C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

What resources do new publishers need (besides a darn good book)?

You’re a writer. You have a winning attitude and you clean up nice. You’re determined to publish a book this year. What’s needed?

Scrivener

Scrivener helps me write all my books. After experiencing its ability to organize a manuscript so I can bop around and rearrange elements easily, I’d never go back to Word. There’s a free trial or buy it for $45 USD. I now consider this software a need, at least for me.

Editors

Lionheart for editorial services. They did great job (fast and very reasonably priced) formatting my last book for print. I plan to use their services much more in the future. After many frustrating attempts, I realized I could lose my writing time to formatting or I could hand it over to an expert. (Special thanks to Jordanna East for the tip.)

This editor, Jason Whited, also comes highly recommended by the guys at Self-Publishing Podcast. (I guess he had a small hole in his schedule because if  you use his services before February 15, 2014, he’s knocking 25% off his fee.)

The Graphic Artist

Hire Kit Foster at KitFosterDesign.com to design your covers (ebooks, print, audiobook, web banners, logo designs, advertising.) He works for traditional publishers and indies makes beautiful covers. As regular readers of this blog know, I can’t say enough nice things about Kit.

A website

You at least need an author page. WordPress is cheap and easy. If you expect to sell with affiliate links, self-hosted is better. If you’re going with GoDaddy or Hostgator for a domain name, just get the minimum and avoid all the upsells on features you don’t need. Hover is now my preferred place for domain names because they don’t do all the upselling and the price includes a lot of what other places sell piece by piece. Hover isn’t evil.

If you want to get more fancy so you have superior design, support and a badass sales page, try Squarespace.com. The domain name is included in the price at SquareSpace. I’d have moved my author site over to Squarespace already, but the platform isn’t as friendly to podcasting as WordPress (yet).

Social Media

You’ll need a Twitter account and Facebook. (Free to begin, cheap to advertise upon and of limited effectiveness in that regard.) You’ll notice I haven’t included LinkedIn. That’s because I’m not sold on its efficacy as a tool for authors. Some authors like LI more than I do. It can be useful if you’re looking for a job.

You’ll also find forums for authors there, but I put LinkedIn and Tumblr in the same category: nice but optional. My Tumblr posts my stuff automatically. I don’t hang out there. Sadly, Google+ hasn’t really caught on as much as it will. Google+ will get bigger once Facebook alienates more users.

Sales Platforms

An Amazon account for ebooks and CreateSpace for printing. All these accounts are free to open. Other sales platforms like Kobo etc.,… are by choice and as needed. (Many indies will tell you that you must be on all platforms. That’s a debate for another post. Read that here.)

Understand that you are the publisher now and (what fun!) you’re a business owner. Amazon, Kobo, Apple and the like are not publishers. They are sales platforms. The money you hope to get from these online catalogues is not a royalty. Those are sales figures, not royalties.

Since you’re the publisher, I’d form a LLC (US) or register a sole proprietorship (Canada). Do you have to? No. But I think it’s more professional, keeps the bank account out of the hobby category and the Ex Parte Press logo on the spine of my books says, “Yeah, this is real.” ex parte press logo 1

Some platforms don’t require ISBNs. I think they’re a good idea. In the United States, you purchase them through Bowker. In Canada, ISBNs are free except for sending books to the national library.

An accountant

The tax system is far too complicated for mere mortals. When looking for an accountant, don’t ask for a referral from your kid’s orthodontist. He’s got lots of money and will have a slick, high-priced suit for an accountant a young start-up such as ours can’t afford. Ask a dental hygienist instead. She’ll have someone reliable she’s used for years whose fees are not exorbitant. Your accountant won’t wear a $3,000 suit, but who needs that for a bit of handholding? Big companies need high power to hide their assets. We just need a friendly guide through the system so we can have some peace of mind.

Use Wave or Easy Accounting Pilot or any simple spreadsheet program to record all the income, receipts, mileage, publishing and equipment expenditures. This is a do-it-yourself project. Don’t show up at the accountant’s office with a box full of receipts. If you do, no matter how inexpensive their services, the time they have to take to peer at crumpled receipts will run up your accounting bill.

Report all income and pay your taxes. The good news is, chances are excellent you won’t have any such thing as income for a while. However, that laptop, if used for your publishing business, is a write-off. Consult with your accountant. Ask how much of your office space is allowable to claim. Software and hardware have different allowable claims. Find out how much your government is allowing for mileage this year and keep a mileage log. It probably won’t be much, but when’s the last time you burnt a $20 bill? Lose track of receipts and you torch money and Thor knows we can’t afford to do that.

Author Marketing Club

Spend $100 on an Author Marketing Club membership, though even their free tools are good. Do not spend thousands on a publicist. This is especially true if you don’t have thousands of dollars or if you have only one book to sell. Most authors are their own publicity department (just as it is with most traditionally published authors, really).

And remember, the writing always comes first. Twitter, Facebook and promotion is for time that would be otherwise unproductive.

Friends

I don’t have many friends, but through my books, I’ve made friends with new people for the first time in a couple of decades. As I detailed in a recent and surprisingly popular post, friends and allies are not afterthoughts and frivolous relationships. They’re important to help us deal with our questions, our stress and even our workload. No indie who is successful is truly independent. We depend on others for street teams, beta readers, information and support. We’re publishers who crowdfund. We swap services, advice and guest posts and play in our allies’ blog tours and promotional opportunities. This is shoestring publishing that stretches our resources to the limit as we make books to the best of our ability.

Don’t try to publish without support from a writer’s group or like-minded indies, friends and/or family. (Not everyone will be onboard, so don’t expect moon pies from everybody, either.) I’m lucky to have beta readers with extensive military experience. One of my best friends trains elite SWAT and all their input has been invaluable to my crime novels and This Plague of Days. One of my friends is an English major and writer who is vigilant for plot issues and insists I never take a shortcut. Another beta reader is a proud and vocal member of the Grammar Police. Most friends and family won’t buy your books, but with help from a chosen few, you can reach the strangers who will buy your books. Have as big a beta reading team as you can manage, as long as it remains productive.

We need friends to save us from ourselves. I guess that’s true no matter what we’re doing.

What would you add to this list for new publishers who are taking their first steps into the indie pool?

~ This week I went through a bunch of this stuff with a budding self-publisher over the phone. She didn’t have a Twitter account yet, so it got me thinking about the necessities to begin. I think if you start off with the items I’ve listed above, you’ve got a lot of bases covered as you start your journey. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something and I know there are advanced options to add to the list. For instance, going to ACX for audiobook creation is a logical next step after you’ve published an ebook and you’re in print. Please add your recommendations in the comments thread so we can help new indies start off well.

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Easy tech tools for authors and publishers Part 1

Time to tell you about BannerSnack. With this app, you can easily construct banners and ads for your author site. You’re going to love it.

This is a free tech tool I picked up at the Chrome Store. I just started playing with it, but I’m already very impressed. Not being comfortable with HTML often holds us back from doing more with our websites. There are several ways to work around that problem without learning programming language. BannerSnack makes it easy (even if you just go for the free options with watermarks). If you’re going to use it a lot, premium options aren’t unreasonably priced.

Here’s an ad I created for a book promotion on my author site, AllThatChazz.com:

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.50.29 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.50.39 PM

You can start from scratch or choose to start from a wide variety of templates and sizes to get your unique message out.

If you want to make your website more spiffy, I suggest you play with BannerSnack. The interface is intuitive so you’ll have a banner, ad or button up and running quickly.

In Part II, I’ll show you an even cooler and easier tool to make presentation of your books,

and your author site, beautiful and inviting.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We’re Indie. We don’t lie down.

I’m revising Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire, a book I’ll soon release that is basically the best posts, chosen from over 1,000 articles on this blog. As I edit, rewrite, add and subtract, I’m struck by how I return to a certain theme of independence among indie writers. We need that stubborn streak. The voice in my head asks others to take the risks I take. I encourage other writers to follow their dreams. Encouraging others is part of my dream, too. My tone is sometimes matter of fact and, at other times, defiant. Sometimes the advice is contrarian. If that doesn’t suit your taste, at least sometimes it’s whimsical and I kill a mime.

It’s not easy being indie. We’re still largely ignored by mainstream media. It’s hard to get reviews. Bookstore managers tend to look at us with nail heads for eyes. But I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do and no one stands over me telling me how to do it. That’s worth a lot to me. The writers and publishers who read this blog are a very helpful group. I appreciate that.

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada. I’m thankful for my family of believers, the people who support my campaign and the suspense lovers who read my books. Crack the Indie Author Code will be available very soon, but the blog will continue after publication. I will continue to aspire to inspire. (To the doubters: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!)

Thanks for reading ChazzWrites.com. 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How I Failed My Way Into A Book Deal – Guest Post by Matt Ellis

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

We rarely travel off the self-publishing road on this blog. All the more reason to vary from the usual map occasionally. Here’s a link to an interesting guest post about an alternative route to traditional publishing on David Gaughran’s blog. (His is a great blog. Bookmark it!)

Via davidgaughran.wordpress.com

Filed under: publishing, , , ,

Publishers: What do I need you for?

Over at The Ranting Crone, my friend Pam Brierley has a great post about an encounter she had with a panel of publishers at last year’s Canadian Authors Association conference.

If they aren’t editing and they aren’t marketing, what are they doing (and is it worth it?)

These very sorts of questions are what’s pushed me to self-publishing.

Go visit Pam! 

Filed under: DIY, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, Writing Conferences, , , , ,

Publishing: Change or Die

Cover of "Change or Die: The Three Keys t...

Cover via Amazon

I read a fascinating book called Change or Die recently. It documents what makes us change and what makes us resist change. Quoting heart disease and lifestyle specialist Dr. Dean Ornish, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” But change is coming and it’s happening faster than so-called experts predicted just a few months ago.

The premise is that for people to adapt, they must harness the power of community, process and engagement. Leaders must lead by example. Facts and fear don’t change people, even in dire circumstances. The author looks research showing how heart patients and career criminals made real positive change and adapted.  Real change is collaborative.

What’s interesting about the changes that are happening to publishing is that, despite a long history to draw on, the changes are still happening to publishers. Publishers are harnessing the awesome power of denial to affirm that they are still on top and will always be on top. We’ve heard this tune before and you know it ends with a swan song.

For instance, in Change or Die, we can see the same pattern with GM. GM insisted their cars were superior despite facts. GM execs even changed the scale of how they measured their success (i.e. number of car defects) to protect their illusions. Throughout, they would not acknowledge the superior reliability of foreign cars. GM had to lose a fortune before they began to see they sucked. Arrogance nearly killed them. Thanks to a huge reality check and huge government checks, they got saved from themselves. (Publishers aren’t too big to fail though, so we’ll see many big publishers disappear or become micro-publishers soon. Well, that’s really already happening.)

Traditional publishers have had market dominance so long, many still think it will last forever. They take the facts—self-publishing and ebooks are going through growing pains—and affirm their eternal dominance. Nevermind all those people buying e-readers! Nevermind the expansion of self-publishing and DIY due to technological changes. The e-book ad POD problems aren’t a sign of their demise. That’s growth. No technology emerges in its final form. There is no final form until we’re extinct.

The market is changing under publishers. They aren’t, on the whole, acting in a proactive way. And yet, we can’t scare them into believing the revolution is here. Facts don’t work, but fear doesn’t, either. (I’m not writing this to scare anybody, though inevitably it will scare some.) The publishers and agents of the traditional structure will survive long-term when they decide these aren’t problems but opportunities.

When they turn from despair for the old models to hope, then they can begin to adapt to new market conditions. Then they can change and thrive. There will be room for everybody. There are more readers reading more (but they are reading in new and fractured media.)

As a writer, I see the opportunity to promote my work. I might sell part of it myself and go the traditional route with other parts. (No, publishers can’t assume they get all the rights anymore. I’ll have to work harder and diversify and they’ll have to accept less or get nothing. Everybody gets to take part in the adaptation process and it won’t all be fun, but how much of business is all fun? Suck it up, writers and publishers.)

As an editor, I see more opportunities to work with diverse authors on their self-published books. I don’t have to live in Toronto anymore to work in Canadian publishing. In fact, where I am isn’t at all relevent. (Loved T.O, but I like raising my kids in a smaller city.)

As a reader in an electronic world, I can get easier access to books I never would have been aware of in my local bookstore. Yes, there’s more curation to do, but there’s always been curation to do. Now I can find out from friends and trusted blogs new stuff to read that isn’t on a top ten list.

Digital books are easier for me to access and eat. Digital books are easier for me to produce. E-books are easier to edit. Oh, look, I’m a curator, too! Look at all those links to check out!

And now you have another book to buy: Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, links, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Writers: Top 10 of the 2010 Top 10 Chazz Writes posts

Top10

Early last year I considered going back to school to become a librarian. (I dumped that idea before I saw this graphic, but it does make me feel better about my choice.)

After some career counselling, I decided to refocus my efforts on my writing and editing. I needed (and need!) to bring art to the front burner. I began this blog as part of reorganizing my life to that end. Since last May I’ve posted 402 times and gained lots of readers, friends and even some clients (hurrah!) Things progress.

 For lucky #403, this is a look back through the Top 10 lists of 2010:

1. Authors! Part II: Top Ten Lessons from the Networking Master

2. Top 10 Ways Writers Waste Time

3. Writers & Editors: Top 10 Editorial Considerations

4. (Top 10 Things +1) Writers Love

5. Top 10 Reasons We Write Sci-fi

6. Top 10 (plus one) Publishing Conference Lessons

7. Top 10 Things Writers Fear

8. Top 10 Reasons We Write Horror

9. Top 10 Reasons We Write Romance

10. Writers Top Ten: Why blogging about publishing is important

Filed under: authors, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, getting it done, Horror, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, Top Ten, Useful writing links, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Publishing Links: Bad News for Publishers

harry potter quote

I attended a writers’ conference where a keynote speaker criticized a former publisher. The publisher was small, and Canadian, and there had been a dispute over the author’s electronic rights (though the publisher wasn’t selling any digital versions of the author’s work anyway.) That’s when things got ugly. “Small publishers aren’t interested in selling books. They make their money with government grants.” He walked back from that statement and mentioned several small presses he revered, but he had reason for his venom. He bought the rights back at great expense so he could use them properly.

It is true that if you’re a small Canadian publisher, you’re eligible for grants. The big publishers have some margin for error in their budgets. The mid-sized publishers are walking a financial tightrope. That’s the general point of a recent Globe & Mail article on the dangers waters publishers sail. It’s worth reading when you’re trying to choose whom you should send your precious manuscript.

In other news, if you check yesterday’s comments, you’ll see Sue Kenney, author of My Camino, stopped by for a comment about how she wrote fast to fit her publisher’s schedule. (Thanks for commenting , Sue! Check out her site and her wonderful story at www.suekenney.ca.) I mentioned in my reply how many traditional publishers are losing book sales because they don’t have the electronic version available and people are looking for those titles. When you don’t find the titles you want, you buy a book that is available for your iPad.

How do I know this? Because I’ve visited this link: Lost Book Sales | Every day an author and a publisher lose a sale. These are the stories why.‏ Publishers? If you haven’t embarked on your e-book program yet, you don’t have much time left to make the switch before you are irrelevant. (Yes, JK Rowling is the exception. She’s refusing to allow Harry Potter to go digital. Good for her. However, her amazing success is atypical in the industry and shouldn’t be the basis for sales decisions about the rest of the market.)

As if that weren’t enough to make a publisher knock out a window and crawl out on a ledge, I ran across this post on the wave of piracy that’s coming to my favorite industry: Your time is up, publishers. Book piracy is about to arrive on a massive scale – Telegraph Blogs – The BFF‏.

Don’t worry though, friends!

This isn’t a wake.

It’s just a call to make the choice to adapt.

It’s a hope the industry is willing to change.

Happy Tuesday! I’m off to NanoWriMo.

Filed under: links, Media, publishing, self-publishing, , , , ,

Publishers Should Blog

For a great post on how publishers often lose marketing opportunities, read Booksquare on why publishers should blog. It seems fairly obvious, and yet, so many do not. That’s something they don’t make time for and leave to the authors. Perhaps, that’s another reason why there’s so much loading of marketing responsibilities to authors.

Every publisher wants you to pimp your books through your uberplatform. Imagine how much more effective it would be if authors blogged about their work (a given these days) and publishers got their brag on (combined with more marketing savvy?)

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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