Self-Publishing: The One Question You need to Answer

Next Step

Next Step

When writing or creating something large, you can easily get lost in the process.

Ideas flit about and you try to keep track of them all.

You chase down dead ends. You jot notes down to remember certain things and then lose the notes. You write and realize that the last six paragraphs are a waste because you just wrote in a giant circle. You forget important ideas until the exact moment you are working on a different, essential idea and can’t stop. You switch topics and then lose track of the first, or was it second?, important idea.

And this does not take into account all the thoughts/decisions with the publishing process.

You can become really discouraged as this unfolds before you.

However, you will always be o.k. if you can answer one question: What is the next step I need to take?

The creation of any complete, complex work actually hinges on answering this one single question repeatedly.

Answer that one question, and you will be surprised how the work is capable of moving on, step by step, even if you feel lost or overwhelmed.

In an endeavor as large as publishing a book, there is really only one question to your potential success: what is your next step?

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Self-Publishing: Do you allow your creative endeavors to pressure you? I think you should

Matter over Mind

Matter over Mind

Any time you create something in a larger a context- a book, a dissertation, a gallery show- you need to understand that you will need to have a different set of skills than if you were just writing a blog, a paper, or completing a single piece of art work.

Not only is the scope and volume larger, but the energy required to maintain the context and focus of the work is a much more significant investment.

We are all familiar with the sense of artistic momentum, but too often we think of momentum only arising from within us. We chastise ourselves if we are not “self-motivated” enough and miss our own deadlines and such.

What I find though, when I am working on something substantial with its own meaning that once I invest and commit to it, the project itself begins to pressure me for completion.

I may not want to write on a certain day nor complete another art image for the book, but there it is, the sense from the project pushing at me, prodding me, calling out to me to keep working.

Emotions and how I feel have very little to do, I have found, with the success of my results. What does matter, because without it, nothing would ever be created, is the engagement with creation. The simple act of doing trumps any hurdle I may place in front of myself.

I always cave in when I feel a project “pressuring” me- calling out to me to do one more page, one more image, to keep working, to keep pulling ideas together.

And in this way, I feel carried and supported by an energy not culled up from the depths of my own self-motivation (which is rather weak on some days.)

Pressure transforms even the most solid structures. For once, let your project place the pressure on you. Stop just setting arbitrary deadlines and appointments that you must generate self-motivation to meet. Instead let the project pressure you. Let it call out to you what needs to be done.

Self-Publishing: The One and Done Method

Hope

Hope

As I am working on a new book (yes, I will now become that blogger- the one going on and on about her creative work 🙂 ), I was reading about different creative techniques.

I was reading about an author who produced 2 books per year for years. As I read about his approach, I summarized it in my mind with the following:

He wrote like he meant it.

Too often, I am guilty of “sort of committing” to a creative act. In my current book, I leave loose ends throughout. Page arrangements are half-way completed. I make notes to myself about images that I need to complete for a section. I don’t complete the image and instead move on to the next task, and seldom complete that task either.

The book is currently in a state of half-eaten meals with a bunch of crumbs laying about.

I realize we always need to leave space for spontaneous ideas and such in the middle of a creation, but I wonder what it would look like if we fully committed to the portion currently in hand.

What if, during every page, every paragraph, every sentence, we wrote like we meant it? No “sort of” attempts. No “I’ll revise this later.” No “This is good enough for now.”

What if you said to yourself that you were going to be patient enough to finish the current paragraph you are working on before jumping to the next?

What would it look like for me to complete 3-4 solid pages of my book, before flipping ahead and partially completing the next thing, one unfinished task linked to the next?

So, I am trying this new approach- the One and Done Method- when I have a large project such as completing a book.

I will commit to completing One task and getting that task Done before moving on.

The reason for this is obvious. When you tackle a project such as self-publishing, it is literally one task after another.

I think too many projects slow down, in my experience at least, because you become overwhelmed by all the loose ends that have been created if you don’t complete each task as it arises. And you can lose the focus of the work and yourself in the process.

Thus, I am trying to commit myself- no matter how small the task may be- to completing to the end (including format, font selection, spell checking and so on) one item every day.

No more loose ends for this writer 🙂 Ever task reduced to the simple idea:
One and Done.

And I am going to commit to writing like I mean it, and I hope you do the same.

Self-Publishing: Services to help “Hold the Space” of Your Creation

First, I want to thank everyone who has read/commented on my blogs about self-publishing. I was worried these would come off as self-serving, when my intent, as was obvious to many of you, was to help anyone avoid the places at which I stumbled. (It’s due to the teacher in me 🙂 ).

I think one of the most difficult things in creating a book is “holding the space” for the entire creation. It is easy to get lost in the process. You think you have a good flow of ideas as you work along and then you realize, you are writing/creating in circles and can’t quite hold the big picture in your head.

I want to suggest two services I used to help me keep track of the big picture and hold the space for my entire creation.

For Image Books:
1. Blurb books– BLurb books is used primarily to create books with images. Many use it when they create personal albums of evenst, and you can sell and purchase these books on the Blurb Bookstore. I would not recommend Blurb books if your book does not contain a lot of images. But, for me, Blurb was so helpful, because it has templates, automatic formatting, easy page numbering, headers and so on. Basically, Blurb was invaluable because it is used to create an entire book, not just a document, such as MS Word.

To use Blurb Books, you must download the free software, which is very user-friendly. Any issues I encountered were handled by reading the various forums.

Blurb books and the software enabled me to see my book as a whole entity, not just page by page. There is a 1- page, 2-page, and entire book previewer. By looking at the entire book preview, I could see where I had too many text pages or too many similar pages next to each other. To move pages around, delete or add pages was a snap.

I realize there are other software options available, but Blurb books enables a complete novice to format a book for free. However, please note, if you purchase Blurb books, they tend to be expensive, and you can only sell them directly in Blurb bookstore.

At the end of your creation, you now also have the option of purchasing a pdf of your book for $4.99.

For Text Books
2. Scrivener The software I use for organizing text for books is Scrivener. Although there is a free trial for this software, for long-term use, you do need to purchase it. Scrivener is a like having your writing office on your computer. There is a “notebook” for ideas, a “bulletin board” to tack up “note cards” which you can move around, you can add and remove pages with ease, you can create an outline, title page, chapter index, you can work on any page that you want, keep things separate, or merge items together.

Basically, Scrivener helps you take a daunting task- creating a book, and helps you break it down bit by bit. You can work on a little bit at a time, without having to hold the entire document in your head. I have found it very easy to use (after watching some tutorials. Well, okay, I did not watch the tutorials all the way at first, assuming after the first 1:30 minutes, that “I got this”. I would not recommend this approach- watch the entire tutorial.)

What I have like most about Scrivener it that it allows you to keep sections of your work “discrete” (my word) rather than one, long, continuous document. Maybe it is just me, but I can get overwhelmed working from beginning to end. Plus, my ideas tend to jump around, and if the entire document is continuous, it can cause issues when I lose where I am.

I have used both of these services at different times, because they enable me to see my projects as a whole. They help me “hold the space” of my creation without being sidetracked into the wilderness of my often random thoughts 🙂

Self-Publishing on KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

It’s funny the fantasies we can bring into certain endeavors. When my book was accepted by Createspace, I was ecstatic.

After the upload and information about when the book would be available, I was asked if I would like to submit my book to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Oh heck yes! I am one woman who loves her Kindle.

I had researched enough to realize Createspace and KDP were separate entities (although both associated with Amazon). (I.e. just because you publish on Createspace, your book is not automatically just accepted into KDP and ready for Kindle. You actually create separate accounts and so on, but Createspace will “send” your book to KDP)

Once, I clicked “Yes”, I was taken to the KDP site, created a log-in, and my book from Createspace was listed there.

Wonderful! How easy was this going to be, I thought to myself, as clicked onto my book anxiously, so excited to get it listed for Kindles. (One of the things I really like about myself is my optimism, no matter how misguided it is at some moments.)

Then, I read the larger-than-fine print. I submitted my file through Createspace as a pdf. Not a problem, as pdf’s are great for moving a lot of information.

When I scrolled the list of accepted file formats for the Kindle, it began with a strong, encouraging statement that .DOC/.DOCX (MS Word) was the preferred format. What?

I had worked to create a good, stable pdf and now I had to go back to MS Word and a document with images??

(Note:KDP will accept pdf’s but they are not the preferred format. I can actually see why. PDF’s use some strange formats. IN addition, I had overlooked this, Kindles and other ereaders provide readers with options, such as changing font size and so on. It is very difficult for users to have this manipulation with a pdf. Although I was disappointed, I did understand this point.)

So, on to converting my Pdf back to MS Word.

Got the file converted and saw the option of previewing my book in the “Kindle Previewer” provided by KDP. I have to tell you – this is SO COOL. The previewer shows you how your book will look in Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Paperwhite, ipad, iphone, landscape and portrait views.

For a minute I was so struck by the awesome-ness of this service I did not clearly register the horror-inducing display of my book on the Kindle Previewer. (THANK GOODNESS i HAD NOT HIT “PUBLISH” BEFORE DOING THIS STEP)

Going from PDF to MS Word for electronic purposes- how shall I put this- does not a pretty picture create when images, poems, etc are involved. The formatting signs between the two programs ended up creating some “wonky” formats.

My “pages” in the Kindle appeared as the following;

“T
h
e” (page 1)

Spirit (page 2)

w
it
hin…” (page 3)

and so on. Did I mention- It was NOT pretty.

I ended up having to re-format the MS WORD document. In my mind MS WORD can be like the “helpful” child in the kitchen. Yes, if the child is “helping” you, you are getting some eggs beaten together and so on, but you really do not need the help. This is what MS WORD does. It tries to “help” you with auto-formatting, slightly altering spacing between letters as needed and so on.

You would never notice this on your MS Word document, put it on an ereader though and suddenly a new world opens to you (By the way, I now have a new level of understanding and patience when I come across a “typo” in a book on my Kindle. It is easy to overlook these formatting glitches.)

One way around these formatting issues is to choose the correct font. You need to select an “ereader friendly” font. This is key. The first font I chose had the ereader smashing together every “s” and “w” with the following letter. (You can find lists of the best fonts on various websites.)

Once I reformatted the book, I uploaded it again and used the Kindle Previewer to check everything out. It was fine, and I am so thankful the previewer was available.

I have to say other than the glitches with formatting, publishing through KDP was so very easy.

If you do create a book, please consider somehow getting it into electronic format.

The only other thing I had to do is to contact KDP (very easy) to have my print and Kindle versions linked on Amazon. Sometimes this happens automatically, for me it did not, but they corrected it within 24 hours.

Happy writing!

Self-Publishing: Do you have the “data” you need?

When I was getting my PhD in science, we always set the goal of 5 figures for each article we submitted for acceptance to peer-reviewed journals.

My advisor and the group he was associated with felt that 5 figures “told the story”. Five was likely an arbitrary figure, but it worked for us. We had a lot of accepted publications over the years.

This number also provided a guide for when we could consider we were “done” and ready to publish a given set (science experiments in a lab are not discrete- things overlap, build upon one another, and roll forward from previous work ).

The other thing the criteria of 5 figures did was it stopped us from telling lies to ourselves that we were ready to publish when we were in fact not. If we couldn’t pull five solid figures from the data, then we had not done enough to get a publication.

And this is where I am leading into the discussion of self-publishing. I have had several people ask, “How long exactly did it take?” or “How did you get this done so fast?”

My answers are “Not really that long at all” and “I already had all my data”.

What I am trying to say is that self-publishing did not take me that long because I already had everything I needed- a complete story (in my mind, at least).

I had all the artistic figures done, and a good portion of the writing. I just needed to link it together.

You can begin your self-publishing journey before you have everything complete. You don’t need “all the data and your five figures.”

However, like my advisor used to say, “You can’t make 3 figures worth of data into 5. And you can’t make 3 figures into a complete story. So, get back to work.” 🙂

You also can not publish a complete book from incomplete information.

If you start the self-publishing process before you have everything complete, i.e. you really need to write 5 more chapters of your book, that is fine, but realize you will complete the self-publishing process more slowly. Not because the process is slow, but because you did not have all the data you needed.

If it is important to you that self-publishing is a quick process, then make sure you have all “data” you need before you begin.

Otherwise, as my advisor would say if you try to publish too soon, because he grew up on a farm, “You are trying to get milk from an empty udder.”

Self-Publishing on the Cheap Side (Read: Free)

Letting Go

Letting Go

From my other blog, you know what I felt was key to move from idea to actually self-publishing. I want to talk a little bit then about the service I eventually chose.

Because my objectives were no upfront costs and to have my book on Amazon, I chose to use Amazon’s self-publishing service – Createspace.

Createspace does offer some pay services- cover design, formatting, etc. BUT you do not NEED to pay for any of these.

Because Createspace is set-up for authors to do everything on their own for free, there are many, many tutorials available on-line which will show you step-by-step the Createspace process.

Here are some basics about some of the FREE things I took advantage of.

ISBN and Listing on Amazon:
Createspace assigns you an ISBN! Yeah!! You do not have to pay for this 🙂 If you want to sell your book through a bookstore or Amazon, you must have an ISBN. If you buy your own- one costs $125!

Once your book is done and finished, it is immediately posted on the Amazon site.

FREE BOOK FORMATTING “HELP”:

Okay, “help” may be a strong word here (a really strong word, in fact). But, life is the result of how you look at things and I chose to look at these opportunities as “Help”.

Formatting your book for printing is probably the most the tricky part of Createspace. If you are doing this all on your own, this can be the place that trips you up and makes you want to stop. Don’t stop, though, help is available.

It is one thing to type something out on MS word or some other program. It is another thing to get something in publishable format.

Createspace has several FREE MS word templates that you can use. Several book sizes are offered- please check to see what book size is most typical for your type of book- i.e. fiction vs. nonfiction and so on.

If you are like me, there are several things you will overlook in this process:

Correct page numbering. Seems ridiculously obvious, but the first version of the book I uploaded began at page 5. I had deleted some front material and I had forgotten to reformat the page numbering.

Right and left page numbering. Take a book from your shelf and see how it is numbered. Look at how chapters end and new chapters begin. All of this must be taken into account by you when you are formatting your book. Again, there are many helpful sites about these specific issues (i.e. don’t simply use spacing to get to a new page in MS word, you must you Page and Sections breaks.)

Trim size– your work must be oriented on the page so nothing is cut off in the printing process. What looks “fine” on MS word on your computer may go a bit horribly wrong when you upload the file and they show you how it will appear on a book, printed page.

The templates and videos/forums can help you address all of this.

FREE CHECKS AND BALANCES
When you are doing something all on your own, it is easy to make mistakes. Createspace offers two free services to help you avoid a book printing disaster.

As I wrote, formatting the book is the biggest challenge and you can overlook a lot of things. But never fear! On Createspace, once you uplaod your file, they have something called “Interior Reviewer”. The Interior Reviewer shows how your book will look when it is printed- page by page.

This is where I had “99+” formatting issues, because my first file had the pictures too close to the inner margin. Lesson learned and disaster prevented. This process is so critical. It can help you see if you have extra pages or are missing a page break and so on.

You have to keep reworking the file until it eventually has no critical errors related to printing.

CHECK AND BALANCE #2
Createspace MUST approve your book before you can actually have it printed and uploaded to Amazon.

The turn around only takes 24 hours and this service is INVALUABLE and again is free! (I had no idea this step was required.)

With my first attempt, they sent me an e-mail informing me of the page numbering issues I had, as well as some of my images lacked the resolution required.

Such feedback may be frustrating to hear, but isn’t it wonderful there is a check system in place before you launch your book?

Had this service not been provided I would have produced a book that looked as if it were missing the first 5 pages.

COVER DESIGN:
If you want to pay for a cover design, Createspace suggests a service to use. However, you can also go the cheap route and create your own- BUT you don’t have to do this from scratch (unless you want to).

Createspace has some basic cover options, which you can manipulate some on your own and create your unique cover completely for free.

This is what I did for my cover. The basic design was set and I just inserted my own picture.

The Createspace site takes you through each step of creating the cover. You complete one aspect at a time- i.e. add title, add information on author, etc.

I realize Createspace is not for everyone. But, for me, I could not believe, as long as I was doing the work, I could get all of this for free.

Happy writing! 🙂

Self-Publishing- One of the Key Steps to Move from Idea to Product

Hardcopy

Hardcopy

As most of you know, I published a book recently. I mentioned that I would write a blog or two about my process.
Before I lay out my journey, I want to let you know that I learned so much from the various blogs, forums and tutorial videos that I checked out during my transition from idea or completion.

I guarantee that whatever concept you have, whatever format you are dreaming about, someone else has likely tried it and you can learn from them. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to “figure things out” and re-invent the wheel. Whenever or where ever you are stuck, do a quick search and you will be surprised at how much work has already been done.

The most important piece of advice I can give you is this: Be clear about YOUR objectives.

If you can do this, you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

When I say be clear about your objectives, with so many options out there, I suggest you pick your two top priorities. (yes, we would all like to choose the route of the large advancement from a major publishing house with guaranteed placement on the NY Times bestseller list- I am assuming if you reading my blog, you are not quite at that level 🙂 ).

My top two priorities were this:
1. Limited (no) upfront costs.
2. Book listed on Amazon

That was it and those two points drove most of my decisions.

(A VERY key note: Please notice my objectives are things under MY control. I would not recommend choosing objectives that you can NOT control – i.e. “I want to sell 500 copies in the first month.” You do not have control over such a manifestation. Your objectives should be things you are deciding because they are YOUR decision to make (i.e. under your control). )

Your thoughts may be different about your objectives.

You may not mind upfront costs. You may appreciate the service you receive for those costs. For me, to think about following this option just created a sense of stress, so I knew it was not a good fit.

I felt if I spent $600 to use a certain self-publishing process, it would take away my enjoyment. I would be worried if it was a waste of money, and how could I ever sell enough books to cover the cost. So I limited a number of publishers based on this concern.

As for selling on Amazon, this was ESSENTIAL to me. I don’t know why, but it was.

For example, I set my book up on Blurb books- wonderful, wonderful service. There is actually a Blurb Bookstore where you can sell your books. I could have done that and finished the project there. HOwever, this would not fulfill my goal, as BLurb is not linked to Amazon in any way. Thus, in my mind the Blurb option for selling was eliminated for me.

In future posts, I will take you through the services that I did end up using. But after researching self-publishing for what seemed like years, I thought it was important to let you know what finally “did it” for me.

Really what enabled the idea to move from idea to product was that I was clear about what I wanted AND I could find services to fulfill that need. Otherwise, it is much too easy to get lost in the self-publishing jungle out there- examining one option after another and never deciding because they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Until next time…choose your main two objectives and keep writing!

A Book with Heart

Exchange

Exchange

So I did it. Sometimes with a bit less grace than I would have liked. Too many times with a bit more frustration than I care to admit. But in the end, I created a book of some of my heart images and sayings. 🙂

I created something that I would like to use. I did not ramble in this book as I do on this blog… but instead chose what I felt best represented me and best represented the heart within me.

I wanted to create something that I could picture someone (or myself) flipping through in hard copy or Kindle format to be inspired for a moment or two.

Here are the links if you are interested. (Hopefully Amazon will soon link these on one page)

Kindle

Kindle

Kindle Version

Hardcopy

Hardcopy

Hardcopy

On a sidenote, creating a book with images is a whole different animal when you are publishing. I am happy to discuss with anyone (or perhaps I will blog about it) the process I took. It involved Blurb books to pdf to Createspace to MS word to Kindle Publishing….. enough said, right?

I will tell you at one point, I uploaded the book to one service, and they sent back a chipper e-mail with the following “You have 99+ formatting errors in your book.”

Well, perhaps the “+” was not included after the “99” – who knows, I think my vision was blacking out when I read those words.

I actually was surprised they did not follow the number of errors line with a suggestion that it all seemed hopeless and I should just quit. 🙂

At some point, I will try to post the book links so they stay up as part of my blog page. I just need to gear up my confidence to tackle another computer/formatting issue.

If you get the book or Kindles format- I hope you find them inspiring! 🙂 Thanks for all of your help and support and if I can help you in anyway with publishing concerns, etc. please feel free to contact me.

I am, after all, the woman who corrected 99+ formatting issues in one edition. 🙂