My Top 5 Online Tools


If there’s one thing we all want more of, it’s Nespresso capsules. (Why do I always seem to run out before I think I will?!) And also, time.

Getting a handle on my time and how I use it is my Summer 2013 Project. (That name implies I always have a summer project. Alas, no. But having a summer project is part of me getting a handle on my time.) A large element of mastering time management is just psychological: getting your head into the right place. For example, this week I had a Update On Our Publishing Dreams lunch with my fellow writing friend Elizabeth Murray. This is what our table looked like:


We were talking about writing and how much time we spend doing it, and she happened to mention that at 5pm, there’s still seven hours to go before she goes to bed, i.e. seven hours left to write. This really struck me, because at 5pm I’d be thinking: there’s one hour left before I stop, so I may as well stop now. And why am I stopping at 6pm? No reason. It just seems like the natural end of the working day to me—which would be fine, if I started my working day at the natural beginning, at nine o’clock. (I rarely do.) So Elizabeth’s casual comment has got me entirely re-thinking the make-up of my day, and hopefully this will lead to a pile of 100,000 newly written first draft words by the end of the summer.

Or not. We’ll see. I would say ‘That’s the plan, anyway’ but as I pointed out to Elizabeth, those are really becoming my trademarked famous last words. So I’m not going to say that anymore. I’m just going to do things.

But while we get our heads in the right place, there’s some practical time-saving (or money-saving) tools out there that I always recommend to my fellow self-publishers.

buffer app


I couldn’t survive without Buffer App. The idea is you pick a schedule of posting times, e.g. 8:00am, 10:30am, noon, and so on, and the days of the week you want this schedule to run. (I skip weekends, for example.) Then you add tweets to your Buffer manually by typing them in on the Buffer dashboard, or by way of a nifty little button added to your browser, or an iPhone app or the little ‘Buffer’ icon that you start to see when you’re on Twitter. Long story short: there’s loads of easy ways to add to your Buffer. When 8:00am Monday rolls around, Buffer App takes the top tweet in the queue and posts it. And so on and so on.

But the real beauty of Buffer, for me, is how easy it makes it to post links to interesting blog posts, articles, videos, etc. You just click the Buffer button and—ta-da!—a tweet linking to that post is in your Buffer queue. You can also add comments. Better yet, if you’re on an interesting blog post and you highlight a good quote from it and then click the Buffer button, it will post a tweet with that sentence followed by a link to the post.

I’ve on the Awesome Plan, which is a very reasonable price of $10 per month. For that, I get unlimited space in my Buffer queue (the basic model allows up to 10) and I get to add multiple accounts, including Facebook. It is the single best time-saver I’ve ever found for all things social media. Go get it now.

gumroad logo


Gumroad is a service that makes it easy to sell files online. It’s how I sell my e-books directly. You just sign up for a free Gumroad account, upload your file, set the price and you’re off. I’ve seen authors advertising direct sales by letting them know you want the book so they can send you a PayPal request which you then pay and then they’ll send you the file… Ugh. Life is too short, people. Just use Gumroad instead.

PDF stamp

It’s especially good for e-books because it makes the process so simple, and it’s especially good for PDFs because Gumroad will ‘stamp’ each page of the PDF with the e-mail address of the purchaser, lest any of them start thinking about sharing their purchase with friends.



PicMonkey is a free photo editing service, with some premium features (like extra fonts) should you want to pay out (a very reasonable amount) for membership. It looks great, it’s easy to use and it lets you make all sorts of snazzy graphics, be they for your blog or even for a book cover.

I don’t have the patience for photo-editing software, and I refuse to shell out $100s for something I won’t be able to use properly. This is free and simple. And cute, too.



Did you know that Quicktime lets you record on-screen? I recently spent ages trying to find a software program that would like me record what I was doing on screen for a PowerPoint presentation, and only through hours of Googling (and a refusal to pay money for something I’d only need once or twice), I discovered that Quicktime lets you make on-screen recordings which you can easily export to iTunes, YouTube, iMovie, etc. And you already have it on your Mac. Woo-hoo!



MailChimp really is a fantastic free service that lets you build a mailing list and send everyone on that mailing list newsletters or other mail shots (including one with Amazon’s branding, for your my-book-out-now announcement). This is their handiwork.

Recently they made the editing of newsletter SO much easier (yay for drag and drop!) and I love their quirky interface and monkey jokes.

Do you use any of these? Any others you’d recommend? 

How Self-Published Books Are Made: Start to Finish (PART II)


In last week’s post, How Self-Published Books Are Made: Start to Finish (PART I), we assembled everything we needed to self-publish, decided whether to go e-book only, e-book first and then paperback or e-book and paperback together, sorted out our US tax situation and finally, self-published both an e-book with Amazon KDP and Smashwords, covering all major e-book retailers, and a POD paperback with CreateSpace. (Or we went to somebody like because removing tabs and putting back in italics got all a bit much for us.)

But that was only half the battle. What do we do now that the books are here? How are we going to let people know they exist, and convince them to buy a copy? How do we sell our books?


Please Don’t Say ‘Social Media’…

Sorry, here it comes: the best way to sell self-published books is by using social media. But before you roll your eyes and throw in the towel on this whole self-publishing thing because ‘twittering is for teenagers’, let me say this: just think of it as word-of-mouth. That’s what’s always sold books, and it’s what sells books now. Taking it online just amplifies the numbers and, for self-publishers, levels the playing field too.

The readers of books like yours are out there, online, and you can reach them directly in numerous ways. That’s the easy bit. The hard bit is reaching them in the right way (tip: not in a way that annoys them or smells like spam) and, once you’ve done that, convincing them that your book is worth a read.

It is possible to sell books without using social media, and I’m sure you all know someone who did this. I do too. But there are the exception to the rule, and you can’t assume or expect to be the exception. There’s usually something else in those stories too, like impeccable timing or luck. I think you should do everything you can to try and sell copies of your book, not sit back and relax and hope for a cloud of fairy dust to burst above your head.

I also think you should avoid traditional PR. It may work for books that are in stores but I’ve never seen it work for self-published e-books and paperbacks that are only for sale online. I’ve only see it spectacularly fail, leaving self-publishers with empty wallets and bitter disappointment in its wake. If the item is for sale online, keep the promotion online. And do it yourself. Hiring someone else to tweet for you, for example, is like paying someone else to give your friend a hug.


Self-Published Book Selling 101: No One Cares

No one cares about a book just because the book was written, because it exists. Just think about this in logical, familiar terms. Why did you buy the last book you bought? And why did you buy that one, and not any of the other ones that were on the same shelf or in the same store or mentioned in the e-mail Amazon sent you? Why do you care about some books and not about others? What’s the difference?

Your job, as both writer and publisher of your work, is to make readers care. To give them genuine reasons to. (I once got an e-mail on Goodreads from an author who said—and this is a copy and paste—’This is not a giveaway, or a blog tour, or anything remotely related to an ‘event’. [He’d sent it through the Event feature.] Just a statement from one blunt person to all of you. Buy This Book. You’ll like it. I promise.” Oh, you, the writer, promises I’ll like it? Really? Pinky-swear? Well, let me just run out now this very second and buy this book with the terrible cover and boring-sounding blurb that has no reviews and doesn’t even bear a slight resemblance to the books I like to read. Color me convinced! Yeah, right.) You need to make the potential reader think, hmm, this sounds interesting and then, this seems like something I’d like and finally, the price is right and I think I will like this: let me go hit that Buy button!

Think of what has to happen in order for someone to buy a book:

  1. They find out the book exists (through social media, like a mention in a tweet or a blog post, or through Amazon search results, or through a review they see online)
  2. The cover is eye-catching enough to make them stop and take a look. It also instantly identifies the kind of book it is, which hopefully is the type of book this reader likes to read
  3. The blurb makes you want to read the book
  4. The author bio convinces you the writer can write
  5. There are reviews that don’t seem to be written by family members, friends, etc.
  6. The price is high enough that you think quality but low enough that you think trying this book is risk-free.

Consider how many of these elements—the cover, the blurb, the author bio—will have been decided during the publication process. That’s why it’s so silly when self-publishers do all the self-publishing bit and then say, ‘Right: how am I gonna sell this baby?’, as if the two things are entirely disconnected. You are selling copies of your book through the decisions you make every step of the way.


The ‘This Book Exists’ Bit

In an extremely simplified way (because this is supposed to be a summarized overview type thing, not a 10,000-word rehash of everything I’ve blogged about and written about already), here are the five stages of letting the world know that you book exists, i.e. step 1 above in what has to happen for somebody to decide to buy a book.

  1. Build a core of support. If you want to sell 10,000 books, you don’t need 10,000 Twitter followers. The Big Three of social media—blogging, Twitter and Facebook—are there for you to connect with people who are really more interested in you, the writer, than necessarily the subject matter or plot line of your book. They want to support you, just as you want to support them—and in a very genuine way. I’m talking here about your social media friends: your blogger friends, the people you chat to on Twitter, etc. This might also extend to a mailing list of subscribers, if you’ve been at this a while. This is the group that when your new book comes out, buy it mostly because it’s by you, and also tweet about it, post reviews online, invite you to guest post, etc. They get the ball rolling—they don’t buy every book you plan on selling. They are your (small but enthusiastic) core of support.
  2. Build anticipation towards a launch date. Most self-publishers don’t use launch dates, and I think that’s a grave mistake. Traditional publishing uses launch dates, and so should you. (As opposed to ‘My book will be out in the summer’ or ‘The e-book should be ready next week’.) You need something to build towards. And it doesn’t matter if the books are available before the date you pick. It’s purely for promotional purposes. Before this date, you should be blogging about your book, perhaps organizing a little blog tour, running Twitter giveaways for advanced reader copies (ARCs), video-blogging, posting photos of the proof copies to Facebook, etc. etc. See Why Promoting Your Book Online is (a bit) Like Fight Club.
  3. Target specific readers. If you publish your e-books on Smashwords, you can download both an ePub and a Mobi (Kindle) file of your book that you can then e-mail like you would any other file. This is perfect for reviewers. Find relevant book bloggers, Goodreads users and Amazon Top Reviewers and offer them a copy of your book. Remember though that just like the steps above for buying a book, reviewers must also be convinced to read and review your book. See How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed for more. You can also set up a Goodreads giveaway for paperback editions of your book; the winners will post their reviews online.
  4. Maximize launch. Your launch day is most likely when the maximum number of virtual eyeballs will be on your book, and when your sales rank gets the best opportunity to rise up (or down, it being the lower the better) on Amazon as your core of support goes out to buy it. You want to create events around this time to maximize this, like a blog tour, or a big giveaway, or a blog post you know will get lots of readers. It’s up to you, but my key point is don’t let this day pass just like any other. Make something of it.
  5. Help Amazon sell your book for you. Sign up for Amazon Author Central and go into the back end of your Amazon listing through it. Add formatting to your blurb, add extracts of the book blogger and Goodreads reviews you’ve now collected, add any evidence you’re a good writer to your author bio. Perhaps run a price promotion or even (if you dare) run your book through KDP Select. This will all encourage sales, which will push your book higher up search results and into things like ‘Customers who viewed this item also bought…’ etc., which, if you can keep it going, will inevitably lead to Amazon doing all the hard work for you.


How To Self-Publish in 32 Easy Steps: A To Do List

If I was self-publishing a new, full-length book right now, here’s how I would do it.

  1. Write the book
  2. Get your US tax issue sorted, if applicable
  3. Check you’ve money to (potentially) lose in the bank
  4. Create a marketing/promotion plan for your book, including a schedule, a blurb and a launch date
  5. Start blogging about the book, i.e. building anticipation about it
  6. Research reviewers, make list of potentials
  7. Research and decide on prices
  8. Find and hire an editor
  9. Edit book, meanwhile:
  10. Find and hire a cover designer
  11. Mock-up paperback interior to determine page count
  12. Download cover template from CreateSpace and:
  13. Send cover template to cover designer
  14. Proofread book
  15. Create two copies of the manuscript
  16. Create interior PDF for inside of paperback from Copy A
  17. Okay cover design from cover designer
  18. Upload files to CreateSpace and order proof copy
  19. Format Copy B for e-book conversion
  20. Upload files to Amazon KDP and Smashwords but publish ONLY on Smashwords (leave KDP in ‘draft’)
  21. Download ePub and Mobi files from Smashwords and immediately unpublish (so no one can buy the book for now)
  22. Check e-book files using Kindle App for PC/Mac and Adobe Digital Editions
  23. Check proof copy paperback, publish if all okay but set to ‘Private’ (so no one but you can order it and it doesn’t go out to retailers)
  24. Order x amount of paperbacks to send to reviewers
  25. Contact reviewers, offering paperbacks or e-book files. Send them.
  26. Two weeks before launch date, publish paperback
  27. One week before launch date, publish on Amazon KDP and Smashwords
  28. Wait for Amazon listings to go live
  29. Sign up for Amazon Author Central, email them to get them to link Kindle and paperback listings
  30. Announce to the world on your (chosen by you) launch day that the book is now available
  31. Sell loads of copies of it
  32. Start writing your next book.

This is obviously a very simplified version of an actual self-publisher’s To Do list, but I think it’s a good working order and has all the main stuff on there. You might also be interested in the post I did that listed everything I actually did to self-publish my book Backpacked, How Much Work Is Self-Publishing?


Sales Reports and Payments

All of these websites—CreateSpace, KDP and Smashwords—have sales reports you can refer to any time. CreateSpace and KDP pay you by the month, Smashwords quarterly.

You can also make changes to your books at any time by uploading new cover or interior files.

But I Did All This And It Didn’t Work!

Welcome to publishing! A popular anti-publishing point is that the publishing industry can’t tell you why one book sells and another doesn’t. But that isn’t just publishing. That’s BOOKS. (And also, TV shows. And movies. And broadway shows. And breakfast cereals.) It happens to traditional publishing companies and self-published authors, because we just don’t know how the reading public is going to react to any given book. I’ve seen this even within my own range of titles—I’ve done pretty much the same thing with all of them (although, thanks to a decreasing amount of free time, probably less and less as each title has come out) and yet one of them still sells steadily three years later and the one I think is the best never seems to catch up. It isn’t just publishing professionals who don’t know why one book sells and another doesn’t. Nobody does.

So brace yourself: you may do every single thing right, from writing a great book to making your Amazon listing the best there is, and you might still fail to sell any copies. That’s just the way it is. There are no guarantees. And you’ll just have to deal with that.

What Next?

Start writing the next one!

Any questions?

I wrote, like, a whole book about this you know. You can buy it in paperback or e-book, and you can even buy the e-books directly from me. You can also browse all my self-printed themed blog posts here or sign up to receive all future posts by e-mail in the sign-up box in the sidebar. I’m also on Twitter @cathryanhoward

How Self-Published Books Are Made: Start To Finish (PART I)


To mark the occasion of my 601st blog post (and I wonder why The Novel isn’t finished yet…), and after seeing that a number of people regularly land on this blog by googling ‘how self-published books are made start to finish’, I’ve decided to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: outline a basic master plan for self-publishing.

The internet is awash with posts about specific topics like formatting your e-book or maximizing your Amazon listing or using KDP Select, but there’s very few ‘this is everything that needs to happen and in this order’ posts—and I include my own blog in this. So let’s do it, starting today with Part I.

I should say: this isn’t how I did it (certainly not the first time!), but it’s how I’d do it now were I to get the chance to do it over. It’s how I’d do it now knowing everything I learned through trial and error over the last few years. Please let me what you’d do differently, add/subtract, etc. in the comments below.


What You Need To Self-Publish A Book

  • A book that’s ready for the world in a MS Word document
  • Money to invest in said book. I wouldn’t start this without $1,500 in the bank marked ‘I can lose this’
  • An editor/proofreader (a MUST) and a cover designer (optional but preferred) to spend that money on
  • An EIN or an ITIN if you are self-publishing using the companies I mention and living outside the US
  • A thick skin (for the inevitable baaaad reviews)
  • A plan for how you’re going to sell copies of this book, and an idea of who you’ll try to sell it to
  • The professional attitude, energy and drive of a entrepreneur
  • A dose of reality
  • An antidote to anxiety
  • As much coffee as Guatemala produces in a year.


E-book & Paperback or Just E-book or Just Paperback?

I think there is no point self-publishing these days without self-publishing an e-book, and I think there is no point self-publishing an e-book unless you do it on Amazon’s Kindle store. (Assuming that your goal is to get as many readers as possible and perhaps afford to buy a few ink cartridges or something.) So for my money, not publishing an e-book is not an option.

As for paperbacks, it really depends on the book and the author. I like having a paperback available, and I especially like getting the proof copy of that paperback in the mail. Seeing your book on your Kindle just doesn’t have the same kick. (And what will you put on your shelves?! See photo below.) I waver from this stance from time to time, but if I was pushed, I’d say go paperback. It’s not that much extra work or money, and although e-books are now a very significant part of book sales and increasing all the time, a lot of people (most people?) still don’t read them. Paperbacks are also good for giveaways, review copies, etc. (You can’t giveaway an e-book on Goodreads.) If you’re just starting out and already feeling a little daunted though, try e-book only first and see how you go.

The best advice I can give you on this though is be creative. Think of the e-book like the hardcover: publish it first, then bring the paperback later. (This is a good way to take advantage of KDP Select’s only remaining benefit: compensation for borrows. Release a Kindle only e-book for 90 days, then after that go full distribution and bring out your paperback.) Or release the book in e-book only installments (like I’m doing this year with Travelled) before a full-length paperback. Or make the physical copy a special edition.


The Clue is in the Term ‘Self-Publishing’

You can’t self-publish by yourself. You need an editor and a cover designer, and you may need some other help at various points along the way. But there shouldn’t be, in my opinion, any middle man between you and that editor, or you and that cover designer. A self-publisher should be the project manager of their own book. You shouldn’t have to pay someone else to do that for you.

‘But I can barely e-mail!’ is something that comes up a lot when I talk to self-publishers. I understand that all this stuff may seem like rocket science to some of you, and an abacus to others. But don’t pay someone else thousands to do the whole shebang for you. Find someone who can e-mail—a family member, a fellow writer, a friend—and get them to help you. That way, you remain in total control and keep costs down. (And it’s really not rocket science. All these services are designed to be used by everyone, and there is plenty of help out there for the tricky bits.)

Read more: Why You Need Some ‘Self’ In Your Self-Publishing

Before We Begin

If you live outside the US, you’re going to need to sort your tax situation out first. You can do it yourself or go to someone like

And spare me the groans about red tape and bureaucracy: you’re allowed to sell whatever you damn well want on the largest bookstore in the world. A few forms is a TINY price to pay.


Who Does What When

I would recommend that you publish your e-books with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Smashwords, and your POD paperback with CreateSpace, which is also owned by Amazon. This will get your e-books available on every major e-book retailer (Amazon’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble’s Nook Store, etc.) and your paperback on the US and European Amazon sites, among others. You’ll also be able to download copies of your own e-books which you can e-mail as attachments, if you like, and order copies of your paperback at cost.

All these services are completely free to sign up for. When books are sold, they take a cut and you keep the rest. KDP will give you 70% of your list price if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, 35% otherwise. There’s some terms and conditions to this (to say the least!) but that’s generally what you’ll end up with. Smashwords varies, but it’s around 60-80%. If you publish a 220-ish page 5.5 x 8.5 paperback with CreateSpace, it’ll cost you around $3.50 to order a copy of it, and if you sell it for $15 on, you’ll keep around $5 once manufacturing and the retailer’s cut are taken out. (NB: These are all massive generalizations. For specifics, go to the service’s websites.)

Presuming you have both the interior file (i.e. the inside pages) and your cover file (we’ll get to that) ready, between signing up for CreateSpace and seeing your book for sale on Amazon should take about a fortnight, presuming you order a proof copy. (There’s an option to skip the proof copy: please don’t.) Smashwords will publish your book on their website and make it available to buy from there almost immediately, but their ‘Premium Catalogue’ (i.e. other retailers like iBooks and B&N) distribution can take a while. Amazon KDP is twelve hours from pressing the ‘Publish’ button to being for sale in the Kindle store, but in my experience it usually takes less than that.

Impressive, no?

Can People Pre-Order My Book?

Do you know what you just did? You murdered a fairy. MURDERED!*

(And no, they can’t.)


Every self-publisher should have one of these

The Process

For e-books, you need:

  • Your book in a MS Word document, formatted a very specific way so that when KDP or Smashwords runs it through their automated conversion software and turns it into an ePub or Mobi file (i.e. actual e-books) it doesn’t read like gobbledegook
  • A front cover image, i.e.a JPEG. Both KDP and Smashwords will give you exact dimensions to adhere to, but the bottom line is make it a big one
  • A blurb, i.e. the text that would normally appear on the back cover of a paperback.

You have some options here. First, you don’t have to commission a cover. I think it’d be better if you did, but if money is tight, you could possibly save some here — but only if you do it right, and don’t turn into one of those parents who thinks their baby is the most beautiful baby that was ever born. And don’t be getting any fanciful ideas. Those cookie cutter covers? Crime black with silver text and a sinister picture? Chick-lit in pink pastels with girly type and shoes? Bodice-rippers with, well, ripped bodices? They’re like that for a reason: so readers can easily identify books that are similar to books they’ve already enjoyed. Study the competition and stick with what works.

KDP recently launched Cover Creator for e-books, which I haven’t used yet myself but if it’s anything like CreateSpace’s Cover Creator, I’d stay clear. (Have you used it?) Template covers are easily identifiable and never cut the mustard. The other downside is that you won’t be able to use it on your Smashwords edition (I’m presuming).

You don’t need an ISBN to publish on KDP and Smashwords will give you a free one. Take it.

Read more: A New, Even Easier Way To Format Your E-book

For POD paperbacks, you need:

  • Your book in a MS Word document, sized to exactly match the dimensions of your chosen trim size (i.e. the length and width of the pages of your book) and formatted to reflect how you want it printed. (You can collect a correctly sized template from CreateSpace before you start.)
  • A full paperback cover. CreateSpace will generate a cover template for you once you plug in your trim size and page count that you can send off to your cover designer. Alternatively you can use their Cover Creator software but for the love of fudge, please don’t. None of them resemble real books.
  • A blurb to pop in your product description.

A few things here: you need to create your MS Word interior document BEFORE you start thinking about the cover, even if it’s just a quick mock-up. The reason is that the cover designer needs the template, and the template needs to include the spine, and the spine size is calculated based on how many pages you plan on using. Trust me when I say that a guesstimate is not sufficient. You must mock-up the interior of your book. Remember you’ll have front matter, end matter and start each new chapter or section on a right-hand/odd-numbered page. When you add this, and add headers and footers, change your font size, change your paragraph settings, etc., it changes the page count. And if you end up with 10 or more pages more than you planned on, in my experience, your insides won’t fit your outsides. The cover will be rejected by CreateSpace for being the wrong size. So FIRST, mock-up your interior document to get the page count. THEN start work on the cover.

CreateSpace will give you a free ISBN. (Say it with me now…) Take it. If there’s a free ISBN on offer, put your paws on it and say ‘Thank you.’ You lose nothing by doing this but you gain cash, i.e. what you would’ve spent buying your own ISBN. So WHAT if CreateSpace (or Smashwords) are the publisher of record of your book? Do you think readers pay a tack of attention to who published a book? Don’t even worry about it.

They will also put a barcode on your book. Neither you nor your cover designer needs to worry about that. (It goes on during the publishing process and the template will have a space marked off for it.)

Yes, shipping books to yourself from CreateSpace gets really expensive outside the US. But why are you thinking about this? Aside from maybe one box of books for yourself, friends, family and perhaps even a little party you’re throwing yourself, why would you need books? We’re doing this so people can buy our books online while we sit back and relax. If you do need a lot of stock (because you’re braving bookstores, or you do seminars or something) publish your paperback with CreateSpace for online sales and then find a book printer in your area or city or region who’ll print physical copies for you to sell.

Read more: How To Make a Real BookProofing Your CreateSpace paperback.

No Humans Were Used In The Self-Publishing Of This E-book

A while back I read a blog post (written by someone who I thought would know better—he was a journalist, and had been traditionally published) that detailed one newbie self-publisher’s many phone calls to CreateSpace as he published his book. And all I could think was, ‘What the fudge are you calling CreateSpace for?!’

That, and how it reminded me of a situation I was in a few years back, when I was working for someone who, having spotted a Facebook status written by a college student that said something nasty (but utterly true) about our company, got me to type and print and send a letter threatening the sending of a solicitor’s letter to Facebook HQ.

This entire process is automated. Humans may be involved from time to time, but only in the shadowy background, or perhaps through a support e-mail if all comes to all. You don’t submit your manuscript to Amazon, you just upload a file. And Amazon don’t accept your book for publication, their software program publishes it. It’s like booking a flight online versus walking into your travel agent and taking a seat at his or her desk. This is the first one. No humans involved.

And they don’t need to be involved. Smashwords has an entire e-book you can download for free that tells you everything you need to know. CreateSpace is one of the simplest websites to use, KDP comes a close second and they both have extensive help and support pages, and community forums. Plus, there’s this:

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 12.30.29

It’s taught me everything I know.

(If you really need help though, eBookPartnership are great for all things e-books, and The Book Designer has a great and affordable range of POD interior templates.)

Join me next week for Part II…

Also, I wrote this.

*Every time a self-published author wonders aloud if readers will be able to pre-order their book, a fairy dies. FACT. 


Back to Work

Can you believe it’s been almost two whole weeks since I blogged? I think that might be one of my longest gaps ever. It was a little bit down to the fact that I’ve been a bit busy (moving into a new place, filling in at the very last minute at the Irish Writers’ Centre e-book course last Saturday, preparing for London this weekend…) but it’s a big bit down to the absolute nightmare I’ve had getting broadband installed here and the fact that there’s only so much you can do on your phone.

But the magical internet is here now so—at last!—normal service can resume.


I thought I’d ease myself back into blogging by showing you a picture of my new workspace, which I spent much of yesterday afternoon organizing. (I know it doesn’t look like much but it was a complete mess of boxes, papers, etc. this time yesterday.)

  1. My tiny desk that can’t actually take much clutter, forcing nearly all paper, stationery items, office accessories, partially used Paperchase notebooks, etc. into boxes in the bedroom wardrobes.
  2. The Nespresso machine. Note the proximity.
  3. Reminders that I need to get my arse into gear and words on the virtual page, and that if I don’t no one else is going to do it for me (unfortunately). Also, how cute are these mini-clipboards?! Target.
  4. An old noticeboard that I made look nice again by filling entirely with a piece of Penguin Books wrapping paper.
  5. A dainty pink cup and saucer I bought yesterday because (a) it was so cute I couldn’t stand it and (b) it looks almost exactly like the cup and saucer in my header photo.
  6. Photos to remind me of The Outside World which I probably won’t see a lot of this summer in my bid to Finish The Damn Novel.

I’ve worked in quite messy spaces before and was always jealous when I saw other writers working in pristine, neat, minimalist places, so I’ve gone for less here rather than more. (I give it a week before there’s a Post-It explosion.) Now that I’m living alone and am imposing a no-online-stuff-until-noon rule, The Novel might actually get finished this summer.


We’ll see.

So here’s something else I’m thinking of doing now that I have the peace, quiet and place to do it: a video blog. What do you think? If you think it’s a good idea, generate some material for me: ask a question! What questions (self-publishing related, please!) would you like me to answer in a video blog? It’s fine if you fear it might’ve been asked and answered before, because as long as it wasn’t in a video blog it’s fine, and this would be the first one so that would be impossible.

Let me know in the comments below, or use the Contact page to submit yours.