Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Getting Advance Reviews |Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

ARC Cozy Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about blog tours. Today, I’m discussing ARCs (advance reader copy) and getting advance reviews for Murder at the Marina.

What is an ARC?

ARCs are free copies of a book (ebook and/or print) that is going to be published but hasn’t been released yet. While they are fully formatted, they’re not necessarily the final version of the book. Through the ARC process, readers and the publisher may find typos or other errors that need to be fixed before the release.

ARCs are used not only to get advance reviews, but also to build excitement about the release (some people give out ARCs as part of giveaways) and, in the case of traditional publishers, to advertise to libraries and bookstores.

How I used ARCs

For Murder at the Marina, I touched base with three main groups of potential readers: (1) cozy mystery book bloggers; (2) friends within the writing community; and (3) members of the boating community.

For the first group, I sent emails asking if they would be interested in reviewing Murder at the Marina and included a link to BookFunnel where they could download a copy of the ebook. Because this was my debut novel, I didn’t expect that many established book bloggers would be willing or able to review my cozy mystery, but I figured it was worth a shot. I was pleasantly surprised that a few agreed to help out.

For the second and third groups, I put out a call on my other blog (The Cynical Sailor) asking if anyone would be interested in helping out. I had a fantastic response which was so encouraging.

In the end, I ended up sending ARCs to over 60 people (including my beta readers) and about half of those people left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (A few people also left reviews on the other major eretailers.)

In my initial email to my advance readers, I explained why reviews are important—they make your book more visible to potential readers and provide social proof and credibility (i.e., people are going to be more willing to read your book if they see other people have read it and enjoyed it).

I also explained what’s involved in writing a review (they can be short, a sentence or two is fine) and suggested that they might want to include a disclaimer in their review such as: “I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily chose to leave an honest review.”

The other thing I mentioned was Amazon’s review restrictions—you need to have spent $50 in the last twelve months to be eligible to review.

When the book was released, I sent through a follow-up email letting them know that they could now go ahead and leave reviews.

After my book launch, I sent an email to everyone who had left a review to thank them and ask if they would be interested in being on my ARC team for the next book in the series (Bodies in the Boatyard). Most people said yes leaving me with around 30 people on the list (not including beta readers).

Using BookFunnel to distribute ARCs

I chose to use an online solution, BookFunnel, to distribute ARCs. While I could have just emailed files to my advance readers, BookFunnel takes the hassle out of everything by making it simple for users to download the file that best suits their device and providing support if they have any technical issues.

I signed up for the First Time Author plan which allows me to store five books and have up to 500 downloads a month. It costs $20 a year and is more than adequate for my needs. BookFunnel has other plans which allow for more than one pen name and more monthly downloads, as well as collect email addresses (useful for building your newsletter lists).

I also use BookFunnel to distribute draft manuscripts to my beta readers and final manuscripts to family, friends, giveaway winners etc.

What about reviews going forward?

Advance reviews are great, but you also want people to leave reviews once your book is published. The easiest way to do this is to ask your readers to help out. I add in a request for reviews in the Author’s Note & Acknowledgements section at the end of my book, as well as mention it on social media (Facebook and Twitter).

FB Review Post

 

Want to know more?

Bookworks discusses tools you can use to share your ARCs (including BookFunnel) with readers.

Check out Jenna Moreci’s video on how to get advance reviews (warning—she uses strong language at times).

The Author Learning Center has a good overview of ARCs and how they’re used.

Alex O’Connel discusses ARC dos and don’ts for self-publishers.

If you’re interested in distributing print ARCs, Ingram Spark has a useful article on how to create them.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Blog Tours | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Blog Tour Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked with you about my book release in numbers. Today, I’m sharing how I went about organizing a DIY blog tour to get the word out about the release of Murder at the Marina.

What exactly is a blog tour?

A blog tour is pretty much what it says on the tin—a trip around multiple sites during a set period of time to promote your release. Kind of like a virtual book tour, but do much less stressful for introverts like me as you interact with folks through blog posts and comments, rather than face-to-face.

I’ve hosted a number of people’s blog tours over on my other blog, The Cynical Sailor, so I thought it might be a fun thing to do for my own release.

It seemed like a pretty straightforward thing to organize—ask people to participate, set up a schedule, prepare blog posts and release materials, and visit all of the participants during the tour. I’m a big fan of project planning and spreadsheets, so I dove right in.

But while it is a straightforward process, there are a lot of logistics to manage. And it can get time-consuming. Which is why some people outsource the whole thing.

Should you outsource or take a DIY approach?

I don’t actually know what the right answer to the question above might be for you. But I can tell you why I chose to do it myself. There are three reasons:

(1) Cost – Independently publishing a book is expensive. Where I could do things myself and save money, I did, like managing my own blog tour.

(2) Capability – I knew I had the skills needed to manage a blog tour.

(3) Time – If you’re short on time and have the money, this might be an activity to consider outsourcing. It took many hours to manage the process. Perhaps time that could have been invested more wisely in sorting out the cause of the leak on my sailboat, making chocolate chip cookies, or working on the next book in my series. But I had the time and didn’t want to spend the money, so DIY it was.

The downside of taking a DIY approach

My blog tour was fantastic with wonderful participants, but there was one major downside to doing it myself, namely not having many cozy reader blogger connections.

I have two primary audiences for my cozy mystery series: (1) boaters who might enjoy light-hearted mysteries with a nautical setting and (2) die-hard cozy mystery readers. While a number of my blog tour participants were fellow boaters, I didn’t manage to include many cozy mystery bloggers.

If I do a blog tour again in the future, and have the funds for it, I might consider outsourcing to someone like Lori at Great Escapes with Dollycas who has an extensive list of cozy mystery bloggers that she works with.

In some ways, going DIY for my first cozy release was realistic. Many cozy mystery readers aren’t likely to pick up the first book in a new series from an indie author who doesn’t have a proven track record. They’re more likely to want to wait until they see that you’ve published a few books already before they invest their time in your series. I figure I’ll go harder after the cozy reader audience once I’ve published the third book in my series.

{Note: Authors in Kindle Unlimited have an advantage in this area as readers can take a chance on a new author/series as they don’t have to buy the book, but can read it as part of their subscription. This doesn’t work for me as I’m wide, not exclusive – read more about that here.}

The nitty-gritty of organizing my blog tour

The first step in organizing my blog tour was to put out a call for participants on my other blog as part of the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) blog hop in March (my book released on June 21st). I set up a Google Docs sign-up form and thought I would be doing well if I got somewhere between five and seven people to raise their hands. Over twenty people volunteered. Twenty plus. A whole lot of people. I was stunned. This wasn’t any old blog tour anymore, this had turned into a blog fiesta!

These wonderful folks were a mix of sailing bloggers, fellow authors I had met through the IWSG, and blogging buddies. I also reached out to some cozy mystery bloggers, some of whom were kind enough to take a chance on a new author.

I offered participants the choice between: (1) writing their own blog post to tie in with the release and the start of summer in the northern hemisphere; (2) having me write a short boating-related post to tie in with the book; or (3) something else. Most people went with option #2.

Now, remember I thought I might be lucky to get seven participants. Writing custom blog posts seemed doable for that amount of people. I ended up having to write a lot more than I anticipated. Yikes, but in a really good way cause it meant so many people wanted to help out with my blog tour.

Did I mention that I love spreadsheets? And that’s a good thing because having a way to track all of the participants, what date they were scheduled for, their name and email address, what kind of post they wanted etc. was essential. I also made a calendar so that I could visually see where people were scheduled and make sure to spread participants out during the course of the blog tour (it ran from June 21st-July 3rd).

Once everyone was scheduled and sorted, I pulled together the custom blog posts along with a book release “package” (cover image, other promo images, tagline/blurb, buy links, author bio, social media links etc.). I then emailed everyone with what they would need and followed-up closer to their scheduled blog tour stop.

Before the blog tour kicked off, I did a post letting everyone know about the “blog fiesta” with dates and names of everyone participating. I also included a little bit of personal info about each participant, such as how I know them, what they blog about etc. I also encouraged my blog followers to go visit their sites. The way I see it, blog tours are a two-way street. The participants are hosting you and sharing your book release with their followers, but you can also drive traffic to participants’ sites and they’ll hopefully end up with new followers as well. {You can see my blog tour fiesta kick-off post here.}

During the blog tour, I visited each participant and responded to comments on their sites. It was so much fun to read the kind and encouraging comments that everyone left.

And perhaps the most important step of all was thanking the blog tour participants after the fiesta was over. They were all truly awesome! I still can’t believe how generous people were with their time and energy hosting me on their blogs.

So was it worth it?

I was talking with a friend the other day and she asked me if I thought it had been successful. My immediate answer was yes, followed by a “but.” That “but” has to do with how you measure the success of something like this.

It would be nice if there was some magic calculating device that could tell me if I sold more books as a result of it, but there isn’t. {Some people use Amazon affiliate links to track sales as a result of promos. I don’t.} Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I’ll never know.

Selling books is only one success criteria. Raising awareness of your book release and your author brand with your target audience is also important. I think the blog tour was helpful in regards to the boating community, but less so in terms of cozy mystery readers (which I knew would be the case). There’s probably also some knock-on effect in terms of SEO with Murder at the Marina coming up in search results and linking back to blog tour participants’ sites.

However, regardless of generating sales or reaching my target audience, I think it was a huge success for three reasons: (1) it underscored how wonderfully generous and supportive the the blogging community is; (2) in the end, I did get the word out about my book release; and (3) it was a lot of fun!

Want to know more?

If you’re thinking about organizing a cozy mystery blog tour, here are a few sites to check out. Lori at Great Escapes with Dollycas organizes blog tours. Marie at A Cozy Book Experience organizes book release Facebook parties, among other things. Dru’s Book Musings features upcoming releases, character interviews, and day in the life posts and was gracious enough to host me during the blog tour. Many thanks to Linda at Chatting about Cozies for reviewing Murder at the Marina on her site.

Mixtus Media, has a downloadable blog tour worksheet and explains How to Set Up a Successful Blog Tour.

Stephanie Bond talks about How to Book a Successful Blog Tour over at the Book Marketing Tools site.

Janice Hardy talks about How to Promote Your Book with Blog Tour on Anne R. Allen’s site. She also has a follow-up post on her own site about whether blog tours are worth it.

Anne R. Allen’s offers some crucial advice—Treat Book Bloggers with Respect.

The Alliance of Independent Authors talks about Why Blog Tours aren’t about Sales.

Elaine Viets shares tips about Cozy Book Promotion: A Soft Sell in a Hard Business. While this is primarily aimed at traditionally published authors, it’s also good food for thought for independent authors.

Penguin Random House tells you Everything You Need to Know about Organizing a Blog Tour. It’s interesting to note that the onus for organizing a blog tour is on the author, even if they’re traditionally published.

What do you think about blog tours?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Book Release in Numbers | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy - Numbers
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about what distribution channels I used. This time, I’m going to share details about the release Murder at the Marina, in numbers.

While some people look at stats for the first 30 days after a release (the supposed 30-day cliff), I decided to make things easier on myself from a reporting perspective and look at the numbers from the release date of June 21, 2018 to the end of July 2018. That’s roughly a six week period.

What numbers are important?

So, what numbers did I look at and why? The obvious one that I was interested in was the total number of sales. Now, this may disappoint some of you, but I’m not planning on sharing that here. What I can say is that my expectations were greatly exceeded, which is in large part due to all of the wonderful people who helped spread the word for me on social media. Thank you!

The other numbers I spent time poring over had to do with sales by format and where books were sold. I also got a kick out of checking out what I like to call my “popularity” stats. Let’s dive into the numbers, shall we?

Sales by Format

I’ve mentioned before how surprised I am at how many people purchased the paperback version of Murder at the Marina. If you look at the chart below, you’ll see that 10% of people bought paperbacks and 90% bought ebooks.

On a whim, I also created a large print version and, while I didn’t sell any of those during June and July, I have sold a few during the past month. (If you’re interested in learning more about large print, I found Joanna Penn’s article on the subject helpful.)

Despite the learning curve involved in terms of book formatting and set-up on Amazon and Ingram Spark, I’m really glad I decided to publish hard copies in addition to ebooks.

Murder at the Marina - Launch Graph 1

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide instead of be exclusive with Amazon, I was really interested in seeing how many books I sold on non-Amazon sites. No surprise that the bulk of the sales were on Amazon (88%), but I was pleased to see that I sold a few on Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Overdrive.

Hopefully, the percentage of non-Amazon sales will increase over time.

NOTE: The percentages below don’t add up due to rounding.

Ebook Retailer Graph

Ebook Sales by Country

I love the idea of knowing that people around the world are reading my book, so I was thrilled to see that 17% of my sales came from outside the States. Most of them came from the United Kingdom, followed by Australia, Canada, and EU countries. And I’d love to know who is reading Murder at the Marina in Japan and Brazil.

Ebook Country Graph

Popularity Stats

Come on, admit it, sometimes you compare yourself to other people, don’t you? You like to see how you rank against others. Or is that just me?

In any case, it’s a bad idea to get too caught up in this as a writer. Reading all of the success stories out there about folks who are top of the charts, pulling in the big bucks, or have a million 5-star reviews can get a tad depressing. It’s enough to almost make you forget what the real joy of writing is about—having fun creating imaginary worlds, people, and situations.

But, I confess, I did check my Amazon popularity stats during my release. Like where Murder at the Marina ranked on the Hot New Releases list. It peaked at #81 in the Cozy Animal Mystery sub-category at one point. (The lists are updated hourly.) We can all thank Mrs. Moto, the best clue-finding feline in the business for that.

Screenshot_2018-06-28 Amazon com New Releases The best-selling new future releases in Cozy Animal Mystery

Amazon’s Author Central lets you check how popular your book is compared to others. The Kindle edition of Murder at the Marina ranked #30,571 on release day, peaked at #25,456 a week late, and has been on a roller coaster ride ever since. When some sales comes through, it perks back up, when sales are quiet, it plummets down the ranks.

To be honest, I wouldn’t expect to do great in Amazon rankings due to the fact that I’m not exclusive to Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited. From my understanding, pages reads and increased visibility in the Amazon store can do a lot to boost your position on the charts.

Amazon Bestseller Rank - June & July 2018

But it’s not just about your books, Amazon gets personal and give you an author rank. My highest ranking (#38,745) was actually when Murder at the Marina was on pre-order. It stayed above the 100k mark for a couple of weeks after the release, then tumbled down the charts after that.

Amazon Author Rank - June & July 2018

If you’re an author, what kinds of numbers do you track? If you’re a reader, do you pay attention to book rankings?

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook, paperback, and large print), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Distribution Channels | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Distribution
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about how I formatted my ebook and print books. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process—how to get my book out there so that people could buy it, namely what distribution channels I used.

But before we do that, let’s address one of the key decisions I had to make first.

Decision Point 1—Amazon exclusive or wide?

One of the first big decisions I faced was whether I wanted to be exclusive to Amazon in terms of ebooks or “go wide” and distribute via other retailers. I chose to go wide, which I’ve talked about in more detail here.

If I had decided to be exclusive, that would have made everything about ebook distribution much simpler because there would have been only one retailer to worry about—Amazon, or the big ‘Zon as some people affectionately refer to it.

But because I decided to play the field, that led me to my next big decision. . .

Decision Point 2—Go direct or use an aggregator?

There are some great aggregators out there who make things simple. They’re one-stop shops where you can load up your ebook and they take care of distributing it to the various eretailers, like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, and Google Play.

The upside is that they make it easy-peasy. You just have to do everything once and you get consolidated reporting and payments. The downside is that they take a cut of your royalties as compensation for their service.

The alternative is to go direct with each retailer. The downside is that you have to open separate accounts, fill out separate tax forms, upload things multiple times, and deal with multiple reports and payments. The upside is more money for you.

I chose to do a take a hybrid approach. Direct with some, via aggregators for others.

My hybrid distribution approach

So, here’s what I did. Keep in mind we’re just talking about ebooks right now.

WHO I WENT DIRECT WITH

1 – Amazon

This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I found Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to be really simple and straightforward to use, both in terms of publishing my book and in using the reporting.

2 – Kobo

This is another easy to use platform. Simple to set-up and manage. In addition to selling my books to people who have Kobo e-readers, I also use them to distribute to Overdrive (a library distribution service which they own) and participate in their Kobo Plus subscription service (kind of like Kindle Unlimited, but with a focus on the Dutch and Belgian markets).

3 – Barnes & Noble (Nook)

This platform is also user-friendly, however, it can take a while to get a vendor account set up. Something to factor in if you go down this route.

WHO I USE AN AGGREGATOR FOR

1 – Draft2Digital for Apple iBooks and Others

Unless you have an Apple computer, it isn’t easy to publish directly with them. Sure, there are workarounds (like renting time on an IOS system), but it really wasn’t worth it to me.

Draft2Digital makes it easy to distribute to Apple in exchange for 10%. They also provide a great, free, formatting system to turn your Word document into ebook file formats (MOBI and EPUB).

You can pick and choose which stores you distribute to via Draft2Digital. In addition to Apple, their current partners include Amazon, Kobo, Overdrive, Barnes & Noble, Scribd (subscription service), Bibliotheca (another library service), and Tolino. Because I don’t know much about the latter three and/or don’t think the time would be worth it to figure out how to go direct with them, I happily let Draft2Digital take care of them for me.

2 – PublishDrive for Google Play and Dangdang

I’d heard that it wasn’t possible at this point in time to go direct with GooglePlay, so I went direct with PublishDrive for them in exchange for 10%. I’ve since found out that GooglePlay is accepting applications to partner with them. I put my name down on the waiting list and the wait turned out to be less than 48 hours to be approved.

However, their user interface doesn’t seem all that simple and I don’t sell a huge amount of books on Google Play, so I think I might stick with PublishDrive for the forseeable. Plus I also like the fact that PublishDrive manages the discount issue with Google Play. Google Play likes to discount books they sell. The consequence of this is that Amazon will then lower the price of your book on their site to price match them. Publish Drive automatically increases the retail price of your book on Google so that any discount they apply never reduces your book price below what you have on Amazon.

Another factor playing into this is their new partnership with Dangdang, a Chinese ebook distributor. Who knows, maybe the Chinese love cozy mysteries?

PublishDrive can also distribute on Apple iBooks, but because I was already signed up to Draft2Digital for them, I passed on that option.

But what about print books?

I’ve been surprised how many paperbacks I’ve sold, including a few large print ones, so I’m really glad that I opted to go down the print book path. Unlike with ebooks, I’m only dealing with two companies for distribution—Amazon and Ingram Spark.

AMAZON

There are currently two ways into Amazon when it comes to paperbacks—Create Space and KDP. Create Space has been around for a while, KDP is the new kid in town. There are rumors flying around that Amazon is planning on shutting down Create Space and migrating everyone to KDP.

When I was ready to publish Murder at the Marina, KDP had just been introduced. I decided to go with that platform because I liked the idea of having my Amazon ebook and paperback reporting all in one place.

It was super easy to set up my print book on KDP, review proof copies (both online and physically), and get my paperback out for distribution on Amazon.

INGRAM SPARK

Some people use the extended distribution option on Amazon to sell to other stores. The upside is that you’re only dealing with one platform, the downside is that Amazon’s competitors really don’t want to buy books from Amazon.

I decided to go with Ingram Spark instead to distribute to all other online stores, such as Barnes & Noble (print only, I go to them direct for ebook), Books-A-Million, and The Book Depository.

I wish I could tell you that it was a simple, straightforward, user-friendly experience. It wasn’t. You’ll need a glass of wine or some chocolate (maybe both) to get through the whole process. But persevere, it’ll happen, even if you might have to finish off that entire bottle to keep your sanity.

The other downside of Ingram Spark is the reporting. I know people have bought paperbacks via them, but I have no idea where. They don’t provide reporting at a store level, just how many units you’ve sold.

So why bother with them, you might be asking yourself? Well in addition to the whole issue of retailers not wanting to buy from Amazon, I also get a better cut from Ingram Spark than I do from Amazon. That’s down in part to the fact that I’ve applied the minimum wholesale discount that I could, which is related to the fact that I’m not focused on selling my book in bricks and mortar stores. But that’s a huge topic for another day.

Want to know more?

Reedsy has a very comprehensive guide to ebook distribution. I found their aggregator comparison spreadsheet to be particularly helpful.

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about expanding her book distribution on PublishDrive and StreetLib.

Interested in a comparison of Create Space and Ingram Spark? Check out this article on Kindlepreneur and Jenna Moreci’s video. {Warning: she sometimes uses language that may offend people.}

Jane Friedman has a self-publishing checklist and a list of self-publishing resources which includes information ebook distribution.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Where do you like to buy ebooks and print books? If you’re an author, where do you distribute your books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Formatting eBooks & Print Books| Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Formatting Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to publish both ebook and paperback versions. Today, I’m going to cover the next step in the process once my manuscript was finalized—formatting. This is one of the areas where “ugly” really reared its head.

Programs

Before I get started, let me just mention what programs I used. I started off writing in Scrivener. Once I had a decent draft completed, I compiled the document and then finished editing in Open Office Writer (a free open source alternative to MS Word – you can easily convert files back and forth between the two programs as required).

Once the ebook manuscript was finalized, I used Draft2Digital‘s free service to convert into mobi (for Kindle) and epub (for everyone else) files. Once my paperback manuscript was finalized, I converted it into a PDF for uploading for print-on-demand on Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

I’ve heard great things about Vellum when it comes to formatting, but it’s not compatible with PCs (only for MacOS). Plus it costs quite a bit, whereas my approach cost nothing, except time and frustration.

Here’s how things should have worked

If I had been more patient, these are the steps I should have taken. Note that there would have been celebratory chocolate and pats on the back. Instead, the process I took involved banging my head on the table and eating chocolate to make myself feel better when things went wrong.

1 – Lock down the manuscript before beginning to format ebook and print versions.

2 – Get the manuscript ready for conversion to ebook files. (This mostly involved stripping out unnecessary formatting and making sure chapter breaks were distinctive and consistent). Make this version the master document.

3 – Convert into epub and mobi files using Draft2Digital.

4 – Check the epub and mobi files and do one last proofreading round. (You might catch things when looking at a manuscript on a Kindle, iPad, or tablet that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the computer.)

5 – Go back to the master document and fix anything caught during the final proofreading.

6 – Make new epub and mobi files.

7 – Do one last check of the epub and mobi files.

8 – Have some chocolate because things are going so smoothly.

9 – Upload to the various ebook distributors / aggregators – in my case, Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital (for Apple iBooks), Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Publish Drive (for Google Play).

10 – Paste and copy from the master document into the print book template in Open Office Writer.

11 – Complete the print book formatting.

12 – Convert into a PDF file and upload to print-on-demand distributors – in my case, Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark.

13 – Pat yourself on the back for a job well done without any hiccoughs.

Here’s how it really went

1 – Got excited that the edits to the manuscript were finished and wanted to see what it would look like as a print book, cause you know that makes it more “real.”

2 – Started copying and pasting like mad into my print book template. Dove into formatting, which turned out to be quite involved and revealed what a total newbie I was to this sort of thing. Things like checking margins and gutters (even and odd pages are different), making sure section breaks were working correctly, ensuring consistent font size and placement for chapter titles, fixing hyphenation (don’t want them breaking across pages or stacking up with several lined up on top of each other in a paragraph), looking for widow / orphan issues (don’t want just a few words being orphaned by themselves on a page), and checking indentation (none at the first paragraph of each chapter and scene).

3 – Have a stiff drink cause it’s all a bit overwhelming.

4 – Wonder if you have a migraine coming on.

5 – Question your decision to do your formatting yourself rather than outsource it.

6 – Realize you need to download fonts into Open Office Writer that MS Word has, but you don’t. Make sure all fonts are copyright free.

7 – Finish formatting the print version, then create the ebook version.

8 – Discover a couple of small changes that need to be made. Realize that you don’t have a master document, you have to fix things in both the print version and ebook version. Chocolate required.

9 – Decide to keep your print version as the master document, make changes in that one, then strip out the formatting in order to convert it back into an ebook version.

10 – Discover that somehow everything got messed up in the new ebook version file. Italics have disappeared. Capitalization issues in the first sentence of each chapter. Tear your hair out. Have more chocolate.

11 – Finally get back on track, finalize files, and upload.

12 – Go to have some celebratory chocolate only to discover someone ate it all. Hmm…who could that have been?

So, was a DIY approach a smart idea?

Sure, it would have been a lot easier to outsource formatting to someone else, especially for the print version. However, I’m still glad I went with the DIY approach. Obviously, I saved money, and when it’s your own money you’re investing into publishing your books, saving money is a good thing, at least it is for me. More importantly, I learned heaps in the process and it will be so much easier next time. I’m also not dependent on anyone else if I need to update my manuscripts at any point.

But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned was to stock up on more chocolate.

Want to know more?

Elizabeth Spann Craig talks about using Draft2Digital’s free templates to format your ebook.

The Alliance for Independent Authors shares 6 tips for indie authors to format print books using MS Word.

Joel Friedlander has lots of useful resources from articles about print book sizes, how to check your book proof, and dealing with widows and orphans, as well as offering book design templates for sale.

L. Diane Wolfe at The Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers tips and tricks on ebook formatting.

Reedsy explains the difference between epub and mobi files.

A useful list of 10 ebook conversion tools on Bookworks.

Amazon KDP Paperback Manuscript Templates—choose from blank MS Word templates and those with sample content; select your trim size, download and away you go.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

Have you ever formatted your own ebook and/or print book?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Ebooks, Print, or Both? | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Ebook vs Print

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to go wide, rather than enroll in Amazon KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited. This time, it’s about my next big decision—should I publish ebooks, paperbacks, or both formats?

Ereaders and living on a sailboat

Several years ago, my husband thought he had come up with the best present idea ever—he was going to get me an ereader. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly respond with the level of enthusiasm he was hoping for. I’m one of those people who loves print books. I used to spend hours looking at my bookshelves, rearranging my books, and visiting bookstores to add even more books to my overflowing shelves.

Then we moved onto a sailboat in New Zealand. An extremely tiny sailboat. It was time to downsize and one of the casualties was my collection of books. That’s when I discovered the joys of ereaders. I could have tons and tons of books that took up no space whatsoever. I became a full-fledged member of the Kindle revolution. So when it came time to publish my first book, having an ebook version was a no-brainer.

But what about a paperback version? Did anyone out there even buy them anymore?

The case for publishing paperbacks

I knew I was going to publish a paperback version regardless of whether anyone would buy it or not. I liked the idea of being able to hold an actual printed book in my hands that had my name on it, kind of like a “trophy” in a way. Plus, my family had requested signed copies and you can’t really say no to your mom, can you? And, it turned out that buying your own author copies through Amazon isn’t all that expensive (you just pay printing cost, not Amazon’s mark-up), although you do have to factor in shipping.

But there are other benefits to publishing print copies of your book:

1 – Pre-Orders on Amazon

If you go down the ebook pre-order route on Amazon and you publish the print version at the same time, the “look inside” feature will be enabled and people can check out the beginning of your book which might tempt them to click the Buy button. {By the way, you can’t do pre-orders for print books on Amazon, something I found out about the hard way.}

People you’ve given ARCs (advance reader copies) to can post reviews on the paperback edition and they’ll show up on Amazon before your ebook goes live.

2 – Getting a Bargain

Amazon displays the print list price and the Kindle list price and notes how much you can save by going with the ebook. For some people, this might make them feel like they’re getting a real bargain. For example, the paperback version of Murder at the Marina is $10.99, while the ebook currently sells for $2.99, a 73% savings according to Amazon.

3 – Getting into Bricks and Mortar Bookstores

Some folks want to see their books for sale at their local bookstore. So, making a paperback or hard cover version of their book is important to them and by using a distribution network like Ingram Spark, it’s possible. Probably challenging, but possible. I can imagine that it would be pretty exciting to see your book on the shelves, but, to be honest, that wasn’t a driver for me for going down the print copy route.

4 – Selling at Events

I’m thinking that I might put a sign up offering Murder at the Marina for sale at our marina in the autumn when cruisers start coming back and getting their boats ready for the winter season sailing in Florida and the Bahamas. I don’t know if I’ll get any takers, but I can offer the books for a lower price than they would pay if they bought through one of the online retailers.

Other authors do something similar, bringing print copies of their books to conventions, talks they might give at libraries, local events, conferences, book signings etc. Some people like buying books directly from the author and getting a chance to interact with them.

What about the cost?

I chose to go through both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark for print-on-demand. {Print-on-demand means that when someone orders a paperback, they print it off then and there and ship it to them, rather than storing boxes of books in a warehouse waiting for orders.} I use Amazon KDP to distribute on Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute elsewhere (like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and Book Depository). I’ll talk more about the set-up process in a future post, but for now, let’s just talk about the cost.

Amazon KDP doesn’t charge a set-up fee or fee for making changes, which is awesome. Ingram Spark charges $49 to set up your title, with a $25 fee every time you want to make a change. But they seem to regularly offer promo codes for free set-up. I happened to set up my book using one of these codes, so my cost was zero.

The only cost I incurred was for an ISBN (unique book identifier)—you need a new one for each edition you publish—which cost me $29.50 from Bowker (based on buying a block of ten). ISBNs are actually free for our lucky neighbors in Canada, but Americans have to shell out money for them. You can, of course, opt to use the free one provided by Amazon KDP instead, but there are pros and cons with that approach, and, if you go down the Ingram Spark route, I don’t believe they offer free ISBNs.

So, although I didn’t really expect to sell any paperbacks, I was okay with spending $29.50 to be able to hold a print copy in my hands and send copies to my family.

Much to my surprise, I found that a number of people (as well as one library system) have been buying the paperback version, despite how much more they cost than the ebook. I guess there are still people out there who’d much rather hold a real book in their hands.

Want to know more?

Just Publishing Advice asks the question, Should I self-publish in paperback?

Small Blue Dog presents case studies from several authors about their experiences publishing in both ebook and print formats.

Alliance of Independent Authors podcast on whether indie authors can make money with print books.

Description of how the print-on-demand process at Ingram Spark works on The Creative Penn

Derek Murphy on why you should launch your ebook before you think about creating a print version.

If you’re interested in digging into detailed numbers, check out the 2016 US Trade Publishing report from the Data Guy at Author Earnings.

Molly Greene looks at whether it pays to do print books.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

What about you? Do you prefer ebooks or print books?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Pick up your own copy of this lighthearted and humorous cozy mystery (ebook and paperback) at:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Release of Murder at the Marina & Thank You

Murder at the Marina Cover Beach Scene (2) (800x600)

Whoo-hoo! I released my debut novel, Murder at the Marina, on June 21st. It was the start of summer here in the northern hemisphere which seemed like the ideal release day for a lighthearted, humorous cozy mystery, perfect for reading at the beach or by the pool.

Murder at the Marina is the first in my new Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mystery series about a reluctant sailor turned amateur sleuth. After Mollie’s husband, Scooter, presents her with a dilapidated sailboat for their wedding anniversary, she quickly learns more about boats, sailing, and murder than she would like. The series is set at a marina in a small town on the Florida coast populated with lots of quirky characters and where a surprising amount of people end up dead.

I wouldn’t be celebrating this incredible achievement without the help of so many friends and supporters. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way by the number of people who signed up to be part of my blog tour. In fact, there were so many people that it wasn’t just any old blog tour, it was a fiesta! Oodles of people raised their hands to read and review ARCs (advance reader copies) of Murder at the Marina on Goodreads and Amazon. Others shared details about the release on social media. And it was so gratifying to see all of the pre-orders that came in and the sales since then. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The feedback has been wonderful and inspired me to keep working away at the next two books I have planned in the series—Bodies in the Boatyard and Poisoned by the Pier. Of course, there are lots of other ideas churning away in my head, so there’s bound to be more installments after that.

If you’re curious what a day in the life of a book release looks like, check out this post on my other blog. The highlights included plenty of chocolate, some bubbles, and a bit of obsessive checking of sales and ranking stats.

Mollie McGhie Sailing Marketing Image

If you’d like to pick up your own copy (ebook and paperback), you can do so at your favorite online retailer:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

You can also add Murder at the Marina to your to-read list on Goodreads and subscribe to my newsletter here.

Finally, I’d love to see pictures of you reading Murder at the Marina and share them on social media. Feel free to email them to me at ellenjacobsonauthor (at) gmail (dot) com or tag me on Facebook.

Check out these cool shots from Lucy at The Larks of Independence reading Murder at the Marina on a beach in the Bahamas with her adorable dog and from Sara at Sailing Illusion reading over breakfast in El Salvador.

Thanks again to everyone for their support and encouragement!

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery KU Wide Graphic

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about working with a professional editor. Once I had my manuscript edited and finalized, the next task on my To Do List was deciding whether to distribute the ebook version (we’ll talk about paperbacks another day) exclusively on Amazon through their KDP Select program or go wide and sell through other online retailers such as Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

There’s a huge amount of debate about of exclusive vs. wide, but, to be honest, it wasn’t a hard decision for me. More on what I decided later and why, but first off, let’s go through what exactly it means to be exclusive or go wide and what some of the pros and cons are.

KDP Select & Kindle Unlimited

Established in 2014, Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon in certain countries. There are currently over one million titles available. For a flat fee (currently $9.99 a month in the States), users can borrow and read as many books as they want. For voracious readers, this can be real value for money.

When you publish on Amazon, you can opt to enroll in KDP Select and make your book available in Kindle Unlimited. It’s also added to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library where it can be borrowed by Amazon Prime members.

Each month, authors get a cut of the KDP Select Global Fund based upon the number of pages people read in their books. {For reference, in April 2018, the fund was US$21.2 million and the payout was US$0.0045 per page read.} Authors with the most page reads are also eligible for an All-Star bonus payment. Authors enrolled in KDP Select can also take advantage of promotional programs such as Kindle Countdown Deals.

It all sounds great, however, there is one big catch—you have to be exclusive to Amazon for a period of 90 days, which means that you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else. At the end of the 90 day period, you can opt to renew or remove your title from the program.

Going Wide

The other option is to not put all your eggs in one basket and “go wide” by distributing your books on other online sites, the big ones being Google Play, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Some Pros & Cons of Each Approach

KDP SELECT / KINDLE UNLIMITED

The Pros

1 – Amazon’s huge market share—Let’s face it, Amazon is enormous. It’s the biggest show in town. Enrolling in KDP Select and making your books available on Kindle Unlimited allows you to tap into a huge pool of potential readers.

2 – Better ranking and visibility—Amazon’s algorithms calculate book rankings based on both sales and page reads. You may have a better chance of ranking higher on Amazon if you’re in KDP Select, which in turn can increase your visibility.

3 – Promotional opportunities—Having a Countdown Deal or making your book free can be a great method for attracting new readers, increasing your rank on Amazon, and, if you have a series, hooking people into reading other books in the series. {Note: If you’re not in KDP Select, there are workarounds you can do with price-matching to get Amazon to make your book free.}

4 – Getting a 70% royalty on books priced less than $2.99—Many people price the first book in their series at 99 cents to draw readers in. If you’re not part of KDP Select, you’ll only get 35% royalty.

The Cons

1 – Getting kicked out—You’ll often hear horror stories about Amazon kicking authors out of Kindle Select, and in some cases off of Amazon altogether, for not abiding by the program terms and conditions. If your ebook is for sale elsewhere online, you’re in trouble. For many people, it isn’t something that they’ve deliberately done. They may have previously offered their book elsewhere and the listing didn’t get taken down or a pirated version may be out there. If you don’t get those listings taken down, you’re out. Amazon also tries to crack down on scammers who artificially inflate page reads. Unfortunately, some innocent authors have been getting caught in the cross-fire and kicked out.

2 – Losing potential income to scammers and cheats—While, on the whole, the indie author community is incredibly supportive of each other, there are some less than scrupulous people who are cheating the system. That means that they’re taking a share of the KDP Global Fund each month that they don’t really deserve. Essentially, they’re taking money out of your pocket.

3 – Cannibalizing sales—Because people can borrow your book, rather than buy it, you’re potentially losing out on sales. Hopefully, the borrows and page reads make up for it.

GOING WIDE

The Pros

1 – Multiple income streams—Because you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you have multiple income streams. If something goes wrong with one of them (maybe you’re kicked off of Amazon), then you haven’t lost everything. Granted, the income you receive from non-Amazon streams may be minuscule in comparison, but every little bit helps.

2 – Building readership in international and emerging markets around the world—As big as Amazon is, it hasn’t taken over everywhere. If you’re focused on the US and UK markets, Amazon is a great way to go, but for other markets, you may find readers more easily through other online retailers.

The Cons

1 – Missing out on promotional opportunities and potential readers—There’s a reason by Kindle Unlimited is popular with many authors. The potential benefits are huge and, by going wide, you’re missing out.

2 – Managing multiple retailers—If you’re only on Amazon, then you only have to deal with Amazon, which makes things easier. If you’re going to distribute your ebook on multiple retailers, then you increase the number of details that you have to manage (e.g.,  pricing, ebook format, sales reporting, book listings and descriptions), especially if you go direct rather than via a publishing aggregator, which we’ll talk about in a future post.

3 – Harder to gain traction—It can be hard to attract readers outside of Amazon. If you’re going to go wide, then you need to play a long game and realize that it may take time to get your ebook discovered.

My Choice: Going Wide

Like I said above, for me the decision was easy—I chose to go wide. There’s something about putting all my eggs in one basket that makes me uneasy. Plus, I’m unnerved by the fact that there’s one dominant player in the ebook market. I kind of like to think that I’m helping to shore up other online retailers, albeit in a incredibly small way, by making my book available on Kobo, Google Play, Apple iBooks, and Barne’s & Noble Nook. In addition, I know that there are people out there who refuse to shop on Amazon or prefer non-Kindle devices and I want to be able to reach them as well.

However, I’m very aware that this might be a bad decision on my part. Cozy mysteries are a very popular genre in Kindle Unlimited. There are lots of cozy readers out there who I may not reach because they do all their reading in Kindle Unlimited and are unlikely to fork out money to buy my book. I’m also missing out on promotional opportunities which could help hook people into future books in my series.

With hindsight, perhaps what I should have done was launched Murder at the Marina in Kindle Unlimited for a period of 90 days to attract readers and get a better Amazon ranking, then removed it and gone wide after that. Maybe that’s the approach that I’ll take with my next series.

Want to know more?

Derek Murphy talks about how he was kicked out of Kindle Unlimited and lost $50,000 overnight.

Reedsy takes you through the two options in their Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution.

David Gaughran talks about the different marketing systems each choice involves—the “KU Hare” who takes a big monthly blast approach vs. the “Wide Tortoise” who adopts a slow and steady drip approach. He also shares stories about what can go wrong on Amazon here, here, and here.

It’s interesting to look back at some indie authors’ thoughts on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited back when it was established including this post by Hugh Howey and this one by Lindsay Buroker.

If you like videos and podcasts, check out Michael La Ronn’s take on whether KDP Select Is Worth It? on Author Level Up, The SciFi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast’s interview with David Gaughran about the Marketing Wide vs. Kindle Unlimited debate, Chris Fox’s Launch to Market video series and why he enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, and the Alliance of Independent Authors’ session on the pros and cons of going wide vs. exclusive.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

What do you think of the Kindle Unlimited vs. Going Wide debate? Where do you buy ebooks?

Murder at the Marina Banner - Available Now

A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

Releasing on June 21stebook available for pre-order at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play

Paperback available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million

Add to your to-read list on Goodreads. Subscribe to my newsletter here.

Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Editing | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Publishing Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Last time I talked to you about my decision to self-publish, rather than go the traditional publishing route. While some people who self-publish choose not to use a professional editor, I felt it was an important part of the process for me and something I was willing to invest in. In this post, I’ll go over the different types of editing, what I did in terms of editing, and how it worked.

Types of Editing

I’m one of those people who likes to put people and things into nice, neat boxes. I even got paid to do that back when I worked in corporate la-la land. Not actual boxes—that would be weird, even for me. And cruel—unless you put air holes in the boxes. No, these were Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator boxes. {You can read more of my musings on MBTI and writing here.}

But I digress. One of the things I found a wee bit frustrating when I started researching what was involved in hiring a professional editor was that everyone was all over the place with the terminology they used for different types of editing. What one person meant by one term was completely different than how someone else used it. Where were the neat, orderly boxes that my soul craved?

Based on what I gleaned in my research and talking to people, this is how I’ve categorized the different types of editing.

EDITORIAL ASSESSMENT

This is what I like to think of as the “Help! I’m not sure I’m on the right track!” type of editing. Early on in the process, writers may choose to have an editorial assessment. Their editor provides them with a letter which identifies their manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as in-depth feedback about things such as plot, characterization, structure, style etc. As a result of this assessment, they may make extensive revisions to their manuscript.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING (aka substantive or structural editing)

When a writer is further along in the process and has probably churned through a few drafts, then developmental editing might be appropriate. Like an editorial assessment, this type of editing also focuses on big-picture issues. The editor will usually provide you with an editorial letter along with margin comments on your manuscript.

LINE EDITING (aka stylistic editing or paragraph-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “copy editing”)

Line editing is less intense than developmental editing and more intense than copy editing. The editor looks at each line in your manuscript in detail. For example, entire sentences may be rewritten or reordered, word choice may be addressed, and some sections may be consolidated while others are expanded. I’ve seen this type of editing described as “making your prose sing.”

COPY EDITING (aka sentence-level editing; term sometimes used interchangeably with “line editing”)

This level of editing is about providing a professional polish to your manuscript. Your editor will address things such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, repetitive vocabulary, usage, and consistency. He or she may do fact-checking. In my case, my editor pointed out that “Fruit Loops” are really “Froot Loops” and that it’s “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in Disneyland, not “Cinderella Castle.”

PROOFREADING

This is the final step before publication and involves one last pass to look for spelling, grammar, typos etc. that may have slipped through.

My Editing Process

Once I figured out what level of editing I wanted—namely, copy editing—I made my first mistake. I googled “copy editors” and was quickly overwhelmed. There were so many potential editors out there, all offering different types of services with dramatically different rates and processes. How was a confused writer supposed to choose the best way forward?

Well, in my case, after scarfing down a few soothing Oreo cookies, I turned to some of my trusted writing groups and buddies for advice and recommendations. I then made a shortlist of potential editors and contacted them to request details about their approach, rates, process, how many passes they did, and availability.

Chatting with them via email gave me an idea of their style and whether we might work well together, but the most important thing I did was to ask for a sample edit. I was amazed at the differences between the samples I got back. If an editor responded with an overly effusive email telling me what a great writer I was and that there were hardly any suggested edits on my sample, I crossed them off my list. An editor who didn’t try to flatter me, had extensive suggested edits and provided rationale/explanation for the suggestions made the cut. Cause, when you’re looking to publish something, having someone who makes you feel good is way down the priority list. Having someone who can help make your manuscript the best it can be is what’s important.

The other key thing I did was look at books that editors had worked on. If they looked polished and well-edited, then that was a good sign.

After I found someone who I thought was a good fit, whose rates I could afford, and who could work within my time frames, I hit the go button, sent him my manuscript, and forked over some money (half up front).

I also pointed out particular areas of concern I wanted him to keep an eye out for. For example, although I write in American English, having been an expat in Scotland and New Zealand for twelve years means British and Kiwi expressions sneak into my writing. And, I sent him a detailed timeline (because I write cozy mysteries, it’s really important to map out the murder, alibis etc. and make sure the timing is right) and a draft style sheet with character names, descriptions, locations etc.

My editor did two passes, each of which took two weeks. I thought this was a really good approach. It’s so much easier to catch things if you have two rounds of edits. The whole process took about seven weeks, which included time in-between each pass for my changes.

My Editor

My editor, Chris Brogden of EnglishGeek Editing, was awesome. He was easy to work with, delivered on time, and provided explanations behind his suggested changes. I really appreciated his keen eye and thoughtful edits. Most importantly, he respected my voice and style, making my words even better.

Chris handles the copy editing side of things, while his colleague, J.H. Moncreiff, focuses on developmental editing. I haven’t worked with J.H. in her editorial capacity, but I can tell you that she is an amazing writer.

If you touch base EnglishGeek Editing, be sure to tell them I said hi.

Want to know more?

Writer’s Digest talks about 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You, But Should.

Jane Friedman is always a great go-to place for writing resources, including this post on How to Find an Editor as a Self-Published Author.

Reedsy has helpful tips How to Work with a Fiction Editor, as well as an e-mail course on How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript Like a Pro

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a helpful guide to Editorial Rates. You can find more information about how much you should expect to pay over at The Write Life’s post on Looking for a Book Editor?

If you like videos, check out Chris Fox’s How to Edit Your Novel series, How to Find and Work with a Professional Editor on The Creative Penn, and Jenna Moreci’s Different Types of Editors and How to Choose an Editor {Note: Jenna uses strong language at times, these may be NSFW.}

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

What are your experiences with editing?

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A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

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Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

Going Indie | Cozy Mystery Publishing Process

Cozy Mystery Indie Graphic
Image via The Graphics Fairy

This post is part of my series on “Publishing a Cozy Mystery.” This series isn’t meant to tell you how you have to go about it and dictate what’s right or wrong. Instead, I’m sharing my personal journey from writing my initial draft to seeing my first book, Murder at the Marina, be released. I’ll talk about the good, bad, and the ugly. And trust me, there was plenty of ugly along the way.

Previously, I’ve talked to you about cover design, how long it took to get from Draft #1 to a final manuscript, and beta reading.

Today, it’s all about deciding whether to go down the traditional publishing route or try your hand at self-publishing (aka indie publishing). Let’s talk about what the differences between the two approaches are, the pros/cons of each, and why I chose to go indie.

What’s the Difference?

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

This is the process most people think of when they pick up a book in a store or purchase an ebook online. Once you have a completed, polished manuscript, you query agents, hoping to get representation. This is often a long, painful, and arduous process, littered with many rejections and can take ages before someone says, “Hey, let’s work together.”

Assuming you land an agent, you’ll probably end up doing more edits to your manuscript. Then your agent shops your manuscript around and hopefully you sign a contract. This step can also take ages. Then you do more edits and finally (maybe 2-3 years after you sent our your first query), you see your book in print.

SELF-PUBLISHING

This term makes many people think of vanity presses, and they’re definitely still out there. But nowadays, this is a legitimate and viable approach. Basically you’re responsible for developing your product (your book) and project managing its production (e.g., you have to hire and manage your support team such as book cover designer, editor, formatter), as well as doing some tasks a publisher would do yourself.

OTHER APPROACHES

Although we’re talking about traditional vs. self-publishing, it’s not actually as simple as that. It’s more of a continuum, with many publishing paths available in between. For example, some authors choose to pay an up-front fee to a company who will take care of the nitty-gritty of publishing their book, others may manage the process themselves, but use a service to distribute their book to online and bricks and mortar sales channels. There are also smaller publishers who accept submissions directly from authors, rather than via an agent.

Pros & Cons of Each Approach

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

The Pros

For me, one of the biggest pros of going down the traditional publishing route is validation. Like many writers, I have my moments of insecurity (usually cured by a generous helping of chocolate) worrying that my cozy mystery is absolute rubbish. Everyone is going to hate it, I’m going to get horrible reviews, no one will buy it etc. These are the types of things that go through my head.

But if you land an agent and a publishing deal, then other people are saying, “Hey, this is awesome! Let’s give you some money for it!” That kind of validation has got to be a great feeling. And readers are probably more likely to take a chance on your books.

Another huge pro is not having to manage the publishing process. Your publisher will provide a team of experts who will take care of formatting, cover design, editing, pricing, distribution etc. A publisher can also help get your books into brick and mortar stores, something which isn’t quite as easy as an indie.

The final pro comes down to money. The publisher typically pays you an advance and covers all of the publishing expenses. It’s not cheap to publish a book, so this is a definite plus for folks who don’t want to or can’t invest their own money.

The Cons

Many of the cons of traditional publishing center on things you give up. You lose creative control of your work. You may have to make changes to the manuscript that don’t fit with your vision and you may not have input on cover design, book title, marketing approach, pricing, distribution etc.). You also give away some of your rights. You’re basically “selling” your product to a publisher. They own it and can do with it what they want. Want to make an audiobook version? Want to publish it in another language? Want to distribute to overseas markets? Those may be things you don’t have the rights to do.

There’s also the loss of potential income. Royalty rates are significantly higher if you self-publish. But, on the flip side, you may not sell as many books if you go indie, so it may just be theoretical earnings.

And one of the things that some people don’t realize is that although a publisher will take care of many things for you, marketing support is often very limited for new authors these days. That means, if you want to sell books, you’re going to have to get out there yourself and promote your books and your brand all on your lonesome.

SELF-PUBLISHING

The Pros

The pros of self-publishing are pretty much the inverse of the cons of traditional publishing. There’s a faster time to market, you retain creative control, the royalty rates are higher, and you retain your rights.

The Cons

If you’re going to self-publish, you have to wear two hats—you’re a writer and a business person. With traditional publishing, someone else manages the business side of things (for the most part), but with self-publishing you have to make all of the decisions, you have to invest your own money, and you have to project manage the entire publication process, assembling a team of experts and overseeing their work. Depending upon your own comfort level, you may even do certain tasks yourself, rather than outsource them.

No one is telling you that your manuscript is good. There’s no agent or publisher providing support and encouragement. It’s up to you so to say, “This is good enough to put out there for the world to see,” and then make that happen. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

My Choice: Going Indie

There are three major reasons why I decided to go indie:

1 – It would take way too long to get a book published traditionally.

I’m not a very patient person. I always assume a diet will work instantaneously and am surprised when I don’t drop five pounds in a week, hate waiting for the next book in a beloved series to be published, and struggle waiting for the timer to go off before I take a batch of cookies out of the oven.

Waiting a few years to (hopefully) land an agent and see my book finally published really wasn’t on the cards for me.

2 – It’s not easy to land a cozy mystery publishing deal if you’re a newbie.

When I first started looking into which publishing route was right for me, many established authors were losing their contracts with well-known publishers in the cozy mystery genre (like Kensington). If established authors were struggling, what chance did I have of landing an agent, let alone get a publishing deal?

Since then, many of these authors have found new homes (such as Crooked Lane Books). {For some interesting insights into what’s going on in the cozy market, check out this Trend Report.}

3 – I don’t mind DIY and project management.

I’m one of those weird people who likes spreadsheets, project plans, and to-do lists. I also love learning about new things and trying my hand at some of the creative aspects of publishing (like cover design and marketing materials). That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a huge learning curve, things haven’t always gone to plan, and stuff has taken far longer than I thought. But, for the most part, I’ve been enjoying it and things should be simpler the second time around.

Want to know more?

There are tons of resources on traditional vs. self-publishing out there, but here are a few links to get you started:

Reedsy’s article, Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing: Which One is Right for You?, looks at the pros and cons of each approach and has a quiz to help you decide.

Janice Hardy has tons of blog posts on a wide range of self-publishing topics.

Jane Friedman has an excellent infographic which lays out five book publishing paths—traditional, partnership, fully assisted, DIY + distributor, and DIY direct.

Ros Barber has a thought provoking article in The Guardian about why she would never consider self-publishing.

Patty Jansen, an Australian scifi/fantasy indie author, blogs about self-publishing, including posts about her income.

Elizabeth Spann Craig is a cozy mystery author who has been on both sides of the fence. She has some great insights into the pros and cons of traditional vs. self-publishing.

If you like vlogs, Jenna Moreci talks about the costs of self-publishing (warning—she uses strong language at times) and Kim Chance discusses the costs of traditional publishing.

Many members of the 20Booksto50K Facebook group share their self-publishing success stories and offer tips and tricks. (Note: you have to be a member in order to see the discussion.)

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a self-publishing advice center.

Other posts in my “Publishing a Cozy Mystery” series:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

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A dilapidated sailboat for your anniversary—not very romantic. A dead body on board—even worse.

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