This wonderful new age of indie authors means that there are many first-time book writers out there who aren’t sure what they should do once they’ve finished creating their work of fiction or non-fiction.

Here’s a suggested course of action consisting of 5 steps. I’m assuming you’ve reached the stage where you’re happy with what you’ve written and, as far as you’ve concerned, you’ve done as much work on it as you can.

1. Take a break for a few days, and then read your MS through one last time, no matter how many times you’ve already checked it. (MS = manuscript, i.e. the unpublished work in whatever format.) You’ll almost certainly spot some silly mistakes, typos, inconsistencies etc that you’ve missed up to now. Correct them, but don’t start tinkering unnecessarily with other parts of the text. You have to stop the writing part some time.

2. At the same time, get a friend or family member to read the MS through. Ask them specifically to make a note of any errors they find. Don’t ask for general comments – those aren’t necessarily helpful!

3. Get the book edited. This can be the tricky part. OK, it’s not obligatory but it is EXTREMELY helpful. Search online for a freelance editor and do shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Book editors are professionals who are trained to be good with words. They will polish your book to bring out its full potential. But how do they do that?

To start with, you can expect the editor you’ve chosen to read through the first few thousand words, free of charge. This will give him or her an idea of your standard of writing and how much work they will be having to do to polish up your book. They’ll report back, and may suggest you deal with some of the issues yourself to save paying them to do that. For example, we all have our favourite words and phrases – just, however, could only, in no time at all etc. An editor will quickly spot yours, and may ask you to work through and replace these. At this stage they’ll be able to give you an estimate of what their fees will be to work on your book. I charge per 1,000 words; other editors charge on an hourly basis.

Once you’ve had the editor’s feedback and quote and given the go-ahead, you may receive queries from the editor. For example, possibly you’ve given your hero blond hair in some places, and black in others. The editor will want to know which is your preferred colour. He or she might spot a hitch in the time frame of the story’s action, or pick up a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, and ask what you want to do about these. Do respond to queries as promptly as you can so your editor can complete the project quickly and efficiently.

Editors should only be looking to do a minimal edit anyway on indie books if they’re tuned in to this market. Remember, you’re only after a polish. You don’t want someone else totally rewriting your book to suit themself, which is something that can happen. An editor’s job is to fine-tune what’s there. They will certainly rephrase and reorganise parts of your text to make it clearer for the reader, or to avoid repetitions, or to correct inaccuracies, but that’s as far as it should go. And let’s face it. Indie authors don’t have much money. You can’t afford to pay for major surgery. A lot of freelance editors work mainly with publishing houses that have a vast budget and can pay a generous fee. Indies can’t. It’s a fact that you’re probably not going to be earning a great deal of money from your ebooks, at least initially. It’s a hugely competitive market out there, with lots of free and very cheap books around at the moment. This is a good advertising ploy but it’s unsustainable. We’ll see ebook prices rise, and with it author income, but for the short term, readers aren’t willing to pay a lot for an ebook. You can’t afford to pay a ridiculous sum for editing.

4. Once you have your edited text back, it’s time to publish electronically. Formatting for Smashwords and Kindle is actually quite straightforward. You can do it yourself if you’re prepared to put the effort in the first time around and follow the instructions on the relevant publishing platforms to get it right. It’s a matter of a few hours’ work. Once you’ve done one book, it becomes quick and easy to do the rest. But ebook editors will take care of this part of the process if you ask them. They shouldn’t charge much for this.

5. Work on your author platform. What’s this? At its most basic, it’s a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. It can be as huge and complex as you like! But that’s for another day.

As for my own editing services, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve matched the lowest going rates out there. More expensive editors will say you pay for what you get, implying cheaper editors aren’t as experienced. Well, I’ve had 25 years’ experience, and I’m also a published author both of print books and ebooks. Knowing the ebook markets from both sides is a huge advantage. Cheaper editors are simply being more realistic, since they’re more in tune with the world of indie authoring.

 

This wonderful new age of indie authors means that there are many first-time book writers out there who aren’t sure what they should do once they’ve finished creating their work of fiction or non-fiction.

Here’s a suggested course of action. I’m assuming you’ve reached the stage where you’re happy with what you’ve written and, as far as you’ve concerned, you’ve done as much work on it as you can.

1. Take a break for a few days, and then read your MS through one last time, no matter how many times you’ve already checked it. (MS = manuscript, i.e. the unpublished work in whatever format.) You’ll almost certainly spot some silly mistakes, typos, inconsistencies etc you’ve missed up to now. Correct them, but don’t start tinkering unnecessarily with other parts of the text. You have to stop the writing part some time.

2. At the same time, get a friend or family member to read the MS through. Ask them specifically to make a note of any errors they find. Don’t ask for general comments – those aren’t necessarily helpful!

3. Get the book edited. This can be the tricky part. OK, it’s not obligatory but it is EXTREMELY helpful. Search online for a freelance editor and do shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Book editors are professionals who are trained to be good with words. They will polish your book to bring out its full potential. But how do they do that?

To start with, you can expect the editor you’ve chosen to read through the first few thousand words, free of charge. This will give him or her an idea of your standard of writing and how much work they will be having to do to polish up your book. They’ll report back, and may suggest you deal with some of the issues yourself to save paying them to do that. For example, we all have our favourite words and phrases – just, however, could only, in no time at all etc. An editor will quickly spot yours, and may ask you to work through and replace these. At this stage they’ll be able to give you an estimate of what their fees will be to work on your book. I charge per 1,000 words; other editors charge on an hourly basis.

Once you’ve had the editor’s feedback and quote and given the go-ahead, you may receive queries from the editor. For example, possibly you’ve given your hero blond hair in some places, and black in others. The editor will want to know which is your preferred colour. He or she might spot a hitch in the time frame of the story’s action, or pick up a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, and ask what you want to do about these. Do respond to queries as promptly as you can so your editor can complete the project quickly and efficiently.

Editors should only be looking to do a minimal edit anyway on indie books if they’re tuned in to this market. Remember, you’re only after a polish. You don’t want someone else totally rewriting your book to suit themself, which is something that can happen. An editor’s job is to fine-tune what’s there. They will certainly rephrase and reorganise parts of your text to make it clearer for the reader, or to avoid repetitions, or to correct inaccuracies, but that’s as far as it should go. And let’s face it. Indie authors don’t have much money. You can’t afford to pay for major surgery. A lot of freelance editors work mainly with publishing houses who have a vast budget and can pay a generous fee. Indies can’t. It’s a fact that you’re probably not going to be earning a great deal of money from your ebooks, at least initially. It’s a hugely competitive market out there, with lots of free and very cheap books around at the moment. This is a good advertising ploy but it’s unsustainable. We’ll see ebook prices rise, and with it author income, but for the short term, readers aren’t willing to pay a lot for an ebook. You can’t afford to pay a ridiculous sum for editing.

4. Once you have your edited text back, it’s time to publish. Formatting for Smashwords and Kindle is actually quite straightforward. You can do it yourself if you’re prepared to put the effort in the first time around and follow the instructions on the relevant publishing platforms to get it right. It’s a matter of a few hours’ work. Once you’ve done one book, it becomes quick and easy to do the rest. But ebook editors will take care of this part of the process if you ask them. They shouldn’t charge much for this.

5. Work on your author platform. What’s this? At its most basic, it’s a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. It can be as huge and complex as you like! But that’s for another day.

 

As for my own editing services, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve matched the lowest going rates out there. More expensive editors will say you pay for what you get, implying cheaper editors aren’t as experienced. Well, I’ve had 25 years’ experience, and I’m also a published author both of print books and ebooks. Knowing the ebook markets from both sides is a huge advantage. Cheaper editors are simply being more realistic, since they’re more in tune with the world of indie authoring.

My ebook editing website is at http://www.ebook-ed.it.

I’ve blogged about using the Kindle as a proofreading tool before. You can use it for editing too. I find this is incredibly useful. As a freelance editor, there are times I have to be away from my desk, but I have some work to be finishing, and it’s not practical to take my laptop with me. As with the proofreading, using MobiPocket Creator I format the Word file of the MS I’m working on – either all of it, or just the section I’m currently working on – into  a mobi document, and then I email that to my Kindle.

Reading through the document, I use the note and highlighting tools on Kindle to mark where I need to make changes. To make a note, you bring the cursor down to the appropriate spot (I have a Kindle 3 so use the 5-way device, but on the later models you use the stylus I believe) and start to type to make your note. You can also tag a word by clicking the central button of the 5-way to begin a highlight which you end by taking the cursor to the finish spot and clicking again.

When I’m back home, I fire up the Kindle and work through with it next to my laptop. When I reach my note or highlight, I make the necessary change to the MS on the computer. Then, when I’ve finished, I simply delete the document from the Kindle so it’s not taking up valuable space there.

Simple but effective!

I noticed a Tweet the other day that said: “Someone should write a properly informative article about turning backlisted titles whose rights have reverted to authors into ebooks”.

Well, I’ve done that with quite a few of my books now so I decided to take up the challenge and put together an article about it.

My kids’ books were published by Mentor Press and O’Brien Press in Ireland between 1998 and 2006. My O’Brien titles are still going strong but Mentor pulled out of children’s publishing in 2007 and remaindered all their stock. The rights reverted to me. I bought a truckload of my books – actually, just a palletload – at a bargain price and have been giving these away to visitors to our gîte and fishery.

Coming soon!

Then in January of this year I got a Kindle and very quickly become a total convert to ebooks and indie publishing. I began writing a non-fiction travel memoir, Heads Above Water, about moving to France from Ireland and our experiences in the first few years here. I also got cracking on a racy fishing mystery story. But those were going to take time and I wanted to get something out there in the ebookiverse quickly. So I turned to my backlist. I figured it would be good practice to learn about formatting and epublishing using those, and it would also get my name out there before the new books came out.

I have nearly thirty children’s books to my name and the majority of these are Mentor books so I had plenty to choose from. But having changed computers several times since writing the books, tracking down the files containing them was proving tricky. So, nothing daunted, I retyped the first one. I chose Beat The Hackers. These needed a lot of updating since I’d written it in 1998. (It began its life as Beat The Millennium you see but I was overruled by my editor and had to change it.) Anyway, there were references to floppy disks that needed to be changed to USB keys and I had to move the action into the future. It had been set in 2004/5, but since that hand now passed I rescheduled it for 2013/14. This took some time since it was a 30,000 word book, but it was good typing practice and I enjoyed it.

However, if you face the same problem of missing files, I would suggest you scan the text of your books in. I got my eldest son onto doing this over the summer for me. He was cheap, and it saved me a lot of time. Luckily I’ve since come across some back-up CDs with my stories on them, so that’s speeded things up even more. There are plenty of OCR programs out there, many free to download, and they’re easy to use.

Caiti's cover design

So, the text was taken care of. What about the cover? The artwork for the book belonged to Mentor. I could have contacted them to ask if I could use it, and hopefully for free. It’s always an option to talk to the publisher and negotiate to use the original artwork. They may or may not co-operate. However, I wanted a new look for my updated book, and I’m lucky in having a daughter who can do very cool things with computer graphics. She created a super new cover for me. I’ve also had some lovely new covers drawn for me by a family friend, the talented illustrator Roger Fereday. I admit I’ve been very lucky in having such artistic family and friends.

But if you’re not a designer and don’t have access to one, and can’t afford an artist to draw you a new cover, don’t despair. You can create a perfectly acceptable cover using a photo and some nice typeface. I have done several using Paint, which isn’t very high spec as graphics programs go. Aim for 600 x 800 pixels wide and you can’t go far wrong.

Next I got to grips with converting my files into a format suitable for uploading to Kindle and Smashwords. This wasn’t as tricky as I feared, but first time round it took a while. I went for Kindle first. Files need to be in web page filtered format. This isn’t hard and if you follow the instructions on the Kindle Direct Publishing website, it’s very straightforward. I make use of MobiPocket Creator and Kindle Previewer to check that the finished product is going to look good on Kindle. I convert the file I have ready for Kindle using MobiPocket which leaves you with a .prc file. The Kindle Previewer opens this and simulates how your book will appear on a Kindle so you can go through and spot any layout or other errors and correct these before submitting to KDP. Both MobiPocket Creator and Kindle Previewer are free downloads. The ebook takes around 24 to 48 hours to appear on the Amazon websites.

Formatting for Smashwords looks a bit scarier since there are more instructions, but basically, get your file into .doc format – not .docx – and you’ll be OK. The Meatgrinder, the conversion tool, tells you if there are any ‘Autovetter’ errors that you need to put right. I only ever got those the first time I formatted a book for Smashwords. Since then, I’ve been spot on every time. A tip – go for what Mark Coker calls the ‘nuclear approach’, i.e. you paste your original Word file into Wordpad to strip out all the underlying formatting that Word loves to shove in, and then you repaste into Word and start from scratch. Once you get the hang of what to do, it’s a piece of cake. I’m no techno-junkie, but I cope fine. Your ebook appears on Smashwords’ site very quickly.

You can create a great cover with a good photo

Smashwords will distribute to Barnes and Noble, Apple and Sony providing there are no Autovetter errors in your book. It also distributes to Kindle, but this is an extremely slow process so I always publish directly myself to KDP.

Pricing is an issue to consider. I have made most of my ebooks free. I’ve made money out of them already and I want to get my name known. Plus it’s sad but true that many readers are reluctant to shell out even 99 cents for an ebook! There is a lot of free content out there at the moment. I think this trend will die down eventually, since it’s unsustainable, but it doesn’t hurt to jump on the bandwagon in the meantime to get out there.

So, in a nutshell, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to turn your backlist book to which you retain rights into an ebook:

  1. If you don’t have an electronic version of your book, retype or scan it.
  2. Update the text if necessary.
  3. Proofread it carefully yourself and get at least a couple of other people to read through. Since it’s already been published there should be a minimal amount of typos etc – in theory!
  4. Commission / create a new cover if you can’t get permission to use the old one.
  5. Ditto for any illustrations if you intend to include these.
  6. For steps 3 and 4, consider using photos instead of illustrations to save money.
  7. Create accounts at Smashwords and Amazon KDP if you don’t already have them.
  8. Convert for Smashwords and Kindle. This is very straightforward and quite achievable with a bit of time and effoet, but there are folks out there who will do it for a small fee for you (such as me!)
  9. Upload your files and then get busy with publicising your book!
  10. Tell EVERYONE how clever you are.

So go for it, and good luck!

The Prix Goncourt is reckoned to be France’s most prestigious literary award. It’s not the most generous. The prize is just €10, which compares very unfavourably with other prizes such as the Man-Booker which is worth over €57,000. And only one winner has ever cashed their cheque for €10. It’s seen as symbolic. The award guarantees fame for the author, although not necessarily international fame. Not all winning novels are translated into other languages. For example, 2005 winning book Trois jours chez ma mère by François Weyergans wasn’t spread overseas.

Edmond de Goncourt got the prize going, although not till after his death. In his will in 1896 he left money to establish the Académie Goncourt to choose the best French book each year. The first award was made in 1903 to John-Antonie Nau for his book Force Ennemie.

There are a few spinoffs, namely the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens (to a book chosen by lycée students and theirs rarely matches the choice of the Académie Goncourt who tend to be much more highbrow) and the Goncourt de la Poésie.

The winner of the Prix Goncourt is chosen over lunch, of course, this being France. The jury meets every month during the year in fact to select the shortlist and the winner is chosen on the first Tuesday in November.

This year’s winner was Alexis Jenni L’Art Français de la Guerre. Now, I’ve read a couple of articles about it in French and I’m still none the wiser as to what it’s actually about. They’re all verbose and vague. One goes on about how writing is like doing a Rubik’s cube – creating harmony with words. Hmm. Somehow I don’t think this book is my cup of tea.  The book is availabe for Kindle price €16.80  paperback €19.95. This Kindle price is ludicrous and highlights that the French don’t get the Kindle yet really, at least the publishers don’t. I’ve blogged about this before. It also gives you an idea of how expensive printed books are in France.

The rest of the shortlisted books are equally pricey, both in ebook and printed format:

Des Vies d’Oiseaux by Veronique Ovalidé is €18.05 paperback only. You can get ‘fiche de lecteur’ for €3.99 on Kindle = reader’s guide, not actual book itself!

Retour à Killybegs by Sorj Chalendon is Kindle €15.99, paperback €18.95.

Tout, Tout de Suite Morgan by Sportès Kindle €15.99,paperback €19.86

Les Souvenirs by David Foenkinos Kindle €15.70 paperback €17.58

La Belle Amour Humaine by Lyonel Trouillot  €13.99 Kindle, €17 paperback.

Du Domaine des Murmures by Carole Martinez €13.50 Kindle, paperback €16.06

Rien ne s’oppose à la nuit by Delphine de Vigan €14.99 Kindle, paperback €18.05.

I recently reviewed Donna’s terrific book Big Backpack – Little Word and am thrilled to bits that she agreed to do a guest post for me. I described her book as “a travel memoir that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and gives you a good shake!” So, over to Donna.

Stephanie has asked me to be a guest on her blog, and now I feel like I’m walking down the runway to accept an Academy Award. It is such a great honor to be here among readers and writers. I promise I won’t bore you with thanking everyone from my children to the pink-haired girl in Spain, but I do want to thank Stephanie for this opportunity.

Big Backpack—Little World tells my stories of teaching and traveling as an older, single woman. It is the stories of meeting new people, seeing countries I never dreamed I’d visit, having fun, and discovering an amazing life as an ESL teacher. It doesn’t tell you about the other doors that opened because of my traveling.

Twelve years ago if someone told  me to write a book, I would have known they were crazy. Today, my book is real. I see it on my Kindle. I see the paper copy. It sits on my desk, and I view it daily, hourly, gazing at the most incredibly beautiful thing in the world. Writing this book was  like packing-up everything I owned and moving to a foreign country, except it was scarier. I was no longer traveling solo. I was now traveling with everyone who picked-up my book. I was showing everyone my personal story, my soul, and it was frightening. Those that have read Big Backpack—Little World can verify I’m not afraid of many things, but this thing had me shaking.

I had kept good journals, and the first several months of writing was incredible. It was  fun revisiting countries, remembering people I’d met along the way, laughing at the crazy things I’d seen and done. Then one day, I knew I needed someone other than a friend to read my manuscript. At that time, I don’t think it could qualify as a manuscript, more like a bunch of writing.

So entered my first editor, who gave me the encouragement to continue. Then she became ill, and I had to find and pay for someone new to begin the ordeal again. My next editor, whacked and chopped my writing into a manuscript. I have to say none of this was fun. I re-wrote so many times I could hardly stand the sight of one more page of red slashes. It was rather like being back in grade-school with the teacher telling you that you could do better. She was usually right, but it still wasn’t fun.

My biggest problem with my editors were they wanted my book to be a soul-searching, gut-wrenching, in search of and finding myself. They wanted me to express the loneliness, or the hardship of being alone in a strange country. This was impossible for me, because I wasn’t searching for myself or a new love. I went on this journey for fun, and I found open arms around the world. I wanted my readers to know that at any age, it is possible to pack-up and leave their country, friends, family and happily go off into the vast unknown.

Writing your own stories, or poems can open a new adventure into your life. It can grab you, shake you, and awaken you to all this wonderful life has to offer. It doesn’t have to be for the world to view, do it for yourself, and see what you find.
Happy writing, my new friends. Thanks, Stephanie!

You can jog on over to my blog and read the incredible review Stephanie wrote about Big Backpack—Little World.

Monday again, so time for a sales update. It’s all I’m capable of tonight anyway, having been out for 12 hours doing a hygiene course – in French! Interesting and useful, but hard work.

Anyway, to book matters.

Oh Gran: 1005 (last week 951) = 54  Nice to have crossed the 1,000 mark!

Witch’s Dog: 795 (last week 700) = 95

Escape the Volcano: 610 (last week 554) = 56

De-Witched: 252 (last wee 64) = 188. This is the week’s runaway success.

Witching Again: 88 (last week 70) = 18

Oh Auntie: 32 (last week 32) = 0

Oh Grandad: 21 (last week 21) = 0

Beat the Hackers: 17 (last week 15) = 2

Oh Santa: 12 (last week 11) = 1

And a newcomer: The Smelliest Cheese in the World: 28 this week

 

Total sales for the week: 388, which is well up from last week’s 244. I’m pleased with that. All from Smashwords this week, nothing from Kindle – again!

I’ve updated the bar chart at the side. You can see which books need a bit more pushing! I have high hopes for Oh Santa, which should be appearing in Barnes and Noble’s Nook Book Store sometime this week. I intend to do a lot of Tweeting and maybe a blog post and guest blog post or two to push it, since it will have a short selling season. Time to roll my sleeves up …

 

I signed up for NaNoWriMo but it’s already obvious I won’t be getting far with it. It was a tad overoptimistic on my side since I knew I had a couple of non-fiction projects to finish and which took priority. And various rooms in the house have reached critical mess and urgently need dealing with. So NaNoWriMo has become NaHoTiMo for me – National House Tidying Month. I shall defer my novel in a month endeavour until January, my NaJaWriMo. The immediate advantage there is that January has 31 days in it – 1 more than November – and also only one national holiday in it here in France, as opposed to two. Also the weather will be a darn sight worse and it will be much easier to be indoors writing.

I’ll still do some fiction writing though – plenty of ideas bubbling around in my head.

OK, sales update time. I’ve fed the new figures into the bar chart on the right. Here’s a summary:

Oh Gran 898 (last week 830 – weekly movement 68, prev week 73 so fairly steady)

The Witch’s Dog 627 (last week 483 – weekly movement 144, prev week 153, so again consistent)

Escape the Volcano 489 (last week 372 – weekly movement 117, prev week 137, again steady)

Oh Auntie 30 (last week 25 – weekly movement 5, prev week 1)

Oh Grandad 19 (last week 13 – weekly movement 5, prev week 4)

Beat the Hackers 12 (last week 9 – weekly movement 3, prev week 2)

 

New kids on the block since last week:

Oh Santa! 11 on Smashwords, 1 on Kindle

De-Witched 51

Witching Again 37

 

That’s a total of 442 books moved for the week, pas mal! All sales/downloads except one have been through Smashwords. Come on Kindle readers, buy my stuff! See my Smashwords page here.

 

I submitted Oh Gran, one of my two free ebooks available via Smashwords here to www.getfreeebooks.com. It was accepted on 1st October and by today, 3rd October, it’s been downloaded over 200 times. Up to then I’d had around 130 downloads directly from the Smashwords site over about 10 days. So going to getfreeebooks.com was a very worthwhile move in my opinion. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and remember my name, and one day, actually pay for one of my masterpieces!

None of my latest batch of ebooks, two free and one at 99 cents, have made it onto Amazon yet in Kindle format. I thought I’d do it via Smashwords this time round. It’s taken longer than I thought it would, but the advantage of using Smashwords as distributor is that they pay by Paypal, whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors by cheque. Cashing cheques drawn on foreign banks in a foreign currency is practically impossible in France. I’ll probably have to open a special account somewhere with an awful lot of accompanying bank charges when the time comes to deal with royalties coming directly from Amazon. Sadly at the moment I imagine those expenses will far outweigh the income 🙁

But I’m an optimist! I plan to carry on plugging away with my ebooks in the certainty that one day it will be worthwhile financially.

So, Waterstones is to launch its own ereader as a rival to Kindle and Nook. The MD of Waterstones, James Daunt, said he was inspired by the Nook, but he must also have had in mind the fact that Amazon sells more Kindle books than print ones these days.

Waterstones is ambitious. It’s a huge undertaking to come up with a piece of ereading hardware to seriously contend with the ones already out there.  Which will it be most like? Touch screen and back-lit like Nook, or fantastic e-ink technology but fiddly little buttons to press like the Kindle. If it takes the best features of each, then it will be quite an awesome machine.

And there’s not that long to wait. The device will be launching in Spring 2012, if all goes to plan. I’ll be very interested to see what arrives on the scene.