Chris Gardner

The joys of self-publishing.


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Agony and Ecstasy–Designing your own book covers

Beast_of_War_Cover_for_KindleI finished my latest book a week or so ago and decided to spend some time before I start the next one working on covers, one in particular. I’ve done all of my own covers and currently have 15 books on Amazon; most of them I’m reasonably happy with but the children’s books in particular are really crying out for an artist. There’s no way I’m ever going to find an image of 3 teens, one who’s green and extremely tall and thin, one blue and muscular, and one tiny with white skin and pointy ears, for ‘Beast of War’!

When my youngest son started school I did too and I spent a few years studying art before I decided writing was more my forte. It was fun and hard work and I think the design aspect has proven worthwhile but unfortunately my drawing skills are just not up to scratch, certainly not now if they ever were. Then again my handwriting has deteriorated a lot since I started spending so much time on a computer too and that might be part of it.

Anyway, back to the drawing board–or at least the free photos at morguefile. I did find a picture there that I used for a new cover on ‘Beast of War’, which gives it a fresh look at least. Maybe next year I’ll try the local community college–see if I can find an artist who’ll work for nothing!

 

The only cover I’ve paid for is ‘Inheritance’ and I’m very pleased with that one (from fiverr). I had planned to get the same designer to do my latest new the inheritance coverbook, ‘Red Wine and Summer Storms’, and since it’s book 3 of a series I wanted the other 2 re-done so they’d all sort of match up. I wasn’t happy with his design and I realise now what I actually love about the design of ‘Inheritance’ is the actual picture, which was from one of those sites that sell them, so I went looking for pictures and found one I liked at istock for around $14. Then I redid the titles on the others so they match up reasonably well.

not guilty 2014 coverMy favourite cover, for ‘Not Guilty’, is one of my own photos and the layout is one of Createspace’s, which is considerably easier than using your own.

I’d love to hear from other self-published writers about your cover design stories.

‘Beast of War’ is FREE on Amazon from 4th to 6th December (USA time) and ‘Not Guilty’ is free 4th and 5th. My book of short stories, ‘Connections‘, if free right now, today only.

 

 

 

 

Sunset Vineyard


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Self-publishing with RSI

The great advantage of self-publishing is, of course, there’s no deadlines other than those you set yourself–always a good new the inheritance coveridea I think. Well, usually. Sometimes? I have vague deadlines, usually short term ones like so many words per day or per week, rather than ‘I must finish this book by whenever’. My output has dropped a lot this year because I’ve developed RSI, and yes, I’m well aware I’m not the only one and I’m curious as to how other writers deal with it.

no-one coverI tried a hand therapist, who fitted me with a brace thingy–I hated it but it helped a little, I think. I found it very awkward though and kept looking. My son, another RSI sufferer, had successfully treated his problem using pressure on trigger points. You find the trigger point, which is not the place you have the symptoms at all, but elsewhere, probably in your arms, but could be in your shoulders as well. You use various balls, such as tennis balls, and press your arm against a ball, exerting pressure on the point.

That’s probably a very bad explanation but I did find that helped. I also bought a wrist support for the computer keyboard and my husband removed the arms from my chair–I think they made my wrists position badly on the keyboard. As well as all that though, I’ve also reduced my writing time to about half of what I used to do and try to break it up throughout the day, instead of all at once. It’s not easy but I’m getting used to it.

doglastkinblogI’m off next week to my old home town of Mildura for my mother’s 95th birthday. Mildura is a focal point in several of my books–the Red Dust outback romance series as well as ‘Dark Innocence’, so I’m going to take photos this trip and post them when I get back. You’ll find them in my Pictures of Oz page.darkamazon

My children’s book ‘No-one’s Good at Everything’ is free on 15th and 16th of this month, and ‘Last Chance’, for older children, on 19th to 21st. For adults ‘The Inheritance’ is free on 22nd and 23rd April.


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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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Sorting Fact from Fiction

Does anyone else get a bit annoyed when they’re reading a book which purports to be non-fiction but is clearly riddled with fiction elements–the way people are feeling, for example, or what they were thinking about? It’s possible, if the writer is using diary entries, to stick to the facts and still include such details, but generally they must be invented. I don’t object to that style of writing at all–it makes the characters seem more real and makes the book more interesting, but I do like to know what is fact and what is fiction.

One of my all-time favourite genres is historical fiction–I’ve always been fascinated with history but even more so when it’s interpreted by a great writer. Some writers do let the reader know at the end of the story just what’s real and what isn’t and that’s what I did in my historical fiction, “Her Flesh and Blood”. BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

I attended university a few years ago as a mature age student, majoring in history. I loved it, especially the research, which I expected to find horribly boring. I admit some of the books were, but the primary research was absolutely fascinating. Reading newspapers over 100 years old and handling original letters written by a murderess before she committed her crimes, in 1910, I felt incredibly privileged! I wrote my Honours thesis on Infanticide and Child Murder; as I said, the research was amazing, but writing within the boundaries of a university thesis was a hard slog.

After I graduated I felt I had to use the material I hadn’t been able to use for my thesis, that the story needed to be told, and I wrote “Not Guilty“, the story of the worst of the cases I studied, which, coincidentally, took place in the town where I live. This is a true account and the newspaper accounts are very creative but, as a writer with a fiction background, I was frustrated by what, in spite of all my research, I could not find out about my protagonist, Camellia McCluskey, so I not guilty 2014 coverblogdecided to give her a life of her own and wrote a fictionalized account. Having been somewhat obsessed with this horrific crime for several years it was a bit like an exorcism when I wrote “Her Flesh and Blood“. I was able to say what I wanted to, without the restrictions and I made sure I noted at the end of the book what was factual and what wasn’t! I also published my original thesis, “Demented Mothers“, on Amazon, for those who like all the facts and the sources and especially for anyone who might be studying the topic.

It’s the last day of 2014 here in Oz–Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s hope it’s peaceful.

My grammar guide, “What Did You Say?” and my children’s book, “No-one’s Good at Everything“, are free from December 31 to January 2.


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Aussie Slang–Do I need a Glossary?

The novel I’m currently working on, ‘The Road to Karinya’, is written primarily from 1st person point of view, and, as the story is about two girls travelling around Australia, I am using slang occasionally. I don’t think I’m overdoing it and the truth is we’ve become so Americanized now that I’m not even sure which is ours any more! What I’m wondering is should I put in a glossary of slang terms?karinya cover

On the one hand I don’t want to treat readers as idiots–clearly if there’s a word or a term they don’t understand they can google it–and I’m not keen on the whole glossary thing. I don’t think I’d even fill one page with the slang I’ve used and it just seems silly. On the other hand I don’t want to alienate anyone who might have a problem with the lingo.

As I said I don’t think I’ve used that much slang–I’ve just read through the first ten pages and found eight examples that may or may not be Aussie slang. I don’t think the first pages are indicative of the novel over all and there’s probably less slang as the story progresses. I’d appreciate all opinions as to whether these terms need explanation:

barbie; (not my) cup of tea; in good nick; cuppa; goodies; big smoke; write-off; town bike.

They’d all be easier to understand in the right context of course and I think it’s pretty clear that ‘barbie’ isn’t referring here to a doll:

‘We were up bright and early, all ready to head off by eight o’clock. I’d said my goodbyes the day before to all my family; we had a barbie and my four older sisters all managed to turn up, with various husbands, boyfriends and my three nieces.’

Tell me what you think–are readers willing to look up terms they don’t understand?

My collection of short stories ‘Connections‘ is free on Amazon 1st and 2nd November–UK readers here.

Ditto my novel, a story based on a murder trial in 1910 Australia, ‘Her Flesh and Blood‘–UK readers here.

Reviews would be much appreciated, providing they’re positive ones of course!


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Smashwords, Passions and Freebies

Thanks to everyone for their comments,on linkedin, especially, on my post about Smashwords: one writer pointed out that by leaving my most successful book, Stony Creek, off KDP Select I was missing out on their lending program so I’ve since removed all my books from Smashwords apart from one free short story.

It’s Grand Final day here today–that is AFL football, which is Australian Rules and quite different to American football. There’s no helmets involved and I appreciate it is a game of skill. I might even watch it for a while since my husband will but there’s no way I’d leave the lounge-room for the experience. I was watching one of the breakfast shows this morning and they showed crowds of keen footy fans already lined up to get their seats for a game that starts at (I think) around 2.30 this afternoon. The reporter mentioned that they could put stickers on their seats and then leave for a while. I’m not sure if he meant they could actually leave the stadium or just the seat; I noticed the fans were mostly men and I’m guessing that some will probably be saving seats for their families to join them later. I understand some people are very passionate about football but is it really worth lining up and waiting for six hours? Apparently it is for many fans.

Other people line up for hours, even overnight, to be one of the first to get the latest mobile phone, which is seriously wacky! They’ll make plenty, people, just wait till tomorrow!

I kind of understand fans lining up overnight to get tickets for their favourite band; these are limited after all and I’ve been to some excellent shows myself, but never had to line up for hours–not sure I was ever that keen.

Then of course women are supposed to be passionate about shoes but that’s never caught on with me either–not that I don’t admire them–some are a real work of art, but we’re not meant to torture ourselves in the name of fashion, ladies!

Other people collect all kinds of things–you name it, someone will be passionate enough about it to collect it! I find the older I get the less material things matter to me. I’d probably like to collect holidays, all over the world, but that’s not very likely. I’m off on my first overseas trip next month, to Vanuatu, which is not very far away but it’s a start!BookCoverImageher fleshandblood

I have a couple of freebies on offer at the moment: Not Guilty, a true story about a mother who murdered her three children in 1910, and Her Flesh and Blood, which is a fictionalized account of the same story.  Not Guilty evolved from my Honours thesis on infanticide and child murder and involved a huge amount of research. I do consider myself more a fiction writer though and found the restrictions in writing non-fiction somewhat frustrating, so I then wrote Her Flesh and Blood and gave my characters a life before the murders.

Not Guilty is free 28 and 29 September and Her Flesh and Blood from 28th to 30th September.

UK Readers: Not Guilty, Her Flesh and Blood


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An open letter to Smashwords.

I’ve given you a good chance, Smashwords. I’ve published my best selling book with you; you know the one, Stony Creek; sales on Amazon have far exceeded my expectations and it’s still selling well, ten months after publication. So why can’t you sell it? Not even one copy?

I’ve tried several books with you, Smashwords (May I call you Smashy?) and I’ll leave a couple for the time being, but I don’t intend to put any more up. The only ones that appear to be moving much are the freebies and even then, I thought that might be worthwhile as a promotional tool. Unfortunately you won’t allow me to promote my books at Amazon in the freebies. Understandable of course but I’m sure you can see it kind of makes the whole thing pretty pointless for me.Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

I know you do sell some books, Smashy; you have sold a couple for me, some time ago now, but, for whatever reason, your buyers don’t want to buy my books. I don’t take that personally because there are many buyers at Amazon who do buy my books, especially Stony Creek, which you’ve had for a couple of months now, I think. I’ll leave it with you for now, simply because it is selling very well at Amazon and I have no intention of using it as a free promotion there, so there’s no need for it to be exclusive. And of course I’ve already gone through all that tedious business of formatting for you. (Whew!)

I think, however, I’ll end up removing all the others so I can offer them free occasionally with Amazon’s KDP Select–I don’t mean this to be an ad for Amazon but, honestly, Smashy, I just don’t see the point.

Farewell, and no hard feelings.

Stony Creek at Amazon.com

And at Amazon UK

Free ebooks 14th and 16th September: Beast of War (Fantasy for kids, big and little) and Connections (short stories)

UK readers: Beast of War and Connections

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the 14th actually starts here some time in the early evening on our 14th, so you should be able to get freebies at Amazon.com tonight.


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Self-Publishing and Deadlines

My posts have gone from weekly to fortnightly and now–hmm? When I can. I’ve been busy working on my latest novel and that has to take priority. If the worst thing about traditional publishing is the stress of deadlines, the worst thing about self-publishing is the lack of deadlines!

I’m heading to Vanuatu in October, just for a few days, for my son’s wedding. It’s not something that should have a great effect on my writing but I’ve set myself a deadline, to finish my current novel before then. Every morning I sit down and write for at least an hour and then again after lunch–I’m aiming for at least 1000 words a day, which is not much compared to some people but I know my limits. I’m writing another rural romance, of sorts; Stony Creek is still doing very well. This one is kind of a road trip rural romance and the protagonist is a girl from outback New South Wales who first appeared briefly in Stony Creek.Stony_Creek_Cover_for_Kindle

A friend who’s a successful children’s writer said he only writes 500 words a day, which he’ll work at until it’s perfect, while another writer friend writes around 5000 a day. Some people work full time and can only write when they have a bit of spare time. The trouble is, if you don’t plan your writing time and you don’t have a deadline it’s far too easy to keep putting it off.

It’s essential for a self-published writer to be self-disciplined–we have to make a regular time to just sit and write, even if what we’re writing has to be re-written next day. Don’t wait until you’re in the mood. Just sit down and write at the same time every day, or, if you only have one evening a week, just make it a regular time. If you write on a laptop it’s probably a good idea to be in the same place as well, wherever you can get some peace and quiet.

I write on a desktop so I don’t have that option and it can be difficult at times but there’s only my husband and me here now–I could never have managed when my five sons were living with us! Self-publishing does allow for flexibility–if something comes up I can take a day off and the world won’t end. If I miss my deadline I won’t be in trouble with my publisher; if, on the other hand, I do meet my deadline I’ll be very pleased with myself and enjoy my first overseas trip that little bit more!


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Much ado about nothing

I had no idea what to write about today–didn’t really have anything to say so I decided to have a look at my first post. I started this blog last autumn (March here in Oz) and wrote about the weather and about writing. I had no idea what I wanted the blog to be about and I still don’t really. It’s about my adventures with self-publishing certainly and I still have to mention the weather sometimes, but we do, don’t we? In our everyday conversation, which is, after all, how I write, we always talk about the weather. It’s one thing we all have an opinion on. Is it cold enough for you? Nah, like it cold. Hot enough for you? Too bloody hot! I hate it. I love it. No politics, no religion–a safe subject.

It’s frosty here this morning, which makes a change from the rain at least–nice to see the sun shining through the window. It’s the first day in a while I’ve been able to see the keyboard without the light on. My typing speed is actually not too bad but I tend to look at the keyboard and just glance at the screen now and then rather than vice versa–this is where good old spell-check comes in handy. I did attend a couple of typing classes many years ago and at least one shorthand class–does anyone use shorthand these days? Do you type without looking at the keyboard?

At school, because I was fairly good academically I suppose, I was in what they called ‘Professional’ classes, which I suppose meant I could have gone on to university (which I did, 30 odd years later!) while my sister was in the more practical ‘Commercial’ stream, which taught useful things for girls, like typing. Ironically, she ended up in a profession, as a dental nurse, while I spent most of my working life working in various office jobs. I quite liked it too and didn’t particularly miss those skills but now the ability to touch type would be handy. Still, as I said, I manage pretty well.

I have no idea if they teach touch typing at schools now or if most kids just pick it up naturally, since they’d be typing now as soon as they can read–actually before they can read. My six year old grandson likes to type and I often write out words for him to type in. Like most children his age he has a natural ability and has already told me how to use my smart phone properly. I’m not exactly frightened of such things these days but when I first learnt how to use a computer I was always terrified I’d somehow manage to delete everything if I accidentally pushed the wrong button. I have actually deleted a day’s writing on at least one occasion but that was long ago. Last year! Fortunately I have lots of clever sons and now two grandsons so I’ll be okay!

‘Demented Mothers‘ is free from the 14th to the 18th July (USA) and ‘Her Flesh and Blood‘ is free one day only, the 14th. BookCoverImageher fleshandbloodThe first is my university Honours thesis, out of which evolved ‘Not Guilty’, the true story of the McCluskey murders, as well as “Her Flesh and Blood’, a fictionalized account of the same story. As a creative writer, although I was enthralled with the research about the case, I was frustrated by the story that was lacking, so eventually I decided to create one myself. I gave Camellia McCluskey a life prior to the murders and afterwards and blended fiction and non-fiction. I think it’s a good read and it’s free if you’re quick; if you like it, reviews would be much appreciated.

UK links: Demented Mothers

 Her Flesh and Blood


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Giving Smashwords one more try

I decided I may have been unfair to Smashwords, writing them off as too much work for too little return. I have several books with them but not as many as I have with Amazon; much easier, with formatting etc and besides they just sell a lot more books!

Still, the books I’ve had problems formatting with Smashwords have been mostly those I wrote some time back, when my own Word formatting was pretty rough; also I hadn’t put any of my top sellers on there, partly because of formatting issues and partly because I thought I just might want to make use of Amazon’s KDP Select, which requires exclusive rights.

I’ve now put my outback romance, Stony Creek, on Smashwords, which I think is giving them as good a chance as I can. It’s doing very well on Amazon and apart from a few minor hiccups I had no problems with the formatting, so we’ll see how it goes. Since I have absolutely no intentions of giving any away I decided there was no reason for it to be exclusive with Amazon–haven’t seen any results yet though and I have to say Amazon absolutely rules! One thing I like about Smashwords is that I can make books free whenever I want and I have a small ebook on grammar, What Did You Say? and a short story free. There’s also an interview with yours truly and if you have any suggestions as to what I might add to that I can do that at any time.

not guilty 2014 coverIs there a particular type of book that does well there, I wonder? I’ve found with Amazon my non-fiction, Not Guilty, has done very well as has my outback romance. The others have all sold a few but no-where near the numbers of those two. I’d quite like to put Not Guilty on Smashwords but I think the formatting would be too hard, because it contains different fonts and different spacing for newspaper reports and public records etc. It’s all easy on Amazon, although I must admit Createspace was tricky. I have most of my books on Createspace for PODs and it’s taken me a while to get the hang of it but it’s not too bad now. Amazon ebooks are very simple but if you go through Createspace they can send it over to Amazon and convert it for you.beastfromkindlecover

I have one freebie this week on Amazon, Beast of War, a fantasy about three teens in a land called Breeland. There are three different tribes–different kinds of ‘people’, farmers, cave-dwellers and those who live off the sea, and they are all at risk.  According to prophecy only Terrus, Cener and Airien can save Breeland; they must put aside tribal differences and prejudices and journey together to fight the beast in his lair. I did write this for kids but I’m finding adults enjoy it as well–I know I loved writing it and was rather sad when I finished it and had to say goodbye to the characters! It’s free from the 16th to the 18th of June, so check it out.