Tag Archives: Indie Writing

Why I stopped using Scrivener or just focus on the work

scrivener-logo

I know.  I know.  I am supposed to love the new writing app Scrivener.  It’s supposed to be the great thing, since, well ever.

Scrivener is to some writers, what Apple is some designers.

In other words…without error.

So I bought a copy and began writing my next book with it.  It took a while to be able to get a hold of how it works.  It changes how everything is organizer, which I guess is the point.  But I found I was taking a lot of time to get it right.  A lot of time.

Time that could have better been spent, I don’t know, writing the book.

Even if that meant writing the book in Word.

The HORROR!

Scrivener is supposed to be able to do just about everything.  Export to Word, Export to PDF, Export to Modi and Epub, and send your mother a card.

Maybe not that last one.

But then I saved my work.  And what appeared wasn’t a file, but a folder.  And then I tried to save a back-up in the same area.

Scrivener told me I couldn’t do that.

Why not?

I don’t know.

But most importantly I lost work.  I lost a whole chapter of my next book.  And that shouldn’t happen.  And it almost ruined my beach vacation.

I was at the Outer Banks and sitting on the outside porch of the condo we were renting.  I had a good view of the beach.  I pulled out my laptop and set it on the table with the sound of the ocean waves and I opened my book up and Scrivener told me something about a corrupted file.  (I admit I don’t remember exactly what it said as my eyes went dark and my head exploded.)

But corrupted to Scrivener apparently meant only the most current chapter I had been working on.

After exporting the other chapters to Word to get another back-up I continue to write my next book in Scrivener.  I don’t know why.  Word had never lost any words I have created.

For some reason I kept trying to write the book in Scrivener.  One thing that I like about Scrivener is that I can see notes on the current section I am writing.  I don’t have to flip back and forth between files.

I like that I can see notes in the bottom right. But note that the file was named to show that I was missing Chapter 10.

I like that I can see notes in the bottom right. But note that the file was named to show that I was missing Chapter 10.

After some research I learned that I probably lost the chapter because I had been saving it to the cloud in my Onedrive.

Ummm…it’s 2015.  Cloud saving is a non-negotiable.

I work on two main computers.  I have a desktop with a larger monitor 27 inch and a Lenovo thinkpad that I carry around.  Not being able to switch easily between those two machines makes writing too difficult.

Then I joined a Scrivener group to see if I could learn what I did wrong, but I proceeded to see several posts with people losing work.  And losing work because through cloud storage.

Scrivener is a great idea on paper, but save yourself the trouble, and your work.   But if you are losing time to learn HOW to use the tool, as opposed to writing, then work with something else.

I hear George RR Martin writes massive popular novels on a DOS Machine.

Maybe he is on to something.

 

 

Four reasons why teachers should write books

This is an updated post that I guest posted over at AJ Cosmo’s blog.  Check my interview I did with him a year ago.

I am a teacher.  I think more teachers should write books.  They just should.

Cats.  Internet.  I win.

Cats. Internet. I win.

Here are four reasons why.

 

1)      Writing a book is hard

 good-writing-is-hard-work

 

Even in this new world of indie publishing, with the gatekeepers falling away, completing a book is still hard.  I have seen teachers tell me they have an idea for a book, but as time moves along-no book.

A colleague told me she always wanted to write a book, but she had no idea of what to write.  Another one apparently started, but never finished because the illustrator was an unpaid family friend who didn’t complete the work.  So the project was abandoned.

Finishing a book is hard.

Which is exactly why it needs to be done.  When you finish such a difficult task students will look at you differently as a teacher.  Your colleagues will look at you differently.  Your boss will look at you differently-with more respect.

 

2)      You will inspire your students

 

This past year I taught fifth grade.  After sharing illustrations and rough drafts with my students, they all were inspired to write their own books in class.  During literacy station time, a lot of students spent time creating illustrations and writing their own stories.

There was a whole series about Zompires in my classroom.  What is a Zompire?  Why the combination of a zombie and a vampire. Apparently zompires don’t eat your brains, they just suck your blood.  But you need garlic and to cut their heads off to stop them.  I liked reading about Zompires.  I would actually have to remind students to work on other projects outside of making books.  I had a whole chart up in my room about it.  Too much book writing, nice problem to have as a teacher.

As a side, I teach in a high poverty school with a lot of English language learners.  These aren’t students with lots of books in their house.

See my link about my first fan fiction.

 

3)      You will bring added value to your career

 

I taught first grade for several years.  In Virginia, the fifth graders are tested in writing.  I published a book.  Boom.  I got moved to fifth grade.

Moving from first to fifth was a challenge.  But I enjoyed the challenge.  Having experience at first and fifth brings me a lot of value.

Teachers teach read reading and writing.  With a book a teacher will bring credibility to their lessons, students and colleagues will respect you more.

When you write a book, BAM!, you’re an expert.

School administrators need experts in their buildings and their classrooms.  Write a fiction or a nonfiction book, doesn’t matter, put it out in Kindle and paperback format and you are now an expert.  You’re an author.  You’re officially different.  And different in a very good way.

4)      You will experience a tear in the space-time continuum

Space time continum

What! You say?  Stay with me.

Early in the year I ordered classroom copies of two of my books, Kevin and the Three-headed Alien, and Dolbin School for the Extraordinary, and put them in my class library.  The students competed on who would read each book first.

During one lesson, the students were to get out a book we were reading.  One student was reading one of my books.  He didn’t put my book away.  I instructed him again to put away other books and get the book we were working on.  He still didn’t comply.  He was more interested in reading my book.  I was so confused.  The writer in me jumped for joy.  The teacher in me was frustrated.  My body was split in two over the meta-physical problem that was occurring right in front of me.  Seriously.  Who has this problem?

Who has students who would rather read books written by their teacher, as opposed to books the school system tells them to read?  I do.  I have that problem.

I love having that problem.

I want you to have that problem as well.

 

P.S.
One of my books Dolbin School for the Extraordinary is free for a couple of more days.  Check it out.

P.P.S. Join my mailing list to be the first to know when my new picture book comes out.

The first year of 1099 forms, the ladder of success, and the first fan fiction

The Money

The first year of 1099 forms from Amazon are in. In 2013, I made $516 through Amazon with Kindle and paperback sales, add in a few sales of autographed copies on the website, and it brings the first year total to some where in the $525 range.  So not quitting the day job anytime soon.

I swear, some people have inferred I make this much.  I don't.

I swear, some people have inferred I make this much. I don’t.

I guess, I am slightly above average, at least according the UK Guardian.

Others would laugh at those numbers, they make that amount of money in one day.  I don’t care.  People paid me money for stories I made up on my own, that wins.

The Ladder of Success

I think in terms of a ladder of success, each rung is a new level of success.  And frankly just getting on the ladder at first was a success.

When I finished Kevin and the Seven Lions back in January 2013 I had no idea what to expect.  My original goal was to make a paperback I could put on my classroom shelf, and to bring to educational job interviews.  That was the first rung of success, completed paperback.

“How am I different from the other candidates?  Oh, I made this book.”  Waves book at interviewer.  (Seriously that reason alone is a reason to write a book, but that is another post.)

If nothing else happened, as long as I had a paperback in my hand I liked I would consider the book experiment a success.

If people actually liked the book, well that would be awesome too.   Even more shockingly people liked it.  People I didn’t know, liked it. The second rung of success.

If I made money on the book that would be even better, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.  The third rung.

Well, shockingly it was profitable.  Seven Lions sold enough to justify paying for another book.

Success.

Now, in cold, rational, numbers, I have lost money so far on the is venture of making three books, with the expenses of illustrations, editing, and some promotion.  (Yes, this is a business.) Currently, I am okay with a loss.  The beauty of selling books is that these books will be available for along time, if not forever.  The three books I have out will still be for sale in 2014.  Plus, I will have additional work out in 2014.  As time marches on my body of work should grow.

Yes, I have other rungs I am aiming for.  Making more money every year is definitely a goal on the ladder of success.  I am human after all.

But there is more to money than this.

First, it is fun.  Seriously writing books about children’s daydreams, children finding out they have superhero abilities, and students being fun and creative, is just plain fun.

F.U.N.

FUN.

Second, it is rewarding to sell just one copy.  I know others would be disappointed.  But selling one copy is rewarding.  Maybe not financially, but emotionally it is rewarding.  Somebody has paid actual cash for my work.  That is a nice feeling.

And finally as a teacher this year, I have seen my first examples of fan fiction about characters I have created.  I have written before about why teachers should write books, this is another reason.

One of my first examples of fan fiction.

One of my first examples of fan fiction.

I have seen several Kevin books appear in my class.  I have even see the rare, Dolbin School for the Extraordinary fan fiction show up.

To know that kids like your work enough to continue it, and play in the world that you have created, makes it all worth it.

Money can’t buy that.

Plus the stories are very cool to read.

Raymond Bean-Best Selling Children’s author answers some questions. Only one question about farts though.

I am a teacher, and I write books.  I am not the only one.  Raymond Bean teaches 4th grade in New York City, and has two best selling series with Amazon, Sweet Farts and School is a Nightmare.  He teaches 4th and I will be teaching 5th, and judging by pictures we both seem to have the same hairline.  But the difference stops there, as he has written two series and is on his way to releasing a third series.

He was nice enough to answer a handful of questions.  But it was how we came to connect through James Altucher deserves a mention.  James is also a best-selling indie-publisher whose recent Choose Yourself sold over 40,000 copies in it’s first month.  Enough to put him on the Wall Street Journal’s best seller’s list, and the New York times for that matter.  But because he didn’t sell them in stores the New York Times list doesn’t include his work.  That’s a post for another time. (See my review of Choose Yourself.  James retweeted my review, and consequently that was the biggest day on my blog so far.  There is a lesson there.)

James does a weekly ask me anything through Twitter on Thursday afternoons.  Typically I can’t participate because I am in school during that time, but during July my schedule is a little more open.  After the success of James’ Choose Yourself and a subsequent post on Tech Crunch about self publishing 3.0, I asked him on Twitter how would his advice differ for selling children’s books.  And this is how James replied:

Three things on this:

  1. James thought I asked a great question.
  2. I stumped him enough that he passed me off to Raymond Bean.
  3. I steal James’ idea and interview Raymond myself.

And from there Raymond was nice enough to respond to the tweet and then was nice enough to answer some questions for me.

(I believe this is a very important 21st century skill.  We should be teaching our students and children to expand our connections through technology.)

Enough backstory, here are the questions that Ray was nice enough to answer:

1.       How long have you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always written.  I remember a pencil box I had in elementary school (probably second grade) that had an elaborate scene of kids having a snowball fight on the cover.  I wrote speech bubbles next to each kid.

2.      Did you ever send the manuscript for Sweet Farts to agents or publishers before sending it to KDP?

Yes, I sent Sweet Farts out to many publishers and several agents before and after self publishing on Createspace/KDP.  Amazon Publishing ultimately picked up the first book and the rest of the series.

3.      Did you use any services from Createspace such as editing, cover design, or illustrations?

Createspace does all the services for my indie titles.

4.      How long did it take for the book to begin selling well?  Was it immediate or did it take a while for mouth-of-mouth to kick in?

It took about three months for sales to kick in.  I was lucky because the book seemed to generate a good deal of word of mouth between readers.

5.      Where did you get the idea for Sweet Farts?

See the video.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTwd-3s9FJM&w=560&h=315]
6.      What sort of promotion did you do?

I gave away a good deal of free copies.  It was way back in 2008.  I think I was fortunate because self publishing hadn’t really exploded yet.  Once my book started selling on Amazon it pollinated with other popular children’s titles and its discoverability increased dramatically.

7.      When did Amazon approach you to sell through their imprint?

I don’t remember exactly, but it was in 2009.  I remember googling Amazon Publishing and nothing came up.  I took a leap of faith that Amazon would grow its publishing business.  I’m glad I did.  Today they are growing at an amazing rate and announcing new imprints all the time.

8.      What sort of advice would you give to new writers considering self-publishing?

I think the most important thing is to get your work out there where readers can find it.  Once it’s available, write more.  Self publishing helped me land a fantastic agent and kick start my writing career.

9.      What do your students think of your success?

They’re very supportive.  I try to use my love of reading/writing to encourage my students to read and write more.

10.  Who is your favorite sports team?

I’m a big basketball fan.  The Knicks for sure.

Thanks so much to Raymond for taking the time to answer my questions.  If you’re a teacher of old elementary school students I would recommend checking out his work.

In spite of basketball being his favorite sport, Raymond’s upcoming book is about baseball.  Which is my personal favorite sport.  So I will be checking it out.

Any other indie writers I should track down and interview?  Leave suggestions in the comments.

Also check out my interview of best-selling children’s author AJ Cosmo.

Recommended Indie Children’s Books May 21 2013 Edition

I posted a couple of weeks ago about a couple of indie produced children’s books.  I want to start promoting other indie children writers, because most successful indie writers are in other genres.  People are writing about things other than vampires, the apocalypse, and romance.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

Here are couple to check out:

The Monster Who Ate My Socks


AJ Cosmo is a former teacher.  He is also a talented artist.  I recommended another book of his in my earlier post.  The Monster who ate my Socks solves the age old riddle of why my socks have holes in them and go missing.  This would have been useful info when I was 7.  I love his illustrations in this book, very detailed and great texture.  They come across very well on my Kindle Fire HD.

P.S. The Monster Who Ate My Socks 2 is now out.

Also follow AJ on Twitter.

How to be a Superhero

This book was written by high school student Rachel Yu, and published by her dad.  Rachel has many books out and I first thought she made the illustrations herself.  But I learned that she hires out the illustrations.  This the story of a slightly arrogant superhero explaining the rough life of a superhero.  A wonderfully silly story.

All of her books seem to rank fairly high in the Amazon Kindle store, as in the 1,000 to 9,000 range.  The sequel to this book, which I have not read, How to be a Super Villain, spent the 2011 Holiday Season outselling Watchman and Batman.

Rachel was 16 when that book hit the best seller’s list.

SIX-TEEN.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

I am happy to be here.

Yet another selfish reason to publish part 2

I wrote earlier about a selfish reason to write.  I got another one.

Letters from fans.  Even fans that were probably required to write the letters to keep their teacher happy.

A teacher friend read Kevin and the Seven Lions to her class.  A few days later I got a envelope full of notes from first graders.  Seriously cool.

Seriously try this sometime.  It’s awesome.

Yeah, the dinosaur was okay.  Did you the see the Giant Squid though?!

Yeah, the dinosaur was okay. Did you the see the Giant Squid though?!

What are other reasons to write? Leave them in the comments.

Thinking about a book as an actual investment

In some ways it is never cool to say you write a book for money.  You’re supposed to say you do it for the love of writing.  Stephen King wrote in his On Writing
memoir that he would still write even if he didn’t get paid for it.  That maybe true, but if he had to have a day job, he certainly wouldn’t have written nearly the same amount of books, because he would be working a day job instead of writing huge books.

On the other hand, in this new indie publishing world many writers hope to make a career out of their writing.  That sounds like writing a book for money to me.

I think people say don’t write for money because you have NO IDEA how little or how much money your book will make.  Hugh Howey had no idea that his short story Wool
would make him a millionaire.  I think it is better to say you don’t write for money, so that if you don’t make money then you don’t look silly.

But Jeff Posey has come up with an awesome spreadsheet showing the possible monetary and cash flow value of a book.  With this new world of publishing, combined with the long-tail of digital shopping, books are now always in print, as long as you want them to be.  Books you write this year, can still be making money for you 10 years from now.  I find that to be awesome.

This is taken from Jeff's site.  Seriously, take a look at year ten.

This is taken from Jeff’s site. Seriously, take a look at year ten.

In my day job, I will go to work this week with the lesson plans I have written and get paid for this week’s work only once.  I create a book, or movie, or song, this year in 2013 and I will still probably be collecting income on that work in 2023.

Sign me up for that.

Dean Wesley Smith agrees with Jeff this idea and he has been doing this for a long time.  In fact he says:

And those of you joking around with that calculator he gives you, I can tell you right now WMG Publishing has 320 titles in print and going strong at a rate of about 50 new titles per year, if not more. Plug in your own income figures into that and then just laugh. I’m not laughing at all because I can tell you this calculator is pretty close after three years. Just saying.

But the key is to make indie writers realize the value over time in their own work.

You may not truly know how much a book will make you.  But it is really fun to run the numbers.  The real lesson here is to keep writing books and with perseverance, time, and a little luck, writing can be a great investment.

Recommended Indie books

Since getting a Kindle I’ve discovered some indie published books that are very enjoyable.  Despite not being published by one of the Big 6.  (I know…gasp…)  So I’m thinking from time to time I will share indie books I like, and in particular children’s and teenager books.

A Place Called Perfect

This book was featured along with Seven Lions on Freebooksy.  It is the debut book from Helena Duggan, an Irish writer and graphic designer.  It is a very vivid and fast paced book, about a place that goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure everything is “Perfect”.  After emailing her I learned that she was able to get some paper copies of her book into a local book store.  (Yes, I randomly email authors.  It’s the 21st century and the area of Choose Yourself.  If some doesn’t want to talk to me.  So what.)  Good for her.  I look forward to her next book.

The Little Bleeble

This is a short picture book by AJ Cosmo and I think this is his most recent release.  I was a little taken aback by how adorable I found this book.  It is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Beeble and their wish for a child.  Each parent dreams of how much the child will be like them, of course to only find out that the child is not exactly like them.  I have a one-year-old maybe I am just sensitive to a story like.  AJ also used to be a teacher, but he tweeted me that he no longer is teaching. (Yes, I randomly tweet people I want to meet.  See note above.)  He has several books out, and another book of his seems to be sitting high recently in the children’s category on Amazon.  Good for him.

And here is an article about the success of one of his books.

(While writing this post AJ tweeted that he had a new book out.  The Little Bleeble came out in March.  I hate AJ right now.)

Check out these books for your Kindle.  I hope to post more of these in the future.

Self-Publishing Grabs Huge Market Share From Traditional Publishers

Self published writers are grabbing more and more of the book market. David has a lot of info on this. In his analysis he notes a lot of mistakes that are being made by traditional publishers. Not updating an ebook is a mistake that is very easy to fix, yet some ebooks from big publishers are missing these simple updates. Now is a great time to be a writer. Indie writers are getting a bigger and bigger slice of the pie as time marches along. Readers get more and varied books to read, and author’s make more money. I think that is called a win-win.

Formatting a book requires two different files

I am finishing up Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  The text is finished, what I am finishing is the formatting of the paperback and the Kindle version.  This is the “publishing” part of the “self-publishing” or “indie-publishing” process.  I don’t know how others do it, I can only speak to the way I do it.  But there ends up being two different files, as I said above, one for the Kindle, one for the paperback.  I think this is the reason a lot of indie-publishing people only make a Kindle version.  It’s simply easier, and frankly for most indie-writers more copies will be sold as ebooks, and as time marches along that difference between paperbacks and ebooks will only grow.

I think that is a mistake, for a little bit of extra I can bring in more revenue on the same title.  If you’re new to this take the extra-time to learn both.

I use Indesign, because I subscribe to the Adobe Cloud.  You can use Word to format books as well, but I learned from Kevin and the Seven Lions that if I wanted a book that had a bleed, that is the images go all the way to the edge, I needed Indesign.  The template provided by Createspace didn’t allow for a bleed.  Plus Indesign CS6 has an export straight to Kindle option.

The main difference I have between my two versions is Back Matter.  Back matter is that stuff at the end of an ebook that allows readers to click through to a Facebook page and website.  Those things can change or may need to add more places to find me.  I’m not adding all of my social media stuff in the back of a paperback.

The table of contents is also different.  Can you guess why?

There are no “pages” in an ebook, thus making the pages in a paperback completely irrelevant.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, note NO page numbers for chapters.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, note NO page numbers for chapters.

The paperback Table of Contents as it currently is in Indesign, note Page numbers.

The paperback Table of Contents as it currently is in Indesign, note Page numbers.

For some writers, the focus is solely on the ebook version.  In the first three months of having a book out, about 50% of my revenue has come from the paperback.  I think it was worth the trouble to make two different versions.

P.S.

In regards to Indesign you subscribe to Indesign only for $19.99 a month for a whole year.  That may or may not be worth it to you, but it could be something to consider if you don’t want the whole Adobe Cloud.