Here is your first installment of the Smoking Zombie apocalypse story.
I decided that my second book I would send to as many online bookstores as possible. To not bother with the KDP Select of Amazon for Good and Geeky Writer Workflow. I have heard on a few of the podcasts, there is not enough benefit in the KDP Select to make it worthwhile having a book exclusive on Amazon. In any case I am quite pleased to be able to try, with it and without it to see how it works. I thought I’d put it onto Kobo next after listening to the guy who works for Kobo on the Rocking Self Publishing Podcast. I got the impression they care about the authors, maybe he was even hinting that they do more so than does Amazon. Kobo is based in Canada, but is available to authors worldwide.
What a palaver getting an account started
I spent ages searching around the site to get an author’s account that would allow me to upload and submit my books. I went around in circles so many times that I started to get dizzy. After filling in the form a couple of times with the messing about of having to wait for an email to arrive and clicking on it to activate the account. It was on my second try when I used Facebook to login rather than using the email and password method, I was able to start moving forward with Kobo. If I wasn’t the persistent sort of fellow that I am, I could have quite easily given up with the process. There was a part in the process where I had an account with Kobo and the only thing I could find to do with submitting books to publish was a help page. You would think that they would have had a link from the help page to the submissions page. I’m really not sure exactly what happened in the end but at some point the link I need it presented itself and I started the process. It seems some of the problem occurred due to using two different browsers during the sign up process. It is built into the security of the software the same browser has to be used when verifying the email address. Got there in the end.
Forms to fill in and files to upload
It was easy to add the book cover design and upload that. On the site it said I could upload a Kindle format file for the book. Seeing as, I had one of these available I gave it a try. It didn’t work and I got an error message. So I went back into Scrivener and I compiled the book again, but this time in the EPUB format. This time it worked perfectly. When I got to the page for putting in the amount of money to sell the book at it took me out of the submission process to the page for my bank details. After the bank details were put in there it didn’t put me back at the page where it had kicked me out. I had to find my book in the submission process again and go back in. Fortunately all of the details I had put in previously had been saved. I was then able to put in the price for the book in Euros and I let it automatically base other countries on price in Euro.
Wait and see
I did have to go back into the details for the book and enter the categories under which I wanted to sell the book. It would have been nice to have a search window to help me find the most suitable categories for a book about writing. You can choose three categories on the Kobo system. When everything was all finished off I got a message to say that it could take up to 72 hours before the book would be available for sale. Quite a lot longer compared to my experience so far using Amazon, where they say it will take 12 hours but usually takes about half of that time. Let’s see if they under promise and over deliver and take less than 72 hours for the book to be online.
Already started on the next book
Yesterday I was able to do some research for the next book and I collated all that into Scrivener. Today I was able to start using my research and get working on the book about using PGP encryption to encrypt emails.
It seems to be something that many writers have problems with from time to time. You know how it goes, you sit in front of an empty screen and you can’t feel anything happening in between your ears. You know that you should be writing and you want to be writing. You just don’t know where to start with your wordsmithing. I am very much a believer in having a system and because I am a geek I like to use technology as a part of that system. So I have written a book which goes into great detail about how to use the software available on the Mac and iOS to get the creative juices flowing.
Wherever and whenever
We are not always going to be sitting at a desk in front of our computer so we need a way to grab and develop their ideas when we are out and about. I have thoroughly researched software that can be used on the iPhone and the iPad and works well with the Mac. So it doesn’t matter if I am sitting on a sofa at my friends house or on a park bench I know I can reach for my iDevice and get started with any part of the creative writing process. I know just which software to jump into in order to get the ideas in the head turned into words on the digital page. Once I have some writing prompts from my ideas I can organise them and continue writing all using mobile software. I can go right from the idea stage all the way through to full bodies of text that are to be used for articles, blogging or are meant to go in a book.
Would you like to help me out?
During this first week of publication of The Good and Geeky Writers Workflow I need to get some reviews of the book on the Amazon page. If you think you can help out with this I would be happy to send you a review copy of the book. If you add yourself to the subscribers list so that I can tell you when new books are coming out I will also give you the review copy. You will also see in the book that there is a 20% off offer code for the excellent writers software Scrivener.
I managed to get my first book Geek Photography published to the Amazon Kindle store on Friday evening. I decided that I would have the weekend as a book promotion with it available for free. The idea behind this is, I gain some downloads on my book as a metric of the Amazon store. The plan is also that as many people as possible will leave a review of the book. Some of the people downloading will leave a review anyway, although I expect that to be a very small number. So I have had to ask people that I know already and are in my contacts database to do a review. Some people have got back to me and have been happy to do a review to help me out. One or two people had excuses and I was able to help them get past their excuses in order to leave me a small review. Obviously there is a group people that I haven’t heard back from at all. It could well be that they didn’t get the email. I don’t know how up-to-date my database of email addresses of my contacts is. What I can say for sure though, is that it has been a little bit stressful with publishing a book.
Putting yourself out there
I expected that I would get some feedback to say that there are mistakes. This is even though I had read through the book lots of times before publishing. I have had this sort of feedback from two or three people so far and it is extremely helpful. One person noticed a spelling mistake, a typo where I had missed the L key and hit the one next to it instead which is the semicolon. When I went in to fix this problem I found another mistake only one sentence away which he hadn’t noticed. He also told me that there were a couple of occasions where there was a comma and there was a space missing after it. I did a search in Scrivener and I went through all of the document and I didn’t find any such problem. I did find one full stop that didn’t have the space behind it. While doing this check through I did find a number of sentences needed some rewriting or deleting. I have done a recompile from Scrivener and I have uploaded version number 3 to the Kindle store. It does take up to 12 hours for this version to take over from the version that is already online.
The next book coming is The Geek Writers Workflow
I had thought this ebook would be ready to upload within the next couple of days. After what I have learned from this first book publication, I think it might take longer. I have already done rewrites of much of the text using the Hemingway app to help me. What I will do next is to do more thorough read throughs, chapter by chapter and limiting myself to 3 or 4 per session. Hopefully this will aid my concentration and I will be able to do a better job of the writing.
Part of the problem with the first book is that it is a re-purpose of writing already used on blogs. I think that while the ideas behind such articles can be used in a book, it does need to be completely rewritten to suit the different format. I am more chatty is style than I want to see in a book.
How did Scrivener perform?
As I get more more into using Scrivener as it is supposed to be used, as in writing books I am even more impressed. It did take me a while to work out exactly how I should lay out the book so that it would look good in Kindle format. It is a little bit complicated to set it up. Once sorted you can save it as a preset and not worry about it. One thing that I had to be careful of was the titles of the headers within the chapters. Each section within the chapter is a text document within Scrivener. Each of these have a title in the binder that becomes the first heading within the chapter. There were a couple of places where I ended up with a duplicate because I had the same words as the heading within the document itself. So now I remember to work this in a different way and it saves me having to catch them when I do the read through.
Getting the book onto Kindle
It was simplicity itself to upload the book and the cover for the book. This is all done on the first page of the upload process. The second page of it deals with the pricing and the territories where you are going to sell the book. All parts of that was easy to fill in and get right. After I had clicked on the button to publish it was just a case of waiting a few hours. There is a message to say that it can take up to 12 hours. I never actually tested how long it did take, but it was much less than that.
Cover design for books
The common wisdom is that it is vital to have a good cover design for your book and that you should pay a professional to do it. I have an art background and I feel confident in being able to create a book cover so there is no way I was going to pass the job on to somebody else. The software I used is called Affinity Designer, which is a new Mac Illustrators application. It is a brilliant piece of software and I much prefer using it than using Illustrator from Adobe. Another advantage is that Affinity Designer is a one-off, very reasonable price. On the Amazon site they give the details of the size you should use for the cover. They recommend that the longer side in a portrait shaped cover should be 2500 pixels and you should use a ratio of 1:1.6. That makes the width to be 1666 pixels.
A really important thing to remember when you are making your own cover is that it should look good when it is shrunk down to thumbnail size. As I was working on the cover I reduced it in size on the screen and I checked to see that it still looked good when it was small.
It was quite exciting to get to the stage where I had created a book and to set it loose onto the world. The part I felt was stressful was asking a lot of people to do reviews of the book for me. It is good that there are some nice people out there who are more than happy to help out. The lesson I have learned for when I am ready to do another promotion is to be more prepared for it. The text used for the request I put in TextExpander, so I was able to do individual emails to people fairly quickly. It would have been more efficient to use the email list service MailChimp, as it makes the whole process much more manageable. A good thing with MailChimp is that I can set some list members as VIPs. My VIPs will be people who have left a review for me. Later I can reward these people by giving them special offers. The people on the list are the fans and the VIPs are the super fans. In a future article I will discuss how things are going for creating and maintaining a list of emails. Every author I have heard talk about the most important thing you need as an author entrepreneur, says that the email list is it.
Finding the time to write your books
It is quite hard to be a one-man band when you’re bootstrapping a business as an author. You don’t have the money to be able to afford help to do the marketing of your books for you. So it is quite likely you spend a lot of time doing that of work when you would rather be writing your next book. If you are a proper writer though, then you don’t really have much choice, you just have to find the time to do what you have to do. I think that the problem with the marketing side of being a bestselling author is that there are so many suggestions of what you need to do to be successful that it is quite bewildering. You have to ask yourself how long you are going to spend testing one way of building your business compared to another. Even then, things change and what worked six months ago might not work during the next six months. So when you are starting off, what do you do?
One book is not enough
It seems to be a particularly good course of action right at the very beginning to just get those books written. It isn’t a good plan just to write one book and then spend the next six months to a year promoting the book using whatever means you can find. From what I have seen so far, it seems that the best thing to do is to write two or three books, or more. While you are writing those spend a basic amount of time building up a website with a following and in particular an email list. This is my plan for my Good and Geeky Books brand.
Give your audience some content to find
If you’re going to have a website then you need to have some content on it. So the thing to do is to spend 15 minutes to half an hour per day adding small articles to your website. Write about things which are connected to the topics of your books. Maybe when you have been doing this for about six months or more you can cut back to only once a week of making a longer blog post. Anyway, you are going to want to have some content on your website to draw people in and to start a conversation going with your projected audience. You can be letting your audience know how things are going with your writing. You may ask your website viewers if they would like to be beta readers for your upcoming books. This can be very useful if you don’t have a lot of money to pay for a professional editor.
The email list is priority one
You need to start creating your email list as soon as possible. For this you will need to set up an account with something like MailChimp to collect those email addresses. On your website I suggest that you put on something that gives you friendly pop-ups inviting people to subscribe to your email list. You could just get a form from MailChimp that you can post onto your website, but I have found that using the pop-ups, people are more likely to subscribe. You will need to write a couple of welcome to the email list messages, to send out automatically when people sign up. You might also want to encourage subscribers by giving away something that they might find useful and makes a connection to your content. This could be a useful info-graphic or it could be a short story, or maybe at the early stages you could promise that you will give them your first book for free. When you have a few names upon your list you should then schedule to send an email once a week to your subscribers. In these emails you can put in links to your website highlighting a popular post from the week. It seems to be a good idea to try and engage with your subscribers and to ask them questions. Find out from them what they would like to see in your website and your books. So this could be quite a good way of gathering in ideas for your digital content.
The priorities for the self published author one-man band
- Write your books – Launch with three or four e-books as it gives your audience other books of yours to buy after they have read one of them.
- Create a website – Give your audience something to read that is connected to your stories so that you find people that are interested in what your books are about.
- Start your email subscriber list – It is never too soon to start collecting email addresses. These are the people that will be your fans and hopefully super fans.
Publishing for the Kindle
I have recently got a shot in the arm for the writing and publishing of my books business. After reading books encouraging the publishing of written works on Amazon Kindle I feel more inclined to get a book written and published as soon as possible. The recent book that I was reading was quite improbable in the way that it was saying you could write a book a week. It might well be possible, but they would have to be short and possibly not very good books. The main thing that I got from that book that I would pass on to other people would be that it is better to try and keep trying rather than to give up before even starting. It is highly likely that there will be some books that hardly sell anything at all and then others which could go like gangbusters. You can’t really go on what has been successful before or even what is being successful at the present time. For example when the zombie books were being very successful in terms of sales, everybody wants to go and write a zombie book and then probably finds that by the time the book is available to purchase, that other people have had the same idea and they were too late to the party also. So I have jumped into Scrivener author software and have a book in the works and will soom be published.
More than one book in your store
It is most definitely a very good idea to have more than one eBook published so that if a person who has bought your book and likes it, will very likely also want to read more from you. You can put links into your books that you have written, to your other titles and maybe even have a sample chapter to get the reader started. Another thing about having number of books available is that if some do well and some don’t, then playing the percentages regards success you are more likely to be feeling better about how your sales are going if at least one of the books is doing well. If this is the case then it’s more likely that you will continue writing and get more books out there, rather than giving up.
Quantity versus quality
I recently read a book which reckoned it was possible to write one book a week to publish to Amazon. This was with writing for five hours a day for four days and on the fifth day doing the re-writing and editing. The Saturday and Sunday was for a little bit of thinking and writing of small notes so that you would have subjects and stories to write about from Monday to Thursday. I suppose it could be possible, but the books would have to be very short books or not very good books. Like most people, I would prefer to go for quality rather than getting a name for writing crappy books. Even if those crappy books were making some money, they are still crappy books that could hurt you in the long term as an author.
On the other hand, in marketing and selling terms of your books it is a good idea to have more than one book available for your readers. What this author does, is to write four books on one topic, one after the other. This would be a good idea as you would be already in the flow for that subject matter. So if you were writing fiction then you would have a series that your readers could follow one through to another. Same sort of thing with non-fiction books where you can cover another area in a different book and get more sales overall. If these books are cheap enough for people to buy then I don’t suppose people will mind too much if the books are short, so long as the information contained within are worthy of even that small price. In these days of online reviews by your readers that obviously it is going to make sense to make sure that you give good value.
Another book I read recently was based upon the idea of creating a book within 90 days and this seemed a little bit more reasonable as it gave specific advice on how to actually complete the task. Writing 1500 words per day and then on the next day to rewrite those words and to add another 1500 words would seem to be quite doable. The rewriting of the words from the previous day moves it on stage from being a first draft and also gets you into the swing of things for writing the next block of words. It seems like a fairly good plan and I think I would like to have a go at it. I reckon by using the process you would be more likely to get something of quality and worthy of charging a higher price for in the Amazon bookstore.
Getting the book into the hands of your readers
Whichever way you go about writing your book, it is going be necessary to spend some time in finding readers and making sales. There is a book by a writer called John Locke who managed to sell a large number of books of moderate quality through the Kindle store and he did this by building up an email list of his audience. Doing something like this takes quite some time and seems to be the best way to go forward these days; especially for the self published author.
The basic idea behind his marketing is to get people that are interested in his books onto his email list and this was his basic starting point. When somebody on this list bought something from him they were then moved on to another list or a sub list within the main list. It was then possible for him to make offers to these people that had already bought one product and to build up the sales numbers. The readers that bought more than one of his books would go on to the next list which is the list of super fans. Super fans are the people that will buy every book that you write and will most likely also tell their friends and therefore it makes good sense to treat your super fans extra well. You would have more personal contact with these super fans and offer things like naming a character in a book to come based on the name of your super fan. People like the personal approach and feeling special by having direct contact with the author of the books they like to read.
This is what authors need!
These new methods of electronic publishing are changing forever the old-fashioned publishing business. The old ways of doing things no longer work and publishers are starting to realise that they have to make changes to accommodate new technology. Publishers are already asking authors to do more of the promotion for books and if this is the case then why shouldn’t authors strike out more on their own. If you can use social networking to build up a fan base of people that will buy your latest electronic book soon as you publish the immediacy of the books is quite alluring as well as sensible.
So you have a word document that you want to put into Sigil to make electronic epub book. There are a couple of ways of doing this and which one will be best will depend upon the length of the document. This is because when you bring the text into the Sigil application not all of the formatting will come in correctly when coming in directly from Word documents.
When you are doing this, one thing that you want to make sure of, is that the HTML that is created within Sigil is good clean HTML.
Method 1 will be to go to a web tool which you can find by doing a Google search, one that I found that seems to work quite well. I had the document opened in Pages and I selected all of it and copied it to the clipboard. I pasted the text that I had copied into the webpage and then clicked on the button to convert to HTML.
Here you can see we have good clean HTML that can be pasted now into Sigil, double-click on the top of the tab in Sigil to get to the HTML side of the editor and paste in between the two body tags. Double-click again on the top of the tab so that you can see what it is going to look like in WYSIWYG format.
As you can see we’ve got a good layout for the text but there is still one more thing to do and this is to sort out the headers. If you put your cursor into the headers you can then click on the header button in the toolbar for the header level you want. You can also use a keyboard shortcut for your headers. So use Cmd-1 for header one and Cmd-2 for a header two and so on.
What you can also do if you need to break apart the document into chapter sections is to place the cursor where you want the break to happen and then use the keyboard shortcut Cmd-Enter or choose it from the edit menu.
If there are any photographs or images that you need to bring in, then you can import those into the project and then put them into the layout where you want them.
Method 2 for putting text into your Sigil document is to miss out the step of converting it into HTML and paste directly into Sigil. It is not pretty and with a long document you will be complaining about how terrible it is. You will see that when it goes in, it all goes in as plain text and it also has a few places where there are spaces where you don’t want them.
It is easier and better with the previous method because you get to see where your headers are and with that method one there is less cleaning up to do. If you don’t bother with the cleaning up then you’re likely to find that there will be some odd page breaks or section breaks when looking at the final e-book in an e-reader.
Method 3 if you’re working with just a short document then you could just grab the text and to put it into a text editor and the one that I like to use is called Mou. I will then work with the text to format it with markdown and when I have got it ready, I will export it out as HTML.
Working with your text this way is really best for shorter pieces of text as it is a little bit more fiddly, but at least you do get your headers formatted correctly ready to paste into Sigil.
Method 4 is to export out from pages directly to an ePub. As you can see when you do this, it is a complete mess. There are spaces between paragraphs that we don’t want and when we look at the HTML we can see that it is not as clean as we would like it.
Method 5 there is the possibility to export out to PDF from Pages and then to convert the PDF in Calibre to an e-book format. I found that this way of doing it wasn’t particularly successful in terms of the formatting of the EPUB book. It is possible to use calibre to convert ebooks, but it is highly likely that you will find plenty of errors in your final EPUB book so I can’t recommend it.
So you have this marvellous idea knocking around inside your head and you want to turn it into a book. How on earth do you get started? That is the very big question, which for a lot of people would put such a huge roadblock in the way, that the book never actually get started. There are tools that you can use to get those ideas out of your head and into written form. There is even the trusted old analogue way of using pen and paper, but lets be a little bit more 21st-century about this. Let me suggest a workflow that will work for just about anybody. There will be some suggestions of software, some of them will be free and some of them will be paid for solutions. You will have to decide for yourself whether you want to go with the suggestions I make, or whether to substitute other applications/workflows in their place. It might even be, that you don’t like the suggested workflow at all and if that is the case then why not write something in the comments to say how you, would go about doing this.
The process of writing a book
- Do a mind map to explore your idea as fully as you can.
- Export out of the mind map out as an outline.
- Take the outline and build upon it and organise it so that it makes more sense in a linear way.
- The outline is the skeleton of your book and now is the time to add some flesh to it. See your book as small sections, scenes and chapters and use some software to split it up so that you can use it this way and I would suggest the writers app Scrivener .
- At this stage you have your first draft of your book and personally what I would do is to put it to one side and forget about it for a period of time. That could be a week, a fortnight or months. You can start writing your next book in the meantime. The idea of this is to put some distance between you and your baby, so that you go to the editing stage with a higher degree of objectivity.
- Read your book for the purposes of editing and also get other people to read your book for editing.
- Rewrite your book or parts of your book. Re-edit the book – rinse and repeat as many times as it requires until you are happy and can declare it to be finished.
- Using Scrivener you can compile your book into whatever format is needed for the publication of the document. You can compile it so that it is a manuscript of a format required by your publisher or an editor for a publisher. You can compile it out so that it will be ready to sell in the form of an electronic book, be that an EPUB to sell on your own website, or another electronic format that can be used, for example Amazon Kindle format.
The tools to do the job
I would recommend that the first tool to use would be the iPad using the application iThoughtsHD. There are other mind mapping tools out there that you could use on your PC or Mac, but I like iThoughtsHD the best. You could even just get a large sheet of paper and do it manually. The reason that I am recommending that you start with mind mapping, is that for most of us we think in a non-linear way. The idea is to just get those ideas out of the head and into some sort of document, so that our ideas can be collected and organised. We have to be able to convert those nonlinear ideas into the linear format that is a book.
Convert ideas into words – Mind Map to Outline
A good mind mapping tool will allow you to export the picture that you have drawn with words in the mind map, in a format which is called OPML. This is the standard format for outlining which can we then used in whichever text editor you want to use for the job of writing. This is where we start to put the flesh on the bones of our book in Scrivener.
Organise and refine with Scrivener
If you’re not going to use Scrivener, then I would suggest that you use a straightforward text editor and to write in the Markdown format. The reason for this is because the thing that we want to work with now is text, plain text, the naked words that are the building blocks of our book. If you start using something like Microsoft Word, then you will start with fiddling about with formatting and how that text looks. Forget about how it looks for now, concentrate on those words and the telling of the story.
Plaintext for mobility as a writer
If you are serious about being a writer or an author then Scrivener is the application that you want to get. The other option I mentioned was to use Markdown and plaintext and the beauty of using this syntax is that it is so simple and can be used however you like. You can use free text editors either on your tablet device or on your PC and text is fast. Text editors are simple and always much faster to start and be ready for working than any full on word processor. The text editor that I like for the iPad and for the Mac is Byword, as I get full synchronisation with iCloud. Anything that I work on on my iPad is immediately available to me in the application on my Mac. There are plenty of text editors out there, choose the simplest, fastest and the one that suits you best and then stick with it. For Markdown I like Mou on the Mac.
Editing your first draft
I recently created a video looking at methods of editing a manuscript with software. I have been asked to do some editing of a book by a friend and I found I needed something that would let me do the editing by tracking changes. I needed a way to make changes to the text without destroying what was already there, so that my friend would be able to either accept or reject individual edits. I tried a few different software solutions and I found that Pages on the Mac was the best one for me. It worked out well for reading to find and correct spelling and grammar mistakes.
Publishing your book
Scrivener is marvellous because it has some of the options for compiling your finished manuscript into the format required for publishing. So whether you’re going to try and sell your book into the traditional publishing channels or whether you’re going to self publish an electronic book, Scrivener is a good tool for the job.
It really is a good idea to get your book into as many e-book bookstores as possible. You want to have your book in as many formats as your readers are likely to want to get your book in. Give your fan bas a choice. So you should publish as a PDF, an EPUB, the Kindle format and also the EPUB that you get from iBooks Author. You can use Scrivener for much of this and you might also have a look at the application called Sigil . There is also the application called Calibre, which is good for converting from one format to another.
How would you do it?
How many ways are there to skin a cat? There is going to be a huge amount of variability in the way that a writer or author will go from start to finish with a book. You will have decide which way of doing it is going to be best for you and the way that you like to work creatively. I would love to hear from you and get your ideas for your best way to write a book . Please leave something in the comments below.
I have written a book about the search for a Good and Geeky Writers Workflow and I will be giving it away for free. It took me a while to find something that I could say I was totally happy with but I managed it. I will have a link on here soon for you to get to it. If you use the Good and Geeky Writers Workflow your writers block will not survive.