Writers' Forum - January 2018

January 2018 Writers' Forum - the best indie publishing news you need to knowWelcome to the second year of the Writers' Forum! Each month there is no shortage of important publishing news and helpful writing information to share with other authors, particularly those independently publishing their books. Once a month in 2018, I'll continue to bring you "the best of" the news you need to know along with a preview of the upcoming book events in southern Wisconsin. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press. I'd love to use my skills to guide you through the steps of independent publishing.

February Book Events  

(There's a massive list of book events to entertain us in February! Enjoy!!) 

Mystery to Me Bookstore, 1863 Monroe Street, Madison

February 1 at 7pm – An evening with Sagasshus T. Levingston about her book Infamous Mothers

February 2 at 6 pm – Sean Patrick Little discusses Lord Bobbins and the Romanian Ruckus

February 17 at 2 pm – Doug Moe interviews Anne Davidson Keller about Empty Chairs

February 24 at 10 am – Growing up Black in South Madison with Dr. Richard Harris

A Room of One’s Own, 315 W. Gorham Street, Madison

February 5 at 6 pm – Andrea Gibson, poet and author of Take Me With You

February 15 at 6 pm – Michael P. Branch, author of Rants from the Hill

February 19 at 6 pm – Tom Miller, author of The Philosopher’s Flight

February 22 at 6 pm – Sue Robinson, author of Networked News, Racial Divides

Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer, Milwaukee

February 2 at 7pm – Ronald Paul Larson, author of Wisconsin and the Civil War

February 5 at 6:30 pm – Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (at Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. (registration required)

February 7 at 7pm – Sara Blaedel, author of The Undertaker’s Daughter in conversation with Ruth Jordan of Crimespree magazine

February 8 at 7 pm – Gregory Blake Smith, author of The Maze at Windermere, in conversation with novelist Jane Hamilton

And many more . . .

Featured Subject

CreateSpace eliminates author services staff - now what?CreateSpace Lays off Its Creative Staff

For those of you who have used any of CreateSpace’s author services, you need to know they are closing this division by the end of March. CreateSpace still remains as a print-on-demand publisher, but if you rely on them for editing, design, or marketing services, those will no longer be available.

“After a thorough review of our service offerings, we’ve made the decision to discontinue CreateSpace’s paid professional editing, design, and marketing services,” Amazon said in a statement. “We will work closely with impacted employees through this transition to help them find new roles within the company or assist them with pursuing opportunities outside the company.”

When I published my first book in 2014, I was less sure of my design skills and was very grateful for CreateSpace’s interior design service. My designer did a lovely job. Since then I’ve learned how to do this myself, but the interior of that first book remains in the hands of CreateSpace’s designers when I need updates. If you’re in a similar position, I have read on authors’ forums that some writers are having success in requesting that their editing document be returned to them, so future updates are possible without starting over. I have not done this yet myself but will do so and report back to you. CreateSpace vs KPD Print - pros and cons by zbooks

But CreateSpace still remains the top print-on-demand publisher. Its main competitor is IngramSpark, but another competitor has made its way onto the scene. Strangely enough, it comes from within Amazon – KPD Print. I haven’t spent much time going through the KDP Print details, but this article from ZBooks does a great job of comparing the pros and cons of using CreateSpace versus KPD Print. The main drawback I see is that KDP Print has no system for allowing you to buy books at cost. I sell a lot of books myself at book festivals and writing conferences. For this reason alone, I will never migrate over to KDP Print. However, there are some benefits to KPD Print that might appeal to you. I’d love to hear from anyone who has used them.

Pre-Publication Information

Paying Attention to your Spine

No, that’s not a chiropractor public service announcement—it’s all about the spine of your book. I would say that it is an area that doesn’t garner a lot of how-to articles, so when I came across this excellent advice from Joel Friedlander at the Book Designer, I knew I had to share. I never thought about the spine design on books until it came time to format my own cover. While I had CreateSpace format my first book interior, I knew (thought) I could handle the cover design process myself. I had a great cover artist. What could go wrong?? Well, let me tell you I fretted over that spine design and placement. I nudged a little this way and a little that way. I printed off the sample and folded it around the proof copy and so on. Hopefully, I can make this job easier for you if you follow the tips in this article. After all, most of the time that’s the initial view of your book on a shelf at the library or store.

Book Spine Design Tips and more indie publishing advice


Comparing E-book Platforms

As you begin to decide how you’ll distribute your book, it’s important to know the difference between uploading your book directly to e-book platforms or using an aggregator. Will you go wide and use multiple platforms or stick with Amazon only? Here again there are pros and cons to any decision. Initially, I only put my books on Amazon. Later I added Nook. And much later, I ditched the direct upload to Nook and decided to use even wider distribution by going through an aggregator. I now use Draft2Digital and am very happy with them and their ability to get my books on many different platforms. The biggest reason to use an aggregator is that there is a simplicity in making changes and updates to your book without having to log into multiple platforms and upload the changed text. Reedsy's excellent article walks you through the things you should consider.

And, if you’ve never heard of Reedsy, check them out for their author support services. I’ve never used them myself, but I hear good things about their professionalism. They have pre and post publication professionals to help you with everything from editing to marketing. Indies Unlimited provides us with a good overview in their recent article about Reedsy.

Hiring and Working with Editors: Dos and Don’ts

I maintain that to have the most professional product possible, you must have some sort of editing assistance. Karen Conlin provides an excellent checklist of how to work with an editor from when to book their time (before you finish writing) to agreeing on what to expect. This is smart reading if you’re in the market for an editor.

You might not know that there are four different types of book editing. The Book Designer article by Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas gives a definition of each of the four typs of editing: Development, Line Editing, Copyediting, and Proofreading. Sometimes you’ll find these are given slightly different names, but the definitions remain the same. If you’re unsure if you need an editor, you might want to read “How a Development Edit Saved My Book” from 1106 Design.

Five Ways to Organize Your WritingReality Check for Authors -- Who do you let into your inner circle?

It’s the last day of January, did you do all those organizational tasks that we often put on our to-do list in January? Terry Whalin has an incredible writing resume, so I know that he has to be organized to get all of his writing completed. His five tips are excellent for rethinking your writing strategies and direction for 2018.  

Reality Check for Authors . . .  What Were You Thinking? (When you told everyone you were writing a book?)

I HAD to read this article from Judith Briles on the Book Designer website when I read the title. I told very few people I was writing the initial book for many reasons—but mainly because I wasn’t sure that I could, and I didn’t think I could handle people asking me about it if I abandoned the project. I like this advice on who you let into your inner circle and who you don’t. Not all advice is helpful!

Looking for Places to Submit Your Work?

I hadn’t heard about Submittable until I was required to register and use this site's submission form to send an essay to a literary magazine. A lot of publications use this system. It is a handy way to see where you’ve submitted and what’s still pending if you’ve sent out a number of queries. But this site offers much more. (And it’s FREE!) You can peruse the list of publications looking for submissions. They even list opportunities like art residencies. I’ve now signed up for their weekly email that bundles these together. If one of your goals in 2018 is to submit your work to more places, Submittable might be for you. Here’s how they describe their service:

Looking for places to submit your work? Submittable recently released the Discover feature, enabling you to view and follow upcoming creative deadlines, as well as search for opportunities by date, genre, and over 100 tags. This feature is free and available for all users of Submittable.


Best Book Marketing Advice 2017 – as compiled by Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman’s website is one of the very best places for advice for the indie author. This article is a treasure trove of information she has gathered of the best book marketing information from the past year. If you read just one thing in full from this writers’ forum, it should be this article. She sorts the marketing advice into these helpful categories:

  1. Better Book Packaging and Descriptions
  2. Selling Through Amazon
  3. Book Launches and Bestsellerdom
  4. Facebook Marketing and Advertising
  5. Pricing, Discounting, and Giveaways
  6. Selling Rights and Selling Internationally
  7. Book Reviews / Goodreads
  8. Email Marketing
  9. Podcasting


Millennials are Reading -- A LOT. Book Marketing Tips and more indie author advice.The Book Reading Habits of Millennials

Why does this matter to you? Millennials are avid readers and they read all genres. If you’re not actively targeting this group with your marketing, you’re likely making a mistake. Check out the statistics about millennial reading habits in this article from Amy Collins. 


Social Media Tips

There are always at least a handful of new articles every month that discuss the best practices or new twists to engaging productively on social media. The two best ones from the past few weeks are featured here.

Frances Caballo offers up social media tips that are excellent reminders on how to divide your time . . . she suggests small increments with specific goals. I also think her advice for creating Twitter lists is important to understand. I’ve done this, and it helps me manage that platform immensely.

The other good advice comes from the Nonfiction Authors Association but is relevant to all authors. Their advice on how to use Facebook groups effectively to promote your book and gain reviews is important to know. Now, all groups are not equally helpful. Stay away from the ones that just post deal after deal after deal. Instead, search for those that have a truly engaged membership that are more of a forum for information and helping fellow authors.

Submitting Your eBook to Libraries

I found this fascinating article in the Library Journal about a portal called self-e, which allows self-published authors to directly upload their e-book into a system that is accessible by participating libraries for their patrons. This is a royalty-free system, so you’re not getting paid. But, if you’re looking to gain attention and expand readership, this might be for you. If anyone has had some success with this, please let us know!  

If you’re unsure of the other ways to get your books into libraries. We’ve talked about this before in the August Writers' Forum.   

And another article from the Writing Cooperative explains the types of ebook distribution to libraries quite well.

I hope that these articles help you on your writing and publishing journey!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



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