A Writer Helps Another…For What It’s Worth…

 As is sometimes the case, aspiring authors occasionally ask me for advice. (!) I know! Last week, I received an inquiry regarding self-publishing using BookBaby. I might not have all the answers, and I certainly won’t have all the right answers, but it’s important to me to pass on information. There’s no such thing as too much info! This also gives me a chance to introduce to you another writer. All stories desire one thing, and that is to be heard.

The Aspiring Author
Obaid Chowdhury’s A Soldier’s Debt is about a 75,000-word memoir retelling his rebellion against his own military, one which committed a genocide against his native Bengali community. Mr. Chowdhury later escaped to participate in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Mr. Chowdhury is currently penning a sequel, one which details specific battle actions that earned him a prestigious gallantry award.
See the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=14&v=c6WbV-Azwi8

And now, for the questions:
Obaid Chowdhury: The Cover. Should it be soft or hard? Do I need a dust cover; is it necessary? Which is the most cost effective? I have a tentative cover design. But I would like to consult another designer if he can come up with a better and attractive one to depict the story theme.
JH: Cover is key. Check out Joel Frielander’s web site and study it. Each month, he critiques book covers with a fine eye. Pay attention to what he says about art work and font types and sizes. Look for books that are similar to yours and the design. (I did not design my first cover although I had input, but I helped with the second.) You want to tell a story with your cover, or at least convey a theme or define a genre. You want the reader to pick it up if they are in a bookstore, or linger if they are shopping online. Cover designers are everywhere, and most will design a cover for very little money. We have an art college here with a bulletin board and design students will fight for the job. You shouldn’t have to pay more than a couple hundred dollars. Soft covers are best on a budget, unless you have a book publisher for a best friend.


OB: Formating and Design. Should I use their in-house services or use an outside professional? Any idea which will be cost effective and better?


JH: Book Baby has a minimum formatting guide and you need to follow it, otherwise when you submit, your manuscript will look wonky. I didn’t know about manuscript formatting when I wrote my first book. I just kept writing it using my own formatting. WRONG. This is not to say that you will be stuck rewriting. Seat-of-pants formatting can be fixed, but it’s time consuming and a colossal pain in the rear. Book Babywill only allow one formatting change before it begins to cost you money, so you want to make sure your manuscript is as near perfect as you can before you upload.

OC: Size. Is 6″ X 9″ trade size okay for my project? Do you have any better suggestion?

JH: Sounds right to me.

OC: Paper. What’s best cost effective and quality paper? Is 60lb natural okay, or need a different on to give a better presentation?

JH: No matter who you choose, whether it’s a local book publisher or someone online, don’t be afraid to ask for samples. I published my second book on CreateSpace, but nearly didn’t because I had purchased a CreateSpace book many years before and the physical appearance was sub-par. When I considered them later, I asked for a sample and they provided one. They really improved – the cover stock, the interior pages, the printing, which is why I went with them. I have no idea what BookBaby’s physical books look like, you might want to ask for a sample.

Interior:  The text will be black. I may have some pictures, maps and charts. They are mostly black-n-white. Any suggestion about their design and/or coloring?

JH: Keep in mind that photographs, maps, and charts will cost money. They also interfere with the formatting of text. Should you decide that photos, maps, and charts are necessary, make certain you have legal rights to use them in your book. If you did not take the photos, you may have to hunt down who did, and ask for permission to use them. As always, credit the photos in the front of your book.

Editing. My project has been edited by Editoro! Do I still need their in-house editing?

JH: No. Definitely not, you are not required to use any editor. Remember though, you need to send a pristine manuscript to vendors like BookBaby or CreateSpace – they are assuming it’s perfect and are not going to make corrections on a glaring error. Much as I love Mr. ED (disclaimer: he is also my developmental editor) and he is kick ass, I would still run the manuscript by a proofreader, a critique partner who is good at proofreading, or something similar. Do it a couple of times. A dozen times. Your developmental editor will not pick up on typos (YOU will not pick up on typos), misspellings, or weird grammar. I’m terrible at proofreading my own work, and I see where there are mistakes in my first novel. With the second, I went over that (with others) over a dozen times. Get SmartEdit. I did, and run my work through it religiously. It doesn’t proofread, but it reviews your manuscript and adds up how many times you might use a particular word or phrase (redundancy – the bane of the writer). I try to limit my use of a particular word to less than 100 times in a 100K novel (my own personal goal). Smart Edit will question spellings, punctuation and other word problems. I also use it to tighten up my sentences, therefore eliminating a lot of unnecessary words.

OC: Promo & Marketing. How effective is their promo and marketing campaigns? Do the generate sales?

JH: I’m afraid the only entity that will generate sales is YOU. I do not rely on anyone for promo. I tried it, it just doesn’t work. You should follow Frances Caballo  – she is a whiz at social media for authors. I have to say I can barely follow most of her techniques, but you will learn a lot by reading her. Also, before you launch, set up a Goodreads page for yourself (and an Amazon page – I haven’t done that yet, but who has time?).

BookBaby and Smashwords. Which agency you think better? The problems you mentioned, were they with BB or SW?

JH: I haven’t used Smashwords. I attempted to, but it gave me a headache. 🙂 I’ve heard that it’s now easier so I may give them a spin again. I’ve found BookBaby to be extremely responsive to my questions. Actually, so is CreateSpace. You call them, they call you back. Maybe I’ll give the Smashwords manual another go someday, but I don’t have time, and I’m also not very internet/design savvy.

You can follow Obaid Chowdhury HERE.


Posted in books, DIY, editing, indie publishing, manners, Monday Blogs, querying, reading, rewriting, Self publishing, Uncategorized, writing Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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