Self-Publishers Unite!

As a published author determined to self-publish all future works, I always find it fascinating to read about others’ adventures in the self-publishing world. More people are doing it these days with the help of digital processing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a new trend. Many “established” authors self-published, such as Virginia Woolf.

Where do I begin?

Jumping into the self-publishing realm is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I would do a subsidy/vanity publisher first, just to get your feet wet. Something like Lulu would be a nice start as well, because they walk you through the process.

Once you’re certain you want to self-publish, subscribe to Publetariat. This is a blog peopled by a collection of self-publishers who write about everything, from hand selling your work to finding a good copy editor. They discuss the highs and lows, and provide resources to learn more about self publishing.

Then I would hop over to Dan Poynter’s website, which is chock full of free online resources for publishers.

Start watching Self-Publishing Review to get an idea of the quality people are looking for in terms of good self-published fare.

Listen to The Creative Pen podcasts on “writing, publishing options, internet sales and promotion – for your book.”

Most importantly, keep writing! If you don’t have anything to sell, what’s the point?

How are your projects going?

Have you decided if you want to self-publish, subsidy publish, or go the traditional route? Now that I’ve returned to the blogosphere, what would you like to see me write about?

Indie-Publishing Extravaganza

I am a fan of the indie-publisher in the same way that I’m a fan of a lot of indie musicians. It’s a scary thing to put your work out there for others to judge. And as there will always be artists that maybe shouldn’t have released their work, there are authors that shouldn’t release theirs.

But that goes vice-versa, too. There are indie artists who are so good at what they do that they gain fans, word-of-mouth publicity, and possibly even a big label contract, which may or may not be their end goal. Lucky for us, the same thing goes for authors… except there is still a stigma behind “self-publishing.”

Today, I’m listing some useful websites that will help you decide if you want to take that leap into the unknown and become an independently published author.

Indie Publishing Revolution
Maintained by Zoe Winters, a frequent commenter and even a guest blogger here at Worderella Writes. She’s an intense supporter of independent publishing and is doing her best to make sure that you know what you’re getting into if you’re interested in doing the same.

Publetariat
Self-described as an “online community and news hub for the independent author.” The people behind it claim to be experts in editing, marketing, journalism, etc, and are determined to help you make the best product you can. It’s not that you’re “resorting” to independent publishing, it’s that you “choose” to independently publish.

Selling Novels on the Amazon Kindle
A first-hand account from an author who experimented with selling a draft version of his novel on the Amazon Kindle and in e-book format. Very interesting and useful; read the comments to gain more insight as to whether you want to follow a similar path.

CNet’s 25 Things You Should Know About Self-Publishing
An honest assessment of what you need to know about self-publishing from a man who had to struggle through it the hard way by himself. Read it, learn it, love it.

Book Cover Archive
Not actually a publishing website, but an excellent resource for those of you needing inspiration for your book covers.

Marketing Through an Author Website

For some reason, most author websites are awful. This is probably because authors don’t have the time, money, or inclination to put a lot of effort into a good website design. Unfortunately, many (if not all) agents suggest that authors, aspiring or not, should have a website. But what are you supposed to put up there, anyway?

Content for your Author Website

There are five main sections every author website should probably have, if you include the (always optional) blog:

  1. About the author
  2. Blog
  3. Writing
  4. Press kit
  5. Contact the author

Your author biography should include the generics such as the school you went to, some of your interests that make you interesting as a writer (I do t’ai chi and yoga before/after writing sessions, for example), and a short paragraph about your current work. This is a good place to announce you’re seeking representation, as well.

Each book you’ve written should have a press release that summarizes the book and gives reasons why someone should buy it. Everything in the press kit should have a PDF/downloadable version so reporters can print a copy for later use.

In your writing section, each book should have a cover picture and the back cover blurb. An excerpt is always nice, but check your contract first to make sure you’re allowed to do that. Additional content such as your favorite sentence, the backstory behind writing the book, a list of research references, etc., are all great to include on your website.

Make sure you have a way for your readers to contact you. If an agent stumbles across your website/blog and decides they like what they see, you’ll never know about it without providing a contact form, at the very least.

Designing your Author Website

Keep in mind that other people have to look at your website, so while your favorite colors may be pink and green, do not, I repeat, do not, put pink text on a green background, or vice versa.

All text should be a dark color on a suitably white-ish background. It is what we’re used to reading, and anything else causes headaches. The point of your website is to maintain interest, and you can’t maintain interest if you’re giving your audience headaches.

Keep your genre in mind when picking your color scheme/design. If you’re romance, you might want to stick with the warmer colors such as tan, pink, red, purple, etc. If you’re science fiction, the cool colors such as blue, white, green, and black evoke technology. These rules can be broken, but let the professional break the rules for you. You don’t know the rules, most likely, so you won’t know the correct ones to break.

Use images to spice up the design, but again, make sure your images correlate to your genre/theme. It’s beyond confusing when a science fiction author has puppies all over her website. Unless it turns out her science fiction books are about an alien race of puppies sent to take over the earth, a là Kal-el from Krypton.

Keep your content fresh either by having a blog, or by updating your website with mini-articles, poems, short stories, your art projects, etc. If you decide to have a blog, try to have a unique theme. I don’t need more competition when it comes to writing blogs. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Not really, though.)

If possible, have an XML sitemap so search engines know how to find and index your content. You may need to get a professional’s help with that one, but Google provides a free service.

And since I know you must be a little curious, I’ve finally updated my website, complete with press kit, updated author bio, contact form, and additions to the writing section which now includes poetry, some of my old short stories, and my guest article for Graham Carter. Yes, I did design and code the entire thing by hand. Feel free to critique me; I’m always looking for ways to improve.

If you’d like a website of your own but don’t know how to begin, send me a line. For more information about navigation, specifically, read the AuthorMBA’s blog post on the subject.

Want to be Showcased on Worderella Writes?

Do you have information about how to write, edit, or publish?

Do you have favorite blogs that you read that I haven’t showcased?

Is there a genre you write that I haven’t discussed?

I’m looking for guest bloggers to spice up Worderella Writes. At the end of your post, feel free to advertise your own website/blog, especially if it has to do with the craft of writing, or the progress of your own work.

Contact me at my website or comment to this post with your ideas and I’ll respond to let you know the details.

Things to keep in mind: I try to keep my posts around 600 words. There needs to be a general writing, reading, research, history, or romance theme. I don’t post anything vulgar so don’t bother if that’s what you’re planning to do.

To Everything There is a Season

Belinda's notecardWell, the season hasn’t changed yet, unfortunately. The weather forecast says winter storm for the rest of the night. However, today the season did change for my website. I’ve been agonizing over the new layout (the old one was just awful) for the past three weeks, and I think I’ve come up with one that is both functional and visually appealing. I’ve never used brown and pink together in a layout before.

Let me know what you think! You can view the site here: http://www.worderella.com

The plan is, eventually, to convert the blog over to a similar layout. I also plan to put the random writing quote functionality back into the website because I love quotes and I love writing, and quotes about writing just make my day. And I want to replace the old research/writing tips files with an updated and more organized structure that will also point to similar blog posts that I have made.

So there are a couple of things left on my list to do to make this layout complete, but overall, I’m pretty pleased.

The new year cometh

Happy new year, everyone! Here’s hoping your muse is kind. Mine favored me at the end of my break from school, the procrastinating little wretch that she is, and I’m now 76% complete with the WIP manuscript! I’ve done a lot of work-shopping on the tagline and the hook. Here’s what I came up with for my WIP, Trentwood’s Orphan

A grieving daughter encounters love and ghosts in Victorian England.

A proposal on the anniversary of her father’s death is not Mary Winslow’s idea of romance, but as a 26-year-old maid in Victorian England, Mr Spencer is her last chance. When Mary catches Mr Spencer seducing her scullery maid, her regimented world falls apart, and her secret deathbed promise to her father comes back to haunt her…literally.

What do you think? Something worth reading, or do I need more edits?

From an administrative standpoint, there are new fun things here at the blog, mainly that I have a new plug-in that highlights posts related to the topic of the post you’re currently reading. I added blurbs about the books I’ve written, and I updated the About and Reading List pages. Fellow authors, if your website needs a new look, or if you haven’t looked into web marketing, check out the Siriomi Web Designs tab as an affordable solution to your problems.

My next post will be listing my most and least favorite books of 2007, how many pages I read, etc. What would you like to see in 2008? More information on publishing? Let me know.

New Blog Layout

So, I don’t know how many of you actually came to the blog yesterday, but if you did, I apologize. I don’t have a PHP interpreter on my computer, so when I made changes to the layout I had to upload them to the blog to see if it looked like how I wanted it to. I’m pretty pleased with the end result! The colors are a little more subtle, and I find it more visually pleasing than the last layout I made. I especially like the horizontal links along the top. I had to change the actual blog code to get that trick working…

If you have an opinion, let me know! The one bad thing about having web design as a hobby is that I get tired of my layouts every couple of months, so I’m always looking for a new excuse to change.

Being Worderella

Things have been crazy around Worderella’s part of the world lately. I took the GRE yesterday, my second time, just to see if I could improve my somewhat decent score. I did, so huzzah! I have been reading a lot, which explains the lack of article-posting and the proliferation of book-review-posting. I’m also working on graduate school applications, my college’s magazine, and my appeal to graduate form which gets me priority scheduling for the next year.

I have not been writing. I wrote about ten thousand words last month, and this month, maybe two. I’m not too worried about this, however, because I came to a scene where I realized my character, who is very spirited, was doing something no girl in her right mind would do in 1887 London. Back to the research books for me! I have this horrible habit of doing enough general research to get the muse flowing, and then once I need actual details, I start the real research, the hunting in my university’s huge library (how I’m going to miss it when I graduate!), the desperate eBay buys for books long out of print and discarded from libraries.

My current dilemma: how would a spirited American girl, attempting to marry an English title, act in London? Basically, I need her to embarrass herself without causing so great a scandal that she becomes un-marriageable. Thus, I’m reading this great book called To Marry an English Lord, Or, How Anglomania Really Got Started by Gail MacColl. Having already read the biography of Jennie Churchill nee Jerome, I had a good idea of how an American like Jennie might get married, but this book gives details for all the major Pan-Atlantic marriages, as well as a more approachable look at the royal family and their interaction with the aristocracy…so much material, so many ideas, and I’m only 22 pages in!

Over at History Hoydens, one of my favorite blogs, they talk about the research they do for their historical romance. Today they have an amazing post on the truth behind Jane Austen and Tom LeFroy…I couldn’t have written it better, so anyone interested in seeing Becoming Jane ought to read that post first. Tom LeFroy was not the inspiration for Mr Darcy. I’m sorry, but it is true.

In other news, the new Writer’s Digest is out, and I’m in it! My author website, Worderella.com, was submitted for the Top Author Website Contest, and I placed top ten! In celebration, I’ve added a few items to the website, such as samples of my old writings; short stories from high school, poetry from college. I’ve also added an announcements section to the index page…I hope to keep the content fresh on the website but it’s hard as a full-time engineering student, so I’ll update you here at the blog if new things show up.

And for those of you who think you might never become a published author, check out Erica Writes August 15 post about how one procrastinating woman not only impressed the great Miss Snark with a hook that had no manuscript to go with it, she has since gotten representation for it! A great story, and she’s holding a title contest. Check her out!

Writer’s Digest Website Contest

I was just notified that I am a finalist for the Writer’s Digest Best Writer’s Website Contest! I’ll be in the October issue, so look for me, Belinda Kroll at http://www.worderella.com! This is very exciting, as I was certain I wouldn’t even place.

In other news, I’m a little over 40% complete with First Draft B. It’s pretty amazing how these characters are taking over.

I have a couple more book reviews to post, as I’m inhaling my summer reading almost as quickly as I inhale food…and I’m planning on posting more notes from my notebooks. I just got my Dickens’s Dictionary of London 1888 in the mail today, so I might post a few of my notes from that as well.

Things are looking up! I hope your works-in-progress are coming along as you want them to!

Making the Most of an Author Website

This is something that I come across time and time again, and with some of my favorite authors: horrid websites. As a computer scientist and amature web designer, it just breaks my heart to see websites with no style, no definite design, and therefore, not much attracting new fans. This isn’t to say I’m an expert at awesome websites. I change my layout often enough when I learn a new coding trick. But let me say this: there are certain websites that just turn me off to the author.

In this technologically-run world, when a reader finds a book that touched them, they almost immediately go online and search for the author’s website, hoping to find more books. When I find websites that look like this (for not being able to turn off the music!!), this (it’s all centered, with no easy way to jump around the website), or this (all the webring links on the main page), it turns me off. It’s almost as though the author doesn’t care enough to maintain this easily accessible, easily maintainable means of advertising and connecting with the reader.

What are some websites I love? Stephanie Barron‘s, for one. I’ve never read her books (even though I keep meaning to because, well, anything with Jane Austen will at least have my initial approval), but the slick style of her websites, along with her beautiful book covers, keeps me going back for more.

And then there is Cathy Yardley, whose colors and sharp lines make it obvious her books are chick lit. There is a lot one can tell from the style of the website about the author, the books, and how much the author cares about her audience.

(Though, I don’t mean to say that authors with what I consider bad websites absolutely don’t care about their readers. That would defeat the purpose of writing. Instead, I mean to say that writers should be a little more careful about what their websites are saying to their readers. Put as much care into your website as you do your writing!)

I also love Jeanette Winterson‘s website: it just looks so crisp, so clean, so easy to navigate! And yet it keeps my attention, as every good writer should. And you really can’t go wrong with Julia Quinn! Called today’s Jane Austen, I read two of her books this summer because you can’t make a claim like that around me without backing it up. I very sheepishly say that I can see why reviewers came up with the comparison.

Here is a list of websites I suggest you writers model your own after. If you can find the link at the bottom, go to the website of the people who designed it for the author (believe me, most authors don’t code their own websites, they pay for it!) Go and look at the web designer’s gallery, and make notes on what you like and don’t like about each design. It will only help you.

Kathryn Smith
Marne Davis Kellogg
Philip Pullman
Young wizards website (by Diane Duane)
Barry Eisler