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Tag: Amazon

Reviewing Your Book Proof: What Works and What Doesn’t

The proof copies of my novel Love Match arrived the other day. The delivered package had been unceremoniously set into a planter by the front door. I wasn’t aware it was there until a visiting friend pointed it out. I immediately tore into the box and beheld the proofs. After all the writing, rewriting and learning how to format the ebook and paperback (all of which I undertook myself), it was a surreal and exhilarating moment. But that feeling of accomplishment wore off quickly because I saw what wasn’t working in the proof copy.

CreateSpace Book Options

First, a  few things about self-publishing with Amazon’s CreateSpace. Stylistic options are limited. You have the choice of a glossy or matte finish cover and cream or white interior paper. However, there are a variety of book sizes to choose from. CreateSpace provides templates to help you format your book with the right margins, gutters, headers and footers. The parameters can get a little complicated if you’re using lots of photos, drawings and creating oversized coffee-table type books. My book is simply text, so I only had to be mindful of correcting glaring orphans and widows. Text had to be condensed and expanded appropriately so it looked uniform and readable on the page. This was picky and time-consuming work. For an obsessive like me, I totally got into this process.

Physical Book vs. Digital Copy

The proof’s cover looked amazing. The colors were true and vibrant. The proportions of the artwork and design felt modern and in keeping with the tone of the story. The size was comfortable in my hand and it had the heft of well, a real book. I cracked it open. While the Garamond font was easy on the eyes and readable, the cream pages I had chosen felt wrong. I had also used a leaf as a section break. That looked weird too. This interior combo looked antiquated and off-kilter with my modern vibe. Reviewing the book’s digital copy was great for picking up oddball formatting issues. The hardcopy proof enabled me to see how all the elements worked together; I never would’ve known what worked and didn’t if I had just relied on the digital proof. So I’ll make some changes and generate another one. The lesson here is don’t skimp when it comes to ordering your proof. You don’t want any surprises when your book goes into production. Fortunately, they are inexpensive to produce.

How to Review Your Proof

In addition to considering the look and feel of your book proof, CreateSpace suggests you:

  • Review your book three times, with each time focusing on a different aspect. If you try to review all of this information in one sitting, you could miss something.
  • The first time: Check the format, including headers/footers, page numbers, spacing, table of contents and index.
  • The second time: Review any images or graphics, and captions if applicable.
  • The third time: Read the book for grammatical errors and/or typos.
  • Get an objective perspective. Have someone unfamiliar with your book read it thoroughly.

Guess what I’m doing this weekend? More reviewing! The self-publishing journey continues.

From the E-Publishing Front: “How to Publish, Market and Sell Your E-Book to Hollywood”

“It’s the best time ever to be a writer.”

These words were echoed over and over again at last weekend’s WGA panel: “How to Publish, Market and Sell Your E-Book to Hollywood.” The event featured executives from Amazon, Audible and a half dozen film and TV writers, who have sold over 1 million ebooks between them. These were encouraging words as I’ve embarked on my own self-publishing journey.

While the event’s theme may have been about optioning your novels to Hollywood, the real gist was hearing panelists share their self-publishing experiences. Before a packed audience, they gave their reasons for diving into this world: frustration with Hollywood development practices, too many gatekeepers, time spent writing labors of love that would never see the light of day, and wanting creative control.

Alexandra Sokoloff, writer of thriller series Huntress Moon, said after being stuck interminably in development hell, “I snapped.” No longer up for playing the Hollywood game, she decided to novelize one of her screenplays. Soon afterward she got a three-book deal with St. Martin’s Press. She has since published ten supernatural and crime thrillers—both traditionally and indie published. She encouraged writers to dip back into those unproduced screenplays and TV pilots languishing in filing cabinets. “You’re sitting on a gold mine of material!” Other panelists had similar versions of their “come to Jesus” moment.

My moment came after a frustrating three-year slump that no amount of yoga, aggro circuit training or chocolate could pull me from. In that time I had written two spec screenplays, attempted to raise financing for a movie I was producing, pitched three feature movies and one TV movie, and had written a spec TV pilot based on a critically acclaimed science fiction novel—all of which I couldn’t set up, i.e., sell. I shared my woes with my dear friend and writer Sandra Harper. She encouraged me to reclaim my creativity and write a novel. Days later I heard about Alexandra’s novelizing experiences and off I went, digging into my dead screenplay file. I selected Love Match—a romantic comedy about a professional matchmaker who can’t make her own match. I worked on it in between income-generating jobs, creating a web series, and a few more Hollywood headaches. Now the book is finished. I’m thrilled to be releasing it in the coming weeks.

Here are some random insights, gleaned from the event, to help you in your self-publishing adventures:

  1. Pricing: $2.99 – $3.99 seems to be the selling sweet spot for ebooks. About 65,000 words in length.
  2. Kindle Direct Publishing Select: Use free book giveaways and countdowns wisely. In other words, don’t just make your book free and call it a day. Develop a marketing plan and consider using a service like BookBub to get on massive distribution lists.
  3. Make an audio book: Audible’s ACX (Audible Creation Exchange) is a service that hooks up professional voiceover talent with writers. You have total control over who you hire and how your written word to audiobook will be produced. Average cost to produce an audiobook: $260/finished hour or a 50-50 shared royalty with the talent. 10,000 words equals an hour of produced audio.
  4. Audiobooks can be used as a 2nd launch marketing tool. Take advantage of this!
  5. “Don’t write shit.” Attributed to writer and self-publishing guru Joe Konrath. This states the obvious, but just because it’s easy to get your book out quickly don’t do it. Take your time, write, rewrite and rewrite again and again until it’s ready.
  6. Treat Yourself as a Traditional: In other words, produce a professional book. Hire a cover designer, copyeditor and proofreader. Don’t skimp on this. If costs are an issue, there are plenty affordable, skilled people available to help. Many of them used to work at publishing houses; they were downsized and are now eager for the work.
  7. Attend genre conferences and events: Authors are a supportive and giving group. Become part of the community. Helping and inspiring other writers in turn helps you. This is one of the most effective marketing tools out there.
  8. Marketing: It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the social media, blogging and promotions. Devote yourself to one day a week. The marketing will get done, so you can focus on the task at hand … writing!

I know this all seems daunting and overwhelming. It sure is for me. But I’m bracing myself and diving in.

Got any questions? Let me know. I’m happy to share.

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