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

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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 eBookPartnership.com 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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 TaxBack.com.

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.

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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 Amazon.com, 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.)

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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:

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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. 

***READ PART II OF THIS POST HERE***

Replay 2012 | How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not only dragging out the Stuff I Found While Procrastinating Online Gift Guides, but also replaying some of my most popular “self-printing” posts from the last twelve months for those who might have missed them first time around. They’re in no particular order, popularity-wise. Today’s is a lesson in how (not?) to get your book reviewed… 

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]

Click here for a list of all my self-printing posts

How (Not?) To Get Your Book Reviewed

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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]

REPLAY 2011: A New and Improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book

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I’ve been using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) On Thursday I’ll be revisiting some of the guest posts I hosted this year, so this is my final replay post. It was first published in September and it’s the way I format my own e-books. Since I posted it, I’ve discovered that Mac users get even better results if instead of “Normal” style, they use “Plain Text.” If publishing an e-book is in your To Do for 2012, I think this is the easiest way to do your own formatting without learning computer code… 

Last week the dreaded day came to turn Backpacked into an e-book.

I did everything I usually do (as I outlined in my How To Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way post) and while it converted fine for Amazon KDP, Smashwords was just not happy with it – the .epub format, i.e. most important format outside of .mobi for Kindle, was alternating fonts every other paragraph. Thinking that maybe I’d done something wrong, I started again.

And again.

And again.

And then because I knew that sometimes using MS Word for Mac can screw up things a little bit, I even tried using the archaic monster from the pre-Stone Age that is our family PC, the machine that makes the Commodore 64 look like a Cray-SV1 (I’ve been reading about super computers this weekend – long story…). But it still didn’t work.

I couldn’t understand where things had gone wrong – I’d followed all the instructions, done everything I was told to do and had pulled out everything that didn’t need to be there, even page breaks. Finally I tried pulling out enough of my hair to leave unsightly bald patches and saying bad, sweary things about Smashwords, but – surprisingly – that didn’t work either.

Which left just one, unattractive option: going nuclear.

The Smashwords Style Guide says that if things aren’t working out, there is one very extreme option – the nuclear option – that strips everything out of your text except the letters, the words they make up and the spaces and lines between them. I didn’t want to do this because I use a lot of italics, and that would mean that I’d have to go back and insert 77,000 words’ worth of them. That wasn’t going to help with the this-book-is-driving-me-crazy thing. But I really wanted to conquer this thing, so I did it.

And it worked brilliantly.

The thing is, Smashwords is not the problem. Smashwords was never the problem (and in fact, their free Style Guide is a godsend). Microsoft Word, which was invented by the devil himself and then evidently coded by horned demons, is the problem. That’s why I work with Pages, but you can’t upload anything but .doc files for e-books. Even though my paragraph style was set to Normal and was in size 10 Times New Roman on screen, it wasn’t really set to Normal and in size 10 Times New Roman. Word was just jesting. It was letting me think it was, while hiding in the corner trying to stifle its own sniggering and chucking everything but the kitchen sink into the code.

I had to go through my book again but, while I did, I was able to pick out a few more errors, clean up a few sentences and generally improve it a bit. So instead of thinking of it as formatting, I just thought of it as another go-through, another revision. Once I was done I copied and pasted that text into my CreateSpace template, which then took only half an hour to format back into a POD interior, so both editions were the same. Then I was so happy with the result I went and re-did Mousetrapped the same way and when I’ve time, I’m going to do Self-Printed as well. I also used it for a formatting client’s e-book that had images and it worked out a dream.

Better yet, once I had scrubbed the formatting from my e-book file, it was so much easier to go back and put in what was needed than the way I’ve formatted in the past. It actually simplified the process. And you can even use your POD interior file if you like – because you’re taking out all of the formatting anyway, it doesn’t matter how much has been done to your document to begin with. I’m never going to format an e-book any other way again.

So here is my new and improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way!

Do you need reminding about how in e-books there’s no such thing as a page? Read about that on this post. Or just remember, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A PAGE in e-books. Got it? Good.

Let’s begin.

Start by making one of these. Or five.

Step 1: Prepare Your Manuscript

Open your manuscript file, whether it be the plain old Word document you and your editor have been working from or the interior of your POD paperback, all laid out nice and stuff, and eliminate anything that just doesn’t work in an e-book. You can either let them go, or leave the pure text in there to do a little work around with it later on, e.g. take the text out of a text box, delete the text box and put the text in a paragraph in all italics instead.

The following are e-books no-nos:

  • Automatic footnotes
  • Text boxes
  • Headers and footers
  • Columns
  • Tables
  • Any other fancy word-processing stuff.

Then click Edit -> Select All -> Copy.

Use a simple text editor program, like TextEdit. 

Step 2: Go Nuclear

Now open a simple text editing program. If you have a PC, this will probably be NotePad; on Mac, it’s TextEdit. Paste your work into here. (On Mac, select “Paste and Match Style” so it matches the style of TextEdit, not the style of the text you’re pasting in as that defeats the purpose.) This will strip your work of all formatting and images. Once you’ve done that, click Edit -> Select All -> Copy. Then open a brand new MS Word document, save it as .doc (not .docx) and turn off Auto-Formatting and Auto-Correct by un-checking the boxes in Preferences. Paste the stripped text in and save.

Turn off Auto-Correct and Auto-Format by un-checking the relevant boxes in Preferences.

Step 3: Style It Up

Working now in this new, start-from-scratch MS Word document, again with all text selected, go to Format -> Style. Your style will be set to Normal, but chances are that normal won’t be what you want. (It’s that damn horned demon again.) So click Modify and make Normal Times New Roman, point 10, left-aligned and single spaced. Click Okay to modify that style and then Apply.

Modifying your Normal style in MS Word.

Keeping all the text selected, then go to Format -> Paragraph and make the settings single line spacing with no extra space before or after, left-aligned with first line indent to 0.3″. So that it looks like this:

Save your document. Switch to Draft View (View -> Draft View) and make your paragraph returns visible (click the little paragraph return symbol in the toolbar that looks like a backwards P). Your book should now be looking like this to you:

Step 4: Put What You Need Back In

Now go through your document and put back in what you need in terms of formatting. Here’s what I do as I go through the book:

  • Insert e-book appropriate front matter including license notes, centered (tip: create a new, modified style where text is not first line indented but is centered – this will keep our formatting pristine all the way through). If you don’t know what that should be, I included an example in my original how to format an e-book post.

If you need some centered text, for example for titles, don’t just click “Center.” Instead, go back to Format -> Style and create a New Style for this purpose.

  • Insert page breaks between chapters (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or between parts (fiction/20+ chapters). Because some formats ignore page breaks, always have a paragraph return above and below the break so that if this does happen, the text doesn’t get all squashed up. To insert a page break, select Insert –> Break -> Page Break.
  • Insert bookmarks at chapter headings (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or at the beginnings of sections or parts (fiction/20+ chapters) so you can create a working table of contents later, i.e. readers can click on the table of contents and be taken straight to a certain point in the book. Insert a bookmark by clicking Insert -> Bookmark and call it what it is, e.g. Chapter One, Part II, etc.

Inserting bookmarks. You can also see in this image that to start a new chapter, I simply skip a line and make my heading bold. Keep it simple!

  • Format headings. For chapter headings I just use bold + italics and for section headings I switch the text to all caps and make them bold.
  • Put back in italics and/or bold where you need them in the body text.
  • Remove the first line indent where necessary, e.g. the first lines of chapters, chapter headings, etc. (The quickest way to do this is by moving the slide rule at the top of the page, I think. Just be careful to only move the first line and not the whole paragraph.)
  • Make all URLS live, i.e. Insert -> Hyperlink.
  • Insert e-book appropriate end matter, such as links to your blog, the titles of your other books, etc. Your last line in the e-book document should be “###END###’ centered, so that the reader knows they have come to the end of the e-book.

DO NOT:

  • Change your font size. All my e-books are now 10 point right the way through. I make text look different using only bold, italics and all capital letters.
  • Have more than four paragraph returns anywhere in your book. E-book reading devices allow readers to change their font sizes considerably and if you put too many paragraph returns, your readers will end up with blank pages at some font size settings. You really should never have more than one except for the pairs on either side of a page break, which technically aren’t together anyway.
  • Justify your paragraphs. Left-align is the only thing that really works properly across all formats.
  • Refer to retailers. Do you think Barnes and Noble is going to want a link to Amazon in your book? Hardly. I normally do two files, one for KDP (Amazon) and one for Smashwords. I keep the Smashwords file clean because it goes to so many different people, but in the KDP file I say things like, “Look out for [TITLE] in the Kindle store.”

Step 5: The Bells and Whistles

You can stop right here and skip to step 6, Upload and Check Your E-books, if you’re happy with your book as it is, or you can add in some bells and whistles, like:

The live table of contents in the e-book version of Backpacked. The links under the copyright notice/license notes link to the web, i.. my blog, Twitter account etc., but the links in the table of contents link to bookmarks, i.e. locations within the document.

A live table of contents. These are very helpful for non-fiction and reference books. The idea is that you insert a bookmark at the start of each chapter or section, go back to the start and type a table of contents and then make each entry in the table a live, working hyperlink that if clicked, will take the reader to the bookmarked location. To insert a link to a bookmark, click Insert -> Hyperlink and then in the window that appears, click “Document” for in-document links and select the appropriate bookmark.

Inserting images in e-books. 

Images. Yes, I’m talking about adding images to your e-books. Have I ingested some crazy pills? Didn’t I always say you shouldn’t put images in e-books? Didn’t I claim that trying to do it was just bringing on a world of pain? Well, when you use the nuclear option, images are easier to work with just because the body text is already behaving well. To insert an image, you must Insert -> Picture -> From File. (You cannot copy and paste.) You must ensure that the image’s layout is set to “in line with text.” To check, right-click the image and select Format Picture -> Layout. Keep the image small; I make sure mine don’t stretch further than 3 inches across the screen. Centre them for cohesiveness, and for safety, leave a page break before and after. In the image above, I created yet another style for the image caption. Don’t forget that for now, at least, most people read their e-books in black and white.

Work arounds. Everything that’s in your paperback can go in your e-book – you just have to use your imagination. Text boxes are easy: just take the text out and either give it its own paragraph with a return above and below, or just insert it like any other paragraph but in bold and/or italic. A formatting client of mine had a worksheet in her physical book – you can’t put that in an e-book (and there’s no point in doing it, anyway), so I advised her to make a PDF of it, and tell her e-book readers to go to her website to pick it up. They still get the worksheet and she gets a website visit. For footnotes, I went to the text where the footnote appeared in the physical book, went to the next paragraph return and then inserted it using square brackets (see highlighted section in the image below).

Adding footnotes manually (see highlighted section).

The only limit, really, is your imagination. For instance in my novel that’s out next month, Results Not Typical, there are several sections that are supposed to be branded literature from the company at the heart of the plot. They’re in a different font to the main text. In the paperback, those sections look like this:

But how to accomplish that in the e-book? Well, this was a true work around. I took a screen shot of the header as it appears in the MS Word document that forms the interior of my paperback book. Then I inserted that as an image into the e-book. The rest of the text, i.e. the rest of the text in each of those literature sections, will remain the same, but at least those image headers will alert readers to the fact that they’re different. So in the e-book, it looks like this:

Step 6: Upload and Check Your E-books

Checking your e-book is really easy and can be done with your Smashwords converted files. (When you upload to KDP you get to see an on-screen Kindle preview which is great but not ideal and anyway if it’s working at Smashwords, it’s definitely working over at KDP.)

Pre-nuclear: Ugh. It’s all, bad and stuff. Yuck!

Upload your file to Smashwords and while it’s converting, download Adobe Digital Editions and Amazon’s Kindle reading application (both free) to your computer. Then when your book goes live, download the .epub and .mobi (Kindle) versions from your book’s page and check them using the programs you just downloaded. If you followed the instructions above, they’ll look great. If they look anything other than great, immediately unpublish your books (click “Unpublish” on your Smashwords dashboard) and try again.

If you’re having problems, download the Smashwords Style Guide. Honestly, you don’t need anything else – if you follow its instructions, your book will look great on Smashwords and Amazon KDP. It’s where I found out everything I know about formatting, along with trial and error. And caffeine-induced epiphanies after a very long day of e-book formatting.

Post-nuclear: Oooh, look how pretty and correctly formatted and stuff! 

So that’s it, folks. If you want to have this post to hand while you format your e-book, click here to download a printable PDF. I know, I know – I’m just too, too kind. If you want to express your gratefulness, buy a copy of one of these or, alternatively, tell everyone you know about them. Every single last one. I’ll know if you leave a few people out, you know. I have ways.

Click here to find out more about Backpacked

REPLAY 2011: 5 Things Self-Publishers Shouldn’t Worry About (But They Do)

I’ve been using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) This post was first posted back in September.

I get asked a lot of questions about self-publishing.

Most of these questions – I’d say at least eight out of every ten – are answered on my blog, and if the people who asked them took a few moments to read my blog every once in a while, they wouldn’t have to ask. Some of the answers don’t even require the reading of my blog, for instance: Do you recommend CreateSpace?

Do I recommend CreateSpace? Hmm. Let me think on that. You know what? No – no, I don’t. I hate those bastards. With a passion. In fact, I hate them so much that I’ve chosen to self-publish not one, not two, but three POD paperbacks with them, included detailed instructions for using them in my book Self-Printed and I’ve a fourth CreateSpace POD baby on the way. So recommend them? What do you think?

Some of these questions I’m asked – maybe one out of every ten, on a good day – are really, really good questions, questions I wish I’d already answered on my blog, questions I make a note of so I can answer them one day in the future. The kind of ones where I didn’t explain something because it feels second nature to me now, and I’ve forgotten there was a time when I didn’t have a clue. I like those kinds of questions. I hope they keep coming.

That rest are what I call the Are You Kidding Me With This? questions.

You know that saying “Don’t run before you can walk”? Well, some would-be self-publishers seemingly want to figure-skate professionally before they can stand upright. They want to know where they can buy “Signed by the Author” stickers before they’ve even wrote the book. Others have only the faintest grasp of what self-publishing is and what it means, realistically, for them and their book, and so presume that they’ll have to add things like “movie deals”, “paparazzi” and “Booker Prize” to their Things to Concern Myself With list. A couple of weeks ago an author told me that it had taken “four phone calls to Amazon” before he managed to get his book published on KDP. What? Why? And what could you possibly be calling them about? This isn’t rocket science, people!

Self-publishing is simple. It takes a lot of patience and hard work, yes, but it is, ultimately, simplistic. So don’t overcomplicate things. Don’t be overly ambitious. Don’t let your imagination run wild. Don’t run before you can walk (or figure-skate professionally before you can stand upright.) Don’t get your knickers in a twist over movie deals.

And whatever you do, don’t worry about these things:

1. Shipping Charges

CreateSpace’s shipping charges are a bit on the pricey side. They used to be on the astronomical side, but at least now they’re somewhat affordable. But they don’t really matter that much. They certainly don’t matter so much that they should affect your decision when it comes to picking a POD company because if you want to make money self-publishing, start by not sending books to yourself.

If you want to sell your POD books in bookstores, you’ll have to buy them, ship them to your home and then try to sell them to bookstores. But if you want to sell your books in bookstores, then don’t get them printed by the likes of CreateSpace or Lulu. There just isn’t enough room in the margins to accommodate the manufacturing cost, a cut for the bookstore and your profit while keeping the retail price far away enough from the stratosphere for anyone to consider buying it. Don’t buy your own book, even for stock.

You also shouldn’t worry about your readers having to pay those shipping charges, because you shouldn’t encourage anyone to buy your book from, say, your CreateSpace e-store. I just despair when I see authors asking readers to buy their books from there because their royalty/profit is the highest. The way to sell books is to make them visible on Amazon – once you do that, the books sell themselves. “Visible” means high up bestseller ranks, high up search results and in things like “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” Every time you sell a book on Amazon, you contribute to this visibility. So why would you encourage anyone to buy your books from CreateSpace, where the sale leaves no trace at all? In that case there’s a tree falling in the woods with nobody around, and we can definitely say it doesn’t make a sound.

The only times you have to even think about shipping charges is (i) when you post the proof copy to yourself and (ii) ordering books for friends and family. Let’s say for the sake of it that that totals somewhere between 30-50 books. Presumably your goal is to sell thousands, so why would you make a decision based on something that affects a fraction of the books you hope to shift? There’s no good reason, so don’t worry about it.

After a while, your POD paperback’s cover will start to do this. But who cares?

2. Perfection

Once upon a time I had the misfortune to work as a campsite courier, a kind of general assistant on a “camping” resort in the south of France. Our customers paid big bucks to stay in mobile homes, chalets and oversized tents, and we got paid practically nothing to clean them before they arrived. Whenever anyone complained about a stain on the floor or a bit of dust on the window or a smear on a glass, we’d shrug, hold up our hands and say, “What do they expect? It’s camping!”

This is Print-On-Demand. This is a machine that throws together a book in a matter of minutes. It’s not a professional printing press that uses high quality cover card, elegant binding and smooth, beautiful paper. And these are self-published e-books. It’s a Word document that’s been run through an almost free-to-use, automated conversion program that spits out several different formats at once. It’s not a team of highly trained techie types who work from the code and make e-books that are things of book-design beauty. Yes, you should make your POD paperback and e-book look as great as you possibly can, but don’t chase perfection because you won’t find it.

Your POD paperback will likely have:

  • a glossy cover that collects fingerprints
  • a cover made of card thinner than a traditionally published book, so it’ll bend more
  • some pages that may appear printed very slightly off kilter
  • the occasional ever-so-slightly damaged corner
  • “Proof” printed on the last page if it’s a proof copy
  • A barcode, date and address printed on the last page no matter what.

Why? BECAUSE IT’S CHEAP-AS-CHIPS POD, people!

Your e-book will likely have:

  • spaces where you didn’t intend for there to be spaces
  • lines where you didn’t intend for there to be lines
  • page breaks where you didn’t intend for there to be page breaks
  • an automated table of contents (that’s different to the one you put in).
But it will still be perfectly readable and if you’re lucky, looking good too. So don’t worry about it.

3. Unrealistic Retailing

Every time a self-publisher wonders aloud how they can get their book up on Amazon for pre-order, a fairy dies.

FACT.

What kinds of books are available to pre-order on Amazon? Books published by actual, proper big publishing houses. Who should be thanking their lucky stars they’re even allowed on Amazon in the first place without a warehouse of stock, a meter-high stack of paperwork and some credentials? You, the self-publisher.

Don’t be getting ideas above your station. If you’re Hilary Swank and you’ve been invited to the Academy Awards, Oscar de la Renta will send you a beautiful gown made just for you. If you’re you (or me) and you’ve been invited to your (or my) grandmother’s 80th birthday party, it’s off to Debenhams (Macy’s, American friends) to buy something mass produced off the rack.

So when you say anything about pre-ordering, I say: Puh. Lease. If you self-publish a POD paperback, it will be for sale on Amazon.com. If someone orders it, magical elves will print it, package it and ship it, and then the cousins of those magical elves will deposit the profits earned from that sale into your bank account. This is amazing. This is fantastic. And this is ENOUGH.

Don’t worry about whether or not Waterstone’s can stock your book, because they won’t ever want to. Don’t worry about VAT and Whispernet delivery charges, because they’re on all books, not just yours, and therefore the concern of the buyer, not the seller. Don’t worry about who is selling your book – just be glad anybody is.

And don’t even mention pre-ordering.

(There goes another fairy…)

4. ISBNs

An ISBN is a 10 or 13 digit number that identifies your book. If CreateSpace or Smashwords give you an ISBN, they own the ISBN but they DO NOT own the work you assign the ISBN to. In other words, you are free to publish your book anywhere else whenever you like, but you’d have to use a new ISBN.

So, repeat after me:

“ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protects. ISBNs identify, copyright owns and protect…” and continue to do so until you stop worrying about how taking a free ISBN might affect your future movie deal, agency contract or first million dollar cheque.

Just STOP.

5. The Future of Publishing

In one dark corner of the internet right now, last month, next week, there is a conversation comprised of blog posts, articles, tweets, etc. that’s going like this:

“The book is dead.”

“The book isn’t dead.”

“Yes, it is. I just bought a Kindle.”

“No, it isn’t. Can you decorate with it? Can you decorate with your Kindle? Didn’t think so…” and so on and on and on.

There is also another conversation running parallel, going like this:

“Publishing is dead.”

“Publishing is not dead.”

“Your children won’t remember bookshops.”

“My children will be visiting their children in the bookshops they work in…” and so on and on and on.

And yet another that goes like:

“I heard these guys saying publishing and books are dead. I’m going straight to self-publishing e-books. It’s best for my career.”

“I don’t know how to do it though. I’m going to submit my novel.”

“You’ll be sorry when you die before you hear back.”

“You’ll be sorry when no one buys your clump of computer code…” and so on and on and on.

If you are thinking of self-publishing and haven’t yet sold a single book, or even if you have self-published and sold a few copies, NONE OF THIS MATTERS.

And for the ranty record, I really wish people who don’t work in publishing – and that includes me, and almost all self-publishers – would shut their pie holes about what a world they don’t live and work in may or may not have happen to it, theoretically, in the future, based on how many guys down the pub they know with Kindles. Knitting a scarf doesn’t make you the fashion editor of Vogue, and self-publishing a book doesn’t make you a publishing expert, and it especially doesn’t make you an expert on the whole global industry of publishing and where it’s headed. Self-publish, sell a few hundred thousand, make money and perhaps either refuse or sign a publishing deal, and then I’ll start to listen. Otherwise, I’m going to need you to actually work in publishing.

See also: debate over whether people like me should be called “self-publishers” or “indie authors.” What’s next on the agenda of irrelevancy – whether it’s e-books, E-books or E-Books? Because I don’t know about you, but that’s a question that’s keeping me awake at night.

NOT.

Instead, concentrate on your own little corner of the world, the part of the world you do know about, on your big picture, and–

[Say it with me now]

Don’t worry about it!

Let’s all have a nice, big cup of coffee now. That will also help with the not-worrying.

Why I Won’t Be Blogging About Amazon KDP Select

oldpost

Except of course that in telling you why I won’t be blogging about it, I am blogging about it. Oops.

Well, take out the word “blogging” from the title of this post and replace it with “writing instructional posts, explaining it in too much detail or advising anyone either way on whether or not you should or shouldn’t enroll your books”, and then you’ll understand what I really mean.

Of course, that would have been a much longer blog title. Too long.

But anyway.

If you haven’t heard, yesterday Amazon announced that it was giving Amazon KDP self-publishers the option of including their titles in their Prime/Kindle Owners Lending Library extravaganza.

Cue people losing their minds. Out spilled the tweets, the blog posts, the articles. The indignation, the anger, the disbelief. The contempt for the one company that has probably done more good for self-publishers than mayonnaise has done bad for my waistline. This may or may not be true but I think I read somewhere that Amazon consulted with some of its biggest selling KDP publishers before finalizing the details—a few of them are even quoted in the release. But even this isn’t enough for the aspiring masses, for the self-publishers who have sold fewer books than the average person has highlighter pens, and they’re freaking out.

Which side is right? Is this good for self-publishers, or have we just caught Amazon with their hand in our pocket? Is this a new opportunity, or just the latest step in a chain of events that ends with Amazon owning the exclusive rights to the work of every author in the world and them forcing us to burn our old books while they watch in exchange for access to a new release? Or is this just not that big of a deal and, in the scheme of things, not even very interesting?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is this:

I JUST CANNOT BE ARSED WITH THIS ANYMORE.

(YES, I AM SHOUTING.)

I don’t care what you think about KDP Select. And you shouldn’t care what I think about it either. Self-publishing is not one size fits all. You have to do what’s right for you and your career, and you should be able to do it without interference from anyone else. (Has anyone noticed that Amazon have replaced the old evil gatekeeping overlords, i.e. agents, editors and Wal-Mart book buyers, in some sections of the self-publishing evangelist world? Do those guys just have to have someone to hate?) But I have to say something about it, lest I explode, and people have been asking what I think. So I’ve decided to delete the original post I wrote in a red mist last night, and replaced it with this, the minimum I can possibly say on the subject—hopefully my first and last post about KDP Select.

This is all I’m going to say about KDP Select:

I’ve enrolled one title, Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too, which is a combination edition of my two travel memoirs that isn’t and has never been for sale anywhere other than in the Kindle store. This book costs $3.99 to buy and since I avail of the 70% loyalty rate on it, I have to make it available for Kindle lending (i.e. where people who’ve bought my book can lend it to another Kindle owner for 14 days) anyway—that’s one of the requirements for 70%. Also, it sells a handful of copies a month so I have absolutely nothing to lose by enrolling it, only potentially something to gain—more readers. I don’t think I would pull a book from anywhere else just so I could enroll it in KDP Select, but here’s what I think I would do: give KDP Select a new book for the first three months of its life (the minimum enrollment period, as I understand). Then pull it out again, and upload the book elsewhere. Why would I do this? Because I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it weren’t for Amazon. If that ruffles your anti-capitalist feathers an uncomfortable amount then maybe you shouldn’t be publishing books at all because last time I checked, publishing—self-publishing included—was a business, not a hand-holding Kumbaya session around the commune campfire.

This is all I’m going to say about the people complaining it:

You can do what you like. I don’t care. And you shouldn’t care about what I do. But I think it’s a bit rich to be complaining about Amazon ad nauseum when you publish and sell your books through them. What’s the point of protesting if at the end of the day, you’re happy to cross the picket line? I saw a comment yesterday that went along the lines of, ‘This is IT! I’ve had it. KDP Select is the last nail in Amazon’s coffin for me. I’m withdrawing all of my books from them right now.’ Now, to me, this person sounds like a bit of a raving lunatic having a complete overreaction but, you know what? I have far more respect for that person than I do the ones who keep a foot on both sides of the fence. At least that person isn’t just being contrary to get blog hits. Their anger is real. And let’s not forget: none of this is mandatory. (And despite what someone said yesterday, it is still perfectly possible to use KDP without “accidentally enrolling” your book in Select. If you can’t figure out KDP’s simpler-than-simple dashboard set-up, then you probably haven’t formatted your book right either so, no loss there.) No one is forcing you to self-publish with Amazon. No one is even forcing you to self-publish in the first place. Here’s a little tip: do you know what I do when something makes me angry? I stop doing it. Simples.

So I’m going to take my own advice, and stop talking about this now.

Let’s never speak of this again.

Now as an antidote to all this unpleasantness, here’s a picture of a cat and dog who are friends:

Or maybe a little bit more than friends. House pets with benefits, perhaps. Either way, LOOK AT ALL THE CUDDLY CUTE FLUFFINESS.

Nice Catherine will be back on Monday. Have a good weekend!