the cover design as things like text, placement of text and the exact amount of blue sky above the palm trees was decided. Even when all this work was done, the proof copy itself had to be worked through—another three full days of work before I could click ‘Publish’ and release Mousetrapped into the world.

So what changed in between? How did I go from thinking it would take a weekend to taking this self-publishing thing somewhat seriously?

The answer is I happened upon Jane Smith’s site, The Self-Publishing Review, and started reading.

The idea of the SPR is simple. As Jane explains:

“Here are the rules. You send me a copy of your self-published book, and I’ll read it. If I like it I’ll review it here, and will be generous with my praise. What’s the catch? I’m an editor, and expect published books to be polished. I’m going to count all the errors I find in spelling, punctuation and grammar and when I reach fifteen I’m going to stop reading. I’ll work my way through up to five pages of boring prose or bad writing before I give up. And I’ll list on this blog every single book I’m sent, including the books I’ve not completed, along with how far I got through each one.”

This is not your best friend who thinks anything you do is amazing. It’s not that relative of yours who doesn’t read anything but magazines, and therefore thinks the application of any words to paper is nothing short of magical. It isn’t your loyal blog subscribers or Twitter followers supporting you with five star Amazon reviews. It’s not the opinion of one of your fellow self-published authors who hopes you’ll return the favor (and if not you, karma), and it’s certainly not a group of self-publishing evangelists who feed into their own delusion with suspiciously glowing reviews on such a scale that their site should really be called AdventuresinBack-Scratching.com. This is a brutally honest, unbiased review—maybe your only chance of one. Better yet, Jane doesn’t compare your book to other self-published books. She compares them to all books.

It seems crazy now, but initially I wasn’t too fussed about Mousetrapped‘s perfection. I said things like, So what if the cover’s a bit blurry? What do they expect? and, People probably won’t even notice spelling mistakes and even if they do, then so what? Then I started to read through the reviews on SPR and realized that I was digging my own self-published grave with that attitude. Instead, I went through each review and made notes. What mistakes were being made over and over again? What could I look out for in my own text? Where’s the nearest copyeditor?

When I thought about sending my finished book to Jane for review, I began to feel a bit sick. But Jane was representative of all my potential readers. Shouldn’t my goal be to deliver as close to a perfect book as I could? And so I worked at it, with it and on it until I felt confident it was pass Jane’s test, or at the very least do so without too much ego-blasting criticism. My ultimate goal was to get her to read it all and to recommend it, two things I had rarely seen her do on the site. If she had some bad things to say about it, so be it. Chances are she would—it was my belief back then and I believe it even more so today that it is almost impossible for a self-publisher to fully recreate the rounds and rounds of preparation that a book would go through at a major publishing house. But as long as she read the whole thing and thought it was useful for something other than being a coaster under a hot coffee cup, then I’d be happy.

Last week Jane published her review of my book. She had some criticisms, some I didn’t agree with (for instance, my actions while in Orlando—the fact that I didn’t prepare is what the book is about) and some I did (um, all the other ones…!) She also really got my wheels turning on her point about the back cover blurb, which since it practically lifts lines from the first chapter, feels repetitive to the reader. I think I’m going to write me a new one.

Now, some of you may think I’m ten shades of crazy to be drawing your attention to a review by an expert that says my book has problems**, but I’m doing it because I want all you “I can’t afford an editor” types to consider this: Mousetrapped was professionally copyedited. And before that, it had more than a year’s worth of feedback from an agent. And before that, I rewrote it I think at least three times. But I “couldn’t afford” a structural edit, which would have caught many of the problems Jane flagged, the problems I see now when I read over it two years later. And I “couldn’t afford” a proofread, which would have ensured that any changes made during the copyedit hadn’t left inconsistencies or other mistakes. So what state would the book be in if I hadn’t done anything at all? What state will your book be in if you don’t do anything at all?

If you are thinking of self-publishing or in the midst of it, I implore you to go read through all the reviews on SPR. Make a list of the criticisms that keep popping up again and again. Write them on a piece of paper in block capitals, laminate it and stick it behind your desk. Commit to not making any of them.

Click here to visit the Self-Publishing Review.

*I don’t want to encourage the self-publication of bad books, so I feel I should add this: yes, Mousetrapped was rejected by those people, but all their responses were the same. They thought the book was enjoyable and well-written, but they felt its potential readership was too small to warrant publication which, after all, is a business at the end of the day. While this sucked, it made Mousetrapped an ideal candidate for self-publication. If any or all of them had said, ‘This just isn’t good enough,’ I wouldn’t have done it.

**I think my book has problems too. As I said on a comment on Jane’s review, if I were reviewing it myself, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars, maybe 3.5 or even 4 if the topics covered in it were things I was fascinated by AND I really clicked with the author’s voice. Mousetrapped has 42 reviews on Amazon.com and an overall average of 4 out of 5 stars, which I think is great, but I think it only gets 5 stars whenever a reader really “clicks” with the book and not because it’s perfect or exceptional. And these people have read it—I know potential readers have been turned off by the overly long first chapter (I’ve seen comments about it on Twitter, etc.) But the beauty of self-publishing is that if I want to do something about that, I can. 

Sidenote: in this post I’ve touched on two things that I’m going to be blogging about in the near future: how a self-publisher can re-create what happens at a publishing house and the difference between a book being a well-crafted piece of Booker-esque literature and it having appeal. So, stand by for more on that.

Non-US Self-Publisher? Tax Issues Don’t Need to be Taxing (Overhauled Oct ’14)

24 Feb

****Update October 2014 – Read Me!****

From the Amazon KDP Tax Interview guide, October 2014:

“If you are claiming a reduced rate of withholding tax under an income tax treaty and do not have a U.S. TIN, provide your foreign (non-U.S.) income tax identification number to receive treaty benefits. This number is issued by your local tax authority or government for income tax purposes.”

That’s right, folks. Now – thanks to changes in something called FATCA (thanks Marcela of Beyond Frontiers Tax for the heads up!) – you only need the tax identification number from your own country to avail of any tax treaty benefits that may exist between your country of residence and the United States. This, for example, is an NI number in the UK and a PPS number in Ireland. This means you will know never know the horror of obtaining an ITIN or the suspicious ease of getting an EIN, but can simply go straight to Amazon KDP, Createspace, Smashwords, etc. and complete your tax interview with information you already have.

If you don’t have a tax identification number for some reason (some countries only give them to individuals who have been employed, for example), you DO need to get an ITIN or an EIN.

If you have past withholdings that you believe you are entitled to get back, you will have to file a US tax return and for this you DO need an ITIN or EIN.

I’m leaving the original post below but you don’t need it unless you’re hellbent on getting an EIN.

Click here for information on filling out the Amazon KDP tax interview with EITHER an ITIN or your own tax identification number. (They won’t take EINs, but you don’t need to enter it if you have your own tax identification number and your country has a tax treaty with the US.)

A word of caution: I’ve never in my life encountered a process that is so gleefully and needlessly overcomplicated by people. It was straightforward before, now it’s downright simple. How about we all act accordingly, eh?

The original post is below but before you click “Read More” please, keep in mind that you don’t actually need it now unless you have to get an EIN and you only need to do that if you have past withholdings you want to get refunded, and if you do I’d recommend you go to a tax specialist who can act as an intermediary like TaxBack.com Continue reading

How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed

23 Feb

One of the hardest things for a self-published author to do is to get their book reviewed. But you need reviews, if only to lend some weight to your Amazon listing and to reassure yourself that self-publishing your book isn’t the biggest mistake you’ve ever made. Book bloggers and other non-professional book sites (i.e. where the reviewers don’t get paid but read and review for love) are your best bets for getting your self-published book reviewed. But how do you get them to do it? How do you approach them? And where do you even find them in the first place?

How to get your book reviewed

(If you’d prefer NOT to get your book reviewed, please see below.)

The first step is to find suitable bloggers who might like to review your book, and there are two ways to do that. The first is to trawl through Futurebook’s extensive book blogger listing. (You can easily add your name, by the way, if you review books on your website or blog.) Make a list of potential reviewers for your book based on genre preferences, etc. The second thing you can do is find 1-3 recently traditionally published books that are similar to yours, e.g. if you read and liked Book X, you might like your Book Y too. Google their name along with the word review. The top results will probably be newspapers and magazines, but keep going. Soon you’ll get to the book bloggers. Add any suitable ones to your potential reviewers list.

The next step is research, and you cannot skip this step. You are asking these people to give up several hours of their life to read and review your book; the least you can do is spend five minutes looking around their site to see if you should even be sending your book to them in the first place. Check their submission guidelines and then follow them. Add the details to your list. If they say they don’t review self-published books, that means they don’t review self-published books. Take heed.

When I wrote Self-Printed just under a year ago, the problem plaguing self-published authors looking to get their book reviewed was what I called The Mean Problem, whereby self-published authors bristled at the idea of “giving books away for free” to reviewers. (Don’t. Even. Get. Me. STARTED.) I think this has changed, thankfully—especially now that e-books are more widely read and so, accepted by book reviewers—but a new problem has taken its place: Thinking People Care Syndrome. By default, nobody gives a rodent’s arse about anyone else’s book. Oh, you wrote a book, did you? WATCH WHILE I DON’T GIVE A RODENT’S ARSE. (This isn’t me saying this to you, but everyone saying it to everyone else.) Writing a book doesn’t equal people wanting to read it (unfortunately), and I think this is a point a lot of self-publishers—and even some traditionally published authors—don’t quite get. It’s probably the biggest realization I’ve had about this whole publishing world since I stuck a self-published toe in it back in 2010. Nobody cares.

Bleak, I know, but once you acknowledge that nobody cares—once you fully understand that that’s your starting-off point—you’ll take a different approach to book-selling. A more effective approach. And then you’ll sell more books. Because a writer who doesn’t understand that nobody cares will send an e-mail that says, “I just published something. If you’d like to review it, let me know.” But if you’re a writer who does understand, the next thing you’ll do is create something that makes me care about your book. This may be an e-mail, or it may be a press release or “sell sheet” in PDF attached to an e-mail, or even a little video. It should be professional, informative and interesting, but also short and to the point.

It should tell me:

  • who you are
  • what the book is about
  • the what/when/where of the book’s publication
  • whether I’d be getting an e-book or a paperback
  • how to get in contact with you if I want to review it
  • something that makes me think, Oooh, I’d like to read that.

I don’t know you and I haven’t read your book (yet?), so my entire impression of you and your work is going to be formed from this e-mail. This is something to keep in mind.

Your e-mail might look something like this, attached to a one-page PDF document filled with relevant and interesting information about you and your book:

To [first name]

I am the author of Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, a travel memoir of the eighteen months I spent living in Orlando and working in Walt Disney World. I really enjoyed your review of [SIMILAR BOOK]—I too laughed out loud at the bit [MEMORABLE INCIDENT FROM SIMILAR BOOK]!—and as my book is similar, I thought you might be interested in reading and potentially reviewing it.

I’d be happy to send you a complimentary copy. There is, of course, no obligation to review it; I appreciate that you must get countless books to review and don’t have the time to read and review all of them. I completely understand.

If you are interested in receiving a copy, please forward a postal address and I will mail one to you immediately. Alternatively if you’d like an e-book edition please tell me your preferred format and I will e-mail it to you. 

Please see attached document for more information. I’m also available for interview, guest-posting, etc. If there’s anything else I can supply you with—images, more information, links, etc.—please let me know.

Thank you for your time,

[Your name]

If you’ve done your job, you’ll have sent me something that makes me think:

  • you’re a professional
  • who has written an interesting, potentially good book
  • that I want to read because you’ve done your research on me.

Therefore I’ll e-mail you back to say, “Yes—send me this book!” and then I’ll read it and like it and review it, and your job will be done. Mission accomplished. Repeat as required. And well done you.

How NOT to get your book reviewed

The first step is to find book bloggers who don’t read books on the same planet as yours, let alone in the same genre, and bloggers who don’t review books at all. At least half of your potential reviewer list should be made up of these non-book-reviewing bloggers, and everyone on it should say somewhere on their website that they never read or review self-published books. That’s, like, the most important bit. Throw in a few self-published authors as well. I mean, why not? When Patricia Cornwell has a new book out the first thing she does is offer a copy to Karin Slaughter, right?

Don’t visit any of the sites or blogs on your list. You don’t need to, because this is your book we’re talking about. So what if it’s chick-lit and the site is called CrimeSpreeBooks.com? Once they hear about the plot (twenty-something fish out of water with man troubles catalogues her wardrobe and hangs out with her ditzy best friend; giggles ensue), they’ll forget all about serial killers, Scandinavia and grisly body parts and read nothing but you forever more.

Also, don’t bother with those yawn-inducing “Contact” forms or collecting the bloggers’ actual e-mail addresses from the submission information on their sites. That’s just a gigantic waste of time. BOR-ing. Instead, use this handy shortcut:

  1. Take the domain of the website, e.g. http://www.INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com, and cut out the “www.”
  2. Replace it with “info@”.
  3. Send your e-mail to that address, i.e. info@INeverReviewBooksLikeYours.com.
  4. If you get a failure notice, try “admin@” instead. One of them is bound to work, right?

So now you have a long list of people who don’t read books like yours—many of whom also don’t review books at all—and e-mail addresses for them that may or may not work, and if they do work, aren’t anything to do with the way they’ve asked you to contact them as per the instructions on their site. The next thing to do is to send out a mass e-mail to all of them that does one or more of the following things:

  • annoys
  • gets the Delete button clicked
  • gets the Spam button clicked
  • gets the Block Recipient feature enabled
  • incites anger and/or frustrated pencil-snapping
  • inspires the recipient to write an extremely sarcastic blog post about reviews
  • gives the recipient the impression that you think giving them a copy of your book is bestowing upon them a beautiful gift, and not that them reading and reviewing your book is them doing you an immeasurable favor. (Mucho bonus points for doing this.)

How can you achieve this? Well, I’m glad you asked! To make absolutely sure that you make your reviewer experience all of the above, remember to:

  • Ignore all the review-related information on the blogger’s site, e.g. submission guidelines, preferred genres, etc. If you’ve followed my instructions thus far, you’ve already done this. Well done you! Earn bonus points by including a blatant lie about having researched their site, e.g. “I know you love science-fiction” when there is not one mention of science-fiction anywhere on the blogger’s site, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Omit any information about your book. Just put a link to your website instead, man. That way you get a hit too. And bonus points will be awarded for not activating the link; it’s even better if the recipient has to manually copy and paste the URL into their browser’s address bar. Oh YEAH.
  • Use CC instead of BCC, so every single one of the 391 people you sent the e-mail to can see everyone else’s e-mail addresses. Who doesn’t love that?
  • Include an ultimatum. If you do one thing to not get your book reviewed, make it this. Ultimatums can be one or more combinations of the following book review ultimatum categories: Schedule Ultimatums (“Only accept a copy if you are in a position to post your review between March 4th and April 10th…”), Content Ultimatums (“I ask that you only post your review if it’s a positive one…” or “You can’t mention the misspelling on the cover in your review…”) and Action Ultimatums (“I propose a review exchange. I’ll send you a copy of my book and you send me a copy of yours. Once your positive review of my book appears on Smashwords, I’ll read and review yours [Ed. note: ??!?!?!?!???!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?! Another ed. note: I actually got an e-mail that said this.]. Here’s an inactive link to my website where you can find out more…”).
  • Insult the reviewer. If there’s one thing book bloggers lurve, it’s authors who are happy to send them stacks of shiny books until they post a negative review of their work. After that, it’s all “Oh my god you are SO unprofessional” and “I’m going to bitch about you on every forum I can find” and “Then I’m going to send all my, ahem, fans (read: friends) your way so they can leave bitchy comments about you on your site” and “Who are you, anyway? I bet you’re a failed writer who can barely contain her jealousy that I have a book for sale.” Yep. And the only kind of author they love even more is the kind that makes a pre-emptive strike against such behavior. Get in this category by saying something like, “Before I send you my book, I want to make sure that in return I’ll get a balanced and fair review where, if something is not to your liking, you’ll quantify why. Perhaps you could send me some samples of your previous reviews so I can check that you’re up to the task…?”
  • Tell them your mother loved it. So simple, but oh so effective.
  • Pretend you are not the author but the author’s Proper Publicist-Type even though the e-mail is clearly from your personal account and slips into the first person before the end of the message. A classic technique, this.
  • Don’t even bother pretending that you’re after a review. I mean, why would you want a review? They’re for losers. You want sales. So say something like, “My book is for sale now on [insert link]” and then just leave it at that. For a truly annoying touch, add some hollow humility like, “I don’t expect you to buy it, but I’m going to send you this e-mail about how to buy it just in case. I mean, I know you don’t know me and we’ve never been in contact before and you only got this e-mail because I noticed you had a dot-com domain name and so chances are you have an info@ e-mail address but hey, this is my book we’re talking about. Trust me: you’re gonna want to read this baby.”

Therefore if you don’t want to get your book reviewed, your e-mail will look more like this:

To Blogger

I’m a fancy pants book publicist from a fancy pants book publicists’ office. I’m contacting you today in the hope that you actually have this e-mail address and because I know you’ll be interested in reading [GENERIC TITLE], a stunning debut by [AUTHOR’S NAME] that’s available now on Amazon for $1.99. I’m fairly certain of this because of your blog header. (Yes, I know your blog header is actually nothing to do with the subject matter of this book, but just go with it.) Go to http://www.generictitle.com now to find out more because that’s all the information I’m going to give you and this e-mail isn’t attached to anything except what is sure to be one of the biggest sellers of 2012. As Person With The Same Last Name as the Author has said of it, “You typed this whole thing? Like, yourself? Wow! I’m impressed.”

As I’m sure you’re aware self-published authors don’t have a lot of money and as a self-published author yourself, I know you’d appreciate me asking you to appreciate this and perhaps buy the book instead of getting a FREE copy of it…? I mean, come on. You’d probably spend double the price on a cup of coffee, am I right? Anyway if you must take money out of my—I mean, the author’s—pocket, I can send you an e-book with your name on every page so if you pass it on and it ends up on one of those piracy sites, I’ll know it was you. Yeah, I know what you book blogger types are like! I wasn’t born yesterday. Thus before I send you anything, I’m going to need a guarantee that you’ll post a review of it. Perhaps you could scribble a quick contract and send it to me, signed and notarized, along with your passport? I promise I’ll send it back after my (positive!) review goes live. 

Oh, and I—we— need you to do this review thing ASAP. Like, yesterday. I got bills, y’know?

I’m also gonna need assurances that you’ll accompany my review with links to my blog, site, Twitter feed, Facebook profile, Flickr albums and Goodreads page, and that you won’t use any photos of me in which my left side predominantly features.

That’s what’s up.

LATERS,

The Auth—I mean, The Author’s Fancy Pants Publicist

And so, to recap:

  • If you give me a copy of your book to review and I read and review it, it is me who is doing you a favor.
  • Book bloggers specify what kind of books they like to review on their websites. Read this information. If it’s not there, a quick flick through a list of their existing reviews will help you determine whether or not your book is for them.
  • By default, nobody cares about anybody else’s book. Your job is to get me—and everyone else—to care.
  • If you’ve self-published a book, that doesn’t mean that other self-published authors will want to read it. It doesn’t work that way.
  • I won’t leave your e-mail to go looking for information about your book, so don’t ask me to.
  • Sending an e-mail that’s trying to sell something to someone you don’t know is called spam. Sending spam could get your e-mail account blocked and deactivated.
  • Putting me on a mailing list without my consent will not get me to buy your book. It will only get me to report you to your e-mail provider for abuse. This extends to lists of e-mail addresses you made yourself and then sent mass mailings to, not just “formal” mailing lists. If you haven’t communicated with the person before, you shouldn’t be sending them mass anything.
  • I’m not even a book blogger and yet I found myself with more than enough material to write this post. I CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE the gems actual book bloggers get sent.

Finally, we all know that the majority of submissions agents and editors get are smeared with crazy, unprofessionalism and coffee rings. That’s why we strive to make our own pristine, clean, correctly formatted, in adherence with their submission guidelines and smelling fresh; we want to give a professional impression. Do the same with your book review correspondence. Be professional, target suitable reviewers, don’t be pushy, demanding or frightening, and your book will get reviewed.

Happy reviewer-searching!

(Thought for the day: this blog post is nearly 3,000 words long. My book isn’t finished. Coincidence?)

Public service announcement: By the way, I don’t really review books anymore. A quick look around my site would reveal that (a) the last time I posted a review was August 2011, (b) if I do have time to review something, it’s not self-published books I choose to review and (c) does this look like a book review-centric blog to you? So I don’t really know why I’m even getting e-mails from authors in the first place. Although after this, I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any.

Was that my evil plan all along? We’ll never know…

[Mysterious Mona Lisa-esque smile]

How To Launch a Bestseller: A Guest Post from Mel Sherratt

22 Feb

Today we have a guest post from Mel Sherratt, author of the bestselling Taunting the Dead which she recently self-published in e-book. It’s been such a huge success that everyone wants to know, how did she do it? Welcome to Catherine, Caffeinated, Mel! 

“One question I’ve been asked a lot recently is have I had a well defined publicity campaign for my ebook, TAUNTING THE DEAD. So I thought I’d tell you what I did. Last December, I had a ‘launch’ day on twitter when I tweeted about it as often as I could and lots of people kindly retweeted this blog post for me. I also did three guest posts on book blogs during that same week. Over the next few weeks, momentum slowly built up and sales increased daily until a couple of weeks ago when I had a feature in my local evening newspaper. My sales figures doubled on that day, then doubled again the following day and have increased ever since. So is it social media or my ‘voice’ on Twitter or is it TAUNTING THE DEAD itself that is getting noticed?

I’m not sure if there is any wrong or right way for a writer to approach Twitter. I don’t see anything wrong with authors tweeting about their book – we all need to do it – as long as it isn’t incessantly in my timeline. But I use twitter as my virtual office. It’s my place to go and ‘chat’ when I need a break so I don’t want to alienate people who I enjoy chatting to. I don’t promote my book in the sense of putting a link into several tweets a day but I do tweet out if someone has been kind enough to say something good about my book, out of pure delight that they’ve done so. I’m only human – I want to share. But then I get fearful that I might annoy someone in their timeline too!

I also think book bloggers, as well as people who follow me on twitter, have played an instrumental part in promoting TAUNTING THE DEAD. It’s the only thing I can think of, apart from possibly, word of mouth – or maybe readers of my blog following my writing journey. I run a blog called High Heels and Book Deals and for the past two years have hosted author interviews and reviewed lots of books in between sharing posts about my writing. I’m often told that the blog has become a tool to learn from as there are lots of hints and tips about writing from some great authors.  Before I uploaded my ebook, I had a few crime bloggers/reviewers review the book for me and I think because they were well known and respected, it had a good effect on my sales. People were extremely kind and I hope that’s because I gave my time to some of them when their own books were out. I do my fair share of retweeting too. My followers on Twitter also tweet out things without asking and often do ‘tweet outs’ for me when I have news, for instance when I went to # 5 in the overall Kindle charts.

So I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has taken time out to write a review, to host me on a blog post or to tweet out my news. Because that in itself has been my promotion. You out there have played a huge part in it.”

About Mel:

Ever since she can remember, Mel Sherratt has been a meddler of words. Right from those early childhood scribbles when she won her first competition, she was rarely without a pen in her hand or her nose in a book. Born and raised in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, Mel now uses her beloved city as a backdrop for her crime thriller novels. A self confessed shoeaholic, Mel also hosts a blog called High Heels and Book Deals. Taunting the Dead is her first novel and she is represented by Curtis Brown Literary Agency. 

About Taunting the Dead:

‘Gritty and atmospheric, Mel Sherratt knows all about the dangers that lurk within those mean streets.’ Niamh O’ Connor

Statistics say nine out of ten murders are committed by someone the victim knows. So when Steph Ryder is found dead with her head caved in, Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton begins investigations close to home, starting with the victim’s family and friends. As each one tries to cover up their actions on that fateful night, Allie becomes convinced husband Terry Ryder has something to hide. Powerful, ambitious and charming, Allie’s attraction to the successful businessman grows with each interrogation, risking both her job and marriage. But he’s not the only one she’s investigating. Secrets and lies begin to escalate as quickly as the body count. Can Allie uncover the truth before her life not only falls apart, but before she ends up a victim, too? Taunting the Dead is a sexy, gritty, fast paced thriller that will set your pulse racing, twist and turn you in every direction and leave you guessing right until the very end…

Thanks Mel! Click here to find Taunting the Dead on Amazon.com and here to find it on Amazon.co.uk.

London Stuff, Another Course and a Debate

21 Feb

So… Bring Your Book To Market at Faber Academy went really well, as did my six-hour whistle-stop tour of London which included not only a trip to Paperchase in Covent Garden, but to Ladurée as well, where my café creme came in one silver jug and hot, frothy milk came served in another. Why can’t all coffees be like this, eh? P.S. Don’t Ladurée have the best website ever? I think so…

The Science Museum was like an unsupervised creche, but then it was half-term and I knew it was before I went, but silly me decided to stick to my Apollo-10-capsule-viewing plans anyway. It was totally worth it though because the capsule was amazing—burned heat shield leftovers and all—and I just went to my happy place to drown the screaming little people out.

There were really lovely people on the course—13 of them, I believe—with a real mix of writing experience and motivations for self-publishing and even though putting together that damn PowerPoint presentation had caused me to miss at least three nights’ TV, it let me run through the whole thing without additional notes and worked really well on Faber’s super snazzy smartboard-thingy. (Yes, that’s the technical term.) I think—I hope—they all left knowing everything I wish I’d known two years ago, when I first started this whole, ahem, adventure, so that they can do it better than I did. Also, the coffee kept coming. It was great.

Next up: the same presentation except with some extra social media bits and an extra hour, only this time it’s going to be at the Royal St. George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, just outside of Dublin, on Saturday March 3rd, with Inkwell Writers. I’m told there’s only a small number of places left so if you’re interested, reserve yours now. The price is €125 and you can find out more here.

A few days later I’ll be in Dublin again, this time at the Irish PEN Debate at the United Arts Club in the city centre, on Thursday March 8th at 8pm. I’ll be on a panel debating the pros and cons of traditional versus self-publishing, and you can find out more about that here.

Finally, remember when Nicola Morgan stopped by on her Write a Great Synopsis blog tour a couple of weeks back? Well, I’m delighted to say that out of all the entries to her synopsis critique competition from all her blog tour stops (over 200 entries, I believe), the winner was from this very blog. Congratulations kristyes! Enjoy your expert synopsis help and other goodies, and thanks to Nicola for being such a fab guest.

US Tax Withholdings and Alphabet Soup

20 Feb

[UPDATE: Please make sure to read the comments on this post too, as fellow Irish self-publisher David Gaughran explains how he got his EIN—in minutes.]

[UPDATE #2: Author Melissa Hill advises me that Irish residents might be better off contacting the US Embassy in London. I guess it doesn’t matter which embassy you contact anyway, but it seems that London is better equipped to deal with these kinds of applications/enquiries than the Dublin one is.]

[UPDATE #3: Commenter Janet advises that starting this year, new IRS rules will mean that companies such as CreateSpace, etc. WON’T be able to refund withholdings from the current year. That will mean that any monies withheld will go straight to the IRS, and you’ll have to apply to them to get the refund. If getting an EIN/ITIN is rocket science, filing tax returns with the IRS when you don’t live in the US is string theory and chaos theory combined; my advice would be to get your EIN or ITIN before you’re due a single royalty cheque, if possible.]

You may recall that before Christmas I posted about the saga of obtaining a US Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) so that I could receive my royalty cheques from the likes of Amazon, CreateSpace and Smashwords without them withholding 30% from me, which is what they’re obligated by law to do if there’s no tax information provided. Since then there’s been a couple of comments left on the post saying that self-published authors outside the US don’t need an ITIN, only an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and EINs are far, far easier to get.

I’m certain this is true, not only because of the commentors but because I know writers who aren’t self-published who use it for things like getting paid for features from US publications. I’m not an expert but this is the way I think it works:

An ITIN is for earning royalties in the US as a non-US resident. Let’s say you were published in the US by Penguin Books, for example. Other companies are distributing the book to stores and websites, and Penguin are collecting the money because the book is their product, and you’re entitled to royalties from each sale. To get paid them, you need an ITIN. But with a self-published book, the product is yours. Amazon KDP, CreateSpace and Smashwords are just distributing it and then paying you; there’s no middle man, no entity in between who can claim it’s their product. The royalties are really just profits. Thus you are just doing business in the US. You’re just selling a product. And in order to get your 100% instead of seventy, you merely need an EIN.

So how do you get an EIN? You can apply online at the IRS website, although it’s a “live” application service and so can only be used during certain times of the day (specified on the site). You also apparently have the option of phoning your nearest US Embassy where you might end up with your EIN before you hang up the phone.

You may have to, ahem, pretend that at some stage in the future you might take on some staff…

(Well, when you start selling a gazillion e-books a second, you are going to need an assistant, right?)

What if you have an ITIN? Well, like me, you’ve just done some form filling and IRS-stressing you didn’t really have to, but hey, it’s done now. It’s not wrong to have an ITIN, it’s just you could have got an EIN instead. The people who know this seem to be freaking out all over the interweb, leaving excitable public service announcements on other people’s blogs to alert them, and while I love when useful information is shared, I don’t really see the need for a full-on freak out about this. Getting an ITIN is not difficult—what is difficult is trying to do it with the information the IRS provide, and you don’t have to because plenty of self-published authors have blogged about how they got theirs. (Including me.) Plus, whenever you get your number, be it an ITIN or EIN, you get refunded all your withholdings from the year to date, so waiting a few weeks isn’t going to make a difference unless it pushes you into a new calender year. My point is, calm down.

If you have an ITIN, you shouldn’t even be reading this because your tax situation is already sorted. (But of course I’m glad that you’re here!)

If you’re in the processing of applying for it, just wait. You’ll get all your money back anyway.

But if you haven’t started the process at all, get on the phone to your nearest US Embassy or follow the link to the online application, and then come back and tell me how you got on.

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