Touchwood Press Blog

Should I have a blog? How do I get one started?

If you have a blog to feature or practice or air out your writing, you already are a self-publisher. Blogs (from web logs) are online newsletters/newspaper columns/magazines (depending on how elaborate they are) where you can give your writing some market exposure prior to pulling together everything into a book. Or, you can just stick with blogging and grow a periodical empire.

I’m partial to WordPress for blogging and so are most of the world’s bloggers. It’s powerful enough to become the basis for your entire website if you need it to, or you can just use it for blogging and be up and running in minutes for free.

WordPress comes in two flavors, plain vanilla and tutti frutti, if you will. Visit WordPress.com for the quick and easy version. Check out WordPress.org for the self-hosting version you install on your own server or that of a web hosting company such as GoDaddy.com.

Blogging has been a great way to get this writer out of the closet. I recommend it to anyone interested in self-publishing for the reasons in the first paragraph and then later as a marketing platform for your writing enterprise.

My non-fiction book needs an index. Is there an app for that?

Yes, and it’s called Word. Most Word users probably have not used it to create an index. Access the index feature (in Word 2013) from the References menu. In the Index sub-menu, use Mark Entry to Alt+Shift+X your way through your document, picking the words you want in the Index. Then, click Insert Index, fiddle with the formatting options, click OK and your Index will appear where you want it. What a time saver! Another great reason to develop your text in Word. For more detail, check this EHow article, which also covers Word 2010.

When do I need to get an ISBN? How do I get one?

R.R. Bowker Company was named exclusive provider of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in the United States in 1968 (an awful year, otherwise). Today, the company (now just plain Bowker) is part of ProQuest and still pumping out ISBNs as well as standard bar codes for publisher/bookseller inventory management. And, it offers a range of other publishing services and more. A good company. Bowker does license others to help sell ISBNs, such as Publisher Services. But watch out for nefarious ISBN distributor wannabes.

Your books need ISBNs. Every version, edition, and format needs its own ISBN, which can be purchased one-at-a-time (very expensive) or in lots on a steep discount curve. E-Books don’t require ISBNs. If you are publishing using Amazon CreateSpace, you can get your one-off ISBN from them at no cost at all. Sweet deal.

I’m a little confused about how to get started with CreateSpace.

One of my students created a CreateSpace account and was called by someone from Amazon within minutes and asked for the title of his book. The student wasn’t ready to do anything more at that moment and became worried he had done something wrong, or that it would have been a mistake to mention his book title. If Amazon “had” the title, would they do something with it?

I’m pretty sure the CreateSpace person was just trying to be helpful, but I understand why getting a call when you’re already not quite sure what you’re doing would put you off. I haven’t talked with CreateSpace about this, but feel they probably see many people create accounts, only never to be heard from again. It probably works in some cases to call the future author and encourage them to take a next step or two. In any case, I don’t think Amazon will do anything you wouldn’t want them to do with your title or book description. Now, finish that book! 😉

Is it OK for me to use a pen name?

Apparently, yes. I’ve done some quick research here and here, and it appears this is done frequently (Mark Twain, J.D. Robb, many others). Authors may use pen names without telling anyone except their publishers (or Amazon, or anyone who needs to send you checks!) and if you’re self-publishing, well, no-brainer. Talk to a lawyer if you have any lingering questions. I am not a lawyer, and anything I say about pen names should not be taken as authoritative.

Where can I find artwork to use in my book?

What may seem like a difficult or even overwhelming question to some, finding artwork to use in your book has lots of possible answers.

  • First of all, look within, grasshopper. Do you own a camera? Your own photograph, maybe cropped, embellished, or amended in a photo editing application already on your computer, may be the solution. You may have untapped creativity where you least expected it! (And, you own all the rights!)
  • Have any good friends or relatives with drawing or photography chops who might be delighted to help you out, for a small fee? Think about it and talk with them. You may be surprised.
  • There are cover art resources available through KDP and CreateSpace.
  • Search “artwork for my book” in your favorite search engine.
  • Try the pay-per-image photo libraries such as Fotolia, Getty, and others. You create an account, buy some credits, search and select photos from their libraries, and download the image size you need. Make sure you understand the rights you are acquiring for each photo you license.

Where can I get answers for grammar and usage questions? It’s been awhile since I took English.

Use the AP Style Book as your general-purpose copy editing resource, online and in book form. I also have the Chicago Manual of Style handy for a second opinion. And there’s lots of help online. Search “English grammar and style.”

Can I embed videos into my book?

Yes. This is only a viable idea if you are producing a book intended for a tablet, smartphone, or computer screen, where the video can be viewed. To embed your video, use one of the Kindle Creator applications (Kindle Textbook Creator, etc.) or Adobe InDesign as your production platform. If you’re  Apple-exclusive, then use Ibooks Author, but you knew that already.

Where can I find an illustrator for my children’s book?

A big part of the magic of any children’s book is the artwork. But if you’re not Beatrix Potter, you’re going to need to collaborate with an illustrator. If you don’t have one lined up, it can be daunting to try and find one whose style fits with what’s in your mind’s eye and who is affordable and congenial.

Visit Fiverr and other sites such as guru, odesk, and elance, where freelancers hang out. There’s even ChildrensIlllustrators.com, as you knew there would be.

Make sure your illustrator has verifiable references, is willling to work under a written agreement (good ones will have their own), and that you have no lingering doubts before committing a lot of time and money to the partnership. Also make sure you retain all the rights you need to use the illustrator’s output in the ways you may need to, i.e. for further publication in other media, etc.

Best tools for my project? There are so many!

A_logoIs this your first project? Assuming it is, I say, “Keep it simple!” Lucky for us, we can start at the top, as it were, by starting our self-publishing journey in Amazon-land, using Amazon CreateSpace and/or Kindle Direct Publishing. (No promotional fees have been paid, or are likely to.) Why lucky? Because Amazon already sells 65% or so of all e-books and can give you access to just about any market or audience segment…everywhere. So, the tools/platforms I recommend, especially for starters, are CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing.

This doesn’t really answer the question, though, does it? As you already have seen, there are dozens, at least, of tools, platforms, distribution channels, and publishing services providers to choose from. I’m just saying if the leading provider of just about everything is free/cheap and easy to use and you get all its massive marketing machine working for you, why not start there? There’s plenty of time to get deeper into the marketplace and engineer the perfect set of capabilities and resources for you. Whatever you decide, best of luck to ya’!

How do I copyright my book?

The right to make copies of any creative work belong automatically and naturally to its author. There is easy-to-access information about copyright basics available at copyright.gov. Get started on this page. Briefly, you do not need to file a form or pay a fee to hold the copyright to your work. At your first opportunity, you should simply add a copyright notice to your draft manuscript. That is sufficient to claim your copyright. Make sure that all copies of your work carry your copyright notice. The standard form for this is “Copyright [year] [name of copyright owner]. All rights reserved.” The copyright symbol (which can be rendered as (c) if you can’t insert the fancier version, ©) isn’t necessary but is often used. Later, if you want to register your copyrighted work, you can do so starting at copyright.gov.

APE your book

Guy Kawasaki and co-author Shawn Welch have done self-publisher wanna be’s a great service in creating APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. Watch their trailer to get started….

Now, if you want any help publishing that book that’s just waiting to get out of your brain and onto the page, contact Touchwood Press here.

Do-it-yourself…or get a little help.

10806469_757386687675663_6557916642513224932_nPublishing it yourself is just like do-it-yourself before computers. Back then, I spent many off-work hours doing it myself…to our household plumbing, our garage and basement, and to the backyard. I gave this up when I got hooked on computers because I discovered I was less likely to damage myself and others and because all those trips to the hardware store – to pick up what we forgot the last time or replace what we’d broken – got expensive.

Now, you can do your own book yourself, get your creative out, and dream of fame and fortune on the best seller list…or not. But the first step is getting inspired. Read on.

Writer Beware

Writer Beware®: The Blog: Scam Warnings For Freelancers.pirate

A good friend recently was scammed for thousands of dollars. We’d like to think, I suppose, that as professionals, we’re a bit more aware of the potential for scamming than the average Joe, but the scammers are getting smarter all the time. Sometimes, as this article points out, you are in up to your ears before you know anyone is after you. Watch out.

2 Ways to Publish a Book on Your Small Business | Next Avenue

Check out this article for an overview of how to boost your business and become a published writer in one stroke. Let us know if you’d like any help with publishing it yourself.

2 Ways to Publish a Book on Your Small Business | Next Avenue.

E-Book formats. Yikes!

In the old days of publishing, a writer who was not independently wealthy had two choices: work with a traditional publisher or work with a vanity publisher. The complexities and cost of book publishing were prohibitive for all but the few.

In the golden age age of desktop publishing, roughly 1985 until the introduction of the Kindle, personal computers opened up publishing to the many.

Now, writers do have many options, but increasingly, they are limited in being able to reach their entire potential market by a new set of complexities that begin with e-book formats and end with social media, e-commerce, and old-fashioned  competition.  For a glimpse into the chaos that is e-book formatting, see this Wikipedia article.

See us for help.

the art of personal greetings

Touchwood Cards exists for two reasons:

  1. To help artists gain further meaning for their art and their humanity.
  2. To encourage the practice of personal greetings as an outlet for love and caring.

The launch of Touchwood Cards is the start of a new community of artists and art appreciators across the world, or at least the online world, who share a love of beautiful art and a desire to touch others with beauty and with a personal greeting.

We invite you to help build the Touchwood Cards community and bless someone with your own special word for them.

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