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‘Dance Steps’ – Repost with comments

More on publicity.

Dance Steps – (Oct 28, 2014)

Publicity is like dancing. Although you can dance by yourself, sometimes it’s more fun with a partner (so long as it is the right partner). Your publicity agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, should ideally love your work. Their passion and excitement will make them want to promote your product, and that is a cut above simply being paid to push a work. This is something money cannot buy, and if you find a partner who would be delighted to dance with you, you can consider yourself one lucky dancer.

Publicity can take a long time because of the preparation and groundwork involved. You know as well as I do that you don’t just get up and waltz, you learn the steps first. You have to find teachers and find a time to practice that also suits your partner’s schedule.

It is sad and true (you’ve probably experienced this yourself) that some people judge others by the way they dance, so if you care about what others think, you need to have practiced your steps, so that you can look good and enjoy yourself – especially if you’re doing ballroom or want to look cool in your crowd.

Your crowd is your genre and you want to make sure that if tango is your thing, you’re tangoing with people who tango themselves, who sell tango equipment, make tango music, provide tango spaces and know famous tango dancers / musicians. You need to show them that you love tango, can discuss intricacies of tango, get what inspires them and know what’s going on in the tango world with its competitions, scandals and trends. You don’t have to move to Buenos Aires to do this because that’s what tango groups and groups peripheral to tango on the Internet are for. The point is, long, long before you display your dance to the world, you have to make friends who will, if they like how you have contributed to their discussions, be the ones watching (and hopefully applauding) your dance.

Publicity can be expensive and you do not want to waste money on buying space on a fancy dance floor that no one who dances your style visits. Figure out where your crowd goes before you pay for anything on Amazon, Google adwords, Goodreads, NetGalley, Library Thing, BookLife, storycartel.com and so on. Beware of high prices. And remember that word of mouth is, very often, the truest tune you can dance to.

So I’m waiting for my dance partners to come up with times in their schedules, I’m working on my various dances and in less than an hour I need to pick up my daughter from nursery school. As I start to finish up this blog post, I am thinking that it’s a good thing for me that dancing is only an extended metaphor that I have played with. I am an atrocious dancer. Although I did learn the first steps of the tango, for an hour during a weekday lunchtime, with a one-handed stranger in Buenos Aries many years ago. And it was fun!

‘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.

‘W8-BEN forms – the Non-US Meal Ticket’ – repost with comments

A few months ago, one of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn had a huge discussion about how tax works with e-books and print books in the US. It was so nice to be able to point to this explanation and say, read this blog and you’ll be able to assemble all your nuts and bolts easily. I did wonder for a time whether it did anything for anyone, then the lady who started the discussion sent me a message. The blog post had helped her. This felt great!

W8-BEN forms – the Non-US Meal Ticket (Sep 04, 2014)

Disclaimer: This is what I have learned, the basics, and I am sharing it with you in good faith. Since I’m not a financial or tax expert, just an author navigating financial and tax implications, I’d advise you not to rely on what I have written but to do your own research too, contact an appropriate tax professional, etc. etc. Having said that, here goes:

If you are not American and you sign up as an author on Smashwords or Amazon.com, you might sell some of your work. How do you receive payment and how much of that payment is taxed?

This is a big question for authors who do not live in the States. It became more important for me to face what seems like a daunting question when I was paid for my first story, as you can see from my last blog ‘A Cheery Surprise’.

However, it is reasonably simply to set up as you only need to do three things:

  1. Get an EIN or a TIN from the IRS
  2. Sign up for Paypal
  3. Post your W8-BEN form to Smashwords / do it automatically on Amazon.

Of course the devil is in the details, but it is a small and friendly demon. Let me introduce you.

What is an EIN / TIN?

They are tax numbers, the former for non-US corporations and the latter for non-US individuals.

EIN (Employer Identification Number)

TIN (Taxpayer ID Number)

I have a publishing company, so I asked for an EIN, when I went through this process a while ago.

Why do you want one?

  1. To get paid
  2. To benefit from withholding treaties that might exist between your country and the US (i.e., pay less or no tax)

How do you get one?

It is so easy to get a tax number that when I did it, I was astounded enough about the experience (it took 15 minutes) to post about it to my friends on Facebook in my ‘status’ box. And I seldom update my status on Facebook (although that might have to change).

Just call the IRS on this number: +1 (267) 941-1099

Explain why you want a number. They will ask you questions and fill in the form for you. They will give you a number. Wait two weeks and after that, the number ought to be uploaded in the IRS system and you can use it.

Note that you have to be non-US in every way to be eligible. You can’t be a US citizen, hold a US passport, have a business in the US or anything like that. The details about that are here:

What is a W8-BEN form?

A W8-BEN form is a form that you download, fill in, sign and send to US companies either electronically or physically, stating that you are a non-US citizen with a US tax number. This is the kind of form that you will sign and send to every company you deal with. It can make a great financial difference to you, this form, because if your country has a withholding treaty with the US, you benefit. You benefit because you would be charged 30% tax on any payment you receive otherwise. The US charges 30% tax – but it will charge less or nothing depending on the withholding treaty it has in place with the country in question. My country gets charged 0%; yay! South African authors and publishers, take note.

(Aside: The US might not tax but other countries may, if your work is bought from an Amazon site in another country like Brazil or the UK. More information here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1CTSIBPDAAJ0M )

If you are not from South Africa, go to table one on the following link to see if your country has such a treaty with the US and for what percent:

http://www.irs.gov/publications/p515/ar02.html

Send off the form

Amazon: You can fill in a W8-BENform on the website and sign it electronically. They will then pay you (after a certain accumulated amount) via cheque and your US tax will be less than 30%, or nothing. Sometimes they do want a physical copy and if that is the case, they will ask you for it.

More information here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1VDYJ32T5D3U4

and here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=201274700

Smashwords: At the time of writing, the following details are correct. You need to email a copy of your signed W8-BEN form

to: keri@smashwords.com

Then post the actual signed form to this address:

Smashwords, Inc.
Attn:  Tax Compliance Dept.
PO Box 11817
Bainbridge Island, WA   USA  98110 

The good people at Smashwords will then pay you (after a certain accumulated amount) via Paypal.

How do I get a Paypal account?

In South Africa, you need to go to First National Bank and get an FNB account (get an account with the lowest bank charges that links to the internet), then link it to a Paypal account, which you set up on www.paypal.com. Get the people at FNB to show you how to do that. In other countries, I don’t know. Go to www.paypal.com and find out.

Do I have to pay tax in my country on my earnings?

You’ll need to find out about your country, but if you live in South Africa, most probably. You have to add what you’ve earned through book sales to your other earnings (for example, from your day job) and then you are taxed according to your accumulated earnings.

….and you’re done.

‘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!

‘Cheery Red’ – Repost with comments

Sorry for the long wait! Life got in the way of blogging about it. Here’s the next repost, focussing on the the release of the short story, Cheery Red.

This was exciting to experience and write about. This moment is the one I think all authors anticipate, the release of a work and how it is embraced by others. It’s a mental holding of the breath – the work to get it out there is done – and now what? Either you slump, or there is a steady movement, or a whoosh of delight as the work streams from the distributor.

I marvel that, as an unknown author with no followers and minimal marketing, I had so many downloads for this work in those first few hours. To date, 291 copies have been downloaded.


Cheery Red
(posted Aug 19th, 2014)

This morning, after weeks of five minutes here and five minutes there, I finally finished the Smashwords formatting for my first short story ebook, Cheery Red. I uploaded it to Smashwords and dashed out the house to meet a friend, Sedrick, and do some chores. I came back to discover that 22 people had downloaded the story!

I wanted to dance a celebration dance of happiness. I wrote on Facebook, something I have seldom done in the past and suspect will do more regularly in the future:

“I am so excited! I just published ‘Cheery Red’ on Smashwords and already 22 people have downloaded it! It’s free and it’s short, but there are now 22 people I don’t know who are reading my work. I’m so inspired… I’m breathless with it! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468557

The “so’s” and exclamation points get across my emotional state quite nicely, don’t you think?

‘A Little Step’ – Repost with comments

It takes so much to build a website and believe you me, a website is just like a book. It goes through editions. I’ve republished my website more than fifteen times since I first published it. I’ve re-written the ‘About’ four times alone, recreated the Home page three times, added pages and information and contact forms, all in the name of marketing; creating a site that intrigues, informs and attracts people who like what I do and who would like to be notified when a new work comes out. This new WordPress blog is a good example of changes I make to bring new people to the site.

One of the things I’ve learned is that if you want people to come to you, you need to go to them first. You need to follow people who write things relevant to what you do, comment when they post, congratulate them on their highs and empathise with their lows, all the while being yourself (i.e., being real. People spot falseness a mile away). Why reach out? People don’t know you exist if you don’t make the first step.

A Little Step (first published Aug 19th, 2014)

I nervously published my new website last night, let my friends know on Facebook and this morning continued with Smashwords, so that I can upload some free stories soon. What can I say? These are the little steps I was talking about. I’m focusing on the next steps now.

‘Little Steps’ – repost with comments

As a publisher, I get to do a lot of editing. As a sleep-deprived mother of two young children, I am very grateful for proofreading tools like spell check. And as I reread and repost my Tumblr posts, I am honestly amazed at how far I have come since I started, as well as how things progressed from what I hoped for to what actually happened. What did actually happen from the below? Did I join Lightening Source? What happened to the website? Do I continue to use food metaphors? Ha ha, you’ll have to keep reading to find out!

Little Steps (posted Aug 14th, 2014)

I’m at the beginning of a long tale. You know the one – unknown person (in my case, author and publisher), after thirty years of hard slog, becomes an overnight success.

The first fifteen years – that’s how old my publishing company is – have seen me do a lot of stuff, flitting from one thing to the next. That is the recipe for an interesting and vivid life, with amazing memories. I’m no longer interested in recipes. It’s a lovely metaphor and all, I’m just hungry for something else. Today I’m interested in alchemy – using the ingredients I’ve already prepared. I’ve prepared – now what do I make? To whom do I offer it? Things taste better when you share, and when you share it with someone who wants it.

I’m fifteen years in, and there’s awesome not-so-new technology that I can use to share my works with people who may enjoy them. I’m focusing on publishing right now and for the last few weeks have been wrestling with the options available to me in print-on-demand and e-book distribution.

Today I contacted Lightening Source for POD overseas. I have been working on my new website – perhaps you reached this blog from there. I have given my input into the Hatchett vs Amazon debate (in short: let there be competition!) and every so often I stop to add information to the “AmaZizi: The Dlamini of Southern Africa”  second edition book. I need to visit Goodreads and start following people as well as review more books.

Little steps.

You who read this, however briefly, are part of my story and I am part of yours. I don’t know how you got here, and I’m grateful. Perhaps we can inspire each other to take those little steps – some tedious, some exciting – towards putting the best of ourselves out there to nourish others and be nourished in return.

Hello hello hello!

My name is Alicia Thomas-Woolf. I own a publishing company called ada enup. I write stories, poetry, sing and song-write too. I have been blogging my journey as a South African publishing a book in the US, as well as my musings along the way. I first started blogging on Tumblr and have moved to WordPress to try it out.

I will begin by republishing last year’s blog posts on WordPress, in order, then adding some new pieces.

Below was my very first blog, written 38 weeks ago. Please note how it didn’t contain my name or what I was doing or indeed any useful information at all. It made me laugh, though, so I guess that is something.

A Reason to Blog (posted Jul 30th, 2014)

I have discovered, likely like so many bloggers before me, that blogging is a wonderful tool for procrastination. I should be working now, preparing some short stories for Smashwords, but here I am. Blogging. Dammit.

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