Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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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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Amazon-Friend or Foe?

A lot of writers hate Amazon–they’re big, corporate, money hungry and not at all like those small independent publishers who actually care about what they’re publishing, right? I can’t say I’ve loved every minute or that I’m thrilled with every aspect of the business but for a self-published author who doesn’t have money to burn Amazon is a godsend.

new the inheritance coverIt’s true they’ll sell anything–well, almost, and some of the self-published stuff is rubbish, I agree, but the same applies to small publishers who require hundreds of dollars from authors to produce their book. There are publishers who care about their books, of course; if they’re the ones paying the upfront costs it’s essential they publish only what they believe they can sell.

I’ve written about vanity publishers before and I won’t go into it again here; I sometimes feel as if I’m selling Amazon to writers out there and I have no intention of doing that. I promise I don’t have shares. I just want to let you know that it’s not so bad being a self-published writer on Amazon!

There’s also their Createspace department, where you can publish your book in POD form and they’ll distribute it to several other shopfronts for you. Then there’s Kindle Unlimited, which is a lending library. The customer pays a monthly amount and has to return the ebook, just like any other library, and the author is paid per page read. The amount, as far as I can ascertain, is not always the same, but at the moment my KU amount is about half as much per book as a sale would be, which is not bad.

Another thing I like is that it’s easy to make changes–for example I have a list in the back of each book, of all my other books, and when I publish a new one I add that to the list. I can also change covers if something better comes along, and fix typos if I discover them after my book’s published.(!) All in all, for me Amazon is invaluable and I’d be lost without it. Come and check out my Author Page or here if you’re in the UK.


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Snakes and Spiders in the Land of Oz

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the video of a huntsman spider dragging a mouse up a fridge door.

I’m not surprised it’s gone viral; we all love to talk about our creepy crawlies here and to be perfectly honest I’d be pretty freaked out by that sight myself, but I’m easily freaked out by mice anyway. If we had a resident huntsman capable of killing mice I’d be okay with that, though I’d rather he did it in the dead of night. Fortunately we don’t have mice and any huntsmen I see are nowhere near that big.

I didn’t know whether to be amused or . . . what? when I heard some Americans had cancelled their planned holidays to Australia after seeing that video, but given that most of my readers are from USA I thought it worth explaining a few things about our creepy crawlies. Huntsmen, first of all, are common but perfectly harmless, unless you’re an insect. Or a mouse apparently! And they’re not usually that big.

I spent my very early years living in a house surrounded by orange trees, quite a few miles from the nearest town. The little school I went to was also surrounded by trees, or grape vines–I’m not sure now, but I do remember sitting on the ground with my friends eating lunch and drinking rain water from a red plastic mug. The rain water often had wrigglers (mosquito larvae) in it and no doubt a few things we couldn’t see but they didn’t do us any harm.

Most of my schooling was after we moved to a bigger country town–we used to swim in the river and I spent quite a lot of time at the farm when my older sister married a farmer. I’ve also lived in Queensland, both on the beach and inland. Would you like to know how many snakes I’ve seen? Not counting zoos, none!

I’m not suggesting visitors (or anyone)  should run around the  bush barefoot, or approach snakes or spiders to test if they’re venomous, but generally they prefer their own company. I’m hardly an expert of course, just an average Aussie with a healthy respect for our wildlife–I was once kind of attacked by a kangaroo at a park, so my mother tells me, but I don’t remember it. They can actually be quite dangerous, but like most of our wildlife they don’t actually like us much and stay away. So if you want to go Oz but you’re frightened of spiders and snakes just stay in the civilised areas, or go with a tour, and you can be pretty sure they’ll stay away from you.

For details on my books please see my Non-Fiction and Fiction page or visit my Author Pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK 


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Vanity Publishing

I’m constantly surprised at how many writers don’t seem to understand the difference between traditional publishers and vanity publishers. I often read writers proudly announcing they’ve been accepted by a publisher and they’re thrilled at how easy it was and pumped by how enthusiastic the publisher is to publish their very first novel.

Most self-published writers, I presume, get unsolicited offers from publishers these days; we’re always accessible on Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever. We all want to have the next ’50 Shades of Grey’, or at least that kind of success and it’s nice to hear any kind of praise for anything we do, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how many writers respond to these kind of publishers.

BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodLet me make it clear–traditional publishers don’t ask writers for money! They actually pay an advance to the writer which immediately puts them in a position where it’s to their advantage to distribute the book and sell as many copies as possible. The writer is still expected to make use of social media and other publicity but the publisher doesn’t make any money unless the book sells.

A vanity press is a publisher who asks the writer to pay for everything, from editing right through to distribution, while a traditional publisher pays for all of this. The vanity publisher in fact makes his money directly from the writer, whether their book is a success or not. The traditional publisher makes money only if the book is successful enough to cover the writer’s advance, the costs of editing, printing and so on with some net profit at the end of it. It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for new writers to find a place in the world of traditional publishing.

I’m not necessarily saying all vanity publishers are scammers, just that writers should understand the difference. It may be that you think it’s worth paying someone to do all that’s required to produce your book for you, but if you do choose that road at least make sure you do lots of research and try to find someone with genuine recommendations from other writers. This is why I self-publish–all things considered it seems the best option for me. I can do what I like when I like, and if I do choose to pay someone for a book cover design or any of the many things a self-published writer has to do, it will still be my decision.

If you have any experience, good or bad, with vanity publishers, I’d love to hear about it.

‘Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalised version of my true story ‘Not Guilty’, is FREE from the 14th to the 18th of October. For more details about this and my other books please see my ‘Fiction and Non-fiction’ page or visit my author pages at Amazon.com or Amazon.UK

Excerpt from ‘Her Flesh and Blood’: We had a blazing row when George finally got home. He was drunk and he called me names that I would never say, let alone write down, even here in the privacy of my journal. I slapped him and he hit me hard across the face. I fell over and hit my head on the table. The children were asleep but we were arguing so loudly that Dolly woke up and came out crying. She cried out to George to stop hurting her mumma and he came to his senses then. He picked her up and then helped me to my feet and we both said we were sorry and put her back to bed. He refused to discuss what happened at the factory, except to tell me never to go there again. I know he was humiliated. I’m sure Mr Leggo gave him a good talking to and the workers were no doubt amused by the whole event. I don’t care. Now those women are gone and we can get on with our lives. My children will have a father.

 


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State to State

I’ve just been back to my home town for a few days to visit family and especially my mother, who just turned 95. I was born in Wentworth and lived on a property in Curlwaa, New South Wales, for my first few years and then moved interstate to Mildura, the other side of the  Murray River. Most of my mildurawentworthcuz 058memories are of life in Mildura but I do have some memories of Curlwaa. The old school has gone and so has our old house but my sister and I drove around the area where they used to be. We also went to the Wentworth Hospital, where I was born and hadn’t seen since, so that was interesting. It’s popped up in my book Stony Creek so I wanted to have a look. I was delighted to find an old Ferguson tractor there, also in my book. The Fergies were used extensively in the severe floods that hit the area in 1956.

I didn’t particularly appreciate it when I lived there but I’m always blown away by the Murray River when I go home–it’s quite spectacular and is of course the whole reason Mildura and Wentworth, as well as surrounding areas, grew into what they are today. Both the Murray and the Darling were used as highways in the early days and there mildurawentworthcuz 053are still paddle-steamers operating, now for tourists. The area also relies on the river to irrigate the many different kinds of fruit and vegetables grown there. Known as Sunraysia the area is well known for its citrus and grapes–especially dried grapes but it also produces wine–as well as other fruit and vegetables. It was the first place in Australia to be irrigated, thanks to Canada’s Chaffey Brothers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Chaffey

Rain tends to be scarce and it’s usually the warmest place in the state, so it’s a popular tourist destination. Only problem is it’s a long trip from anywhere, including where I live now, with nothing much to look at along the way! I’ve put a few other photos on my Pictures of Oz page.

darkamazonMy novelette ‘Dark Innocence’ is free on April 29 and is set in Mildura, so have a look at  the pictures and a free read as well. Happy Reading!


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Roo Poo

It’s autumn here in Oz–my favourite time of the year—not a fan of the summer heat, and winter, although welcome in the beginning, soon outstays its welcome. Autumn is perfect, warm days and cool nights developing into cool days and cold nights. And the trees changing colour before they lose all their leaves and become drab. We don’t have any deciduous trees in our garden, just natives, all of which are evergreen, but I don’t have to walk far to enjoy the autumn display.

I’ve just been to a small park nearby and soaked up the smell of eucalyptus–it’s great when the eucalypts are damp from the rain. I was strolling along with my nose in the air when I happened to glance down and realised I needed to watch where I was walking. There was roo poo everywhere!Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

There’s a national park area not far from where I live and there’s been a lot of new homes put up since we moved here around 15 years ago. I did see a few kangaroos on my walks in those early years and it’s nice to know they’re still around. Obviously we’ve stolen some of their territory but, be assured, they’re not at risk.

For those of you who don’t know much about Australia, it must look like a sparsely populated country, with plenty of room for more people. Which if course it is, in theory. The trouble is most of us tend to cling to the coastline or at least places with some kind of civilization. I live in a regional inland city which only really came about because of a gold rush many years ago. We don’t even have a river, much less a view of the coast, and it would be very difficult to live in any such area without the assurance of a water supply.

Much of inland Australia is desert and uninhabitable, at least to those of us who likekarinya cover water and power. So we keep building more houses near already established towns and we do rob the wildlife of their habitat; at least we are aware of the problem now and hopefully we can find some way around it. I hear conflicting stories–our koalas are dying out in some areas because of chlamydia, while in other areas they’re being culled because there’s just too many and they’re in danger of starving to death.

That’s a grim note to finish on but I’m very hopeful the experts will find a solution and I do know they’re trying. My last couple of years I’ve been writing stories based in the outback and I’m on the last one of the series, which, as yet, is nameless. The first two are ‘Stony Creek‘ and ‘The Road to Karinya‘.


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Old Book, New Look.

new the inheritance cover This is the brand new cover for my book, ‘The Inheritance‘, the 2nd edition, or an update, on ‘Inheritance’, which I decided needed a make-over. For the first time I actually spent a little money (very little) on getting someone else to do the cover for me. I actually quite enjoy the process of cover design but it doesn’t always work as well as I hope and it’s difficult at times to find the right image. When my son suggested this site, www.fiverr.com, I decided it was worth $5 for a trial run and I am very pleased with the result. With the Aussie dollar so low at the moment it cost me a little over 7 AUD but I’m not complaining.

I know I’m not the only indie writer who doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on book covers but does want a great, professional looking cover and I think this is an excellent service. There’s quite a few designers to chose from, as well as other services, and different prices, but each one has to provide a basic service for $5. My designer says it can take up to 6 days but mine was back in 3–I also had the option to request changes but I’m happy with it just the way it is.

‘The Inheritance’ is about revenge first and foremost. Jo, a successful advertising executive, is suddenly dumped by her long term partner for a younger woman. When her uncle dies and leaves her his home she decides to start a new life in the country, with her own business. Rose Cottage seems ideal, in a beautiful setting just above Hope Valley and not too far from the city, but secluded and peaceful. Something happens to Jo though, as soon as she moves into the old stone cottage. She becomes obsessed with the cottage and nothing else, not even her career, matters anymore. When she finds a diary hidden within the walls she learns more than she ever wanted to know about the original inhabitants of Rose Cottage and her obsession will lead her to unimaginable horror.sanctuary cover 2014

I have a young adult sci-fi free on Amazon at the moment, ‘Sanctuary’. It’s set well into the future, when the sun has made it impossible for anyone to survive outdoors. While one high-tech civilization, Thrallia, lives in an enclosed environment above ground, they are mostly unaware of another more primitive society, the Centrals, who live underground in an old rail system. The Supers, who are the rulers of Thrallia, not only know of the existence of the Centrals, but have plans that will wipe out the other civilization altogether. Two young Thrallians find out the truth and realise they are the only hope the underground society has to survive.

You don’t have to be a young adult to read Sanctuary–I think it’s a good read if you like sci-fi that’s not too technical!

Sanctuary for UK readers.

Happy Reading.