Beta Reading

I just finished up beta reading a new steampunk book for a friend/fellow writer (things get muddled with writers, are other writers friends, co-workers, etc? How do you classify other writers?)

Anyway, it was a great experience for both of us, well at least it was for me, and I wanted to share some thoughts on the matter.

I’ve beta read a handful of books by now, and each one I’ve done has helped me understand the craft of writing better.

The first one I did was for an epic fantasy book; I believe the book itself was around 100K words. My critique ended up being around 16k words! I wasn’t very smart back then. I was basically doing a deep-dive edit into a full book. The type you would pay a content editor for, only I wasn’t a content editor.

I was relatively new to the critiquing scene, and I pretty much gave opinions on what I liked and didn’t like. The mushy romance stuff bothered me because I
didn’t understand the tropes, so I dinged it even though I really wasn’t qualified to do that.

Another one I beta read was another romance. It’s probably the New Adult market that I keep hearing about, in that the romance was mixed in with a lot of action. The action I got, the romance, yet again, I didn’t. In fact, I learned a lot from that book specifically because I think that book finally “clicked” with me as far as the fantasies of romance readers/writers. I’ve been a long-standing fantasy reader, plus I’m male, so I tend to be drawn to reading/writing action and adventure, where the hero not only saves the day but also gets the girl.

Female power fantasy archetypes are very different. For one the relationship tends to be the most important decision in the book. The world can crumble and fall around you, but as long as true love prevails, it’s all good. (Of course, I’m over-simplifying here, but hopefully you get my point—there are gender differences between genres.) Boy did I have a wake-up call with that book, but I learned a lot.

That one was well over 10K words for my critique if I remember correctly. I’m far too wordy.

I’ve also read a few others, but I got to this one with a far better understanding of genre tropes, story structure, and pacing. This one came in under 5K words. I was much more concise with my feedback, and I didn’t harp on the same thing over and over like I did in the previous critiques (I’m trying to get better).

Critiquing is a skill. You won’t be perfect at it right from the start. Keep practicing, and you’ll improve.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

Paperback is out!

So this arrived:

IMG_0190.jpg

Things just got real folks!

I also got some feedback from my copy editor about a new thing I’m working on. So far everyone I’ve shown it to has loved it, and her validation helped tell me that someone who isn’t a friend of mine likes the story. More information on that later!

Till tomorrow.

-Tom

Paperback Publish

The last couple days I’ve been talking about the process I went through to get my paperback book published. The last two days were talking about the overall process I took, from copy editing, writing front and back matter, and hiring someone to do the formatting. Today I want to talk about Createspace specifically.

Before I start, I should mention that KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) now has a beta paperback line attached to it. Once you publish your Kindle book, you can then add on a paperback. I haven’t used it myself, so I can’t really talk about it, but I will once I’ve actually used it.

So…Createspace. You need to create an account on their site. It’s not the same as your Amazon or KDP account, even though CS is owned by Amazon.

You can then start creating your book with a series of steps:

  1. Setup
  2. Review
  3. Distribute

Each of these has some internal steps

Setup:

  1. Title Information – input your books title, subtitle, author name, blurb, etc.
  2. ISBN – I purchased 100 ISBN’s from Bowker (the official ISBN issuer for USA) so I put my own here. You can get a free one from CS that will come in play later on.
  3. Interior – I uploaded the pdf file that I received from my formatter. I could have done this myself, but since this was my first book, I chose to hire a professional to handle it, and for consistency, I will most likely want to keep the rest of the series coherent.
  4. Cover – upload the file given to me by my cover designer.

CS then processes these files, chugging for a while till you can then review. However I jumped to the next step:

Distribute

This allows you choose where you want your paperback available. These fall under two main categories, standard and expanded distribution:

Standard:

  • Amazon.com
  • Amazon.co.uk
  • Createspace bookstore (who knew this existed?)

Expanded

  • Bookstores and Online Retailers (So that B&N can order your book)
  • Createspace Direct (smaller retailers and indie bookstores can order from this)
  • Libraries – this one you HAVE to have a CS-assigned ISBN in order to be in. Since I have my own ISBN’s, I can’t select this.

You also setup your pricing, descriptions, and cover details like matte or glossy. From what I’ve read, glossy looks better, feels better, and matte has had issues with the covering peeling off, so I chose glossy.

Finally we have review, which is where this entire story started:

Review

CS gives you two options to proof your book: digitally and physically.

Since I used a professional formatter, I wasn’t very worried about the interior of the book looking strange. If I had been doing this myself, I would have spent more time pouring over the digital and physical proofs to make sure that my formatting turned out okay.

Side note: I know a lot of newbie authors don’t have a lot of money, but I’m SO glad I didn’t have to stress about formatting for this book. I had enough learning to do on this that I was happy to not have the stress. If you’re already spending money on a quality copy edit and a cover, I highly recommend having someone handle formatting so you don’t have to stress about it. Instead, I spent that mental energy on learning how to market and setup email lists…but that’s a story for another day.

So, to the meat of the three-day long story:

Once I approved the digital proof, it locked me out of any changes, and chugged for about 24 hours to look through all the submission.

The next day, when I woke up, my paperback book was live on Amazon!

GAHHH!!!

Yup, so my Kindle book was still on pre-order and now my paperback is available for purchase. Createspace doesn’t have the ability to handle pre-orders at this time.

So lessons? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to handle this. I’ll be sure to do some research next time for my paperback release. I might also just wait until the book itself goes live before approving the proof so that the paperback is live about the time that the kindle book comes off of pre-order.

Anyway, this rambling story is now at an end.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

Paperback Proof

Yesterday I talked about my accidentally putting my paperback up for order. Well, okay, I didn’t actually get to that, I mostly talked about the lead-up to the actual tell.

Today we get to more of the story.

So, I put up the Kindle pre-order in December, then worked furiously over that month to finalize the manuscript, adding in dedications, copyright pages, CTA’s, About the Author, backstory on the story … all sorts of stuff.

I then had to proof it. Now I’m a newly-published author, I don’t have a lot of money. What money I do have I chose to put into a few key areas:

  1. I got a great cover
  2. I payed for a professional copy edit
  3. I decided to get the paperback formatting/cover professionally done

I didn’t have the money or the time to send it off for a professional proofreader, so my wife and I did the next best thing. We both pored over the manuscript once on our own, then we read the entire thing aloud to each other, marking when the cadence didn’t work well, we stumbled, or when the words said aloud didn’t match what was actually written. This happens way more than you know, by the way. I’ve followed along with professional audiobooks and noticed the spoken word sometimes varies from what is written down.

Anyway, that’s what we did for proofing. We went over the manuscript four times before finally calling it “done.” The ONE issue with this, is that every time we went over it, we found mistakes. It’s inevitable. Professionally published books have mistakes, I’m sure those of you who read a lot have found them. Everyone does them, even the pros.

The issue with me having them in my manuscript is that I’m being compared to the Big-Five publishers, so mistakes in mine have more weight because of the deluge of self-published drek on Amazon’s Kindle right now.

So that’s why I went over it four times. I’m sure there will still be mistakes, so I welcome anyone who finds them to email them to me. I’ll file them away for a future revision.

Once it’s proofed, you have to format the manuscript. I used Vellum to do my ebook formatting, but being a first-time published indie author, I didn’t want to tackle paperback formatting myself. I know I could have figured it out, but it wasn’t that expensive to get it done and it’s a big load off my mind and a skill that I don’t think I can fit into my already-stuffed brain right now. I had enough to learn without having to learn this.

The formatting took about a week to get done, and once that is done, then you know your paper size, page count, paper thickness, you can then figure out how big the spine of your book will be, and the cover design can begin.

Luckily I had the same company do both so they gave me back everything at the same time.

But I’ll go over the Createspace portion later.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

Paperback Woes

So I made a slight boo-boo. Well, not really my fault really, but it happened none-the-less.

I accidentally published the paperback version of A Moonlit TaskAvailable here.

How did this happen? Well, let me take you back a little while (this isn’t just a blog to pimp my book, you’re going to learn something dammit!)

I put the pre-order for the Kindle version up on December 6th. For that, you need your cover, blurb, some keywords, 2 categories you wish to list your book under, it’s price, how many different worldwide Amazon stores you wish to show it in, and your book.

You don’t actually need the “final” version of the book. I didn’t. I’d just gotten my manuscript back from my copy editor and was working on fixing all the mistakes in it when my book went for pre-order. So that’s right! The version I posted was the pre-copy edited version.

As long as you upload your final proofread version a few days before the launch date, you can put up pre-orders three months in advance.

Paperback, however, was a little more complicated.

The cover can’t be designed until I have the final proofed copy of the manuscript, this is mostly because the page count of the final book determines how thick the book will be, and given the cover for a paperback is one solid image wrapped around the entire outside of the book, well, you need a final page count before your cover can be designed.

Did you know that white and creme colored paper are different thicknesses? You also have to choose the dimensions of the book. A Moonlit Task will be 5.5” by 8.5”.

Of course, I can’t have a final proofed copy of the manuscript till I finished all my copy edits, wrote my dedication page, got an ISBN and wrote up the boilerplate for the copyright page. I then wanted to include some stuff in the back talking about the genesis of the book. You hopefully get the idea.

Long and short, it took me another month to finish all the copy edits, and other content I needed inside the book. I then chose to have a professional format the inside of the book. Once THAT was done, the cover could be designed.

See how complicated this is? Tomorrow I’ll go over Createspace and how the paperback ended up getting published before the Kindle edition, but I’m out of time right now.

Till tomorrow,

Tom

Blog Tour

A fellow friend and author, Jami Gray, is hosting me on her blog today. She asked me some pretty interesting questions.

Her blog is here: http://jamigray.com. I hope you check out her fiction. She writes a wide-range of Urban Fantasy with varying amounts of Romance. Paranormal NCIS? SIGN ME UP!

My post should be at the top, but here is the direct link: Fantasy and Adventure with Tom Hansen’s debut #UF A MOONLIT TASK #newread… Let me know what you think!

Also, as a new author, I keep making little mistakes. One of those mistakes is that I’ve never put up an excerpt of my book, A Moonlit Task on my blog, so potential readers can sample it. Being that it’s a pre-order right now, you can’t “look inside” on Amazon.

So here it is: Excerpt from A Moonlit Task

Worldbuilding

World building. It’s a dirty word in some circles. Others use it as an excuse to never get around to writing their book.

I’ve never been much of a world builder. I don’t know if this makes me less or more of a geek. Mainly because I tend to get a lot of critique group comments that my world building is excellent.

That’s not to say I don’t world build. Remember the posts I did earlier this year for ideas? I have a lot of ideas, and I write almost all of them down (when I remember/can), but I guess in my mind I don’t consider that world building.

Yeah, it’s building out the world, but for me, it’s just jotting down cool ideas. The world building happens when I need to sit down and figure out what the world needs for the story I have. It’s reactionary rather than proactive, and I think therein lies the difference. I’m inventing details about my world because I need them for a plot, not building details purely to make the world a bigger place.

World building isn’t really much of a separate activity for me. I don’t sit down and just draft up details on my world for the sake of world building unless I’m solving a problem.

But that’s also not entirely true. I do journal. Much like this blog, I have a lot to say, and I can generally type pretty fast and dump down my ideas without too much effort. Tomorrow I’ll go into the method I use for this (hint, I’ve mentioned a lot of this in the past) and maybe share some of the ideas I’ve come up with from this method.

Till tomorrow,

Tom