Archive for category Kindle

How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part 1: book size and typeface

While making an ebook is pretty straightforward, putting it into print is a pain. In traditional publishing houses, it’s an entire department’s job – because there’s a lot of invisible fiddling you need to do. (It used to be my job too, which is why I know.)

But it is possible to do it well, given the right instructions. I’ll walk you through what I did to get the text of My Memories of a Future Life ready for print. Be prepared – this will get pathologically nitpicky. And this stage is not about how the text reads – it’s about how it looks. Yes, to writers that’s the tail wagging the dog. Get over it now.

It’s quite a big job so I’ll split it in two posts. Today: choosing the size of the book and the typeface.

What size do you want the book to be?

Choose this first, because that governs how much you get on a page. Nail Your Novel is a short book at 40,000 words, and the first time I put it out was at 6×9. That made it look flimsy, so when I redesigned the interior I sized it down to 5×8 where the thickness and size feel just right.

My Memories of a Future Life, on the other hand, is a whopping 103,000 words. It would be rather chunky at 5×8 and expensive to produce because of the weight – which means I would have had to charge a lot more and everyone would think I was being greedy. Many literary novels are now being produced in 6×9 size, or even bigger – so it fits nicely with the genre.

If you use CreateSpace you can download a Word template for the interior. It sets up page sizes and margins so that everything looks right and you can do your fiddling in Word. Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed has a detailed section on how to do this. There are other POD companies besides CreateSpace, but they’re not as easy to use. I used CreateSpace but with a design program, PagePlus, because it’s what I do my covers in and because my version of Word doesn’t make PDFs. (For CreateSpace and Lulu you submit your book on a PDF.)

PagePlus sets automatic margins as well, but the default ones are too narrow so I customise them. If you’re using anything other than CreateSpace’s template I suggest you check your margins too. They may have been set up for leaflets, not paperback books.

Before you finalise your margins, whack some dummy text onto the page, print it out and put it over an existing book of the same size to check it looks okay.

Important: get your margins right now. If you change them later you’ll have to redo a lot of tedious checking.

Text

When you formatted the Kindle or ebook edition you probably established a style for the book…. didn’t you? You’re consistent about when you use single or double quotes, proper em dashes and so on? You checked you had curly quotes and not ticks, including on the apostrophes? You’ve never thought about it? Go and fix them now. They’ll make your book look a lot more professional.

Typeface

Choose this next. And make your decision final. Every typeface is a slightly different width, even if it’s the same height.

Don’t use Times, it makes a book page look like a business proposal.

Obviously don’t use any of the fancy curly things that seem to have been supplied to design party invitations.

Get down a few novels in your genre (tastes in typefaces may vary between genres) and choose typefaces that look like them. I used Century Schoolbook BT for My Memories of a Future Life.

Italics: flat feet bad

Check what the font’s italics look like. A lot of computers come with the Roman version of fonts but not the italics, and when you hit the little I icon it slants them. True italics have curled serifs (the little feet), and slanted feet look wrong. If you haven’t got the italic version of your font there are free places to download it – I found my itals here.  Do this now too, for the mysterious tedium-avoidance reason I will explain.

Italics: curly feet good

Typesize and spacing

Most books are set in 12pt, or 11.5pt. Again, compare with other published books in your genre (for instance, literary can afford to go slightly smaller than YA).

If your book is 6×9 the page is quite wide, so you might want a bigger typeface or wider leading (space between the lines) to make it more readable. You can fine-tune this by editing the paragraph style – I set the leading as a percentage of the pointsize. So I had 11.5pt type on a leading that was a niftily precise 14.375pt – or 125% of the point size.

And each typeface has different properties. Some have tall ascenders and descenders (vertical strokes). So if you change from one font at 11.5pt it might look much smaller and less readable than another, so you might need to use it bigger. Before you finalise, print a page out and fold it around a book of the same size to see how it looks in the flesh.

When you’ve decided, run your text in and typeset it.

Part 2 tomorrow: chapter heads… and the really nitpicky stage

Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add for this stage, I’d love to hear them!

HELP IS AT HAND… If reading all this has given you an intolerable migraine, I can format your book for you! Email me on RozMorrisWriter at gmail dotcom.

 My Memories of a Future Life: episodes 1 and 2 available now. Episode 3 on 12th September. Print edition end September. Do you like podcasts? You can listen to or download, free, the first 4 chapters

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‘Spellbinding… I was hooked…’ Rachmaninov and Ruin out now

My Memories of a Future Life, Episode 2: Rachmaninov and Ruin, is in the Kindle store.

Everyone who’s reading it is telling me on emails, Facebook, Twitter and in reviews where they think the story is going, what crumbs they’re following and what their hopes for it are.

This is so interesting. The size of print novels was largely dictated by the economics of production and distribution, which meant it didn’t pay to release fiction that was too long, or too short, or even serialised. But the Kindle has none of these constraints, and it can connect through social networks too. Through Kindle, people can gather around campfires and enjoy stories as a communal experience and it will only get better. It’s going to be so exciting to see what new storytelling forms we get in the next few years.

Anyway, around our own little campfire, Part The Second has arrived. For .co.uk click here and .com find it here. To listen to a free audio trailer of episode 1 (35 minutes), go here.

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How I got my ITIN (US Individual Taxpayer Identification Number)

If you are not a US citizen or resident in the US and you want to publish on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle or CreateSpace, your earnings will be taxed unless you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This means that 30% of your money is kept before you ever see it – and then when you get the payment you have to pay your own country’s tax rate all over again.

Not good, huh? But Amazon will pay you gross (without tax) if you provide an ITIN. So an ITIN I would have.

Boy was it difficult. I had three goes. Yes, three – about as many as my driving test. Then I had another two with the form you then have to send Amazon. And I regard myself as pretty good at following instructions, so this seriously annoyed me.

The problem is, the IRS is incredibly pedantic and doesn’t tell you half the things you need to know. So to protect your blood pressure and stop you spending unnecessary money, I’m going to tell you how to do it.

Acceptance agents

No. Just don’t. If you look on the IRS website they talk about acceptance agents in the UK. Do not touch with a bargepole. I phoned one and they wanted to charge me £500 to handle the application. However, they sounded so ashamed that I persuaded them to tell me the tricky bits I needed to know, like treaty numbers.

Filling in the form

Get a form w-7. You need to know treaty numbers but I’ve outlined them in red in the picture above. I’m in the UK so this is the treaty number I need, but if you’re outside the UK you can find the right number here on the detailed notes for the W-7 form. In the IRS notes it wasn’t clear that two boxes had to be ticked in this question, not one.

UPDATE The forms have now been updated and the treaty number is now different. New info on tax treaty numbers is here.

Support documentation

You need to supply a letter explaining why you need the number, that you’ve published a book etc etc. (This wasn’t clear in the IRS notes when I originally applied, just so you know how helpful they are.)

This was also a royal pain. At first Amazon told me all I needed was to print out their terms and conditions and my listing. That was rubbish.You need a proper letter addressed to you.

Here, Smashwords led the way. You can ask for the letter after you’ve sold USD$10. Fortunately, Amazon now provide one too. Send this note to CreateSpace Member Services, which you can find on your Createspace dashboard (there is probably a Kindle version of this too, I just chose CreateSpace because they seemed better at replying)

 Hi – because I live in the UK I understand you will take US tax off my revenues from selling via Createspace. I want to apply to the IRS for the exemption so that you can pay me gross. I understand I need some documentation from you to support this.

Please could you email me a letter on official Createspace paper which shows:
my member ID number
my name (full name is ;lkjl;kj;lkj, publishing as lkj;lkj;lkj)
a statement that I am publishing through you and that I am a taxpayer in the UK, which is why I need the ITIN

Copying your passport

You need to prove who you are with a notarised copy of your passport, of course. There is only one type of copy the IRS will accept. Not, as they imply on the form, any notarised copy – the kind you can get from the post office or your doctor, even though they are accepted just about everywhere else and you have to pay for them (which is what I wasted money and blood pressure on). You need your passport notarised by an officer of the IRS.

You can find an office of the IRS at the US embassy. If you’re near London, visit them in person. I went there with my form and my CreateSpace letter and a charming chap there filled in everything for me, copied my passport and sent it off. Plus we had a lovely conversation about the time he was a spy working undercover in Hungary. He’s going to write a novel.

Before you wonder if that’s worth the faff let me tell you this – it’s FREE.

If you can’t get to the embassy in person, phone them. Other people I spoke to on Facebook said they did this and hung on for a while and eventually someone answered. They’ll then tell you what to do – though you’ll have to trust the postal service with your passport. But honestly, even if you have to try several times before you get through, it’s much better than spending £500.

Eight weeks later, I had my ITIN.

The final stage – you’re not out of the woods yet

Then I had to send another form to Amazon, a W-8BEN (you can download this from the IRS website)  .

Two things to remember:

1 use blue ink

2 do not abbreviate the country name, even though the space for it on the form is tiny.  Believe it or not, my first go was rejected because I did this and I had to post another one to the US. The neighbours all heard as I leaped about, spluttering ‘do you mean to tell me these people can’t tell that UK means United Kingdom? And they have jobs?’ But the IRS is looking for reasons to reject. And not following these footling rules will get you rejected.

Find an example of exactly how to fill in W-8BEN here.

Good luck!

Released this week: My Memories of a Future Life, episode 1 The Red Season ‘Groundbreaking… expect the unexpected’

Update:

Residents of some countries can now bypass the initial form-filling and call the nearest US consulate for an EIN. Tell them you are a ‘sole proprietor’ and you are an author selling ebooks in their country. Tell them it is for compliance with tax withholding   – and you get the number there and then. Wow. After that you’ll still need the W8-BEN – but that’s one stage of faffing and waiting dispensed with!

Update 2:

The rules have recently been updated, and WilderSoul was kind enough to send me this link of FAQs, including the requirements for support documentation.

Now available: My Memories of a Future Life (The Complete Novel)… ‘Classy, stylish, gripping… profound’

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A year of change in publishing puts writers in the driving seat – guest post at Catherine, Caffeinated

Catherine Ryan Howard was one of the first bloggers I found when I started flinging words into the ether. She was writing about her deep love of caffeine and outer space, and of course her books – among them a memoir.

That memoir was Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida which became a self-publishing phenomenon. Catherine put it out in 2010 after agents and editors told her that while it was a fab read, there was no market for it. Using only free promotional tools like her blog, Twitter and Facebook, Catherine has managed to shift over 7,000 copies. Not only that, she’s written a brilliant book on self-publishing, which I keep by my side when I venture into unfamiliar self-publishing waters. When I put Nail Your Novel on Kindle, it was Catherine’s blog I used to guide me.

We’ve both had very positive experiences self-publishing, but we both also swore we would never self-publish our own fiction. But a few months ago I started to think again. And then I happened by Catherine’s blog to find she was entertaining the same plan…

She asked me over to her blog  to explain what changed my mind and made me publish My Memories of a Future Life (which is out today)… and why, as a bestselling ghostwriter, I even had to self-publish in the first place.

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‘Expect the unexpected…’ My Memories of a Future Life in the Kindle store

‘In this intriguing reversal on reincarnation, best-selling ghostwriter Roz Morris turns the tables on all of us who have ever dabbled in past-life regression (and other New Age aspects of metaphysics). Don’t expect just another fable of “who I was.” Expect a complex, intelligent journey into the heart of Western understanding of reincarnation: what it is, what it could be, what it perhaps is not.

‘Morris is a pleasure to read, an accomplished writer with a clear, polished voice and vivid insight into character and place. Is her novel fantasy? Is it sci-fi? Is it a new, groundbreaking mix of fiction genres? What’s the truth behind the story of an injured concert pianist taken further into a dark–even surreal–future than she can handle?

‘Expect the unexpected.

Thank you for the review, Victoria Mixon – writer, fiction editor, and author of The Art & Craft of Fiction.

Episode 1 – The Red Season is now live in the Kindle store. Right here. Episode 2 will follow on Monday September 5th.

I’m having a gosh moment. After eleven novels written in secret for other authors, here’s one with my name on it. And a review of its very own. I feel a bit like those songwriters who compose for other people and finally get to claim a song for themselves – a bit scared, and a bit like singing…

Thank you, everyone who has cheered me on. To the lovely people who requested ARCs and emailed me with their progress behind the scenes and to everyone who has told me how much they’re looking forward to reading it. Just one more thing – if you like it, would you do me a quick review on Amazon? Reviews make a huge difference if casual browsers pitch up on a page, wondering whether to take a chance.

Now I think I’ll get off the podium before I say something ridiculous. If you feel so inclined, you can find episode 1 here.

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Can you split your novel into four equal parts?

Structure is the secret to knowing whether your story works. Here’s why splitting my novel into episodes has given me a useful new tool

The most F of FAQs that I’m being asked at the moment is this: was it easy to split my novel into four parts? Did I originally write it that way?

When I first had the idea of releasing My Memories of a Future Life as episodes I was wondering how on earth it would work. Perhaps it wouldn’t go.

But when I divided it according to page numbers I found that, give or take a few, at the end of each quarter was a major shift. The stakes changed, or what the narrator wanted changed. I did some minor tweaking to punch up the episode beginnings but the structure was there already.

I might add that I was rather thankful.

So what?

But if you’re not planning to release your novel in episodes, why is this relevant to you?

Because all stories need these major shifts.

On the count of three…

Hollywood talks about the three-act structure for movies. Act 1, the first quarter, is the set-up with the inciting incident. Act 2, the second two quarters, is where the problem is being actively tackled and confronted. Act 3, the last quarter, is the resolution.

Now Hollywood movies have pretty formalised structures, but that’s not just because they like formulae. The three-act structure isn’t just a matter of convention. It comes from the way the brain naturally looks for change – and the way it likes to see a problem explored.

For the character’s journey to feel significant, we have to feel we have gone a long way between start and finish. That’s not done by dragging them through a lot of pages. It’s not done with the number of characters you whirl in and out, or the number of locations you visit like a James Bond movie. It’s done with an internal shift for the character. It’s done by altering what the journey means.

The stakes can’t be the same at the end of the story as they were at the start. The character must change what they want.

Three acts, four episodes?

Hang on, classic Hollywood structure is three acts. I’ve got four.

That’s because there’s also the midpoint.

I refer you to Blake Snyder, of Save The Cat fame. He explains that in his early days of movie-writing, he used to tape movies on C90 cassettes and listen to them in the car. At 45 minutes, where he turned over, he realised the most compelling movies had another crucial change – the midpoint.

The midpoint shifted the whole dynamic of the story. It was the threshold between the beginning and the beginning of the end. It was, to quote the great man, ‘the point where the fun and games are over and it’s back to the serious story.’ (And fortunately I had that too.)

Once you understand what the reader psychologically wants at each point of the story, you can give it a really thorough workout.

Have you focused your story wrong?

You can even tell if you’ve misunderstood it. In this post, Darcy Pattison discovered that her second act began far too late, did some soul-searching and realised she was focusing the story wrong. She thought she was writing a quest, but her structure told her her story was actually about the characters maturing. When she revised with this new focus in mind, it helped her create a tighter, more compelling manuscript.

From now on, I’m going to try splitting all my novels into four.

Have you ever analysed your novels by splitting them into acts? Share in the comments!

My Memories of a Future Life, Episode 1: The Red Season. Launched 30 August.

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My experiment in ESP… guest post at Kindle Authors UK

I’m guesting today at Kindle Authors UK, a group of professional authors who are bringing out indie projects on the Kindle. We’re from a wide sweep of genres, sometimes trying new pieces outside our established brand, sometimes republishing works that have fallen out of print, sometimes bringing out the novels that agents have battled for but found too difficult to place.

This is such an exciting time in publishing and together we’re hoping to raise the profile of indie authors and show everyone what we can do! Do hop over – and in the meantime I’m preparing a proper writing post for tomorrow.

My Memories of a Future Life: a novel in 4 novellas: first episode, 30 August

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My Memories of a Future Life – the secret weapon

Everyone’s talking about how publishing has broken all its rules this year. We’ve had agents publishing their authors’ backlists as ebooks, or arguing about why they shouldn’t. We’ve had agents lobbying for authors to get a much higher percentage of ebook rights. We’ve had authors tearing up their contracts and going indie – and some of them have become the infamous Kindle millionaires.

One idea I’ve heard whispered in these discussions is whether longform fiction should be serialised. Usually it’s quickly dismissed. Oh no one’s doing that.

Yes they are. I’m going to.

A short while ago I revealed in this post that I had a secret weapon for launching My Memories of a Future Life.

And this is it. I’m going to publish it in four hefty parts.

The entire novel is a scale-breaking 100,000 words, so each episode is roughly 25,000 – a good novella’s worth of reading each time.

Yes, this is an experiment. It could be argued that it’s a 150-year-old experiment as it’s the same model used by another famous self-publisher – Charles Dickens.

It’s either a great idea or monumentally dumb. But I’m already breaking rules by self-publishing a literary novel when most indie releases are genre, so why not stomp on another?

My agent tells me he’s watching with great interest. Not just out of curiosity, but to see if this is a viable model for the agency’s own ventures into new publishing models. So it’s not just a small step for me…

How much will it be? The magic 99c per episode. If you’re late getting to an episode, don’t worry – once they’re up in the Kindle store, they will be up for two months. Although you might have to block your ears to the chat on Twitter about it…

So that’s my secret weapon. My Memories of a Future Life is a literary novel written to be released episodically, week by week, the way Dickens wrote his serialised novels. Starting Tuesday August 30th, then Mondays thereafter – September 5, September 12, and the final episode on September 19th.

Wish me luck. And just so I feel more emboldened, tell me what rules – writing or otherwise – you’ve broken this week.

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Music as a form of spiritual possession… and other matters

Over at the red home of My Memories of a Future Life I’ve been a bit more active than I anticipated. I’ve been writing material to put up nearer to my novel’s release, but  people have already been asking me questions – which can only be answered in posts. In case you’re curious, here are the first three posts:

The blood-red piano – music as spiritual possession

I don’t believe in reincarnation

Glimpses – my first paragraph

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Self-publish or small publishing house? How to decide

I’ve had two questions recently about small publishers. First, Stacy Green: ‘Do you think self-publishing is a better option for new authors than a small publisher whose focus isn’t solely on the next bestseller?’

Also Tahlia Newland: My agent is waiting for the last 3 big publishers she queried for my book to get back to her. If no one wants it, it’s just small publishers left. I’m thinking I’d rather ebook self-publish than go for a small publisher who hasn’t got a big distribution. I’d be doing most of the publicity anyway, so why not be in a position to keep control and maximise profits? What do you think?

There’s an excellent piece here by Michelle Davidson Argyle on what a publisher should be able to do for you.

What I’ll add to that is my own opinion, from my own experience and that of author friends.

The term ‘small publisher’ can cover anything from the small adventurous imprints started by publishing professionals who have decamped from the major companies – to decidedly less qualified outfits led by people who are chancing their arm at publishing. With varying motives.

Quite clearly, the publishers started by the publishing professionals will have the edge. They have the experience, the expertise and the contacts – and you can weigh up an offer simply by googling them and finding out about their reputation. But some small – and micro-small – publishers may not be as good for you as going it alone.

It all comes down to what they will give you in return for the chunk they take and whether that suits you. And in some cases, you have to be able to assess whether they are properly set up to do the best for your book. Leaving aside the crooks, some of the very tiny publishers do not have enough experience in key areas of the business – but they don’t know how important those are. You’ll see from my horror stories below.

But first, here’s a run-down of the major areas in which a publisher can help you and the self-publishing alternatives.

Editorial help

Editorial help certainly can cost. If you go it alone you can hire a professional to do this, but it’s a hassle to set up and takes time away from your writing.

Art, editing and formatting all come with the package when you sign a publishing deal. Even harder to put a price on is the input of an editor who is in tune with what you want to do. The right editor, who chose your book from their company’s slush pile, has fallen in love with your work – unlike an editor you hire. Any good editor can make you better than you believed possible, but one who had to woo you will probably go the extra mile (provided you agree with their vision). They can guide you to revise and revise, and can reassure you when you’ve done enough. An editor you hire can only carry on as long as your purse can hold out. Having a trusted team around you who are helping you hone your book is terrific and irreplacable.

However, if you’re tied to a publisher you’re tied to their professionals. You may love the words people, but not like their cover artwork at all. And you may not get much clout to refuse cover designs you don’t like.

Moreover, you might be right to distrust those designs. I looked at the list of one small publisher and thought at first they were producing municipal leaflets – all their fiction had ugly covers produced with the one template. Yet they’d managed to get authors to sign up with them.

Distribution

Distribution is where your book is stocked. If you go it alone, you can buy packages for this from the POD companies but if you don’t know what you’re getting how do you know what’s worth paying for? And let’s face it, it’s the least creative part of making books, so who has the patience to become expert in it?

But the grass isn’t necessarily greener in a publishing deal. Especially in companies that were set up solely by editorial or production people. And have never had to handle distribution. And don’t know what they don’t know.

I know of one publisher who produced beautiful copies of an author’s work – superior even to the very good quality that POD can produce – but couldn’t organise how to get the books onto Amazon. Instead they sold them through ebay, where no one buys books, and through an obscure website for that genre. They sent the author to a major fair to showcase his work and couldn’t arrange for copies of the book to be available there so that they could be sold. They got reviews in major magazines and the book still isn’t on Amazon.

Market reach

Another question you have to ask yourself is: what is the publisher’s market reach? Can they market to more readers than you can on your own?

Publishers with rigorous selection procedures will be able to get reviews in places that never touch self-published works – such as the national newspapers. That’s a gate you simply can’t open on your own, no matter what you do.

But a couple of reviews aren’t enough to sell your book. You need other gates opened too – to wider audiences. I know of several small publishers who are well enough connected to be able to get reviews in influential places. But some aren’t at all, regardless of how much they talk about how passionately they love good books. Now that we all build tribes, this aspect of a publishing deal is like royal marriages. Some publishers’ tribes aren’t as big as those of some bloggers!

What rights do they keep?

This is a thorny question indeed and is why it is good to have a reputable agent on your side. I’m not offering legal advice here in any capacity, and every single case is different. So if you are currently studying the fine print of an offer and are worried about it, please get proper help. If you don’t have an agent, a rights lawyer can do it for you – although it will cost you (which is one of the reasons why an agent deserves their percentage).

Traditionally, most books are ‘in print’ for a period and once the run is sold they go ‘out of print’ or are printed again. After a certain period you may get your rights back or your contract may come up for renegotiation. Sometimes you can take the book elsewhere if you want.

Many small publishers launch a book through e-editions and print on demand. Print on demand allows a publisher to print a book only when it is needed, saving on warehousing. If a publisher uses POD, they might have a clause that says they will keep your book in print in perpetuity – and that means you can never take advantage of a better offer from somewhere else with a more prestigious reputation. Of course, to look at it from their point of view, they don’t want you using them as a stepping stone to something better, after they’ve put so much effort in (which they may or may not have, of course). Although any legal agreement can be undone if it’s wrangled enough, that’s messy and expensive.

There might even be clauses governing what you may work on in future and who owns it.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We mustn’t forget that being published is the most important milestone a writer can imagine. What most of us want to do is write great books and find someone to handle the less interesting jobs and treat us fairly. A publishing offer may indeed do this. More than that, it may give you moral, emotional, practical and technical support that is beyond measure, pulling you out of isolation and into the ‘proper’ world of writing. After all, it’s not just about money; writers have an innate urge to share, communicate and to know our work is cherished.

But any deal you do is also a business deal about your career.  Not all businessmen are nice. Or some may be terribly nice and awfully incompetent.

If you get any offer from a small or micro-publisher, look very carefully at what they will give you for what they will take.

Thank you, Very Urgent Photography, for the picture

Do you have any experience with small and micro-publishers? Share in the comments!

Oh – shameless plug – My Memories of a Future Life launches on August 30!

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