Monday, December 31, 2018

Misinformation From Someone Trying to Sell You Something

One of the blogs I follow had an article from Authorlink that was just so inaccurate that I have to comment here. I've copied portions of the article and my comments are in italics.

"Let’s say you uploaded your masterpiece and put it on sale for a month before you discover a dreadful typographical error. And while the book was on sale you had 100 sales. When you deactivate that book from displaying on Amazon, any sales ranking you have accumulated will be lost and to accumulate ratings and reviews you’ll have to start over from zero. That means it is important to get it right on the very first try. We have known authors who spent weeks trying to replace faulty files in the Amazon upload system.

Even when you have corrected the errors you must start the whole upload process over again. You can’t simply overwrite the file. You must delete the bad file before you upload the corrected version, a time-consuming task."

Both of these are incorrect. You simply upload the new file to KDP. I’ve done it dozens of time just this year. Nothing is lost – no reviews, no ranking – nothing. Obviously, the author has never worked with KDP – ever.

"First, to sign up for the 70% plan means you are giving up your right to sell the book anywhere else except Amazon. That means you forfeit the chance to sell to another 20%-40% of the English-speaking market."

Not true. You have to price the book between $2.99 and $9.99. That’s it. The exclusivity arrangement only applies to KDP Select and some of the promotional programs.

"The retailer, too, can choose to sell your book at a price below your list price, minus delivery costs and any applicable Value Added Tax. Add-on costs can eat away at your earnings."

Not normally true. True, Amazon can choose to sell your Kindle or printed book for whatever they choose (just like Barnes & Noble), but the royalty, with only a couple of exceptions, is based on the LIST PRICE.

From KDP Digital Pricing page: 70% Royalty Rate x (List Price – applicable VAT - Delivery Costs) = Royalty

This is only for books under the Kindle MatchBook program or the Kindle Countdown Deals program: 70% Royalty Rate x (Promotional List Price – applicable VAT - Delivery Costs) = Royalty


Are delivery costs that big a deal? Sometimes. Delivery costs for the US market at $0.15/MB.

Based on the last two projects I did:
  • 91,351 word novel - the delivery cost is $0.18 cents.
  • 130,328 word non-fiction book with 113 images, covering 72 pages, (which formatted perfectly in Kindle Previewer from the source Word file!) - the delivery cost is $4.68.

So, delivery cost can be significant. But, how many books have 72 pages of pictures and 113 images?
"Amazon devices have very limited support for such rich media. Its KF8 device supports text or region magnification and that’s about all."

From the Kindle Create User Guide: You can add audio, video, and image plug-ins to your eBook as icons. Kindle Create accepts the following file types: Video: .mp4 Audio: .mp3 Images: .jpg, .jpeg or .png.

If you are technically talented enough to create a multi-media extravaganza for your ebook, you will figure out how to get it into the Kindle. Personally, I'm not interested. I like to read books. I don't need, or want, all the whizbang gizmos to distract me. 

My final word:

Not all books are suitable for a Kindle. Not all genres sell well on a Kindle. If you have a book with a lot of highly formatted pictures, illustrations, tables – it might not be suitable for that platform. If you are writing a novel, or a non-fiction work, it probably will be worth your time to put it on the Kindle platform. But, this article paints an extremely inaccurate picture for all types of books. Don't believe everything you read, especially when the author has something to sell!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Thoughts on Publishing and Facebook Privacy

Today’s blogs had some interesting articles.

First, a missive declaring the semicolon evil! I found this entertaining and somewhat true also. Someday I will write my own piece about the evils of the em-dash and ellipses!


There is nothing really all that new in the next article, but this does bear repeating:

Stop Looking For Secrets!
Finally stop looking for insider tips, even like this. The secret to writing success can be summed up in two words: perseverance and hard work. Focussing on these two aspects for success, you will see progress in your chosen profession.”


One of the ways to succeed on Amazon is to be in the top-10 of your publishing genre. One way to do that is to write a book in a genre with very little competition. Do any of your books fit into these new categories?


Lastly, I have been thinking about social media lately. I saw Guy Kawasaki on CNBC recently talking about Facebook’s latest privacy issues. He said that we have to stop being so naive. The social media companies (Google, Facebook, and Twitter primarily) are giving us tools without asking us for money. But, of course they are getting something out of the deal. How else could they become some of the most valuable companies on the planet? I feel I get value from Google. I get world-class email, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Photos, Blogger… I use them all and appreciate them. So, they get some information from me – it’s a trade-off I’m OK with. Facebook? Less so. I get some value, but far less. I’ve deactivated my account a number of times, but have so far gone back and reactivated it every time. I feel I need it. I need it to promote causes and organizations I care about. But, I did go in today and adjust my privacy and security settings to give them as little information as possible, knowing that they still will garner some data from my presence. The following article takes a stronger stance, claiming that given what we now know we should delete our Facebook accounts.

PS - Odds are good that I will once again deactivate my Facebook account, maybe this time for good. I made a comment on a friend's post. I was agreeing with the post, sharing what I thought was a different angle on the issue. He unfriended me! And he wasn't pleasant about it at all. Obviously I did not explain myself well - it's on me. But, it just reminded me that Facebook and Twitter are not good places to discuss issues, especially in the comments section. It's more frustrating than it's worth.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

This Just In: Now Judicial Activism is OK!

This is from the Washington Post:

“Late Friday night, a district court in Texas declared the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional — lock, stock and barrel. That includes not only the individual mandate and the protections for people with preexisting conditions, but also the entire Medicaid expansion as well as a host of other ACA rules without any connection at all to health insurance.”

Republicans are giddy! The party that decried judicial activism, lecturing to the rest of us that the courts should not be overriding Congress (or the state legislatures), are now OK with it. It's only judicial activism if the courts do something Republicans don't like.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Writers: Avoid Getting Fleeced!

Here is another article imploring writers to avoid the hype of so-called "gurus" who tell you they know the secret to self-publishing success:

"Sometimes the hype is designed to get newbie writers to buy the not-quite-newbie writer’s system for promoting books. There are a lot of indie writing gurus out there with two years’ experience, five books under their belts, and lots of sales on one platform (usually Amazon). Those gurus then stop writing fiction (for the most part) and make their money on webinars and selling their system for getting rich off writing."
Read the entire article from Kristine Kathryn Rusch's excellent blog!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Self Publishing Isn't For Sissies

I read yet another article today about the pitfalls of traditional publishing by an author who has more than 100 titles with the big 5. The more I read articles like this the more I wonder why authors bother.


It sure is difficult to get noticed in the self-published realm. I decided to experiment with Goodreads ads. I picked one of my clients for the experiment (the author does not know, nor will the author ever know). I wrote 3 ads with the help of an experienced copywriter, and targeted the ads by both subject and genre. I took the Goodreads default for the maximum bid per click (50 cents). So far, the ads have been shown 1,536 times and not a single click. None of the people that viewed my ads have seen the great cover or read the scintillating book blurb. Nor would the price of the book be an issue. People just didn't respond to my ads and give it a chance.

Maybe my ads suck, or the targeting is all wrong. I'll try new ads, tweak the targeting -- maybe I'll eventually find something that works. If I do, rest assured that I will be on this blog letting you all know! Wish me luck.

Self Published? Own It!

I uploaded a book for one of my clients today and she elected to use the free ISBN provided by KDP Print, as I did for my printed book. There are two alleged downsides: this ISBN can only be used at Amazon and your online listing on Amazon will say "Independently Published" as opposed to showing some fake, made-up publishing company.

As I thought more about this today, I realized that these are not downsides at all.

So what if the ISBN is only good at Amazon? Seriously, where else would you want your self-published title? Amazon is where the action is - for both print and ebooks. You have to be on Amazon. If you do decide to put your work elsewhere, you will have to pay the fee (but you would not have to pay the fee twice in any case), but putting your book elsewhere will not generate more sales than Amazon. If you can't sell it on Amazon, it's not going to sell.

As to the second issue: if you are an indie publisher - own it! Be proud of it! Don't try to hide that fact behind some fake publishing company. It isn't going to help. You won't fool anyone. My books are listed under Voice of Doom and Gloom Publishing. Cute. How many readers think that is a real publishing company? Does putting a fictitious publisher on my work actually make me more pathetic than just admitting it's self-published? I'm starting to think yes. Plus, it would cost me $99 (or more) for the privilege and since I'm cheap - that would hurt.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book Design Going the Way of Web Design: I Do Not Approve!

I left the web design business partially because new services like Wix and Squarespace made it so easy to develop a nice looking, functional website. Now I am seeing the same thing happening with book design – especially Kindle design. The Kindle Previewer, or Kindle Create tool, make going from a Word document to Kindle book like falling off a log! It still takes a bit of savvy to get a well-formatted print book, but it won’t be long before that is ridiculously easy too. I will be out of this book design business by 2020.

I guess I’ll have to write my own books. Hopefully the computers won’t be able to write better than people anytime soon.

Here is the article that triggered today's rant:
"DIY for writers: now produce and publish your book in 30 minutes flat! 
How does it work? Once you have your edited content segregated into chapters and have the pictures, figures and tables ready, you can start loading it on to Xpress. The software runs you through each page and lets you choose the layout design (including size of the book, font type, page format and also the paper quality if you are going for a print book). 
The last steps include the design of the cover page and inside covers. Then a set of rigorous checks are performed to satisfy publishing requirements. An error report is generated based on this check. Once you fix the errors, your book is done - in under 30 minutes!”
Read the entire article.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Writing a Book Description That Sells

I ran across an article today about writing book blurbs. I believe that authors tend to write book blurbs that are more like a synopsis, rather than creating copy that sells the book.

From the article:

  • Successful indie author Mark Dawson surveys his readers via email every year. In his recent survey he asked his readers what convinced them to buy one of his books. Of the 5000+ readers, the overwhelming majority said the book description. 
  • The book cover gets them to read the description and the description makes them click the buy button. 
  • Think of your copy as a compelling story. But story does not mean regurgitating the book’s plot. It’s about the story of the reader experience. 
  • Remember people don’t buy stuff, they buy an experience. Where is your book going to take them? What problem will it solve? What emotions are you going to connect with? 
  • The biggest mistake I see fiction authors make is just regurgitating a plot summary complete with at least four character full names and one or two towns thrown in where the action takes place. This is a mistake.

The blog's author mentioned a copywriter that will write your book blurb for $297: .

Read the entire article; it's worth the time:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

1954 Austin Healy 100-4 BN1

1955 Mercedes Benz 300SL

1937 Alfa Romeo 8C2900A

1953 Jaguar C-Type XKC010

1954 Ferrari 375MM

1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa

1928 Auburn 8-88 Boattail Speedster

1933 Squire Roadster

1966 Ford GT MKII

Halloween 2018

Friday, October 19, 2018

Waterline Happening This Sunday: October 21, 2018!

Caroline Johnson, Patrick Parks, Lenora Murphy and Christine Swanberg will be the featured authors at Waterline Writers on Sunday, October 21st at 7 pm. 

Caroline Johnson has two poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork. In 2012 she won 1st Place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Poetry Contest and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has more than 70 poems in print, is past president and current webmaster of Poets and Patrons of Chicago, and is a facilitator for the Illinois State Poetry Society. Her full-length poetry manuscript, The Caregiver, is forthcoming from Holy Cow! Press in May 2018.

Patrick Parks has had fiction published in a variety of journals, including The Chattahoochee Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Clockwatch Review, Farmer’s Market, B City, and had a story in the anthology, The Breast. In addition, he was editor of Black Dirt, a literary journal, edited Sarajevo: An Anthology for Bosnian Relief, and wrote reviews for Literary Magazine Review. Recipient of two Illinois Arts Council awards, he is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. Tucumcari is his first novel.

Lenora Murphy is an English student at Northern Illinois University specializing in creative writing and teacher licensure. She has been published in the Paragon, Horizons, Towers, and Quail Bell Magazine. Her writing consists of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. Lenora’s first stage production titled Pieces of Harper’s Heart debuted in 2015 which Lenora also cast and directed. Lenora’s most recent nonfiction publication can be found in Quail Bell Literary Magazine’s August issue titled Beauty Mark:

Christine Swanberg has published hundreds of poems in journals and anthologies such as Earth Blessings, Garden Blessings, Gratitude Prayers, and Back To Joy. Recent books include Who Walks Among The Trees With Charity (Wind, 2005), The Alleluia Tree (Puddin’head Press, 2012) and Wild Fruition (Puddin’head Press, 2017). A community poet interviewed by Poet’s Market 2008, she has won many poetry awards and grants such as The Mayor’s Award for Community Impact, YWCA Award for the Arts, and Womanspirit Award.

I'm going to be there and I hope to see many of my friends there too. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

October 15, 2018: The Publishing World Has Changed

From today's blog reading session:

“With the approximate THREE million books published yearly over the last three years (includes all publications—electronic, reprints, university, traditional, self and small/independent press), there are too many books. Period. Of those three million, most likely 80% plus of them shouldn’t have been. Of those numbers, an estimated one-third comes through the traditional route, the remainder of the self-published route … The truth is, many publishers have become printing houses. Yes, they do light editing (but expect the author to have around already completed before submission); yes they do the cover design and back cover copy (it doesn’t mean that you will like, much less love it); yes, they do the interior design (ditto here); and no, they don’t do much in marketing (they expect you be the lead and underwriter of any campaign).”

3,000,000 books a year! That is 8,219 every single day, 365 days a year.

Read the entire article.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Writers: Beware of Scams!

Today's review of the blogoshpere uncovered the following:

It is extremely rare for reputable publishers or a literary agent representing a traditional publishing house to contact an author with a publishing offer unless the author has celebrity status.

Read the whole article!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September 25, 2018: Wattpad

I read an interesting article today about the website Wattpad on Forbes. Wattpad has been, and would like to continue to be, literary agents for some of their contributors. While Wattpad isn't for every author, it might be worth investigating if you write stories for their demographic! Even if Wattpad does not choose you, the publicity garnered by Wattpad's readers may help your self-published works.
"Wattpad’s 65 million active users (most of them women under 30) spend 383 million hours a month on its site and its mobile apps, reading pieces like “Brave,”a yarn about the Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom, and “Taking Selfies and Overthrowing the Patriarchy With Kim Kardashian.” Wattpad has more than 4 million writers, who post an average of 300,000 pieces a day.

Since Wattpad doesn’t own the rights to the stories on its site, it’s morphing into a talent agency for its authors, cutting out the famously fragmented and high-touch world of literary agents. By bypassing the middle man, Wattpad can funnel the most popular pieces directly to book publishers and TV and movie studios while taking a cut of the authors’ deals.

Wattpad has put together more than 100 book deals for its authors over the past four years (not including foreign rights deals), likely collecting the typical 15% commission of a literary agent."
Read the entire article.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September 24, 2018: More About Writing Than Publishing

Usually I post about self-publishing, or trends in the publishing business. But today my blog reading led me to a great post about the craft of writing. Sometimes I can get so obsessed about the business of selling bookskeywords, advertising gimmicks, cover design, the blurb on the back of the bookthat it is refreshing to read an article focused on the craft of, in this case, writing the perfect sentence. The sentence is, after all, the bedrock of our efforts.

“Orwell saw the plain English sentence as the sword of existential truth, a cure-all for the bad faith of modern life … A sentence is much more than its literal meaning. It is a living line of words where logic and lyric meet – a piece of both sense and sound, albeit the sound is only heard in the reader’s head … A good lesson for any writer: make each sentence worth reading, and something in it will lead the reader into the next one. Good writers write not just in sentences but with sentences. Get them right and everything else solves itself or ceases to matter.”

Read the entire article - it's worth it!

Friday, September 21, 2018

September 21, 2018: Notes on the Publishing Business

My reading today has turned up a few good articles. 

First, how traditional publishing can ruin your career:

"Turns out that Tor, through its parent company Macmillan has started a program in which libraries cannot get ebooks of the latest Tor releases until four months after the book is released.

Remember this is traditional publishing, so velocity is important. How fast a book sells has an impact on whether or not that writer’s next book will even get an offer from the publisher. And here—stupidly—is a publisher that has decided that library ebook sales aren’t worthwhile.

Tor/Macmillan’s reasoning? To see if library ebook sales are the reason that the company’s ebook sales are so low. That thinking is so damn stupid that I can barely type the words.

Macmillan has poor ebook sales because they have adopted a policy of discouraging ebook sales in favor of print sales. Macmillan adopted this policy in late 2009 when they conspired with Apple and 4 other publishers to violate antitrust law by forcing Amazon to accept what is called agency pricing, a system where the publishers set the price and retailers are prohibited from deep discounts and sales.

That is established historical fact, and so is the antitrust suit brought by the DOJ, Macmillan settling the lawsuit, its punishment, and Macmillan’s return to agency in 2014.
Indie (self) publishing has been around long enough now that I sometimes forget how good we have it now—if we choose to run our own businesses.

I have also blocked out just how awful traditional publishing was to most writers, including me. I try not to look at the train wrecks happening to my friends and colleagues who are still being traditionally published. But sometimes, like today, it is hard to look away." 

Read the entire article.

Next - Poets: strike while the iron is hot! Bookstore owners: You might want to consider expanding your poetry section!

"In its just-released look at trends in arts attendance and literary reading, it reports the percentage of American adults who read novels or short stories has declined over the past five years, from 45.2 percent in 2012 to 41.8 percent in 2017. The percentage who read poetry has increased over that same period, from 6.7 percent to 11.7 percent." 

Read the entire article.

Lastly, I read an article on advertising for authors. I thought the 7 principles were worth reading. The article gets a bit technical - it describes the testing methodology, but is worth a look.

PRINCIPLE 1: Most, if not all, of your profit will come from sellthrough. This means the longer your series, the more money you can generally spend advertising it. Advertising a standalone novel is difficult (and rarely profitable outside of a BookBub Featured Deal), and not recommended unless you’re a highly skilled marketer.

PRINCIPLE 2: Focus your advertising on Book 1. Even in a series of standalone novels, many new readers will start with Book 1. Advertising later books typically produces smaller returns. Only advertise later books if you get a BookBub Featured Deal, or if you’ve exhausted all options for Book 1.

You can also advertise a series starter box set—e.g. Books 1, 2 & 3. The general principle here is that it’s easier to sell new readers on the beginning of the series (otherwise known as your funnel starter).

Advertising only Book 1 has the added benefit of making the administrative side far more manageable. Tracking ads for five or ten titles in a series is a nightmare.

As a final note, you should also advertise your latest release in a series—especially during the launch— but it’s much harder to analyze the data in the manner outlined below. There are too many variables skewing the launch numbers to make such analysis useful.

Instead, the general purpose of advertising the latest book is visibility and general awareness: making sure your fans are aware that it’s out, while also drawing some new eyeballs to the series.

PRINCIPLE 3: When using promotional sites, stick with proven options. You can find my curated, regularly updated list of recommended sites here.

PRINCIPLE 4: When running PPC ads, start small ($5 – $10/day). Make sure your ads are profitable before attempting to scale. If your ads are unprofitable at a small spend, a larger budget only increases your losses.

PRINCIPLE 5: While extremely useful, these metrics—cost per download, sellthrough, revenue per download, conversion et al—are estimates. Due to the nature of Amazon’s reporting and plain old variance, it’s impossible to predict with absolute certainty that your sellthrough will be precisely 41.4% over the next three weeks, that your book will convert at 32.5% on Tuesday, or a certain promo site produced exactly 921 downloads.

With that in mind, always factor in a margin of safety when advertising.

PRINCIPLE 6: Advertising most books will not be profitable (outside of BookBub Featured Deals). This is not a reflection on the book’s quality. Many books simply don’t hit the right commercial notes to resonate with a larger audience.

If you find, after running the numbers, that you’ve written such a book or series, don’t worry—but don’t force the issue by advertising anyway. This is how you rack up huge losses.

There are free marketing alternatives for these titles: mentioning them in your newsletter and autoresponder, entering cross promotions, social media, your website, and so forth.

PRINCIPLE 7: Profitable advertising requires consistent testing. You can—and should—use advertising principles, tactics, and ideas that have proven profitable for other authors. But ultimately, you must develop your own ads and ideas by finding what works for your books.

This is the number one rule of advertising. If you forget everything else, be sure to test.

One key note on testing: when adjusting your book’s back matter, blurb, cover, price, or other elements that affect the numbers, only change one major element at a time. If something impacts your numbers, you want to know exactly what was responsible.

That wraps up our key principles.
Read the entire article.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September 20, 2018: On The Publishing Business

Today's blog reading brought this article to my attention. Here are some thoughts from a writer who has been published by Harper-Collins, a couple of small presses, and who has also self-published.
“...I was in this zone of being satisfied with just being able to do what I love. But there are just as many moments (okay, more) when I wonder why writers who are not very good become incredibly famous and wealthy, and writers who I really admire and respect are still struggling to find a publisher for their next book.”
“I just assumed that once you got your foot in the door, you established yourself. But as you know very well, it comes down to money, and if you’ve never had a huge seller, it will always be a struggle.”
“Oddly enough, although I’ve had six different agents through the years, not one of them ever found a publisher for any of my books. I’ve always either found them myself or had a friend refer me.”

Read the entire article.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Road Trip in Limbo

I considered attending a Writer’s Digest conference called IndieLab in Cincinnati at the end of September. I told a few of my clients I would probably go. Now I have second thoughts. It’s expensive – and I’m cheap. But, mostly it is because out of all the planned sessions (and I do not think they have finalized the program yet) only a couple speak to the issue that originally drew me to the conference. Here is the conference description: “indieLAB is an interactive gathering for entrepreneurial authors, freelance writers and independent publishers seeking to develop a publishing strategy, build a platform, grow an audience and get paid for their work.”

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at formatting book interiors. I still have more to learn and there is no doubt room for improvement. But what I would really like to offer my clients is assistance with selling books. I have been ineffective in that regard. My clients, with my help sometimes, have tried lots of things: ads, social media blitzes, giveaways – but nothing seems to stick. There might be a slight, very short term blip in sales, which is nice, but nothing that garners a large number of reviews or any momentum for long term, consistent sales.

The program isn’t done yet, so I haven’t ruled it out completely. If I do not go to this one, I’ll definitely keep looking for other articles, conferences, anything to help sell more books.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

My Book in Print!

Here is my book, my only book on paper, in a bookstore. My life is complete!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

KDP Print Update

My books arrived from KDP Print today and I think they look great! I'm pleased with the quality and I will use KDP Print in the future.

How to Make Your Book Formatter Happy!

I know this has been on your mind lately! However, it’s not really all about me (it is). I think that writers should write and formatters should format. And I think that any time you spend trying to make your document look just so is time you are not focusing on your craft. Besides, you may not know this, but just about everything you do to make your document look pretty I have to undo. It’s not because you do it wrong, but because writers compose in an 8.5” x 11” environment, often with double spacing. This make sense; it is comfortable both for writing and for the printing / editing process. But, your printed book will not be an 8.5" x 11" book! With that in mind, I have some suggestions. Most of this is for prose writers. Poets – well, I’m not sure what to do with you! 😀

Stop using two spaces after the period. Just don’t do it. In print books it isn’t that big a deal except for the fact that odds are good you are going to miss a few, or add an extra, and then things look funny. In ebooks, it creates a much bigger problem. I remove them – always. The software does it for me, so it’s not a really big deal. But it’s an old habit from old technology and it’s time to stop.

Never, never use spaces to indent anything: paragraphs, sections that you want indented - anything. I have to remove all of them and it’s difficult and time consuming. I’ll cover paragraphs in the section on tabs, but if you want to indent a section (perhaps you are writing a paragraph in the form of a letter), use the indent key on Word’s toolbar (and if you don’t use Word, your word processor has one too). Just click the button once to tell me you want it indented; remember you are in 8.5" x 11"! Or, easier yet, just leave me special instructions in square brackets [ ] - more on that at the end of this post.

Indent Buttons

Never, never use tabs to indent paragraphs. Never use the tab key – period. I remove all of them. If you want a section indented, use the indent key. If you want your paragraphs indented on the first line, use the styles. Styles in Word are wonderful tools, designed to save you oodles of time. You’ll see the styles in the toolbar. Two are the most important to the prose author: Normal and Heading 1.


This part gets a little geeky, but it’s not that hard. When you start a new piece (don’t do this to an existing, long document), write your chapter heading. Make it look the way you want – center it (use the center button, not spaces or tabs!), bold it – whatever. Highlight the beautiful heading you just created and right-click the Heading 1 style and choose “Update Heading 1 to Match Selection” and now all your chapter titles, using Heading 1, will look like that. Next time you write a chapter title, highlight and click Heading 1 and it will change to that style.

Update Style to Match Selection

Same procedure with the Normal style: write a paragraph. Set it up the way you want it. Use the ruler to set your first line paragraph indent (drag the little upside-down triangle thingie to do that), set the line spacing to 2.0, maybe change the font and size to something you like better for writing.

Upside-down Triangle Thingie to Set Paragraph Indent

Set Line Spacing

Once you’re done, highlight the paragraph you just created and then right-click the Normal style and choose “Update Normal to Match Selection.” Done. Don’t worry about the first line of a chapter or section (it should not have an indent); that’s my job.

Never, never use the Enter key to advance to a new page. I have to remove all of those too. Use the Insert Page Break button. Or better yet, don’t do any page breaks at all. Because, I have to remove all of your page breaks anyway to format the headers and page numbers correctly! If I see your chapter heading, I’ll know to insert the appropriate break. However, having written myself, I know it’s nice to have chapters start on a new page. So, use the button!

Insert Page Break

Keep your titles short. What looks good in 8.5” x 11” might not work well in 5” x 8”. If you want a table of contents, long chapter titles mean either a wrapped table or a tiny font. And the top of the page can look unbalanced or goofy if the title is really long. Poets: keep in mind that your lines will wrap if they are long – you have about 6.5” to work with at 8.5” x 11” with a 1” margin left and right; you only have 4” if your book is 5” x 8”!

Avoid ellipses or dashes at the end of a sentence. Inevitably, they wrap and end up on a line all by themselves. It’s like a law of nature or something.

Lastly, if you have special instructions for your formatter, put them in square brackets [ ]. You can tell me to indent this section rather than do it yourself. Or even [format this like an email] and I’ll do my best to get it to look right – that way you can focus on the content, not the look.

I hope these suggestions help you focus on what you do best: creating the content.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Too Many Books Being Published?

Recently I posted that Createspace was taking longer than normal. They process 1,500 books every day – 365 days a year. And, that was a figure from 2016! I would assume it’s even larger now.

I also saw an article on one of the blogs I follow, sort of under the topic of “there are too many books being published” - a topic I run across once in a while. From the article:
  • Title: “No, you probably don’t have a book in you”
  • Subtitle: “A literary agent on why your good story isn’t likely to be a bestseller.”
  • “Every story is not a book.”
  • “Publishing is a retail industry, not a meritocracy.”
  • “Writing is hard.”
  • “You can tell a story to anyone who’s willing to listen. But writing a book that people will pay money for or take a trip to the library to read, requires an awareness few storytellers have. It is not performance, not a one-person show. It’s a relationship with the reader, who’s often got one foot out the door.”
Read the entire article...

Harsh words. But, haven’t we all read books that seem to be stuffed with filler that should really have been short stories at best?

I’m not posting this to discourage anyone from writing, trying to get an agent of publisher, or self-publishing. I do implore you to tell the story, and let it fall where it may. Don’t force it to fit the expectations of a genre. If it ends up a 5,000 word short story, so be it. If it ends up a 150,000 word epic – ditto. There is a place for both in publishing today.

Problems With Third-Party Sellers on Amazon

Harold Walker’s latest book, The Grotto, recently went online at Amazon for $19.99. But, something weird happened. Before his Amazon listing was available, a third-party outfit called Prepbooks offered his book for $27.34 on Amazon! How did they get online before Harold’s own listing got online? One person, that Harold knows of, bought the book at this price. Equally mysterious, when the Amazon listing came online at $19.99 (within an hour or so of the Prepbooks listing), the Prepbooks $27.34 listing disappeared! I never really solved that mystery, but third-party sales of your books are an issue that you should be aware of.

I checked the Amazon and Createspace forums for information on this and the vast majority of posts said to chill – that for self-publishers like us this isn’t that big an issue. The third-party will buy the book from Amazon, you will get your royalty (on your list price, not their price) and ship your book to the buyer. (Note: It does appear that is what happened yesterday with Harold’s book – there is a sale recorded.) However, a couple of issues still loom. First, one of your dear readers, or a friend, might overpay for your book. That stinks. Worse yet, the third-party listing might say “Out of Stock” - since they technically are, and that might make people not order your book.

I also found some articles online about this issue, but it’s a much bigger deal for the big 5 publishers than us. Apparently these third-party outfits are getting their hands on returned books from bookstores and selling them as new online. Then, the publisher and author gets nothing. That doesn’t happen to our books because we don’t have large inventories or returns to deal with. (Though piracy may occur sometimes.)

What to do? First, make sure when you advertise your book to include the price. That way people will not be so inclined to overpay. Encourage your readers to buy either directly from you (at a reading or event) or directly from Amazon – NOT through third parties. When they click the Buy button on Amazon, it says who they are buying from. Lots of people probably don't look, but we should encourage them to pay attention. Here’s how it shakes out:
  1. You buy at author cost and sell yourself: even with shipping, depending on what you sell it for – you’ll probably make the most profit.
  2. Direct from Amazon. Usually at least 3 – 4 TIMES the royalty you make at expanded distribution.
  3. Expanded distribution: you make the least royalty. This includes third-party sellers and places like Ingram – that bookstores order from.

You could opt out of expanded distribution, which would lock out third-party sellers. But by doing this you also lock your book out of Ingram and other legitimate distributors. If your book is not likely to be carried by bookstores, then there is little downside. I took my sole book out of expanded distribution just on principle. It’s a short 52 page book that will never see a bookstore unless I put it there.

Here are some of the articles I read about this, but remember they are whining mostly about the large publishers and I have a difficult time feeling sorry for them:

Monday, July 30, 2018

Words From the Past

"The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone.

The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of the literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes.

Aldoph Hitler – Mein Kampf

Italicized emphasis added by me.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Financial Headlines

I read a bunch of blogs every weekday. Most of them are about the publishing world, but I also follow some financial related ones. Today's headlines are ominous:

  • Stock outflows swell as investors seek refuge in bonds
  • Housing market looks headed for its worst slowdown in years
  • U.S. jobless claims rebound from more than 48-and-a-half-year low
  • Nightmarish profit warnings have Detroit reliving bad old days
tRump: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win."

Maybe not so much. He's hurting our country. Please get out and vote in November so that our system of checks and balances can work again!

Winding Down Createspace | Impressions of KDP Print

I read that Amazon has announced that they are closing the Createspace DVD/CD Production component and switching everyone to Amazon Media on Demand. Amazon previously shut down the Createspace Publishing Services group (the people that would format the book for you) and started KDP Print. I think it's obvious Amazon will shut down the rest of Createspace soon.

At Createspace, you submit your book files and then wait for them to review them prior to ordering, or viewing, a proof. Historically the review process has taken 24 hours or less. The last two books I've submitted (one last week, one this week) have taken closer to 36 hours. I went on the Createspace forums and saw that I'm not the only one to have experienced this. Either they are extremely busy (on average they process 1,500 books every day - 7 days a week) or they have moved people to KDP Print and there are fewer people available to process the Createspace submissions. While I have no facts to back this up, I suspect the latter is probably the case. It only makes sense.

I combined my two published ebooks into one book to try out KDP Print. Here are my impressions:
  • The specs for the PDFs, both the interior and the cover, appear to be exactly the same. I also evaluated a new tool in this process, but I didn't have to change anything in regards to margins, bleed considerations, sizing the cover...
  • The screens are different, but they ask for the same information. 
  • The flow is different. At Createspace you submit your files and then they review them prior to ordering your proof. At KDP Print, you must review your book digitally and click "Approve" prior to being given the option to order a physical proof. Not a bad idea really, it's just different. You can order a physical proof prior to clicking the Publish button. The review process, however, happens after you click the Publish button - a difference from Createspace. I think I'd rather they conduct their review prior to me spending money on a printed proof, but we're the publishers and the burden is on us to do the book right.  It's hard to complain when they aren't charging us a penny for the whole process. 
  • The review process at KDP Print happened in about 12 hours for the first review. They discovered a mistake I made in the book's header. I fixed it and the second review happened in about 2 hours. I don't think that this timing will necessarily continue as the vast majority of self-publishers are still using Createspace, but I was pleased. The KDP Print screen says the review can take up to 72 hours, so we'll see what happens once Createspace is shut down. After getting the OK I clicked Publish. I ordered some copies. I haven't seen them yet, but I would bet they use the same printing facilities as CS, so I don't expect the quality will be any different.
  • I had some difficulty selecting Expanded Distribution when I initially loaded my book. It would not let me, but it gave me no message - it just didn't work. However, after publishing I selected it and it worked fine. Perhaps I wasn't allowed to select that prior to publishing, but it should either not be an option or tell me what's going on.
  • I also submitted the ebook version of my new work. I really liked that. I didn't have to sign out of Createspace and sign into KDP to accomplish everything, it all happened in one session very smoothly. 

So far, I would be fine with putting a new client on KDP Print. I might change my mind after I see my printed books, but I doubt that there will be a problem. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

New Tools for Self-Publishing

I've been using Scrivener for ebook design since I started doing it 6 years ago. When I began doing printed books I used Microsoft Word. For a long time, if a client wanted both printed and ebook I'd have two source files to maintain if post-publishing changes were needed. I liked the extra control I got from Scrivener for the ebook process (though I had to use Sigil to get the table of contents just right), but could not get the Createspace formatting done through Scrivener.

Now, Amazon has come out with Kindle Creator. I can convert a Word document formatted for print, without removing the headers, footers and special formatting (e.g., drop caps). It works quite well. You can choose from a few themes to give your Kindle version a really nice look. The only downside: no EPUB file, which clients are more and more asking for.

I've also become unhappy with the way Word handles images. I have to go to what I consider ridiculous lengths to get my PDFs to contain images at 300 dpi or better. Word has a couple of settings where you can tell it not to compress images, but the Save As PDF option seems to ignore that. I tried third-party PDF printer software, but my PC began to shut down, completely, randomly. I uninstalled those programs and no problems since. I felt like I was screwed!

Some friends recommended Adobe's InDesign, but it's expensive and I'm cheap. I considered Acrobat too, but with the PC crashing issue I thought that would be a bad idea.

I read online that some formatters were happy with Libre Office. First, it's open source and free! So far, the Writer program has worked out great.

  • Page styles work just like Word's sections, giving me the control I need over headers, footers and page numbering.
  • Text and paragraph styles work the same as Word.
  • Images put in at 300 dpi stay at 300 dpi after the export to PDF - without any third-party PDF converters!
  • The export to EPUB works great too. I don't have to remove all the print formatting! I still need to use Sigil to tweak the table of contents, and the Kindle Previewer to create the .mobi file.

One source document and I get all three: PDFs for print with the images done right, EPUB and .mobi files. I'm sure I'll discover some things I don't like, but so far I'm quite pleased.

July 31 update: I discovered that the export to EPUB does not support images. Normally this isn't a problem, but sometimes it is. Supposedly, the 6.1 version, due out August 12th, does support this. We'll see.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What Happened to the Internet?

It had so much promise. I was a true believer, in both the power of the internet and self-publishing to free us from the shackles of the gatekeepers. It hasn't turned out the way I had hoped.

The internet has morphed from a decentralized collection of authors and ideas to an advertising medium dominated by a few huge players: Facebook, Twitter, Google and some smaller players. I do believe some people think Facebook IS the internet now. I read an article in Vanity Fair recently about this very topic. In it, Tim Berners-Lee, the man who created the worldwide web, expressed some regret:

"Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation."

"'The increasing centralization of the Web, he says, has “ended up producing—with no deliberate action of the people who designed the platform—a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human.'”

"The power of the Web wasn’t taken or stolen. We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology. Facebook, Google, and Amazon now monopolize almost everything that happens online, from what we buy to the news we read to who we like. Along with a handful of powerful government agencies, they are able to monitor, manipulate, and spy in once unimaginable ways."
Read the entire article.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Not All People Suck

On Wednesday, July 18th, I posted that the The Trolley Museum in Elgin, Illinois was vandalized by two punks aged 11 and 13! The estimated damage is around $100,000. As of this morning (and I take absolutely no credit for this), they have received $16,120 in donations to help fix the damage the kids caused. So, obviously, some people are cool. I always knew train-people were some of the nicest people around. If you have even more money to spare, you can go to and help them out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

More Proof People Suck

The Trolley Museum in Elgin, Illinois was vandalized by two punks aged 11 and 13! The estimated damage is around $100,000! They are a great little train museum staffed by all volunteer train geeks (disclosure for those who haven't figured it out already: I'm a train geek!).

From the Chicago Tribune / Elgin Courier News:

"'I have a lot of different emotions (about what happened),' Konecki said in an emailed response about his reaction to the vandalism. 'Yes, anger, but even more (I feel) confusion, sorrow and hurt, wondering what drove children to do such a thing. Did the museum offend them (in some way) that we don't know about? I feel bad that alleged vandals wanted to destroy instead of build and create. There is so much to do that young people could participate in along with their parents. The museum is a group of volunteers that wants to both preserve the past and create a family experience where people can relive part of the past of the Chicago area and the Fox River Valley.'"

The people who run the trolley museum set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to fix the damage: If you have a little extra money to spare, consider giving them some help. I did.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Climate Change: Will We Ever Do Anything?

I saw this quote in an article today:

“We didn’t trigger climate change on purpose. It was an accident. Any technological civilization that evolves on any planet cannot help but trigger climate change. Climate change is not our fault. Not doing something about it — that will be our fault.”

-- Astrophysicist Adam Frank

It seems the right-wing wants to deny it even exists - they do this by discrediting the scientists, even science itself! That's a loser attitude. The right-wing war against facts, against science, against expertise has to be squelched. We can use our brains to apply better technology to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, even if it's too late to stop it altogether. Let's get started.

Read the entire article.

Learned Something New: Railroad Drumheads

I went to the Monticello Railroad Museum Saturday, July 7. It was a perfect day and I had a great time. They had a display of railroad drumheads. I had never heard the term before. These things were placed on the back of passenger trains to identify them. They were also lit so they would be visible at night. I suppose they were valuable to railroad personnel - it might have been a way to know which train was what, but I imagine they were also used as advertising. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but they were about 2 feet in diameter.

I like the idea of naming trains. I also thought they were beautiful as art - simple, bold, my kind of graphic design!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Self-Publishing: Some Harsh Criticism!

I'm back from sunny, cool and dry Lake Tahoe! So far, a little humidity actually feels good, but I'm sure I will be back to whining later in the summer.

A couple of articles caught my eye today:
"A lot of people should never be published. It’s a harsh thing to say, but there are people who simply don’t know how to convey an idea, an image or an emotion ... There are plenty of writers who should be published but don’t believe in their own words enough to approach publishers. In a similar way, there are a lot of writers whose writing isn’t up to scratch, who believe nothing better has been written under the sun."
I will say that I know my clients get their books edited, and some pay a lot of money and devote a lot of time to that process. The author is mainly talking about people who write and immediately publish afterward - no editing, possibly no revision. Like I do when I click "Publish" on this blog! 😀

Read Steven Mehler's take on whether self-publishing is ruining the art of writing.

* * *

How has self-publishing changed? Nicole Dieker writes about how the industry has changed between her first and second book. From the article:
"The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit."
Read her entire article.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hybrid Publishing Advice from Jane Friedman

From her post:

  • Some services have started calling themselves “hybrid publishers” because it sounds more fashionable and savvy, yet offer low-quality results and service. 
  • Most marketing and publicity service packages, while well-meaning, are not worth your investment. 
  • Avoid companies that take advantage of author inexperience and use high-pressure sales tactics, such as AuthorSolutions imprints (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, WestBow, Archway, and others). 
  • To check the reputation of a service, search for Mick Rooney’s Independent Publishing Magazine website.
Read the entire article, which also contains advice regarding traditional big-5 and small press publishing:

Monday, June 11, 2018

More Evidence People Suck: More Scams to Fleece Writers

Two articles caught my eye today during my daily scan of various blogs:

So-called hybrid publishing

"Because of indie publishing, the old vanity presses are reinventing themselves to look like hybrid small publishers or publishing service providers."

Your book could be a movie!

"These people are asking an indie author to pay a huge amount of money to a screenwriter to write a screenplay based on a self-published book."

Read the entire article.


"Bad players in our industry prey upon unsuspecting independent authors by disguising themselves as traditional publishing houses and using deceptive marketing tactics ...  They take advantage of new authors’ naivete, peddle false promises, sometimes even swindling them into signing away the rights to their manuscripts. Then, they leave the author with a fat bill ... Some companies will host faux writing or book contests for big cash prizes or the chance of a lucrative publishing contract. These contests are usually a front for piracy or for trying to get their marketing hooks into you. Don’t buy into them."

Read the entire article.

Please, think before you sign up.

P.S. - I say more evidence people suck because I read about a dog-fighting ring that kidnaps people's pets and heard a podcast about human trafficking (someone in the area tried to buy a 14 year old girl for sex!) right here in my own backyard. So, I have a somewhat sour view of people right now.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


I've expanded my presence on Goodreads. I beefed up my profile description, indicated my preferred genres (cheap, trashy novels wasn't one of the options, but I did the best I could) and found some more friends. I've struggled with the marketing side of self-publishing since I formatted my first book 5 years ago. I've read that authors (and publishers) need an active social media presence. But where? Some "experts" say Facebook, some Twitter, and some Instagram. Goodreads is rarely mentioned. As of September 2017, Goodreads reported 65 million members. That's only 3% of Facebook's 2.19 billion users. But, those 65 million users are mostly readers, prone to buying books - and reviewing them. (How many of your Facebook friends are avid readers?) I have read books about advertising that say you should go where your customers already are to get the word out. It seems apparent to me that authors, publishers and readers should spend more time interacting on Goodreads. I don't mean you should abandon other social media outlets, but shift some time toward Goodreads. If you love books and reading, the conversations are bound to be more stimulating that yet more posts about President CombOver! 😃

Writers: Too Easy to Fleece

Writers, especially those desperate for publication and validation, are easy targets. There is a business model based on this! Two examples of this business model in action: hybrid publishing and writing contests.

Hybrid Publishing

It used to be called vanity publishing. The 21st century name for it is hybrid publishing. A friend of mine sent his manuscript out looking for an agent or publisher. So far, one has responded. They claim his book has been reviewed and chosen, but really they have chosen him to be a customer. For around $2,400 they will publish his book. The price itself is not outrageous. I've been through this process a number of times now and believe it's difficult to adequately self-publish a book for less that that. Even though the number sounds right, there is still more work to do before you sign up.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website ( and search for the company. Check the Writer Beware® website ( I check both of these, in addition to a google search, to see if their offer is a scam or if there are lots of complaints about their service. 
  • Can the publisher execute? Look closely at their website. Is it well done? Do they do a good job promoting their own books on their own website? Look at their books on Amazon. How do the covers and the marketing descriptions look? Buy one of their books, or at least check out a few pages using the "Look Inside" feature, to see how well they edited the book. Just because it's a low price doesn't mean it's a good value.
  • Finally, pay close attention to the terms of the deal, the fine print. What rights are you giving up? For how long? What is your cut? How often will you be paid (Createspace pays monthly)? Is everything clearly defined? For example, my friend's deal stated he would receive 50% of the net profits. We could not find any definition of net profit. I would want to know. How much, if any, control will you have over the final edit and the cover?
My bottom line: If you are going to spend that much money self-publishing anyway, why not get all the profits and have all the control over the finished product? What value is there in going with a no-name publisher who is charging you for the privilege?


Poets & Writers magazine had an article in the May / June 2018 edition about writing contests. P&W studied 651 contests held in 2017. 514 charged a median entry fee of $20. The remaining 137 charged no fee at all. The 514 that charged a fee paid out $1,855,875 in prize money. The 137 that charged no fee paid out $5,154,660! The big difference: 77% of the sponsors of the no-fee contests were non-profits or universities. The majority of the fee-charging contests were sponsored by private companies seeking to profit. My bottom line: never, ever pay a fee to enter a writing contest. Just don't do it. Let's boycott the fee-charging contests and make them go away.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, Architecture Foundation Tour

I went downtown today to take the Chicago Architecture Foundation Modern Masterpieces:
Marina City and the IBM Building tour. The weather was quite variable. Nice on the train ride down and the walk to lunch at O'Briens on the riverwalk, The clouds darkened at lunch and the beginning of the tour, getting really nice again at the end of the tour and walk back to the train station.

Looking northeast from my seat at lunch on Chicago's riverwalk.

Looking northwest at lunch. Note the darkening skies. Marina Towers are the
round buildings on the left and the IBM building is the black monolith on the right.

The State Street bridge is raised to let some sailboats through while I ate. The bridges
are massive and awesome when raised.

Looking southwest from Marina Towers.

Straight up at the east tower of
Marina Towers and the IBM
Building east of it. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lynne Handy's Latest Book is Now Available!

Lynne Handy's latest book, Let Us Be Raucous, is now available on Amazon! I played a small part in its production - I did the interior design and assembled the cover (though the cover art itself, and all the illustrations inside, are Lynne's). I did read some of it as I formatted the interior and there is some powerful stuff in here.

Note: If you click on the link and buy this book, I get a tiny, tiny commission! I am part of the Amazon Associates program. Occasionally I will promote or review a book and usually the link will earn me a commission if you buy the book. Don't see any bad reviews? I rarely finish a book that isn't worth my time. I give them until about page 50 or so before I decide that life is too short. If I don't read the whole book, I don't review it.