Uploading To CreateSpace Doesn’t Make You An Author

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*Originally seen on Fine Lines*

As someone who works primarily with self-published authors, I’m often asked advice on the publishing process. Which is better, traditional or self? Simple. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. How much should I spend on publishing my novel? Well, you need professional services and that’s going to cost you, but there are ways for you to raise the funds to pay for this. 

Then, more often than I’d care to admit, I’m asked the question, or in many instances told boldly, something that always manages to leave me perplexed. 

“Why can’t I just upload my book on to CreateSpace?”

or

 “I’m already a published author, I used CreateSpace to publish my book.”

If you’ve said these words before, I’m assuming you’ve had your book professionally edited, hired a professional cover designer, properly branded yourself and have a strategic marketing plan in place. Assuming all of this is in fact done, then absolutely, you’re ready to upload directly to CreateSpace. If, however, you’ve overlooked any of the above requirements, then I am sorry to say that you do not have the right to categorize yourself a published author…yet

If you’re an author looking to self-publish, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with what CreateSpace has to offer. When used correctly, it’s a great tool that essentially provides everyone the space to sell their book on Amazon. However, this feature can also be considered its fault. Once uploaded, the question quickly changes from “who will buy my book” to “who is actually seeing it?” What separates your book from the rest?

There’s no secret to a books success, but if you don’t take the time to make your story known while building up a following, then you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Without a differentiator, you most likely won’t sell many copies, leaving your book amongst thousands of others to collect “e-dust” on a virtual shelf.

So, what sets a real, published author apart from a CreateSpace one? Published authors spend time developing an audience. They work on strategic ways to introduce this book to the world and know the importance of treating their book like their business. Through this process, authors learn to give their book the necessary patience, love, time and money it needs to grow, and they never stop believing in its success. The message to be learned is true for all authors – if time and effort hasn’t been put into publishing a book, then why should readers put time and effort into reading it, let alone care about it? 

Self-publishing has for some time, carried somewhat of a negative stigma in the industry. Self-published titles of the past were equated to low quality and poorly edited work. It was thought that writers who couldn’t get published traditionally, jumped to self-publishing as a last attempt to get their work out there. Fortunately, with persistence and fine-tuning, self-publishing has made great strides and has become a viable and optimal choice for many authors.  Due in part to the rise of best-selling, self-published titles, this approach has earned great respect and is slowly becoming the go to publishing option. If it’s continued to be used incorrectly, CreateSpace will be a hindrance to authors, ultimately preventing the self-publishing industry from continuing to flourish. 

So what can be done to prevent this? Guidance for starters, should be available for new authors who know little about what really goes into the publishing process. There should be boxes to check before being able to hit that “submit” button. It should be, at the very least, mandatory to have your book edited before submission. 

Unfortunately for the industry, this is not the case. Why? Because the appeal of simply uploading your book and instantly being amongst Amazon’s literary library is just too strong. In a world where instant gratification is the root of the majority of our purchasing decisions, it only makes sense that writers would want to become instant “authors”. However, writing and publishing a book isn’t supposed to be easy or instant. It’s a tedious process for a reason and frankly, should remain this way.

Somewhere along the line, some authors began equating self-publishing to publishing instantly and lack of education and guidance will allow this misconception to continue. Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to go through the process alone. There are many self-publishing companies that can help you achieve the success your book deserves. Lulu and FastPencil are both great DIY self-publishing companies that allow authors to pick and choose the services best suited for their needs. There are also hybrid publishers such as Wise Ink Creative Publishing who work closely with their authors to help customize plans while helping to publish the book of their dreams. 

Choosing self-publishing is an admirable route to take. Though the appeal of instant authorship may become more enticing the longer you work on your book, it’s important to remember this- Explore your options and take your time. Do not rush this process. Give it the TLC that it needs and deserves before continuing down this road. I promise you, your effort will be worth it in the end.

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Why Should Your Book Have To Compete With Potato Salad?

An Open Letter To Crowdfunded Authors 
Written by: Nicole McArdle 

*Originally seen on Pubslush Blog*

While America was transfixed with a $50,000 mundane side dish, I was preoccupied by Jedidiah Jenkins, who was conducting a campaign to raise funds for an autobiographical novel about his 16 month journey from Oregon to Patagonia…by bike. To date, this inspirational novel has made exactly $19,818 less than the $50,000+ potato salad plea,whose inspiration came from joking with friends. ”I figured my friends would laugh, and their friends would laugh,” said Zack Danger Brown, the potato salad mastermind. “That was all I needed.”

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Compare this inspiration to Jenkin’s, who described his campaign by quoting Benjamin Franklin: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” This is my attempt to do both.

So how do all of the other campaigners feel? Particularly authors? The ones who have poured their heart and soul into their projects but can’t seem to make anywhere close to $50,000? Does having an author share a space with a bogus, yet widely successful, fully-funded campaign take away from the validity of their book? Doesn’t it just steal the spotlight all together?

I work with authors on a daily basis. I see their constant struggle of not only getting their work known, but in raising funds and differentiating themselves in this oversaturated literary market. I’ve worked with authors whose stories would break your heart, who utilized every resource and worked for every dollar that was contributed to their campaign. I can tell you none of them were able to make 50 grand in 20 days for their upcoming title. Perhaps it’s the simplicity and joy that this silly campaign brought that inspired people to give their money to something lacking any sort of substance or benefit at the end. But what about the authors who have a great story to share?

The grieving mother who wrote a book to help other grieving mothers deal with the loss of their child. The recovering anorexic who wrote a book to help others with their own recovery. Or how about the journalist’s biography of the life and death of her father, a flier in World War II. They each differ in subject and crowdfunding sites, yet they all share a commonality. Each of these three campaigns were something worth supporting and in total, all three were only able to raise a little over $50,000.

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Kickstarter is a platform to be respected and admired. After all, they’ve arguably made the crowdfunding industry what it is today, proven in the fact that “the term is eight times more popular on the internet than the generic “crowdfunding” However, as their popularity continues to grow off the basis of many different types of campaigns, both serious and otherwise, this has led me to wonder, why are authors not exploring their options? It’s obvious that the allure of Kickstarter and other such sites like Indiegogo is their daily traffic, but why are authors opting to have their work overshadowed by campaigns that have nothing to do with literature? To be glanced over by users, not readers? To be hosted on a site that is “a home for everything” and not just “the literary world?”

My personal belief is that an author shouldn’t have to worry that the traffic they strive for is going to take a left turn towards grilled cheesus, bacon cupcakes or the first ever all-pug production of Hamlet. It has been a long road to gaining credibility as a self-published author and it seems to me that competing side by side with aircrafts that teach flying birds to fly or socks made of coffee, will only set this movement back.

Silly Crowdfunding Campaigns

So this is my message to all the hardworking authors out there. Your book is your business, so treat it with the respect it deserves. There are sites out there for the literary community. Sites where completing your campaign means collecting pre-orders, gaining market analytics and connecting with others in the industry. Sites that are dedicated to providing the support and resources necessary to accomplish your goals…reach your dreams. Where traffic is made up of lifetime readers and fans and the closest a book comes to food, is a colorful cookbook gaining funding for printing. Authors, know your worth and explore your options. You have the opportunity to prove your talent and assess the market viability for your book on platforms that are “all about you”, so you can move forward and  successfully publish quality work and get out of that slush pile once and for all. Don’t let a little (okay, a lot of) potato salad stand in your way.

Your Book Is Your Business- An Open Letter To Authors Everywhere

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*Originally seen on Fine Lines*
Dear Author,

Let me begin by saying, congratulations. Congratulations on making it as far as you have in your writing process, whether it’s typing that first sentence, or finishing that last chapter. I understand the journey has been an interesting one, to say the least. Drafts, edits, plot twists, writing sessions that went so long into the night that the words started to blur and your coffee cups started piling up. Writing, if you can believe it, will be the easy part. Getting your work out there to the world will ultimately become the real challenge.

So how do you share your final product, the end result of those endless hours of clicking away at your keyboard? Where do you begin? In a rapidly changing publishing world, the rules have completely changed, leaving authors scrambling to catch up.

I advise you to start by remembering these five important words: your book is your business. Make this your mantra, and when you’re ready to take on your next chapter, take note of these 8 important steps.

1- Mind over matter.

The first step to selling your book is simply to change your mindset from author to entrepreneur. From the time you decide to sit down and start writing, to the time you print the finished product, having this mindset will help you execute key marketing tactics.

With this newfound perspective, you’ll be able to develop your marketing plan—a complete outline of the business behind your book—What is your book about? Who is your reader and why should they be interested? How will you reach them?

2- Who are your people?

Who is reading your book? Identifying your target market will help to ensure that you don’t waste time promoting to an audience who wouldn’t be interested. Have a variety of people read your book—young, old, male, female. Also, try to reach out to people outside of the family, who won’t give you a biased opinion.

3- How do you plan on promoting your book to the public?

So you’ve identified your tribe, but how do you reach them? A great place to start is social media, but determining which platform to use is entirely up to you. I strongly urge you to not attempt to use all of them, as this will just be tiring and counterproductive. Instead, find one that you feel is easiest to use, which also has a strong audience of readers and writers such as Twitter. Once you’ve discovered a home to connect with your audience, decide on your message.

4- What do you want from your tribe?

Aside from sales, what are you looking to gain from your audience? Friendship? Feedback? A networking community? By deciding on your message, you will be able to discover a specific tone that is your own. Are you the funny tweeter, the photo sharing Facebooker, or the story telling blogger? Creating and sticking to a particular tone and scheduling posts accordingly will be your first steps to developing your online personality. From there you can build relationships and start connecting. Whether you favorite tweets, like posts, or comment on LinkedIn articles, begin engaging with other users. Doing so, in an organic way, will build connections and will hopefully solidify new readers.

5- So you have the home and the tribe, now what?

Keep your network in the loop. These people are your new friends, and just like your real life friends, they want to be kept up to date with what you’re working on. The more connected you become, the more likely they are to help you celebrate your successes and promote your achievements, be it by purchasing your book or by recommending it to a friend. Hey, that’s what friends are for.

6- Book people tend to love other book people.

Once you’ve connected with a tribe, continue to branch out. Find bloggers who host book tours for authors, or simply write about topics relating to your book. Create a standard template to send out. You could request a book review, offer to participate in a giveaway, or do a blog swap. Bloggers can become your new best friends and reaching out will help to increase exposure to your book.

7- Get your wallet ready…publishing is expensive.

When done right, publishing is not for those with empty pockets. I urge, beg, plead with you, if you take one piece of advice from this entire article, let it be this. Do not skimp out on an editor or cover designer. You can have the best book in the world, but if your cover looks like it was created on Paint (you know, from Microsoft Windows), nobody will pick it up and chances are the people who are picking it up aren’t the ones you want reading it. On the same note, a poorly edited book just screams that you rushed to publish. It’s unprofessional, cheapens your brand, and will make it that much harder to be taken seriously. There are plenty of great ways to build buzz and raise funds for your book, so please take the time to research them before hitting upload on CreateSpace.

 8- If J.K. Rowling couldn’t do it, neither will you.

This final lesson is a blunt one so listen up. Your book will not be an instant success and if it is, credit my helpful guide so I can retire early.

For everyone else, know this- there will be a point where your frustration starts to kick in. At this point, you may begin to go through various stages of author rage: Such as comparing your book to successfully published books or going into a false sense of acceptance, like, “Maybe this is a sign. If my book were meant to make it big, it would have already.” Or, my personal favorite, the desperate plea stage, which usually involves an abundance of posts all begging people to buy or review your book.

You’re better than this author.

Harry Potter went through 12 rejections before winning the Quidditch Cup equivalent of a publishing deal. You know your book is great, your tribe knows your book is great, so remember the three P’s. Persistence and patience will help you persevere. If you give up on your book, you’re telling the world your book isn’t very good and we both know you’ve worked too hard to admit defeat anytime soon.

I look forward to reading your upcoming book. As always, I’m happy to help with any of your marketing needs and am always eager to answer any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

Nicole McArdle

On Being In Love With The Things That Kill Us

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You were 12. Barely a teenager, still young and wide eyed, eager to grow up, to be apart of the world. You were loud, in a take control of the group sort of way. You grew up in a house full of chaos, of too many children in too few rooms, of anxiety and alcoholism, of a physically absent father and a mentally absent mother. The oldest of 8 you were never focused on, but always relied on, to look after the others, to set an example, to be everything your parents couldn’t be. Constantly lost in the shuffle, you struggled to find an identity in your house, but outside, amongst friends everyone knew when you were around. Like the lost boys of peter pan, you spent time with the other unnoticeables, those who crave adventure and excitement as a way to feel anything at all. You related to their silent pain and embraced their ways of healing it. You told me stories of smoking weed and drinking, while others were at their 6th grade functions. You played me the songs you used to relate to, as music had been a passion, ingrained in you for as long as you could remember. I’d soon see the sparkle in your father’s eyes as he spoke of your talent, your only hook to catch him while he was home.

You were 18 when you began to use hard drugs. To further numb the pain, as growing up only further opened your eyes to the mess that was your life. Charismatic and handsome, you appeared to be the epitome of confidence, of the high school guy every other guy wanted to be, tried to be. Of the guy every girl craved, desired and chased. Ironically, it was sobriety that clouded your vision, leaving you unable to see what everyone else saw, take that first hit or snort however, and it all came together.

You were 21 when you met me. I was 19, a simple, shy, quiet girl who knew nothing of the dark world you lived in. Who saw the beauty in everything and everyone, who admired you from afar, surprised to see a guy like you working in a bookstore, so sure that someone like you would never talk to someone like me. You said you saw that, a good in me you hadn’t seen in girls my age. We went on our first date, I still laugh at the thought of you, the bad boy musician, picking me up in the mom mobile mini van. We got coffee and sat in the car for hours, talking and laughing, opening up to each other as if it was much further along than the first date.

And so it began.

You told me about the pills from the beginning, how they controlled your life. You hated how much you needed them but loved the way they made you feel. You held my hands and with a pained, desperate look, told me you never had a reason to stop, until you met me. I deserved better, you said, but you knew you couldn’t stop on your own, in your house, with your friends, the cause of your initial downfall. So as quickly as you came, you left, our first months together were spent apart. And as your addiction began to weaken, mine began to grow.  When you came home, we became inseparable. I craved you, needed you around at all times, a reciprocation of your feelings towards me. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was feeling an intense first love, while you were fulfilling your addictive tendencies. As it often happens, what started out as fun and innocent, quickly turned toxic. Everything we did, said, felt, was intensified. When we fought objects were thrown, holes were punched, no communication, just a continuous battle of screaming over one another. When we loved, we kissed, hugged, unable to contain our smiles and laughter, unable to imagine our lives with anyone else.

Or so I thought.

You were 23 when I began to lose you. They say you never get over your first love and though you loved me, it was nothing in comparison to your love for it. Of all the others you’ve experienced, itwas the one, your oldest friend, easily accessible, always there for you, ready to lift you from your lowest lows and bring you to your greatest highs. Almost immediately I could sense its presence, it was as if a new life was breathed into you, a happiness unfelt for so long. I was tossed to the side, a used toy gone unnoticed, upgraded for another. How quick you were to defend yourself, thereby defending it. You told me I was crazy, that you deserved better. How full circle we had come. The return of it, marked the beginning of the end, you began to relive your experiences with the others- Percs, Oxies but also began to flirt with an untamed beast, heroine.

I was 22 when I let go, as much as I think I’ll ever be able to, of you. You were 25 when you began to get your life back on track. You begged for me back, apologizing for ever hurting me, astounded at my disbelief. I know you believe you were telling the truth, just as I know how it would inevitably return, because I now know it never leaves, no matter how bad we or I would have wanted it to. Your continuous attempts to still reach out to me, have done nothing but let me know that every night, when you get into bed, the moments that made your day, are abruptly replaced by the absence of my warmth against your body and my breath against your skin. I know that as you toss and turn for comfort you’re reminded of the way my head laid perfectly on your chest. But above all, I hope you know, that with every second, minute and hour that you lay awake thinking of these simplistic perfections that unknowingly made your life complete, I am resting peacefully.

A Week of Memories With My Father

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Sundays with my father began with the sounds of Bob Marley, the Beatles, CCR, a concert of classics. The smell of bleach as he mopped the kitchen floor. Mopped and sang. The sight of the kitchen chairs vertically lined up in the dining room. “But I’m hungry!” I’d exclaim. Calmly he’d challenge my inpatients with a game, lifting me up, putting me down in the first chair, kissing the top of my head, saying “But how will your passengers get home if their bus driver is eating breakfast?!” I’d always play along, entering into a world of make believe until the smell of breakfast overcame the dwindling smells of bleach. Sunday mornings must always be started with an Irish breakfast, runny eggs, potatoes, sausages and black pudding. Hot and ready in a plate waiting for me. He did everything for me, down to cutting my toast into “soldiers” a nonsensical word for cutting it into strips. But everything was a game between us, everything was fun.

Mondays meant the start of the workweek, which for my father began at 5 AM and ended at 11. It was his long day. The one-day a week when our time was put on hold. When I’d have to remember all the stories I wanted to share for the next day, would have to make my own solders, and sing my own songs. But even in those days when we were unable to see each other, when he awoke and went to bed long before and after me, we still managed to create a memory. All my life I’ve been a restless sleeper, while I may start out at the head of the bed, I almost always wake up with my feet dangling off the end. On the nights when we didn’t see each other, my father would come into my room, kiss my forehead and said goodnight, I always wondered if he knew I was awake, that I’d wait for his goodnight before falling asleep. In the morning, after my nightly commute, my dad would pass my room and tickle my feet; only he could make me laugh from the moment I woke up.

 

Tuesdays after a long day of work, still covered in the remnants of a day on a construction site, he’d take my little hand and walk with me to the local corner store, the candy store we’d call it. I was allowed to pick a few things but always opted for the gummy bears. The little bears, placed in the little brown bag, held in my little hand, with my big sense of pride and happiness. We’d sit on the couch, candy in tow, and watch TV together. This was our time, and though my hands have grown and the little brown bag seems to have become even smaller, the sight of those little bears takes me back to a time when my biggest dilemma was choosing candy at the store with my dad.

Wednesdays I knew he’d be outside of school to pick me up, always waving when he saw me to make sure I knew he was there. He’d take my bag, ask me about my day and genuinely listen to my lengthy, detailed response. He always listened. Instead of going home, we’d head to the park, straight to the swings. Petrified of swinging too high, I’d always have a mid air conniption, instead of slowing down, however, he’d push me more and as he continued to push the swing higher he’d comfort me “I’m right here, do you really think I’d let you fall?” Always guiding me as I faced a fear, a challenge, a dilemma. Pushing me past my fears, helping me to soar higher than I thought possible.

Thursdays were filled with after school activities. Though he wasn’t there with me, he always was ready to help when need be. The year I joined softball, we practiced to perfect my technique (or lack thereof) for an upcoming game, when I joined cheerleading he gave up his time to come to competitions, despite the fact that I was on a team, it was my Dad who taught me the proper way to dribble a basketball. He was always there to support my dreams, on the sidelines cheering me on, never holding me back from what I wanted to accomplish.

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Friday nights were for relaxing. The best of those nights were during the summer. Sitting on the terrace as my dad barbequed and sang, always singing. We’d sit at the small round table for dinner, “look at that!” he’d say pointing behind me, I’d turn knowing that he was reaching for my plate to steal some food, I’d whip my head around and yell threw fits of laughter “DAD!”, he’d bang his fist on the table, “nothing gets past you! You’re too clever for me!, always playing. After dinner I’d jump in and out of the pool, pretending I was in the Olympics “what would you score this jump dad?” he’d watch every time.  As the summer air changed from humid to breezy we’d move the party inside, the music always following us. In the living room, Elvis sang Can’t Help Falling In Love In through the surrounding speakers, and I’d place my feet on my dads so we could dance around the living room. “This is what it’ll be like at your wedding one day.” “I think my feet will be too big by then Dad!” He’d smile, although now I recall it being sad, most likely because he knew there would be a day where I would be too big to look up at him, to dance around the living room, to have him be the only person I’d want to dance with.

Saturdays with my dad began with breakfast at iHop. The car ride always consisted of brainstorming what to order, we’d go starving and did whatever we could to cut down the wait time, looking at a menu wasted precious minutes better spent on eating. Apparently going out for breakfast on a Saturday was not a unique idea, so despite our best efforts we always had to wait to be seated. Waiting for our booth was never dreaded but embraced. We’d pick out people and make up stories about their lives “that’s Sara, she lives in a mansion, but her cooks quit so she had to come here for breakfast, she thinks it’s beneath her but she doesn’t want to starve.”  We’d pick up on other people’s conversations and laugh at the ridiculous things people say in public. Take me out to dinner now and I can always tell you what the people tables away are discussing. What my dad would say about their conversation.

Life with my Dad has taught me what I want out of my own life, what I want for myself and what it means to have a best friend. There is no greater feeling than knowing you are someone’s entire world, that no matter what, there is someone who would do anything for you, be anywhere for you. Never would he ask for anything in return, the joy of seeing me happy was enough. It’s those memories of candy and dancing that fill me with indescribable warmth. It’s these moments that I’ve taken with me into adulthood, which I look for in friends and boyfriends. I surround myself with people who make me laugh, who can be supportive and positive through the worst of situations and who can truly appreciate the importance of a good breakfast and a great song.