Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Self-Publishing Options Part One

I started self-publishing in 2008, back when KDP was Booksurge. A lot has changed since then. Self-publishing has become more acceptable and there are more venues to publish through. Let's take a look at some of the top self-publishing platforms.

1. Amazon's KDP offers print-on-demand and ebooks. There is a Kindle e-reader and app for other devices. They have begun an experimental episodic fiction service called Vella. They have Children's Book creator software.They partner with ACX for audiobooks.

Cost: It is free to upload your files and covers. You can change the files at any time at no cost. There are delivery fees for ebooks, print costs for paperback, sales taxes in some cases, and you cannot make your book free unless enrolled in Kindle Select. You decide the price but there are minimums. Amazon may price match, so if you offer your book for a lower price elsewhere, they may adjust your list price. They might match Amazon's price for a physical edition of the book.

Rights: You retain all rights. They provide a free ISBN (exclusive to their platform) or you can use your own. Whether they provide the number or you do, it needs to be unique to the KDP platform. You cannot use it on another publishing platform too. No ISBN is needed for ebooks. Ebooks are assigned an ID number.

Distribution: With expanded distribution your book is available through hundreds of online retailers, bookstores, and distributors like IngramSpark and international stores. They have the widest distribution by far.

 Services: You can set up an Author Central page on most of the foreign sites and there are marketing, promotion, and ad options. Your book is suggested by their algorithm online and in promotional emails. They have marketing and promotional opportunities including pre-order and sets. They have software to help you create your product called Kindle Create. They have added a series tool that generates all of the books in a series when there is a search. Amazon has many advertising and marketing opportunities with a huge database of articles to assist you in all aspects of book formatting and cover design. You can enroll your book in the KDP Select program, which allows readers to read your book for free and you earn a percentage of the KDP Select "pot." Results may vary. 

Payment: The royalties run from 35% to 70% depending on the distribution option. The royalty rate for expanded distribution is 40% of the book's list price for the distribution channel at the time of purchase, minus printing costs, applicable taxes, and withholding. You are paid royalties by direct deposit monthly. Sales data is updated daily.


2. Apple Books offers ebooks only. They have a reading app for Apple products.

Cost: It is free to upload your cover and files and you can make changes. No delivery fees. You can make your book free. No price matching.

Rights: You maintain all rights. They will provide a free ISBN exclusive to their book versions or you can use your own. No ISBN is required for ebooks.

Distribution: Distribution is only on Apple Books. You can sell on Apple Books from aggregators like Draft2Digital for wider reach.

Services: They offer tips on writing your book, design, publishing, audiobooks, and marketing. They partner with a list of EPUB file conversion service providers. They have videos on how to launch and market your book.

Payment: Apple pays 70% royalties 32 days after the end of the month in which you sold books using direct deposit into a bank account set up on iTunes Connect. If you sell directly through Apple, you can monitor the performance of your titles with daily sales reports.


3. Barnes & Noble Press offers print-on-demand, hardcover, and ebook options. They have the Nook ereader and the Nook Reading App for iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and Windows 8 tablets.

Cost: It is free to upload your cover and interiors. No charge for changes.

Rights: You retain all rights. They will provide a free ISBN exclusive to their paperback book versions or you can use your own. No ISBN is required for ebooks.

Distribution: Distribution is through their online store. You can submit your book for consideration to be displayed in physical stores. That is not guaranteed. Print on demand books can be ordered at any of their physical stores.

Services: They have promotional opportunities and offer select B&N Press books in emails, online sales & promotions, and other exclusive marketing programs. They have partnered with Reedsy  to offer editorial assistance, BookTrib for publicity assistance, Incubate  for marketing assistance, and 99designs for cover and interior formatting. They have expanded their array of merchandising options, including curated ads on BN.com, better email placement, and social media and blog exposure on Barnes & Noble Press and NOOK channels.

Payment: As of March 2021, following the purchase of B&N by a hedge fund, authors will receive a flat 70% royalty rate for eBook sales, up from a range of 40% to 65%. Print cost and delivery fees will be deducted from the list price. The self-publishing platform will also accelerate payments to 30 days after purchase instead of the prior 60 days. You are paid for book royalties over $10 by direct deposit or will receive bi-annual royalty payments, regardless of how much you’ve earned. You can view sales reports at any time.


4. Book Baby offers a mix of service packages along with marketing offers and resources. They handle ebooks, print-on-demand, and hard cover. They are geared more toward selling services for writers who need help with design, editing, etc. though they do have a digital storefront.  

Cost: Prices for service packages currently run from $1000 to $2500. There are additional charges for any type of change even to fix a typo and that adds up. Any time you wish to update or change anything, it has to be done through them. They do not earn a percent of your royalties.

Rights: You retain all rights. They sell ISBN numbers for $39 or you can provide your own. 

Distribution: They upload your book to other services such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, as well as other third party sellers. They provide titles to wholesale bookstore catalogs like Ingram and Baker & Taylor.

Services: Book Baby offers everything from editing to cover and interior design to marketing package options. If you need help with those things and think your book has high earning potential, then Book Baby might be for you.

Payment: Payments are delayed since Book Baby distributes through other venues, usually 90 days. They will post your BookShop earnings in your account in the week following all invoiced transactions. Depending on the retail price of your title and the specs of the book, most titles will generate between 10% -30% royalties. Sometimes, sales will fall outside of these royalty targets depending on international currency conversion rates, the manufacturing costs associated with production of your titles, and the fluctuation in retailer distribution charges.


To be continued.

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Why Do Some Readers Avoid Self-Published Books?

I read and post short reviews about a lot of books, so it’s not surprising I receive quite a few requests to review works by self-published authors. In the past, I’ve tried to accommodate those requests because I know how hard it is to get attention when there’s so much competition.

Sadly, that practice has put me in a tight spot from time to time when the already published book is so full of errors that it’s hard to focus on the story. Even after all the great advice provided by editors and by experienced writers who indie-publish, there are still people who think their works are perfect as-is, no editing or proofreading or professional advice needed. Their books don’t sell, and the quality drags on the sales of well-researched, well-edited, well-formatted indie published books.

Here are the five biggest reasons why readers avoid self-published books:

1. Writers who do not hire a content editor to meticulously read a manuscript for errors in timeline, character consistency, plot, and story structure. Trust me, no matter how sure you are that your writing, plotting, and editing skills are perfect, you’re wrong.

2. Writers who do not hire a copy editor to meticulously read a manuscript for grammar and punctuation errors and/or inconsistencies. We can see the errors made by other writers, but our eye/brain connection is very skilled at substituting what should be on our page for what is actually there in print.


3. Writers who do not use a proofreader for that fine-tuned read for typos and other errors introduced during the previous editorial corrections. It’s that eye/brain connection again, making corrections to fool us into believing our work is typo-free.

4. Writers who don’t use professional guidance in formatting books and ebooks for publication. Learning this process on the fly, just to get a book out there, is risky business. If I open an ebook and see messy margins, oddly placed spaces, and undefined paragraphs, I put away the book and find another.

5. Writers who don’t consult professionals in designing the cover art. I admit it. I often pick a book by its cover and start reading before I know more than the genre. Great covers sell books (at least to me).

There are so many beautifully written, edited, and formatted indie books available from authors who’ve done a great job. But their sales are impacted by authors who dismiss quality and publish anyway. Some readers check to see if a book is self-published, and if it is, perhaps put the book back on the shelf and continue browsing.

What can the professional indie author do to combat reader reluctance? Produce the best work possible and make sure reviewers get a quality copy of the book. Put the editor's name in the acknowledgements. Make sure marketing tools such as synopses, blog posts, newsletters, and articles are beautifully written and error-free. Write about the process of producing the best quality indie book possible that will serve both as advice to writers and reassurance to readers.


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Eloquence, Glorious Eloquence with author Camille Minichino

You might have noticed the *spoiler* in the Blood-Red Pencil blog post for May 27, so I might as well confess that my go-to book on writing is The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase, by Mark Forsyth.

You won’t see the book on my shelves in the photo in the May 27 post because it’s by my side at my computer, at the ready for a figure of speech or a smile.

Imagine 39 chapters, covering such abstruse turns of phrase as hendiadys, zeugma, catachresis, and scesis onomaton.

A favorite of mine is diacope, which gave us the 22nd greatest line in all of cinema (yes, Forsyth asks precisely how the American Film Institute can be so precise). The line: Bond, James Bond. Or, consider extended diacope, Free at last, Free at Last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last. Repetition in wording seems to do the trick, the trick it does.

It’s also fun to read Chapter 20, on enallage, a deliberate grammatical mistake (if a mistake can be deliberate, he wonders). Forsyth asks if we’d have been better off with correct Love me tenderly, love me truly. Or if Alexander Pope had given us Hope springs eternally in the human breast.

A related figure of speech, epizeuxis, is the repetition of a word, exactly. Shakespeare gave us Macbeth’s Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and Hamlet’s Words, words, words. I wonder if my realtor knows the official name of her mantra when asked the three priorities in determining home values.

Hyperbaton is putting words in an odd order. Who knows why, but opinion and size come before color, so you can’t have a green jolly giant or a red little schoolhouse. There are other word order “rules” but if you know what you’re doing, and use hyperbaton, like Lovelace—stone walls do not a prison make—it will be memorable.

It’s deceptively easy to form a syllepsis, using a word in two incongruous ways in the same sentence, such as this lovely sentence attributed to Dorothy Parker, describing her small apartment: I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends. Occasionally I try to come up with a memorable line. I realize it can’t happen just by dropping an -ly or scrambling the word order, but it is fun trying. Maybe I’ll buy another book or some time.

Mystery author Camille Minichino, has published 28 books under a number of pen names. Her newest book, MURPHY'S SLAW, under the name Elizabeth Logan, is the third in her Alaskan Diner Series. For more about Camille and her work, check out her website at Minichino.com.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Writers Gotta Read, Right?—References and More

Looking to fine-tune your writing? Need a little extra inspiration to jumpstart your initial draft or your final edit? Well, we’ve got lists (and in some cases, lists of lists) of books for your consideration. So, in no particular order, let's jump in!

What do YOU have on YOUR writing reference shelves? (Photo: Camille Minichino)

And now, for a few personal recommendations:

What about you? What are your favorite writing references and/or books on writing? Please share in the comments below...

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit AnnParker.net for more information.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Pros and Cons of Self-publishing, According to Me.

So you’ve written a book. You think it’s pretty good, send out queries to agents and small presses. Get rejection after rejection.

“Not right for us.”

“Don’t know where to place it on the shelf.”

“Too much like someone’s work we already represent.”

Yada, yada, yada.

I finally got an agent, but she couldn’t sell my books. I wrote a couple of erotic romances that were accepted by good online erotic publishers of the time, 2010, then decided to self-publish with Amazon the four suspense novels I’d accumulated from my previous years of writing. They made it easy and gave a good percentage. I was not sorry. Those first few years I sold a lot of books, got half dozen BookBub ads, gave a bunch away, which jump-started sales. 

There are a few things writers MUST do if you intend to self-publish your books.

      1. Write a good book (Duh!) 
    2. Hire a good editor             
    3. Hire a good cover designer     
    4. Learn how to market

The last one is the hardest. BookBub is still around, but it has priced itself out of my market. Yes, you make your investment back if you have the money to play with. However, they take on very few Amazon-exclusive authors now because it limits the click-throughs they get with a book on many different platforms, like B&N, Kobo, Apple, etc. When they started, they gave me a freebie for my mystery, Murder Déjà Vu. The ad did phenomenally well.I sold A TON of books. As time went on, the prices increased, big publishers caught on and now pay at least half of the ad for their clients. In 2012, I made more money with four books than I make now with ten suspense novels and four erotic romances published under a pseudonym.

Marketing is a full-time job, and it ain’t cheap. I admit, I'm terrible at it. You can run sales, but that comes with an asterisk. For example, the other day, someone on Facebook said that cutting a price to nothing or next to nothing cheapens a book. If an author doesn’t respect his/her book enough to charge a fair price, who will respect it? I don’t agree, but I understand the sentiment. That sale  or freebie  jump-starts more sales, and that's the bottom line. Readers find books they wouldn’t ordinarily find, and if they like the first book in a series, they buy the other books. It's a little harder for standalones, but many of my readers have liked a one-off book well enough to try others.

Times have changed. There are thousands of writers self-publishing. Some books are terrific; some are not. The biggest con is, and I hate to say this, there is still a stigma attached to being self-published. Writers who do well churn out books one after the other. (Actually, many well-known authors do that too, and they ride on their previous successes because some of their later books aren’t very good. My opinion.) Many of those writers who find success write 50-70K-word books, mainly series. That keeps them in the public eye. It’s smart, and I applaud them. My books run anywhere from 80-100K words. I might have to rethink my future writing. Amazon's new platform, Vella, might be interesting, and I will look into that.

Also, very few self-published writers win awards, no matter how good their books are. Part of that is the good-old-boy network of people who vote on books by authors who attend conferences and make friends. It’s difficult for someone outside that sphere to get a foot in the door. Part is the self-published authors don't get the traction unless they invest big time in the marketing, so it's really a vicious cycle.

Then there’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Amazon and their publishing, can I say mini-monopoly? The authors of their imprints do amazingly well. They’re advertised on my Kindle, show up on their Monthly Firsts—a gift to Prime members—and amass incredible amounts of reviews with  Amazon behind them. You can forget the Big 5. I’ll take being an Amazon imprint writer any day of the week, but then we're back to getting an agent because Amazon only takes agented submissions. 

Amazon has changed how people read with Kindle. Is it a good thing? I don’t know. It was for me because I probably wouldn’t have a book in the marketplace without them. Am I doing as well as I did when I had only four books in 2012? Not even close.

Would I do things differently now, knowing what I know? Yes. Will I tell you what? No. Will I continue to write? I honestly don’t know. I know people say they can't not write. That's all well and good, but in the end it's like eating lobster: a lot of work for too little meat.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

10 Self-Editing Tips

We can all use a little help in editing our work before sending it off to another editor for a final go-through. I do my best with my books, and I'm always surprised at how many mistakes my editor catches after I think I've got them all. In my years of editing for others and teaching editing workshops, I've come up with a list of tips that you might consider a good resource. Some of these have been written about before, here and on other blogs dedicated to writers and writing advice, but they are basics that bear repeating as a reminder.  

1. Avoid using wordage that has become so common that it's almost a cliche. 

When writing our first draft of a new story, we put down anything that comes to our mind, and often that is the most ordinary wordage.  In the second draft, the challenge is to change those ordinary words and phrases to make them a fresh delight for the reader.

 One example of an overused phrase that comes to mind is having people turn on their heel. I'm seeing that a lot in books I've read recently for review. Authors use that phrase when they want to show a character who's moving with some strong emotion driving them - like exasperation or frustration. To have them turn on their heel is an adequate presentation, but do we want just adequate in our writing? There are other ways of showing the same thing. For instance: Blowing out a great huff of exasperation, Samantha turned and walked briskly to the door.

Those eyes of his. A common phrase used in romance novels that is now spilling over to romantic suspense and some women's novels. My first thought always is, well, who else's eyes would they be? The intent of the writer is to indicate how enamored the heroine is with the hero's eyes. But wouldn't this work just as well, or maybe even better: Sarah gazed into Ralph's deep azure eyes and knew she could stay there forever.

2.  Look for repetition of words.   

For example, in a scene with a car, how many times did you use the word car? Circle the word every time you see it, then go back and change some, take others out.

Circle a character's name. Can you substitute a pronoun for some of them, a noun for others? 

Circle the word 'said.' Can the dialogue stand without it? Can a character action take the place of an attributive? "Sit down," Mary said, motioning to a chair. "Sit down." Mary motioned to a chair.

3. Clauses used in the wrong place.

Awkward - He saw a vase of flowers on the counter that was right in the center. Smoother - He saw a vase of flowers in the center of the counter.

4. Subject/verb agreement.   

Words between a subject and verb do not change the number of the verb. Example: The beauty of the garden - the roses, irises, petunias- is a sight to behold. The subject is 'beauty' - a singular noun that takes a singular verb. 

5. Action/motivation not in the right place.

Wrong: He jumped, startled by a loud bang on the door. Right: Startled by a loud bang on the door, he jumped.

6. Be careful about using qualifiers such as: rather, very, little, almost, pretty.

Example: At the sound of the door opening, she almost lost it. Better: Hearing the creak of the opening door, she forced herself not to whirl in panic.

7. Avoid weak words such as: while, since, somewhat.

Example: As Fran raised the cup, she...  Better: Fran raised the cup and...

8. Look out for unspecific nouns and vague words such as: something, anything.

Example: A noise from the direction of the basement scared her. What kind of noise?  Better: Hearing the faint scraping of metal against concrete, Becky backed away from the basement door.

9. Avoid using weak verbs such as: was, is, are, to be, ‘ing’ words, starts to, begins to. 

Weak: Sam is not a very open person. Better: Sam protects his feelings like an emotional miser. 

Don't get me wrong. There are times when was or is can be used quite effectively, and don't go through your manuscript and take them all out - as some people suggest in writer's groups. An action currently in progress calls for the use of was or is. John is running through the park. Which means he's still afoot. John ran through the park, indicates that he is finished. 

10. Check for any phrase or word that is not needed.

Examples: laughed (to herself) shrugged (his shoulders) nodded (his head) thought (to herself). A final word or two about nodding. Remember that a nod is always a sign of an affirmative response to a question. One does not 'nod her head, no.' A shake of the head is a 'no' response, and there, since one can shake many body parts, it is important to say the character shook his or her head. 

I hope you find these tips helpful, and if you have any to add, please do share in a comment. 

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. She also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Ask Us Anything About #Writing Part 2


Last month, we started our new Ask Us Anything About #Writing feature with Amy Shamroe, a novelist-in-the-making. 

Our Blogging Team continues to answer her questions with this important one! 


Is it better to just get scenes/plot points down and come back and fill in details or to spend time on everything you write in the moment? (i.e., get it all down NaNoWriMo style and go back and bulk it out or maybe spend two days on two pages getting it all down)...

The better way is the way that gets your story finished. I like developing outlines that are a bit in-depth with notes about what happens in particular scenes, things characters say and do, etc. Doing this gives me visuals to jump into when I begin writing the story in earnest.

For a beginning writer, I would highly suggest learning to plot to start with - simply because this will save you time in the long run. Experienced writers who write to a "formula" (eg., genre conventions, like a cozy murder mystery or a romance which each have certain steps that tend to fall into place and everything else just fits around that framework) can get away with just letting it unfold as they write, because their minds are filling in the structure and characterization behind the scenes. But if you were to mess up in the first draft because you hadn't planned it out well enough, that means a lot of editing and rewriting much of the book when you could be working on the next book in the series instead. I recommend studying the books "Save the Cat Writes a Novel" and Gail Carriger's "The Heroine's Journey" to get a solid handle on plotting.

Plot? What means plot?

A patch of dirt in a graveyard with a headstone on it? 😅
I am big into some form of outline with basic plot points. Divided into three "acts".

Oh, I'm so done with not outlining properly. Retrofitting an outline into a manuscript that's already written is a total pain.

Back-outlining is a great exercise though.

Yep, eye-opening. But the cutting and rewriting that goes with it: not so much fun.

I believe in the conflict outline and the bare bones plot. There is no point wasting time on characters, plot devices, descriptions, line editing, and proof reading for it only to get cut later. Better to “imagine” your way through the basic bones then go back and flesh them out once you have a solid skeleton.

My suggestion, and one I tell my editing clients, is to get the story down first. Write forward as long as the creative juices are flowing. Refining the story and the prose come in the second and third drafts. Don't shortchange your baby by only writing one draft and considering it done. So much can improve with careful rewrites. Choosing new refreshing words and phrases instead of the first ones that come to mind. Cleaning up awkward dialogue. And plugging up holes in the plot. But first get the story down.

Hmmm. Lots of interesting responses here! I start with a synopsis... usually five to ten pages that is mostly "here is the plot." Then I dive in and see where the writing takes me. Usually I follow the synopsis for a while and then... something unexpected happens! Oh boy!... and off I go, four-wheeling into uncharted territory (occasionally checking the synopsis "road map" to see if I'm more or less heading in more or less the same direction).

The past few books, though, I've been stopping short of halfway to make "chapter notes." These notes are the basic plot/character points I need to hit to reach the end, roughly divided into chapters (usually what happens is what I think will be one chapter ends up being two or even three). Those notes help me deal with the dreaded "muddle in the middle," where I *freeze* and wonder how the heck I got here and how I'm going to get out! 🤣
As for writing individual chapters, I let them flow, and sometimes I stop and research some quick bit I need. Sometimes I mark it with TK (to come) and rush forward.


I write cold and unplanned. I've tried outlining and it doesn't work for me. The downside? I spend a lot more time rewriting and fixing the timeline that a planner does.


I’d like to add a couple of things. I am a big fan of mind maps, maybe even as a preliminary for a more formal outline. And I use paper index cards with reckless abandon, while I am brainstorming, and later when I am writing from day-to-day. If you’re looking to get down the bones fast and furious, I recommend 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron for excellent tips.

Hope that helps, Amy, and gives you some ideas and incentives to keep throwing out the words! Does anyone else have suggestions for Amy? Please leave us a comment.