Want to publish a novel, travel guide, children’s book, memoir or anything else but find the process too hard? Are you discouraged by the traditional publishing slush piles and the fear of another rejection? Do you want to avoid the pitfalls of vanity publishing?
Self-publishing is a complex process which can deter many writers. Indie Scriptorium comprises a group of writers who are committed to share knowledge and experience with each other. To produce e-books and print on demand books of good quality at a reasonable price.
We are a resource for editing, cover design, formatting, IBSN, author biographies, blurbs and acknowledgements. Indie Scriptorium will have a website which will connect our books to individual author web pages, blogs, and social media. It will release books from the website. We will help plan marketing strategies for authors.
Our group is there to help writers with information, feedback and support. It is a collective and all members contribute, experiment, and grow together. We are happy to help if you only intend to produce one book or want to launch a career as a writer.
We are seeking members who can do research and present their findings to the group. We expect members to become readers and editors for other members. To be constructive and creative and work as a team when putting our books together. We plan to learn from each other and have some fun as we learn. Excellent computer skills, experience with marketing and using social media effectively would be desirable skills, but the most important requirement is a nearly completed manuscript and a desire to see your work in print.
Feel the pride and joy of seeing the product of our labours (complete with our name on the cover) flying off the shelves of bookshops. A dream come true!
But first we have to deal with the process of publication itself – no easy undertaking for most of us. The thing to understand before launching ourselves into this world is that there are essentially three roads to choose.
The first is the so-called “vanity publishers” who, like ravening wolves, are out there ready to prey on the innocent and uninformed. A few weeks ago we told you of a friend of ours caught by one. It cost her a great deal of worry, financial loss she could ill-afford and, along with lies and empty promises, only a single copy of her work. These people are out and out rogues; sweet talkers who make sure they operate within the law so you have no redress. Avoid them – your dreams will be shattered.
The second road is right at the other end of the scale, eminently honest, respectable, ethical and helpful IF you are fortunate enough to have your work accepted – and that’s the rub, the sticking point! Getting accepted when you are a newbie writer or do not yet have a reputation in the wider world is not impossible. But highly unlikely.
I’m talking here about the big, well established publishing houses e.g. Penguin, Random House etc, etc. These people are in business which means they must make a profit. If they don’t they will be unable to stay in business. Consequently they will not accept anything they not fully convinced will sell and sell well. Anything they do accept they will work very hard to ensure is saleable. And they will expect you to work along with them to achieve this. That is the reality of the situation.
The other reality they have to deal with is that they receive a great many submissions from hopeful authors, often to the point of inundation. These are assigned to what has been elegantly termed “the slush pile” to be looked at (maybe assessed) sometime in the future when things are a bit quiet or when someone, for some unaccountable reason, has a little time on their hands or when… Your submission may not surface for many moons; you may never hear from them. Sad but true. Just remember, they are running a business and if a business is not run in a businesslike way it will not survive.
However, if by some magical happenstance your work is accepted you will be offered a contract which is a binding legal document so you must read it carefully before signing, regardless of how excited, delighted, up in the air, over the moon you are. At that point your precious manuscript will be given to one of their editors whereupon you may be tempted to feel this picky person does not appreciate the deathless prose you laboured over so long and so hard. However, you will be expected to be polite, to acknowledge that this person is good at their job and has years of successful experience behind to back it up. It behoves you to listen and co-operate!’/
The publisher deals with the printer, pays the bills and arranges distribution. This last (distribution) is an aspect of the whole shebang that you will probably be expected to contribute to by being part of author signing events in bookshops; by giving talks about your book or maybe being interviewed. If you do happen to make it onto this road – heartiest congratulations.
Not many do though – make it on to that second road, that is.
In which case, you will probably choose the third road – self-publication. Nowadays this is a viable and worthwhile road to embark on. But one with many ins and outs which we plan to go into in full in future blogs.
This week our Indie Scriptorium group assigned me to write about that mysterious number listed in published books, the ISBN. What is it? Why do books need it? How do you get it?
A quick internet search reveals plenty of information, so I will endeavour not to reinvent the proverbial wheel. A simple and straightforward site which deals with the basics of ISBN can be found in Self-Publishing Australia. A more detailed explanation is offered in Wikipedia.
Hence, here are ten points of ISBN interest:
The acronym ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s a system designed to allocate a unique number to every book published.
This system was conceived in 1965 by British booksellers wanting to have a system for identifying and finding books. The current format was designed in the UK by David Whitaker in 1967 and was developed in collaboration with Emery Koltay in the United States
Emery Koltay, was a refugee from Transylvania, had been a survivor and escapee of not just one, but several communist concentration camps. After developing the ISBN number, he then went on to become the director of the US ISBN agency R.R-Bowker.
The ISBN code was introduced in 1970.
Each country has an ISBN agency responsible for managing ISBNs for that country. In Australia the agency is Thorpe-Bowker.
Books published after 2007, have an ISBN that is 13 digits long.
The final number in the ISBN sequence is the “check”; a control that ensures that the ISBN has been record correctly. From what I can understand of the mathematical process, there is a formula that the ISBN has to go through to make sure it is correct.
It is not compulsory to have an ISBN, but most mainline bookshops will not accept books for sale unless they have an ISBN. Also, an ISBN is handy when you first publish your book online as you can find it by typing in its ISBN in the “search” section of the browser. I have found that on Amazon, when I first published back in 2015, the book was so far down in ranking that it was invisible. Having the ISBN to type in helped me and others find my book.
You can obtain a free ISBN for your book through some publishing platforms such as Amazon, Lulu or Smashwords. The problem with that, though is that those platforms then own the publishing rights which can come with restrictions to publishing elsewhere, or take your book off the “bookshelf”, as a relative of mine found out. Hence, if you want freedom to be able to print your books with ever whom and wherever you like, it is best to a buy private ISBN.
From personal experience, when registering your book for a private ISBN, it is more economical to buy a block of ISBN numbers. In Australia, as mentioned, the go to is Thorpe-Bowker. Their website is easy to navigate, especially once you sign up and register an account. I suggest if all things computer confound you, fix yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit down make yourself comfortable, then taking things slowly, follow the step by step instructions. You may find having ready all the details pertaining to your book, for example: synopsis, cover, dimensions, idea of price etc., will help with a smooth process. And, if you get stuck, don’t panic, you are able to save your progress, have a break, collect the information you need, and come back later.
So, you’ve written a short story, an essay, a non-fiction book, a memoir, or a novel. You’ve done the plotting, the research, created worlds and words and honed it to a very fine piece of writing. You’ve used Beta readers, editors, proof-readers, formatters and designed a wonderful cover and a tight blurb and finished it with an author bio. It’s ready to publish, and that’s so very exciting but scary too.
Putting a manuscript out for publishing, no matter if you use a traditional or hybrid publisher or go totally Indie, it is your work, and you are responsible for how it is received in the wider world.
Before publishing, it may be a good idea to think about what you have written. We all know the pitfalls of plagiarism, making sure all the ideas and words are yours alone. If not, then other contributions must be acknowledged fully and honestly, preferably in the authors’ note or in a bibliography. If you refer to actual events and people, you have to be one hundred percent accurate or risk the ire of your knowledgeable readers. The adage, think about every reader as an expert and an editor is sound advice.
If you change historical dates and timelines, fudge a fact for the sake of a better story, make sure you fess up to this in your author notes. It’s acceptable but acknowledge changes to the public record and why you made the changes.
The legal issues to consider before publishing include copyright, permissions to use another person’s image or writing, and defamation. The Australian Society of Authors and the Australian Copyright Council have information sheets that you can download.
Defamation laws were amended recently, the same laws now apply to all Australian states. The act of defamation involves making false statements, either written or verbal, that damage a person’s reputation. Make sure your written piece is accurate and the truth. A person who believes you have damaged their reputation can sue and the outcome may be costly. If you include real people in your written piece, maybe get it checked out for a legal appraisal.
In addition, you have a legal obligation to make a National Library of Australia deposit of your published book, but an ISBN is not mandatory but highly recommended. Indie Scriptorium will have more information on ISBNs in a later blog.
As an author, it is imperative to consider how your work, fiction or non-fiction, impact on your readers. You may include scenes of violence, rape, incest, murder and other challenging tropes but have you considered how a vulnerable reader could be disturbed by your storyline. I’m not advocating censorship, but as writers, it makes sense to reflect on how readers may be affected when they read about the violence and distress of your characters. You may need to ask, is it essential to the plot or gratuitous violence? Can you write a scene without graphic descriptions but leave the reader with an impression of the damage wreaked by your protagonist? You need to consider if your storyline can justify or inform deviant behaviour or increase racial and sexual vilification. If a book or scene is overtly graphic and potentially disturbing, consider a warning that the content may cause distress for some readers. Include it in the blurb. I presume that some warnings may intrigue some readers and encourage sales.
Sensitivity readers are in the news at present because of the controversy over re writing the Roald Dahl books, but they are a useful type of editor to use if your book involves some contentious issues. For example, if you are writing a book which includes references to indigenous people, then a sensitivity reader can provide expert information about the accuracy and consequences of your work. Again, it is not about censorship, but it is about consideration and empathy and ensuring that your work will not cause distress.
Writing cannot all be all pleasant subjects and happy endings but consider the legal and moral pitfalls to avoid. The best antidote is to get honest feedback from other writers, editors, beta readers and whoever else will read your manuscript. And kill your darling’s if you need to–but not with too much gratuitous violence.
Writing is a solitary affair. At times we just want to get onto paper all the stuff that is going round and round in our heads; clogging brain cells; clouding thinking; preventing us moving on. Writing can be very effective for dealing with all this. In which case it is the end of the story; a done deal; filed away and forgotten. We get on with life.
However, for most of us, most of the time our efforts are not therapy but creative, stimulating, exciting and fulfilling. When we write this way, virtually all of us want those products of our creativity to be out in the wider world; read by others; appreciated and responded to. Don’t we all want our babies to be admired?
So it’s at this point that we enter the world of publishers and publication – a world that can be fraught with danger, difficulty and potential disaster.
A couple of weeks ago we told the sad story of friends of ours caught up by a vanity publisher. The joy of having been “accepted” by a “publisher” has turned to frustration and financial loss for them. Fortunately, for them, the disappointment and disillusionment has not killed the urge to write – but it could well have done so.
We have become aware that there seems to be a lot of confusion and misinformation among newbie writers; those of us with big dreams but little experience. This is a confusion we hope to be able to clarify for those of you who are finding the whole thing a bit of a puzzle and are not sure which way to go.
All this publication stuff is a big and complex issue. It will take some time and more than a few words to explain what is involved so we hope you’ll be able to stay the course and give us feedback if we do not make things clear and understandable.
Publication is linked to “publicity” – a word my big fat Macquarie dictionary tells me means (among other things!) “the measures, process or business of securing public notice” and also (but denser and less comprehensible) “the state of being brought to public notice by announcement; by mention in the mass media or by other means serving to effect the purpose”.
Point #3: Printers and publishers are different; connected but different; playing different roles; fulfilling different niches in the whole deal. They must never be spoken of as if they are interchangeable because they are NOT. Publishers use printers but printers are not publishers. They are merely one aspect of the publishing business; one cog in the system as it were, – a critically important cog to be sure but one that, as part of their own business has nothing to do with publicity; i.e. “securing public notice”.
In future blogs we will go into detail about various specific aspects of this whole deal.
After a long hot week—the first “heatwave” since 2019, I sat at my computer, blank for blogging inspiration. Finally, I discovered this little gem in my collection…
THROW AWAY THE CRITICAL PARENT IN YOUR HEAD
February, your New Years’ resolution, a not-so-distant memory, and you stare at the computer screen full of resolve. Time to start that great [nominate your country] novel. It’s a job, right? Hammer away on the keys eight hours a day. Right? You shift your weight in that padded, ergonomic office chair you bought for your project. Now what? Think!…
Check social media and the news. Pay a few bills. Back to your Word page, crack your knuckles and…time for a coffee. Get rid of that brain fog. Last week’s weather played havoc with your brain. Limber the old grey cells up with some solitaire. Or perhaps a quick crossword.
Back to the blank screen…and sigh!
You tap out a sentence. The first sentence, the hook. Must engage those millions of readers on Amazon, or that elusive publisher. You stop. Reread the sentence. Blah! It’s rubbish. You delete sentence.
You gaze out the window. Birds warble. The sky’s clear and blue. Maybe go outside with a paper and pen? There’s connection between you, the pen and paper. Outside, white paper on pad dazzles you. First sentence in black ink. What? Who’s going to want to read that?
An hour later, sun on your face and surrounded by scrunched up wads of paper, you nap. Nice with the sun on the back of your neck…and another morning of good writing-intentions wasted.
Brain Freeze and Platitudes
It strikes, anywhere, anytime. A work mate is leaving, or a friend is having a birthday. Some wise-guy buys a card and circulates it. Card arrives on your lap. You have two minutes to write some warm and witty sentiments. What do you do?
‘You’re a wordsmith, Lee-Anne, go on,’ my mum says.
But the clever words refuse to bubble to the surface of my brain. I locate the blank space where my wishes will go and then check out the preceding words of well-wishing. Pity, if I’m the first one to write this card.
I blame a relative of mine. Back as a teenager, I attended a funeral. The relative approached me and said, ‘I think you should go and comfort your aunty. But please don’t give her platitudes.’
Ever since, whenever I need to produce formal comfort or congratulations, that relative’s advice comes back to haunt me and all I can think of are platitudes.
It’s the “pink elephant” effect. When told not to think of “pink elephants”, what does our brain do? Yep, pink elephants in abundance.
So, when we stare at the blank screen or paper and remember our school days; our English teacher saying, ‘Don’t do this and that, and so on’, we sit there, frozen with our mental doors barred to the creative zone.
How do you get started? What works for you?
What works for me:
· First of all, and this is legitimate. Years ago, a writing mentor advised us. They said, ‘Pack up your critical parent that is in your mind, you know the one who’s never satisfied, no matter how hard you try? Yes, that’s right, tie them up, gag them, and wrap them up like an Egyptian mummy. Then, in your mind, take them to the jetty and throw them in the sea.’
· Then, have fun with your inner, natural child and with the story. You have permission not to put a jot on your computer screen or paper. Go outside, sit under a tree, or go for a walk. Imagine, daydream and if you wish, talk to yourself. This is the incubation phase.
· After cooking the ideas for however long it takes you to be ready, pick up a pen and paper, and go to your favourite place, and brainstorm. Probably a good idea to stay away from the computer and the temptation to check social media, news, or play solitaire. Well, I need to anyway.
· Find your characters, or should I say, allow them to find you. Do lots of reading. Also, observe others say in a coffee shop, beach, on the street, and even on television. You may find some interesting characters out there. You may be surprised at how these characters reveal themselves to you and even become your imaginary friends. Just like when we were children. Some people I know, okay, I confess, me, have created characters out of people I have known—usually a blend of a couple of people I know, from way back in my past, I mean.
· Imagine having a drink with those characters or going for a walk with them. Ask them questions as you would a new friend. Warning: I do find this dangerous as I soon have a story, or at least a back-story.
· Then put your character together in a restaurant, playing ten-pin bowling or going on a road trip. Now the ideas will flow, the story will flow and as the Borg in Star Trek say, “Resistance is Futile”.
· Finally, write the story. It’s your first draft. Your mind’s critical parent is at the bottom of the sea, so allow your inner natural child to have free reign. Write as you’d tell the story to a friend on a camping trip or a child. Get the words down. I emphasise, it’s a first draft, you have permission to make mistakes while the ideas flow. Editing will and does come later.
· Another suggestion: why stick to writing? If drawing, storyboard, or voice-recording works for you, do that. It’s your story. It’s your “child”.
Create an oral story. You may do this as a game with friends, around the table as a family, or with your writers’ group. One person begins the story with two or three sentences. The next person continues the story and so on around the group, until the last person concludes the story.
Gnomes, they appeared everywhere; all over the seaside town of Glenelg. They popped up in odd places. Gnomes, stuck up poles, perched on tree branches, and even balancing rather precariously on television antennas….
In the Zone Challenge: Write your continuation of this oral story. Or create your own to share.You are invited to send us a linkin our comments section.
If you have made yourself a website, please pat yourself on the back and feel proud. The experience is challenging, but it is a wonderful way to boost your skills on the computer and get to understand the way modern businesses operate.
You need to know how to use your website and make it popular. Some people are happy to use a website to communicate with an audience, to inform, educate and entertain, but they will still want to know if they have an audience. However, most people with websites will have something they want to advertise and sell from their website.
Indie Scriptorium is mainly a self-help information website that shares the trials and tribulations of our members as we learn about the complex business of self-publishing. But it is linked to our individual web sites where we sell and advertise our novels and art.
The Indie Scriptorium website is built with WordPress, a popular web building site that can be started up for free. The WordPress program allows you to view who is using the site, where they come from in the world, how long they stay on the site and what are the most popular pages of the site. WordPress also allows people to follow the website. The goal of any website is to get more and more followers.
Analytics–the first step in building a better website is to learn how to access data about who is using your site, and then gain an understanding which part of your website attracts the most attention. What’s working and what isn’t.
WordPress has built in analytics, which provide quick reports on what traffic is coming to your site. It is a program called Jetpack Stats. For more complex analysis, you can also use Google Analytics, which provides a more complex analysis of how visitors to your site use the site.
As a newbie to my own WIX site, I’m still learning how to read the traffic reports. I’ve found it’s a matter of logging into the WIX login page and the site takes you to the Analytics page first. If you then click on the site sessions and post views graphs WIX takes you to another screen and gives you a breakdown of how many people visited, how many were unique and how long they stayed on the site. It also provides a lovely map of where your visitors live in the world. I also use the blog activity graph which provides information about how many people visited each blog so you can work out what is popular for future blog posts.
A good way of attracting visitors to your website is by posting regular interesting blogs that attract regular followers. It is recommended that when you blog you use key-words that attract the right attention. For example: Indie Scriptorium is aimed at people who want to self-publish their books. Our blog titles are therefore important and should contain key-words that attract people searching for self-publishing information. Blogs are most effective when posted regularly. They need to be researched, timely and well written.
Long before encountering the potential hazards of vanity publishing, actually, at the tender age of eight, my “scam-dar” (radar for scams) was activated. I had gone with my friend and family to the Royal Adelaide Show.
My friend pointed to the laughing clowns. ‘Look, Lee-Anne, everyone wins a prize.’
I rolled my eyes as the clowns’ heads swayed from side to side. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, everyone wins a prize,’ the vendor with a weathered face said.
‘Okay,’ I replied and parted with my hard-earned pocket money to have a go.
I fed the ping pong balls into the wide red mouth of one clown and watched them roll down and settle into various numbered slots down below the laughing clown’s chest.
The vendor tallied up the numbers, fetched a plastic figure and passed it over to me. I examined the item with horror and disappointment. Toys offered at the bottom of a cereal packet were better value than this piece of junk.
‘Hey,’ I retorted, holding up the cheaply made foreign-made trifle, ‘this is a rip-off!’
The vendor grinned. ‘Every player wins a prize.’
As we walked away from the laughing clowns, I told my friend, ‘That’s the last time I’m playing any side show alley game. It’s a rip off.’
From then on, I was cautious in how I spent my time and money. Making sure I got value for my money. After all, my family was not flush with money. I had learnt to be frugal, do my research and if all else failed, ask mum and dad for sound fiscal advice.
By the time I had grown up, my “scam-dar” was well-established. However, even these days I have the occasional lapse from which I can still learn.
So, what’s some advice I can pass onto those of you out there who are still unsure and navigating the ever-growing sneakiness of scammers? In the world of publishing, the tricks scammers use are the same.
First, the old premise: If it’s too good to be true, it is. I remember how my husband was drawn in by cold call about a holiday offer. Oh, wow, if we go to the event, we’ll win a travel bag. (Every player wins a prize bid.) So, off we go and discover it’s all about Time Share Accommodation. Huh! We studied the form we had to fill and considered the conditions (research). We both agreed that the disadvantages and cost outweighed the benefits, so we declined the offer. The pushy salesman was so disappointed, but we collected the bag and left. At least the bag was good quality.
Cold Call: I figure, that if a business has to cold call, then they are desperate for customers and there must be some reason that they are not doing well. Avoid like the plague. Read what happened to one of our friends from such a cold call in “The Perils of Vanity Publishing”.
Check Reviews: On the flip side, a good and ethical business (that includes publishing companies) will thrive on word of mouth, and these days, good reviews online. Again, not all good reviews are equal. Some businesses will stack their five-star reviews from friends, family and publicity specialists. So, what I do when checking out the quality of a product or service, is examine the one-star reviews and comments. Then the truth is revealed. Another means of checking how good a company is, is by seeing what users on social media platforms such as Facebook, and Whirlpool have to say about them. Hence, one reason, after research, I opted to publish my books through Amazon.
Those Emails: Every so often, my mother beckons me, ‘I just want you to have a look at this email.’ So, I look. At the email. Bad grammar and spelling are a give-away as a scam. Then I check out where the email comes from. If it’s a scam it usually shows up some totally unrelated email address. Even if the email is legitimate, handle with caution if they have contacted you first. This is especially true of publishing companies. The legitimate traditional publishing companies are way too busy to be contacting novice aspiring writers. I mean, even if you send a manuscript to a traditional publishing company, you may never get a reply, as they are inundated with manuscripts from aspiring writers. Also, publishing companies are interested in how well you can market yourself and your product, your book, that is. Therefore, they are waiting for you to contact them, often having set timeframes when they are accepting unpublished manuscripts from new authors.
Keep Safe: If you haven’t yet, join a writer’s group or fellowship where you can benefit from the wisdom of more experienced writers. Some writer’s groups, such as my own, have published a group anthology. In this way the new writer learns to navigate the journey of publishing with others, avoiding the pitfalls of vanity press while reaping the rewards of having their work published.
Here above, then are a few points which have helped me keep the scamming sharks from consuming my hard-earned money and time. Perhaps some of you fellow readers have tips you would like to share in our comments section. We would most welcome you to share your wisdom or experiences.
We have just discovered that a writer friend of ours has been taken in by a couple of publishers. She has lost a lot of money (nearly $30,000), is confused upset and angry. All she’s got out of it is one single copy of the book she was so proud of.
“She must be pretty thick” I hear you saying.
Not so. Not at all. She’s vibrant, intelligent, educated; a businesswoman all her working life and still, in her retirement, involved in theatre. But she’s been conned by experts. It could happen to any of us which is why we feel it is important to fill you in.
Let me tell you how it happened.
Long ago writing became an interest for her but only as a sideline, an enjoyable hobby. For a long time she operated on a “lone wolf” basis but a few years ago she joined our writing group. Occasionally she referred to a book she had written and the publisher she was dealing with. We never took her up on any of the details; our group concentrates on works in progress and critiquing each other’s efforts. That book of hers was done and dusted – on to the next level so beyond our current concerns.
However, a couple of days ago she made another comment and was obviously unhappy about things. We’d finished our readings and given our feedback early so this time took her up on it: who was the publisher, what was going on… And, eventually, how on earth did this happen?
Very easily as it turned out.
Publishing was a totally foreign field to her so she did what most of us do these days – she went on the internet. Not very long after her internet search she began getting phone calls. There were people in the USA who were interested in her work; keen to look at it; keen to publish!!
She was thrilled, sent her stuff to them – it was a children’s story illustrated with her own delightful artwork. They rang and talked terms, explained the “situation” and were enthusiastic about possibilities. The world opened up; she was thrilled, excited.
But she was an innocent abroad, abroad in a world of which she knew nothing; nothing at all. She sent them money as requested (Pay Pal is a wonderful innovation when dealing with those who are far away!) and waited expectantly. There were phone calls relating progress. She paid more money.
Things dragged on. The months became years. She began to have concerns; to worry. But reassuring phone calls, explanations, progress reports allied her fears. She received a single copy of her book.
She was told it was in bookshops in the UK; bookshops that were part of a large chain with stores all over the country and that it was selling well. But she was getting paid only a few cents very occasionally. She wondered and began to worry again.
With friends and family in the UK, she asked them to go to a few of these bookshops and check them out. No sign of any copies of her book anywhere. Then she somehow found out that Amazon was supposed to be involved – she’d had no contact with Amazon; none at all.
At no time throughout this saga had she been offered a contract; at no time had she been asked to sign anything. All she’d ever had was phone contact. So she asked for them to communicate with her in writing. Despite repeated requests, they never have.
She realised there was something seriously wrong; that she had been conned. She was hugely embarrassed and loath to admit to what she saw as her own stupidity. We keep telling her that action coming from lack of knowledge can never be classified as stupidity. She’s finding that hard to accept though and still feels dreadful about the whole thing.
Sadly, there are many out there operating this way; skilled in taking advantage of the uninformed; the unwary; those of us with dreams. In the world of publishing they are labelled “Vanity Publishers”. It is doubtful if what they do is illegal – they’d be very sure it wasn’t!! But it is certainly immoral. All they will ever do is flatter you; con you; extort money from you. In short, use you then spit you out,
When it comes to a search engine optimisation (SEO) you want a bullet train rather than a puffing billy train. The speed of someone finding your site is important apparently, and I wondered why?
Search Engine Optimisation is best described as a process for getting the right people, and more of them, to your website. This is very important if you want to sell something. For authors it may be a newly published novel, a book launch or a date for an author signing. For artists, it may be a painting for sale, news about an exhibition or sets of your original artworks printed as cards for sale.
Not all websites are about selling. Blogs can build your personal brand online, becoming an influencer, or just sharing your thoughts and ideas.
So, you may need to think about SEOs when you start up your website. My goal was to have a place where a person can look at my novels, have a link to buy one and find out about me as a person and writer. So yes, eventually I would like to bring people to my website to increase my sales of books and possibly art as well.
There are about thirty different big world-wide search engines and many more that offer specialized and local information searches, but the biggest is certainly Google.
I love Google. I’m constantly using it for many things, weird, wonderful, entertaining and useful. As a writer, I zip in and out of Google all the time. Lots of other people do too. It is the most visited website in the world and enjoys 92% of the SEO market. It’s rather magical really, how you put a few words in a box, press a button and Wham-O you get the information you need. But it does more than that. It can give you pages and pages of options to browse through until you find the best one, and that one site probably has the best SEO and comes up number one on page one. And that’s where you want your website to be when someone is looking for a book to buy.
It’s not magic that gets your website up the front, but it is a complex process involving crawling spiders, algorithms, keywords and black and white hatted hackers. Too much information for this little black duck, but do browse Wikipedia’s SEO explanation for all the details.
Having decided that my aim is to sell my books and art (publishing will happen later in this year) what I needed was some tips for making my website a good place to visit now. Good old Google comes up with a wonderful list of tips for getting your website noticed. (Optimize your site for search engines for beginners.) They provide some simple guidelines which I will briefly mention here.
Use accurate descriptive titles for your pages.
Use a different page for different products and clearly name them in your menu.
Mention everything that you sell or offer.
Update your content regularly so your readers know when to visit your site.
Keep your site up to date. Remove references to things that are in the past.
Use text as much as possible as Google understands text better than images.
Get referrals from other places. If you are in a writer’s group, ask that they have links to your site or share links with other authors you know.
WIX also has some good short tutorials about SEOs and marketing. I will address these ideas in my next blog.
If anyone reading this wants to share their own experience with building up visitors to your web sites, then please contact us at Indie Scriptorium. We would love to hear from you.
Marketing Books and Monopoly—My Journey around the Board
Recently, my brother introduced me to “Monopoly for Sore Losers”. Since, in my family I have the reputation from childhood, reinforced and maintained by those around me as a “sore loser”, I had to get it. As I played the game, I realised how much marketing and being a dominant player on the internet, is like Monopoly and Mr. Monopoly from the “Sore Loser” edition, like the “Best Sellers” on Amazon.
Now, about marketing, I’m not an expert by any means. But, since I began this indie-publishing journey back in late 2015, I have learnt what works for me.
This last summer, for me in Australia, I have been concentrating on the “housekeeping” side of marketing my books. Thus, my first, Mission of the Unwilling, had a makeover and re-released as a second edition. Then all four books cycled through their five-day free promotion on Amazon. Next I’m looking into paying some money for advertising.
It seems my marketing skills have a way to go in gaining a monopoly on Amazon shelves and being sold. You see, marketing and advertising one’s product, my books and artwork, takes time. The issue with time is that I’d rather be creating than slogging away pushing my product in an already saturated market.
When I started on this journey, I, like many a writer, thought that mine was the great (insert country) novel, that readers will be hanging out to get their hands on. The book would sell itself. It didn’t happen, as I dreamed.
A foray into the publishing world, and its history reveals an unexpected picture. Although amazing authors and brilliant books exist, and are sold in abundance world-wide, the literary world is full of mediocre tomes stacked on the shelves of bookshops and online distributers. Some are bestsellers.
How, is this so?
Answer, effective marketing. Often, especially with traditional publishing, the writers have a “platform”. Traditional publishing is a business and they go for the safe option—someone who is famous or becomes famous through their authored works. They bank on reader curiosity, who sells well, has a “brand” and longevity.
Needless to say, I didn’t have a “platform”. However, I have been developing a network and influence through my “blogsite” and Website, “Tru-Kling Creations”, and most recently this publishing collective, “Indie Scriptorium”.
The challenge with my blogsite when I first started was to make it visible. Way back in 2015, it was so buried by the competition, that I couldn’t even find it—even when I typed in the precise address.
After embarking on some more research, I discovered a phenomena called “algorithms”. To put it simply, think of Monopoly; the more properties you acquire, the more likely someone is to land on you.
In my blogsite’s case, the more visitors you get, the more visible your site becomes. The “Mr. Monopolies” of the cyberworld actually employ computer experts to manipulate the algorithms. That is how a mediocre book can become a bestseller.
So, how do we, the so called “Plebs” of the internet, compete with these “Mr. Monopolies”? How do we get our blog/webpage onto page 1? How can our masterpieces rise to the top like cream and become bestsellers like they ought to be?
Well, first make sure our books are the best they can be. Start with good editing and proofreading. Check out Indie Scriptorium’s posts on editing. Then once you and your test-readers are satisfied with your product, then the next step is marketing and advertising. This includes doing your research, figuring out who your audience is, and pitching to your potential readers.
As I wrote before, I found that blogging and setting up a webpage has worked for me. I now have over 550 followers of my blog. But it has taken time. I found that inviting friends and family to follow, visit and like my posts helped boost activity. This then led to a wider-worldwide audience. I persevered. I’m still in the game. Even though I am not like some bloggers who have thousands of followers, I am encouraged when I get visitors who come via the “Search Engine” as it means my blogs are visible.
It’s the same with our books and the competition from the big sellers, those Mr. Monopolies of the book world. True, the mediocre best sellers will have their time in the sun. But, it won’t last. Good literature, I believe will shine through in the end. I realise now, that my novels are not the great Australian work I had dreamed they were, but for some who have read them, they have found great enjoyment, and are asking, ‘When’s the next one coming out?’