Category Archives: Self Publishing

5 Key Lessons for Authors and Self-Publishers from Neil Gaiman

5 Key Lessons for Authors and Self-Publishers from Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman (source: Wikipedia)

Neil Gaiman, one of the world’s most beloved authors, gave the keynote speech at last week’sDigital Minds Conference and although his audience was primarily made up of book industry executives, his talk was just as relevant to authors and self-publishers. If you haven’t seen it already, the full presentation is now online and well worth watching.

For me, there were five key lessons to draw from Gaiman’s talk and I have taken the liberty of both paraphrasing him and, in some cases, expanding upon his ideas.

1. Be nice

Gaiman recalled a time when he was sharing a signing with a big-ticket crime author, back before he found himself on the bestseller lists. Incredibly Famous Author, who remains anonymous for the duration of the anecdote, made a scene when presented with an ex-library book on the basis that he ‘got nothing for it’. In response several people in Famous Author’s queue defected, buying copies of Gaiman’s book and waiting in line for him to sign it.

All authors, and especially self-published authors, should bear this in mind at all times. It only takes one example of obnoxiousness for someone to change their mind about buying your book and, on the internet, such examples can travel widely. Instead, give people something to love, give them something to remember and to treasure. Give them an opportunity to take a chance on you; don’t give them a reason to change their minds.

2. Readers discover authors they love, they don’t buy them

People find their favourite authors through word of mouth, not by going into a bookshop and buying a book. They are introduced to their favourite authors by being given or loaned the book by a friend, or by borrowing it from a library. Said Gaiman:

“We don’t normally find the people we love most by buying them. We encounter them, we discover that we love them, which is why I decided early on I was never going to go to war [on piracy], I was just going to encourage, I was going to go for word of mouth.”

3. What is valuable is what is unique

The publishing is in the business of producing lots of things that are identical, ie copies of books. But people buy things because they are unique, because they remind us of an experience, because they have some emotional impact on us. We need to appeal to people by producing beautiful objects. We need to festishise books and give people a reason to buy them.

4. Make yourself heard

We live in a world of abundance now. The days of scarcity, where it was hard to find things, are over. The question is how do we make ourselves heard? How do we find the signal in the noise? And how do we make ourselves heard? A world in which there’s too much information means we no longer rely on gatekeepers but on guides and on word of mouth. That means you have to get out there, you have to be a part of your community, and you have to be the signal, not the noise.

5. Be lucky, be a dandelion, try stuff

For me, this was the most important part of Gaiman’s talk and it starts about 15 minutes in. Mammals, he reminds us, have a small number of offspring and nurture them, pouring all their energy and resources into helping them grow up. Dandelions, on the other hand, produce many, many seeds, the majority of which will never germinate, but — and it’s an important but — some will.

We should, he says, throw our seeds to the wind and see what works. Not everything will pan out the way we hoped, and he gives some good examples of failure, but enough will succeed. It’s important to remember, however, that just because something works well once for someone else does not mean that the same thing will work for you. Sometimes it won’t even work again when the same person does it. Gaiman’s model, he tells us, is this:

“Try everything, make mistakes, surprise ourselves, try anything else, fail, fail better, succeed in ways we would never have imagined a year ago or a week ago.”

Too many authors and self-publishers are looking for the One True Path To Success, but that path doesn’t exist. Tactics that seem to work for one author fail for many others (although we’ll never know how many as no one counts the failures). And strategies that worked once upon a time no longer do. So we have to be inventive, try things out, not get disheartened when we fail, and just keep on being creative, no matter what.

There are more opportunities out there now than we can count, more chances to throw our dandelion seeds to the winds than ever before. There has never been a more exciting time to be a writer than now.

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Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Self Publishing


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How to Write and Publish a Book

Read here to find out how to write and publish a book whether you’re 73 or 11 years old.

Do be realistic about your expectations. Writing should be a hobby. The prospect should be fun and not a chore. Being published is not all there is to realm of writing – enjoy what you’re doing!

Please also note that if you’re under 18, publishers tend not to bother with all the legal hassle. Since you are not of age to sign the contract, and need parental consent, this brings further problems, and publishers tend to avoid young authors for that reason. This being said, it’s still a good thing to try anyway. You just might make it.



Begin forming ideas and jot them down. Afterwards, select the ones you want. Some people choose to simply start to write with only one sentence in their head. Whichever way you do it, it’s fine, but the most common way is actually starting with an idea. You’ll find that after the first sentence, the ideas will pop into your head and it’ll flow. Just keep writing.

Don’t worry about errors; you can correct them later. You get the best stories by continuing on and not looking at the screen. If you keep looking at the screen, chances are you will want to change everything right away instead of continuing on with the story.

There should not be a limit on how much you can write a day, but create a minimum. It will help you focus on the story. Never stop; no matter how bad it seems, JUST KEEP GOING! This is the most important thing! If you have anyone around you that discourages you, shoo them away or ignore them. Better still, work in a quiet or empty place.

Once you finish your story, it should follow the guidelines which publishers Allen and Unwin follow:

  • Junior fiction
    • For beginner readers, aged 5-8, word length 5,000-10,000
    • For confident readers, aged 7-10, word length 10,000-30,000
    • For middle readers, aged 11-14, word length 30,000-55,000
  • Young adult novels
    • For teenage readers, aged 13-16, word length 40,000-60,000
    • For mature teenage and older readers, aged 15+, word length 40,000-100,000
  • For a total list and for more information and writing and publishing, go to “Submission Guidelines” on the Allen and Unwin website.

Recheck and re-edit your story as many times as you need to. It can’t be stressed how much this is necessary. However, don’t keep editing if you don’t know what the problem is. Over-editing is possible and dangerous, so get others to check it. They can spot things better than the author him/herself.

Research different publishers. You may choose to self publish, but getting published by a big time publisher is better for getting a larger audience. Most publishers only choose to publish or even read solicited material – that is, manuscripts gone through an agent. Agents usually also choose to read only material that they are acquainted with – or the authors they know. Prices range. However, there are quite a few publishers that do publish unsolicited material, such as Penguin or Allen & Unwin.

Once you have decided on a few publishers (the more the better), start researching about them. Some choose to publish for adults only selected genres, but all information should be available on their websites. Some have different guidelines and word limits, or whether it need be solicited or not. Some also require a synopsis – a summary. However, almost all publishers require a hard copy (printed) version of your story. Also, keep in mind their specifications. Some publishers prefer double spaced lines, with a certain type of font in a certain size, etc. Stick to what they specify. Do not send emailed copies or ones on a disc, unless stated you may. Usually they don’t tend to return them, so keep your original with you.

Wait and wait. Send your copies to all available that you can. It may take up to four months or more, maybe, to get it edited. If you get it, well done! You get to see it in the stores! However, the publisher usually doesn’t advertise it for you.


  • Publishers won’t advertise your book. That’s up to you, the author. They market it out, but they don’t advertise it except for maybe on their websites. Tell friends and family, and put fliers up around your city/town. Sometimes you may even get a local book store to advertise your book.
  • Remember; regardless of your age, most publishers will still publish for you if your story is good! Be prepared to take criticism and use it wisely.
  • Keep writing! While everyone has a different editing style, most people find it most helpful to write as much as they can while the ideas are fresh, and revise the story later.
  • Stick to the plot. If you have another idea, jot it down, and try and see where you can wedge it in without leading the story into a completely different direction.
  • Remember publisher/agent etiquette. Don’t submit to so many, especially if they specify not to. Patience is the key. After a month or two with no reply, then perhaps you can try others. Remember: unsolicited work generally is left until later and can take up to many months to get to.
  • Toss “rules of writing” out the window. There are mechanics to the language: punctuation, general sentence structure, etc. However, never be tied down with what you read online when it concerns rules such as “never write in passive language,” to “avoid using said,” or to “never use adverbs.” Editing can always come after, anyway.
  • Try numerous publishers. Some will take you, while some won’t.
  • Always edit your own work before submitting it. No publishing company will accept your work if it’s full of spelling and grammatical errors or inconsistencies.


  • If meeting the publisher, make sure you actually show up on time and be yourself; don’t put on an act or be nervous. Sometimes publishers tend to already have decided and just want to go through protocol.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of avoiding “said.” Many new writers tend to think that using the word “said” gives an overuse of the word. However, this isn’t the case. Take the following:
    • “Come on!” Joseph cried. He ran around the garden excitedly.
    • “Yes or no?” Mother inquired as she walked down the stairs to him.
  • In both cases the words “cried” and “inquired” are used. However, the rest of the dialogue already gives the reader the idea that Joseph is excited and Mother is relaxed. You don’t have to have words like “inquired,” “quoted,” “denied,” or “stated.” “Said” is perfectly fine and is shorter. It lets the reader form the image themselves without having you butt in and pave the way for them.

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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Self Publishing


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How to Start Off NaNoWriMo? Some Writing Advice From Snoopy

How to Start Off NaNoWriMo? Some Writing Advice From Snoopy

Hail and well met, NaNoers!  November has started at last.  I’d give you my word count, but alas, this post is pre-written and scheduled to post at 12:01 A.M. CST on November 1st.  By the time this posts, however, I’ll have been in November for five hours already!

To start off NaNoWriMo well, I figured I’d give you something to lift your hearts and bolster your first writing surge of the month.  Presenting…writing advice from Snoopy!

How do you start a novel?  Drag in your heavy, romantic briefcase and get out your typewriters.  Snoopy lets us know how real page-turners start: with the mystery of a fantastic beginning sentence.
Next, he lets us know that real writing is hard work.  And to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month, it’s going to take a LOT of hard work.  But we can get through it!
Also, Snoopy says, when presenting the beginning of your incredible work-in-progress to editors, make sure and be open to advice.  An open mind is always a good thing, so take the advice and make your story better.
In this one, Snoopy shows us how to write brilliant description: the strength is in the little details!
We all need editing, and Snoopy is no exception.  Edit as you go, but don’t get so caught up in the editing that you stop writing the story!
Snoopy also lets us in on the secret to emotional scenes.  Dialogue is key!
In the next few sections, Snoopy tells us how to react to critique after the story is finished, and what to do when you send in your story to the publishers.
Well, there you have it…the complete guide to writing your NaNoWriMo novel.  (Many thanks to Snoopy for offering to make a guest appearance on my blog.)
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Self Publishing


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Is there money in ebooks? [infographic]

Now Novel is a fantastic site committed to help authors go through the process of writing and publishing a book. Their team has just created a very interesting infographic every aspiring writer should take a look at.

Asking a question “Is there money in ebooks”, the chart shows a fantastic growth of ebook market – from 1% in 2008 to 30% in 2012 with a prediction of 50% in three years from now (figures for US market).

The most interesting part, however, is showing the revenue split between author, publisher, and agent. If you want your book to be published the traditional way (and of course if you will be lucky enough to get a publisher), you will receive roughly 12% of the pie. Getting into digital publishing shifts proportions – you, the author, are the one to get most of the revenue.

So, on one side there is a traditional publisher, who gets 80%. On the others side we see self-publishing platforms like Smashwords or Scribd, where author gets (at least) 80%.

But money comes not only from the revenue split. Ebook market is growing not only in the US. By publishing your book on Amazon or Kobo or Smashwords you are making it available for any English-speaking reader in the entire world!

And remember, you don’t (and in fact you should not) do everything by yourself. Self-publishing is not about writing publishing, and marketing a book the DIY way. Not any more. Digital publishing gives the author the steering wheel – a power to decide which experts to hire to make sure the new novel will have most chances to succeed.

Now Novel

Is there money in ebooks - infographic

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Self Publishing


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Self-published books becoming best sellers

Self-publishing allows writers to use ingenuity and self-promotion to be discovered by readers

Self-publishing allows writers to use ingenuity and self-promotion to be discovered by readers

There is a sea change underway in how some authors are published. Self-published books have made their way onto best-seller lists and the distribution model is attracting more established authors, the New York Times reports.

The Times article overviews how big publishing houses including Penguin and Harlequin are now operating divisions focusing on writers that are willing to forego an advance in exchange for a greater share of the overall profits. More than 250,000 self-published books are now produced annually, and while many may never be well read (or read at all), a quarter of the most popular titles sold on Amazon were self-published.

“While self-published authors get no advance, they typically receive 70 percent of sales. A standard contract with a traditional house gives an author an advance, and only pays royalties – the standard is 25 percent of digital sales and 7 to 12 percent of the list price for bound books – after the advance is earned back in sales,” the Times article noted. Romance and science fiction topped the charts, according to the report.

Another avenue of opportunity is using self-publishing to distribute backlisted books that have gone out of print. A 2011 Forbes article cited authors making greater royalties off of out of circulation titles than when they were in print. But many services are geared toward novices. A quick Web search turns up a bevy of sites dedicated to the practice including independent publishers. There are also guides to self-publishing and services to assist writers that aspire to make their first bestseller or just have their voices heard.

There might be some gimmickry, but it makes perfect sense to use the Internet to disrupt how books are distributed.  The model at least provides another option that casts off reliance on publishing houses’ marketing promises, agents, and other middlemen that reduce payback for what could be years of work. Maybe publishers will innovate their own services in response.

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Self Publishing


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Can The London Book Fair Balance The Needs of Authors And Publishers?

The London Book Fair's Author Lounge

The London Book Fair’s Author Lounge

Historically, the London Book Fair at Earls Court hasn’t been aimed at authors, but with over 1,800 exhibitors listed in its directory and 250 seminars and events, it’s now an opportunity too big to miss. There’s a huge amount going on over the three days and a lot of people to meet, so it’s easy to fill your diary with presentations and conversations. But there’s an unresolved tension at the heart of the fair.

The London Book Fair has always primarily been a commercial event, “the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels”, as its website says. All the major publishers have large stands on the main floor, crammed with tables or desks occupied by people deep in conversation. Literary agents are hidden up in the International Rights Centre at gallery level, where they negotiate and close deals in relative private.

Despite the show’s main aim of serving the publishing industry, the schedule now includes events for authors and self-publishers. There’s also a dedicated Author Lounge hosting regular talks, with additional seminars held in the various conference rooms.

I was told by those who’d attended last year that the Author Lounge had then been tucked away upstairs and much too small, so this year’s move to the main floor was clearly a step up. But it was still too small with space for only about 60 people seated, and perhaps 80 or 90 when crammed in, standing, at the back. Almost every time I walked past, people were overflowing into the aisle and I can only imagine that there will be even greater demand from authors next year.

But several people I spoke to felt that the addition of unpublished or self-published authors to the mix created an awkward undercurrent. One literary agent I spoke to told me that she was there essentially incognito as she didn’t want to be pitched at all the time. And an editor at a major publisher explained how awkward it could be deal with authors wanting to pitch, not least because most publishers’ time has been fully booked with pre-arranged meetings.

The London Book Fair isn’t, in its current form, a brilliant place for authors looking for literary agents or publishers for their book. Some people do manage it, but anyone who turns up without having made contact beforehand is likely to be disappointed. Even though I was there not as an author but as a consultant and journalist, the only people I had substantive meetings with were those whom I’d already arranged to see or knew personally. And that’s the pattern of the fair: If you don’t have an appointment you can leave your business card and hope that someone calls you, but it’s unlikely to happen given how solidly booked everyone is.

I think that next year, the London Book Fair would do well to carefully consider how they expect authors and industry to interact. Some of the authors I spoke to felt under served by the existing set-up because although they could easily meet their peers or go to seminars, there was little opportunity for them to talk to people from the industry.

The elephant in the exhibition hall is, of course, the desire of some authors — though definitely not all — to sell their books and their inability to do anything much about it. Although there was a pitching session, it was an opportunity limited in scope.

One option for next year might be to have a pre-submission process where authors who have bought tickets can electronically submit their manuscript in advance to a limited number of publishers or agents, who can then request a meeting if they want to. Or maybe an author-agent/publisher speed dating event where the author gets five minutes to make an impression.

Another idea came from the literary agent I chatted to, who suggested that perhaps it might be interesting to create a fringe event for authors to provide a better environment in which to talk to agents, editors and publishers. I don’t think that it would be smart to separate authors off completely from the main fair — I found it very helpful to just wander round, look  at the different stalls and get a feel for the publishing landscape. But I think there does need to be more space devoted to authors and more opportunity for conversations not just with each other but with people from the industry.

As the industry continues its transition to digital, and as self-publishing becomes an increasingly powerful force, it makes sense to find ways to facilitate conversations that will meet the needs of both authors and agents/publishers, without swamping either with unrealistic demands. An unmediated casting call for new talent would drown agents and publishers in slush, of which they have enough already. But leaving authors to simply chat amongst themselves does them a disservice, as many of those who make the effort to attend are exactly the sort of highly-motivated, entrepreneurial authors that the industry needs.

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Self Publishing


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6 Easy Steps To Book Your Author Blog Tour

6 Easy Steps To Book Your Author Blog TourIt’s pretty common knowledge in the publishing industry that most book signing tours don’t generate big bucks for new authors. Sure—book tours can stir up buzz and interest. But most of the time, bookstore tours are put in place only after an author has established some kind of meaningful reputation that can translate into lines that wrap around the store.

These days, there’s a new way of connecting with readers that doesn’t involve brick-and-mortar book signings: blog tours. A blog tour is when an author does a series of interviews or guest posts on the blogs of book readers and reviewers. Blog tours are fantastic for author self-promotion.

Most of the time, blog tours are synchronized with book releases so that writers can sell more copies of their books. Blog tours can be inexpensive, fun, and rewarding!

How To Set Up a Blog Tour To Promote A Book

There are many ways to kick off your promotional blog tour. You can:

  • Hire a publicist to nab spots on popular blogs.
  • Hire an established and reputable book blog tour company (NOTE: There are unscrupulous companies that claim to get gigs for their clients on dozens of blogs, many of which lack a meaningful audience or are owned by the companies themselves).
  • Set up blogging dates yourself.

If you’re a DIYer and want to book a blog tour without having to pay for publicity help, here are the five steps that will get your book on great blogs.

1. Start reading book blogs. Do your research and narrow your focus to those blogs whose audiences are active readers in your genre. Make a list and track the blog’s attributes, audience participation, readership, and proclivities. HINT: Establish a clear minimum number in your head for the number of blogs that you’d like to appear on.

2. Establish a relationship. If possible, begin leaving comments on the blogs you like. Visit regularly. You may need to demonstrate your genuine appreciation of the blog before you’re invited to appear on it. Use Twitter and other networks to give shout-outs to blogs you like.

3. Write up a pitch plan. Some bloggers have writers beating down their door, begging for reviews and free promotion. You’ll need to make yourself stand out with a personal touch as well as an incentive. Are you willing to give away free copies of your book? Is your idea of what you’d like to “do” on the blog consistent with what the blogger is already doing? Are you willing to do interviews or only guest posts? Will you host the blogger on your author blog in exchange?

4. Draft your “nice to meet you” letter. Reach out to the blogger via a personal email when possible. Be kind, flexible, and maybe a little deferential: you’re asking to be invited to the party, after all. Express your appreciation for the blog and volunteer to host a giveaway (should the blogger believe that his/her audience would benefit from your visit to the blog).

5. Follow instructions carefully. If a blogger agrees to host you, be sure to follow directions. Also, include links to your social networks and author website in your post—just don’t overdo it.

6. Set up your blog calendar. On the days that your blog post is to appear on each guest blog, be sure to put in an appearance that day. Leave comments, interact with readers, thank the host for having you. Then, if you’re running a contest, follow up as soon as possible by sending out the prize.

When Your Author Blog Tour Is Over

Be sure to thank your host for his/her willingness to help you; you might even want to mail out a little thank-you gift. Then, keep your contacts well organized so that when you have another reason to do a blog tour, their contact information will be at your fingertips.

QUESTION: Do you like the idea of doing a blog tour?

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Posted by on April 18, 2013 in Self Publishing


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