Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Writing and publishing tips

I am not an authority on publishing, but I have experienced the pitfalls, however, this free advice is not an exhaustive guide so feel free to PM me with questions.

Unfortunately, no matter how good, or bad, your book is, 90% of the writers services out there, including well-known companies, will say what you want to hear just to get your money.
No matter how good or bad the book, 100% of 'Book to Script' services are lying to you, unless of course you are already a top ten New York Times acclaimed author, your book will not be in a Hollywood producer’s hands by Monday week.
Penguin, an established company, have been prosecuted, due to the above, with their proof writers also adding errors to ramp up the cost, in addition to an ongoing right to a percentage of royalties on top of $500 for simply typesetting, formatting, and pressing an ‘upload’ button. (They offer to sell you a how-to to do it yourself, and they charge $200 for that.)
*Quite honestly, it is not that hard, and there are templates for typesetting paperbacks that work perfectly for eBooks, and free, step by step videos on YouTube for converting Word into eBook format, that are very easy to follow.*

If you do have a spare three grand for editing, but already have a great cover, too bad, they only do packages of services and will charge for cover work that you do not need and they never actually do, but that part of the package sets you back $400.

Stock Cover
Privately sourced, a book cover can cost between $5 and $500, with the low end being off-the-shelf and not necessarily relevant to your story, whereas the other end of the scale is a bespoke piece of original art, but I will come on to artists later as they are a separate headache for the uninitiated.
Bespoke Cover

If you go to the small ads it is worse, with many editorial services making the manuscript only slightly more readable. Some foreign language translations can charge £10k for 100,000 words, but by using google translate they turn it into farcical Yoda type dialogue, all done inside of a fortnight.
"Much anger you have....”, and rightly so.
Brace yourselves, the actual cost of translating 100,000 words is at least twice that amount and will take 4-6 months as it also requires foreign language proofreading by an independent editor. The estimate for translating my first book series (662k words) into French was £128k, so obviously it is only available in English.

If you do start hitting the keys, with a view to becoming the next Harry Cole, or George RR Martin, you run into the new writers Catch 22.
You cannot send manuscripts to publishers, only accredited agents can do that, and agents will only take on clients who have a celebrity status, or who have previously been published (traditionally, not independently).
There is even the class snobbery that I encountered, “Great story, but you don’t have a college degree in sociology, media, or the arts” to be dealt with.

*I am not usually a fan of anyone using back door advantages, but as the odds are stacked against most of us, I would advise using any family, or friend, connections you know of with agents and publishers in order to give your manuscript a chance, if you go the traditional route.*

The guidelines are set in stone so get it properly edited and proofread, and of absolutely not one word over 100k or it goes in the recycling.

 Trad – v- Indie

Traditional publishing reaches a wider audience, so potentially you receive greater royalties, however, the books have to be absolutely no larger than 100k words, the publishing house takes a share of the royalties, plus it may bill you for advertising, and they pay your royalties to your agent, not to you.
Traditional publishers will pay out every three months and they also have you by the family jewels as they only print what they think the public like, i.e., whatever is 'trending' (I hate that word).
You will write for one market, America, and you may have a great book on the go about Cornish Pixies, or a contemporary Pride and Prejudice, but if they say that they want hot looking teenage, vegetarian vampires, who walk by day, or Elizabeth to be a submissive who is attracted to a billionaire called Darcy, despite his ropes, whips and shackles, you write their version or you don't get published.
You should also get a professional to check the fine print of any contract; it is not unknown for the publishing house to own the copyright of everything you write for a stipulated period, even unpublished work. In such cases you will have to buy the copyright to your own work if you want to try another print house.

Indie writing will never be as cool as being in an indie band. Many publishers will not entertain anyone who has been independently published, and bricks and mortar bookstores will be cutting their own throats if they stock your work, as the big publishers will cease to supply them. Very unfair, but quite legal due to the EU.
eBooks are a viable alternative and they were exempt VAT until the big publishers persuaded the EU to cancel value added tax on paper books and load it onto eBooks, where most indies dwell.
I can still pay the bills, and I sell a few more paperbacks and hardbacks than before, as a result of the EU action, but eBooks are where the money is.
I once wrote eBooks for all the online electronic publishers, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords etc, but only Amazon will plug indie books and I know this because I could not have fed a goldfish on the sum total of the others sales. The others push what the publishing houses pay them to promote, not Indie work, and, Apple is far more interested in music and film. Apple iBooks site is badly indexed, without even an icon of the book covers or descriptions of the story.

Interior illustration for eBooks on Kindle

Learn to read and write HTML/CSS code, or easier yet, just pay a teenager to do it.
Amazon Kindle use a code called MOBI, which was written in the 90s, and Amazon still use MOBI 0-0-1, which will not convert images properly on anything except kindle readers, iPads and iPhones. The images are tiny on Tablets and everyone else’s smart phones.
If you do not do this, Amazon will take your book down.


If you go for traditional publishing then do not bother. They stylise it, and any existing cover will be binned along with interior images.

As an Indie, bear in mind that a book cover is a ‘lure’; it has to catch the eye, even as a 1” x 1.5” onscreen icon. Dark colours do not do that, no matter how beautiful the work, so choose colours wisely.

I used Photoshop to create the first five of my covers, but my advice is that you should probably get a professional, not your neighbours son or daughter who has an O Level in art. 
A bad cover repels potential buyers.


You have to pay at least half upfront, and in $US, even for proof of ability, so do not ask for freebies, even from unknowns, and get yourself a PayPal account before looking.

Many artists, even the established ones, are often flaky, up themselves, or both. Getting the image you paid for, and getting it in this lifetime, can be akin to herding cats.

A website is not proof of ability, nor the photographic evidence that it displays.
I found a very affable gentlemen who had an encyclopedic knowledge of comic book art and sword and sorcery novels, plus their cover artists and interior illustrators. He had been a fan of the artwork since his youth and had spent his redundancy payout in an attempt to emulate Frank Frazetta, McClaverty, Ken Kelly etc etc, as an artist. His proof of ability was impressive, but nothing that followed was anything near as good.
I have five beautiful ladies, all serving or retired glamour models, Katya Clover, Tracey Elvik, Julia Yaroshenko, Rachel Garley, Luana Lani, and Natalia Andreeva, aka, Delilah G, who permit me to use their image as artist's references for characters in book illustrations. In return, they get the original artwork to frame, but obviously the image has to be flattering, and this particular artist managed to turn them into 40+, haggard and in no way resembling the character.
Whoever drew the proof of ability image is a mystery, but it certainly was not him.
He returned my deposit without argument, and I hope that he does eventually achieve that skill which he needs as he really was a nice guy. 
There are more fakes and wannabes than there are real artists

An email agreement is a legally recognised contract, so remember that.

Even if you are not much of an artist, it can save time and money to remember that a picture paints a thousand words (plus, English may not be your artists first language)  and if, for example, your story involves a beautiful exotic dancer distracting werewolf sentries, then roughly draw it, like this, or patch and paste images together, so that your artist knows what you are on about.

When you are establishing working practices you will want to see a sketch of what you have described (or sent them along with your own rough image). Some artists will state that they will only make a set number of free changes before charging extra, but it is up to you, every artist is different, however, never be tempted to make changes yourself without at least asking their permission, or first buying the copyright. They own the work, even if you paid them to create an image that was your idea. Your book could be banned and you could wind up in court as copyright gives an artist tremendous power, for example, if you ask for a book interior, or cover, and print off a copy to frame on your wall, you are breaking the law if you did not buy the copyright first. Additionally, just to drive home the power of copyright with another example, in theory, a portrait artist can sue you in order to hang wallpaper that does not detract from the impact of his masterpiece.  

Colour interiors quadruple the books minimum retail price and therefore hinders sales.

Complex images (too much background detail) do not translate well onto smart phone screens, so keep it simple


Ensure all images are at least 300DPI/PPI (Dots Per Inch / Pixels Per Inch) but a higher DPI is better if you want images on Amazon Kindle as they greatly compress the book files on uploading, resulting in loss of high definition.

Use 'Microsoft Office Picture Manager' to reduce, or increase, the size of an image without losing image definition.

     Audio books

     Audio books are the only format I have not published in, but I looked very carefully at the possibility as it can also be achieved online.
For a traditionally published writer, it is doable IF the publishing house picks up all the costs.
For an Indie of limited means, the cost of voice actors, and the major chunk of royalties the audio book publisher claims, is prohibitive, and if you offer the actor(s) a percentage of the royalties by way of payment, you will be unlikely to ever see a profit.
That, at least, is how it currently stands with audio books.

No Links for myself as I am not after anything in return, but links for the Indie hearted and also to my favourite, very reliable, artists for book covers and interior illustration. 

Sanju Nivangune (covers, line work and digital painting of 'Shaw' and 'Of Demons and Blue Moons', traditional pencil for Katya Clover as 'Clover Iwasaki', and Tracy Elvik as 'Lilith' for OD&BM2's cover.)

Yuri Platov - Yuri speaks some English, which is fortunate as Google Translate is truly awful at Russian.

Natalia Andreeva as the Griff (Griffin/Dragon hybrid) riding warrior princess, Natalya of Paladin.)
Richie is gifted, she produces very detailed pencil portraits.  (Luana Lani as a witch who prefers aircraft to broomsticks, and Natalia Andreeva as 'Princess Natalya of Paladin')
Richie Pulvera - Traditional graphite pencil

Get started as a Kindle writer

Print-On-Demand Paperback (absolutely free, the books are only printed when ordered.)

Print-On-Demand Hardback (again, it is free, but the Createspace templates are 100% better. However, you can use the Createspace templates on Lulu’s upload system without bother)

Word to eBook formatting vid by Ben Macklin for PC, *but do not do the patch and paste to notebook, not for Kindle books, save it as an RTF file instead, otherwise it removes all italics and styling as well as the HTML unfriendly code that is hidden within Microsoft Word*.

Word to eBook formatting vid by Tom Corson-Knowles for  MAC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sMzotvhGQg

But never forget, at the end of the day the fiction writer will never be as popular as a rock star <sigh>