Where do I start?

‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

Lewis Carroll

“Start with the end in mind” is the second habit of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Take time to imagine your finished book—in your hands, handing “thanks for your support” copies to relatives and friends, on the book shelf of someone you’ve just met, in your favorite book store and library, on an e-reader like a Kindle, as an audio book. How does that feel?

Continue reading “Where do I start?”

Adding illustrations

Can I start by uploading a text-only version of an eBook—to KDP, most likely—and later update the book to include the illustrations? This would let me get the story “out there” more quickly. I should only need one more revision pass to get the text ready.

Yes, you can do this, but do you really want to? One great thing about eBooks is you can upload and publish new versions anytime, with some limitations.

In your case, you might decide to make the two books discrete products—a print version and an illustrated version. But take care to make each version a quality product, putting your best foot forward with what you’ve got to offer. If the book is really lacking without the illustrations, wait until you’re ready to include them.

But yes, it is technically possible to upload new and improved versions of your book. Doing this and nothing else will change the deliverable that readers download. Do you really want to deal with readers’ disappointments over needing to “upgrade” their books? Or worse, pay for an upgrade if you sell the illustrated version separately?

Another consideration is that you want to avoid disappointing the buyers of the non-illustrated version once the illustrated version comes out. You might offer the second version free or at a steep discount. It’s all about building and taking care of your readers and your brand.

So, this is a win-lose situation most of the time.

Self-publishing reads

How much time is enough to stay current with publishing trends, subject matter experts, pundits, and events? Needing to be selective, I follow these folks:

  • Mark Dawson/The Self Publishing Formula and Self Publishing Show podcast: Lawyer turned best-seller author/publisher, Mark and his partner James Blatch produce a best-in-class podcast worth a weekly hour. 
  • The Creative Penn: Joanna Penn is, fair to say, the doyenne of self-publishing with no end of news and information to share in her books and podcast.
  • The Book Designer: now part of the platform, Joel Friedlander has been doing book design and publishing a long time and has a warehouse of resources to help you out with your self-publishing life.
  • The Independent Book Publishers Association: professional association for self-publishers and small presses. A great community for engaging with publishing peers.
  • Jane Friedman: author, speaker, teacher, Jane has long reported on the publishing industry and is a quality read/listen.
  • Digital Book World: the gathering of the wide world of publishing. A major event, re-booting in 2022. 

Myths and Truths About Book Editing

Of all the parts of self-publishing that authors should get help with, editing will be your first priority. You don’t have to pay a professional editor, but you do need your book looked at by someone who can be dispassionate and knows their way around a style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook. This well-written article explores the common myths and the key truths about book editing and editors. Use a wise eye and a cool head to glean what it offers.

Source: 7 Deadly Myths and 3 Inspired Truths About Book Editing


MountainVision: Lessons Beyond the Summit

mv_cover_1748x2220March 1, 2016 — Touchwood Press is pleased to announce the publication of its latest title, MountainVision: Lessons Beyond the Summit, 2nd Edition, by Jeff Evans. This updated and expanded edition of MountainVision has been published through an agreement between Touchwood Press and Mountain Vision, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado.

MountainVision is both a memoir and adventure tale compilation derived from Jeff Evans’ 25+ year career as a mountain guide, wilderness adventurer, and more recently, motivational speaker to leaders around the world.

Featuring prominently in MountainVision is the story of the amazing partnership between Jeff Evans and Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind man to summit Mount Everest, as they developed trust and confidence in each other and scaled the highest mountains on six continents.

Photo by Didrik Johnck.
Photo by Didrik Johnck.

Join Jeff Evans as he describes how to conquer the fears and perils that life’s challenges bring. In this updated and expanded edition of MountainVision, his suspenseful and inspiring memoir teaches critical lessons in leadership and life from beyond the summit, whatever your summit may be.

Purchase MountainVision.
234 pages, 24 black & white photos

The 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Publishing | Joomag Blog

Lists like this (at least the good ones) are really helpful for internalizing the key principles about some new technology or process or behavior. This one is very good, although its emphasis on data-driven marketing has me thinking that while I accept that the information age we live in has given us an unprecented power to make data-based decisions, I just get bored at the thought. Anyway, glean what works from this great list via The 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Publishing | Joomag Blog.

Can I use the word processing program that came with my Mac?

Sure. It’s just sort of a Microsoft Word “Lite” product. In the end, assuming your book is straight text, you’ll want to save your manuscript as a Word .doc or .docx file or as a PDF file before submission. And remember, no extra lines, no extra spaces after periods and no tabs for indenting. If you can find a tool to help automate formatting, so much the better. You’ll save lots of time. Whatever you do, keep formatting as simple as you can. If you manage to format yourself into a corner, hire someone on or, etc.  to help. Don’t let this process get in the way of writing and getting your book done. Done is better than perfect, although perfect is good, too.

Is there a poetry template available somewhere for Word?

I haven’t come across one. Poetry, by its nature, lends itself to create structure and layout, that would defy templatizing. If your poetry is relatively simple and straightforward, break the lines where it feels good to break them. Don’t agonize over punctuation, but use it to give the reader the pacing you think the poem calls for. Exercise your creativity.

Can I continue to edit, improve or add to content I’ve already published?

Yes, you can. Whatever is your creation is yours, that is, yours to copyright. You can continue to add to it, improve and change it indefinitely without impacting your ownership of the work. However, as a practical matter, if readers are buying one version, you risk frustrating them if a week later, there’s a new, improved version available, right?

Adding and improving your written creative works is more the province of blogging or article writing rather than fixing what you’ve done in a book.

How do I find a niche market to write for?

What’s hot in the publishing marketplace?

Try the Writer’s Digest website for starters. This is the successor to the decades-old publication which helped budding writer find agents, publishers, and marketing.

Copy editting…don’t publish without it.

Editor job title on nameplateEffective copy editing removes verbal noise from your manuscript. Great copy editing is invisible and makes you look like a better author. Here’s a good article self-publishers on the promise and pitfalls of doing your own copy editing. Summary? Proceed with caution.


Navigating the Changing World of Self-Publishing

kqed_fmFrom KQED San Francisco, a KQED Forum podcast update on self-publishing featuring Ted Weinstein, literary agent, and the leaders of Smashwords and Laura Fraser on Amanzon, SheBooks. It pays to stay in touch….

Navigating the Changing World of Self-Publishing (audio)

Another KDP success story: Addison Moore

I’ve said elsewhere that Amazon is the best game in town for self-publishing. And I don’t mind giving them a free plug because they can help me and you  publish our work in the simplest, least expensive way.

Here’s another great story from fiction writer Addison Moore. (Click PLAYLIST and then Addison Moore.) I find these KDP Behind the Cover videos inspirational and real. Hope you’re inspired, too!

Ten Reasons for Authors to Blog

blog word in mixed vintage metal type printing blocks over grunge wood

Elsewhere here, I suggest blogging is a great thing for a writer/self-publisher, both before and after your book is out. This blog post, Anne R. Allen’s Blog: Ten Reasons for Authors to Blog, goes deeper.

Your blog is your sketch book, note pad, diary (of sorts), op/ed column. Take advantage of the free and easy opportunity a blog affords to air out your prose or poetry if you’re really sincere about growing as a writer.

How do I avoid that self-published look?

A self-published look may result from your selections of fonts, margins, justification, and other simple look-and-feel variables. Your objective is not to try and improve several hundred years of book formatting tradition, unless that is your objective. 🙂 Your deviations from what readers have come to expect will just be noise, loud or subtle, but noise nonetheless. It will distract them from the business of enjoying your writing.

Here are some simple things to monitor as you write and edit your book, assuming yours is a straight-text creation and your goal is to publish both soft cover and e-book versions.

  • Set your font to Garamond; this is a sure bet. Just this choice alone will make your book look like it came from a mainstream publisher.
  • Use right and left justification. Check it out; just about all books, regardless of genre, are fully justified. Yes, you may need to learn in Word how correct for a few widows and orphans (book talk for little bits of text that get hung out in space and need to be brought back together with their precedents and descendants…look it up), but it’s worth it.
  • Insert page breaks (Ctrl-Enter in Word) after every page in your front and back matter and after the last character in every chapter. This will prevent text from getting up and moving to another page and other issues with maintaining your content in decent and good order.
  • Indent all paragraphs EXCEPT the first paragraph in every chapter. I use Word styles to manage this.
  • Use Word styles. Just a few, to make you more productive and help generate your table of contents. (This is a whole other topic, to be covered later.) If you can’t manage Word styles, you can do what you need to do manually and with the help of a downloaded template from Amazon or other free source.
  • Don’t copy and paste images, only Insert them.

I sense a new class and book on this topic. Long story short, take advantage of what Amazon, Word and free web resources give you about formatting your book and avoiding the self-published look.

Are there book-writing and self-publishing groups I should be joining or following?

There are many websites and services that self-publishers should know about. Here are my favorites:

There sure are! Here are my favorites:

The IBPA (International Book Publishers Association): everything the self-publisher could want in a trade association all about us. News, information, events and awards aimed at helping to build a community of self-publishers. There’s a lot to be learned from our peers.

The ALLI (Alliance for Independent Authors, pronounced like “ally”) is the professional association for authors who self-publish. They work to foster ethics and excellence in self-publishing — and run many campaigns and collaborations that benefit our members. If you feel your book will be interesting for English-speaking readers across the Commonwealth of Nations, this is the group for you!

Ten LinkedIn Groups to Check Out:

These groups on LinkedIn represent a lot of diversity across the writing and publishing community. I’m not endorsing any of them necessarily, but I do think they’re worth a look for opportunities to connect with people like you, people and organizations you may want to target, or service providers you may want to work with. Search for each group on LinkedIn and click their About tab to get started:

  1. Independent Book  Publishers Association (3900 members). Private group. To request membership, click Join and your request will be reviewed by the group manager. The Independent Book Publishers Association, founded in 1983, is the leading professional trade association for independent book publishers. IBPA serves the needs and fosters the growth of emerging and established independent book publishers through education and professional development, cooperative marketing programs, advocacy, and collective buying power. Note above.
  2. Self-Publishing and Book Marketing (550 members) is a networking and friendly LinkedIn Group for Self-Publishers, Authors and Book Business Professionals. In this group Self-Publishers and Authors will learn advanced promoting solutions as well as how to get real results and increase their sales. Book Business Professionals will teach and share their experiences in book business and book marketing – what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Books, and Digital Content Publishing (84,000 members). Book Publishing professionals interested in latest industry news and experiments on ebooks (e-books), ebook readers, digital books & content—creating/developing, marketing & sales: what’s working/not, what are you trying, expand your network, improve your resources, discuss business models and more.
  4. Publishing Today (3100 members). With more than 25 years of literary experience, I am the owner of a writing/editing/indie publishing service. I have the knowledge and expertise to direct newcomers to the world of publishing. Note: Obviously, this is one person’s project.
  5. Books and Writers (88,000 members). Private group. To request membership, click Join and your request will be reviewed by the group manager. Book, Writer and Publisher group to network around writing and publishing, marketing and selling your books. Become a better writer and sell more of your books. Learn and network to get more of your books sold into book stores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, direct sales and even international rights sales. This group is for authors, publishers, editors, book literary agents and even future writers. If you like to write articles, blogs, books, or will write in the future this blog is for you.
  6. Western Publishing Association (453 members, Western USA). Offers education and professional resources to 250+ media/publishing companies and their partners in the western U.S. WPA is renown for its innovative publishing conference in Los Angeles and its prestigious Maggie Awards program. Our LinkedIn Group is now open to WPA members other qualified publishing professionals.
  7. Ebooks, E-learning, Epub 3, HTML5, Fixed layout ebook, Children eBook Apps and Digital Publishing (Phew!, A long title makes their name show up in more key word searches. 12K members.) Book Publishing professionals interested in latest industry news and experiments on ebooks (e-books), ebook readers, digital books & content—creating/developing, marketing & sales: what’s working/not, what are you trying, expand your network, improve your resources, discuss business models and more.
  8. Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors, & Writing Professionals (No religion or politics, 18,000 members). A moderated group and is open to publishing professionals via an application process. A professional is an individual who is paid for their work(s), who is already published, who has edited manuscripts, or as a publisher, has published works that receive royalty benefits.
  9. Publishing Business (8300 members). Private group. To request membership, click Join and your request will be reviewed by the group manager. Executives in magazine, book and online publishing worldwide, hosted by Publishing Executive magazine, Book Business magazine and the Publishing Business Conference & Expo (NYC in September). Note: Don’t be put off if you’re not accepted as a member in groups intended for “publishing professionals.” You may find the occasional anti-self-publisher bias from those who think they have something to protect, but don’t take it personally. 
  10. Book Marketing (24,000 members). Book authors have to switch from being a writer to a marketer if they want to promote their book in the crowded book space. Book authors need to start with a call-to-action book author website whose URL can be used for all social media profiles. Then book authors need to conduct a book marketing campaign to promote their books.


Do I need a new ISBN for every version of my e-book?

No. E-books don’t need ISBN’s at all. Remember that ISBN’s are essentially universal (at least in the bookseller world) stock numbers. E-books won’t ever be inventoried or accounted by the copy, so no ISBN number is needed. Whoever you publish with, such as Kindle, will have their own internal project numbering system or other method of controlling their internal database. Your book will get assigned some sort of tracking number. But an ISBN? No.

How often can I or should I make changes to my book?

Here’s an example of something authors can do now that was nearly unthinkable before digitization. E-books can turn on a dime, so authors can revise and re-publish as often as they like…up to the point where readers are annoyed if they must buy the update. For most books, it’s probably worth thinking ahead before pulling the trigger on an update.

If you’ve published a non-fiction, reference-type book, consider a companion website where readers can get updated resources and information. But if you do this, make sure and maintain the website (best to do this according to an announced schedule) or risk losing your audience.

Should I publish my blog before or after I publish my book?

Publishing a blog any time can work to your benefit. If you create your blog as you’re writing the book, you have an online notebook where you can try out and refine content. Blog posts can be held as drafts indefinitely, so you don’t need to publish them until you’re ready. When you do, you can promote them in a variety of ways and generate comments that may help you think about possible improvements.

After your book is published, your blog is a great promotional tool and a way to interact with readers.

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