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The Write Software: Formatting

You can skip this part if you don’t plan on publishing your work. Who are we kidding? Of course you want to publish your own work!

Multipurpose or Workhorse Software

A lot of creative writing software like Scrivener and come fully loaded with word processing, outlining, and formatting features. Either way, even with the help of software and applications, formatting can be the worst.

I personally still format my own work using word. It’s a tedious process but well worth the effort to learn how. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally take the easy route. I almost exclusively publish my eBooks with KDP so for simple time saving I generally use the Amazon Formatting Programs.

Kindle Create

It’s Free! Kindle Create is perfect for people who don’t want to deal with all the fuss and have opted to go with Amazon as their sole distributor. All you have to do is open the application, import you word document or PDF and follow the simple on screen instructions. Of course, you still need to make sure everything lines up the way you want but its a simple and easy way to play with different styles for your eBook and print books. Once you are done you save it as a KDP file and upload directly to Amazon. The only downside to this is that since it saves as an Amazon specific file you will still need to figure out how to format your book for distribution on other sites.

Kindle Create Add-in for Word

It’s still in its beta testing phase but I’m not trying for anything too fancy. It’s simple and easy to format a decent eBook for kindle. At the moment it doesn’t work well for a paperback.

Check out this short video from Amazon KDP to see if this option is for you

Like I mentioned in The Write Process: Formatting there are lots of templates and services for formatting your novel online. With a little trial and error you can find what works best for you. If you have any suggestions or methods for formatting your work, feel free to comment below!

The Write Software: Editing

Oh No! I said it! Editing Software! Editing Software! Editing Software! Okay, I’m done being silly. Seriously though this list is in no way a guide to replacing a professional or human editor. These are just a few ways to help catch basic errors and possibly save a few bucks in the editing process.

Free Software

Hemingway Editor– I personally haven’t tried it but many of my writing peers enjoy this program immensely. It’s not as flashy as Grammarly, but it does have a desktop app.

Basic layout but functional

Grammarly– Yes, I know that Grammarly offers a paid subscription to access their full features, but if you write short stories and don’t mind using a web browser to edit your work, the free version is just fine.

Fancy layout but similar features as Hemingway

Paid Software

Grammarly Premium

I have a premium subscription and “I put that ish on everythang!”. No, seriously. I have the keyboard on my phone, the add-in for MS Word, my browser, and email. When you are supposed to be a professional writer, you can’t let them catch you slippin’ in these streets.

Pricing
  • Monthly Subscription $29.95/month
  • Quarterly Subscription $19.95/month billed as one payment of $59.95
  • Annual Subscription $11.95/month billed as one payment of$139.95

For a detailed review and a 20% discount on the premium version, check out Grammarly Review 2019 by Brian Collins on becomeawritertoday.com

Fictionary

Photo from https://prowritingaid.com

Fictionary is meant to be an extra editing layer between your self-edits and a professional editor. I found it to be a little cumbersome with a slight learning curve even after watching the provided tutorials. Otherwise it’s the only program I know where you are actually editing for content and not just line editing.

The best feature: Being able to see your plot points in graph form.

The worst feature: Only able to work on one project at a time.

Pricing
  • Offers a 14 day free trial no credit card needed
  • Monthly Subscription $20
  • Annual Subscription $200

For a detailed review of Fictionary Click Here

AutoCrit

Biggest Claim to fame is being able to compare your work to Best Sellers in your genre.

Best Feature: Whatever algorithms they use, it actually works! I got lots of positive feedback from my beta readers and editor after submitting a short story I put through the program.

Worst Features*: It’s a web-based app so not good if you have slow internet or a computer with not enough functional memory. I have issues with it lagging or freezing up when working with larger documents (close to their 50K max word suggestion). Also no reliable autosave, have to manually save before switching tabs otherwise your editing progress will be lost.

Pricing
  • Basic Plan $10/month No comparison feature and limited to 1000 words at a time
  • Professional Plan $30/month Comparison Feature, genre preference, customized report
  • Elite Plan $80/month adds an author spotlight and writing courses to the Professional Plan
  • Deals on Membership: 14-day Trial for $1 if you sign up for the professional or Elite plan. NaNoWriMo 2018 deal $45 for three months (what I am currently using)

Check out this article by TechRadar for a detailed review

*Update 5/20/2019: I can’t honestly recommend AutoCrit as I had a terrible customer service experience with the billing department. Was over charged several times despite paying for several months in advance. I was refunded but cancelled my subscription because I rather not have to worry about random funds being pulled from my accounts.

WhiteSmoke Writing Assistant

WhiteSmoke is another option that I have just started playing with. I haven’t used it much but it seems to be comparable to Grammarly and Hemmingway just without the fancy platform.

Features

  • Online, mobile, and computer based software
  • Grammar checker
  • plagiarism checker
  • Translator
  • Tiered Subscription Plan

Pricing

  • Essential (online only) $8.33/month billed as $49.95 for the year
  • Premium (online and software download) $13.33/month billed as $79.99 for the year
  • Business (online and software up to three computers) $22.99/month billed as $137.94 for the year

Mobile App can be included with each for an additional $1

So that’s it for the editing software that I am aware of. If there are any others you use or have heard of feel free to put it in the comment section below!

The Write Software: Writing

Word Processing

With so many different writing apps to choose from it can be hard to know which ones are the best. No two writers are the same and that makes it even harder to find which ones will work best for you. I will give a brief description of the various apps I have tried as well as price comparison.

I have not been compensated in any way by the companies or program creators mentioned and all opinions expressed are my own.

The key part of writing is writing!

So what better place to start than with word processors. There are several different types of word processors. The three different types I will go over include computer-based, web-based, and writer-specific.

Microsoft Word- Probably the most well known, it’s the gold standard of word processors. It’s both computer-based and web-based but nowadays costs a pretty penny unless you are lucky and have a free or discounted account from your day job or school.

With the push to get people to buy into Office 365 unless you want to purchase from a different retailer or chase down a free/pirated version of MS Word, buying the program outright is upwards of $300 and the monthly subscription is $9.99 a month or $99.99 for the year.

I use Word 2013 since that is when I last upgraded my laptop and there was a Black Friday deal that made it worthwhile to buy it at the time. I mostly use MS Word because I am comfortable with its layout and functions. I write individual scenes here and make use of add-ins for my initial editing and ebook formatting, but more on those later in the series.

Google Docs– Best part of Google Docs, it’s FREE! You also don’t have to worry about having access to your files when on the go since documents get saved to the Google Drive Cloud aka a web-based application.

Google Docs is great for writers who like to write on their phone, tablet, or don’s have regular access to a computer. Also, those who work co-write with others since all updates are kept in the same place no matter which authorized user works on the draft.

The layout is comparable to MS Word, but I don’t like working in Google Docs. The feel isn’t quite the same for me, and I am one of those people paranoid about cloud storage of my precious work.

Not down for paying a premium but don’t want a web-based service?

Open/Libre Office– For those of you already familiar with these programs don’t jump on me for lumping them together. In my experience, Apache’s Open Office and Mozilla’s Libre Office are basically the same thing. A free computer-based open source word processing program. If you want more of a comparison between the two programs, check out How to Geek’s Comparison.

Want a program more tailored to the needs of creative writers?

Scrivener– Available for Windows, Mac, and iOS, Literature and Latte blessed the literary world with this one. Part word processor, part formatting app, it’s my go-to app for organizing my word vomit into a cohesive novel for publishing. There is a bit of a learning curve, it’s computer/device-based, and it’s not a free program. If you can afford the $45 regular price or $38.25 for students and academics, I highly recommend it!

I love having the ability to see my work outlined in different ways. It streamlines my content editing and story flow process immensely. One of the main features I use is their compile feature which allows me to take my work from outline to formatted manuscript, text file, paperback, ebook etc…

I cannot express how much this one writing app has changed my writing process for the better.

More Word processors specific to creative writing that I have absolutely no experience with, but are worth checking out:

Storyist– Mac and iOS Only. $59 for new users and $39 to upgrade from an older version. Like I stated earlier, I am not an Apple Product person, but I have heard rave reviews from people who do use it.

Ulysses– Mac and iOS Only. Subscription based, $4.99/month or $39.99/yr US price.

Novlr- Web-based subscription, $10/month or $100/annual

Dabble– Computer-based software with a $10/monthly or $100/annual subscription.

No matter what your preference there is sure to be a word processor out there that will suit your writing style. Don’t be afraid to give the ones I’ve mentioned a try. If you have your own feedback to add to mine or other programs you use feel free to drop some knowledge in the comment section.

The Write Publishing: Judge A Book By Its Cover

They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but in the world of self-Publishing the right or wrong cover can make or break you. In the saturated world of eBooks having an eye catching cover is everything.

Choosing the Right Cover

Research book covers in your genre – not saying you need to get a cookie cutter copy that will blend in with the masses but at least make sure that your cover has similar themes as the top books in your genre.

Consider your theme– Make sure your cover conveys the theme or tone of your novel. You don’t want to confuse readers before they even open your book. I made this mistake with my first covers. While I thought they were awesome they made my book seem like a comic or manga and possibly turned off readers in my genre, paranormal romance.

Repeat Covers– Unless you are writing a serial try not to use the same cover for all the books in your series. While they need to have some similarities to show that they are part of the same series. It’s not good form to keep the same exact cover for each. Also if you are using stock photos you would need to purchase a license for each book anyway so it doesn’t save you too much cost wise either.

Model Drama– There are only so many models available in the stock world. Especially if you are on a tight budget. If you use popular sites like iStock or Deposit Photos, don’t be upset if you see multiple books with your same model and pose.

DIY or Not– You may opt to create your own covers to reduce the production cost of your book. If that’s the case be sure to do your research on basic design principles like the rule of thirds. Don’t forget to check the licensing on any stock photos and fonts used in your work, especially from so-called free sites. Not all of the photos and fonts have free commercial use licenses and most have limits on how many copies can be made with the image even with a paid license.

Custom and Pre-Made Covers– If you don’t feel like figuring out how to make your own cover or just don’t have the required skills, there is nothing wrong with buying a premade cover or hiring someone to make the cover for you. A lot of authors, including myself choose this option. Premades can range from $25-$250 based on the detail of the work, quality of the stock photo, and type of cover (eBook, Print, audiobook). Custom covers vary in price based on the same criteria although custom artwork for your cover increases the cost exponentially. Custom covers range from $5-$500+.

Credit your artist– If you choose to buy premade or have custom work done, best practice is to credit the artist or firm in the front cover of your book as well as in the book data. Some artists even require this in their contract with you. As an author, it is important to credit those you have worked with not only to show support for your team and the other artists involved int he project but also to cover yourself in case of copyright issues involving the art.

The Write Publishing: ISBNs

You may have seen a lot of this information floating around the interwebs but I’ve decided to put all of my knowledge and experience with ISBN’s here in an attempt to uncomplicate and facilitate new authors starting out.

Do you need an ISBN?

The short answer is YES!

Where do you get ISBNs?

Some publishing platforms offer free ISBNs but I prefer to get my own. There are many shady places that “sell” ISBNs but the only official and recognized source is Bowkers www.myidentifiers.com

Why should I buy my own ISBNs?

You should buy your own ISBNs if you want to have yourself listed as the official publisher of your work. If not the platform you publish on will be listed as your publisher and it can cause issues if you want to publish across multiple platforms with that ISBN.

Can you use an ISBN more than once?

Nope. Once you use an ISBN it is assigned to that book and that book only. That includes the same work in different formats. You will need an ISBN for your ebook, another for paperback, and another for hardback. eBooks thorugh Amazon will be assigned an ASIN which is not an ISBN and is not transferable to any place outside or Amazon.

Do I really need an ISBN for Ebooks?

That is honestly up to you. I personally rather have all my bases covered and have ISBNs for my ebooks.

How much do ISBNs cost?

On Bowker’s My Identifiers Prices are:

  • 1 ISBN $125
  • 10 ISBN $295
  • 100 ISBN $575

Those prices can be pretty steep for some and a lot of self publishers opt for the free ISBN from their preferred platform for that reason. I know I did when I first started. So if you are on the fence about where you want to go with your writing. If your self-publishing journey isn’t something you are pursuing as a career than having an ISBN isn’t necessary but I highly recommend getting an ISBN for your book if you plan to become a professional author.

The Write Publishing: Self-Pub Platforms

Now that you have your marketing strategy and time management down. It’s time to talk actual publishing of your work. If you have followed along with The Write Process Series you should already have a good idea of what formats you would like to produce and how to format them. If not then here is a quick rundown.

eBooks– the most popular format for self-publishers because of the low production cost and ease of formatting.

Print– For self publishers who want to participate in direct sales or just want to provide more options for their readership. Not super expensive to produce but a greater cost because of stocking and storage.

Audiobooks– The most expensive to produce, even if doing DIY. Not very lucrative without a dedicated following who prefers audiobooks. Complicated setup and high fees can be discouraging to some. I won’t be discussing Audiobooks in this post.

With that in mind we can now get into publishing platforms. There are many different options out there but I am only going to discuss the ones I have experience with.

Kindle Direct Publishing/Createspace– Amazon is by far the largest distributor of eBooks in the world. Their set up is very user-friendly and a bonus it’s free! Even the royalty rates are more favorable to authors than other platforms with both 30% or 70% options available. Most self-publishers use this platform for that very reason, but it isn’t without its flaws.

New updates to reviewing criteria that denies or removes reader reviews, the demand for exclusivity to participate in their on-site promotions and kindle unlimited, and ever-changing algorithms that can either boost or bury your work make succeeding in sales on Amazon tricky.

Another thing to consider before doubling down with Amazon is if you want to see your work in brick and mortar stores. A lot of them see Amazon as a competitor and don’t stock books only available through Amazon. Especially if you choose to use the free Amazon ISBN. More on ISBNs Here.

Ingram Spark– The indie publishing arm of the massive Ingram complex, Ingram Spark provides quality print and ebooks with the backing of Ingram’s extensive distribution network (which includes Amazon). The downside, it’s expensive compared to other option running $50-$100 to upload your work. Formatting is much more involved for Ingram as well, and the provided tutorials aren’t very helpful. Ingram also has a dismal royalty rate compared to Amazon.

For example, the print version of my novel Ferocious is listed at a price of $8.99 but subtract the wholesale discount of 50% and the print cost and I only get roughly $0.30 per book. To get a larger cut I can raise my price, but being a lesser known Author I risk out pricing my audience by doing so.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I chose to use Ingram over KDP for my book. The reason is that I wanted to see my book in Brick and Mortar stores, have greater distribution into libraries, and I honestly feel the color and print quality of Ingram is better than Amazon if only marginally so.

Draft2Digital– This is basically a giant agreggation site. You upload your work to them and they take care of all the different criteria required by various sites. I have not used the print side of draft2digital nor their audiobook services but the ebook side is similar to Amazon in ease of use and cost.

I’ve only been on Draft2Digital for a week at the time of writing this article so I can’t say if it’s a better option than Amazon for ebooks. I can say that it is nice to have a single link to all of the places my books are available. No more giant lists of links for each format and platform. I will provide an update when I have more experience with this site.

Other sites that I have little to no experience with:

I highly suggest checking out each platform and deciding which best suits your needs and wants as far as distribution and offerings. Where you publish and how your book is distributed can really make the difference in how professional you come across in your publishing endeavors. If you have any questions, comments, or additions to this post please feel free to add them to the comments section.

The Write Publishing: Self-Pub Socially

So you want to go for it on your own? Let me tell you that self publishing is definitely not a solitary act. You will need a solid support base in order to achieve your goals of self made stardom.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. Self Publishing is not a get rich quick scheme by any means. It is a lot of hard work but with the right attitude and effort, it can be a very rewarding experience.

In part one of Self-Publishing I will discuss mostly the marketing and budgeting aspects of self publishing. Even though its called self publishing to be successful, however that looks for you. There is a heavily social aspect to the job.

Things to Consider

1.) Self Publishing is not an excuse to produce sub par work!

Your reputation as an author is everything in Publishing. So don’t skimp out on editing to meet some arbitrary deadline. One of the perks of being self-published is being on your own schedule. If you need more time to put out a quality product take it. If it’s an issue of money, that can be worked around too. There are tons of blogs like this one with ample resources to help you put forth a quality product no matter you time and budgetary constraints.

2.) How good are you with budgets?

You aren’t going to have the privilege of an advance or the resources of a major company behind you. All of your production and marketing costs will come out of your pockets. That’s why it’s important to set a budget, figure out what services you are willing to pay for and which ones you can DIY. The lower your costs, the higher your profits if any. Gig sites like Fiverr can come in handy for discount book covers, and marketing graphics but I wouldn’t suggest them for an editor.

You will also need to learn to budget your time. It’s very easy to get caught up in the social media and marketing aspect and lose sight of the actual writing, or vice versa. Setting a schedule for writing, marketing, and networking will go a long way in easing the burden of the multi hat wearing self publisher.

3.) How are you with self promotion?

Being shy about promoting yourself and your work will not go over so well in the self-publishing world. A lot of your sales will come from people who feel connected to you in some way. There are ways to maintain a level of anonymity, but the more outgoing you are, the easier it will be to reach and attract an audience. On the flip side, you also don’t want to be that person that doesn’t interact with others but is constantly posting promotional material. You will quickly be labeled a spammer or worse a scammer.

Outside of the digital realm, be sure to have some sort of card or flyer to hand out to people who may be interested in your work. The boots on the ground method is often more effective than wading through the depths of social media. Cards can be placed at local businesses (with their permission of course), handed out by your personally, and/or given to friends or family to help spread the word in your community.

4.) Are you good with social media?

Social Media will be your number one avenue for marketing. You don’t have to be an expert or a master of all platforms. Just find one or two that you are most comfortable with and start building your audience. By audience I mean readers! While having a bunch of writing friends is excellent, and some authors do support other authors. You don’t want to get caught in a trap of groups and spaces of authors promoting their work without reaching actual readers.

Not so good with social media? Having an active mailing list is often more valuable than a thousand followers on social media. So focus on building a list with a simple newsletter format. My newsletter is weekly but monthly is just fine if you don’t have a lot going on. Update your readers about your writing process, share some funny memes with anecdotes to your writing or daily life, inform people of upcoming appearances and events both your own and other writing-related events. There are plenty of options to keep people invested in what you have to say.

Here’s a sample of my newsletter. Feel free to join my mailing list as well!

I am one of those people who happens to be fairly social so I’m across multiple platforms. You can check me out at the following links and don’t be shy about being friendly!

My Social Media Links in Order of Activity

Facebook

www.facebook.com/stellawilliamsauthor

Instagram

www.instagram.com/stellalove4life

YouTube

https://bit.ly/2RRbd9f

Twitter

www.twitter.com/stellalove4life

Pinterest

www.pinterest.com/stellawilliamsa

Tumblr

http://serpentinecreative.tumblr.com

Let me know if this article has been helpful and post any other questions you may have in the comments. Happy Self-Publishing!

The Write Publishing: Traditional

I am not a traditionally published author. I have never sought out to be a traditionally published author. It has honestly not been something I’ve taken into serious consideration, but if you plan to publish at all its good to take stock of all the options in order to make the best decision for you. This article I will list a few of the steps to getting Traditionally Published.

Just a few guidelines to get you in the right head space for the Traditional Publishing Journey.

#1 Be Prepared to Wait

Very rarely will your first attempt at being picked up by a publisher will be sucessful. There are many steps and many gatekeepers that make the process long and tedious.

#2 Don’t Get Discouraged

Rejection comes in many forms and will most likely come often as you submit your work. Try not to take it to heart. Even JK Rowling was rejected at the beginning of her career.

#3 Be open to criticism and change

If you are lucky enough to receive feedback from your submissions, take the criticisms and work them to your advantage. There is something to be said for creative integrity and freedoms, but if you need to change your manuscript or a minor character to get in the door, it may be in your best interest not to fight it.

With that out of the way, let’s talk process!

1.) Have a completed manuscript– I know some people will try and start the publishing process before their manuscript is complete, but how are you going to sell something that doesn’t exist. We all know that writing doesn’t always go as planned. If you are serious about getting picked up by a publisher, you need to put your best foot forward. In this case that means having a completed manuscript and a complete picture of where you intend to go with your work.

2.) Build your readership– Having an already established readership will go a long way in enticing Agents and Editors to give your work a shot. So get on social media and make some reader friends. Entice them to join your email list and share a few shorts or excerpts for your work to have them clamoring for your full length projects.

3.) Find an Agent – this step is not always necessary but comes recommended by the few of my traditionally published friends. They key is to find someone who understands your work and will passionately promote you and your best interest. Remember an Agent works for you so if you aren’t jiving with their strategy don’t feel obligated to stick around.

4.) Submit where you fit!– Do your research to mitigate rejections. Make sure wherever and to whoever you submit your work, that they specialize or are at least open to your genre and style of writing.

5.) Submit a Query– This is a widely covered topic that I have no experience with, but I found this awesome blog by Jane Friedman that covers all the important stuff.
https://www.janefriedman.com/query-letters/

6.) Wait and Resubmit– Most companies have a long waiting process when it comes to submissions. You will be lucky if you even get an acknowledgment of your submission in some cases. Don’t stress yourself out if you never hear back. If you do choose to resubmit after waiting an appropriate amount of time be sure to be professional about it. No one likes a snarky writer in real life.

That covers what I know about Traditional Publishing. If you are a published Author or just more knowledgeable about the process feel free to comment any additional tips!

The Write Publishing: Traditional vs Self Publishing

Probably one of the most heated debates in the literary world. Which one is better? If you ask the writing community across social media, you will find many strong opinions about both. In this article, I will try and give an objective list of the pros and cons to help you decide for yourself.

Traditional Publishing

Pros

  • The backing of a company
  • Cover design, formatting, finding an editor all taken care of
  • Initial marketing push
  • Implied Prestige and legitimacy
  • More/easier access to brick and mortar stores
  • Advances and multiple book contracts

Cons

  • Deadlines
  • Less control over your work
  • Low royalty rates
  • Long process
  • Rejection
  • Contractual obligations

Self Publishing

Pros

  • Complete creative control
  • Produce and publish on your own schedule
  • The possibility of higher royalty rates
  • Flexibility in content (niche markets)

Cons

  • Covering production and marketing costs
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Harder to get into brick and mortar stores
  • No advances
  • Competition

Not all authors choose between the two. A lot of traditionally published authors self publish works for niche markets not represented well by traditional publishing. On the other side of it, many self-published authors still send out queries and pursue agents to traditionally publish their work at some point. The writing world doesn’t have to be one or the other.
It all comes down to what makes sense for you and your work.

The Write Process: Formatting

Hurray! You’ve completed your manuscript and its run the gammut of editing. Now it’s time to format for publishing.

I am going to be honest. Formatting your manuscript for print can be a total pain. Formatting isn’t just an issue for self-published authors. A poorly formatted manuscript will quickly get your work rejected by agents and traditional publishers alike.

Formatting for Traditional Publishing

Thankfully, manuscript formatting is fairly straight forward. Most writing software already has a manuscript template or setting that cuts down on your work immensely. Still, it’s good to know what the guidelines are in case you need to format on your own. The following is a screenshot of a template for Microsoft Word.

The title page should include your name and contact information, number of words in your manuscript, as well as the obvious title and by line.

Headers should have the author’s last name, the title of the book, and page number.

The Body of the manuscript requires a little more work. If you have chapter titles, include them instead of the basic Chapter One. There should be one-inch margins and double spacing between lines. Text should be Times New Roman with 12pt font. Some Agents and publishers may require slightly different settings or additional content, but these are the basics.

Formatting for Self-Publishing

This is where things get more complicated. Most people skip this part altogether and rely on a formatting program or pay a professional to do it for them. How you format your self published novel depends on your genre and personal style.

There are some template available online, most of them are for word. How you format your self-published work also depends on what publishing platform you decide to use, and if you are publishing an Ebook or Print Book. Sites like Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital, Amazon KDP, and LuLu all provide either a template of guidelines for submission.

If you plan to publish with Amazon, the process isn’t as bad. Amazon provides users with a free formatting app, Kindle Create, for ebooks that simplifies the process immensely. While the app says it works for print as well, having personally used it, I cannot confirm that claim. Hopefully, there will be a way in the future as this is still in Beta testing. Below is a screenshot of Kindle Create using the word file from the manuscript template shown above.

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