Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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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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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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


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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