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Industry related articles to help answer some questions about the self-publishing process.

Hyperlinked Back Lists – Do it!

I just wanted to put a little note here about back lists. If you have written more than one book, you have a back list that readers need to know about. The best way to show readers that you have other work they might be interested in while they’re already enjoying one of your books is to list your other work in the back matter of your books.

What’s that? You do that already? Great! But do you have hyperlinks to your books so readers can go directly to the sales page for each title and buy it? I hope so, but if not, you are wasting some valuable real estate in the back of your books.

Most people, believe it or not, are kind of short on attention span. If they have to look for your book by searching for you, going to your website, finding the title they like then finding a link to buy it, then going to the retail site…you see what I mean. Skip all that.

Book Title – click – done! That makes it easier for everyone.

You know all this? Great! One last thing you may or may not have thought of. Each retail site like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, etc. all require that any buy link inside your self-published books goes only to their respective websites. So, no Amazon links in a Nook book.

The best thing you can do is to take your current back list and put it into a blank word document and set it up exactly as if it were in one of your books. Now, copy/paste that bad boy 5 more times in the same document and label them according to publisher, and one that has links to your website’s book pages. Now add your book links to each list so they correspond to the publisher. Save that new master back list and update it with any new books your write in the future and the links to get to them.

Whenever you have a new self-pub title ready to format send the updated master list along with your manuscript to your formatter, hopefully me. That way I can easily insert the appropriate back lists in the corresponding book versions. 

Or…

You can pay me to do it for you. I charge $20 an hour. The average book list of 10 to 20 books requires between 1 and 2 hours to create all the versions. So, if you want me to build your back lists, and insert the links to all the various publishing sites I’m happy to do it. But I think you’d be happier to save some cash.

Either way, a linked back list in each version of your book/books is crucial to building incremental sales for your career. So my advice is… do it:-)

Thanks for reading, and as always…Thanks so much for your business!

Lee, IHFormatting

Multi-Author Boxed Set tips for self-pubbers

I’ve compiled a list of helpful tips and suggestions that may make the difficult task of publishing a multi-author boxed set a little bit easier. Working with a large group of people of a creative project has it’s own set of challenges. My goal here is to help smooth out some of the sticking points that may come up during the process.
One thing that is often overlooked by a group of authors is the consistency of the finished boxed set. I don’t mean the consistency of the story, simply the uniformity of the look and feel of the set. As authors you have already done the hard part of writing your individual stories. So now we need to make sure they’re all received by the readers in an easy to read package.

Order of the Matter
To make sure that the reader has a seamless reading experience and that each author is represented equally, it is best to work out an agreement between all authors involved in the project to have everything inside each individual story in the same order. So, basically each author’s front, body and back matter is organized in the same pattern before submitting for formatting.

What I see as the most common order follows below:

Main Boxed Set Title Page
Main Boxed Set Copyright info
Dedication, Author Notes to Readers, Acknowledgments, etc.
Table of Contents
Story 1 – Title Page and/or copyright info
Story 1 – Front Matter- Dedication, etc.
Story 1 – Body Text
Story 1 – Blurbs or Excerpts for upcoming work by this author
Story 1 – Author Back List
Story 1 – About the Author
————–
Story 2 – Title Page and/or copyright info
Story 2 – Front Matter- Dedication, etc.
Story 2 – Body Text
Story 2 – Blurbs or Excerpts for upcoming work by this author
Story 2 – Author Back List
Story 2 – About the Author
————-
Etc.

Back Lists

Back lists are a great way to make sure readers see your other work, and links to those books in your back list make it that much easier for the reader to find your books. I highly encourage linked back lists. However, all of the publishing sites require the buy links to be specific to their website. For example, if I make a Kindle version of your boxed set and you have linked back lists for all the authors, the links must be Amazon links.

The best thing to do is for each author to make a single document with publisher-specific linked back lists for all the retailers for quick insertion into your back matter. So, depending on where you will submit your boxed set you might need a linked back list for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, your website (for use in Smashwords files), etc. It will speed up the process to have each author make a single document with all the back lists you’ll need.

It will save you time and money to have each author build the multiple linked back list document themselves and include that document with their book file and cover image. I’m happy to pull links from the authors’ websites and create the back lists for you, but I do charge for that service and it does increase the time of the job substantially. Especially considering that most boxed sets are averaging 8 to 10 authors.

Chapter Headings
To maintain a consistent look throughout the set it’s best to decide as a group what style of chapter headings you want to use. Some examples: Chapter One, CHAPTER ONE, Chapter 1, One. Just from this you can imagine what it would look like to have all these various styles in one boxed set. You would never find inconsistent formatting in an anthology from a major publishing house, so it’s best to make sure everyone is on the same page when self-publishing.

Scene Breaks
Another thing that helps to add consistency is to decide on a unified scene break symbol. Most choose to use the industry standard triple asterisk ***, while others choose to use an image. I can do anything you want, but it should be consistent throughout the boxed set if you’re just using keyboard symbols.
If it is an image, a neat graphic that is symbolic of your story, that’s not a problem either. But to add that interesting graphic to one or two stories and not the others might look weird. I recommend that if one or two authors have an image for their scene breaks, that all the other authors in the set should consider doing the same thing. It looks awesome and differentiates each author’s story and tone. Or you can choose an image that is representative of your Boxed Set’s overall theme.

Excerpts and/or Blurbs
How many excerpts is each author adding to their back matter? How long is each excerpt? Are you going with excerpts, or would blurbs be better? These are a few of the questions I’ve noticed author groups working through to get their boxed sets completed. It’s best to work all this out in the beginning of the project to make sure every author is given the same amount of exposure in the boxed set. Story length will vary, but if a few authors have full chapter excerpts and the rest have blurbs, that can lead to some authors being under-represented in the set.

Everything I listed here is typical of what authors have to go back and discuss before formatting can begin. It takes time to get consensus in a group so I hope this helps you save some time and make the process a little less complicated. Thanks so much for reading, and as always, thanks so much for your business!

Lee

 

The Financial Side of Self-Pubbing Boxed Sets

Recently there has been a new trend in offering Multi-Author Bundles or Boxed Sets for sale. It’s a great deal for the readers, who are getting to sample from many authors at once, and a great deal for the authors who get to cross-promote their work to readers who may not have been introduced to them yet.

 The bundle phenomenon is really picking up steam, and I’ve formatted quite a few multi-author and single author boxed sets for many of you. But I’ve started getting a lot of questions about the multi-author bundles and how certain financial aspects should be handled. I hate not having answers for my clients so I started looking into it. But after several hours of striking out on Google trying to find a blog or website devoted to the financial side of the issue I started asking some of my clients who’ve been successful at bundling about their experiences and advice on the subject.

 Sometimes the bundles are published by publishing houses, but a large portion are now being self-published. The authors that go through a publishing house have things a bit more streamlined in terms of sorting out the logistics. They have professional contracts and the publisher handles all the royalty payments.

However, when authors choose to self-publish their boxed set this can present some challenges when figuring out how to set things up on the financial side. Specifically, how do the authors distribute the royalties for the sales?

For example, if you have 5 authors and they self-publish a single titled bundle of five stories, that’s technically 5 books by 5 authors smashed into one. Currently all the major self-pubbing retailers (KDP, Nook Press, Smashwords, etc.) are only set up to accept a title from an individual source, be that a publisher or an author. So, that means only one “entity” can submit the bundle. And consequently that one “entity” is the only one who gets paid. So, how do we handle this challenge?

 

1. Here’s one scenario from New York Times Bestselling author Stacey Joy Netzel.  I learned from her that for the highly successful bundle, Loving The CEO, (she contributed her title More Than A Kiss), they had one author submit the book and receive the royalties. Then that author paid out the equally divided royalties to the other authors at predetermined times, monthly, quarterly, etc. A contract is probably advisable here just to make sure that everything is consistent and every person is on board with all the details.

The tricky part with this method is for the author who originally receives and distributes the royalties. They also have to send out 1099-MISC tax forms at the end of the year to each author to make sure that the tax burden is evenly divided. Otherwise the royalty catcher will also catch a massively disproportionate tax burden from Uncle Sam. So, discussing the finer points with an accountant would be a great idea here.

1.a. Here’s a trick I learned from New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Hawkeye. It is the same as the above method, but is a helpful way to handle the royalties when publishing a short run boxed set for between 1 and 3 months. Instead of paying out the royalties as they come in each month, wait for the entire publishing run of the book, then a few months past it until all final royalties come in, then distribute a single payment to each author. Keep in mind that this is going to be a 3 to 6 month wait considering that most royalties are paid 60 days after the sales months by some retailers, and quarterly by others. So if you take your book off sale on the 31st of the month, you’ll have to wait 60 days until you get that last payment from Nook and Kindle, but will potentially have to wait longer for payments from Smashwords and All Romance e-books if the quarterly cycle is later in the year.

2. This next scenario from another author is more technically involved and may be a bit more of a logistical challenge when working with so many people who may not live in close proximity to each other. The collective of authors can set up their own publishing LLC or corporation in order to act as the single entity to publish the book, then receive and distribute the royalties. This frees up any one author from having to handle payday each month and tax documents at the end of the year, but it’s more difficult to set up. Once again, an accountant may be needed to help setup the LLC and manage and distribute the funds each month. But that accountant will of course have a fee for those services. The benefit of this method is the potentially “hands free” nature of it once everything is set up. The drawbacks are the initial set up and cost outlay.

3. This last method is what I’ll call it the Charity method. It’s basically the same as the first method, but in order to avoid the payouts and tax documentation the authors agree to donate all profits to charity in the name of the book and its authors. This way the authors still get the benefit of cross-promoting, the readers get a variety of different author voices, and a worthy cause gets some much needed financial help and visibility.

I hope this helps answer some questions and offers some possible solutions to the challenges of self-publishing multi-author boxed sets. I’m interested to know of any other methods or experiences you might have had with multi-author projects. Feel free to comment. I’m grateful for any insights that can help others to succeed with this. Thanks for reading:-)

Now With More Twitter! What took me so long?

Yes, I finally did it. I jumped in to the Twitter pool. I have a handle and everything, @IHFormatting. I have to admit that when it started just a handful of years ago I thought Twitter was dumb. What could you possibly say in 140 characters. It seemed so limiting and…teenagery.

And with all the celebrities having twitter fights, drunk tweets, over exposure tweets, and other inane B.S. I thought “Give it time. This is just a fad.” Says the guy who uses technology to make his living on the interwebz. I just didn’t get it.

Then Egypt happened. That’s the power of Twitter. All I have to say is “then Egypt happened” and everybody knows what I mean. This dinky-doo social media site had become a force of change in the world. So, I started paying a lot more attention and asking some of you if you thought it was worth while for me to get an account. Not to start a revolution, just to be connected. I just wasn’t sure what I’d say.

The answer from every corner was “Yes! Do it!”.  Ana E. Ross, or @anaeross, said that it would be a great way for me to connect with authors and meet new clients who could use my services. @RG_Alexander said I should use it to post the books I had finished formatting to help my authors promote their work. Great advice from 2 great authors!

So for the past few days that’s what I’ve been doing. Finding new clients and helping to promote my existing clients. But not only that…I’m following @WilliamShatner! Holy Star Trek this is awesome! If you didn’t already know I’m a huge geek and in love with all things sci-fi, especially Star Trek. So to be able to communicate, ok so it’s mostly one sided, with the crew of the Enterprise is pure geek heaven.

I will say that Twitter gives the illusion of familiarity with celebrities, if not actual contact. It’s kind of like you’re on the outside of a circle of bodyguards and friends of your favorite celeb, then you overhear them say something clever. So you shout above the din of other voices, “Hey that was really funny! I totally agree with what you just said because it relates to my life!” Then, if you’re lucky… they give you the nod, as if to say, “I approve of your approval.” Then we get all giddy. OK, I do because deep down I’m like Lucille Ball meeting a celebrity. If I actually met @NathanFillion or any TV Captain in person I’d probably spill my soda on him and Ricky Ricardo would come around the corner saying “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.” So, I’ll count my blessings if I get a Retweet from any of my idols, and maybe spill soda on myself if I ever get an actual reply:)

Yes, Twitter can be addictive, and at times it can even be annoying, #Snookie. But it seems like you all are way ahead of me on discovering how powerful of a thing Twitter actually is for social awareness, marketing, and just seeing what your favorite Captain is doing this morning.

So, I’m truly a Twitter convert and feel like I’m finally not missing out on all the cool stuff. But I do have one question. Can anyone tell me about this MySpace thing?

I found a Typo!!!

Somewhere in the world a typo is slippgni threuw teh craks, hiding in the shadows, waiting to ruin your day. Chances are the scenario below has happened to you:

You wrote for hundreds of hours finishing and fine tuning your manuscript. Now it’s off to the editor, cringe. It comes back from the editor and your critique partners and beta readers. Wow, that’s a lot of red ink (digitally speaking of course). You now hate Track Changes with a fiery passion, but you push through and get the changes in, and even make some more of your own.

OK! Now it’s done and ready to go to Lee at IRONHORSE Formatting. So I get your awesome book, free from any possible errors…right?

Well…possibly. So, I format the book and send you all the e-book versions and a Createspace print version for good measure. You publish the book. Ahhhh…deep sigh of relief.

But you can’t resist one last look through. Now that the world is reading it, it’s only natural to want to make sure all your hard work looks the way it’s supposed to. “Wait…what’s that? A typo?!?! ‘Drake kissed her lungingly.’ Lungingly?!?! How could I miss that? How did other people miss that? It even has the ^^^^^^ under it. Nooooooooooo!”

Typos!  They happen to every author I’ve ever worked with or talked to. Typos suck, but they are a nasty reality of the business. When you type tens of thousands of words, there will be at least one, and probably more that come out wrong. Whether it’s a misspelled word or some other issue, every book has them.

The great thing about self-publishing is that you now have the option of fixing any mistakes you find and uploading the new version of your book quickly. Though traditional publishing (New York publishing) has it’s benefits, one of the drawbacks is that your book will languish on shelves until the next printing, typos and all. That can take months or years, depending on sell through and publisher support. But a self-pubbed novel can be fixed and re-uploaded before your use of the word “Lungingly” starts trending on Twitter.

Here’s the catch. Once I’ve formatted your books and sent them to you, most of those versions (.mobi and .epub files) are, for all intents and purposes, “locked”. That’s to prevent errors from being introduced into the book no matter what machine or device the file is opened with. They are basically the completed e-books that readers get. The publishing sites do very little to them before making them available for sale.

I found typos. Now what?

So, if you find that you need some typos fixed let me know. You won’t be able to make any changes to the file I sent you for Kindle or Nook. The only file that is fixable by you is the Smashwords file, since it’s in MS Word. To fix the others I have to delete the incorrect .mobi and .epub versions, make the changes to the MS Word file that I use as a base working copy, then re-convert the files for you. Then you can upload those new files.

Getting Minor Changes made to your book:

Since the Smashwords file can be altered by you, my advice is to make any minor changes you need to, highlight those changes in Yellow, add red text notations which I will delete after the changes are made, save the file and send it to me. So far that has been a great way to get minor changes fixed. I’ll definitely find them and know how you’d like them fixed by using your highlights and notations. Another method is to simply cut and paste the line that needs changing into an email, then add a notation about how it should be changed. See my lame example below:

“See run Jane.” Please change this to “See Jane run.”

When I say minor changes I’m talking about 5 to 10 fixes. Any more than that and we’re now into major changes. It’s all about how much time it takes to apply the changes. If I can make the changes and reconvert the files in about an hour, you’re still in minor changes land, and the fee I charge for minor fixes is $20. That’s for all the fixes and the reconversions.

Getting Major Changes made to your book:

 Sometimes the changes required are more extensive. Either they’re issues that were missed during edits, or you want to change a scene or even a chapter. If that’s the case then we’ll have to re-do the formatting from scratch. When large scale things are changed you have to start over simply to ensure that the formatting is intact throughout the book. Splicing in large chunks of text has a nasty habit of leaving tiny coding errors that can ruin the finished product. So, it’s best to go ahead and make all the changes you need to in either your original manuscript or the Smashwords version, then save and send me the file. Then I’ll re-do the formatting and conversion as quick as I can. Since major changes require a full reformat, the full formatting fee is applied again.

So my advice is to edit your book like you have a neurotic twitch about typos before you send me the book to be formatted. Small fixes are quick and cheap, but there’s no reason to pay the full price twice if you can avoid it.

Promo! The more you know…mo

To most of you who read this article it’s going to be old news. Many authors are such pro’s at promo that they could teach classes on it. And a lot of you actually do give classes and talks on the subject on your blogs and at conferences. But I wouldn’t get questions about this stuff if every author knew all there is to know about it. So here we go.

Marketing and Promotion are the best tools anyone has to sell their product, no matter what it is. And ultimately, if you plan to sell your books it helps to think of them as products when it comes time to advertise. In the realm of authors there are far better sources than me, but I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in to help if I can. I’ve made a lot of observations over the years and I hope they might be of use to anyone who may not know how to get started promoting their own work.

Don’t be shy. Many authors, especially when they’re just starting out may be a little hesitant to show their books to anyone for fear of criticism. But sadly criticism comes with the job. If you do anything and make it available for public scrutiny it will get criticized. No matter what you’ve presented to the world or how good it is…somebody will hate it. A lot. But on the other side of that sharp edged coin there lies the smiling face of praise. Praise is awesome. When someone identifies with your characters or story and they love it, it can be gratifying to hear. I love it when a client is pleased with my work. Truly. But harsh, or even soft criticism can be difficult to take. So some authors refrain from promoting their work, sharing it or even having a website. But if you don’t have the basic tools to let others know you’re alive and that you wrote a book they might like, you will sell very few books.

And then there are some who simply don’t feel comfortable promoting themselves. They may feel that they don’t want to engage in “bragging” or “selling”. My advice on this is to look at it a different way. If you are pushing all the time in tweets and posts “Buy my Book!!”, then yes that’s kinda too much. But if you mention on your blog or Tweet that you’ve just finished a chapter on your new romance novel, you may strike up conversation and get others interested in what you’re writing. Remember to keep it conversational. If you’re talking to a friend you wouldn’t have the “Buy my Book” phrase coming up every five minutes. The same rules apply to social media. Keep that in mind and you can avoid feeling like you’re “selling”.

Diversify. What I mean here is that the more avenues you have for a potential reader to find you the better. That means publishing your books on as many sites as you can and taking advantage of as many social media sites as possible. Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. If you don’t have these basic tools, then you need to start some accounts and use them to create a presence online. Just know that if you are just now starting out, this process takes time so settle in for the long haul. Also, it’s never ending. You have to keep up your presence to stay relevant.

And again, don’t just talk about your books and exclusively promote your work. It’s irritating to everyone. Treat social media the way you treat any conversation. Talk about a variety of interest you have and salt in comments about other authors you like. Make friends.

Free Stuff! Everybody loves free stuff. So, another good thing to consider is having a contest once in a while where you either give away free books, or small gift cards to online retailers. If a reader posts on your blog or re-tweets something you said, then they get an entry into the contest. Get creative. Try internet scavenger hunts for things that relate to what you write. It should be fun for readers, and if done right, can really draw a crowd. Digitally speaking:) Stuff like that creates a little buzz and can bring in more eyes to see what you’re up to. Also, posting compelling and exciting excerpts from your books on Goodreads, Facebook and your blog is a great way to give readers a taste of what you do. Blog tours with other authors can help to bring in new readers as well. And if you’re one of the lucky one’s you’ll say or do something online that will go viral…in a good way. But don’t get too serious about it. Have fun.

Join the Club. There are lots of author communities online that are set up to answer any questions you have about publishing, writing, and anything in between. I’m personally partial to RomanceDivas.com. It’s a free forum for romance writers and is a great place for author resources and has a huge amount of support for new authors and multi-published authors in the romance genre. Also, there are national groups like RT and RWA that have lots of resources and advice for authors on every subject. If you write in another genre use the google machine and find some groups that write what you write and go make friends.

Writer beware! Beware the amazing claims you’ll find online for advertising services to authors. I’ve seen sites that say they’ll get you X number of twitter followers, X number of RT’s and blah blah blah, for the low low price of $300! It’s a great way to waste your money. If you ever read an interview with a successful author they never say they made it big because of some get rich quick scheme to advertise their book to the universe. They talk about the hundreds and hundreds of hours a year they put in writing and communicating with readers online. It’s hard work.

Ultimately my point is this. Be everywhere, make friends, and stick with it for the long term. The more places where you’re visible and the more social media connections you have the better your chances are of finding that sales groove that so many authors look for and so many have found.

 

E-Books vs. Print. What’s the Difference?

 Anyone who is new to the self-pubbing world may be unaware of how different your book may look in e-book format vs. how you designed it to look initially. So, I wrote this article to show some of the differences we come up against in e-books vs. print.

 In print versions of a book we can do almost anything. We can make the book look just like you have it in your head or in your Word document.

 But unfortunately that’s not the case with e-books. The most important thing to remember when considering e-publishing is the e-reading devices are stupid. No, I’m not saying they’re terrible or bad devices. What I mean is that they have serious limits in their software that make them unable to understand certain things that we all take for granted. And consequently there are things you can do in print that you can’t do in e-books…yet.

 Fonts are a huge issue for most e-reading devices, even Kindle and Nook. If a book has really cool fonts for the title page and chapter headings, or even standard symbols like ©, ®, ™ these can all be misinterpreted by the e-reading device’s software to come out like this ?!?@~#. So, in order to make sure that your book is readable on all devices it’s necessary during the formatting process to “dumb down” anything that might throw off the look of the finished product. That means that part of the formatting I provide is to convert what you’ve written into something that will always translate in any e-reader. So, the cool fonts have to go. Everything is converted to Times New Roman because TNR always works.

Size does matter. The e-book restrictions also require that we keep size variation in fonts to a minimum. So body text is usually 12 point TNR and Chapter Headings are Bold 14 point TNR.

 Pictures are great, but they have limits too. In a print book you can have text next to pictures, and pictures overlaid with text, picture that fill the whole page, etc. Think about print cookbooks. Pictures and words are living happily together right next to each other on the same page.

In e-books we have to limit the text to being above and/or below a picture. Never next to it, otherwise the e-reader will compress the text or push it all to the next page. Distorted pictures can also be the result. Another thing to be aware of, and this goes mostly for .epub file types that go to publishers like Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble, the pictures have to be within certain dimensions, otherwise they’ll distort and look terrible. So they may look a little smaller in your e-book version than they would in the print version.

These are just some of the limits, but they are the most jarring to authors who are expecting their e-book to look just as it did in the Word doc that they spent so much time making. I completely understand that feeling since I had to learn it the hard way a few years ago for my own cookbook, …And He Can Cook! I had months of work invested in my eye catching fonts and graphics embedding. I finished the print version and it looked great. I was so jazzed that I wanted to get it into e-book format as well.

Then I had a bucket of cold water dumped on my head when I learned of all the things I’d have to change to get it published on Smashwords, then later Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It felt like I’d have to start from scratch, disassemble my book, my baby, then rebuild it. So that’s what I did. Because I knew what the most important thing is about writing a book, any book.

To have it read by others!

 So that’s what I want any author who is new to self-publishing to understand if they’re concerned about losing any of the dazzle-factor of their work. The best thing you can do is to make sure your book is readable by as many people as possible, that it’s as clean and professional looking as possible. And just as important, is that your book meets all requirements by the various publishing sites so that it is FOR SALE.

 My recommendation for any author who doesn’t want to just throw away their awesome fonts and dazzling graphics work is to have your book formatted for both e-book and print on Createspace. Both of which I can take care of for you. That way you get the benefit of having your cake and eating it too:)

If you have any questions about this article feel free to contact me. I enjoy answering questions because I want you to have as much information as you can so that you’ll be successful in this new self-publishing world.

Thanks

Lee