7 Reasons for Self-Published Authors to Give Thanks This Year

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it. I don’t, but I saw this rather apt post by Outskirts Press and couldn’t not share it. Yep, it’s true! The internet, despite all its problems, is a gift to us indie authors….

Self-Publishing News for Self Publishing Authors

As Thanksgiving draws near, it’s time to take stock of everything there is to be grateful for. Family, friends, love, laughter … and the rich life of a self-published author! There’s never been a better time to be an independent author. Here are just a few reasons we’re thankful to be self-publishing in these exciting times:

  1. eBooks. Just having the ability to offer books in an easy-to-order format has opened up a massive sales channel for independent authors. As readers move from hardcopy to electronic books, the ability for anyone to get their book in front of these customers is priceless exposure — and offering an ebook is easy.
  2. Social media. When knocking on doors, making phone calls, buying ads and getting media coverage aren’t on your busy holiday calendar, reaching out to large audiences is still achievable, thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram…

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Novel Update

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Well, I have finally managed my first readthrough of my 3rd novel’s typescript, so now comes more typing. I’ve done a few edits here and there when time allowed, but with the reading part out the way, the process kicks up a notch as I focus all my attention on adding, subtracting, moving, and fretting over passages. It will be the first of around six re-writes, possibly more, but with each one becoming less a ‘slash and burn’ job, and more a ‘tweak here and there’ job.

Quite frankly, the whole editing business of writing sucks. You get to a point where you start hating the very thing you gave birth to, and begin second-guessing everything you’ve written. But for me, it sucks in a different way.

I like to read. I like adding to my reading goal list in Goodreads (didn’t do one this year, unsurprisingly). I like being able to show the world that yes, unlike President Trumpf, I read….and enjoy reading. I am a bookworm, loud and proud! Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to put that I’ve read my typescript for the umpteenth time. No, I may not be reading someone else’s novel, but I sure as hell #amreading.

Panic Stations!

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Well these past couple of weeks have been a bit of a freak out. After a stream of application rejections, one suddenly came up golden, leaving me to plan a trip up to Edinburgh, and create an award-winning presentation all in one week. Why is it the jobs I REALLY want, a) accept my application so I have to make a fool of myself at an interview, and b) require me to do a presentation. As if interviews aren’t bad enough for the socially anxious/awkward. It was like the St. Andrews University job all over again, and ho boy, did I die a death there!

Still, for a week I juggled a university TMA assignment with creating a presentation on critiquing the company’s social media account, and what I would do to enhance it. That was all fun and games!

Then this socially anxious bundle of nerves headed north for a stress-filled visit to my favourite city in the UK.

First came train problems. A signal failure down the line meant my connection in Llandudno was delayed by 10 minutes. I had a second connection at Warrington Bank Quay, with, you guessed it, a 10 minute gap between arrival and departure. I don’t know how the driver and conductor managed it, but he made up six minutes, giving me enough time to arrive and pee before my next train. Phew!

The weather was dry, but clearly cold, as the snow-capped mountains en route attested to.

The evening saw me at the Holiday Inn, eating hummus sandwiches using a chocolate wrapper as a plate, while I caught up with my social media stuff, and occasionally reviewing my presentation. That was until the power suddenly went out at 8:45. What was even more fun that the hotel’s water supply seems to be reliant on electric, so I had no drinkable water either. Defeated, I went to bed early. Was woken at 5am by the one light I’d accidentally left on suddenly springing to life. 8 hours it had taken them! The water took a little longer to recover. Brown’s okay only if it’s hot chocolate or coffee. Still, at least the radiator wasn’t reliant on electric, and I stayed toasty, while outside it hit zero. And as I lay in bed, the gibbons in the zoo next door began their eerie dawn chorus. Kinda like this….

The interview happened. I’ve had worse (*cough* *St Andrews* *cough*). Could’ve done a whole load better. Did learn one thing, and that was the zoo had a power cut too, so I doubt I’ll be able to get a refund for my shitty night.

So now it’s a waiting game for the next week until I hear back that I haven’t got it.

Novel update:

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That’s a whole load of paper!

After giving my manuscript the once over with the spellchecker and grammar checker, I’ve finally printed it out for its first read through. Ah, the first read through…when you’ve realised everything you’ve written sounds like crap! The joys and self-doubts of being a writer!

 

Hashtag Change – Subtitle: #AmEditing

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So this week has been a week of starting new things.

First up, my Open University course, and I spent Sunday making my way through the introductory guide book to my first module. Credit where credit’s due, the OU sets their course out in such a way you’re eased into things. It may seem a bit ‘baby being spoon fed’ at times, but I think it’s an important method for those who’ve been away from studying for a while (2003 MSc graduate y’all!). The first block of the module is annotated with pointers in the margin, reminding you to make notes in your Learning Journal, or highlighting where a good place to take a break in the text is, and the first two Tutorial Assessments have an entire week devoted to them so you’re not rushed. There are also moments set out to re-evaluate your learning, through their Module Review Form, which makes you think about why you’re learning, and what parts are important to you. In a way, helping to keep you motivated. Later on in your studies you’re left to your own devices, but the idea is that the first few weeks you use the pointers to help get back into the swing of things, and studying eventually becomes easier. To be honest, having read through the guide, I’m quite excited now. I went to Tesco’s over the weekend and bought some cheapo highlighters, folders, and dividers, and I’m all ready to go. With my dummy assignment already in the bag I kinda got the urge to start early, that way I have a few days leeway should anything go tits-up or, who knows, a miracle happens and I get a job interview.

Second up, my novel writing, alluded to by this blog’s title. Yep, I’ve gone from #AmWriting to #AmEditing. It’s been what? About a year? I averaged about 3,000 words a week, and my manuscript stands at 140,279 words. Actually, there’s still some more writing to come. A few of the chapters need a proper ending, and descriptions will need to be buffed up (you writers out there will know the kind of things I mean), however, the bulk is D.O.N.E! The last few days have been a general editing of the format, as well as a quick spelling and grammar check, but now I get to put the damn thing a way and not touch it for a few weeks. That way, when I come to the first read through, I’m going at it fresh.

Actually the timings have worked out quiet nicely, what with finishing my manuscript just before I start trying to learn how to study again. This way, I can give my studies a bit more attention. Me in January 2017 is certainly seeing some changes.

But as good things start, so good things end, and after just three episodes, we say a (possibly) final goodbye to Sherlock. Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the season. I did feel the final part was not its strongest. It seemed to be along the lines of the Crystal Maze meets Saw. Not really ‘Sherlocky’ in my opinion. The ending was rushed and a bit muddled. John (should have if they’d paid attention to the script) got his feet ripped off, and the pyrotechnic special effects were laughable (I guess they blew the budget on aerial shots of The Island). Still, it was nice to see more of Mycroft. He can certainly strap on a pair when he sees fit. Hopefully we’ll see more of Sherlock in the future. Maybe not as a series, if rumours are to be believed, but the occasional Xmas special wouldn’t go amiss. Fingers crossed hey!?

Google’s Digital Garage – A Review

It all started with Facebook winning the war with Adblock. The sponsored posts and ads that I didn’t want to see cluttering up my feed came back with a vengeance. How I rolled my eyes, after all, it’s bad enough that Facebook keeps changing my feed back to ‘Top Stories’ without having to wade through, what I consider, irrelevant tat. However, one advert kept popping up repeatedly in my timeline that piqued my interest, that being the one advertising Google’s Digital Garage.

What got me intrigued was that a) it was about marketing and the web, and b) it was free. I’m always up for a bit of free training, and as I wanted to learn more about SEO and the like for both marketing my novels, and for gaining extra skills in the realm of social media with the hopes of getting a job, I decided to have a look.

Briefly, the Digital Garage provides “free tutorials from Google on everything from your website to online marketing and beyond. Choose the topics you want to learn, or complete the whole online course for a certification from Google and IAB Europe.”

I signed up using my Google account, after which it asked me some questions about my online needs. Using my answers, the site formulated my personal learning plan, picking select modules from its selection of 23. For me that was 9 modules. Each module came with 3 to 6 videos, which were, on average, about 3 minutes long (overall they ranged between 3 and 6 minutes long).

After each video was a short quiz, and each module ended with a longer quiz. Once I’d watched all the videos, and passed all the quizzes for my selected modules, all the rest of the modules became unlocked, and I could work through them to gain a final certificate. Which I did….

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The videos were easy to watch, and each module can probably be completed in less than an hour. So basically, if you do a module a day, the whole course will take less than 23 days. The quizzes were pretty simple, but if you got any questions wrong you could take them again until you got 100%. The ease of the quizzes might seem a bit of a cop out to some, as basically you can keep trying the answers until you get full marks, but to be honest, the video content is the more important thing.

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My completed Digital Garage modules

I have to say, I genuinely learnt some new things, had a few aha moments, and made a load of notes. Now, not every module was relevant to me, for instance, creating a mobile app is probably not something I’ll need to do, but the seeds of knowledge are there should I ever work for a company that might benefit from one. I’ve gained a bit more knowledge about web content, keywords, SEO, and becoming more visible on the web, which as an indie-author is important. Starting up my blog again has been as a direct result of doing the Digital Garage.

Would I recommend doing the Digital Garage? Yes. As I said, it doesn’t take long to do, even if you only do an hour a day, and your online strategy may benefit from the information provided in the videos. To be honest, you have nothing to lose in doing it. And once you’ve completed it you get a nice certificate that you can show off on the likes of LinkedIn.

Imaging the Races – a new Approach

Many moons ago, I wrote a post about how I brought my alien races visually to life through the use of a site called TekTek. Doing so let me get a better feel for the different races, and allowed me to quickly write descriptions of their looks without having to trail through paragraphs of previously created descriptive metaphors. Several of these images can be found on my Meet the Races page, where I’ve gone into more detail about some of the more common alien species in my novels.

Since then, TekTek has become defunct. Because politics. Which had left me in a bit of a pickle when it came to creating more characters, as I had no good way of drawing them. Throwing together a few exoplanets in GIMP is surprisingly a hell of a lot easier than drawing hands, faces, feet and everything in between. I am not a good artist.

Help came with a bittersweet aftertaste. As I’ve mentioned before, my mother died not too long ago, and it was my responsibility as her only child to go through all her stuff, chucking out the unusable, sending good stuff to charity, and rescuing some of my old childhood tat. Amongst my teddies and ornaments were, miraculously, two folders full of old science fiction sketches I’d done when younger. I vaguely remembered them, and had hoped they were still around, though honestly, I’d forgotten how full they were. There were spaceships, aliens, Human characters, animals, and planetary backdrops. I’d been quite prolific!

Many of the animals, ships and landscapes had been drawn free hand. A lot were still unfinished, and were only outlines, but many were coloured and complete. The humanoid aliens had been created by tracing over a couple of fashion model templates I’d nicked from school (FYI, they were only a couple of photocopied pieces of paper. It was hardly an arrestable offence), and this had allowed me to create better sketches.

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An example of one of the model templates

I spent a good couple of months scanning each sketch into my computer, and now I have more aliens, people, and creatures than I know what to do with. However, as my novels progress, I can look to these sketches, and finally weave these characters into the narrative that has been in my mind since creating them. Thank you younger self!

The Art of Covers

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Finally got my header image sorted. Do you like it?

Being an indie author requires a certain ability to be a Jack of all trades. It’s not just the writing you’re responsible for, but also a large part of the editing, and in some cases, designing the covers of your book. Some people may have a few pounds set aside to get someone to do the artwork for them, but when I started writing I was broke (technically as I’m still unemployed, and sell bugger all in the way of books, I still am) so I was left with the only other viable option, and that was getting to grips with graphic design.

True, there are many stock photos out there suitable for using for a cover. Some are cheap, some bloody expensive, and some are free. The problem with that is, they’re open to anyone to use. The cover picture I use on my novel, could well end up as someone else’s too. I’ve even seen one of the free wallpaper pictures that came with Microsoft Office used as a cover on a self-published book before now. In that case, not only is it not an original design, it’s down right lazy.

So I turned my hand to creating my own covers. However, I didn’t come at it completely blind. I use GIMP as my main graphics programme. Basically, it’s an open-source, free, version of Photoshop, and with it comes a wealth of How Too tutorials; from creating star fields (such as the one I’ve knocked together for my header image), to creating alien planets (my WordPress icon image is also a creation of mine, as is my Twitter and Facebook avatar), and other more abstract designs (such as the kind I use for my novel covers). Everything a science fiction novelist needs to produce an eye-catching and dynamic cover. And to be honest, thanks to all the tutorials out there, it isn’t that difficult.

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Stargazing by DelphineNQ (aka K. Llewellin) as used on my FB & Twitter

Every indie author is one among thousands, all of whom are trying to get their book seen and bought, and we need to be able to stand out from the crowd. As people do judge a book by its cover, we need to make sure what we present is as fresh as possible. For some people, that’s employing someone to create a cover for them, and there are plenty of talented designers out there willing to do so for a reasonable price. But when that’s not an option, we need to be able to be willing to take on the challenge ourselves.

Overall, I’m happy with my ability to create covers for my novels. They may not be totally spectacular, but they’re unique, and another expression of my creativity. And hey, I was a semi-finalist in the AuthorsDB cover competition thanks to my second novel’s cover (didn’t enter my first cover), so my art work can’t be that bad.

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Warriors Made of Glass with its rosette