What Catherine Did (in London, Last Week)

During my hectic three-day jaunt to London last week I met the lovely Joanna Penn, she of the fantastically useful The Creative Penn and bestselling self-published author of the Arkane series of novels, and she interviewed me about all things self-publishing.

(While both of us sat in the lovely forecourt of the British Museum and glared at anyone who came walking too close to us while chatting loudly on their phone. And also entertained a lot of pigeons, which I didn’t realize until I watched the video…)

You can read her post about and watch the full video here, or click the image below.

SERIOUS FACE.

Also, Self-Printed is now out there in the wide world. You can buy the paperback from Amazon stores (including Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk; just make sure it’s the second edition you get although thanks to Market Place Sellers the first edition is about the cost of an iMac at the moment…) and the Kindle edition from all Kindle stores, including Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. You can still buy the e-books directly from me, although they’ve gone up to their normal price of $4.99 (but still include a 30% discount off the book on CreateSpace).

In other news—big, good news—Bring Your Book To Market, the 3-day course on self-publishing your book and using social media to help your profile as an author that Ben Johncock and I did at Faber Academy last February is happening next February too. Hooray! You can find out all the details here. I know I’m hopelessly biased, but it really is a good course, especially if you’re serious about this whole self-publishing thing (even as a sideline and especially if it’s a backlist we’re talking about) and Faber Academy is a beautiful place to spend three days, overlooking Bloomsbury Square.

Also, if you know of any entertaining 50 Shades of Grey reviews—good or bad, hating the book or hailing it as their favorite ever—send me the links, would you please? Thanks muchly.

I’m getting something very special next week: time! What a wondrous thing that will be. I can barely remember what it feels like. So brace yourself for a post-a-day for a while.

Have a good weekend!

A Writerly Day Out in Dublin

I mentioned already that I’m super busy this month—in a good way! I already had a wonderful day at the Mountains to Sea Festival in Dun Laoghaire and I’m currently trying to squeeze three days and nights’ worth of clothes, cosmetics and reading material into a small enough bag for my Ryanair flight to London tomorrow, where I’m lucky to have lots of exciting writerly things planned over the coming days.

Then this day next week—Monday 24th September— and a little bit closer to home, I’ll be at the National Union of Journalists’ Freelance Forum in Dublin. To attend the entire day is €10 for members and €20 for non-members (using the discount code on this page), and there’s some great events scheduled. Plus I think it’s a great opportunity for writers who are just embarking on their freelance careers to come along and perhaps meet those who have managed to make a living from it, and of course there’s a session on self-publishing.

I mean, come on. We’re writers. Any excuse for a day out, right?

The schedule includes:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

PUBLISHING: Paper, Scissors, Kindle?

From traditional publishing to self-publishing and e-publishing

Speakers: moi, Orna Ross of the Alliance of Independent Authors and Fergal Tobin of Gill and Macmillan

THE MARKET: What’s coming down the track? How to stay ahead of the game.

What to do. What not to do. How to improve your pitch and adapt to the future.

Speakers: Dee O’Keeffe, features editor of the Evening Herald and Bryan O’Brien, photographer with the Irish Times

HYPERLOCALS: Start Your Own Business

Speakers: Brian Pelan, editor of Viewdigital.org and Ronan Morris of Webtogether, Clontarf.ie

ONLINE OPPORTUNITIES: Panel Discussion

Speakers: Susan Daly, editor at TheJournal.ie, Hugh Linehan, editor at IrishTimes.com and TJ McIntyre, lecturer and chairman of Digital Rights Ireland.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Freelance Forum takes place in Buswell’s Hotel, a short walk from Stephen’s Green in Dublin City Centre. You can view the whole schedule here and/or book your ticket here.

Hopefully I see you there!

The 3 Most Common Indie Oopsies by Shannon of Duolit

This morning we have a guest post from Shannon O’Neil, one half of the Florida-based dynamic duo (Toni being the other half!) behind the fantastic self-publishing website Duolit. Here, Shannon shares her tips on how to avoid some of the most common self-publishing mistakes. Take it away, Shannon… 

“Don’t hang your head, it’s okay. We all make mistakes.

For example, that orange taffeta bridesmaid dress your friend picked for her wedding was a mistake (as evidenced by the surviving pictures of the event). So was the guy with a mustache you dated for three months, the time you decided to replace your morning coffee with tea and the expensive iPhone case with the sparkly rhinestones you bought and outgrew within a week.

What’s important, however, is that you learned from every egregious error so that you would never, ever make the same mistake again.

(Okay, maybe just once more, but the guy with the mustache really had great taste in music and never asked you to pay on a date…it’s understandable.)

Being an indie author, just like any other career, presents the same opportunities for you to make mistakes. Some of them you’ll have to get through on your own (both the mistake making and the lesson learning) but as an indie author who’s been around the proverbial block, I’d like to pay it forward with some advice on three major pitfalls almost every self-published author makes along the way.

Mistake #1:  Assuming your book will the next big thing.

Every author wants to go to bed a relative unknown in the industry and wake up on the cover of magazines. We want international media attention, swarming fans and the income to justify all the hours we’ve poured into our writing projects.

Mostly we want success to fall in our laps so we can stop busting our behinds just to sell enough copies to pay for our expensive coffee habit.

But assuming that international success is an inevitability of the process is a major (MAJOR!) error. For every Twilight there are hundreds – no, thousands, quite possibly hundreds of thousands– of other YA vampire novels that don’t sell even a dozen copies.

In fact, 80% of books published (not just self-published, but published period) in the U.S. sell less than 100 copies. I don’t know what the numbers are for international markets, but based on the saturation of the market, I would doubt that they’re any better.

You should therefore understand from the outset that you will most likely not wind up watching the movie version of your novel on the big screen or swimming in your royalties Scrooge McDuck-style either.

That’s not to say, however, that you won’t experience success.

You just have to know how to define success for yourself. Set your goals and when you meet them, set new goals. Keep moving the bar, but don’t hold yourself to impossible standards.

There’s not enough mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world to recover from that, trust me.

2. Failing to have a marketing plan in place before your book launch.

Too many indie authors wait until after their books are published to even think about marketing.

THIS IS SUCH A BAD IDEA! (You made me use CAPSLOCK and an exclamation point, THAT is how seriously bad this idea is).

Unless your goal is only to write and publish a book (meaning you have no desire to sell it much less make a living off your writing) not having a marketing plan from the start is like building a sailboat without a sail. It will get you nowhere.

You don’t have to start your marketing when you’re in the initial planning stages of your novel (though some people do and it’s not an altogether bad idea) but by the time you’re putting pen to paper (or more accurately, fingers to keys) you should at least have a blog and a couple of social media accounts to share your work and start connecting with fans.

Building a crazy-dedicated fan base (Duolit trademark pending) is not an overnight process, so the earlier you get started the better.

Don’t feel like you have to give away all of your book’s details either. You just need enough to get people interested. Your blog and social media should be sufficient content for you to market  yourself without having to spill every word of your book while it’s in progress.

And yes, it will take away time from your writing, you just have to get over that.

Be efficient about it, have a plan, and you’ll find that it doesn’t eat up large chunks of time — just enough to get the job done and get back to writing.

3. Not investing money the way you invest your time.

The term “struggling writer” was not born by accident.

We all struggle with the monetary aspects of being an author, even as technology has eased the financial burden of self-publishing. But to compete with traditionally published books you have to put in your blood, sweat, tears and — where applicable– your dollars.

Spend money on a good editor, a talented designer and a professional printer. Period.

To skip or shortcut any of the above is a cardinal sin of self-publishing. Worse, it devalues the time investment you’ve already made to your project.

So scrape together whatever funds you can come up with and make wise decisions about who to add to your team.

If you need help, use sites like Kickstarter and Indie Go-Go to call on your fanbase (and family and friends and neighbors and that weird guy on the bus who always stares at you) for early investments to get you going.

Your fans get the promise of a future product, you get the money up front and everyone is happy.

Phew! Pep talk over.

It’s so important (in my tiny, humble little opinion) for authors who have been through the self-pub process to share their honest, open stories (fails and all) so we can create a cohesive knowledge base for moving the indie book industry forward.

Catherine has done such a great job at this with Self-Printed (new edition coming soon as I understand) and I’m glad to contribute my two cents to the conversation as well, but what about you? Are there any other common indie author mistakes you’ve experienced and would like to warn others about?

Share your mistakes and we’ll all toast to the learning curve that comes with self-publishing!”

Thanks, Shannon! Very information and entertaining. You’re welcome back any time!

Shannon O’Neil is one half of Duolit, two gals who help passionate fiction authors sell more books by building their crazy-dedicated fanbase. If you’re ready to become a book marketing whiz, check out their FREE 4-week training course. A new session starts later this month!

Would you like a copy of Self-Printed 2.0 when it comes out (only a month and a half late)? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post to claim your chance to win.

Guest Post: How To Make a Chilling Book Trailer by RED RIBBONS author Louise Philips

Today Catherine, Caffeinated is delighted to be hosting a stop on the blog tour celebrating the launch of Louise Philips’ novel, Red Ribbons. Louise is a talented new voice in Irish crime fiction and today she’s here to tell us how she went about making her very creepy book trailer. Welcome, Louise!

“Making a trailer for your novel is a relatively new concept in Ireland, but it was one I was very interested in checking out early in the promotional build up to the publication of my psychological crime thriller Red Ribbons, mainly because …

  1. We are now living in a very visual world.
  2. Videos tend to be short – 30-50 seconds, and are ideal for promoting online via twitter, Facebook etc
  3. They are an excellent way to give a flavour/mood/genre of your novel, relatively instantly.

So where do you begin? Start with the basics:

1. Sketch out a story map of what you want to happen in the trailer – remember you only have a maximum 50 seconds and you want to pack in as much as possible within this.

For example, in the trailer for Red Ribbons, I came up with the concept of using footage from driving up a mountain road, to alternate between the other visual images. You don’t have to draw small sketches, you could simply write down:

  • Intro image/video
  • Follow up image/ images
  • Closing image
  • Information you want to end trailer with –
  • Links to your blog/website, and/or your Twitter account.

2. Once you’ve done this, you can start compiling your content. I used my iphone for all the images and short video content. If you don’t have editing software on your pc, and most people don’t, keep your video clips short, 3-7 seconds max, which means you avoid the need to cut content later.

Compile as many photographic images and video clips as you can. You will probably use less than 5% in the final trailer.

Play around with a few concepts/angles. Not every concept is going to work, and it’s never any harm to have extra material.

Review your content, deciding on which photographs and/or video footage work best.

 3. Having selected the top visual content, you have a couple of options for putting together the final trailer.

Option A:

The first option, is using a standard software which you can download for free/or for a small nominal fee, for example Animoto. This is not the only software option available, but it is the one I used for the first promotional test trailer, above.

You must also choose your package carefully, based on end commercial use – check all terms and conditions.

You will notice the above trailer includes images and very short trailer clips.

The way this works is, you load your images, and/or video clips, and text, making up the full length time of 30 – 50 seconds.

You choose your music from the Animoto listing (these are tracks which can be used as part of the overall Animoto package), and then the software will put all the content together within a set visual format.

You can try a number of options, and once you decide on which presentation suits you, simply SAVE your trailer.

Option B: 

Another option is the one I used for the second and official trailer for Red Ribbons, above.

With this option, editing software and a knowledge of using it is required. I was lucky; my daughter had this facility, and was able to help me put all the components together.

Ask around, someone you know might be able to help you out.

This option which used only video footage meant sourcing the music separately.

There are many music sites with free download music, but remember, you are not simply downloading and using this for your own enjoyment, you are going to use the music in a commercial environment. So again, check out all rules and regulations associated with all download sites.

I used Music by http://www.purple-planet.com , but there are other sites available. With this particular site, you are requested to credit them with the music as part of the trailer set up, and make an optional donation for use.

Once your trailer is complete you can upload onto YouTube or Vimeo – and you can create your own channel, another good idea if you are going to be making additional trailers.

I got an amazing reaction to both trailers, and I was over the moon when all the main book selling sites in Ireland asked to upload it onto their individual websites. It was also picked up by book review sites here and in the UK, and formed part of the media element of my website www.louise-phillips.com

With the publication of Red Ribbons on the 3rd September, to date there has been in excess of 900 viewings on the two trailers, and an immense about of positive feedback

The very best of luck in creating your own trailer – it’s great fun.”

Thanks, Louise! If you’d like to find out more about Red Ribbons, visit Louise’s website or go here to order your copy now

For more examples of book trailers, visit my Videos page

Mountains, Seas and A Chance to Win SELF-PRINTED 2.0

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that Self-Printed 2.0 is not yet available.

Trust me, I know this. I’m well aware. And yes, I’m also aware that once upon a time I might have said something about August, and it’s now September. I might have even said something about the beginning of August. Oh how I laugh at Past Catherine and her naive ways! Updating 110,000 words about something that’s changing all the time? Adding another 16,000? Arranging covers and proofreads? Going through the PDF with a fine-tooth comb and then again when you realised you had to change the footer’s margin at fraction of a fraction of an inch, but somehow that still meant that every typed word shifted and moved? Oh, sure. The beginning of August, yeah, no problem.

(That was sarcasm, by the way.)

And that’s not even mentioning That We Do Not Speak Of, i.e. formatting. (Oops.) I should’ve just said it’d make a good Christmas present.

Okay, things aren’t that bad. Here’s what the schedule is looking like right now, all going to plan:

  • E-book editions in all major formats available directly and exclusively from me at a discounted price from this very site, circa this Friday (with a bonus for you paperback fans!)
  • Paperback available from CreateSpace by next Monday
  • Paperback and e-books on general release (read: Amazon) by September 23rd.

And, in an attempt to purge your memory of this shameful delay, FREE STUFF! Leave a comment on this post for your chance to win a paperback copy of Self-Printed 2.0, hot off the P.O.D presses. Three runners up will also receive FREE e-book editions, if they want them. Open to all places on Earth. One entry per e-mail/WP account. Closing date: Friday 14th September 2012.

L-R: Vanessa O’Loughlin, moi, Adrian White, Arlene Hunt. Credit: Emily Green/www.facebook.com/mountainstosea. We all look so forlorn, I can only imagine this is the bit where we were discussing e-book formatting…

Part of the reason why the book isn’t finished yet is that I’m sooooooooooooooooo busy at the moment. Busier than I’ve ever been. (Which, let me just say no, is not boding well for an early November release of Travelled…) I spent Saturday in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, at the Mountains to Sea Festival, speaking at an independent publishing seminar, sitting in the sun drinking flat whites from Insomnia (my new obsession) with writerly types and sporting the GREATEST EVER ADDITION to my wardrobe, a Mountains to Sea-branded lanyard that says “Artist”. Yep. Little me, allowed to wear an “Artist” lanyard. I practically ran away from the tent before they realised their mistake…

I shall be wearing this around the house from now on.

And yes, two hours talking self-publishing and three or four hours coffee-drinking and talking writing counts as busy, okay?

As for the ongoing Sock Puppet Show, I am writing a post. But since that probably won’t be finished until July of next year when “Puppetgate” is but a distant memory, the gist of it is this: (a) if you are stupid enough to do something like create an online persona just to bestow shiny stars on your own work in sets of five and trash the works of others, I am in doubt about your ability to write a book I’ll like, (b) just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s right or just and (c) I think people think Amazon reviews are more important to book-selling than they actually are. They’re pretty important for self-publishers, yes, but it wasn’t a self-publisher who was caught most recently with his hand up an old sock with a wool mustache and two mis-matched buttons sewn onto it. And Amazon could fix this with the tinest of changes. Right now, anyone who has ever bought anything can write a review. For anything. So I go on there and buy a desk lamp, and now I can write a review of any product at all I like for the rest of time. But if you could only write reviews for products in your purchase history, bye-bye to all this crap. Yes, people could still trash books they hadn’t read, but at least they’d have to go to the trouble of buying them first. I’m sure Amazon could find a way to override it when need be (like with Amazon Vine reviewers who are given books to review) and I’m sure there’d be people who buy and return just to take down their competitors, but just like the plastic bag levy here in Ireland, I’m pretty sure it’d almost obliterate the problem, and that’d be good enough for me.

More in the (eventual) post. I’m off to work on that and the other 653 things on my To Do list.

Leave your comment below if you’d like to be in with a chance to win a copy of Self-Printed.