What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#1 – You’ve finished your novel, now what?

So, you wrote a novel, congratulations! And now what? Well, you have to publish it. You can go the traditional route: Pitch it to agents at writers’ conferences or send query letters and synopsis over email. Or you can self-publish. There are pros and cons to both methods, of course. While the traditional route is still the preferred way for most people, it’s also a hard and time consuming one. You need to have very thick skin, don’t get down after you get rejections and don’t start doubting yourself either. You also need to be willing to wait, often months, for responses. I believe the turn around time for hearing back from agents is much shorter when you pitch at a writers’ conference. Once you have an agent, he or she will have to sell you to a publisher. If you get picked up then, you are on your way to success!

If you don’t, or you decide you don’t want to wait months and months until somebody discovers your talent, you can go the self-publishing route. This is scary and can be a very overwhelming path, but in a way it’s also very rewarding.

The first thing I would recommend for you to do is to get APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book. I think it’s one of the most comprehensive books on the matter and a very good overview. Then reach out to everybody you know to see who would be willing to help you with all of the things you need to get done that you are not so good at doing yourself. There are, as you’ll learn in APE, organizations and companies that can help you do everything you need done, but sometimes it’s better, and more fun, to create a task force of friends and family who want to help out. In the next couple blogs, I’ll talk about the different aspects I went through to get Justification for Murder out on Kindle.

#2 – Copy Editing and Covers, two of the most time consuming aspects of indie-publishing

Now that you have an overview from APE and you’re creating your task force, before you do anything else, I would strongly recommend having your book checked by a professional copy editor. Even if you got straight A’s in English, chances are you’ve read your book so many times, you’ll gloss over some of the words, potentially missing typos. It also never hurts to have somebody else do a sanity check. I would recommend hiring somebody very good, who is going to give it to you straight, but maintain your voice, because at the end of the day, that’s what makes your book really different from everybody else’s. If you don’t know where to start, check out the Editorial Freelances Association. A friend recommended that site and I found an incredible copy editor who totally got me and seriously made my book better.

People advise against buying a book by its cover, but I think we all do at some point or another, so having a great cover is super important. I got lucky since my brother is a professional photographer and his wife is a graphic designer. So, they worked on my cover. You can ask friends and family as maybe you’re lucky too and find someone who would like to help you for fun. You would be surprised to learn what people you know do on the side. Unless you ask, you may never know somebody close to you has a special talent or a hobby and would love to help you just because it’s what they like to do in their spare time. I would also recommend checking sites like Flikr, to see if you find a photo that might be a good cover. Many times the owner will be willing to let you use it for free, for a fee, or for a percentage of the sales. For more insight about cover designs for indie publishing, I found this article by Simon Avery: Publishing: How To Design The Best Book Cover for Online Sales, very interesting.

#3 – Getting your book ready for online publishing

When the two most time consuming things are already done, the cover and the copy editing, you can begin to get your book ready for the digital copy. My mom has InDesign and took a class on it, so she did all the base work on that. As APE says, there are several companies that can do this for you. Unless you love this kind of stuff (as my mom does), I would say, get somebody else to do it. It can be extremely time consuming and you may end up pulling your hair out.

My mom really likes working with InDesign because it is available at a reasonable monthly subscription rate, and the tutorials are awesome. She finds the forum extremely helpful, and the tutorials are easy to follow. Even if you end up making a few mistakes through trial and error, the results are not catastrophic and you can recover easily. She finds it fun (I often wonder if there’s something seriously wrong with her!) and she likes the fact that whatever settings you chose, you can reuse later. A big tip for beginners is to start out with a final copy of word already set up with the necessary templates. This will make things much easier as you work with InDesign. For templates, be sure to use a bold typesetting for the chapter and probably larger is size. Then, chose a smaller size for the paragraphs. My mom gets a lot of satisfaction from being in command and being able to design things exactly as she wants them. Once you have your final copy ready for Print on Demand, you can export to different e-publishing formats directly from InDesign.

#4 – Getting your book ready for Print on Demand and the royal pain of widows and orphans

Once the e-pub version is ready, print on demand is also something you’ll want to do. Even if you decide not to sell paper copies, as I did, you’re going to want to print a couple for your friends and family. I’m telling you, seeing my book live on Amazon made my heart jump, but holding an actual printed copy in my hand almost made me cry. And if you’re used to e-readers, when holding your own book you’ll be surprised how heavy it feels! I also learned after I published Justification for Murder on Kindle that many people still want a printed copy. There’s something to be said about having a book signed by the author.

Be prepared to spend many hours working with the person who’s making your book ready for print on demand. There’s only so much a program like InDesign can do about widows and orphans, so you’ll have to manually take care of them, very often by having to re-write (if you care enough. For a good article on pagination choices, even though it’s a little old I found it still very relevant, check out Joel Friedlander’s article: Pagination Styles: Shall We Kill the Widows & Orphans?). This process took my mom and me over fifteen hours. We did it in a weekend while on the phone (she lives in Sweden and I’m in California), thank goodness for VOIP!

Getting the book ready for print is tricky if you want it to look professional. I was really lucky to work with somebody who has a tremendous amount of experience in this area and helped me throughout. You will have to think about the kind of paper to use, the thickness, the margin widths, the color of the paper (yes, who knew?), etc. It’s mind blowing all the things that go into this that you’ve never thought about before.

#5 – The Back Panel Copy, probably harder than writing the book

So far, we’ve covered the copy editor, the cover, and the digital and print on demand formats. Now we need to move to the back panel copy. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. People may or may not buy a book by the cover, but how many times have you started reading the back of a book and put it back because it didn’t grab you in the first line or two? That’s why this is so hard. You wrote a book and now you also need to be a marketer, and pitch it in a few sentences. Knowing exactly what to say and how to say it, so people will want to buy your book, is the most essential thing you can do, only second to writing the best book you can write. I had an incredible amount of help here. A friend read the entire book and put together the first draft for me. Then I recruited a few additional friends for more insight. I would strongly recommend to pass your final draft along to people you know, both who’ve read the book and those who haven’t, and get advice. You’ll be surprise about the incredible insights people have. I even ended up with two different versions and sent it to a bunch of people for a vote.

#6 – Now your book is out, how do people get to discover it?

After everything is done and now your book is out on e-book, you’ll have to market it. If you’re good with social media, you’ll have half the battle won. If you aren’t, try hard, because that’s where it all happens now (or so I’m told). I’ll give you and example: The first couple weeks I had my book out, I sold 44 copies at $2.99. I decided to do a Kindle promotion and give it away for free on Black Friday and Saturday. I also run a Facebook ad for the promotion and in those two days the paid ad reached 36,600 people and I had 644 downloads. Of course more people are going to “risk” buying a book from an unknown author if it’s free, but at this point, you want as much exposure as you can. I’ll take 644 downloads for free rather than 50 copies (even a 100) for $2.99.

You’ll have to have a website. I also got really lucky here and know somebody who builds them professionally. Think about the website as your face to your readers. It has to reflect who you are, have your personality and provide as much interesting information as you can, so your readers can get to know you a little better. This is even more so about having an author page on Facebook, which you will also need to do. Pinterest is a fun way to share a different view of your book, and I find it one of the most fun social media sites. Whatever you do, connect all your social media so you don’t have to post the same thing manually in different sites. I wish I could provide much more insight into Social Media and Marketing. I personally suck at this and will have to learn a lot in the next few months. For a good overview and some checklists, check out this article provided by Gorham Printing: Social Media for Self-Publishers.

At the end of the day, I strongly recommend self-publishing because not only it gets your book out in a couple months (vs. 12-24 for regular publishing), but it allows you to have more control over all the aspects of it. With more control though, comes more responsibility, and that’s why I strongly recommend surrounding yourself with pros or amateurs who would love to help you because they like you and they are excited to participate in your great accomplishment.

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#2 – Copy Editing and Covers, two of the most time consuming aspects of indie-publishing

Now that you have an overview from APE and you’re creating your task force, before you do anything else, I would strongly recommend having your book checked by a professional copy editor. Even if you got straight A’s in English, chances are you’ve read your book so many times, you’ll gloss over some of the words, potentially missing typos. It also never hurts to have somebody else do a sanity check. I would recommend hiring somebody very good, who is going to give it to you straight, but maintain your voice, because at the end of the day, that’s what makes your book really different from everybody else’s. If you don’t know where to start, check out the Editorial Freelances Association. A friend recommended that site and I found an incredible copy editor who totally got me and seriously made my book better.

People advise against buying a book by its cover, but I think we all do at some point or another, so having a great cover is super important. I got lucky since my brother is a professional photographer and his wife is a graphic designer. So, they worked on my cover. You can ask friends and family as maybe you’re lucky too and find someone who would like to help you for fun. You would be surprised to learn what people you know do on the side. Unless you ask, you may never know somebody close to you has a special talent or a hobby and would love to help you just because it’s what they like to do in their spare time. I would also recommend checking sites like Flikr, to see if you find a photo that might be a good cover. Many times the owner will be willing to let you use it for free, for a fee, or for a percentage of the sales. For more insight about cover designs for indie publishing, I found this article by Simon Avery: Publishing: How To Design The Best Book Cover for Online Sales, very interesting.

 

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#3 – Getting your book ready for online publishing

When the two most time consuming things are already done, the cover and the copy editing, you can begin to get your book ready for the digital copy. My mom has InDesign and took a class on it, so she did all the base work on that. As APE says, there are several companies that can do this for you. Unless you love this kind of stuff (as my mom does), I would say, get somebody else to do it. It can be extremely time consuming and you may end up pulling your hair out.

My mom really likes working with InDesign because it is available at a reasonable monthly subscription rate, and the tutorials are awesome. She finds the forum extremely helpful, and the tutorials are easy to follow. Even if you end up making a few mistakes through trial and error, the results are not catastrophic and you can recover easily. She finds it fun (I often wonder if there’s something seriously wrong with her!) and she likes the fact that whatever settings you chose, you can reuse later. A big tip for beginners is to start out with a final copy of word already set up with the necessary templates. This will make things much easier as you work with InDesign. For templates, be sure to use a bold typesetting for the chapter and probably larger is size. Then, chose a smaller size for the paragraphs. My mom gets a lot of satisfaction from being in command and being able to design things exactly as she wants them. Once you have your final copy ready for Print on Demand, you can export to different e-publishing formats directly from InDesign.

 

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#4 – Getting your book ready for Print on Demand and the royal pain of widows and orphans

Once the e-pub version is ready, print on demand is also something you’ll want to do. Even if you decide not to sell paper copies, as I did, you’re going to want to print a couple for your friends and family. I’m telling you, seeing my book live on Amazon made my heart jump, but holding an actual printed copy in my hand almost made me cry. And if you’re used to e-readers, when holding your own book you’ll be surprised how heavy it feels! I also learned after I published Justification for Murder on Kindle that many people still want a printed copy. There’s something to be said about having a book signed by the author.

Be prepared to spend many hours working with the person who’s making your book ready for print on demand. There’s only so much a program like InDesign can do about widows and orphans, so you’ll have to manually take care of them, very often by having to re-write (if you care enough. For a good article on pagination choices, even though it’s a little old I found it still very relevant, check out Joel Friedlander’s article: Pagination Styles: Shall We Kill the Widows & Orphans?). This process took my mom and me over fifteen hours. We did it in a weekend while on the phone (she lives in Sweden and I’m in California), thank goodness for VOIP!

Getting the book ready for print is tricky if you want it to look professional. I was really lucky to work with somebody who has a tremendous amount of experience in this area and helped me throughout. You will have to think about the kind of paper to use, the thickness, the margin widths, the color of the paper (yes, who knew?), etc. It’s mind blowing all the things that go into this that you’ve never thought about before.

 

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#5 – The Back Panel Copy, probably harder than writing the book

So far, we’ve covered the copy editor, the cover, and the digital and print on demand formats. Now we need to move to the back panel copy. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. People may or may not buy a book by the cover, but how many times have you started reading the back of a book and put it back because it didn’t grab you in the first line or two? That’s why this is so hard. You wrote a book and now you also need to be a marketer, and pitch it in a few sentences. Knowing exactly what to say and how to say it, so people will want to buy your book, is the most essential thing you can do, only second to writing the best book you can write. I had an incredible amount of help here. A friend read the entire book and put together the first draft for me. Then I recruited a few additional friends for more insight. I would strongly recommend to pass your final draft along to people you know, both who’ve read the book and those who haven’t, and get advice. You’ll be surprise about the incredible insights people have. I even ended up with two different versions and sent it to a bunch of people for a vote.

 

What I’ve learned about Publishing Justification for Murder and some tips

#6 – Now your book is out, how do people get to discover it?

After everything is done and now your book is out on e-book, you’ll have to market it. If you’re good with social media, you’ll have half the battle won. If you aren’t, try hard, because that’s where it all happens now (or so I’m told). I’ll give you and example: The first couple weeks I had my book out, I sold 44 copies at $2.99. I decided to do a Kindle promotion and give it away for free on Black Friday and Saturday. I also run a Facebook ad for the promotion and in those two days the paid ad reached 36,600 people and I had 644 downloads. Of course more people are going to “risk” buying a book from an unknown author if it’s free, but at this point, you want as much exposure as you can. I’ll take 644 downloads for free rather than 50 copies (even a 100) for $2.99.

You’ll have to have a website. I also got really lucky here and know somebody who builds them professionally. Think about the website as your face to your readers. It has to reflect who you are, have your personality and provide as much interesting information as you can, so your readers can get to know you a little better. This is even more so about having an author page on Facebook, which you will also need to do. Pinterest is a fun way to share a different view of your book, and I find it one of the most fun social media sites. Whatever you do, connect all your social media so you don’t have to post the same thing manually in different sites. I wish I could provide much more insight into Social Media and Marketing. I personally suck at this and will have to learn a lot in the next few months. For a good overview and some checklists, check out this article provided by Gorham Printing: Social Media for Self-Publishers.

At the end of the day, I strongly recommend self-publishing because not only it gets your book out in a couple months (vs. 12-24 for regular publishing), but it allows you to have more control over all the aspects of it. With more control though, comes more responsibility, and that’s why I strongly recommend surrounding yourself with pros or amateurs who would love to help you because they like you and they are excited to participate in your great accomplishment.

What it is like to write when you are ESL (English as a Second Language)

The idea of writing a book is exciting and daunting at the same time. But writing a book in a language that is not your mother tongue can add even more stress to the already overwhelming task. I’ve been in the US pretty much since Senior Year in High School, so by now, I think, count and dream in English (though I still check the temperature in Celsius vs. Fahrenheit). So, it felt very natural for me to write Justification for Murder in English.

One of the most frustrating situations I come across while writing in English is when I know the word in Spanish, but I can’t think of it in English. Checking Google Translate only works sometimes. Normally, if I can’t find the right translation, I keep the word in Spanish (in caps and red font), so I can easily find it later when I finally remember the word in English. Sometimes I just change the sentence, so I can use a different word altogehter.

Some other times, and this is worse, there’s no word for what I have in mind. This happens rarely, but it almost makes me want to keep the word in Spanish because the sentiment, what I’m trying to say, is so perfectly expressed by that word that I don’t want to miss it. Of course, I can’t do that.

Then, there is grammar. There are many things I just don’t seem to be able to get it right. For example, I can never figure out when to use “in” or “on.” I really don’t understand why you are “in” a car, but “on” the bus. Uh?? Or other rules that I already forgot from my college days. For example, in Spanish, we put the period outside the quotes, in English, it’s placed inside. In Spanish, a sentence can go on and on forever, in English you create run-on sentences.

The one thing that I used to have a huge problem with when I was learning English (not so much now, or in my writing, though) are made up expressions. Each culture has their own. Some translate almost literally (better a bird in the hand than two in the bush, or in Spanish you say Mejor un pajaro en mano que cientos volando (better a bird in the hand than hundreds flying). Others have the same meaning, but the saying is completely different (The Spanish expression for ”the straw that broke the camel’s back” is La gota que colmo el vaso (the drop that caused the glass of water to overflow). And finally, others don’t have any equivalents (or at least none that I’ve found yet, like a caballo regalado no le mires el dentado (literally not to look a gift horse in the teeth). Or another one like no te hagas el sueco, which comes to mean something like don’t act dumb.)

As an ESL writer, you have to be more diligent, maybe not while you write, but certainly while you edit. I strongly recommend getting professional help (paid or otherwise) if at all possible. It will help you learn and it will make your work more solid.

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