Author Solutions, authors, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Author Solutions titles honored as Kirkus Best Indie Books of 2014

KirkusReview-BlogImage

Once again, this year a number of books published through Author Solutions imprints received recognition from Kirkus Reviews as the best books of 2014 on their Indie list. Those titled honored were:

  • “Stein House” by Myra Hargrave McIlvain (iUniverse)
  • “Tales of a Country Doctor” by Paul Carter (Xlibris)
  • “Whirlwind & Storm” by Charles E. Farnsworth (iUniverse)
  • “An Adirondack Life” by Brian M. Freed (AuthorHouse)
  • “ A Century on New Brunswick’s N.W. Mmichiira” (Xlibris)
  • “Playing Until Dark” by John R. Alberts (AuthorHouse)

Each book has been awarded with the Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, which is arguably one of the most trusted and respected sources for book discovery since 1933. The Kirkus’ Indie program began in 2005, when the editors wanted to expand their coverage to include the fastest-growing segment in the book industry—self-publishing. The program gives self-published authors the opportunity to earn critical acclaim from one of the most prestigious reviews in publishing.

 

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Treat Your Book Like a Start-up: How Beta-Readers Can Help You Launch Your Book Successfully

BookCountry-logoLucy Silag, community and engagement manager at Book Country, has written a very helpful whitepaper outlining the benefits of including beta-readers in your writing process. Book Country is an online writing and publishing community that is a division of Penguin Random House. Lucy is a graduate of the fiction program at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is also the author of the Beautiful Americans novels for young adults (Penguin/Razorbill) and has written nonfiction for magazines and blogs. What follows is an excerpt from her whitepaper, which you can obtain when you register on the Book Country site.

 What Is a “Beta-Reader”?

The idea of a “beta-reader” comes from the parlance of start-up companies. Before a company launches a new website, they will ask web-savvy “beta-users” to use their site and give feedback on it. The company then has a chance to improve their site before they make it widely available to the public, which helps them to make a better product and avoid bad publicity.

A “beta-reader,” then, is someone who reads your book and gives you feedback on it before you begin the publishing process. This helps you to see how readers would react to your book if you tried to sell your current version to them.

How do beta-readers help writers?

Beta-readers help writers to figure out which parts of their books are working and which parts need to be revised. Often, writers can’t see what’s not working in a manuscript unless someone points it out to them.  Additionally, a beta-reader can make suggestions for how to improve your book’s cover, marketing copy, and even your author bio.

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Get a copy of this helpful whitepaper at BookCountry.com

Who Is the Right Beta-Reader for You?

Here are a few things to look for in your ideal beta-readers:

  • Do they read a lot of books, especially contemporary books? Are they aware of current publishing trends and bestselling writers?
  • Are they well-read in the genre that you are writing in? For example, if you are writing romance, you’ll want a beta-reader who has read many romance novels. They’ll be able to tell you how your book measures up against other writers of the genre.
  • Do they write too? A writer will be able to analyze your book in a way that goes beyond what the average reader will offer in terms of feedback. A beta-reader who is also a writer can tell you not just where you have made typos or copyediting mistakes but can also offer suggestions for how to improve voice, character development, plot, setting, and pacing.

Finding Beta-Readers through Online Workshopping

Online workshopping has become a convenient, low-risk, and free way for writers to get feedback on their work. Often called “online writing communities,” these sites are like social networks for writers and no-commitment writing classes all in one. Simply join the online writing community and exchange feedback with writers from the comfort of your own home.

What should you look for in an online writing community?

  • The community should have a fair system for making sure that members are actually reviewing one another, rather than just posting their own books for review.
  • Make sure the community has writers in your genre.
  • Writers reviewing manuscripts in a community should be exchanging detailed, honest feedback, and offering suggestions on how to make your book better.
  • You should be able to post new drafts of your book and archive previous versions of the manuscript so that you can access them as you revise.
  • The community should have credible ties to the publishing industry, so that you can trust the opinions and advice of the site’s content.
  • The community should be open to traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • The community should be focused on helping one another.

What Kind of Feedback Makes Your Book Better?

A writer needs honest, detailed feedback about these writing issues:

  • plot
  • setting
  • character development
  • voice
  • continuity
  • setting
  • point of view
  • pacing
  • dialogue
  • clarity in specific lines or passages of the prose

Since so much of finding an audience and selling a book is about how a book is positioned in the marketplace, it’s also important to get feedback about how your book compares to other books in its genre, and whether the way it’s presented (for example, the book’s cover and title) makes sense to a reader. A writer should get feedback on his or her synopsis too.

Workshopping your book with beta-readers can be the difference between a great idea and a great book. Follow the example of successful start-up companies, and find beta-readers to help you launch your book successfully.

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson, writing

Writing your second book: Westbow Press Mark Eckel shares how he got to the goal.

A few months ago, I interviewed Mark Eckel after he published his first book, I Just Need Time to Think. That manuscript was a compilation of posts Mark has written for his Warp and Woof  blog. I was interested in offering insights from him because I speak to a number of bloggers, but few actually get to the goal of publishing a book. I thought it would be helpful to share what Mark had done and learned from his experience to help others who want to turn their blog into a book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Mark Eckel shares his insights after publishing his second book.

Now Mark has released another book, When the Lights Go Down. Once again, he has done something few authors accomplish. He has published a second book. So I thought it would be helpful to learn what he did to reach the goal of publishing another book and hear what advice he would give to aspiring authors. What follows are answers to questions I posed to Mark about his experience as an author so far. I think you will find his comments to be very helpful.

This is the second book you have self-published recently. What prompted you to write a this book?

I love movies, so I wrote a book! J For over 30 years I have been watching, discussing, and interpreting movies with my students. The book is full of stories from these encounters. But there is another reason: I have a large backlog of writing which needs the organization a book can provide. If one has a large amount of written material, writing a book becomes much easier.

What did you learn from writing you first book that helped you when you wrote your second book?

Cover design: Instead of choosing a photo for the cover as I did for the first book I let Westbow’s design group create the book’s appearance. Everyone remarks about how good the cover looks.

Editing: I had the Westbow editors do the edits for the first book and was so impressed I used them again this time. Even with the costs involved the book looks so much better ‘punched up’ by a good set of eyes who know the market.

Organization: Many people had commented about how much they liked my layout of short essays for the first book. I used the same approach for the second book with similar responses.

What did you learn about marketing your first book that you are using as you market your second book?

Professors. I sent a galley copy to a colleague who immediately adopted it for a class. I am using the same approach this time.

Students. Often the people I teach will want a copy of the book.

Conferences. When I speak to large audiences, the emcee is grateful to be able to hold up a copy of a book I have written.

Reviewers. I asked a good number of people to write reviews for the first book. In the second book I asked 16 people to contribute interviews which provides a built-in promotional-audience.

Foreword. I desire to have high-profile leaders create publicity for the book. The first book foreword was written by a college president, the second by a famous film festival founder. In both cases, all I had to do was ask.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found as a published author?

I never cease to be amazed at the response people have to holding a book with my name on it. There is an immediate attitude of respect folks give authors. My response is always the same: humble gratitude. I am grateful for the opportunity to write and the humbled by the possibility that the writing could benefit others for good.

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Author Solutions, authors, Editing, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

When six words are enough to tell a good story.

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

Book lovers peruse new titles at the Author Solutions gallery at the Miami Book Fair

One of my favorite events of the year is always the Miami Book Fair, which is held the week before Thanksgiving. It is one of the premier venues where authors and book lovers gather to meet, mingle and discover new books.  Along with the usual schedule of activities and outstanding street fair, this year included an interesting community event called #6wordsmiami. The premise was really simple.  People submit a six-word Miami-influenced story and the Fair published the best from among the 4,000+ entries.

Six words does not sound like a lot, but as the list below shows, a writer can express significant meaning in a mere half-dozen words.  Here are some of my favorites.

  • You: Category 5 hurricane. Me: shutters
  • Tie that mattress down good, bro
  • Without Castro, there is no me
  • T’was a dark and stormy party
  • Liquor smell. Like home. Like Dad.
  • He came. He saw. Date over.

Now why is something like #6wordsmiami helpful for writers to know about? Three reasons immediately come to mind.

  1. Sometimes you can say more by actually saying less.
  2. The right words, even if only a few, can create a powerful image that engages all the senses
  3. It is a reminder of  how important it is for writers to choose their words carefully

So as you write and rewrite and rewrite again, ask your self these two questions.

  1. Could I say what I just said with fewer words?
  2. Could I use a different word or sentence structure to create a more powerful image for the reader?
Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Story time at the Miami Book Fair in the Author Solutions book gallery

Chances are if you take an honest appraisal of your work, you will find places where you can improve it by simply remembering to use fewer words or using an even better word than the one you have chosen so far.

Remember no one buys a book based on the number of words or page count. They buy it because it is good writing that impacts them.

 

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

kathyideOne of the things I enjoy most about my current role is the opportunity to meet and interact with some amazingly creative and professional people. A few weeks ago when I gave the key note address at the West Coast Writers Conference Indie Author Conference, I had the opportunity to meet Kathy Ide.  Kathy is a published author/ghostwriter, editor/mentor, and writers’ conference speaker.  Her latest book is Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors is a must read for every aspiring authorShe is also the founder and coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network (www.TheChristianPEN.com) and the Christian Editor Connection (www.ChristianEditor.com).  

I asked her to share some of her wisdom and experience with my readers through a blog post. Her post is what follows and I think you will find it to be very helpful.

 

LET’S EAT GRANDMA: The Importance of Proofreading

Have you seen the plaques and T-shirts that say:

Let’s Eat Grandma.

Let’s Eat, Grandma.

                        Commas Save Lives.

I love that! It shows how one tiny bit of punctuation can change the entire meaning and tone of a sentence.

You may think that as long as you’ve got life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript, or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript, that should be enough. And yes, content and story are extremely important. But no matter how good those things are, you’ll be running some pretty big risks if you don’t bother proofreading your manuscript carefully for typos, inaccuracies, and inconsistencies … and learning the industry-standard rules regarding punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling.

OK, you won’t be putting your grandmother’s life on the line or joining a tribe of cannibals. But tiny mistakes in your writing can have disastrous consequences. Here are my top ten:

 

  1. Mechanical errors can decrease your chance of acceptance by a traditional publisher.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause miscommunication.
  1. Mechanical errors can cause confusion.
  1. Mechanical errors can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.
  1. Mechanical errors can be embarrassing.
  1. Mechanical errors may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.
  1. Mechanical errors can affect the sales of your book.
  1. Mechanical errors could cost you money.
  1. Mechanical errors can be distracting
  2. Mechanical errors can give you a poor reputation.

 

Professionalism Is Key

Proofreading Secrets_FrontCoverIf you’re writing just for family and friends, it may not matter so much whether every comma is in exactly the right place or if you have a few typos here and there. But if you want to get your book published in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you need every edge you can get. If you expect people to buy what you write, you need to take the time to do it right.

If you have a hard time finding typos, inconsistencies, and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. If you go to http://www.ChristianEditor.com and fill out the form for Authors Seeking Editors, you’ll be connected with established, professional editors who can make your manuscript shine.

A comma may not save Grandma’s life. But a careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

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Author Solutions, AuthorHouse, authors, self publishing

22 authors collaborate to write book on how serving through AmeriCorps changes lives

ServeOne of the great things about the indie revolution is books that might not be of interest to traditional publishers can still find their way into the hands of readers and make an impact. Take for example the book, Serve, Reflect, Repeat. Full disclosure: This book was compiled by my oldest daughter who has served in AmeriCorps, but I did not think family connection was reason to disqualify this story from my blog.

I say that because I think this volume is an excellent example of another way a book can come to be. In this case, she did not write the manuscript herself, but instead engaged a network of people to submit chapters detailing their experiences. I believe you will find the book inspirational, but I also think you will find the answers to the questions I posed to her helpful as well.

What inspired you to write your book? AmeriCorps was such an important and transformational time in my life. I know other alumni felt the same way so I thought a collaborative book would showcase the power of national service as well as be an introduction to AmeriCorps for individuals considering pursuing national service as a path.

What was the most challenging thing about compiling stories from different writers? There were two chief challenges. The first was finding willing authors. This was a very grassroots effort; so I reached out to interested parties through social media outlets. While there was a lot of positive response, it took a concerted effort to actually get individuals to turn in a chapter. The second challenge was choosing what stories would be included in the book. There are so many amazing stories and it was difficult to narrow down the selections.

“The feeling of completing your book project is indescribable.”

What was most surprising to you as you went through the publishing process? Editing is tremendously challenging and takes significant effort and time, especially with a project like this. It was a very diverse group of writers from different regions, and with varying education levels, and backgrounds. It was important to create a cohesive voice while remaining authentic to each individual writing style.

What advice would you give to first time authors? Stick with it. The feeling of completing your book project is indescribable. This process was challenging for me, and significantly more time intensive than I initially anticipated, but it was worth it. During the writing, compiling and editing process I was also a full-time student and part-time employee. There were always excuses that I could have used to prevent me from working on the book. However, I set a deadline and was committed and see it through. I was purposeful in blocking out time to complete this project and I am confident others can as well.

What do you hope readers take away from this book? National service has the power to transform individuals, schools, neighborhoods, communities, regions, states, and the nation and we all have the capacity to serve and the responsibility as citizens to find the best way to help improve society. Everyone has something to offer to the world,

How did you settle on the title of your book? Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the title. One of the other authors, Nicole Vera, suggested it. All of the authors voted on potential titles, but this one was the winner because it is so accurately describes what service should entail. We should serve, reflect on our time–what we can do differently, how we can improve, and what we should be proud of–and then we should repeat. This should be the cycle throughout our lives.

“I was purposeful in blocking out time to complete this project and I am confident others can as well.”

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Author Solutions, authors, book marketing, book selling, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

My 2nd most popular post: The 7 key elements of a great book cover

One of the great things about analytics on a blog is they tell you what people are reading most and what search terms they use to find your blog.  My post popular blog post by far is The 5 Essential Elements of Every Good Story. However, the second most popular post is the one I am reposting below, The 7 key elements of a great book cover. Hopefully you will find this helpful and you don’t even have to search for it.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

Along with an eye-catching design, this cover employs a great subhead to help the reader know the benefit of reading this book.

The 7 key elements of a great book cover

Do first impressions matter? Of course, they do. For your book, your cover will make the first impression on readers. It is your three-second introduction to the reading public. When readers are browsing the bookstore shelf or the internet,  your book cover needs to grab their attention, but also make a promise as to what readers will find on the pages inside.  So here are seven elements of cover design you should  give thought and attention to as you get ready to publish.

  1. Your title. Place yourself in the reader’s shoes when making your final decision for your book’s title. Will your title make sense to the reader? Is it easy to remember? When choosing your title make sure it conveys your message and fits the design you have in mind. As a writer, try not to get too caught up in creating a clever title, when a straightforward title will do. Creativity can sometimes interfere with clarity.
  2. The subtitle. If needed, elaborate on your book’s subject with a subtitle. A good subtitle provides additional information through a descriptive line which compliments your title. Include any searchable keywords that are not in your title  in your subtitle if appropriate.
  3. Cover design and layout. Your title should be legible at a glance and you should avoid small or faint text as well as busy backgrounds. Select a font or two for your text, staying away from decorative fonts that are hard to read. Choose a strong image that helps people remember your book and integrates with your title. A single image usually impacts more than multiple images. Remember your image should not overwhelm your title, so beware of overpowering your words with pictures. Above all, make sure all text is easy to read.
  4. Back cover or panel copy. This should be a short summary of your book that gives readers a preview or teaser for what to expect when they read it. It should not be about why your wrote the book or a table of contents. It should work like an ad to draw in potential readers.
  5. In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    In this soon-to-be released book, the cover draws the reader in and hints as to the story of the book.

    Endorsements and reviews. Endorsements and reviews help add to the credibility of your book. So if you have endorsements from influential people or reviews, think about including them on your back cover or jacket flap if you have a hard cover edition. If you have an endorsement from a well-known personality you may want to consider putting a mention on your front cover.

  6. The spine. Make it simple, easy to read, and viewable sideways. In most cases, you do not want to include your subtitle due to space limitations.
  7. Your author bio. Briefly state who you are and your most recent accomplishments. Try to keep your author description around three sentences and establish your credentials if you are writing a non-fiction book and your personality if you are writing a fiction book. Readers love to know things about the author. It helps them connect with the book in a different way. Use your author bio to help readers feel like they know something about you.

You have likely spent months and maybe even years working on your manuscript. Make sure you take the time to give your cover the attention it deserves. After all it is the first impression most readers will have of your book.

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