Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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What are you doing while you stay home?

I’ve made close to 500 premade covers and sold a few, but I realised it was difficult for authors to find the right cover when there was such a mix, so I’ve finally sorted them into genres. It’s not easy though–there’s such a lot of crossovers. For example a landscape can be just about anything, but I’ve put them in Romance. Some images of people I’ve put in at least two categories, usually Romance and Mystery, or History. I have Sci Fi and Fantasy together because some can be used for either. I’m happy with the end result anyway; I think it looks pretty good and certainly easier to find the right genre. https://cmsgardnerblog.wordpress.com/premade-covers/

I also have trouble fitting my own books into genres when I publish them with Amazon, apart from my rural romance series, which is clearly romance. Some are historical but not only that and some are ghost stories, but not only that.

Now that Melbourne is locked down and the covid figures haven’t improved there I’m expecting all of Victoria will follow, but hoping that’s not the case. We’ve been advised to wear masks now but it’s not mandatory like it is in Melbourne. I haven’t worn one yet but I have one on order and it should be here today or tomorrow.

I’ve been doing some editing and very little writing. I started a new book, the 4th of my rural romance series, and I’m also writing an autobiography. It seems a bit weird and arrogant even to write about myself but it’s for my family, not the rest of the world, and it’s because I wish my parents and grandparents had done theirs. My 4x great-grandfather kept a scrapbook which is mostly newspaper scraps but includes some personal bits as well. He was Lord Mayor of Sydney and certainly had an interesting life. Mine’s not quite as interesting as his but it is more personal. It’s becoming a kind of a journal as well because I feel I need to talk about the BLM movement and Covid 19. That’s history that won’t be forgotten.

This is my Rural Romance Series, available at Amazon for kindle and as paperback and also, as an ebook at Kobo, Apple, and others At Books2Read. The first book, Stony Creek, is free and each book can be read as a standalone.

 


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Beta Readers–yes or no?

I’ve just finished my latest novel, House of Dreams, which has taken me around two years, for various reasons. I had an operation this time last year but I was also in a bit of a writer’s block phase for quite a while. I had an ephinany, watching something on TV, when I realised I had to kill one of my tradies!

What that all meant was that I knew my final draft would need a lot of work. I’d forgotten names and had to keep checking back–Did I actually write that or did I just think about it?–Did I forget I killed that guy and mention him again?—Did I mention this before?–Lots of things that I knew I could easily miss myself.

My two elder sisters read all my books, usually in paperback form, so of course after they’re published, and invariably find at least a typo or two. Neither of them are really computer savvy; one does have a laptop but really bad internet. I sent her a USB with my story on it when she agreed to read it for me, and she was my first Beta reader! I also found two more in a Facebook group and all three were helpful in different ways, so I would say yes, find beta readers if you can. No matter how many times you read through your book you will miss things. And of course get an editor, but you’ll make things much easier for them and perhaps cheaper for you, if you get everything as clean and tidy as you can first.

Again because it had been two years since I published my last book, The Letter, I was unaware of the changes that had been made to the software I’d used before to build a cover. If I had no sons to help out I would not have been able to make a paperback cover at all. I refuse to buy Photoshop, since I don’t make covers often enough to spend that much and also it looks way too complicated. I do use GIMP, which is free, but have been using Pixlr as well. To cut this story a little shorter–Pixlr has ‘upgraded’ to a service that doesn’t do what I need but fortunately I was able to do everything on GIMP, which is fantastic!

This was also the first time I published a paperback without Createspace–going straight on to Amazon. I actually found it pretty good, possibly easier than CS was. I was a bit concerned though when I noticed the page count on their site for my ebook was 70 pages less than my paperback! I’d already sold some by then and I emailed Amazon first, then went through it all again myself. I’m still not exactly sure but I think they changed the spacing between lines. They’ve fixed it now so I’m happy with it all, at last. Whew!

All my books are available on Amazon, most as paperbacks as well as ebooks.

https://author-christine-gardner.site123.me/

 


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Building your own Website.

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert but, after several attempts with different providers, I’ve finally built my own website! Two actually, since I’m a freelance editor as well as a writer.

Do I need them? I have no idea but there were no costs involved, apart from a couple of days work and quite a bit of stress. It just bugged me a little when various sites wanted my website detail so now I have one. Two.

I found this company so much better to deal with than others I tried. I doubt I was speaking (text) with the handsome young man pictured, but I’m pretty sure it was a human and he was very prompt and very helpful. They have images of three young men with big smiles and their names are there as well but, seriously, I doubt very much that’s who I was dealing with.

I went with my editing site first and that was pretty simple, but when I started the author site it became more complicated because I wanted to show my books and also add some links. I had to compromise a little but all in all I’m pretty happy with them both.

The company I’m with is SITE 123 and these are my links. They also have options you can pay for, but I always try free when that’s an option!

Editing Indies

Christine Gardner, Author

My books are available on Amazon as PODs as well as ebooks and on Apple, Kobo and others as ebooks. Stony Creek, the first book in my Red Dust series, is free and can be read as a standalone.


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Writing Reviews

How much attention do you give to reviews when you’re buying a book? Do you review books when you read them? Indie authors appreciate reviews and we all know that we’ll get negative ones as well as positive. Not everyone likes the same books or the same movies or even the same colours; we’re not robots, not yet.

Just please, when you write your review, whether it’s two words (Great book!) or a small essay, please don’t give away the surprises! You may think they’re easily predicted or amazing but there’s no need to tell other readers you saw it coming or even that you didn’t. Just say you loved the book or that it’s just not your thing. As authors we can’t edit reviews, or remove them when they give away the ending to our story, and I don’t understand why any reader would want to spoil it for another reader. That’s my rant for the day–keep reading and thanks for the reviews!

My books are available on Amazon as ebooks and print and ebooks also at most digital shopfronts via Draft2Digital.


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Building Your Own Book Covers

If you’re an indie author you’ll know how important covers are and how expensive they can be. I’m a stingy indie author and a control freak so I like to do as much as possible myself. I also quite enjoy working with pretty pictures and I do have some background in art and design.

The most annoying thing about POD covers with Createspace has been the difficulty I’ve had in fitting the text into their requirements in the cover creator.  It always seems a bit squashed into the middle to me and when I had someone from fiverr do the text for my last book, The Letter, I was amazed at how close to the edges they were able to get away with. Passed through the system no problems and it’s beautiful! My artist daughter-in-law did the rest of the cover and I couldn’t be more pleased.

But–I wanted to go back and re-do some of the covers I was never completely happy with–they look fine as ebooks but the text on the PODs was a bit meh. Every now and then I’d have a look at different types of software that would enable me to use the Createspace template and I eventually downloaded GIMP. It sat on my computer and I stared at it for months. Well, not all the time. Every now and then I’d open it and try to make sense of it. I looked at youtube instructions and although I refused to admit it, I pretty much gave up. I’m one of those people who needs someone right beside me to take me through it one step at a time and if I’d known of a local class I’d have gone.

Fortunately I have five sons and one of them happens to know how GIMP works–unfortunately he doesn’t live nearby, but he spent 15 minutes with me and GIMP on his last visit and I’ve been working through it for a few weeks now. It’s not easy and I’ve made mistakes but learnt from them and refused to give up, so now I’d like to show off my new covers for my Red Dust Series. Stony Creek, by the way, is still free for Kindle, new cover and all! Check them out on my Amazon page. 

 

 


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Designing your own covers.

I’ve always designed my own covers and to be honest I’ve not been completely satisfied with all of them. But the beauty of self-publishing is that I can change them whenever I like and as my capabilities improve I continue to do that. My best cover so far is the last book I published, ‘The Letter’, which I had very little input in! The idea was mine but my artist daughter-in-law took over the design and since I’d already paid someone on fiverr to do the text I went with that. It looks much more professional and I’m very pleased with it.

Not everyone has an artist in the family though and I like a challenge. I always found the worst thing about creating Createspace covers to be the space limitations–trying to fit the text inside the lines. I finally realised they have a template for cover design which allows much more freedom but you need editing software to use it. Photoshop is the obvious one of course but I’ve been looking into free software and GIMP seems to be the most popular.

I don’t know how many times I attempted to understand the written directions or youtube instructions but I’d almost given up until my son was here for a weekend visit. I tend to need to see things done rather than just read instructions. He spent around 15 minutes going through it with me and although I’m still learning I know the basics now and it’s not so scary! My first completed GIMP cover is a re-do of ‘Stony Creek’, the first book in my rural romance series, which is free as an ebook and also available as a POD. It might still be showing the older cover on Amazon but will show the new one when it’s downloaded. I’m pretty happy with this and now slightly obsessed with the whole design process and want to re-do all my books!


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You can’t take it with you–or can you?

This post has nothing to do with the joys of self-publishing, unless we consider the freedom aspect. I can take time off from writing whenever I like, and I’ve just spent most of last week in and around Mildura, in the north of Victoria. I grew up there and most of my Grave editfamily still live there, including my mother, who’s nearly 98. I spent most of my time there with her, but one of the few things my husband and I did together was drive around and see what was new to us. Somehow we ended up at the cemetery.

History has always fascinated me, so no surprise that I find cemeteries interesting, especially old ones. I love reading the old headstones, especially when they say something besides the date of birth and death of the occupant. Even if that’s all they say they’re still interesting though, and some of the graves at the Mildura cemetery are unbelievable. There’s an Italian section with row after row of amazing graves, or perhaps more mausoleums. One even had a locked frame around it, which I assume was to keep vandals out rather than to keep the occupant in.

We didn’t walk around the lawn section at all–it’s vast and modern, but there was a chinesegravesmall Chinese section next to the Italian section, maybe a dozen graves with simple headstones. The writing on those is Chinese so I don’t know how old they were or where the occupants were born. There’s something very poignant about them though, in contrast to the extravagant Italian ones. Personally, I’d opt for the lawn cemetery myself, although I kind of like the idea of a tomb I can walk out of, just in case they make a mistake about my condition . . .

lockgrave

rowitaly


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Indie Authors and Typos

I have written about this before but I’m one of an enormous number of authors who are self-publishing now, for various reasons, and I’m continually disappointed at the lack of editing in a lot of the self-published books out there. Yes, it’s true, almost any book you pick up at the library or a bookshop will have errors. I just finished reading one and I found one typo, in over 300 pages. I think that’s forgivable; I also presume my own books have errors in them, but I hope not. If they do I’m pretty sure they’re minor. The odd typo will get through many rounds of editing but honestly, some authors don’t seem to edit at all.

If you can afford it, of course you should hire a professional editor (Yes, I am one, but I’m only taking on Australian clients) and maybe, instead of putting out a book a month, take a little more time and make sure it’s as good as you can make it. Presuming you have Word or something like it, you’ll have Spellcheck etc., which is at least a start. There’s a lot it can’t correct though, and apostrophes in the wrong place are a major annoyance for me. I’ve been writing weekly hints on my Facebook page, so please take a look:  Editing Indies.

What really bothers me is when I start reading a book and I find a thankyou or some sort of mention of an editor who has worked on the book, followed by page after page of obvious errors. If you’re able to hire an editor, take your time and have a good hunt around. There’s plenty out there and some even have qualifications. Check references and ask for a free sample. Look at their books if they’re also writers. Before you send your story off to be edited make sure you think it’s perfect. Use Word’s Text to Speech–hearing your story read out aloud, even if the voice is a bit robotic, is fantastic for picking up those little typos that are almost invisible–like whole instead of while–one I found in my latest story. It’s a slow process but well worth it.

Take your time. It doesn’t matter if you write 5000 words a day or 500. What matters is that they’re your best words.

bookstandletter

 

 


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Editing Indies

I’ve decided to start free-lance editing again. One of the many things I did when the youngest of my five sons started school was a two year Diploma of Arts (Writing and Editing). My local TAFE didn’t offer a second year in Editing so I drove a few hours extra once a week to complete it. Good fun.

I still plan to write books but I’m not overwhelmed with creative ideas at the moment and I might just write a few short stories because, with most things, I’m impatient. Surprisingly though, I’m actually very patient when it comes to editing, simply because you have to be. The devil’s in the detail and all that. I hate to brag but I have an innate ability to spot a stray apostrophe, my particular bugbear.

At the moment I’m only taking on Australian clients, simply because I’d rather not deal with other countries’ tax requirements, but I might change my mind if demand from one or two countries is great enough.

This blog was started with the intention of sharing my experiences on self-publishing, and I’ll still do that. Hopefully I can also help some independent writers now with my editing service.   Editing Indies

 

 


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The Letter

It’s been a major effort but my new book is finally done and dusted and available on Amazon. ‘The Letter’ took me much longer to write than any of my other books thus far, partly because I had a lot of research to do and partly, I think, because it was the book I’d wanted to write for years. I’ve always been fascinated with history; loved it at school and also at university, but mostly I loved reading historical fiction. And still do. I don’t mind if it’s romantic or mystery or one of those family sagas. History at school was mostly about our British heritage–English royalty, which I would never write about myself but still love to read. At university I studied Australian history and in my Honours year I concentrated on Women’s History. That still sounds a little odd to me because of course it’s not only about women, but it was more a social kind of study–about people, rather than dry old politics.

I’ve written two books based on, or inspired by, my research on women who killed their children in the early 20th century, one fiction and one non-fiction, and I wanted to write a book about women on the goldfields in the 19th century. I studied that as well and had done heaps of research so a novel should be easy peasy, right? Ha! I spent hours researching specifics like what they ate on the goldfields, what they wore, what the town (Bendigo, where I now live) was like in 1855 and so much more. Of course every time I looked up something I’d find something else of interest and spend far too long reading irrelevant history, but that’s one of the benefits of indie publishing. No deadlines or if there are they’re self-imposed, so who cares?

I also had drama (of course) with the cover. I had an image I loved and a background I liked and managed to put that together, but decided to get someone else ( https://www.fiverr.com/) just to do some nice cover text for me. I quite like creating covers but Createspace covers are difficult and it was worth the few bucks I paid to get that done, but yes, drama. The morning after I sent the cover off to Germany for the text I woke up and realised I hadn’t checked the resolution of that background image. I jumped out of bed and ran (okay, now I’m just being dramatic) to my computer to check it. Not good enough!

It just so happened that my son and his artist wife were here for the weekend and I asked her to check the photo for me because I wasn’t sure. Anyway to cut a long story slightly shorter, she offered to do another image with one of her own photos and I emailed my German cover person and asked her to wait for the new image. There was some difficulty in communicating with her, mostly because she’s in a different time zone of course. We’re pretty used to that in Oz but when you really need some back and forth communication and you have a book ready and waiting for that final step it’s frustrating to say the least. I’ve been a wee bit stressed. So anyway the cover is beautiful and I’m happy with the book, so check it out. It’s available as both an ebook and print on Amazon.com, Amazon.UK and the new Australian store.

bookstandletterThe_Letter_Cover_for_Kindle