The Self-Publish Pledge

The Self-Publish Pledge

I’ve been working with self-published authors since 2009. This pledge sums up what I wish all authors knew before they published.

 

I, ____________________________ (state your name), agree to abide by the following:

Writing

  1. To hire an editor (if not a professional editor, a group of trusted friends or colleagues)
  2. To print a bound galley / advance reader copy and have at least two other people review it
  3. To publish a Kindle edition without an ISBN to give advance readers a page to post their review
  4. To wait until I have positive feedback to assign an ISBN and release it for sale in print

 

Title & Cover

  1. To hire a professional cover designer
  2. To check Amazon to see what other titles already come up on Amazon when I search for my title

 

Pricing

  1. To determine my print-book pricing using the IngramSpark book pricing calculator
  2. To set the wholesale discount to 50% and allow returns (at IngramSpark)
  3. To never let KDP assign me one of their free ISBNs, which would prevent me from using IngramSpark to sell to other retailers & libraries

 

Metadata

  1. To request an LCCN from the Library of Congress.
  2. To set up metadata for my ISBN with Bowker and confirm that it is valid at bookwire.com

 

Publishing

  1. To hire a professional interior designer and confirm the conversion from my source manuscript is accurate
  2. To set up my e-book directly with the three major marketplaces and avoid third-party aggregators/distributors, which limit my marketing options

 

Authorpreneur Brian Schwartz is the creator of the award-winning 50 Interviews series. More than 500 authors have trusted Brian and his team to publish their work. The mission of Brian’s practice is “to bridge the gap between self-publishers and traditional publishing by applying the proven strategies and techniques of successful independent publishers.” To meet this objective, Brian launched AuthorDock in 2016 to provide authors an all-in-one secure portfolio management tool to manage deadlines, extended teams, and critical resources. Brian is also the developer of PubWriter, a click-to-publish publishing platform used by authors to create their own web hubs for publishing, promotion, and sales.

Does the Threat of a Social Media Armageddon Got You Down?

On Thursday, I awoke to do what I always did, and that meant checking my numbers on Amazon and my engagement on Facebook and making sure to post.

You see, I had a few important things to share with my audience—information of books available in Kindle Unlimited; a notice about other books able to be downloaded for free as part of a new promotion; and, of course, a pitch for my latest preorder.

However, something went wrong.

No matter what I did, the post wouldn’t post; the image errored out. There was no Instagram or Facebook available. Moreover, the panic spread.

Soon, there was noise on Twitter about the social media breakdown. What could we all do, as the platform we’d been building was unavailable?

For many, this could be akin to an Armageddon.

Not so for me . . . you see, I’d been spending time not just building up my social media, but also my platform with my author newsletter.

A newsletter is a cheap and useful marketing tool that you as an author can successfully use to share your news, voice, and branding. Even more, it is a great way to engage with your readers and create a warm relationship. It is the first step to creating an audience that looks forward to hearing from you and about your news.

How do you start an author newsletter?

  1. If you don’t have a website, buy your domain. (Your website domain is your online real estate and where you want to direct your readers to find out more about you.)
  2. Set up your author website and e-mail address.
  3. Sign up with a newsletter provider, like MailChimp, and share the sign-up link to your social media.
  4. Embed your sign-up link on your website.

 

By building your e-mail list for your newsletter, you no longer have to worry about your business relying on whether social media is still operational. Instead, you will have a direct line to your audience.

Now that you know newsletters are essential for your author-business, be encouraged. Today is a great day to start your author newsletter and connect with your readers.

 

Tina Glasneck is a USA Today bestselling author of fantasy and crime fiction. Since 2012, she has created author events, has held online book fairs, and continues to assist authors on their journey. She frequently teaches on the topics of book promotion, author newsletters, as well as the business of publishing. Tina has published more than 20 books in the fantasy, crime fiction, and mystery genres. She persists in her vision and author goals to create a world of wonder through her fantastical tales.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Can’t Write QuickBooks

I can add and subtract, multiply, and divide. I can balance a checkbook. I can keep track of income and expenses on a spreadsheet. I can determine sales tax and apply seller discounts. I can figure out what percentage of my gasoline costs is deductible. I can even fill out my own partnership tax forms if I have enough time.

Lots of time.

I’m talking serious clumps of uninterrupted hours.

And M&Ms.

Basic bookkeeping. Profit and loss. Cash flow. Retained earnings. All the accounting doo-dads and business jargon those QuickBooks magicians need to make business financials run smoothly. Accounting, as someone once explained, is a specialty profession; one that’s essential for all manner of banking, business, investments, and taxes. People go to college to learn its myriad aspects and intricacies. No business can expect to be successful without proper accounting. Just as no book can expect to be successful without proper writerly skills.

An accountant’s math skills are to my abilities to write, edit, and comprehend intricate prose. Those spreadsheets and percentages? Outlining, character studies, and basic plot architecture. An accountant’s Schedule K is on the same level of concentrated effort as applying APA style guides to a 425-page master’s thesis.

Just like accounting is a specialty profession, so, too, is ghostwriting.

Sure, any aspiring author can open whatever word processor strikes their fancy and clickity-clack type out enough words to rival War and Peace, but it likely won’t have the same finesse as it would if they had access to my kind of expertise. Just like a CEO absolutely can open QuickBooks and navigate the truly brain-folding double-entry system but come tax time there likely will be some missed deductions.

Luckily for those aspiring authors, ghostwriters like me love creative analysis and musical line editing. We relish literary intricacies as much as the math-heads who take delight in their accounting tasks. Not only are ghostwriting’s myriad tasks more fun than trying to figure out QuickBooks, they’re far less mind-bending, that’s for sure.

More power to those accountants. Hats off to them! I’ll just be over here with my manuscript structure and plot/character integration.

And M&Ms. Can’t forget the M&Ms.

 

Claudia Suzanne is a consummate ghostwriter/teacher, understanding what authors need in order to successfully complete their book dream, and she has a finely honed talent for communicating what she knows to her students and clients. Popularly dubbed “The Einstein of Ghostwriting,” Claudia has entertained and informed tens of thousands of writers, editors, journalists, and aspiring authors at countless writer and professional meetings, conferences, radio and BlogTalk radio broadcasts, webinars, and podcasts. Claudia was an invited expert on Penguin’s Author Solutions Expert Video series and a featured entrepreneur in Orange County Business Journal and Norwegian Business Daily. Her signature title, This Business of Books: A Complete Overview of the Industry from Concept through Sales, earned her a 2018 Author of Influence Award from Connected Women of Influence.

A Great Start to the New Year

It’s an honor and a pleasure to start the new year as a member of NAIWE’s Board of Experts, especially with networking as my area of NAIWE expertise. As many of you know, I’m a long-time passionate believer in networking, as evidenced by the many professional associations and online communities of colleagues that I belong to, along with the Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference that I host every year. Even more important to the concept of networking is that I’m far more than what I call a “checkbook member”—I don’t just pay dues and wait for the membership to do something for me; I’m active and visible in every group I belong to (yes, it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition).

For organizations such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), ACES-The Society for EditingGreater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ), International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Association of Independent Information ProfessionalsAssociation for Women in Communications (AWC) and National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE), I do everything from write for and edit newsletters to  present webinars, workshops and conference speeches; write booklets; contribute to online conversations; manage and update websites; organize events, etc. That may seem like a lot of work, but I enjoy it (I’m the poster child for extroverts) and it means that I’m constantly learning from, not just sharing knowledge with, colleagues at all levels of professionalism. Even better from a professional success standpoint, it means I become visible and known within these groups, which often leads to being hired or referred for projects. I even make a few bucks from some of these activities in and of themselves.

In addition to the professional advantages of networking, I’ve also made great friends through many of these organizations and found resources that have made my work life easier, more diverse and more interesting.

My point is that networking is a two-way process. You don’t get much, if anything, out of joining an organization or group and waiting for it to do something for you. When you engage in genuine networking, the group benefits you in a number of ways, many of which can be quantified in terms of income and renown. Do keep that in mind as NAIWE makes it possible to do more for ourselves and each other in this new year.

Here’s to a successful, profitable, enjoyable year of writing, editing, and networking for all NAIWE members. To coin a version of a popular phrase, may we live well and prosper!

 

Ruth Thaler-Carter has been a full-time freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and desktop publisher for more than 30 years. She has been published locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally in, and does editing and proofreading for, publications, websites, service firms, and businesses. She sold her first freelance articles when she was still in high school. Renowned as a skilled networker, Ruth is a newsletter editor, publication author, speaker/presenter, blogger, program host or planner, and chapter leader. In 2006, Ruth launched the Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® annual conference to help aspiring and established freelancers find greater success and connections with colleagues. Ruth received the Philip M. Stern Award of Washington (DC) Independent Writers for service to freelancers; the Writers and Books Big Pencil Award for teaching adults and contributions to the literary community; EFfie awards for writing, editing, and newsletters; and the APEX award for feature writing. Ruth was also the IABC/DC Communicator of the Year.

Improving Your Vision

I attended an academically rigorous high school, where As were hard to come by. My senior year, I taped a handwritten note above my desk that simply said HONOR ROLL. It was a constant reminder of what I wanted to achieve.

Truth be told, I missed the honor roll by one letter grade in the final term. Still, it was the closest I’d ever come to making it . . . and I was confident that putting my goal in writing (and in a place I couldn’t ignore) had pushed me psychologically.

Fast forward to life in the working world. During my early career in magazines, the goals weren’t of my choosing, but they were clear: Brainstorm the topics, assign the articles, hound the writers, edit the copy, get it into the art department’s hands, and stay up late gorging on pizza when it was closing week and we had to send everything to the printer. Rinse, repeat.

 

Putting Your Goals in a Place They Can’t Be Ignored

As freelancers, it’s on us to determine our goals. At least once a year, I sit down at a local coffee shop for a few hours and write down an unedited list of things I want to achieve over the near and long term. But I made a mistake two years ago: I left the list inside a notebook, which I filed and forgot about for months.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably because it’s a bit overwhelming—and maybe counterproductive—to look every day at a piece of paper with 50 or more handwritten goals on it. That’s where a vision board comes in. Much like my honor roll reminder way back when, being able to glance at a poster board helps with inspiration. (If you’re interested in some great info about vision boards, I highly recommend Christine Kane’s process.) For me, it’s an extra step toward keeping the big picture, quite literally, right in front of me.

Obviously, a vision board doesn’t solve everything. You also have to create systems for your freelance business, a broader topic for another day. Nonetheless, for a daily reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing, investing in a poster board, some magazines, and a glue stick pays significant mental dividends—especially since a vision board is far too big to tuck away and forget!

Here’s to a fantastic, prosperous 2019—whatever your vision is!

 

Jake Poinier made the leap into freelance writing and editing in 1999 after a decade of positions in the publishing industry, giving him key insights from both sides of the desk. As the founder and owner of Boomvang Creative Group, he has worked with a diverse array of Fortune 500 and small businesses, consumer and trade magazines, and independent authors. Jake is committed to helping freelancers improve their businesses and shares his knowledge and experiences frequently as a speaker at industry conferences, through webinars, and on his blog.

Make Yourself a More Professional Writer

It’s a bright, sunny day. Your horse or lottery ticket just came in. Your significant other is happy and loving. You had a great breakfast and you’re feeling fine. Of course you’re in the zone where you can crank out a great story, possibly in record time, and feel just wonderful not only while you’re doing it, but also afterward.

But that’s not such an amazing triumph. Millions of people can do that.

It’s when the weather is crappy, your horse or lottery ticket came in last, your significant other is feeling difficult and dissatisfied, you burned your eggs and dropped your toast on the floor (butter side down!), and you ache all over that it takes true professionalism to crank out that same great story and feel proud of yourself for having done it, though perhaps not in record time.

Professionalism isn’t always about overcoming a mountain of obstacles, of course, but it does tend to distinguish the best writers from the rest of the pack. It also promotes a high level of self-confidence and satisfaction with your efforts and your results.

Here are some hallmarks of professional writers and how to move closer, if not all the way in, to their ranks.

 

Setting Up an Office

I’ve written on my NAIWE blog about this subject. Lots of other people have written on the same topic. Through all of these writings, the basic guidelines encourage you to do the following:

  1. Assemble the right tools
  1. Put them into an environment that’s comfortable for you
  1. Spend a lot of time there.

 

Until someone comes up with a robot that does your writing for you (and does it as well as you), there simply is no substitute for putting in many hours of concentrated time. And that’s far easier to do in an environment conducive to your work. This shows why establishing a great working space brings a tremendous boost to your professionalism.

 

Choosing Specialization vs. General Writing

Professional writers can go either way on this one: choosing to be a specialist or a generalist. Some people find their writing more valuable because they have become experts in some particular field of information that’s valuable to the audiences of a certain set of publishers. Others find their work more valuable because they have special points of view or insights (think George Carlin or Rebecca Solnit) they can apply to a wide range of subjects.

Construct and manage your professional writing trajectory to capitalize on your native talents and gifts. This way, what you tend to do naturally produces the output you can sell most easily.

But don’t feel pressured to go just one way or the other. Some people can succeed on both paths for a long while and may never need to relinquish one for the other.

 

Building Relationships with Editors

By “editors,” in this context, we mean anyone with the power (and/or money) to buy some of your work, or anyone with the responsibility to improve your work after someone else has bought it.

These are the key people you want to cultivate, befriend, and welcome into your professional world. Treat these relationships almost like you would a dating relationship with someone you think is really great. You’re looking for a close working relationship that can last a long time.

 

Getting More Writing Assignments

As you become more successful and well known, it’s easier to develop your own audience and have them transfer some of their money to you for nearly everything you write. But until you get there, professional writing involves finding publishers to pay you for completing assignments.

To simplify and speed up the process of finding publishers and winning paid assignments from them, you want to establish a system that helps you do the following:

  1. Identify publishers who are already interested in the kind of writing you want to do. You can find them through your own reading, through research into the literary marketplace, by word of mouth from friends and colleagues, even randomly by noticing who is publishing what people around you are reading.
  1. Make yourself known to such publishers, and encourage them to dialog with you. This begins with developing and regularly updating an introductory package about yourself that includes a brief rundown of your skills, professional experience, and qualifications, plus samples of your work. Have this ready in appropriate formats, and fire it off whenever you identify a publisher who might be interested in your work.
  1. Keep track of your professional contacts, including everyone you meet who might be interested in your work, everyone you’re currently working with, everyone with whom you’re dialoguing about work, and everyone you’ve pitched for new work. It should include the date of your last contact with each one, the nature and content of that contact, and a projected date when you want to contact them again (if they don’t contact you first). Regularly review this list and keep it current.

 

Re-Writing Your Text

Good writing requires re-writing. The more you go over your text to re-read it, re-think it, and re-write it as necessary, the better it will become. At a minimum, putting in extra time to revisit your work will improve your chances of finding typos, misspellings, bad punctuation, and other errors.

Beyond that, the more often you re-write, the better your chances of finding just the right thought, just the right phrase, even just the right word to elevate your writing to the highest level of which you are capable.

According to Mark Twain: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

In each piece you create, take time to include as much lightning as you can. Your writing will be more professional for it.

 

Planning for Retirement

Making money is one matter. Retaining the maximum amount of that money for when you’re done working requires entirely different skills.

While there are many nuances and bits of knowledge involved, it boils down to this:

  1. Spend less than you make.
  1. Retain the extra money.
  1. Find financial vehicles (e.g., savings accounts, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, options, and mutual funds) to help your savings grow.
  1. Do all this for as many years as you can.

 

Perseverance is critical. The earlier you start saving and earning compound interest, the more you’ll accumulate for retirement. For example, if you earn 1% per year on a savings of $100 per month for 10 years or $12,000, you’ll wind up with $12,615.99. Do the same thing for 20 years and you will have saved $24,000, and you’ll wind up with $26,556.12. Do it for 30 years, you will have saved a total of $36,000, and you’ll retire with $41,962.82. As you might expect, when you collect higher than 1% returns, this kind of long-term compounding generates even greater benefits.

So do this, and start right now.

In fact, do all of these, and let me know how significantly your professionalism improves.

 

Robert Moskowitz is an award-winning independent professional writer who has written and sold millions of words in just about every format over five decades. He instinctively sees the big pictures, breaks each one down into coherent slices, meaningfully prioritizes and sequences those slices, and then executes the tasks inherent in each slice in very productive ways. Put more simply, Robert knows how to succeed as an independent writer, covering all the bases from soliciting assignments to delivering polished work, from pricing jobs to budgeting and managing personal finances, from organizing a conducive office environment to establishing and following sensible guidelines regarding life, work, and productivity. Having done all this, and having paid attention to how he did it, Robert is now in a position to pass along what he knows to others.

20 Secrets to Blogging Success

Ever wonder how successful bloggers got where they are? If you’d like to start or improve your own blog and turn it into a really useful tool for growing your business, below are 20 tips I’ve distilled from my own experience in growing a blog into a Top 10 Blog for Writers, as well as guest posting on sites including Copyblogger and Write to Done and participating in A-List Blogger Club.

I recently did a free blog-review day and took a look at about 30 different writers’ blogs. This gave me a good sense of some of the common mistakes new bloggers make.

Tips 1–13 will help you use your blog as an audition piece to get freelance blogging gigs. Tips 14–20 concentrate on ways to turn your blog into a money-earning business of its own.

  1. Your blog has a great name, tagline, and URL. Your URL matches your blog name, and between the name and tagline, it’s easy to understand what your blog is about. 
  1. You write great post headlines with keywords. Work hard on your headlines; they are your hook for luring readers to your site. 
  1. You write strong opening paragraphs. Remember that many search engines will show the first few sentences of your post, so make them catchy and include keywords.
  1. You understand blog style. Blogging truly is its own format. It’s different from a magazine or newspaper article. Blogs need to be scannable, short, informal, and to the point. The posts contain links to other useful, related information, both within your blog site and on other credible sites. Good blog posts use short sentences and paragraphs. Using bulleted or numbered lists is also a great way to get your blog noticed. 
  1. You understand blog mechanics. There are some basics you should learn to make your blog posts appealing and useful to readers, including how to enliven links properly, add photographs, code images, and link to sales carts. 
  1. Your design is uncluttered and inviting. For instance, you don’t have a black background, tiny typefaces, a left-hand sidebar, or multiple right-hand sidebars. 
  1. You have a great About page. Typically, your About page will be the most-visited page on your site. Tell a compelling story there about who you are and why you’re blogging. 
  1. Your posts focus on what your blog’s readers need to know. Many bloggers just post about whatever’s on their minds. Great bloggers are constantly asking their audience what they need to know, through polls or contests, and then delivering exactly that.
  1. You post consistently. Even if you only post once a week, you post on the same day of the week, at the same time of day. That way, readers can come to rely on you.
  1. You stick to a niche. You pick one topic and blog exclusively about it. If you have multiple subject areas of interest, start multiple blogs. With the plethora of blogs out there today, the more focused your niche is, the better you will do.
  1. You have testimonials. Particularly if you’re looking to get hired off your blog, be sure to include raves from customers.
  1. You have a Hire Me page. If you want gigs, don’t be shy; let visitors know you do work for others. Have your clips well-organized on your blog site on a static page, and make sure clips are clickable links to your stories. If they’re not online, get your clips turned into PDFs and load them onto your site.
  1. You engage your audience. Good bloggers aren’t know-it-alls; they ask readers for their point of view. You also ask readers to be guest posters occasionally, to give them the spotlight. Showing good engagement on your blog can help you get gigs moderating others’ blogs for pay.
  1. Your content is easy to share. Your social-media share buttons for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. are easy to find and use. You also use them yourself, promoting your blog posts in social media.
  1. You guest post and leave comments on popular blogs. Circulating on other blogs is a great way to draw new readers to your own blog.
  1. You make it easy for visitors to subscribe. Ideally, your subscription form should be simple and visible “above the fold”—ideally, right at the top of your sidebar. Don’t make readers hunt for it.
  1. You have a funnel of products to sell. Top-earning bloggers have a variety of products at price points from low to high. For instance, a $9 e-book, a $47 e-book, a $97 course, and a $500 boot camp. The lower-priced products act as marketing tools that motivate readers to want to buy your higher-priced products.
  1. You know how to affiliate sell. Once you attract an audience, you can sell products they would find useful. It’s a way to sell with integrity.
  1. You don’t clutter up your home page with too many ads. If your ads aren’t earning much money, take them down. They’re a turnoff for viewers. An alternative is to group them on a separate Products I Love page.
  1. You persist. It takes time to build a following, often a couple of years. Keep at it.

 

Carol Tice is a freelance writer who focuses on writing and ghostwriting business books and e-books. She’s written for Delta Sky, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Seattle Magazine, Costco, American Express, Shopify, Freshbooks, and many others. Carol founded the award-winning Make a Living Writing blog in 2008, which has been repeatedly named to Writer’s Digest’s Top 101 Blogs for Writers list. It now offers over 1,000 free posts on how to break in and grow your writing income. Her Freelance Writers Den learning and support community was founded in 2011 and has over 1,000 members. Carol has taught over 20 online courses and self-published 10+ e-book titles for freelance writers. She’s also the author/coauthor of two traditionally published business books for entrepreneurs.