Sunday, 26 March 2017

Book Marketing 102

First, a quick status report. I should have the MS back from Dave for his final critique within two weeks. He said it's looking good so far, so I have my fingers crossed that he won't see the need for any large changes. I've uploaded a draft copy to Amazon this weekend to make it available for pre-order at the end of April. If I can publish it before that date, of course, I will!

And this time I remembered that you have to explicitly link the book to your author page in author central or it won't show up. So I went to the 'Books' tab on my Author Central page and clicked "Add a book", entered my ISBN, clicked Go, and said "Yep, that's my book!".

Okay, so now, let's proceed to the main topic of this article — what I've recently learned about marketing, in particular about free and discount book promotions, and Thunderclap.

Reviews are important

So today I'm writing about some new stuff I've learned about marketing for the self-published author. My approach is still not to advertise in the formal sense, but to rely on word of mouth. That said, being noticed or discovered remains the first key hurdle for an almost unknown author such as myself. I think my books are good, though they're certainly not to everyone's taste.

The right reader

Which is a worthwhile point to make: if you somehow convince someone to read your book when it's not the kind of book they'd want to read, you're very likely to get a negative review. My own experience is that most reviews are about how much the reader liked the book, not about how good the book is (setting personal taste aside, since that's hard to do). Which is fair enough… but a one star review is still a one-star review.

So if you push your book to someone who won't like it, you've made a marketing mistake. You're more likely to get negative word of mouth spreading, than positive. So any time spent making it easier for people to know whether your book is one they might like, or hate, is time well spent.

Dishonest reviews

Some people buy reviews, frankly. There are teams of people in India and elsewhere who offer this service. I feel very strongly that this is a terrible, terrible thing, and I congratulate every author who resists the temptation, and every publisher (like Amazon) that works hard to uncover fake reviews and counter them. Dishonest reviews undermine the whole industry, because self-publishing relies so heavily on honest reviews.

But I recently discovered there is yet another kind of fake review. On Amazon, there are "top reviewers", who achieve that "rank" by reviewing lots of products. For some people, this is a booster to their self-esteem, so they spend a lot of time doing reviews for the purpose of becoming a top reviewer. I'm sure a lot of the top reviewers, probably most of them, are genuine, and write great reviews after buying and trying the product. But there is I believe a small percentage who review for the sake of getting the rank, and just pump out plausible-looking reviews as fast as they can. For books, they may not even purchase them, just "Look Inside" or even just read the book description, and then write a review based on what they can guess from that. These people can probably be detected by the number of books they "read" and review per day.

Amazon could probably stamp that out by only counting reviews for certified purchases when counting points to award reviewers with "Top reviewer" status.

The Power of Free

Some very interesting articles by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, have been very helpful to me. I read this one first, and found it packed full of interesting information: New Smashwords research.

In summary, free books seem to be the best way for an unknown author to get discovered by readers. If you write well, and the right people try your book, then that means the small percentage of readers who write a review will translate to a decent number of reviews; which is what you need. The pricing "sweet spot" for a book is either $2.99 or $3.99 — i.e. the author earns the most in total by pricing their books at that figure. Another key point was that a free book in a series has a massive benefit in promoting sales of the whole series. Also, books that start off with a pre-order earn more money than those that only become available to order on publication date, and longer books sell better than short books.

Maybe the gist is best covered in this article by him: The power of free — how to sell more e-books

He has followed it up with annual updates, based on the sales data that Smashwords sees in the previous year. He's doing a great service to indie authors by doing this analysis, and it benefits Smashwords (and other publishers) only indirectly. If more readers discover indie authors they'll enjoy, we all win.

Here are a couple of them — they're well worth reading: Smashwords Ebook Survey 2015 and 2016 survey — how to publish and sell ebooks.

My own experience

... confirms that pricing. I put a lot of hours into Wild Thing. It's hard to say exactly, given it's weird history of mitosis, but it's probably safe to say that WT (Vol 1, as published) took about 4,000 hours to produce (plus the hours that Dave spent on his critiques, and Mirella put into her cover design). So I set the price originally, I think, at $4.99.

Thanks to advice and help from Lama Jabr of Xana Digital Publishing, I ran a free giveway in July, around the time of the series launch event at Gleebooks, and sales spiked up a bit. Later, in November 2016, I joined a bunch of other Indie authors in Nicole R. Locker's (Nicole R. Locker's blog) and discounted Wild Thing (and Harsh Lessons?) for her (Big Book Sale), now long over.

I noticed that only people in the US and Germany bought copies: I think it shows that not having any reviews is a big barrier; as is having just one 1-star. (In Australia, I still have just two reviews, each one line long: one is 5-star, one is 1-star — so, that provides almost no information to help a reader decide!)

I also signed up Wild Thing to feature on Thurs Sept 29th 2016 at in a free promotion. I do think this had a knock-on effect, because October, and then November, were my two best months of sales since publication. I think Lama Jabr's tweets about the promotion helped a lot, too.

Because I stuffed up my organisation of my free promotion days (although I did learn about the time zone issues related to Amazon's free and discount deal promotions), in the end I just manually dropped the price of Wild Thing to US$0.99, planning to return it its normal price after a week or two. But I was in no great rush — largely because of Mark Coker's articles, but partly because I was working flat out on Shadow Hunt.

The Power of Bargain

And I noticed a strange thing as the months slipped by, after September.

My Amazon cheques had grown significantly. I had a little poke about in the Amazon author's dashboard, and looked at the sales graphs every month. I started noticing that the sales from Kindle Unlimited pages-read seemed to be about double what it was from accumulated ebook sales in Kindle Direct.

I also noticed that as months passed without me blogging or tweeting much, sales dropped off. So it does look like Facebook, blog, and twitter etc. seem to generate a little interest. I don't see I could have done much different, though, given my determination to publish Shadow Hunt "early in 2017". The main delay was that I underestimated how close it was to being ready, so working out what to do regarding Dave's suggestions, took about three times longer than I'd anticipated, which meant I missed my deadline with him. (He's currently fitting me in part-time as his schedule permits.)

I think that a lot of people who "buy" free books, stash them away to read "later". Maybe much later! I also think you tend to value something you paid for, a little higher than something you "buy" for free. So I feel that $0.99 is generally a good choice for a bargain. Yet Mark Coker says a free book for the first in a series gives you the best return. So I may re-think that.

Anyway, whether your book is free or not, there still remains the problem of people just discovering it exists.

SIA and Another Free/discount Book Giveaway

This is probably a good point to mention that I'm joining in another big free book promotion from March 31 to April 2nd (US PDT). It's being organised by the good people at Support for Indie Authors (not the talented Aussie singer/songwriter, Sia!) of Goodreads).

Joining in the discussion there, I learned several valuable new things related to marketing.

One was the existence of sites that promote free books. They mentioned and — free books are accepted and they'll tweet about them. (But see the Appendix at the end of this article that gives some surprisingly-long lists of free and low cost free book promotion sites.)

But to help get news out about the event, so people might discover these books while they're being discounted, one of the group's helpful members, C.B. also registered for a Thunderclap promotion. I'd never heard of Thunderclap!


Thunderclap is a service that sits above and uses social media. Think of it as a stadium full of people (or perhaps a flash mob) who agree to clap or call out a message, once only, all together at a specific time. They run both a free and a paid service, I think. You nominate the target number of people (either 100 or 250 people) you hope will join the event, and its date and time. If enough people "join" the specific Thunderclap event so you reach your target, the single message is sent, at that time.

When you join the specific thunderclap event, you need to choose to share the message with any or all of Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. There is a button you can click for each of these, and Thunderclap then presents you with a preview of the message that will be sent.(*) You can personalise that as you wish. You can share the link to the Thunderclap event in the hope that others will join it, too. By clicking through, you authorise Thunderclap to send that message on your behalf. They look at your contacts list, but only to calculate the "reach" (how many people your message will be seen by), to calculate how many people overall will see the message.

What happens at that time, is that Thunderclap then sends the message from your social media account(s), for you. (It's like you stay up and awake, with finger pressed on the necessary Share button with the message prepared, and click the button at the scheduled time.)

Now, one point to note is that the point of the Thunderclap is to co-ordinate and send the message at the same time. Yet some people only get as far as the Preview message but then don't proceed; and many of them misunderstand, and copy and paste that preview to share the message (prematurely).

(*) For that reason, if your message contains a link to a web page that gives the details of the event (which it should!), the preview message contains a shortened URL that instead points to the Thunderclap promotion page for the event, instead. That shortened URL is replaced by a shortened URL that points to the real event when the message is finally sent.

I contacted Thunderclap directly to ask them to clarify that, and other people who had used Thunderclap reassured me on some of the other points which I've explained above. I must say that the Thunderclap people were super responsive and receptive to feedback, and didn't seem to mind explaining things.

I also asked why they only supported Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. They said they had reached out to the other social media companies, but at present those other companies did not provide the necessary facilities for Thunderclap to integrate with them. They pointed out that you can share the preview message by any social media you use, manually, if you want to encourage others to join the Thunderclap itself. And I found a Google+ group that seems to be trying to integrate: the Google+ Thunderclap community.

I should probably share the link to this specific Thunderclap for the book promo event, eh? Here it is: VM's siafbb Spring book attack

Appendix — sites that promote free/discount books

Dave's notes about promotion/review sites:

  1. BookBub (the holy grail -- no point in even applying at the moment but just putting it in there ... unless you have at least 200 Amazon reviews you have got zero chance of being accepted and even then it's not easy)

  2. BookSends (One of the more expensive ones but generally good results)

  3. EReader News Today $35

  4. Buck Books — around $9 (fiction; non-fiction $29)

  5. Free Kindle Books and Tips (around $25, and other requirements)

  6. Digital Book Today

The following sites were collected and shared by members of the Support for Indie Authors Group on Goodreads. Many people contributed; notably Dylan Callens,

Martin Wilsey, Marie Silk, Christina McMullen, I've collected them together here, with some comments, and 've removed dead links. Please note that any errors will be due to mistakes I've made; to check the original source of the material see this resources discussion: "Best advertising sites"

There was one comment that ineffective sites were the Fussy Librarian, Many Books, and FKBT (Free Kindle Books and Tips).

This is a mixture of free and sites that charge a fee (but most are free): — off-line at time of checking: may be dead

And more (Marie's additions with duplicate links removed):

Ask David: Free for free book promos only or $15 for 6-month membership, send out tweets on free promo day
Sweet Free Books: $7
Addicted to ebooks (see the link, above) — *can only submit the day of your promo, Free
Kindle Book Promos: Free, at least 48 hours notice Free
Content Mo: free tweet and on website for free books
My Book Cave free to list but must meet strict requirements for content

Marie also noted in Aug 2016 that these sites were the ones she had been accepted for and estimated were most effective (from most effective to least) for her one day free book promotion:
  1. Freebooksy $85
  2. Robin Reads $45
  3. Bookzio $19
  4. Bookscream $5
  5. Ebook Hounds $10
  6. Book Raid FREE
  7. Free99books FREE
  8. Digital Book Today FREE (48 hours notice and 18+ reviews or $15 fee)

And here are a bunch more links, from the same source:

My Book Cave FREE
Book Raid Free
Armadillo Ebooks Free
Book of the Day Free, *note* your book must be listed on their site in advance of your promotion.
Book Scream $5* fee is optional and guarantees a top placement in newsletter. Otherwise, free
Reading Deals Free *has paid guarantee*
Choosy Book Worm Free*has paid guarantee*
Book Hearts (a choosy bookworm site) free but has paid option and currently has no review requirement
Awesome Gang Free*has paid guarantee*
Fussy Librarian $20 (prices vary by genre)
Free 99 Books Free
Free and Discounted Books (see the link, above) — $8
Discount Book Man Free
OHFB *no longer free promo options start at $75*
Ebooks Habit (see the link, above) — Free (and *has paid guarantee option*)
Book Bongo Free
Genre Pulse $16
Online Book Club $150
Ebook Soda $15 *$5 off coupons available from various review sites*
Book Goodies (see the link, above) — $10
My Book Place *updated link* Free
Free Books Hub (see the link, above) — $10
Book Lover's Heaven Free
Ebook Hounds $10
Bookzio Free *has paid guarantee* also has a reciprocal link discount ***encourages short works***
Book Gorilla $150


Monday, 6 February 2017

Book 3 – Shadow Hunt – is almost ready

Still alive!

I've been silent so long (October last year!), because I've been working very hard on book three, so I thought I'd make the time to offer a short update.

When will it be published?

I wrote in the Afterword of Book 2 that I was confident I'd have Book 3 ready early in 2017. I've been trying very hard to publish the ebook by mid-March. Right now I'm getting some much-delayed other book-related work done while I wait to receive the detailed critique of the 2nd half of Shadow Hunt from Dave at — I should get that today or tomorrow. If I can manage to average 15pp/day then I'll have the updated draft ready about Feb 28. I'll then spend a week to 10 days checking and re-checking that, then upload it to Amazon. If I can manage 20pp/day, then it will be ready earlier, obviously.

I'm doing my best, and working very hard. I finished writing and polishing the draft and sent it to Dave at the end of 2016 (in two parts: 1st half on Nov 28th, and the 2nd half on Dec 3rd).

Shadow Hunt cover

Mirella, too, has been hard at work on the cover design, working from a brief I prepared last year. This image, below, is not final, and maybe I shouldn't include it... but I just can't resist giving you a sneak peek, even though it's not quite finished. (It will change just a little, but I love it already!)

(You can see the final cover over on my other blog.)

Some nitty-gritty

Dave's critique has been invaluable, as ever. We spent some time discussing his key recommendations at a high level, and I sketched out a plan, and then sat down and worked my way through chapter by chapter. I also received very helpful feedback from Jon Marshall (again!) as a beta reader of the same MS, and he found several important problems and oversights (fortunately, none hard to correct).

Incidentally, the reason for breaking the critique in two was purely a time-saving method: I could get started on the first half while Dave continued on the second half. This was only possible because he'd sort of already critiqued the whole thing twice before, because the MS has been split in two twice from Dave's feedback (that's not counting once, before, based on my own assessment). A side benefit of splitting it in two is also purely mechanical: the powerful, free word processor I use, LibreOffice, becomes unusable when the number of comments in a file exceeds about 1,500. (It must have what's called an order N2 algorithm in its handling of comments, which is a fancy way of saying the time it takes to do anything rises as sharply as the up-sweeping arm of a parabola!) As it stands, before I start deleting comments, LibreOffice takes about 15 — 20 seconds just to respond to a menu click. I've added to the problem report (bug 60418), and it's on their list of things to consider. But it's not considered a big problem.


Today I logged in to Thorpe-Bowker to assign ISBNs to the ebook and the print edition. Armed with the correct ISBNs, I then visited the National Library of Australia website to request a Cataloguing in Publication entry for three editions of Shadow Hunt (the ebook, the 5"x8" edition, and the 4"x7"). But again, all three 4"x7" editions are on hold until I can find a workaround for another bug in LibreOffice, that messes up the page headers. (Bug 103078)

About Vol. 3

Shadow Hunt is currently a little longer than the 1st, Wild Thing, though Dave is recommending I cut 30 pages from one 100-page stretch. If I manage to do that, it's shaping up to be the same length as Wild Thing. I'm very happy with how the book turned out (is turning out?).

April plans

I'm also planning to attend the SwanCon this year (I've never visited Perth)! It's billed as "Australia’s longest running Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction Convention".

My next blog posts here will probably cover these topics:

  • Break up that indigestible previous blog that covered too much in too much detail
  • a quick intro to Scribus for preparing your book covers, given a brilliant cover design as your starting point
  • setting up your Youtube author channel (mine is here)
  • a rant about the new publishing world.

Over on my other blog, All About Leeth, I plan to post a Q&A from a fan (yes — I have a fan!) about the series, and especially about Harmon and Leeth's relationship.

I think that covers thing. Now to press on with some other work — like finalising the blurb, and more polishing of the new parts I've written over the last few weeks. I'm doing my best!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Adventure #2 in publishing: The printed book!

Ouch — this article is way overdue: when I sat down to finish it, I saw I'd half written it back in February. Sorry! (In hindsight, I suspect I subconsciously realised it was going to be a long article and require a fair effort to finish, so I kept putting it off. I've also been very busy with writing and everything related to that.)

This article is about preparing a print edition of your book — which is a little more work than preparing the ebook edition for a novel that's not illustrated. Although there are significant differences for a printed edition, there are more things in common; so if some of these details look a bit sketchy, hopefully it's because I've covered them in my article about preparing the ebook edition — the two pieces are companion articles.

Here's a link to my earlier article about preparing the electronic edition: Adventure #1 in publishing: Creating the ebook!

Because this post is so long, I thought I'd better break it up into sections, and provide a table of contents:

Here's a short list of the new things you'll need to do, or may choose to do, and what this rather lengthy article covers:

New ISBN, PDFs for print edition, adjusted layout, CIP (kind of), costing info, return policy, discount, copyright, page numbers, left vs right layout, font size, costing info, proof copy, dates.

The reason I go into the detail I do here, is to try to capture most of what I've learned; so it's helpful for me and my imperfect memory, and I hope it will be of use to others. This article is unusually long; so rather than considering it as something to read from start to finish, it may make more sense to treat it as something to refer to if you're looking for an answer to a specific question. I wrote it, and I found it tediously long to read! But I think it'll be handy in five months time when I produce the print version for Volume 3.

Key differences in print vs electronic

I'll try to note all the differences between the print and digital editions of a book. My dream is to have a single electronic version of my book(s), and an automated process for generating both an ebook edition and each print edition; but currently I have a separate file for each. I try to be rigorous in ensuring each has the same content. When I make improvements in one edition, I make them in each other addition, at the same time.


Assuming you've bought one or more ISBNs, you need to choose a fresh ISBN to associate with this edition of your book. I've discussed ISBNs before when I wrote about "Preparing to Hit the Publish Button", but it's useful I think to go over it again in the context of a print edition, and perhaps with some missing details filled-in, too. Each physically different edition requires its own unique ISBN. But if you make substantive changes (more than just corrections), you should really use a new ISBN to distinguish the new edition. Check your nation's guidelines on their expectations in this area.

If you buy a block of ISBNs it makes it easier for book cataloguing databases around the world to decide your books are related (they tend to assume publishers have runs of sequential ISBNs). It also hugely reduces the per-ISBN cost.

Since I'm in Australia and the ISBN assignments are managed here by Thorpe-Bowker ( I log in and visit My Profile ( There, under the "My Account" drop-down I choose "Manage ISBNs".

Currently I have several ISBNs set aside for Wild Thing. I assigned the first one to the ebook edition, since I published that first. I've reserved other ISBNs for other editions (5"x8" pbk, 4.25"x7" pbk, large print, but I'm even considering a UK English spelling edition, and a dyslexic-friendly ebook, and even a hard-cover). Choosing to publish all those variants would probably be excessive, so perhaps reserving five ISBNs for Wild Thing is more than reasonable for now! I've been keeping track of what ISBN I assigned to each edition in an email to myself. I'm unsure whether it'd be more sensible to use a spreadsheet. Of course, Thorpe-Bowker keep track of what I've assigned; but they don't know what I'm planning, so I think it's sensible to keep track of it myself, too.

Do you have URLs?

If you mention a web site in your text (such as a link to your author web site), then in the print edition, remember to spell out the actual URL; though if it starts with "http://" you can safely omit that. If you used colour text for hyperlinks in your ebook, change the text style to use black text in the print edition (unless you've opted for some colour for the insides, rather than B&W).

Spine tips

The vast majority of books print the text of the spine running "down": that is, you tilt your head to the right to read the words left to right (in roman script, at least). Have a skim of some bookshelves if you need to check this.

Also, if you are writing a series of books, give some thought to where the volume number should appear (readers really appreciate being easily able to sequentially order the books, so do include a number), and the title and author. These should line up nicely when shelved, so your books are pleasing to look at.

Typeface and font size

In other words, legibility and ease of reading. Unlike the ebook, your decision here may as well be carved in granite, since your readers certainly can't increase the font size if they have trouble. It's not hard to pick a typeface that suits the style of the book and is easily readable, but do put careful thought into the choice for the print edition in particular.

I've heard people claim that a sans-serif font (like Helvetica or Arial) is just as readable for long blocks of text as the serif fonts normally used for this (Time Roman, Garamond, etc.), and that there is no scientific evidence one way or the other.

I beg to differ. That flies in the face of reason (since the tiny details provided by the serifs are not there for decoration, they're subtle clues carefully created by expert type designers to help our marvellous pattern-recognising brains identify letters in an instant); it's also contrary to my personal experience; and more tellingly, Carnegie Mellon University researched this topic more than thirty years ago and published several papers. Their conclusion? Serif text was preferable to sans-serif for long pieces of text. I know this because my wife, a PhD in English and a professional technical writer of excellent skill, paid for copies of the research when the question came up, early in her career.

Your choice of typeface will affect how much space your text requires, and thus how many pages and therefore also the cost. And if you want a special font that's not provided as part of your computer system, beware that if you want to license the rights to use it for publishing books, the cost is likely to be exorbitant. I investigated the use of Garamond, but gave up when I realised it would cost me several hundred (or was that a thousand?) dollars each year.

The reason I preferred Garamond over Times Roman was that, as well as simply being a beautiful and readable typeface, remarkably, it was as tightly set or tighter. I think its readability is due to its greater "x height" (the size given to the lower case letters, basically), which makes the font appear bigger overall. But I think Gentium and Georgia are very pleasant alternatives. Google and others have also produced a large range of good typefaces for free. Whatever you choose, do check the licence to make sure you're allowed to use it for your book.


Similar to the typeface and size you choose, give careful thought to the line spacing. If you pack the lines too densely, the text will be either awful to read, or — if you get it only slightly too tight — subtly draining to read. Neither of which you want for your readers.

I made the initial mistake of using no indentation for the first line of my paragraphs, opting instead for an increased gap. Traditionally published books don't do that: they maintain a consistent and pleasant line spacing, and indent the 1st line of each paragraph.

They do this because it's just as easy to see that a new paragraph has started, but greatly reduces the number of pages required for the same text. That translates to saving more trees and lowering costs which you can pass on to your readers.

Page numbers

Unlike the eBook edition, you'll need page numbers, naturally. (Amazon will automatically strip page numbers if you have them in your .mobi file, I found, so I think it makes sense to leave them in by default). But where to place them? You can save considerable space, and reduce the page count, by including the page number in the header rather than reserving space in the footer of each page. If you do this, it's normal to place the number on the outer margin (i.e. leftmost, on left hand pages, and rightmost on right hand pages).

In the header, it's normal to alternate left and right pages with the author's name, and the book title. Sometimes in a smaller font, so it's not distracting. Leave enough space between it and the body of the page so it doesn't look like the page's text starts with the header!

Of course, you need a different page layout for left and right pages, since you need the margins to be mirror images of one another, because (generally speaking) you need more space on the edge of the page that joins the spine, simply because the pages curve in tightly together. There's nothing more irritating than not being able to read the text without splitting the book in two, or having to peer into the gutter to try to see the letters! And as well, you need to alternate Title vs Author on left and right, as well as placement of the page number if you've included it there, too.

It's worth a flip through to check that all your left hand pages use the left-hand header and footer, and likewise for the right hand pages.

Oh! And remember that page one must be a right-hand page, or you'll look like you don't know what you're doing.

Colour: text and paper

If you used some colour text for some reason in your digital edition (e.g. to make chapter titles stand out), then assuming you're opting for B&W interior the print edition, remember to change them to black.

Your printer may offer you choices of cream or white for the internal pages, and matte or glossy finish to the paper. Choose whatever you prefer, and can afford. My own taste runs to the cream colour non-glossy paper, simply because that's what looks normal to me from most paperback and hardbacks I've read (textbooks aside).


Perfect binding is not as durable as saddle-stitching, but it's far less expensive. While early generation print on demand systems had problems in durability, I think those days are long past now. The quality of print on demand books (at least, from my personal experience with Ingram Spark; as well as the claims of other printers) matches that of offset printing in massive runs. The price of each POD book is dropping slowly, too, approaching that of offset printing, but without the huge financial risk of printing thousands of books.

Incidentally, that massive up-front investment is, I think, the core reason for many, many aspects of the business model followed by the traditional publishing industry.

Table of Contents

I think it's unusual to include a table of contents in a printed book if it's fiction (the reverse is true for non fiction), but if you've given chapters interesting or descriptive names, it's not that unusual to include a ToC. And if your book is broken up into "Parts" or "Books" an abbreviated ToC listing just those is not that unusual.

PDF files for print

For the printed book, most publishers/printers want two PDF files: one for the cover design, and one for the rest of the book (the insides, if you will). PDF is a well-designed and well-understood standard, though it is complex. You need to check out what your publisher/printer wants, and follow that exactly. It's very likely they'll have a template for you to follow. They'll need to know the page count, too: the more pages, the wider the spine (and the greater the printing cost, of course). Chances are, they'll have a web page where you enter the page count, and it'll tell you how wide the spine will be.

I'll talk about the cover in a minute, but let's address a few obvious details for the PDF used for the contents: i.e. all those pages filled with the words you've slaved over.

A subtlety I hadn't observed initially was that the first page of every chapter normally omits the page number; likewise for any pages that stand between "parts" or major sections of a book. And doing this in LO is slightly tricky, since you can't change a page's style after you've introduced a page break. You need to have defined at least one page style that omits footers and/or headers (as appropriate for your placement of the page #); then you have to delete the page break, then re-insert a "Manual break..." (not Page break), this time choosing "Page Break" together with the page style you've defined for this new page.

Making the PDF files

For the contents, when using LibreOffice, this is as simple as choosing the Export to PDF option. I think it's sensible to choose 100% for the JPEG compression quality, and to only select the "Archive PDF/A-1a (ISO 19005-1)" for the PDF format, and "Export automatically inserted blank pages", for the General options: tagged PDF and bookmarks and comments are irrelevant for a printed edition. The blank pages are to ensure that the correct pages appear on the correct sheets. I think selecting that will ensure that each odd page appears on the right-hand side page, and each even page on the left — provided you're using a sensible template that has margins set correctly for the odd and even pages.

For the cover, I think you're expected to be using a Windows or MacOS system, and therefore able to use some expensive special-purpose program like Adobe InDesign or PhotoShop. My cover designer has those, and did prepare the cover, but since I didn't know the exact number of pages (which determines the thickness of the spine), I needed to adjust it later. The free software Inkscape is both reasonably easy to use, has good how-to and help information available, and produces both SVG and PDF files, and I initially chose that: a mistake, in hindsight. (Another option is The GIMP, but I personally find its UI diabolically counter-intuitive; it's probably as powerful and capable as Photoshop, but for me the learning curve was too steep. And it suffers from the same key limitation as Inkscape.)

The problem was that IngramSpark's quality-check reported the PDF files had two errors that needed correction. One was the inclusion of transparent objects (I think LibreOffice generates some spurious invisible transparent object) and also an image with low resolution (I think that was the QR code, which is just a blocky PNG image, that does not need to be high resolution). The report said that they could fix these, so I ticked the box that requested them to go ahead and do so.


I checked the eproofs that IngramSpark delivered to me, carefully. One awful error (mine) was a missing blank page at the very start, meaning page 1 was on the left! I fixed that quick-smart.

For the PDF for the inside contents, assuming it's all black and white, I think any kind of PDF file (in which the text is encoded as text — not as images!) should be fine. The PDF produced directly from LibreOffice is very good.

The story is very different, however, when CMYK colour is included in the picture.

Cover PDF and CMYK

For the cover, since that's going to be in colour, you need to know whether the printing/publishing company wants the artwork in the CMYK colour space used by their press (Cyan Magenta Yellow and blacK), or in RGB (Red Green Blue) as you'd want for the ebook cover.

A very brief note about CMYK vs RGB: CMYK represent "subtractive colours" produced by ink or paint absorbing light; e.g. yellow ink absorbs all visible frequencies except yellow, so that's the colour you see. Whereas RGB colours are "additive colours", used by TVs and monitors, produced by tiny glowing red, green or blue dots on the screen, emitting light. E.g. on screen, red and green together produce yellow.

And two important consequences are that 1) although both colour models produce mostly the same colours, each one also has a large number of colour that cannot be represented by the other colour model; and 2) if you put too much ink onto paper (e.g. if you had 100% cyan, 100% magenta, 100% yellow, and 100% black: a total of 400%), you end up with a "coverage" that probably exceeds what the paper will soak up, and bad things can happen: ranging from warping of the paper, colours running, or the page becoming brittle and prone to cracking. Your printer will advise you of the limits they require: e.g. the "US coated (SWOP) v2" is a common "ICC colour profile" that limits ink coverage to 240%.

Because the spine is part of the cover, and its width depends on the number of pages and on the paper stock you choose, your printing company should provide you with a template file that shows exactly where they expect the front cover, spine, and back cover to be, and their dimensions. (And inside flaps, if you're producing a wrap-around cover for a hardback.) Alternatively, they might simply tell you those dimensions: if so, you need to create the artwork to follow that exactly. As well, you'll need a barcode that represents your ISBN (often, the printing/publishing company will include that in the template they provide you). The template file they provide you will typically be a PDF (an international standard), or in InDesign (a proprietary Adobe format), or something else.

In practice, if your printer/publisher requires CMYK colours specified, this means you must generate either a file of type PDF/X (which is also called PDF/X-1a), or PDF/X-3. I believe PDF/X requires every graphic object encoded in the file to use a CMYK colour space, whereas PDF/X-3 allows objects to individually specify an RGB or a CMYK colour space.

This may be a good point to mention a couple of technical pages that argue:

  1. That printers should accept RGB and handle the conversion to CMYK themselves — see (including all the comments!), and

  2. Be careful about trusting Acrobat's CMYK coverage reports — Which is all well and good, but I think that may ignore some practical considerations: if your printer tells you they need PDF/X files, then they almost certainly do, and that's what you should give them.

Check with your printer/publisher: IngramSpark required a CMYK PDF file for the cover. The problem I found when I received my proof copy of the book after I used Inkscape with CMYK images to naively try to produce a "PDF with CMYK colours", was that the colours were oversaturated and also appeared to have a greenish tinge washed through it. I think this was a consequence of working with CMYK-encoded JPEG images, but saving out to a PDF file that was marked as having sRGB colour space. (Inkscape does not currently support export of CMYK PDF files.) I also had my name much too close to the edge of the cover. I needed to fix both these issues. In the meantime, though, I'd developed a most unusual problem with my Linux system, and to straighten it out I reinstalled it with a bleeding-edge version. Unfortunately, I then found that Inkscape had a bug in the conversion of CMYK JPEG images on 64-bit systems, and inverted the colours! This forced me to use the RGB images which Mirella had provided me for the ebook edition, then cross my fingers and hope for the best! It seemed to work okay for the 5"x8" edition that I released in Jan/Feb 2016, though I think even then IngramSpark warned me there might be problems.

Danger, Will Robinson!

In October, when I was preparing my 4.25"x7" (A-format) paperback edition of Wild Thing, I received a fresh report from IngramSpark that the cover was problematical: most of it exceeded the recommended 240% coverage, although it was within the 300% absolute limit for their printing presses. They advised me that they could print it, but the picture might crack due to the density of ink.

The reason this happened was that I'm using Linux as my desktop operating system (so: most software is free, bugs tend to be fixed if you report them, and you don't have to worry about viruses) but a few popular programs are not available for it. At the time, I'd been using Inkscape to prepare (crop, resize) my covers, using the artwork provided to me by my cover designer (hi, Mirella!).

But Inkscape currently can't create a PDF with a CMYK colour profile. It was not a matter of just putting a CMYK .JPG file into Inkscape and saving as PDF. And, apart from text, Inkscape also insists on rendering all objects (using the Cairo graphics engine), instead of just encoding each object for PDF and letting the PDF compositing model handle the rendering. (It probably does this so it can use the same rendering engine for screen and for creating the PDF file, so it's simpler for them.)

Scribus to the rescue

In October, with more time up my sleeve, I investigated properly. With the help of someone at IngramSpark, who very patiently answered my technical questions, I was able to work out the cause of the problem (short answer: not producing a PDF/X file), and went searching again. This time I found one free software package that does very good desktop publishing including generation of PDF/X-1a or PDF/X-3 files. It's also available for MacOS and Windows. It's called Scribus, has a good and comprehensive manual, and very importantly, their web site provides information on where to download "ICC colour profiles". And since IngramSpark had helpfully shown me they used "US coated (SWOP) v2", the Scribus web site made it easy to find and install that file on my system.

I won't go into the details of how to use Scribus. The key thing to know is that you draw by inserting an image frame to hold an image, or a text frame to hold text, and so on, and then import files to fill those frames with content. (Scribus also has quite a good, simple, and feature-rich text editor, although it's a little bit clunky to use.) And the 2nd key thing to note is that you need to install some ICC colour profiles before you start it up, so the option to enable Colour Management is available. You can then configure the PDF export to use one of the CMYK colour profiles you've provided. From that point, Scribus will handle the conversion of your images into the colour space you've nominated when you export to PDF. This is true even if you've turned on the option to show you when you've used colours that are "out of gamut" or too dense: converted to fit within the colour space you've chosen.

Scribus worked really, really well. It even imported the .psd (Photoshop) artwork files with the CMYK images that Mirella had provided me. I carefully read the Scribus manual first, though, and it did take me two days to learn to use it well enough to produce the new version of the cover, some new business cards, and some pamphlets.

Scribus has been pretty stable and complete as of 2012. Give it a try!

Trim, bleed, registration

Because the physical pages are trimmed after they're physically bound together to get those nice crisp edges we all love, the printer will need you to design something that includes a margin of error, since some physical movement is inevitable. These are called the trim edges, and the amount you go past the trim boundary is the bleed amount: basically, you want to put some pleasing but non-critical artwork in these areas which you won't mind losing if the cover is not cut exactly along the notionally correct edge. Don't put horizontal lines near your horizontal page edges, nor vertical lines near your vertical edges, in case it's printed very slightly askew: the narrower such a gap is, the more obvious any error in alignment will look to the human eye.

The printer may provide you a barcode graphic that represents the ISBN you have assigned to your book: position this where your publisher/printer recommends, and don't re-size it! If they don't give you the barcode image, you can get free software that will convert an ISBN to a barcode graphic. Thorpe-Bowker will also do it for you, for a small fee.

QR codes

It occurred to me it would be a good idea to include a URL in the text that pointed readers to the print edition; and to also add a QR code alongside the barcode on the cover, that simply encoded that URL for easy scanning by a smartphone. For the URL, I used (as explained in "Preparing to press the "Publish" Button", under Marketing Plan) to "globalise" the URL provided by Amazon, and to generate the QR code I simply used a free Linux tool (<a href="">qreator</a>) and its graphical front-end (<a href="">qtqr</a>). (Later, I changed over to using a command line tool, qrencode.) I then just saved the .PNG file and pasted that into the cover design alongside the barcode provided by IngramSpark.

A problem with this approach is that it just directed people to the ebook version, not a place to reorder the print edition, but I felt that was the best choice before I knew a URL for people to buy the print editions. I had hoped I to link to them from my Amazon page; in the end, this happened automatically (I think because I spent the modest sum IngramSpark requested, to "advertise" the book). The problem with this approach is that buyers are likely to just go straight to Amazon and if they want the print edition, assume they must buy it from there. Which is fine in the US, since it can be printed there, and it's possibly okay for the UK, too, for the same reason. But in all the other countries in which IngramSpark print, so it can be shipped locally, all you're doing is leading your readers to pay more and wait longer for it to arrive.

Incidentally, you can decode a QR image you've created just as easily via the "zbarimg" tool, part of the free "zbar-tools" package on Linux. That's how I can easily tell you what I used for my reader-friendly QR code for finding the books.

After the data for the print editions rippled out into the distribution channels, a google search turned out to be a simple way to locate local booksellers who would order the book in for you if you asked (and usually, allowing online ordering). So I changed the search string to do that; and found that "qrencode" also had options that allowed me to create a 300dpi image file. So as an example, here's the command I used to generate the QR-code for Harsh Lessons, with 20pixels per QR "dot" and 300dpi resolution. Note that "%22" and "+" turn into a double-quote and a space respectively, when used in a URL:

qrencode -o QR-code-HarshLessonsBuyGoogleSearch.png --size=20 --dpi=300 \

So you can see I've just encoded a string which does a Google search for ‘"L.J. Kendall"', ‘"Harsh Lessons"', and ‘buy': literally: ‘"L.J. Kendall" "Harsh Lessons" buy'.

Initially, I omitted the "buy" search term, but now that my books have gained some reviews, if I omit that qualifier the search mostly returns reviews; with "buy" included the search turns up a mix of places to buy the book, and reviews — and that seems good to me.

Business stuff

Proof copy

Ahhh, the joy of receiving your baby in physical form! Yes, order a proof copy. Then give it yet another proof read. I find that each time I read my book in a new mode, I see different errors. (I check it first on my desktop's screen; then as a PDF loaded onto a tablet; then printed on paper as A5 booklets stapled in groups of 16 sheets; then the real book). You could probably avoid all that by paying for a professional proofread/copy-edit! Anyway, I found several more small continuity errors, several typos, and decided to change to US-style punctuation for dialogue (the punctuation goes inside the quotation, instead of treating the quotation as a thing-in-itself), and about 150 sentence-level tweaks to slightly improve wording or clarity. It's funny what you see when you're holding a physical, printed book. I also noticed that some chapter titles had abnormally-little spacing below: I tracked this down to reducing the line spacing for the entries in the Table of Contents (which were still marked as Level 1 Headings), and this somehow carried over to a few of the chapter titles I had edited here and there through the book.

I'm also so glad I opted for the cream coloured paper rather than white. And I was enormously happy with the Georgia font, which is wonderfully easy to read, with much larger x-heights than Times Roman at the same nominal point size.

Launch date

At some date your book will be ready to go on sale. Allow enough time for your book's publication information to filter out into the sales channels. Book sellers keep databases of books available, indexed by ISBN and other details. I don't know the details about how the meta-data for your book is disseminated so it lands in these databases, but what I did was provide all the required information to the ISBN provider (in my case, in Australia, this was Thorpe-Bowker), and similar kind of information for the Cataloguing-In-Print people in the government. In addition, the printer/distributor IngramSpark offer an option to "advertise" your book: my guess is that they push the information out to all their partners, too. I think I set a date three weeks after I felt the book would be ready. I really have little idea what the ideal period of time would be!

Registering your copyright

In my earlier article, I thought the national body for managing and recording copyright in Australia was the <a href="">COPYRIGHT AGENCY</a>. Their website states "We're a not-for-profit that provides simple licensing solutions to allow you to use copyright-protected words and images. Fees from licences are paid to our creator members." And adds "Our core function is to license users of copyright material to make reproductions and communications of copyright works under appropriate provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, and to distribute money collected fairly and equitably to copyright owners and creators."

There's also the Australian Copyright Council,, which seems similar; but they seem to be independent.

I think they're more related to allowing some fair use reproduction of copyright material under license, with some compensation paid to members than with lending rights. I think I was getting confused with the government organisation related to lending books in public libraries and institutions.

Lending Rights (ELR/PLR)

If libraries buy books, they make some payments that are collected and apportioned fairly to the authors of the books. By registering each of your printed books with the government's lending rights organisation (in Australia, this is, you give yourself the chance to be paid, should any libraries opt to buy your books for their shelves.

So, provide all the information for your book; and as you publish more books, remember to return to the copyright agency and register the new books. If your book does get included in some libraries, then you might earn some small income through a scheme set up for that purpose. To be eligible, though, you need to apply for and Electronic and/or Publisher Lending Rights: ELR and/or PLR. In Australia, it's a straightforward process which is open to indie and self-publishers, but only for print books (not for ebooks).

If you're self-published, you should apply and register for each of your books as both Creator and Publisher. If indie published, then obviously you only apply as the creator (your publisher should apply for the publisher rights). And you should specify the royalty split just as you have agreed with your publisher. Contact them via their web site, and they should provide you a "Claimant No." and corresponding password as a creator (and a separate claimant number and password if you're also a publisher). Then you need to login (at and provide all the required details for your printed book(s) as creator (and again, separately as publisher, if you're self-published: logging out as creator then back in as the publisher).

Obviously this is an optional step, and perhaps even an overly optimistic one. But, who knows?


The US assigns a Library of Congress Catalog Number to each book it holds a copy of. Most other countries use the Cataloguing-In-Print record: see below. For an LCCN, the picture is different: whether a book is accepted into the Library of Congress is up to their librarians. And I believe you can't obtain it after the book is published. Nor does it make much difference to you as an author, I believe. Reports also seem to vary about whether indie publishers are accepted or not. But instead, in the US you might consider obtaining a PCN (Pre-assigned Control Number). Again, I think this is easy and cheap or even free to apply for: beware of companies offering to sell or obtain an LCCN or PCN for you.

I gather that if a librarian anywhere in the world decides they'd like your book in their library, they'll search their databases: if they find it, they'll use that entry (maybe tweaking it); if they don't, then they may type up an entry and add it into the database, where it can be seen by everyone. I think the key advantage of doing it yourself is:

  1. You save a librarian a few minutes work, and

  2. You probably have a better idea of the categories your book falls into than a librarian who may not have yet read your book.

That's all.


This isn't a number: it's a block of text with human-readable fields that you can request from your National Library Association. It's used by librarians to help find books. I think it's well worthwhile obtaining a CIP: the only cost is that you are obligated to provide a print copy of your book to your national library.

Categorising your book

When applying for the CIP (or PCN), the national body's website (in Australia: Thorpe-Bowker) will present you with online forms which you simply fill in. As part of that, they'll provide an option to choose the categories and sub-categories that best describe your book. It makes good sense to do this honestly and with careful thought. The hierarchy of categories is quite deep. I suspect doing this may improve the discoverability of your book in the databases accessed by book stores, and through more general online search engines.

When you fill in the required information on the Thorpe-Bowker site after logging in, they provide options to set the Primary Subject and Secondary. For The Leeth Dossier, I've as the general themes I selected Fiction — Science Fiction General and Fiction — Fantasy General. It's in these tabs that you fill out details such as whether it's an ebook or a print edition, including format/size. After that, you can drill down to provide a much more detailed categorisation. The hierarchy is long and goes down to about five levels in some areas: I expect it ties into the Dewey Decimal classification system.

You can and should use exactly the same categories for the print edition and an ebook edition. It might be wise to make a note of the categories you've identified, when you first do it, to make it easier to pick the same categories for the other edition. But it also pays to have a browse around the category hierarchy to double-check you haven't omitted an important category.

I noticed I hadn't updated my Thorpe-Bowker ISBNs with the details for the planned 4"x7" edition. Thorpe-Bowker make it easy to copy the edition details to a new ISBN via their "clone" button: after clicking on that, you simply select the ISBN that you want the details copied into, and then you're presented with a page to make the changes needed to distinguish this edition from the others. Two oddities I noticed here: even though Wild Thing is Volume 1 in the series, and there is an option to provide information about the volume no. when a book is part of a series, if you choose that option, it won't allow you to enter a "1" to say it's the first volume. And if you leave it blank, it complains that you must provide a number greater than 1. So I don't see how you can tell Thorpe-Bowker that a book is volume 1. And if your book has no illustrations (not counting the title), then you can't enter "0" for number of illustrations, you have to leave it blank. Go figure: perhaps they need a usability expert to give their website a slight overhaul. It's very workable and functional, all the same, and that's the main thing.


You also need to put some careful thought into the price to charge for your print edition, when it will be released, and so on. A particularly important decision here is the discount you will give book stores, and whether you will allow "returns".

Money (returns)

To manage the financial risk a book store will only stock a book, if the publisher allows "returns": that is, after a time, the store may return unsold copies to the publisher and be refunded the cost of the books. But as well, the publisher (not the store) will pay the return shipping cost. (Sometimes, if it's cheaper to destroy unsold copies than return them, the agreement may allow that, instead.)

For a self-publisher, allowing "returns" could be a costly mistake, unless you have a massive readership. So it's far safer to disallow returns. The downside is that few book stores will stock your book. (Some, more flexible, may decide to do so: ordering small numbers as long as it sells, and taking the risk that if people stop buying it, they'll have to sell off any remaining copies at a discount, or just get rid of it. And then, probably stop ordering any more.)

But the book should still make its way into the databases, and should turn up as able to be ordered on demand from book stores.

Pricing (discount)

To have any chance at all of your book being ordered by book stores, they need to be able to make a profit in doing so. This will be easier if they order more than one copy, since the processing and delivery cost will be spread over several books, instead of concentrated in just one. But if they prefer just to order a single copy when a customer orders your book, they'll need to cover the delivery and their own internal costs. For these reasons, you need to provide a discount for book stores. This ranges from 30% to 55%, typically. The higher the discount, the more attractive your book will be to the stores; but the less you make.

I can't advise you on that, other than to say, think about it carefully, look at what similar books cost, and discuss it with friends who understand business and sales. But do protect yourself: don't set the price so low that you lose money by selling your book!

Nor can I advise you on pricing or number of copies if you opt for offset printing of a single initial print run. Just be aware that you'll need to store all the books you ordered, and pay for the postage as you sell each one, and spend time addressing and mailing them (or delivering them in bulk to resellers), and dealing with problems if books go missing in transit. Personally, I'm very happy to be using print on demand and leaving it to Ingram Spark to handle all that for me. It gives me more time for writing.

Here's a useful URL, although it doesn't cover the topic of setting the price:

And here's a longer article that covers different ground to that article, and to this one too — though there's some overlap — Duke Diercks's 1st person account of self-publishing tips and costs. Check it out, it's well worth a read. I'm not sure I agree with the idea of paying someone else to apply for your (P)CIP, but leaving that one exception aside, there are some real gems in there — like the idea about selling into small book-stores! I think Duke's article is actually more digestible than this whopper of a post.


You need to decide a release date, too: don't set all this up the night before the book is first available for printing. Traditional publishers handle this very well, with carefully planned marketing campaigns before the release date, all with the aim of getting as many sales as possible when the book is released. Of course, the down side is that for the vast majority of traditionally published authors, this marketing campaign will be a one week or two week effort that runs once only, ever. In contrast, for an indie author who has chosen print on demand, your book will always be available and it's up to you how you choose to market it as well as how long for.

Review copies

In many ways, it's much easier and cheaper to send ebooks to people for review, but professional reviewers for traditionally published books (such as in major newspapers and magazines), tend to prefer a free printed copy, though of course there's no guarantee they'll write a review at all. Their time, after all, is precious. But at least with a print edition you have a chance of that happening, which — if the review is positive! — could lead to a big success for you.

Put care and effort into this, though: do your research to find what kind of books different reviewers prefer, and only send your book to someone who might appreciate it. And obviously, any note you send along with your review (a press release) should be as clear and succinct and as useful to the reviewer as possible. But this topic is now leading into the general area of marketing, at which I'm still very much a novice, as well as drifting off topic for this post.

National library

Remember to send off a print copy of your book to your national library, if you received a CIP or PCN (or LCCN)!

Tell people

From the contacts list you've created, send out the information to each group. Then follow through on your marketing plan.


Prepare the cover and content PDF files for your book as carefully as you can, to make the book as readable and beautiful as you can; make sure you buy and assign an ISBN to it; register the book with the appropriate bodies; check your work carefully after you've done each piece of it; and carefully categorise your book and make it easy for potential readers to find it.

And then, give yourself a well-earned pat on the back, relax for a little while. When the creative energies return, dive back in to the writing. With any luck, your readers will be demanding it, and writing good new books is the best way to develop a body of work that may also earn you an income.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Double book launch for The Leeth Dossier sf/f series

Well, Saturday was the big day, and my sister made a little video of the people speaking at the launch.  I hadn't done the whole "artistic release" business or gained approval in advance from attendees to film them, so it's a video of just the emceee, Jon Marshall, the guest speaker, Sandra Wigzell of Book Expo Australia, and myself, with a short reading from Wild Thing, at the end.  (From the scene that introduces Sara/Leeth, in which Dr Alex Harmon "acquires" her for his research.)

Considering that I hadn't explained how to operate the camera, I think my big sister did a fantastic job (thanks, Lisa!).  The little Canon Ixus170 did a pretty good job, too: it went from completely out of focus to nicely in-focus within 20 seconds, all on its own we think.  For the first 20 seconds, Lisa was getting it framed correctly, so I've replaced that portion of the video with a still shot taken by Alfred Bellanti (thank you, Alfred!) who came along with Lama Jabr (of Xana Publishing & Marketing), who has been very helpful to me, and Gabriella Kovac, Ehssan, and I think perhaps Andrew A., and others too.

Apologies also for missing the first few seconds of Jon's intro, in which he thanked everyone, and went on to say that because I dreamed up Leeth for an RPG campaign that we played for about five years in the early 90s, he'd known Leeth for a long time: longer than her age of around eighteen (by the end of Vol 2).

I've hesitated to admit the detailed genesis for Leeth, since my own experience of reading novelisations of role-playing game campaigns is that they've been uniformly pretty awful.  I feel that this (turning an RPG campaign into a novel) is what lay behind the only failure(s) - to my mind - of my literary hero, Roger Zelazny.  But some things from an RPG and a novel are in complete agreement - and that's the characters, first and foremost. And secondly, the world.  Or at least, the feel of the world: I completely replaced the RPG world with one of my own creation.

These fictional worlds shared the same blending of magic and science, and were set in similar time periods in our future; there's even some similarities in the mix of races, and how magic works. (Which is based on real world ideas of the hermetic and shamanic forms of magic, with interesting bits and pieces of Carlos Castaneda's curious experiences stirred in to spice things up.)  I think Shadowrun was a bit more dystopian than my own near-future world: for me, there are lots of good bits, too.  I think of it as a "mixtopian" future.

Some games really spark, and work brilliantly; our Shadowrun campaign was like that.  The character I played for some years was my most fun character ever; and his ending was as traumatic as it was dramatic.  Thinking about it now, I rather suspect that Leeth was my way of coping with that loss: I set myself the goal of inventing a character who would be even more fun and original and challenging to play than Mike d'Angelo - a big ask!

I took along some "show and tell" for the launch:

  • My original hand-written MS (of about 400 sheets of closely-written, mostly-A4 sheets of paper, each carefully numbered).
  • A fake scientific (sociological) paper about the disenfranchised people, the cast-offs of the advanced and successful society only a few miles away, who lived in the shattered and now undesirable parts of the city.  I did this half for fun, and half to clarify in my own mind how this second society functioned.
  • Leeth's original character notes, and the formal "character sheet" which included an illustration of what Leeth looked like, in the persona she was operating under for the campaign.  When you eventually see "Bonnie" turn up, you'll know I've finally started to delve into some of the actual experiences from the campaign!  I think some of the conversations may well appear in the books.  You'll then be able to judge whether or not I succeed in my approach to novelising a few parts from the game.
  • Notes on the personnel and purpose of the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction, along with a map of the building and grounds.
  • Notes on the personnel and purpose of the Bureau for Internal Development (or at least, the ultra-secret Department concealed within it).
  • A kind of graph or time-line which I titled "The Genesis of Leeth", in discussion with my step-daughter Leonie ("Do you think it should have a title, Luke?") at about 2pm on the day of the launch.  It showed the thousands of hours of work put in to the creation of Leeth across the years, with significant events and milestones marked.

Anyway, I doubt that anyone really wants to know that much about all this.  And I've probably also put this on the wrong blog: it should be over on All About Leeth, not here on my blog on self-publishing

So let's leave it at that.  Thanks once again to everyone who was able to come along to the launch in person, and who made it such a happy event for me.  And best wishes to those who wanted to come along, but for whom circumstances or obligations conspired against them.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Book publishing/launch todo list

My next planned post was going to be about preparing the print edition. But before I do that, I thought I'd slip in something much simpler. This is just my to-do list of the things I need to do, now that I have a few days breather in between finishing the 2nd draft (3rd? 4th?) and getting ready to actually publish the ebook and paperback editions.
Here is the Gleebooks link for the series launch.
I'll update this list as I progress (as the countdown proceeds).
I thought it might make a handy check-list for other people. Though your mileage may vary, since I'm using Amazon for the ebook, and IngramSpark for the print editions.
WT = Wild Thing (1), HL = Harsh Lessons (2), SH = Shadow Hunt (3).
"*" means the task is completed.
This list is complicated by the fact that I'm doing a series launch (two books, not one), so it makes a bit more work for me.
I think a good planner would schedule this work to be spread out over at least two or three months.
I have learned to allow more time for the stuff, for future books!
Without further ado, the check-list. But because it looks a little daunting just presented as one great lump, I'll try to structure it a little to make it more digestible. I'll include estimates for how long each task should take, too.
Essential items
  1. * [1 hr.] Assign the ISBN for the new book. (Both ebook and print edition(s).)n Included in this is notifying the ISBN authority (in Australia, it means filling in the web forms in Thorpe-Bowker). This helps the book appear in publishing databases.
  2. * [1 hr.] Apply for the Catalogue in Print (CiP) entry for the new book. (ebook and print). This means the book will show up in more catalogues, including libraries, all around the world.
    Although this doesn't take you long, it may take a couple of weeks to receive the CIP text, so don't leave this until the last minute!
  3. * [2 hrs: er, no, 6.] MARKETING: Get Gleebooks RSVP info, site URL, for mail out to people I know who may be interested, and do so. Once only.
  4. * [1 wk? 2? Yes, it took a full 2 wks] Finish off the writing. For me, this means attending to the final critique from my editor. And I wanted to fiddle a bit with the title page.
    A normal person would schedule the book launch with ample time for this!
  5. * [2 hrs] Upload the book to the print edition publisher, IngramSpark, and to the ebook publisher, Amazon. Done: Harsh Lessons
  6. * [1 hr + detail check: 6 hrs] June 23: Order urgent proof copy of HL, and check it.
    A normal person would schedule the book launch with ample time for this, too. Got this done 4 days later than I'd hoped: paid a little extra, to rush the order to compensate.
  7. * [1 hr +6hrs?] June 30: get estimated no.s of attendees for launch and order an appropriate number of copies [Done for WT: Will do rush order on Monday for HL].
  8. * [2 hrs -> 1hr] MARKETING: Update list of people who earned/won free ecopy of HL (send iff given address), and gift people those people with free ecopies of Harsh Lessons, as I promised.
    (If you haven't promised this to people, then it's not a required Thing To Do!)
-- Bottom line: about 2 days of work. [Turned out nearer 3]

For me, I have to add whatever time it takes me to prepare the absolute final text for the book. (A sane person, or a good organiser, would schedule things so this list didn't even include that last slab of work!)  I'm not including the finishing of the writing/editing, since that's just the tip of the write-a-novel iceberg and doesn't belong in this list.

Useful but not essential
  1. [6 hrs?] Write some blog articles. (For me:
    * a status update [done],
    * this todo list [done],
    finish off the "preparing the print edition" article.)
  2. * [3 hrs] Research and buy new colour duplex laser printer. So I can produce decent press releases/posters. Brother HL-3150CDN sounds good, for Linux. $200. Buy, install, configure.
    Cost is a lot higher when you add a complete set of toner replacements (~+$600). Ubuntu 16.06 auto-install set it only as a text-only printer, nor could it print the test page. But the Brother web site provided installers for CUPS and lp, and that worked easily and flawlessly. Print quality is lovely!
  3. *[1 hr] For my situation, choose a suitable sample early chapter from Vol. 3 to include at the end of Vol. 2.
  4. *[2 hrs] Since I've improved Ch 1 in HL, and it's included as an excerpt at the end of Vol 1, update that in WT ebook and POD.
    (If it's your 1st book, or you haven't included a sample excerpt, this item goes away.)
-- Bottom line: about 3 days of work.
Nice to do if I have time
  1. [1 hr] MARKETING: Update WT press release.
  2. [2 hrs] MARKETING: Prepare press release for Harsh Lessons.
  3. [2 hrs] MARKETING: Print and send good press release with copy of WT to appropriate SMH reviewer.
  4. * [2 hrs: er, 4hrs] MARKETING: Make poster for where I used to work: the PDF for the poster is available here, for others to use.
  5. * [1hr] MARKETING: Update my old web site which succinctly lists what I've written and what I'm working on.
  6. * [15 min] MARKETING: Give poster to local newsagency?
  7. * [30 min] MARKETING: Give poster to local library?
  8. [2 hrs?] MARKETING: Prepare some give-away postcard or similar for book launch?
  9. [1 hr] MARKETING: Prepare and order new business cards.
  10. * [1 hr] MARKETING: Organise Amazon free days for WT to garner extra reviews.
    I mis-handled this, though: didn't promote it effectively beforehand, and did it as one lump of 5 days. But I learned a lot about the timzeons (plural) that Amazon works in. Also made a suggestion which they they seem inclined to implement.
  11. * [30 mins] MARKETING: Post Harsh Lesson draft to Amazon; set pre-release info.
  12. * [1 hr] Make the ebook available on Amazon from July 6 5
    Discover that you can't shift this date later if you realise you've given yourself too little time, without Amazon taking it very seriously: you lose the right to arrange another pre-order for a whole year. So I stuck with my original date. I hope I'm allowed to upload an improved version before the release date!
    Yes: but it can take a day for the uploaded revision to ripple through.
  13. * [10 mins] MARKETING: Contact local community radio (Radio Skid Row) re series launch, book 2, for interview. Note that various Linux tools for listening to streaming music did not work for me (banshee, streamtuner), but Clementine worked immediately after adding the URL for the stream,
    The interview will be lunchtime (prob. around 12:30pm) on Thursday 23rd June.
  14. [2 hrs?] MARKETING: Create a Facebook author page.
  15. [2 hrs?] MARKETING: Complete that convenience FB app. for Blogger.
  16. [2 days?] Read those two books on publishing/marketing I bought.
  17. [hrs?] MARKETING: Actions from marketing plan
  18. [1 hr] Practice reading, in case it's wanted for BL.
  19. [2 days ea?] Prepare an A-format (4"x7") edition of each book being launched (For me, Vols 1&2: WT, HL).
-- Bottom line: about 6 days of work.
Misc other vaguely related stuff that'd be nice to do, too
  1. [1 hr] Post copy of WT to replace lost copy, + HL, to Mirella. Choose trackable/signed delivery! Also post copy of HL to Dave.
  2. [1 hr?] Provide hardcopy WT to State Library? Ditto HL.
  3. [1 day] Do oomph analysis for Wild Thing.
  4. [1 day] Re-do oomph analysis for Harsh Lessons
  5. [day? ]Try character matrix idea?
  6. [1 day] Oomph analysis writing.
  7. [1 day] Type up some other not published pieces for the Marrickville Writer's Group review site.
  8. [days?] Aug: Start preparing for Book Expo, October
-- Bottom line: about 5 days of work.
So for me, all up, if I include every optional task, that's about 16 days of work. But just 2 days if I only do the essential items. I did need two weeks to attend to Dave's 2nd critique. It made excellent sense to do the essential stuff (including attending to the critique), and then work my way through the "nice to do things". The launch is now over, and was very successful (according to my modest goals), though I ran out of time to do many of the "nice-to-do" items. A few I'll carry on and do, even though it's now after the launch. If I hadn'tm caught a bad cold, with coughing when I tried to sleep, I think I would have achieved most of these things. Also, saying "Yes" to a solar panel installation and handling the consequences of how much planning and work that would involved was one of my stupid seat-of-the-pants decisions: to-ing and fro-ing about that cost me at least a day of productive work, until I postponed it all until afterwards.
At the time I first wrote this I had 25 days, so it looked a little scary but not too scary, even given my overly-optimistic planning and scheduling!

But the end result was happy. I'll put up a video from the launch on youtube in a day or two.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Book 2 - Harsh Lessons - is almost ready

I should apologise for the long gap in items, but I don't feel too guilty about it, because life's rich pattern has been a bit too rich: with a wonderful wedding (congrats, Emma & Pete!), a significant health issue in the family and planning for serious surgery for that, the death of my wonderful and loving Aunt Patsy, and the birth of a new nephew (welcome to the world, Malachi). Family comes first, but my writing does come second, so that meant that pretty much everything else got squeezed out of the picture.

Executive summary: I've been very busy and productive, and I will be holding a series launch of the 1st two books, at Gleebooks on Sat 9th July 2016, 3:30pm for 4pm at Glebe, Sydney. Harsh Lessons (Vol 2 of The Leeth Dossier) should just be ready in time!

This is probably a good place to show the beautiful new cover, once again designed by the wonderful Mirella de Santana ( and at

So this is just a little filler piece before my next planned serious post, about preparing a print edition. I had drafted an article on that topic when I was preparing the print edition for Wild Thing (Vol 1 in the series), but simply didn't have the time to finish the article off and post it here. But since I'll be preparing Harsh Lessons (Vol2) in a week or two from now (epub and print), I thought it made sense to use that to freshen up my experience and finish off the article.

In the meantime, this article, which is just a "what I'm up to right now" article.

So, what's this mention of Book 2 being called Harsh Lessons? When did it change from Shadow Hunt? And why? Well, a funny thing about that…

So, after all that "oomph analysis" stuff in the previous post, how did Book 2 fare under Dave's ( critical view? The big worry was that the book was looking much too long, at I think 165k words – I think it was around 560 pages. And Dave said it sounded like I'd need to cut it by twenty to thirty percent.

So, what happened? Well, Dave liked the new stuff, especially the "Mean Girls" story arc. The idea behind that was to fix a small pacing problem, except it in itself turned into 50 pages. But he pointed out that the readers would probably be wanting Leeth to be developing and learning a bit faster than I had planned; and more importantly, he thought I'd taken the easy way out in an area related to that, which meant I'd missed a great opportunity for something quite compelling which would make a natural and satisfying climax if the book ended there. Which just happened to be around the mid-point. His second big suggestion was related to Leeth's fighting prowess compared to her sensei. We ended up compromising, there.

So, it was back to the plotting and writing, and I outlined how it would look, and discussed it with Dave, and then got stuck in. Ah, yes, so if you're just wondering "But didn't you also split the 1st book in two?", then I'd have to sheepishly confess that I had. And indeed, that was the 1st half of the initial MS, which I myself had split in half back in around 2000, I think.

Anyway, the split meant that I needed a new title, since Shadow Hunt fits the 2nd half very well (now, Book 3); but doesn't fit the 1st half (now, Book 2). So after much mulling and thinking, I realised Harsh Lessons was the right title for volume 2. Which of course means I'll need to revise the text at the end of Book 1, to update the mention of Book 2's title, and I've also since then (thanks to Dave's critique) tightened the sample chapter I included. The other thing I've been squeezing in, is organising a series launch. Since there was no way I was going to be able to meet my promised publication schedule for Book 2 if I took the time to arrange the launch for Book 1, it made sense instead to delay till July and launch the series, with both books. This is tight: Harsh Lessons has been with Dave for about a week now, and I'll be getting some feedback next week; so depending on how much he thinks needs to be done to it, I may have an impossible amount of work to do, or something achievable, for the July 9th launch!

The series launch. So the launch will be held at 3:30pm for 4pm, at Gleebooks, Glebe, in Sydney, Saturday 9th July: the week after the Australian Federal Election. And I'll update this blog post with the RSVP etc. information for the Gleebooks newsletter and website.

For the book launch, if you would like to come, it's important to RSVP to Gleebooks directly, using any of the mechanisms they provide: by emailing or by phone (calling (02) 9660 2333), or by going to the Gleebooks website (or is it the newsletter part of the site for July - now in preparation - at The Gleebooks Gleaner newsletter ?), and RSVP-ing by filling out the form that will be there. As Gleebooks are catering (and I'm paying, of course), we need to have a good estimate of how many people will be coming for both the catering side and so I can guess how many copies to bring along, in case anyone wants to buy one. They'll be available for $20, and I'll obviously be happy to sign them for people.

Sandra Wigzell of Book Expo Australia has kindly agreed to be the special guest star. Sandra noticed a few years ago that Australia had not had a Book Expo since the 1970s, believe it or not. So she has been organising and holding them for the last few years, and it seems to be growing nicely. Sandra is a big supporter of indie publishers, book reviewers (including "booktubers" – a lively bunch of people who review books and all related stuff in videos they make), the people who provide services to authors and indie publishers, and of course book lovers. It's a great place for talks and seminars, as well as a chance to meet and talk to authors and everyone else in the book creation world. This year's is on 8/9 October, at Rosehill Racecourse Pavilion. "Book Expo Australia is a dedicated event national and international publishers and authors to meet and interact with avid booklovers"