The Mysterious Cartoonist – Repost with comments

This satirical, short story fantasy initially downloaded more slowly than Cheery Red. Then it started picking up, and now I’m on 340 downloads. I have not yet discovered who the mysterious cartoonist is…

The Mysterious Cartoonist – (Oct 7, 2014 )

I’m giving a little twirl and some dance steps on my imaginary dance floor, celebrating the release of The Mysterious Jagg (a humorous, satirical short story, I had fits of giggles while writing it).

Publishing a short story or a book is such an exciting thing for an author. I wonder how the story will be received; I get happy when my friends congratulate me on the occasion. Facebook and e-mail becomes something I check way more often than usual. I keep an eye on Smashwords to see the downloads progressing. And I wait for the comments.

This is my favourite time of a book release, and it is gone so quickly!

Here’s the cover:

I think the cover is awesome. It is actually a modified page scanned from a diary I kept while travelling through the US during 1992/3.  The cartoon is one I copied at the time because I admired it so, with nary a thought to write down who the cartoonist was or the paper in which it was published.

When I was creating the book cover, I wanted to acknowledge the source, so I searched to discover the identity of either of them – without success. This lack of success is a reminder to keep on doing what I have done for over a decade now, which is to be meticulous about sources and references. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, not only because it is a legal requirement in many places, but because it is just and feels good to give credit where credit is due. I like being able to point others to someone’s work and say – see that? Isn’t it cool? That person is the one whose work inspired me and augmented mine.

Maybe one day someone will contact me and say, hey I did that, and I’ll be able to properly acknowledge them. If the six degrees of separation theory is true, it may be that a reader of this blog knows someone who may know the cartoonist – wouldn’t that be cool!

So, I invite you to spread the cover far and wide, to your friends and contacts. You might say: ‘Do YOU know who this cartoonist is?’

You could be the one to find him/her.

And in the meantime, you can enjoy the story! Download it for free from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/481932

or check it out on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23300826-the-mysterious-jagg

And if you enjoy it, remember to write a review!

‘Three Steps’ – Repost with comments

Hard copy proofing never seems to end. One of the non-fiction books I am working on at the moment is so complex to create (even though I am working in InDesign) that I keep having daymares that I’m going to miss grammar, spelling, numbering and style mistakes. Nearly every sentence of the book has a Xhosa word. I don’t speak isiXhosa. The author and I are currently going through the process of hard copy proofing and correcting, outlined in the latter half of the post below. When we are done, the 2nd edition of AmaZizi: The Dlamini of Southern Africa will be a book to be proud of.

Three Steps – (Sep 16, 2014)

Three steps were taken in my journey to recognised authorhood in the last 24 hours. Only one was taken by me. The other two were propelled by Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Keg1901, bless her heart, wrote a review of Cheery Red – and gave it five stars. This is harder to achieve than some people might imagine, because getting reviews that are from people unknown to a new author, that are not paid for, is mostly random luck. You can ask people to post a review but they mostly don’t. Getting 5 stars when you didn’t ask for it or pay for it? That’s magical.

Anonymous paid $4.00 for Cheery Red, leaving me as gobsmacked as the first payment, because $4.00 is a lot of money for a 20 A5 page story. Anonymous must really have liked it. I am just as thrilled.

Thank you, Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Step number three was completed this afternoon. I finally managed to get the print version [of Innerone] ready for the printer.

If you are an author or in the publishing business, you will know that e-mailing the file is the start of the hard copy proofreading, not the actual printing of the book.

The process is as follows:

Once you’ve approved the quote for the print run, the printer sends you a hard copy of the text, pages folded in sections, for a format proof reading. The proofreader or publisher or author or all three go over the text carefully, checking for format errors – the wrong spacing, missing pages, text repeats, page numbers, font size or type mistakes etc. Text errors like spelling and grammar should have been sorted by this time, but usually more are spotted and corrected at this time.

Aside from the above, I make sure that the imposition is correct – that the proofs are aligned correctly on the page, that the headers are in line, that the spacing around the text is adequate, that the pages are cropped straight. If your book is skew, it’s not a quality, bookshop worthy item.

You then correct and sign-off errors that you found with the author (one and the same in this instance) and send the new hard copy to the printer. This usually happens a couple times. The cover is done at the same time; and again, all cover items are checked for accuracy, including the all important spine width. Get that wrong and your entire cover goes out of whack.

One of my big worries, using an overseas company to do print-on-demand (postage from South Africa is prohibitively expensive) for possible overseas orders, is that they’ll print the book any which way, knowing that their clients are too far away to oversee the printing quality; and that my reputation will suffer as a result. Ah well. I’ve chosen IngramSpark for that and we will see how good their print quality is, should I receive overseas orders for the book.

What to check for in hard copy and on the cover are detailed topics deserving blog posts of their own.

In the meantime, tonight, I am celebrating those three steps by writing this blog.

Knock Me Sideways

Breaking news:

Holey Gamoley, people!

An anonymous person just chose to pay $10.00 for Cheery Red.

I want to thank that person. I’m eager to hear what they think of the whole story. I’d love to discuss it with them. If you read this and the person was you, please do contact me – I’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that Cheery Red is one of my short stories. If you read my blog on pricing and marketing, you’ll also see how this has again validated Steven Trustrum’s marketing advice, which I urge you to read here:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

Thank you, anonymous person, for validating my faith in my stories. I hope you really enjoy it.

Cheery Red is now on 306 downloads.

‘A Cheery Surprise’ – repost with comments

Only a few people have paid for stories since. But I still say: give people the option! I’m nine dollars richer than when I started and that’s nine dollars better than nothing.

A Cheery Surprise (Aug 28, 2014)

It has been a tumultuous time since my last blog.

I’ve been sick, as has my husband and both kids. Apparently flu is doing the rounds because many people I know have been enjoying this change of weather sickness too.

Yesterday my eldest child started nursery school. I took her in and she was immediately swamped by the other kids in a mob. Charley Ruth is tiny for her age and I was terrified. When my vision cleared, I realised that the bigger kids love little ones and are protective of them. They led her off, hand-in-hand, to show her swings and slides and the classroom. Charley was fearless, as usual, and for that hour seemed to have the best time. I, of course, wanted to howl.

I’ve been doing my best to keep on my stepping schedule with getting the Innerone formats ready (focusing on on the InDesign for print version), as well as doing some work on the AmaZizi 2nd Edition and pushing some marketing for my authors, who are all such lovely people with excellent texts and deserve the best I can give them. I also spent a couple hours on Goodreads, where, a month ago, I became friends with Ellie.

Ellie liked Susan Woolf’s Taxi Hand Sign book, so I wrote to her. And when she liked a blog post of mine, I wrote again. In our correspondence, it turns out that not only has this American met South African Susan, she is good friends with Susan’s sister, Lesley, who lives in Atlanta. I could hardly believe it.

And then, today, somebody paid for a copy of Cheery Red. In other words, someone actually paid real money for a short story that I had written. It’s taken me a while to get over the shock.

Now, I’m a publisher. You would think I was used to people buying books from me; and it’s different when the work is your own. It’s a milestone for an author when someone you don’t know pays good money for something you wrote. So I’m having a little celebratory dance inside my head.

However there is a marketing gem contained inside my cheery surprise that I want to share with you. A week or so ago I was reading Steven Trustrum’s blog:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

One of the things he said was that, if possible, rather use the ‘reader-sets-the-price’ than the ‘free’ option when putting up works. This means that if somebody wants to pay you, they have the option (he said a lot more – I recommend reading the article). I wondered if people would stop downloading at the story if it wasn’t marked free but, after 81 downloads, I decided to try it. The downloads did slow down – but that also could have been because it was no longer on the Smashwords home page, or because people who know me and who wanted to support me by reading the story ran out. Today, I am $1.39 richer ($2.00 minus fees) because I chose to give people that option.

Once I had uploaded Innerone for pre-release on Smashwords, I now had the opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a while – create a coupon code for Innerone and put that code into Cheery Red, both as a marketing tool for Innerone and as a thank you for choosing to read Cheery Red. I put it in the ‘Thank You’ section at the end of the story and re-uploaded it. I like getting coupons for books so I hope my readers do too.

And maybe the marketing ideas in this blog can help aspiring authors too. Now isn’t that a cheery thought!

‘Watching the Stats’ – repost with comments

I have to admit it – despite how keen I was to collect and analyse data, after all the analytic setting up I did after this post, I never looked at it again. I have discovered that analysing data is last on my very long to-do list.

I need to treat analytics like a writing a book, something I’ll blog properly on later. In brief, you have to write the book before you edit it or you’ll never finish writing the book. I think, when all the rock climbing up the cliffs of communication and publishing are accomplished and I’m sitting flushed and triumphant on the plateau of maintenance, I will finally be able to turn my attention to analysing the data properly and making the adjustments that are necessary.

As for asking for reviews – of the many people who contacted me to say they loved the story and promising to put up a review, only one did. I’ve thought about why this is and it did not take long to understand why. It’s not about being better at asking for a review. The fact is, asking for a review is a lot to ask for. In a person’s busy life, they have to make time to think about what they want to say, write it down in a way they feel they can put in a public space and then go through the process of putting it on their favourite site. It’s a charitable act. Perhaps people need to be incentivised with a coupon for the next book or something. In any case, you can ask, but it is better to expect nothing to avoid disappointment.

Watching the Stats  (posted Aug 21, 2014)

At this moment I’m up to 64 downloads of Cheery Red. It’s exciting! I never hoped for so many.

It’s also a period of discovery. Aside from a journalist friend of mine, Jon, who wrote on Facebook that he enjoyed the story, there have been no other reviews. Two of the 64 people have put Cheery Red into their permanent Smashwords libraries. And I foolishly didn’t add Google Analytics to my new website before I published it, so I have no idea where visitors preferred to go on the site or any other stats at all.

What does this mean? Well, firstly, I’m going to have to get better at asking for reviews. They are important for both author and readers. I get to understand what people think of the work and readers can see at a glance what others thought of the story.

Regarding the permanent libraries, it’s a compliment every time someone wants to keep your work in their collection. So the story has been complimented twice. Of the 64 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red, there is no way of knowing how what percentage have Smashword accounts, so I don’t know whether it is 2 out of 64 or 2 out of 2. I just don’t know. I also don’t know what the typical download of a free short story is within 48 hours, so I cannot say whether the download amount is good on average or not. I’m still trying to find out.

Finally, I must add Google Analytics to my site. I will never recover the first few days of stats, and I have lost the information it would have given me. Let that be a valuable lesson to my fellow writers who wish to share their creative output with a new website. Ensure you have statistical functions in place before you go live!