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Writing and Publishing

E-Book Formatting

Though I could hire someone to format my e-books, I format my own. For me, it’s a question of control.

With more people self-publishing and many doing their own formatting, readers no longer expect one ideal format. Even traditional publishers aren’t consistent in how they format their e-books. The key is to make sure the formatting doesn’t get in the way of the reader’s experience.

I use the free e-book formatting tool on draft2digital.com. I output a Mobi file and test it using Kindle Previewer. If it’s good, I upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Else, I continue to tweak it until I’m satisfied with the results. Draft2Digital also provides an epub file, which all other platforms use. In addition to Amazon (KDP), I also consider publishing with Draft2Digital, Kobo, Ingram Sparks, and Publish Drive.

There are also other free resources and inexpensive tools to format books. And for those who don’t want to mess with e-book formatting, there are many people who will do it for you. Check out Reedsy and Fiverr, I’ve used both for publishing-related services and had positive experiences. Another option is BookBaby, though I’ve not used them. In all cases, the price and quality vary, so proceed with care.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Five Things You Can Do With E-Books

There is some writing that we almost never see in printed form, due to its length, content, format, market size, or other factors. When it comes to e-books these are no longer issues.

Here are five things we can do with e-books that we seldom see in print.

Novellas

A novella is a work of fiction that falls into the gap between a short story (under 7,500 words) and a novel (over 40,000 words). Novellas are too long for a magazine or literary journal but too short to meet the physical requirements of a printed book. When it comes to an e-book, length doesn’t matter.

Serial Fiction

We all have TV shows we love to watch. We anticipate the next episode to see what happens next. What about books? Yes, the same applies, but waiting a year or more for the next book is agonizing. What if we can read stories in installments or episodes? Although some magazines do this, it’s not too common.

E-books are the answer. Imagine unveiling a 5,000 to 10,000- word e-book every month or so. Just like a TV show, there needs to be a self-contained story that is resolved and a larger story that advances with each installment. We can include cliffhangers and even write seasons.

Poetry

Although there are books of poetry, they’re not too common—unless the author is famous. Most poets toil in obscurity, with few readers ever seeing their work. An e-book solves that. I’m not much of a poet, but if I was (or when I am), an e-book will be the way to go.

Short Story Collections

Yes, printed books of short stories do exist, but they’re not common and are often anthologies or by well-known authors. For most writers, a printed collection of their short stories is a dream that will go unmet. E-books solve that.

Test Marketing

Most authors have critique partners (who give initial input on a book) and beta readers (who help fine-tune things further), but even so, these readers may offer conflicting advice or may not uncover all a book’s issues.

With e-books, our work can reach an even larger audience and then be fine-tuned. That doesn’t mean publishing junk or half-baked ideas. The e-book needs to be the best we can make it. But if corrections are needed, e-publishing makes them easy to accomplish.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

3 Types of Self-Publishing

Explore the 3 Types of Self-Publishing: Print, E-books, & Audio

Self-publishing once vilified as an exercise in vanity, is now accepted as a viable option by most everyone—except perhaps those who earn a living in traditional publishing. Consider the three self-publishing options.

Three Self-Publishing Options

There are three segments to self-publishing: e-publishing (for Kindle and other e-readers), POD (print-on-demand), and audiobooks. Some POD vendors will also produce an e-book version, allowing for one-stop-shopping.

Of the three, POD may be more satisfying to the author. POD gives them something tangible to touch, see, and show. Whereas e-pub may be more profitable, having no printing, storing, or shipping costs.

Audiobooks reside in the middle. They have a higher production cost than e-books but also enjoying the ease of digital distribution. Ideally, the self-published author should consider all three. But start with e-books, followed by print books, and wrapping up with audiobooks.

When it comes to profit per unit sold, both print and e-books surpass traditional publishing, whose royalties are much smaller in comparison. Of course, traditional publishers have a more extensive reach, greater connections, and bookstore distribution, so the lower payment per book is often more than offset with a much higher sales volume.

Whatever route an author takes, there are pluses and minuses to each. Therefore, the key is to become educated, know your strengths, weaknesses, and available time. Then find the best match for your situation, personality, and goals.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Digital Publishing Pros and Cons

Consider both publishing options for your next book

For the past few years, there has been a great deal of press—and hence a great deal of excitement—about e-books.

Correspondingly, there is also significant debate about the relative merits of each option. The purists insist that the printed version is the way to go, nearly sacred. While the technologists say that e-books are where it’s at, declaring that paper is passé. Of course, the diplomat insists that there is room for both.

The price of e-books spans a wide range, from free to matching their printed counterparts, so it is hard to know their true demand. After all, if something is free or costs next to nothing, why not “buy” it.

Regardless of sales numbers, print is still driving the market. Author Annette Ehrhardt, in writing about e-book pricing strategies, once noted that “It seems that many readers value the printed word more than the digital world.”

While there may be viable instances where a book should only be in digital form or only in print, the vast majority of books need to be in both.

However, if for some reason you can only do one, go with print. Readers will apparently value it more—and what they value, they will buy.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Do You Believe in Print?

Despite Interest in Audio and E-books, Don’t Write Off Print

As writers, our books can appear in three primary formats: printed books, e-books, and audiobooks.

Audio Books

Audiobooks have enjoyed a resurgence of late. Gone are the days of books on tape. Now it is digital files that readers listen to from their smartphones. This form of consumption has soared in the past couple of years, especially among younger generations. Audible books have also received a lot of buzz in recent months among the writing community. It seems I hear more about audiobooks than e-books nowadays.

E-Books

Reading books on devices is still popular. I hear the reader of preference has shifted from a dedicated reading device to a smartphone. However, many mainstream media have actually reported a decrease in e-book consumption.

Yet indie authors are quick to point out that a significant percentage of independent authors do not use ISBNs. This means no one tracks their sales as a whole. They maintain, though unverifiable, that e-book sales are grossly under-reported and are actually continuing their upward sales assent.

Printed Books

That leaves a print. For some 500 years, the print was the only reading option. While prognosticators have predicted the demise of printed books for the past several years, its death has yet to take place. Yes, it’s market share has declined, but readers still consume printed books and many prefer the tactile, and even olfactory, the experience of reading them.

Mainstream media also reports that younger generations are returning to print, apparently preferring to unplug and immerse themselves in the printed word. Besides, you don’t need a smartphone to read a print book. You don’t need charged batteries and you don’t need a signal to download content.

Do you believe in print?

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

What Do Readers Care About?

When book readers consider our book, few will bother to look to see who published it. They won’t care if a major publisher, let alone any traditional publisher, produced it. When it comes to publishers, there is little brand loyalty, let alone much brand recognition. The imprint is of no consequence. How the printed book gets into their hands or the e-book gets into their reader doesn’t matter to them.

Here’s what does matter:

Book Readers Care about the Cover

What they will look at is the cover. They will, in fact, judge our book by its cover. First impressions matter a great deal.

Book Readers Care about the Title

The title is critical, too. Depending on how they discovered our book, whether they see the title first or the cover first, the other element will seal the deal—or not. If the cover is great but the title, lame, they will dismiss it. Similarly, if they see the title first, a great cover will move them towards a purchase, while a bad cover will move them to a different book.

Book Readers Care about the Formatting

Next, they will look at the insides, whether thumbing through the actual pages or clicking online. If the layout looks “normal,” they will proceed. If it looks odd—even though they won’t know why—a red flag pops up.

Book Readers Care about the Content

If our book passes these first three screens, they may actually read a section or two. Great writing beckons them; bad writing or editing—even average writing or editing—sends them packing.

Only when they get this far will they consider buying it.

Readers don’t care if our book is traditionally published or self-published; they care if our book is professional looking, well written, and interesting.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Lessons From a Published Author: It’s Never a Sure Thing

A couple of years ago I blogged about a young adult (YA) book from a published author that I really, really, really liked—and the author honored me by leaving a comment to my post. Since then we’ve shared a few online interactions, with her offering careful communication and me trying hard not to come across as a creepy fan who is cyber-stalking her.

Ever since reading her first book, I’ve clamored for her next YA one.

Since then she published three junior (mid-grade) titles—all were on my Christmas wish list—and a fourth book in the series had a release date. She also has a children’s picture book scheduled for publication.

Being a Published Author Carries No Guarantees

The long-awaited YA follow-up was written and waiting.

Despite success with her junior titles, her publisher declined the new book, citing too low of sales on her first YA title. Her agent showed the book to other publishers, but none were willing to move forward with it.

To my dismay, the book I long to read was languishing on her computer hard drive. Understandably discouraged, she was considering self-publishing it as an e-book.

I think her publisher was making a huge mistake. In a few years, the fans of her junior series will move on to YA books. Though she currently had one title waiting for them, two (or more) would be better.

Aside from my distress over not being able to read this book, I see two lessons in this.

1. Low Sales Hurt

First, low sales on just one book can hurt our chances of another one being published. That’s a sobering thought. Today’s publishing world increasingly risk-averse, and it doesn’t take much for them to say “no.”

2. Be a Hybrid Author

Second, I think every author—even a published author—should pursue a dual-track of traditional publishing and indie-publishing, that is, to be a hybrid author. If one option doesn’t work, perhaps the other will. If both options bear fruit, all the better.

I encouraged my writer friend to self-publish her YA book. I was hoping she would.

[Update: Robin Mellom did indeed self-publish her YA book. It’s Perfect Timing.]

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Long-Lasting Books: How Long Will Your Writing Last?

Will Your Writing be Around in One Hundred Years?

Four years ago, my mom found an old book in her basement. My great grandfather’s name was written on the inside cover, along with his address in Chicago. The book was published in 1914. Yes, that’s right, 1914—over one hundred years ago. That’s a long-lasting book.

My mom had never seen the book before. We don’t know why my father kept it, or the motivation of his mother before him. Yet we have the writing of J Hudson Taylor (a missionary to China, if you’re interested) passed down as a family heirloom.

The book, by the way, is Union and Communion. Amazingly, it’s available today from Amazon as a Kindle download or used paperback. The copy I have is a third edition hardcover (the only option back then). But today, Amazon shows various formats and covers.

Write Long-L66asting Books

This begs a thought-provoking question: How long will our writing last? Will the book we write today be around in one hundred years? Will we writing long-lasting books?

I think every writer hopes their work will outlive them. I know I do.  That’s why we need to make the words we write today count, words that will last, words that will inspire future generations.

Then maybe, in one hundred years, people will still be talking about, selling, and reading our books, out long-lasting books.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

Should Your Book Have a Prologue?

I’ve heard many credible sources advise not to include prologues in our books. Yet, writers continue to write them, and publishers continue to publish them. Does that mean we can safely disregard this advice? I think not.

Here’s why: I understand most readers skip prologues. That’s telling. Even more, I’ve read e-books that opened to chapter one, bypassing the prologue. So, if we want readers to read all of our words, we shouldn’t bother with a prologue.

Questions to Ask About Prologues

If your book, or work-in-progress, has a prologue, consider the following:

  • Can the prologue actually be relabeled as chapter one? (I did this for one of my books, and it flowed better.)
  • If the prologue contains a back-story, can you reveal it later?
  • If the prologue establishes setting, especially world-building in science fiction, can those elements be moved to chapter one?
  • Is the prologue really chapter one of a possible prequel?
  • Can you delete the prologue without harming the rest of the book?
  • Is the prologue actually necessary?

If answering these questions helps you remove your prologue, then great. If not, then proceed, but know that some readers will skip it and some publishers may object, insisting you remove it anyway.

The prologue with care.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.


Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Writing and Publishing

E-Book Challenges: 5 Things That Are Hard To Do In E-Books

Last week I posted Five Things You Can Do With E-Books. Today I consider their limitations. Here are my top e-book challenges:

Footnotes

If a book needs references, I prefer footnotes to endnotes. However, with the font resizing aspect of e-book readers, displaying footnotes is challenging at best and impossible at worst.

Charts and Tables

Including a text-based graph, chart, or table in an e-book is problematic. When a reader changes the font size, these elements will also be adjusted. Once resized they can go from functional to unreadable. Compounding the problem is that each device will render them differently. Straight text just reflows; specially formatted words become convoluted.

Artwork and Graphics

Any non-text image, such as photos, pictures, line art, figures, or graphics solve the issues caused by changing the font size. But they create another problem. Their size is fixed, so if they are too small on a certain device, they cannot be enlarged. This makes their inclusion more frustrating than helpful.

Fixed Formatting

The PDF version of my book How Big Is Your Tent? , for example, contains special formatting to give readers a unique reading experience. Some text is left justified, other lines are centered, and, some words are to the far right. Other times, successive lines each contain one additional indent to present a staggered appearance. Also, by design, certain concepts are self-contained on one page. None of these formatting decisions can be retained in an e-book, as adjusting the font size messes up all of these layout choices.

Color or Not

E-books with color may disappoint readers using monochrome devices. Conversely, e-books in black and white will limit the experience of readers with color devices. These e-book challenges are a conundrum for e-book publishers.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.