Tag Archives: self-publishing

Predictions for how COVID-19 will impact the book industry

So let’s get this out of the way at the front end of things: I am not an economist, nor am I a fortune teller. 🙂 However, I do like to think I have a decent understanding of the publishing industry, so I thought it might be interesting to put together some predictions for how the current pandemic and resulting economic fallout could impact publishing and books. Definitely leave a comment down below with your own thoughts and predictions–I’d love to know what others think about this!

Traditional Publishing

  1. Many smaller presses are going to go under. Publishers who use a traditional business model are already facing such economic pressure that the coronavirus is unfortunately going to be the nail in the coffin. Things like renting a space in NYC and employing an HR department, admin assistants, a marketing department, and on-staff cover artists and copy editors will become simply too expensive.
  2. Smaller and larger presses alike are going to back out of many book deals with new and especially midlist authors in favor of deals that seem like a sure success. I would not be at all surprised if authors who have a publishing deal find that deal rescinded or indefinitely delayed. The midlist problem, commonly understood as publishers betting on blockbuster books and no longer offering much support or sizable advances for midlist authors, will intensify even further.
  3. Readers who have been loyal to paperback and hardcover books are going to give ebooks and audiobooks a try, since it’s tougher right now to get physical copies. (For those who don’t know, Amazon is prioritizing stocking their warehouses with essential items right now, which has a direct impact on if you can buy a trad-pub book online.) For many readers, a shift to ebooks or audiobooks won’t be just a temporary measure but will change reading habits permanently.
  4. Prices of ebooks (generally much higher for trad-pub books than indie books) are going to fall as traditional publishers try to grab readers’ dollars in whatever way they can.
  5. Expect to see a rise in trad-pub ebook sales, not just from readers switching from hard copies to ebooks out of necessity, but due to the lipstick/nail polish index phenomenon, where people tend to purchase items of smaller value for psychological comfort in times of economic distress. People also have more free time, so some people will spend that time reading more than they have in the past. I believe this last point applies more to readers in the traditional sphere, since whale readers appear to read more indie books through services like Kindle Unlimited. That is to say, the whale readers are already reading tons, and I doubt they will be reading even more than they already are.
  6. A longer-term prediction: as people working in trad-pub begin working from home or are laid off, NYC will slowly lose its status as North America’s trad-pub mecca.

Indie/Hybrid Publishing

  1. In response to trad-pub’s prices coming down, indie authors will lower their prices to remain competitive. We might see the return of the 99 cent ebook.
  2. “Hybrid” publishers who publish using many of the tips and tricks used by indie authors will snatch up books by authors who had a trad-pub deal and don’t want to put in the indie effort.
  3. Indie and hybrid book sales will temporarily dip in the next month due to readers’ current stress levels, but then experience a fairly swift rise because of readers having more free time, as well as the lipstick/nail polish index (mentioned above).
  4. This one’s a long shot, but print sales might go up for indie authors? I can vaguely envision a reader who is super-committed to reading only physical books not being able to get copies of trad-published works, so ordering indie books that look interesting because indies can still print and ship according to demand.

Stories

  1. No-brainer: we’re going to see a veritable tsunami of pandemic stories releasing, starting in about two months’ time from the indie crowd and two years’ time for trad-pub. Post-apocalyptic stories will probably also experience a rise, as well as speculative horror with a disease focus. I’m not sure if I’ll personally be wanting to read these types of stories after all this craziness, though!
  2. We’re also going to see a rise in stories with a feel-good/fluffy feel–cute romances, beach reads, etc. Perhaps a return of chick lit?? New Adult with a chick lit feel seems like it would be a grand slam–something like Bridget Jones’ Diary but with the MC aged down to twenty-two.
  3. Due to traditional publishers only wanting to bet on sure successes, there will be an even greater pressure on highly successful trad-pub authors to bring their books to market faster (authors like VE Schwab, Sarah J. Maas, etc.). Expect to see lower quality stories from trad-pub authors, since they will be under pressure to rush their process along.
  4. Since it will be harder to get trad-pub deals, more authors with serious writing chomps will start to indie/hybrid publish. This means that authors won’t be going through the lengthy trad-pub editing process with a need to get a go-ahead from the business/marketing team. That means we will hopefully see more innovative story lines!

So those are my predictions–what do you think? I’m beyond curious to know what impact you guys think the coronavirus will have on the publishing industry and stories in general, so leave a comment below!

ARC: The Warehouse by Rob Hart

Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Warehouse debuts August 20th.

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a book about Amazon. If you’ve ever entertained the question of what the world would look like if Amazon continues going great guns and secures a bit more political power, then this is a must-read. This is a near-future dystopia, where devastating global warming and Black Friday massacres have ensured that consumers are unwilling to leave their houses—basically ever. Enter Cloud, who will drone-ship every product imaginable to your doorstep in the blink of an eye. Their workers live in massive company towns, where you get paid in Cloud credits, eat Cloud burgers, and sleep in Cloud-issued apartments. And if you don’t want to buy into the system, too bad, because unemployment is sky high, so how else you gonna make a buck, bro?

Enter Paxton and Zinnia, two new recruits to Cloud. Paxton is an entrepreneur whose small business dreams were squashed under the weight of pressure by Cloud to lower his production costs. Zinnia is a corporate spy on the most dangerous mission of her life: to figure out how Cloud is really producing their energy. Paxton has a job on the security team, while Zinnia only manages to secure a lowly picker role. If you have any sort of plot intuition, you can kinda see where things are headed from there, and it’s a wild, compulsive read that was hard to put down.

Listen, I like Amazon well enough. To give a personal example, my book is on Amazon in the KDP program, and I truly admire the innovation they have brought to the publishing industry by introducing the Kindle and an ebook marketplace to the world. Believe it or not, at least in the publishing sphere, Amazon has been great for the little guy. Print-on-demand and easy ebook distribution are threatening to topple the long-established gatekeepers of publishing, i.e., agents and publishers, allowing authors to be their own boss and have total control over their final product.

But that’s not to say that everything Amazon does smells of roses; you don’t get to that level of success without trampling over others. So if you’re a fan of dystopian fiction, I would definitely pick this up—it’s a fast, thrilling read that will ironically probably be topping Amazon’s book rankings.


Writer’s Corner: Tech Tools of the Trade

This last year has been one big bookish whirl—after I finished putting final edits on my second book, I came to a pretty earth-shattering realization that I was wholly disillusioned with the publishing industry and didn’t want to pursue a trad publishing route after all. When I opted for the indie route, I knew there would be a big learning curve to starting what is essentially a small business. What I didn’t anticipate was how integral some websites would become to my workflow. This post definitely is not just for indie authors, but for anyone who is trying to make things happen in the digital space. I’ll do another post soon specifically about Instagram apps, as well as about the publishing industry companies I chose to partner with (aggregate distributors, etc.).

Canva

I adore Canva; it’s an easy and intuitive way to make professional and enticing graphics. There’s not many graphics on this website that didn’t go through Canva first, from my blog header to my logo to the cover of the Specter free short story. I adore that I can use it on my phone so that I can easily download and upload Instagram posts. Also, Canva provides a great printing service; it’s how I printed my business cards and some posters for Specter promo. The products shipped fast and the print quality is great.

Befunky

Please don’t laugh at me—I use Befunky primarily for resizing graphics. I know, I know… there are way easier ways to do this, even within WordPress itself, but somehow I always have a hard time remembering how. Befunky just works with my wonky brain, for some reason, so it’s my dedicated resizer.

Linktree

Linktree is what I use for that crucial one link you get for your Instagram bio. They make everything look professional, and it’s free. What else could a girl ask for?

Google Drive

This one kind of pains me, because at the core of it I hate Google. I think they’re creepy and power-hungry, so it pains me that I find Google Drive so damn useful. The easily accessible storage speaks for itself, and I love that Docs and Sheets are so intuitive and that I can invite other people to view documents and leave comments. Due to having to write on multiple devices, I can regrettably no longer easily draft with Scrivener, so Google Docs is what I’m currently using. I guess this is the one service on here that I’d like to replace, if simply because I don’t like to support Google as a company… maybe Reedsy or Office Online? I’ll have to look into it, but for the time being, there is no denying that Google Drive helps me get work done easily.

Pacemaker

Pacemaker has been a recent discovery, again due to the fact that I’m drafting again and can’t use Scrivener and its word count features. For a word count tool, it is extremely customizable, and I love how it shows your progress on a chart.

Google Keep

Google Keep is another of those pesky Google apps that I use every single day with a tinge of regret. It’s meant for keeping lists, of course, but I’ve found myself using it in surprising ways—for example, to keep a list of my commonly used Instagram hashtags handy for pasting into each post. If you’re a person who likes lists, Keep is where it’s at.

3D Book Cover Creator

This tool totally saved me from having to manually cut out the white space from around a 3D cover rendering. It is so easy to use, and there are many different options to choose from in terms of paperback, hardback, phone, Kindle, etc. I have found that it is a little bit buggy at times (one time I went to download my cover, only to find that they’d sent me somebody else’s!), but I still always get the graphic I want with a little fiddling around.


What tools do you use for your blog or business? Leave your favorites down below!

My Beautiful Book or: How Formatting Unleashed My Inner Control Freak

Anyone who knows me as a writer knows that I am… picky. I write slowly because I like to finesse my language and edit as I go. (I know, not the way you’re supposed to do things, but whatever.) The words must be evocative. The sentences must have flow and rhythm. It means that despite all my writer friends being NaNoers, I’m always coming in last in the word wars—a perpetual loser’s fate that I’ve just learned to accept over time.

So because I’m a self-aware picky person, I knew that when it came to actually crafting my Word document into a final, physical product that that attitude would prevail. The purpose of this post isn’t to change my ways or confess some self-discovery. Really, I just want to set down in writing all the things I’ve done recently to make my manuscript into a PDF ready for print, both to give other indie authors a sense of a good order to do things and honestly to also remind myself what to do when I have to do this again a year or so down the line. FYI that there is a lot of typography and formatting mumbo jumbo in this post—too much for me to stop and define it all, but it is all very Google-able. Heads-up also that this is a very lengthy post.

Step 1: Look At Books

I read a lot. A lot a lot. Not as much as some of those Goodreads gods and goddesses who stack up hundreds of books in one year, perhaps, but definitely way more than the average person. You would think, therefore, that I know what books look like.

Wrong! There are so many little formatting details that take a manuscript from book-ish to actual book, and we readers often gloss over them. The very first thing I did at this stage of the game was to look at books that I wanted my book to look like (YA, paperback, paranormal/mystery/thriller). I paid attention to font choice, whether the text was justified, the layout of the front and back matter, the page number placement, the margin size (literally downloaded a ruler app so I could get to measuring in Starbucks), headers and footers, the use of imprint logos, etc.

Then I made myself a wish list:

  • 5.25″ x 8″ cover
  • Author logo on spine (99% of traditionally published books have an imprint logo on the spine, so I wanted a logo too)
  • First few words of each chapter in small caps in a different font
  • Cool chapter heading font
  • Line break ornament
  • Justified text
  • Hyphenation
  • Chapter starts don’t need to be on the right
  • Page numbers on outside bottom, starting on proper first page of book
  • Half title and full title graphic to echo the cover in the front matter
  • Appropriate-looking copyright page with necessary credits
  • Blurb or excerpt on back cover
  • Author website listed directly above barcode on the back cover
  • Author photo in back matter
  • Font changes where appropriate for style (text messages, articles)
  • Gray bubble text boxes to indicate text messages

Quite a lot, right? I’m sure there was more on my wish list, but this is just what I can remember off the top of my head.

Step 2: List Out Things to Buy

After some initial fumbling attempts at making my own cover and logo, I decided I’d rather pay some professionals to do this for me. PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying you need to spend oodles of money to have a great-looking book, but understand that this is my primary hobby and my money to spend.

Here was what I bought:

  • Logo, purchased on Fiverr for about $35
  • Professional author photo, $185
  • Cover, purchased on 99designs, $367. Understand that I knew I needed to buy a cover, but I didn’t buy it yet, due to needing to tell the designer the final page count.

There are typesetting services you can pay for, but I’m proficient enough at Word that I decided I could do all that myself. (Yes, Word. Some people use fancier programs, but I wanted to just make do with the beast that is Microsoft Office, since I know it well and didn’t want to buy a new program.) Which brings us on to the next step…

Step 3: Format and Typeset the Manuscript

I used many of the KDP guides to format the Word document, essentially following this webinar exactly to get the dimensions set properly. In terms of margins, I measured YA paperbacks that I felt looked good and modeled my margins after them. Then I put in placeholder pages for the front and back matter, adding in the content over time.

Here was my front matter order. I mirrored the content and order off of paperback YA books.

  1. Half title graphic without author name
  2. “Also by Author” page
  3. Full title graphic with author name and logo
  4. Copyright page with logo
  5. Dedication
  6. Blank page

And my back matter:

  1. Author’s Note
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Ad for The Gold in the Dark, which I made myself in Canva. My wonderful author friend totally saved me here by telling me to not only have a black and white version of this, but also a color version to place at the back of the ebook.
  4. “About the Author” page

My one real disappointment in terms of the front and back matter is that KDP does not allow you to have anything printed on the inside cover, which many YA paperbacks do. If this were an option, I would absolutely have had something on the inside cover, likely a blurb in the front and the “About the Author” in the back. Oh well. 😦

Once I had my front matter in the document, this meant I could add in page numbers (starting on Chapter One first page). I used this function in Word to get them formatted properly.

Next I adjusted the paragraph and line formatting, making sure that there weren’t too few or too many lines of text on a full page. Given my margins and dimensions, twenty-nine lines per page seemed about right. I adjusted the paragraph indents (NOT using spaces or tabs!!!!) until they looked good visually. While I was doing all this, I made sure to zoom out from the document frequently to get a proper view.

Things were now looking pretty decent as far as I could tell. I began the long and thankless task of searching for fonts to use for my chapter headings, small caps chapter introductory words, text messages, etc. Some were already installed on Word, while others I found on Dafont and 1001 Fonts. I made sure that these fonts were able to be used in a commercial project, then marked down their designers in the copyright page. One thing to note here is that after a long and arduous search for a line break ornament, I found a stunning dingbats font that worked perfectly, so no need for messing around with vector files or anything like that. Hurrah!

At this point, text messages became the bane of my existence. There are many text message conversations in my book, and I had a lot of minute design goals for how I wanted them to look. Here was my vision:

  • Texts in a bubble (I used the rounded rectangle shape in Word)
  • A sans-serif font that looks like a text message (I used Arial Nova Light)
  • Text bubbles aligned either on the right or the left so that they looked like a conversation, flush with the margins
  • Two shades of gray to indicate both people in the conversation
  • The text margin inside the bubble aligned with the main text paragraph indent (man, what a mouthful)
  • Small, natural-looking line breaks in between paragraph and text messages
  • No hyphenation
  • No justification

If you have ever done any sort of precise work on Word, you’ll know that it’s not always easy to get pictures positioned exactly where you want them, especially when text is involved. In my experience, images sometimes jump around a little bit, and the anchor “feature” can just as easily become a nuisance. I did my best with the text messages at this point, with the understanding that, because I still had some other formatting to do, there would be a cascading effect with the text messages, so the text messages would have to be one of the very last things to fix. If necessary, I knew that I could make PDFs of the specific chapters with text messages once they were perfect, then smush everything together into one big Frankenstein PDF.

Next I decided to get super nitty-gritty. (As if we weren’t there already.) I went through the entire manuscript fixing widow and orphan words. It seems that there’s some difference of opinion about what constitutes a widow and orphan; my vague, personal definition was any lone word on a line ending a paragraph and any small line of text alone on a page ending a chapter. To fix these, I experimented with the font spacing in each instance, condensing or expanding the spacing by up to .2 points. This was laborious to the extreme; I think my husband watched four hours of The Punisher in the time it took me to go through the whole book. Oh well, such is the life of a control freak.

This is when it started to feel like things were drawing to a close typesetting-wise, so I decided to export the PDF and do a visual check. Oh joy, look at all the cascading text messages as a consequence of the widow and orphan fixes, exactly where I didn’t want them. I did some minor tweaking to get them in the right places again, then made some other minor changes: a few more widow/orphan fixes, adding in some missing italicization (for some reason, a lot of text in the document became de-italicized a little while back), etc. I also realized that the bottom text on some pages was lower than others, due to the various texts/font changes/ornaments/chapter headings present throughout the book. The difference was very slight, and I doubt many people would notice, but it was still present. Since this seemed like a difficult issue to fix, I opted to place my page numbers lower down on the page, so that the distance between the text and page number was larger. My hope was that doing so would make this issue less apparent, and I do think this fix worked pretty well.

Then it was time to export to PDF again for another visual check. (Lesson learned: it’s never not time for another visual check!) I found a few more minuscule issues, fixed those, visual check, and… we’re… DONE!

Step 4: Read the Book and Correct Errors

As I mentioned above, for whatever reason a little while ago some italicized words in my text became de-italicized—whole paragraphs of them, in some cases. So I wanted to do a final read through to check that I’d caught all the missing italics and look for anything else that needed fixing that my quick visual checks kept missing.

This was a good thing to do anyway, since it had been a couple months since I last read the book, so I was able to spot some other errors easier. (A couple missing words, two small continuity errors, etc.) Since I had already done the bulk of the formatting, I was very careful when correcting errors at this stage that I wasn’t causing any formatting issues by adding in text that was too short or too lengthy, etc.

Step 5: Order a Proof Copy

This was the point when everything fell apart. I ordered a proof copy from Amazon and held my breath for a day waiting for it to arrive. (Paid for rush shipping, of course—how could I not??) As soon as I cracked the book open, I knew things had to change. The font was too big, and the inner margin was a tad too close to the spine of the book. The book was readable, but I wanted to provide a reading experience that would be comfortable and not make anyone think about the formatting. I mean, that’s the whole point of this formatting journey, right? You want all your hard work to fade into the background, so that the physical layout of your book isn’t distracting from the reading experience.

So I brought the font size down, then brought in the inner margins by .25 inches. And because surely you’re aware by now, this had an enormous cascading effect on everything else I’d done thus far. The text messages were completely out of whack, and all the work I’d put in for the widows and orphans went down the drain in a second. I hunkered down and spent three days in formatting hell to fix everything, until I’d forgotten what the outside world looked like.

Then bought another proof. Then moped around the house on a Saturday for my package to arrive, having heart palpitations. (Kidding.) Then realized at 6:45 when I checked the app that the proof had been delivered an hour ago, but at the front of our apartment, not at our doorstep like usual.

Get the package. Rip it open. Open the book.

We good. Looks perfect. Final page count: 369.

You should have seen how happy I was when I went to go get a celebratory bottle of wine, blasting eighties music in my car all the way.

Step 6: Buy a Cover

Now I not only had a finished, glowing, beautiful PDF, but also the crucial page count. That meant I could at long last buy a cover, since knowing the page count enabled me to tell the cover designer how wide the spine of the book should be. I’d already been having a back and forth conversation with some artists about design details and expectations, so I went ahead and plunked down my money. I’m not going to go into huge details about the cover process, but will probably save that for a future post, since I think I learned some good things there that could be useful to other independent authors.

Conclusion

I could see some people reading this post and thinking I’m a crazy person. This is the point where I could say and maybe I am! for a cheap laugh. But honestly, I don’t think any of this is crazy. It took forever, but my honest belief is that these tiny details make an enormous difference in the way readers view your book. This may be just a hobby for me (I’ve definitely spent money and not made a dime thus far!) but I care about looking professional and putting out the absolute best book I can—and design is a big part of that.

So no apologies from me. Specter looks the best I can make it (cover reveal coming very, very soon!) and I’m glad I went through this grueling process. Thankfully, now that I’ve done it once, the next book won’t be as difficult. And hopefully this guide will be helpful to someone out there who is also looking to whip their manuscript into shape formatting-wise! ❤