Sunday, August 18, 2013

My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 1 – Kindle Direct Publishing


If anyone were to ask me if they should self-publish a book, I would answer with a resounding yes.  Although it was a long process, it has been very rewarding for me. 

I am an avid reader and the kindle app was my best friend.  While experimenting with all the options kindle offered readers, I stumbled upon Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP.  After reading about it, I decided to return to writing in a more serious way.  I have been writing since college but I hadn’t given it much attention in the past few years. 

I had two books, the first two of my Holton series, and a novella already written.  So I brought them out, dusted them off, and went to work.  I had to update all of them.  It is amazing how fast a book becomes dated in our fast-paced technical world.   I really wanted to publish the two Holton books but I wasn’t sure about the process so I decided to publish the novella first as sort of a trial run.  

It was really a simple decision.  I love reading kindle books and thought this would be a great platform for my books.  I knew that I would have a really hard time going the traditional publishing route so I thought this would be perfect for me.  And it was.  It was actually fairly easy.  Maybe too easy?  It was a lot of work but I was able to do it without actually speaking with or emailing anyone.  I did read a couple of books but that was it.  Looking back on it now, I realize I did so many things wrong but at the time, I just plowed right through. 

The two books that helped me the most were Building Your Book for Kindle and Publish on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing both by Kindle Direct Publishing and both free.  Building Your Book for Kindle walks you through the steps of getting your book in the correct format and what needs to be included as well as uploading and publishing it to Amazon.  Publish on Amazon with Kindle Direct Publishing does some of that but also talks about royalties, sales, reporting, and Amazon lending.  I would recommend both.

I also purchased a couple of books from other authors who wrote about how to self-publish on kindle and make money.  They really didn’t tell me much that the two free ones didn’t; although, one of them did have a list of Twitter and Facebook sites that would help with the promotion and advertising of your book.  That was very helpful.

The hardest part for me was creating a cover for my books.  If you can afford to hire someone to create your cover, I would recommend doing so.  This was the part that gave me the most trouble.  I did create the covers myself and I think they are okay but for the next series of books that I write, I intend to get a professional.  There are some inexpensive options available but I didn’t know about them at the time.  I used PowerPoint and created a slide with public domain clipart.  I have four books planned for the Holton series and have all the covers created.  I think they work but may someday get them redesigned by a professional.

The biggest issue with the covers for me was the sizing.  I had a hard time getting the cover to meet the requirements of KDP.  This was mostly because I am not very familiar with jpgs and tiffs.  I do a lot with PowerPoint and felt very comfortable creating the slide I used as the cover and saving it as a jpg was easy enough but getting the dimensions correct was a bugger.

Once the novella was uploaded, I expanded and flushed out the first Holton book, Convince Me, and then had to decide how to promote it (future blog) and how soon to publish the second.  Most of the information that I had read stated that publishing more than one book was the way to go as it would boost sales.  If someone liked one of your books, they would be more likely to purchase another one.  Because of this, I did upload the second Holton book before I started on promotion.

If you have any questions about the process of self-publishing on KDP, you are welcome to contact me.  Just go to the contact page on my website, http://www.blblair.com/Contact.html and fill out the form.  I will do my best to answer your questions.  Next week, I will discuss how I also worked with an Amazon company, CreateSpace, to create a paperback copy of my books to sell.

Future Blogs:
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 2 – CreateSpace
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 3 – Promotion and Advertising
My Journey with Self-Publishing, Part 4 – Smashwords

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Elizabeth Peters' Vicky Bliss

When I heard about Elizabeth Peters passing earlier this week, I was reminded about how fast things change.  I was introduced to her work about 20 years ago and have several of her novels in paperback.  But just a few days before her death, I was able to get one of the books I had been wanting on my kindle.  Obviously to me, her books stand the test of time.

Elizabeth Peters, also known as Barbara Michaels, is best known for her Amelia Peabody series.  I read a few of those and enjoyed them but I absolutely love the Vicky Bliss Mystery novels.  Vicky is an art historian who works at the National Museum in Munich.  Her love interest in most of the books is John Smythe who is a thief.  He has a strong sense of self-preservation and even stronger fear of pain but he often ends up sacrificing himself to save Vicky.  The relationship between these two characters is what I like best about this series.  They are both sarcastic but charming.  I really enjoy their verbal exchanges.

Book 1 is Borrower of the Night.  This book introduces us to Vicky who is working at a small midwestern college.  She goes to Germany to discover a religious shrine that has been missing for hundreds of years.  Here she meets one of the characters that will play a major role in the future stories.  This is my least favorite of the series mostly because John Smythe is not in it but it is a good introduction to the series and it also sets the stage for the other novels.

Book 2 is Street of the Five Moons.  In this book, Vicky heads to Italy to find the person who created a replica of a famous piece of jewelry.   Here she meets John.  She also acquires Caesar, a overly affectionate doberman.  This was a good mystery.

Book 3 is Silhouette in Scarlet.  Vicky hasn't seen John in over a year but she receives a package with a plane ticket for Stockholm.  Her curiosity got the better of her and she heads to Sweden.  Here she meets a sweet old man who thinks Vicky is a distant relative of his.  Vicky realizes John had involved her in another risky scheme of his.  This book ends with John "dying" as he sacrifices himself to save Vicky.

Book 4 is Trojan Gold.  Vicky receives a bloodstained envelope and a photograph.  This leads her to search for gold that disappeared at the end of World War II.  Vicky places an ad in papers all over Europe to see if John will respond.  He does.  This is probably my second favorite book in the series.  At the end of the book, Vicky forces John to confess his love.  It is a fun scene.

Book 5 is Night Train to Memphis.  Vicky is lured onto a cruise as a guest speaker.  John appears newly married.  In her jealousy and anger, Vicky vows to discover and stop the thief of antiquities she knows John and his friends are plotting to steal.  John, of course, is trying to protect her.  This is my favorite book of the series.  You learn how much John is willing to do to protect Vicky.  There is also a very sweet scene where Vicky confesses her love for John.

Book 6 is The Laughter of Dead Kings.  This is the final book in the series and is was written about 35 years after the first book.  Times have changed.  Ms. Peters includes a forward that addresses the problem of having a series written over a number of years but is set in real time.  Basically, the reader just has to go with it.  John and Vicky are together and once again, get involved in a mystery.  A priceless Egyptian mummy has been stolen!  This is another good mystery.

If you like mysteries with a touch of romance, this is a great series.  Ms. Peters is an excellent writer.  She will be missed.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blogging

This is my first attempt at blogging.  I recently published by first two books and everything I have read has lead me to believe that I need a blog.  So here I go.

Like a lot of authors, I am something of an introvert.  I am not shy - just not the type of person who enjoys making small talk and chatting.  Social media has been something of a challenge for me as I have never seen the need to tell anyone what I had for breakfast or where I am right now.  But I am learning and I have already made a few friends.

Twitter had been fun as I have found several people to follow that are quite interesting and some that are very funny.  Unfortunately, not many of my personal friends are on twitter so I am mostly following people I have never met.   I usually tweet about my books or re-tweet for others but have been trying a few new tweets that are a little more personal.

As for Facebook, I created an author page to showcase my books but also a personal page that I use to connect with friends and family.  This has been a bigger success personally as there are a lot more people I know personally on Facebook.  I get to see all the pictures of my great-nieces and great-nephews.  Yes, I have nieces and nephews that are parents! :)

I hope to have a more interesting topic next time so please come back next week.  If you would like to connect with me, I would love to meet a new friend.


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