Self-Publishing Tools. Part 1 Pre-Publishing

My two basic rules for my approach on my self-publishing journey are 1.) Learn to do it myself; 2.) Use appropriate tools for those things that are too time-consuming for me to learn or perform myself.

Every journey starts somewhere, and my publishing journey started with the willing heart of a complete novice. I’m sharing the tools I use and how I use them. Note that while I am an Amazon Affiliate I am NOT an affiliate of any of the tools mentioned below. A fan, yes! An Affiliate, no. ~ Judith

EDITING TOOL

Grammarly Premium

ProWritingAid Premium

I started with Microsoft Word to correct any of my very few spelling errors that were basically typos. Novice. I added Grammarly Free and realized my spelling errors were more prevalent than I thought. I purchased a year’s subscription of Grammarly Premium then a year later purchased ProWritingAid Premium because it wasn’t a subscription. That was a personal decision; however, a premium editing tool is a must-have.

I learned my major grammar problem is passive verbs. I speak in passive verbs and write in passive verbs. Finding and correcting passive verbs is not how I want my editor to spend her time. I’m the Super Hero Author who saves my editor for the more daunting tasks of cleaning up commas and finding plot holes.

Why didn’t the Premium editing tool find the commas? Because when I correct one thing I have the audacious skill of breaking one or two others, and commas are my second grammar problem. Every Super Hero has a flaw.

PRE-PUBLISHING TOOL

Publisher Rocket

My number one, go-to pre-publishing tool is Publisher Rocket. I first purchased Publisher Rocket for Amazon KDP keywords for my first published book in 2018. Being literal, I found seven keywords to complete the seven spots that KDP allowed. I was grateful for the help because I could think of only two or three. Novice.

Keywords

I later learned through ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, of which I’m a member, that a keyword did not need to be a single word, after all; each keyword “spot” on KDP allowed up to 50 characters and could be a list of words. My seven keywords suddenly expanded to 44-48 words, depending on the length of the word, and I had published my second novel! Publisher Rocket to the rescue!

Categories

Amazon KDP prompts for two categories for a book. My novice self dutifully picked two of the categories from the KDP selections provided. Once again, I learned through ALLi that I could list up to ten categories, and the ten categories could drill down much deeper than the suggested KDP selections. So for example, I went from Fiction>Mystery>Cozy to Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Cozy > Culinary. Publisher Rocket helped me with ten categories for each format – ebook and paperback – and for each of my books which had grown to three.

Competition

When I first started using Publisher Rocket, keywords and categories were my focus. I peeked at the competition once without any concept of what to look for or why I would care. Novice. When I discovered my competition was not the six million books on Amazon as I had originally thought, I delved into competition with the help of Publisher Rocket.  I learned my competition was books similar to mine that were actually selling, and that number was not six million. Publisher Rocket helped me to scope out my competition. I scoured book covers for ideas. I examined fonts and colors to determine the pattern for my genre. I read book descriptions for ideas. I checked the pricing of ebooks and paperbacks.

What About You?

What pre-publishing tools do you use?

 

Judith A. Barrett Books on Amazon

 

Judith A. Barrett website

DANGER IN THE CLOUDS – Amazon Discounts Paperback!

Amazon DEEP Discount for the Paperback DANGER In The CLOUDS  GRID DOWN SURVIVAL SERIES, BOOK 1

Dystopian Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction, Suspense Thriller

I might have reported this as a Leprechaun Sighting if I hadn’t heard the author-gossip of Amazon discounting a paperback with no notice.

List price $16.99

Sale price $10.94

Savings $6.05

Not only was the sale itself unannounced, but the sale also ends with no notice. Two days? Two weeks?

If you love the feel of a good book in your hands, now is your chance to have DANGER IN THE CLOUDS at a 36% discount!

 

DANGER IN THE CLOUDS LINK to the PAPERBACK

MAJOR DAVE ELLIOTT’s quiet farm life with his dog and granddaughter abruptly changes when a cyber-attack collapses the grid and the economy.  After his granddaughter’s uncanny ability to see danger thwarts attacks on the farm, will Major succeed in exposing the conspiracy where others have so tragically failed and died?

 

Best Strategy for a Self-Published Author

The best strategy might be magic, but in case that isn’t your strong suit, start with understanding your motivation as an author. Family, Fame, or Fortune?

The basics for any author, traditional or self-published, are to self-market via personal appearances, social media, website, and newsletter and to create a quality product. The self-published author has the advantage of a community of other experienced self-published authors who are willing to share what they have learned.

The biggest mistake a self-publisher can make is to emulate the traditional publisher’s strategy. Traditional publishers may have the advantage of years of experience, but they can’t match the nimble responsiveness of the self-publisher.

The goals of Family, Fame, or Fortune have different strategies for the Author-Publisher.

FAMILY

If your author goal is to write and publish a single book or two for Family and Friends, then your overall marketing strategy is to focus on self-marketing through personal contacts. The self-published author has access to the publisher reports but reviewing and tracking sales and performance is optional.

FAME

If your author goal is Fame then your first step is to become famous as a politician or actor then become an author. As a celebrity, however, it’s unlikely you will be interested in self-publishing. But if you do become famous, would you please review one of my books? Thanks.

If you want to skip the first step and become a not-quite-that-famous author, define what you mean by famous. New York Times Best Selling Author? USA Today Best Selling Author?

The New York Times requires a book to be traditionally published, which releases the self-published author from the stress and angst of striving for the New York Times Best Seller list.

Hitting the USA Today Best Seller list is doable for a self-published author. It takes planning and money. Your book needs to be wide, and you need to understand promo stacking, PPC, CPC, and other marketing measurements. There are a number of well-written articles to guide you in your planning. As far as how much money, it depends on your planning. The advantage of being on the USA Today Best Seller list is that you can tout it always. You can splash USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR on all your books, social media, and website. Forever. There you go. Famous.

FORTUNE

If your author goal is Fortune, you are in a marathon, not a sprint, and a long-term strategy is your key. Think of yourself as not only a self-published author but also as an independent business. Establish a formal business and learn acceptable accounting practices. In addition to your author self-marketing, create a website for your publishing business. Map out a five-year plan and develop a method to measure your ROI.

The strategy for your first and second year is to plan a series and publish quality books. Know who your target reader is. After you have an established series, write and publish at least three quality books a year. Consider a second series to expand your target readers.

The second and third years, try different marketing methods and track the ROI. Drop those that are not net-profitable and repeat those that are. Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

The goal for your third year is to have a positive net income. Write and publish. Your books don’t necessarily have to be wide at first but begin going wide before the end of the third year with at least one series and adjust your marketing methods to accommodate being wide. Study best practices for going wide and develop your strategy. Develop and implement a plan for paperbacks.

The fourth year, write, publish, and follow your strategy. Continue testing different marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Your goal is an increase in net income in comparison to year three.

The goal for your fifth year is a higher net income than year four. Write and Publish. Revise your strategy for the next five years. Test marketing methods and Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

GOALS

Which goal is mine? I started off with Family then two years ago I shifted to Fortune, which means I am in Year Three with the goal of a positive net income. What about Fame? I’m a farmer. Outstanding in my field.

Which goal is yours?

Do You Love or Dread Editing?

Editing is the process that helps us move from seemingly random thoughts on a page to a polished, ready-to-publish novel. It’s time to toss the Dread and hug the Edit. The following eight editing steps are more or less in order even though authors loop back to earlier steps on occasion. Note that most authors prefer step 3A or 3B, not both. Let’s don’t go edit crazy, now!

1. Self Editing

It’s natural to edit as you go along. Typical self-editing corrects spelling, rewrites worrisome sentences, and makes changes to the plot direction.

PRO: You are available whenever you are writing. A quick edit of a previous page can give you the boost to continue forward.

CON: Good for a quick check, but you are too close to the writing to see very much. There is the trap of spending too much time on perfection to the detriment of any progress.

2. Friends and Family

Asking friends and family to read opens your reading world beyond yourself. You’re well on your way to being an Author. When friends and family offer, or accept your offer, to read what you have written, they bring fresh eyes to your document.

PRO: You’ll have someone else’s perspective. When you’re overcome by doubts, they are good for a dose of kindness.

CON: Their perspective is clouded by their relationship with you, and they may or may not have the time and skill to do more than read a little, and say “That’s good.” Their schedule may not allow them to meet your deadline needs.

3A. A Local Critique Group of Authors

If you’ve joined a local group of authors, the group may meet regularly to read and critique snippets of each other’s work.

PRO: You’ll have the less personal perspective of other writers on a portion of your writing. You will learn to accept criticism rather than argue or explain. You will develop a professional relationship with other authors.

CON: You may not be available for every group meeting. The writers have a variety of skills and experience, and you may receive erroneous advice. Not everyone in your group may be familiar with your genre. Because your reviewers are reading only a small snippet, the group may hone in on irrelevant points.

 3B. An Online Critique Group

An online critique group allows you to submit your writings for critique and in return, you critique others.

PRO: You work at home on your own schedule. You submit and reciprocate on your own schedule. The critiques tend to be grouped by genre. You will learn to accept criticism from a variety of people you don’t know and can’t see which is early training for reviews after you are published.

CON: The writers have a variety of skills, and you may receive erroneous advice. The group is fluid, and a reviewer with good ideas may no longer be available. The reviewers still read only a snippet at a time and may hone in on irrelevant corrections. However, the reader who told you he found seventeen adverbs in your submission is not necessarily a bad reviewer. True story.

4. First Draft Readers

A first draft reader is one who will read your writing for the story and tell you whether you have gone awry.

PRO: You select your first draft readers from your more skilled family members or an author from your group who understands your genre.

CON: First draft readers are hard to find. Readers sometimes get bogged down by commas and grammar when you need to know whether your characters are believable and your story is logical.

5. Draft Two (etc) Readers

Readers of subsequent drafts read the story with an eye for your characters and the story. If they see punctuation or grammar corrections, they will mention them.

PRO: More eyes; more perspectives. It’s recommended to use readers who have not read along in the development process of your writing.

CON: Additional readers are hard to find. Not everyone will be able to meet your schedule or your expectations.

6. Editing Software

Editing software reviews your writing for the mechanics: grammar, punctuation and writing style.

PRO: Your editing software will help you to see your weaknesses and correct them. Do you tend to overuse cliches? Your editing software will tell you. Passive verbs? Your editing software finds them. Software is time-saving because it finds areas for correction much quicker and with more accuracy than any other method.

CON: Editing software is not infallible. Sometimes it misinterprets or is wrong and sometimes it misses something critical. It’s a mistake to change anything just because the computer said so. Your own skill and research must be applied.

7. Professional Editor

A professional editor is critical before you release your writing to the outside world. Give your professional editor the most polished document you can. One that you have scrubbed to the best of your ability by using your writer/readers, draft readers, and editing software.

PRO: After your professional editor completes the edit, and you have made corrections, you are ready to publish.

CON: Professional Editors cost money.

PRO PLUS: Your editor is your secret weapon for success.

8. Release Your Final!

Now you are ready to query an agent, submit to a publisher, or self-publish!

 

Take a peek at my books that are available on Amazon. Judith A. Barrett Books

I have a monthly newsletter that gives readers notice about the current month’s FREE book and other news. Interested? Sign up!   Judith A. Barrett Newsletter

 

 

 

Your First Draft ~ Getting Started or Unstuck

writersblock

The hardest part of a first draft for me – you too? – is getting started. The second hardest part is hitting a wall or being stuck. Here are eight tips for writing the first or next paragraph, page, or chapter that helps me to keep it moving.

1. What is your story?
To get started, jot down what your story is about. You need only a few words, and the notes are just for you.

Examples: Power grid goes down; counterfeit drugs; smuggling; murder and a second murder.

2. Who is your main character?
Name, age, what does he or she look like? What are their good points? Bad points?
Example: Maggie, 20’s, short, slender, dyed gray hair. Smart. Literal. Lies.

3. When and where does your story take place?
Current or future? Real or fantasy world? Urban or rural location?

4. Who is your main character going to talk to?
Give your main character someone or something to talk and react to – a dog, person, dragon, or other.

5. What happens next?
Keep the plot moving, but not necessarily in a straight line! When something bad happens, how does the main character fix it? When the main character does fix a problem, what happens to make it go wrong?

6. Make up the story as you go along.
Many people work well with an outline, but others don’t. Outline or no outline, the purpose of the first draft is to get the story out of your head. Fix the holes later.

7. When you are stuck, take a break.
Do something active or go outside. Run, plant a garden, pull weeds, play tennis, or watch birds. Take a walk and think about chickens. Or goat yoga.

8. Superstuck? Cantaloupe.
If you’re superstuck and can’t think of a word or what happens next, type a code word that wouldn’t appear in your story. I use cantaloupe. And move on. Go back days later and search for cantaloupe. You’ll either forget where you were going and fill in something else, or you’ll fill in what you were trying to think of in the first place. Either way, you win.

Your turn – What helps you get started or unstuck with writing?