Publish on Amazon

Today I pressed the publish button on Amazon.

If you’ve already done this yourself, you can skip this post, but for those who have yet to experience this particular ‘joy’, there may be more to this process than you would suspect.

Full disclosure, between reading everything carefully and multiple google searches this took me almost a full day.

My novels aren’t ready but in the interests of preparing the way, I have decided to individually publish a few short stories that have been gathering dust. I have to tell you, this is not generally recommended. Most experts will tell you to publish short stories in anthologies or collaborations with other writers… and they are right. I’ve willfully ignored this excellent advice because I’m not particularly looking to profit from this but to learn. This way when I get around to publishing the bigger works there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises.

What I’ve learnt today might be helpful to anyone else following the same path. Obviously, you want your final draft ready to format. You should also have

  1. Your banking details 
  2. Your front material and back material ready.
  3. Your description (for ebooks this can be your blurb)
  4. Your cover image and author headshot ready to be uploaded
  5. A knowledge of which categories you want to publish under
  6. A set of up to seven keywords/phrases to help readers find your book
  7. You should also be aware of your ownership rights and options for Distribution, and DRM
  8. If you plan on publishing under your own ISBN you should have already purchased that. 

Setting up Banking

Naturally, the Amazon site uses American standard terms. You can check your bank homepage to find out the BIC/SWIFT code and the routing number is just the BSB to identify the bank and branch. As an Australian to looks like only the .au site will allow electronic fund transfers, so for everywhere else you sell (we’ll look at that later) make sure you select the check option. Tax is pretty self-explanatory and where it asks for a TIN just use your TFN.

Front/Back Material

If you are using Kindle Create (you can download a copy for PC or Mac) then adding front and back material is a breeze. Don’t forget to include a Copywrite page and you can use the template provided by KC. You should probably also add an about the author page, a bibliography, and links to your active social media funnels. In this case, since this is only my first upload I’ve included all three in the same entry. Everyone seems to be recommending using a headshot so readers can relate to the author, but I have skipped that.

Description

Your description is how you sell your book to potential readers, it should mimic back cover of a paperback including the blurb, but you don’t have to stop there. Have a look at successful authors in your genre and use them as a guide.  

Cover Image

There are lots of sites that can put you in touch with a good cover designed, or for the artistically gifted you can create your own. For my short story, I created my own cover with GIMP know-how and the magic of stock photography. being an e-book and having no plan to publish the story in physical format (at least not by itself) this was relatively simple. However if publishing a paperback you need to understand the different cover dimensions, the effect that has on page numbers, and how that, in turn, impacts the spine width. I also didn’t need a barcode or a back cover with the book blurb on it.

Categories

This is where Google is your friend. There are a heap of categories and the ones you choose will impact how you reach your audience. For example, Urban Ritual deals with magic, a god, and a mostly typical urban setting. Putting it under Fiction/Fantasy/Urban is a no-brainer, but I can’t put it under Occult & Supernatural as people searching those terms are looking for a ‘how-to manual’ not a quick read. I suggest you do some research BEFORE you get to this point.

Keywords

Keywords are where you get creative, they are also where you can sink hours looking at Kindle metrics trying to find the most popular phrases and descriptions. To get maximum exposure you don’t want to waste a slot on something already obvious in your book details. So having published under the category of Fiction/Fantasy/Urban there is no point wasting a keyword field on Urban Fantasy. The first two of my keywords are basically meta-data, the next three are descriptive. Fear not, you can change these later if you find something you think will work better.

  • short story – because I don’t want people to think they were tricked into buying a short piece when they were looking for a full novel.
  • Australian Author – a bit of geolocation doesn’t hurt
  • magic ritual
  • urban myth
  • ancient gods

Ownership, Distribution & DRM

You should own the rights to your work. No trademarked names, no stolen intellectual property. Your work should be original and yours. DRM is murkier, I will be doing a lot more research before I publish a full novel, but in this instance, I didn’t select DRM on principle. If that turns out to be a mistake it won’t cost me too dearly.

Optional ISBN

If you plan to distribute wide you should give this some thought. I’m publishing a (very) short story in digital format so I’ve left this blank. Which means I will be using the automatic amazon provided number. If you want to have more control over your work you may wish to supply your own ISBN, and remember you need a different one for each format you publish in.

 

 

Redheads

I just had to share some feedback I got on a short story today.

“One of your characters needs to be a redhead. You need more representation in your story.”

Okay that could be legitimate feedback unless you consider a few minor points

  1. About 3% of the world’s population are redheads and it feels like every second female UF protagonists. So I don’t really see under-representation as much of an issue.
  2. There are only two characters in this story. Again I should mention that 3% thing.
  3. At no point is either characters hair colour mentioned. You can make them whatever you want, it has no impact on the story.
  4. It is set in the middle east about 3,000 years ago.
  5. … you didn’t read it did you?

Beating Writer’s Block

One of the biggest issues you see in writing groups is the mysterious ailment we call writer’s block.

When people talk about writer’s block it can be code for any of the following fears

  • I can’t get motivated;
  • I’m completely out of ideas;
  • I need more sleep/exercise;
  • I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough;
  • I hate my current WIP.

The underlying pathology determines which ‘cure’ will work best for you. So, let’s look at them.

I can’t get motivated.

Writing isn’t about motivation, it’s about self-discipline. Some days the words will flow. Some days they’ll be buried deep and a figurative glacier and you’ll have to hack them out individually. If you only write on the good days, you’ll be lucky to get anything written. If you write every day, regardless of your muses presence you’ll get into the habit. Habit beats inspiration every day of the week.

I’m completely out of ideas.

Read a book, see a movie, go watch the locals in their native habitat. There are ideas ready for the taking everywhere. Even garbage literature is a potential source of inspiration. Just imagine how much better your version could be.

Some quick and easy solutions are

  • Do some exercise, it can clear the mind and get those creative juices flowing;
  • Read something in a similar genre;
  • Listen to music that evokes the same feelings/themes you are going for;
  • Re-read what you’ve already written to recapture the tone/voice you have already set.

 

I’m afraid my work isn’t good enough.

Now we’re getting to the tricky ones. I could answer glibly and say things will get better the more you write, but there is a real psychological weight behind these thoughts. This isn’t an issue that’s easily resolved, and even the greats suffer from imposter syndrome. Maybe your work isn’t good enough. Maybe it is. You’ll never know until you get it out there to an audience. Sure it can always be better, but there comes a point where you have to let it go as ‘good enough’. It can never be perfect, and we need to accept that or go mad.

You also have to accept that some people won’t like your work. Ignore them, they are not your audience. Instead, focus on the people who like your work, they are your audience moving forward and they will be the people who encourage others to pick up your work. Keep in mind people declaring ‘I don’t like your book’ is meaningless. If they point out legitimate structural or grammatical issues, then that is constructive criticism. Maybe your work isn’t good enough, but unless you keep writing (and learning) it won’t get better.

A good trick is to write letters to your critics, then burn them. I’m not sure what you do with the letters afterwards though. (Yes, that was a joke. Please do not set fire to critics, they are almost people too).

I hate my current WIP.

That one is a doozy. You only have two options. Abandonment or perseverance. Only you can now if that unfinished work will become an unnamable horror lurking in your WIP folder. The thing you can not name lest its name invokes feelings of existential dread. Okay, maybe that’s too Poe, but you get the idea. Sometimes it’s easier just to forge ahead, even if you are reduced to writing by the numbers just to get the damned thing done.

To summarise.

There is no writer’s block, just fear getting in the way of you finishing your story. Fear is universal to the human experience and no one will think less of you for experiencing it. The important thing is how you face your fear. If writing is your passion, then you will overcome your writer’s block and keep going. It won’t be easy, and won’t necessarily make the fear vanish, but you’ll learn to continue despite it.

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank HerbertDune

7 Writer Secrets (that may ruin your work)

There is no silver bullet, and some of the advice out there can do more harm than good.

You’ve seen the headlines 5 tricks to improve your manuscript or…

  • 7 secrets for successful writers
  • 10 steps to a best-selling novel
  • 9 songs of madness to bring forth the Elder Gods. (okay maybe not that one)

Be a WriterPost after post (and course after course) appears telling you the inside edge, the best method, the secret process, and some of them, maybe even most of them, may very well have some merit. But when does the quest to have the most marketable book detract from the quality of your story? Yes, there are certain tricks on timing and structure that can help (especially if you want to write to the formula so prevalent in YA and various genres). Yes, conforming to these can help you sell books. But that begs the question, am I writing to sell books, or to tell a story?

Like it or not, as an aspiring writer you are a potential consumer. In today’s blogosphere, there’s a legion of unpublished souls, the greatest potential army of quill-wielding warriors in history, only an electronic step away from being published. That’s a big potential audience, a big market that a lot of people have been tapping into. It feels like there is a lot more money in telling people how to write than in actually writing.

Now I’m not saying you should skimp on the basic structure and craft of the written word. If every sentence starts with He/She, that needs to be fixed. Your format, spelling, and font, need to be consistent. Grammer is essential, typos should be rooted out, and excessive repetition of words should be fixed with a bit of creativity and possibly a thesaurus. You should have a single PoV per scene, you should have a recognisable protagonist or two, and a not-excessive number of secondary characters.

There is so much writing advice out there, and most of it can be great, but nothing is one-size-fits-all. So MY one-size-fits-all advice is this, once you master the basics, once you are comfortable in your own skin and know your own story, then seek out the experts in the genre you want to write, and see what they say. When you do, pick only a handful of sources and even then you have to be careful that you don’t mix in advice that actually works against you. Find a style, perfect that style, and remember that not everyone’s advice will be right for you.

When your slow burn story gets trimmed to fit in the rising conflict necessary to adhere to the YA template, you have to stop to consider if this actually adds to your story. If you cut every adverb, twist every instance of passive voice, and shave every description to deliver a leaner, meaner, manuscript… you need to look at what you lost in the process. You also have to consider whether to write for the market or if you need to change your target market to match what you have written.

Reach OutOf course, there are some suggestions that do work for everyone

  • Reach out and connect with your fellow writers
  • Get Beta Readers
  • Read widely (not just in the same genre) and often
  • No work is ever perfected, it’s simply abandoned

 

 

Originally published on arlockjw.wordpress.com