Monday, June 30, 2014

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Self-Pubbing Your Work Part One - The Basics

Now Playing -  Creepin' Up The Back Stairs by The Fratellis
Life -  
 Over the past few weeks I've had an unusual number of people ask me about resources for publishing their own work and I figured rather than cutting and pasting the response to everyone, I'd make a blog I could send people to.

Obviously, this is far from complete and I'm not going into extreme depth on most things in this blog, maybe later ones. This is just a list of essential steps for getting your creation into people's hands.

Step One

Write something. This is the obvious one and we'll assume you've written a novel, done a few drafts and figured it's ready to go. It's also important to note that this something should be written in a decent editing program. The more familiar you are with it and it's functions the easier and more professional everything will be. Word is great. OpenOffice also works. (And is Free )

Go back over it. Unfortunately, most aspiring authors can't afford professional editing or proofreading. If you know someone that can do it effectively, or is willing to do it on the cheap, cherish that person and never let them go. This is the first place we will spend real money on if we are ever making any of said money.

For any said novel, we typically write 2-3 drafts, do a thorough edit and proofread, then pass it off to the other person who does the same. Then we print it and do the same thing in paper form. And still miss things. Rules, odd spelling things, Simple mess-ups... Linz is especially bad with homonyms. There's nothing worse than publishing a book with english errors or spelling mistakes, but there's also only so much you can do without hiring a pro. Which will cost you. Hundreds, most likely.

On the bright side, most readers of your work will be aware that your book isn't from a major publisher and unless it's a particularly egregious error, are willing to cut you some slack. But do the best you can. In addition to the usual functions like spellcheck and grammar, we use a program called ProWritingAid. It's an online site that allows you to paste a block of text and it analyzes it a few dozen different ways. Overused words, phrases, spelling,  weird rules. It's really nice. You can also pay for it to be used as a widget in Word itself, which is really convenient and quite useful.

Step Two

Decide how you want people to read your book and where. The two major choices are physical books and as an eBook. (Naturally, you can post it online as a blog and what have you.... ) We like our novels to be available as both physical paperback novels and ebooks, but be warned, the physical copy is a LOT more work than making an ebook. For the purposes of this blog, We'll concentrate on making an ebook. Maybe I'll do a follow up on paperbacks. However, if you are interested, we use CreateSpace to make ours. It's run by Amazon, has full integration with them and most of their steps are really easy to follow. They run a print on demand service and you can order books yourself at cost.

As for where people can find your book, that's trickier. Realistically, the best way to reach the most people is to have your book on as many sites as humanly possible. That means publishing your book on, Barnes &amp; Noble as well as sites like the Kobo store, Apple, etc.

However - Each of those stores require different formatting of the manuscript, separate accounts, different hoops and rings of fire to navigate. They even care about how you tab your manuscript and how many fonts you use.  You can publish on all of them and more however. It's just a lot of work.

There's another catch too., the obvious big daddy leader in eBooks thanks to the Kindle has a program with perks available to the author that chooses to e-pub exclusively through them. They let you run promotions, give away free books, discount books to people that own the physical copy, swell stuff like that.

We've tried it both ways and right now, we find that we get better exposure and results from being exclusive to Amazon than we did being on all of the sites. That may change as our bibliography expands and we can build a base of readers outside of the kindle, but for now we publish exclusively there. For those wondering, you can read Amazon books on other devices, it just takes a number of extra steps. I made a tutorial about it HERE. (Which is older and may be out of date.) I own a nook, and I can understand wanting to be on more than just Amazon. I'll get into the other sites at a later date. (Probably)

Step Three

Okay, so we are going to publish an eBook on, and not worry about the other sites and options. The first step is to go to and log in. You can use your sign in or create a new one for your publishing empire. KDP is the world of tools for the aspiring self-pubbed author. Not only does it get you the best exposure, the site is well laid out and walks you through things simply and intelligently (For the most part) I'll make another post later on the exact steps of publishing on KDP, but in all honesty, you probably don't need it. Just click on the yellow button labeled "Add new title" and start making a book!

If I were you, however, I would click on the Help button on the top of the page. When there, Click on, download and print the entire guide titled "Building Your Book For Kindle" not only will this walk you through each of the steps, it explains the trickier stuff, like spacing, tabs and tables of contents in a way that anyone can do it. It's a very nice guide that I still refer back to every time.

That alone should be enough to get your book into someone's digital reader. Not impossible, but it also looks misleadingly simple. There's a lot of little tricks and slang the process uses that can trip you up. Just remember to take your time and read the guides and help sections if you're stuck.

A Couple of Notes:

I would be terribly remiss if I didn't add a few things here that I think are incredibly important.

READ OTHER BOOKS. Lots of them. Pay attention to how they lay things out, the way the page looks. What the front pages look like before the story starts. Especially books in the same genre as your work.

HAVE A GOOD COVER. As an artist, I concentrate on this a lot more than other people, I'm sure, but it is vital. With the tremendous amount of ebooks available, you MUST have some way to stand out before anyone ever gets around to reading your plot synopsis. Sending people to buy your book is all well and good, but if you can't get Average Joe to buy it, you'll never become successful. If you aren't artistic at all, you can still make a decent cover. Pay attention to color and font. Look at lots of covers. Browse Amazon's listings for similar books and see what they do on theirs that makes them successful. Remember that the first time your cover is seen it's less than an inch tall. That's important to note - some covers become a jumble of ugly at thumbnail size.

If at all possible, don't go the generic "Colored background with white words" route. They scream amateur. I read over 200 books a year usually, about half are self pubbed or independent and I have never bought one with a cover like that.

At the same time, neveruse an image you found online unless you bought it for your use. Anything on the internet, whether it says so or not, is protected by copyright. There are some sites that offer images for use, but be sure to check and make sure it's okay to use for commercial matters. Some sites look like they have free images, but it's only if they're used for editorial or non-profit reasons. If all else fails, take a picture and add your title to your own photograph. That's relatively easy with free programs like PhotoScape.

Another option is to hire someone to create a cover for you. We do that on our site Octopress Books where we make custom covers and have started selling template covers that we can add your title and name to a pre-made design for a lower price than our fully custom covers. NOTE: I didn't write this blog to plug our cover services, but I couldn't write this and not mention it, could I? :)

Believe in what you write.

Both before and after publishing your novel, you have to love what you write and what you are doing. People online can be cruel or mindless and that can result in some harsh criticism. My suggestion is to ignore reviews completely if possible. Or have a trusted friend read them and forward ones that are positive, uplifting or genuinely useful. Don't ever let the haters stop you from writing and loving the process and result. Most authors hate their first works. But you have to keep writing and improving.  

(This post is being cross-posted to our other blogs, so I apologize if it's redundant to my readers that follow all of them.)


Monday, February 10, 2014

Notes From Behind The Table - TempleCon 14

This weekend Deeply Dapper had a table at TempleCon, a yearly gaming and alternative fashion convention in Warwick, RI. This was a remarkable experience. It was the first time I'd attended a con of this magnitude, especially with such a wide and varied mix of people and interests.

On the surface, it seems an odd mix. Music, steampunk, cyberpunk, board games, arcade gaming, elaborate tabletop sets, card games, authors, designers, artists, performers.... It seems like a dish that sounds better than it turns out, but once you actually experience it, everything gels really nicely into a fabulous mix of corsets and miniatures.

These are a few observations from running a table at the con, in no particular order or format:

 - Leave your judgement and preconceived notions at home. On the surface, this was a Mos Eisley of a con. People in comic-con gear, elaborate steampunk outfits, street clothes, military uniforms and a mix of basement dweller gear. In motion however, as bearded men in hoodies maneuvered their strapped blocks of gaming gear between a woman in a corset and a man dressed in a clockwork top hat, it becomes a thing of beauty. People were unapologetically themselves, regardless of what that was. It was fantastic.

- Being in Huckster Mode for a long four day con is exhausting. I'd planned on staying up late after the vendor room closed - playing games, taking photos and generally rubbing elbows but when that sheet went down on the goods, my eyes started to sag fast. Maybe I need to learn to reign things in a bit. Or just drink more powerful energy drinks.

- TempleCon is constant. For all four days of the con, the large main hall where the bulk of the gaming occurred was occupied by hardcore gamers 24 hours a day.
- It's also HUGE. The vendor's room was a long hall, surrounded by two layers of additional hallways with tables, like a shoppable onion. In addition, they run a "Clockwork Bazaar" where vendors can rent rooms in a certain part of the hotel and run their shops out of the rooms, closing up when they felt like a nap. They ran one large room of free, vintage arcade games, a huge card game room, a free play board game hall, the aisles and hallways surrounding the whole space were packed with tables sporting vendors, shops, playtesting and giant, beautiful, elaborate tabletop gaming setups.

- I've always liked physical gaming better than video games, but I'd never quite realized how amazing some of this is. It's daunting for a noob like me. Some of these setups left me baffled but unaccountably in love with them. We're talking fully 3-dimensional battlegrounds - bridges spanning icy chasms, arenas ringed in lava, scale replicas of battlegrounds... The variety was immense and fascinating.

- As friendly and awesome as everyone is at the con, never interrupt a person playing these games if either is in the middle of a turn. Especially if they are timing anything or holding a tape measure. They get very intense.

- Bring Money. I did not and there were many things I coveted greatly and that was with limited time to shop at all. If I was a normal sized man, the temptation would have been even worse.

- Food prices were about average, but drinks were surprisingly reasonable.
- For some reason, both the main hotel and the axillary overnight hotel didn't figure out until the last day that they needed to put out extra food for breakfast and paper towels in the men's rooms.

- The corset is a varied and beautiful item that can add visual interest to anyone's outfit, male or female.

- Breaking even on your table is difficult when you are selling lower priced items like we do. A lot of the shops selling items in the $20-40 range had an easier time than us at $5-10 each. Makes you work harder, but also consider options to make your shop more varied.

- After this con, and seeing the various ways vendors used the space, we've seriously begun looking into shaking up our setup. Look for ways to draw customers into you.
- I am loud and have a spiel that I recite over and over. Having cool, funny neighbors makes this more of an amusement than an annoyance... I hope.

- When it's slow, use that time to get to know your fellow vendors - the insights gleaned and friendships made are 110% worth the time. Also run to the potty.

- If you can justify the cost, bring a helper, even if it's someone to watch the shop every once in a while when they aren't shopping. They will make your life much easier.

- Play Games! Often at cons like this, new gamemakers will bring their projects to playtest or makers will debut a new prototype to play. Get in on these, not just because they are fun, but because the people creating the game have a real passion and will make it very enjoyable.

- Don't be intimidated. This is a three front one. Costumes - I saw everything from the most casual clothes imaginable to a ten foot fully articulated robot wandering around. And everyone looked awesome. If you want to dress up but feel like you aren't up to snuff, just be confident and you'll own it. On the gaming front... Don't try and dive into an established tournament or anything, but there were a lot of opportunities for a new gamer to find dozens of games to learn and enjoy. (And even more for you to buy and expand on afterwards. hahah)
On the vendor's end of things, it's trickier. When I first signed up for TempleCon I was excited. As the date got closer, schedules and expected attendance was announced, I started to get nervous. This was our third con... ever. And it was just me going to run the table. Then I got there and realized the sheer scale of the place and it got worse. Then I realized that my little universe of my table was immensely manageable, the people I was surrounded by were very cool and the guests were equally so. I started to really enjoy myself instead of being freaked out.

That said, don't be intimidated, but be informed. Know your costs and what you have to do to cover them at minimum. Before the con, we sat down and figured our expenses, both cost of goods and the trip and what we would have to do to cover that. Cons like this aren't cheap, especially when the trip involves 4 nights at a hotel and a 600 mile round trip, food, supplies, etc. You always have more than just the table fees to cover. Remember to factor in things like shopping bags, sales tax, the toothpaste you left at home, etc. Account for these costs in the estimate and in the prices you charge. It's hard to get used to, but it's better to sell less items at a price they are worth than sell twice as many at a price that ends up making you feel cheated at the end of the day.

We covered expenses, but didn't come home with enough money for me to roll around in, sadly, but I had a hugely fun time, did some invaluable networking and friend-making and at the end of the day, left people smelling better than they did before. And that's really what it's all about.

One last note - If stopping to talk to one of the models you'd met earlier in the day, as she stands in line for the fashion show walk-out, just after getting a plate of hot chicken fingers and fries - Ignore the hungry stares of the other models or tell them where you got them indifferently. Don't revert to your Idaho roots and offer one model a piece. All that will remain of your food will be a greasy smear, a lightly chewed knuckle and twelve corsets that are a little tighter than before.
I should note that they were actually very pleasant and friendly and beautiful and you can see my food hiding behind that models fingers in the blurry photo I took while running away - IT'S RIGHT THERE!! :)