Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Self-Publishing on a Budget.

I’m an Indie author and an editor and I’ve been writing this blog for years now, with the intention of sharing my experiences and helping other authors who choose the self-publishing path. It can be very expensive and some are willing to spend whatever it takes to get their book out there, as polished a version as possible. Some are unable to afford help, and unfortunately some books are published that are full of errors, which makes a lot of readers reluctant to buy any self-published books.

I’m not going to suggest you don’t need to spend money on an editor, but if you absolutely can’t there are a few options that will help. Text to Speech on Word is very good at finding typos and there are other programs like Grammarly. Do some research and try all the free options. Stay away from vanity publishers!

When you’ve done as much as you can get someone else to read it. Not your best friends unless you’re confident they’ll tell you the brutal truth. Find some beta readers who will tell you what they actually think. If several point out the same problems see if you can fix them, but if only one does and you don’t agree then leave it. It’s always worth having another look though. You can find Beta reader groups on Facebook.

If you rely on Amazon’s cover creator you can get your covers for free, but you might want to change them later. I started off using Createspace covers but have changed them all since then. Another free option is to learn how to use GIMP, which is free software along the lines of Photoshop. I use it every day now but I did find it very hard to get started and only managed because I have very intelligent sons!

You can get stock photos free and Pixabay is the best, in my opinion, because they have 300 dpi images, which is essential for book covers. If you want people on your cover though you need to make sure you have model releases, and you might have to use a more commercial stock photo for that. Some will sell just the one image if you find something perfect for your book. I’ve done that a couple of times.

What I’m doing now is making heaps of premade covers for other self-publishing authors, so I can save you all that trouble. All ebook covers are $25 AUD and paperback covers are $60 AUD. Premade Covers $25 AUD FOR EBOOKS AND $60 AUD FOR PAPERBACKS.


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Premade Covers

I’ve been making my own book covers for years and I’ve decided to branch out and try my hand at some premades. The ebook covers are all $20 AUD and covers for print (made on an Amazon 6 x 9 template) are $50 AUD. Book covers can be very expensive and so can editing; I’m attempting to keep my services at a reasonable fee. Lots more here.

 

pbgirlpurple6x9_BW_300 - Copy

Beautiful cover for print

dragon mum

Dragon mother

GUYWITHAXE

Murder

snowgirl

Ice girl

Portrait of a beautiful red-haired woman in green medieval dress

Queen

GIRL WITH MIRROR

Girl with mirror

10 cover womanviking

Female Viking Warrior

Beautiful Long-haired Girl In A Magnificent Emerald Fairy Dress

Girl in green

Elf Woman In Armor Holding Sword. Isolated On Grey

elf girl with sword

Noble fairy elf in the magic forest. Fantasy. Fairy tale, magic.

Elf boy

GLADIATORbigstock--180681301

Warrior with shield

9 cover tatts (1)

Tattoo guy

8 iceman

Knight

Attractive couple relaxing in the countryside on a sunny day

Young Couple

6 cover redvic

Victorian Woman

5 cover princess

Young Princess

4.cover redheaddark

Dark Redhead

Smiling couple embracing in park on a sunny day

Smiling couple embracing in park on a sunny day

Portrait of happy couple relaxing on a blanket in vineyard

Portrait of happy couple relaxing on a blanket in vineyard

 


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What’s your Kryptonite?

I’m an editor as well as an author and I also spend way too much time on Facebook so I see lots of errors, which I try hard to ignore. I would never point out spelling or punctuation marks on social media–that’s just plain rude, but when I see lots of people making the same mistake I might just post something like this on my editing page:

Most of us have at least one kryptonite word–you know that word you’re never quite sure you’ve spelt right? A lot of people have trouble with ‘occasion’ and I used to as well, but the single ‘s’ is easy to remember if you look at how that works in other English words, like erosion and fusion. The pronounciation of these is quite different in words with a double ‘ss’. such as passion, hessian and mission. The sound of the double ss is different to the sound of the single s and the vowel before the single s is pronounced differently to the vowel before a double s. It’s a long vowel sound, rather than a short one. I don’t know every word in the dictionary but I can’t think of any that don’t follow this pattern. It’s not easy to explain but if you say the words aloud you’ll understand what I’m trying to get across. Just remember occasion/erosion and don’t be taken in by that double c!

https://www.facebook.com/editingindies

My books are available on Amazon as PODs and ebooks.

https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christine-Gardner/e/B00AY80A08

My ebooks are also available on most digital shopfronts, including Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and others:

https://books2read.com/ap/nElAjR/Christine-Gardner

 


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Sharing Previews

I’ve just found out I can share previews of all my books on Amazon. I have no idea how long this has been available but it seems like quite a good idea. The only one I’ve tried so far allowed a free read to well into the fourth chapter so readers should have a pretty good idea by then if they want to buy the book and read the rest. Or if it’s more suitable for their mother for Mothers Day, or their teenager. I’m going to attempt to list all my books here with the links to FREE previews.

STONY CREEK

THE ROAD TO KARINYA

RED WINE AND SUMMER STORMS

THE GIRL WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

THE LETTER 

HER FLESH AND BLOOD 

THE INHERITANCE

NOT GUILTY

RUNT OF THE LITTER

WONDERLAND

BEAST OF WAR

DARK INNOCENCE

Maybe not all then, but if anyone wants a preview of any of the others I’m happy to provide one. Happy Mothers’ day!

                                                                                                                                                     


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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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Blasting Pirates

I don’t plan to start advertising businesses, apart from the unavoidable popups, but if I come across something I think is worth sharing, I will. There’s a company/program/app/whatever you call it, that’s still in the beta stage and is, I think free for now. It certainly cost me nothing, which will surprise no-one who’s been reading my blog for long! Anyway what Blasty does is find out where an author’s books are being pirated and then send alerts. All you have to do is go through the list and press the orange blast button. Fun! I was resigned to the fact that my books were vulnerable to piracy, but I had no idea how many there were out there. Blasty found over 100 and I blasted them all! This is my invitation link which is a little weird and I’m pretty sure I don’t get free Tupperware or anything else (if I do I’ll let you know–full disclosure!) but it might mean you get it free.

Please don’t assume I know anything about the safety of this or any other program/app or whatever. I did do a little research but you should do some too. I can tell you I haven’t had any problems: https://www.blasty.co/invitation/2DRw3RpU

In other news, I’ve decided to ditch Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and am taking all my books off when their exclusivity runs out. I’ve already put several across to Draft to Digital, which makes them available on iTunes and Barnes and Noble, and more. They’ll still be on Amazon, for sale only on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

 


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Buying Reviews

I’ve recently come across this phenomenon via Facebook and personally I find it sickening: people offering to review books for self-published authors for money, guaranteeing 5 star reviews. I saw one a couple of days ago stating they could put several reviews on the one book on Amazon, using different names and addresses! I have no idea how long this has been going on nor how many authors actually buy such ‘reviews’, but it makes me think differently now about those books on Amazon with lots of 5 star reviews. I know Amazon pulls reviews they’re dubious about and, like most self-published authors, I complain about that, but I sincerely hope they can put a stop to this practice, which makes those of us who only have honest reviews at a disadvantage. As a reader I’ll disregard reviews now.

I’m not so adamantly against the common practice of authors providing free copies to readers in the expectation they’ll write a positive review but it still seems a little off to me. There’s also quite a lot of trading going on–review for review–and I confess I did that once, trading a review for an app with one for a book of mine. Never again! The ‘reviewer’ clearly read only the outline and while the review was certainly positive it was totally out of whack and I have asked Amazon to remove it. Like all self-published authors I very much appreciate hearing from readers, and 5 star reviews certainly help sell books, but I’ll stick to the honest reviews from those who actually read and enjoyed my books! For info on any of my books please visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com and Amazon.UK.

 

 


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More on Self-Editing: Text to Speech

I’ve just discovered a new tool for self-editing which you may already know about; I tend to not go looking for any secrets my computer may have unless it’s not doing what I want it to. I’d heard of software that could turn text to speech but had never looked into it and assumed it would be something I’d have to buy and install and all that stuff that I just don’t want to bother with. I often read some of my book aloud, particularly dialogue, and I have suggested to others it’s even better if you can persuade someone else to read it to you, or record it and play it back. Probably not practical for an entire novel though and my latest novel has grown to over 80,000 words, quite a bit longer than my previous ones.

Someone mentioned on facebook that there was a Word option for Text to Speech and I still assumed it was an extra that I’d have to buy, install, etc., but it’s not! It’s just there and is super easy to use. It’s probably best that I don’t try to tell you how to use it because explaining technology is not in my list of talents, but if you have Word just ask the help button and they’ll walk you through it. Take my word for it, if I can follow it, you can.

Tex (I decided to call him Tex, because, why not?) and I spent the weekend editing my book. He’s American, but not hard to understand, and has quite a pleasant voice for a computer, even if he does have trouble pronouncing the occasional word. He doesn’t understand Mmm, or Hmm, or Mr and doesn’t understand I want a pause when I use an ellipsis or a long dash, nor will he point out any errors to you. BUT he also won’t skip over the typos we all make, like you and your friends will (maybe even your editor). It’s just the way our brains work; when we see the word ‘out’, in a sentence where it should have been ‘our’, we just know it’s meant to be ‘our’ and may not even notice the mistake. Tex doesn’t notice it either but when he says it out loud, you will notice it.

Tex is certainly not the only self-editing tool you need–he won’t tell you if you’ve written the wrong version of too, or to, or the wrong version of your, or their, but just because reading aloud is so much slower than reading silently I did pick up several things myself that I decided needed improving and he’s my new best friend. I don’t usually have a problem with spelling or grammar but typos? Absolutely!

For some of the things Tex can’t help you with I have a free ebook, ‘What Did You Say?’ on Smashwords. It’s just a little one but there’s some things that will help if you’re unsure about punctuation or grammar. Especially the correct use of apostrophes–do you know what they’re actually for? A lot of people don’t! For all my other books please visit my author pages on Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

 


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Self-Publishing: Designing your own covers

inheritance-cs3rdBack to the trials and tribulations of self-publishing! One of the best things about self-publishing print on demand or ebooks is that you can always make changes. A tweak here and there, or fixing typos you’ve missed when someone else points them out to you after your book’s published! One of the worst things about self-publishing PODs or ebooks is that you can always make changes, which means, of course, nothing is ever quite good enough.

I’ve always had an interest in visual art and spent several years studying before swapping over to writing. That doesn’t mean I was good at it, just that I do have enough knowledge to make me frustrated at my limitations! So tweaking book covers is my weakness. Or is it my strength? I’m not sure on that one! I’ve been able to either use my own images or find free ones online until last year, when I paid a designer on fiverr.com for a cover for ‘Inheritance.’

Next I paid for an image for the cover of ‘Red Wine and sanctuary_cover_for_kindleSummer Storms’, and did the text myself; it was around $14, but I forget where I bought that. There’s a lot of online images available but often you have to buy a bulk number, rather than just one at a time. I have discovered one site I’ve used now for two new covers for old books, ‘Sanctuary’ and the POD image for ‘Inheritance’. They’re called CanStock Photo and both images I used were $7 USD each.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen of course you have to go through the whole uploading process again, which, after three or four years I still find very frustrating, but it’s worth it, if only because it makes me feel better. Until I get another idea. I’ve also built another new cover for the thesis I wrote when I was at university, 2005. It’s called ‘Demented Mothers’ and it is a thesis, not a light read, but definitely interesting. This cover has one of the mothers, Camellia McCluskey, in a ghostly effect using Pixlr, a free kind of photo shop, which is a lot of fun to mess around with.

‘Sanctuary’ is free on Amazon and Amazon.UK, from December 1 (USA time) to December 5.