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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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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Its and the Decorative Apostrophe

‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun, just as ‘his’ and ‘hers’ are.  If you add an apostrophe to its it is no longer a possessive pronoun. It’s means it is or it has.  Always. Adding an apostrophe to its is no different to adding an apostrophe to any other pronoun. Apostrophes are always there for a practical reason, not to decorate the page. Many people laugh at the ‘grocer’s apostrophe’, which is frequently seen on signs at the front of all types of stores but sometimes even on major signs by professional sign writers. I’m talking about the use of apostrophes seemingly thrown in at random, usually before an ‘s’ at the end of a word. Most readers and writers know better than that but there are very many who don’t get their ‘its’ right!

While I’m ranting about apostrophes and pronouns I’d better give ‘their’ a mention. Their is a possessive pronoun too and is probably next in line for causing the maximum error rate. They’re means they are. Always. Not a possessive pronoun. There means not here, but over there, and I’m including the reference to ‘here’ because the similarity makes it an easy one to remember. If you add ‘t’ to ‘here’ it becomes ‘there’, right? Easy.

I’m not sure about the veracity of this, but if a university lecturer is a good enough source–an apostrophe always takes the place of something else; it indicates something is missing. Once upon a time people spoke and wrote English quite differently and they would say, or write, ‘the dog, his bone’, rather than ‘the dog’s bone,’ as we do now. The apostrophe was introduced in place of ‘his’ in this example. If we move the apostrophe across, as in ‘the dogs’ bone’, we know there’s more than one dog sharing the bone. Of course when using a pronoun there’s no need for the apostrophe because it makes no sense to say ‘It, its bone’ or ‘Him, his bone.’

That’s the end of my rant for the day–please feel free to pass this on. It’s a small thing, an apostrophe, but whether you’re a signwriter, a book writer or just have a facebook account, please don’t use the poor little misunderstood mark to decorate your page.

Please visit my Amazon author page for details on all my books.

 

 

 


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Self-editing for self publishers

Okay–first of all, if there’s any way you can afford an editor, hire one! Secondly, if you do, make sure you do some research first. I’ve seen self-published books where the writer has acknowledged the help of an editor and the first page is riddled with errors. I spent a couple of years editing free-lance and I belonged to an organization called The Victorian Society of Editors, which may or may not still be around. There’s bound to be some kind of association, preferably in your own country, that can help you find a professional editor. However you find someone it’s a good idea to ask them for a sample edit of a few pages, and make sure you communicate exactly what you require. Don’t just rely on terms like ‘substantive edit’ or ‘copy edit’; make sure you tell them exactly what you are hoping for.

Let’s assume you are not going to hire anyone. You’re quite sure you can do it yourself. You probably can’t, so at least get as many people as possible to read your book. You might be surprised at how something that makes perfect sense to you makes little or no sense to a reader who doesn’t know what you’re thinking. Sometimes things are so obvious and we don’t want to treat our readers as dummies but we have to realize they can’t read our minds, only what makes it to the page!

If you can find a writer’s group in your local area, or online, who will read your work and give you an honest opinion, that’s a step up from your best friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Always remember opinions are subjective and not everyone will love your story–take criticisms with a grain of salt, but if several people are dubious about the same thing maybe you can rethink it.

All right, you have no friends, no writers’ groups, no family members whose opinions you value, or you just don’t want anyone to read your story (other than the whole world, after it’s published), at least read it aloud to yourself. If you can, record it and listen to it. You know how your voice sounds like someone else’s when it’s recorded? If you can distance yourself enough to hear what you’ve actually written, rather than what you thought you’d written, that’s a good start. Update on this–if you have Word, use Text to Speech to have a somewhat robotic voice read your book aloud to you. I found a couple of errors in my own book after many self-edits. One I recall was ‘whole’ instead of ‘while’. Very different when spoken but so similar in writing, especially when the i and the o are next to each other on the keyboard!

Now your story’s perfect and you’re up to the nitty gritty. So many self-published novels are riddled with errors. Please don’t think I consider myself perfect–I was reading through an old blog the other day and realized I’d written ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’! We all make mistakes and every book I take off the shelf at the library has at least one; we can only try to do the best we can. At least, as self-published writers, we can always go back and correct our mistakes; it’s never too late.what did

Obviously use your computer spell-check but don’t rely on it–if in doubt use a dictionary. The spell-check won’t pick up ‘dairy’ instead of ‘diary’. Again, reading aloud helps but we tend to see what we think we wrote, not necessarily what’s there. We also get caught up in the story and miss errors of spelling or grammar. If you print it out–yes the whole thing!–you may be able to spot errors better. Sit at the table with your manuscript and a dictionary in front of you and use a ruler to read one line at a time and prevent you from reading ahead. Then start again, this time from the back of the book, again one line at a time–this helps to get away from the story line and concentrate on each sentence. Another update! I’m now editing again, for Australian writers only. More details on my Editing page.

My ebook ‘What Did You Say?’ on grammar and punctuation, is available at Smashwords and may be of some use–it’s free anyway, so why not?

My books are now available on most digital shopfronts, including Apple, Barnes and Noble and Kobo via Draft2Digital.

Paperbacks and ebooks are also available on Amazon.


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Freebies on Amazon and Smashwords

Has anyone had any luck making their ebooks permanently free on Amazon? I have a couple of small ones free on Smashwords, one a short story, an excerpt from my short story collection, and the other a book on grammar and punctuation. The short story, obviously, is a promotional effort, leading to the collection, while the other one, at only 19 pages, I’d simply like to give away to help anyone who needs to improve their written English. It’s not, by any means, a comprehensive guide to the English language but I have a few little tricks to help remember where apostrophes go and indeed what they are actually for, among other things.

I read somewhere to go to the book’s page on Amazon and scroll down to Product Details and then below that to ‘tell us about a lower price’, then type in Smashwords URL and the price. I did do that and I also emailed Amazon, who said they can’t offer any books for free, apart from the 5 days through KDP Select. They do though and I suspect if I can get enough people to inform them of the lower price available on Amazon they will eventually match the zero price.what did

It might seem an odd request, to help me get my book prices lowered to zero, but I’d appreciate it if you take a minute to do that for me and I’ll let you know if it works.

The books in question are ‘Brown Dog’, at Amazon and at Smashwords, and ‘What Did You Say?’ at Amazon and at Smashwords.

My YA book, Sanctuary, is free on Amazon for two days, July 1st and 2nd, and I have a Countdown offer on Not Guilty, starting at 99c on June 30th and then 1.99 on July 1st. Not Guilty is a true story about a mother who killed her three children, in 1910, in a country town in Australia.

It’s freezing here, and wet. Winter is well and truly with us and I’ve had enough of it and am ready for some sunshine. Still it’s nice and cosy inside and I’ve been getting stuck into some writing–hit the 10,000 word mark in my latest novel today so pretty pleased with myself. Trying to discipline myself with a deadline of sorts and commit to 1000 words per day, except when I really have to go shopping or babysit, or anything else that comes along . . .


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Is it time to drop the apostrophe?

I don’t know if this is a problem everywhere or just in Australia, so do let me know. It’s become a major annoyance (okay, probably only to people like me–grumpy old women) how much the apostrophe is misused. It’s quite clear that there are many people out there who don’t actually know what it’s for! They just seem to throw it in anywhere. It’s randomly stuck in before any old ‘s’ in signs out the front of fruit shops: tomatoe’s, banana’s etc. Even professional sign writers sometimes abuse the poor little apostrophe like that at times.

I often use the text option while watching TV because my hearing’s not great and I don’t expect good grammar or spelling with that but when someone has paid for an ad which includes huge letters across the screen you would think someone would make sure the spelling and grammar are okay first, wouldn’t you?  Perhaps they use a good old computer spellcheck–we all know how effective that is, don’t we?

Don’t get me wrong–I love spellcheck–I’m shocking at typos; my fingers seem to work independently of my brain, but it’s the first stage of editing, not the last and certainly not the one and only. Words such as who’s and whose and its’, it’s and its are not always picked up by computers.

So is it time to give up? Has our education system totally failed our kids who now think ‘should’ve’ is ‘should of’ and have no idea of the purpose of an apostrophe? Should we just stop using it altogether? Or should we somehow get the message out there that the apostrophe does have a purpose? An apostrophe takes the place of one or more missing letters. Who’s means who is and it’s means it is. There is no apostrophe in the possessive form of ‘its’, any more than in ‘his’ or ‘hers’.

One of the more memorable things I learnt in my literary classes at university was that the apostrophe does, indeed, always indicate missing letters, even in the case of the possessive. The professor told us that many years ago people would say: The dog his bone, or Adam his apple and that this evolved into The dog’s bone, Adam’s apple etc.

We could take to the streets with placards–should they say ‘Rid the world of the apostrophe!’ or should they say ‘Stop abusing the apostrophe?’ My frustrations went into a little ebook, which is free for everyone at Smashwords, What Did You Say? It could be subtitled ‘Words of Wisdom from a Grumpy Old Woman’.


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Wasting Time–Summer Daze

I realise most of you are on the other side of the world and some are suffering very severe cold weather conditions so I apologize in advance for complaining about the heat again! I just seem unable to do anything very constructive of late and I’ve come to the conclusion I should be hibernating for the summer. It just doesn’t suit me at all, not when it’s several days in a row of over 40 celsius here in Oz. (That’s 104 F.) The creative side of my brain seems to be in a summer daze while the more practical side is still able to cope with those chores I really have to do.

A lot of the time I consider wasted has been used up attempting to re-format some of my books for Smashwords–I’m not even sure why I bothered except it seems logical they may as well be available in as many places as possible. So far about half of my attempts have succeeded, one with a lot of help from a nice woman at Smashwords, The other half haven’t gone through and I’ve decided not to persevere at the moment; to be honest I can’t be bothered. I’ve had very few sales through Smashwords anyway but there are certain advantages–I’ve been able to make books available free there on a permanent basis, which I’ve chosen to do with ‘What Did You Say?’, which is a very short ebook on grammar and punctuation. There’s also an interview on Smashwords, which is not available on Amazon.

Apart from that, Amazon rules, and, while I may attempt to publish more with Smashwords from time to time, I am NOT wasting too much time, time that could be spent writing, on their crazy formatting.

So instead of writing or re-formatting today, I’ve spent a bit of time adding excerpts to my list of books here, so have a look at my book page. Probably not terribly well formatted–I’ll get to that one day. Or not! I’ve also been to the library for the first time this summer and am planning to waste some time this week reading a novel. Or two. In front of the air conditioner.

Happy Reading.


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Back to Smashwords

I’ve decided to re-publish some of my books with Smashwords, just to see how they go. I like the idea of having more options and not being locked into Amazon’s rules, although one of my major reasons was that Smashwords allowed the use of various reading devices, like smartphones, while Amazon ebooks only worked on kindles. I’m pleased to see they’ve changed that and you can now download kindle books to any kind of reader. There’s a link at Amazon to do that and it’s free so if you thought you had to buy a kindle to read Amazon ebooks, that’s no longer the case. Good news.

Anyway, another reason I had was that I wanted to make my little ebook on grammar, spelling and punctuation, ‘What Did You Say?’ free all the time and Amazon doesn’t give me that option.  I wrote this one, not as a comprehensive teaching tool, but as a collection of useful tips about common errors people make that some of us find very annoying. Grocer’s apostrophes for example. Grocers who put signs out the front of their shops advertising ‘Tomatoe’s and Potatoe’s’. Sign-writers are pretty good at that too, only they do it in much bigger print. Have a look and feel free to share ‘What Did You Say?’ with all your friends. I also have a brief interview on Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ChristineGardner

I have a free book on Amazon, from the 5th to the 9th of November, called ‘Beast of War‘, a fantasy for kids. This is one of my favourites–I really enjoyed writing it and was kind of sad when I’d finished. I even had a sequel in mind but it’s hard to find a market for kids’ books. If you know anyone between the age of 9 and 13 I’d love their opinion on Beast. Or yours.

One of the best things about self-publishing is that you can edit even after your book’s published–or is that not a good thing? Debatable, I suppose. I have no desire to keep editing the same book for the rest of my life! I have been doing a bit of editing though, on my true crime, ‘Not Guilty’ and I decided to play around with the cover as well. I only meant maybe a change in the background colour really but I kept playing with it until I lost the original cover and, more importantly, the photo on it. One would think I had a copy somewhere but the only one I can find is too small to use. I suspect my computer holds lots of secrets, as does my house, of missing bits and pieces, never again to see the light of day.

I decided then to do something different–I have some rather nice photos of a certain place where my protagonist spent some months, under lock and key, after her crime, and I thought one of those might make a nice cover. Much to my surprise I was denied permission to use them (my own photos) as the organization didn’t like the association. Now I’m waiting to see if I can get permission to use a photo of the courthouse where she was tried. Hopefully they’ll be more accommodating. If not, I’ve found a rather good on-line site for free pictures http://www.morguefile.com/archive and there’s one there that will do. Most such sites seem too difficult and have all kinds of conditions attached but this one’s good.

Happy reading.


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How do you celebrate finishing a book?

A writing teacher from a few years ago told the class we should never wait for publication but always celebrate completing a book–reward ourselves. It’s a big deal finishing a novel; a lot of work goes into it and a lot of time spent thinking and planning away from the computer as well. My teacher chose champagne as his customary celebration but even a mouthful makes me incredibly ill, so not much fun there.

I’m quite partial to a glass of Jim Beam and Coke but, honestly, the whole alcohol as reward thing doesn’t appeal to me much. I suppose I could go out to dinner or lunch but it’s very cold and wintry here and I just can’t be bothered. I decided what I’d really like to do is visit the library and get a couple of books from my favourite authors and maybe buy a box of chocolates. What could be better than curling up in front of the heater with chocolates and a good book? Since I had no idea what I wanted to write next I planned a few days rest and maybe a bit of family history research.

I won’t mention what books I got but I grabbed three, two by favourite authors. I forced myself to read a few chapters of both and was bored stiff! I have no idea why but maybe I need to try something different. I did grab one book by an author I didn’t know, so hopefully I’ll like that better. I always try to vary my reading and generally get one or two by authors I know and one or two by  others new to me; I’ve come across some great stories.

After spending an hour or so on family history research I now have an idea about my next writing project so my brain is occupied again. I’m thinking of a three part story beginning in Ireland and finishing in Australia, in the 19th century.

I have a small ebook (19 pages) free on Smashwords and would appreciate some reviews, if anyone has time. Only if you like it of course! It’s called ‘What Did You Say?’ and is all about English Grammar and Punctuation.

My other books are available on Amazon and other stores–please see my Book page for more information.  Stony Creek is free.