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Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostFri Jan 31, 2020 6:37 pm
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Fortunately, there are so many resources on how to self-publish successfully these days that we no longer have to return to the kludgy methods offered to us back in 2004. Do you need any recommendations on how to do it the 2020 way?

I should probably post a resource list for anyone who's interested in going this route. While there are ways to get it right, there are so many more ways to get it wrong.

Let me know. I've spent the last five years researching this.
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 PostFri Jan 31, 2020 7:29 pm
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Yes, I would be interested in your advice and experience. The last time I did this stuff literally was 2004
Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostSat Feb 01, 2020 5:04 am
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What I should do is write up a detailed report on each step, post it on my blog, and link it here.

What I'm going to do instead is to list a few tips to get you (and whoever else may be interested) in the right direction, and suggest books and websites (and maybe YouTube channels) that I find essential for success.

Please note that this presentation is not extensive. Consider this a starting point for additional research.

One-Stop Shops:

If you want a one-stop shop for setting up a self-publishing business (and by business, I mean setting up a brand that you might apply to future books), I find The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing quite useful, though the most recent edition is going on ten years old now. There are newer and perhaps more relevant resources available, but this is the only book I know of that combines just about everything that's important in self-publishing into one source. It's a dense book, though. I still haven't read all of it, and I've had a copy of it for years.

If you want free information and don't mind going down the rabbit hole (and possibly into a black hole) a bit, I'd recommend subscribing to or at least bookmarking a website called The Book Designer. It posts topical articles about book design or marketing on Mondays and Thursdays and links to other resources for design, marketing, and writing craft on Sundays. If you have the time to dig into the last few months' worth of posts (and all of the ones they link to), you'll get a sense of where the trends are today, but even then, there are some gems dating back several years that are worth looking at. Get a mug of coffee and plan to spend a lot of time scouring the site for information if you choose to dive in.

Other Resources:

-Interior and Cover Design-

The Book Designer also has its own paperback called The Book Blueprint, which covers much of the technical elements behind crafting a print book. It's especially useful for showing you what to include in the front and back matters of a book, as well as what you should consider putting on the cover. Important resource if you care about how professional your book appears to readers.

-Registration-

Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright, and LCCNs is about what the title says. It's a short book that includes updated registration information for 2019, as well as tips for launching your brand effectively the first time. I think The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing covers a good chunk of this, too, so it may be redundant to get this book if you get that one. However, this book is entirely about registrations, whereas the former book is about everything self-publishing, with registration being a small part of the content. It's worth using the "Look Inside" feature to see which one you like better. But I can say that this one is more accessible given its focus, hence why I'm adding it to the list. The author has another book about creating your own imprint if you find that's useful (The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing also provides information for that if I remember correctly).

Regarding ISBNs, everyone agrees that it's better to buy your own ISBNs from Bowker than it is to use the freebies supplied by the distributors, as the ones you buy will have your imprint's name as the publisher, whereas the freebies will have the distributor's name as the publisher. Register Your Book talks more about that, but it's important enough to reiterate it here. Likewise, no one thinks buying a single ISBN is worth the money. You should get, at the very least, a pack of ten. I plan to get a pack of 100 if I can ever manage to save up for it.

Note: You don't need an ISBN if you plan to release your book on Amazon only. Amazon uses its own identification system called ASIN. But you should get an ISBN if you plan to release it anywhere else, and if you plan to produce it in more than one format (the rule is that every edition and every format has its own ISBN).

-Legal Information-

Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook is an essential book for the bookshelf, in my opinion. It reminds you of all of the ways you can violate copyright law if you aren't careful. I wouldn't publish anything until you've read through it. It wouldn't hurt to retain a literary lawyer while you're at it, though I think you'll find that they're more important when you're writing nonfiction. The book also covers topics like working with freelancers and the legal advantages of forming your own LLC. It's a must-own.

-E-book Formatting and Distribution-

Amazon KDP and Smashwords both have onsite guides that can show you how to format your books for e-readers. If you plan to use either of their services (and you probably should), you'll want to take the time to read their guides or watch YouTube videos that can show you how to format e-books for each service properly. In my experience, I've found Amazon much easier to use overall, but Smashwords is more flexible with fixing mistakes on the fly.

It's worth noting that a third site, Draft2Digital, has better formatting options than Smashwords, can reach many of the same stores as Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Rakuten Kobo), and has a sister service called Books2Read that you can use to populate all of your storefronts into a single landing page. I'd recommend using both services, as both can reach certain stores and wholesalers that the other can't. But for the shops that both distributors can reach, you'd likely be happier linking them through Draft2Digital given Smashwords's limited formatting options (or, if you want to maximize your royalty potential, then uploading them direct to each shop might be the best option). Check the royalty rates at each shop before committing, though.

It should be noted, however, that you don't have to use Draft2Digital to use Books2Read. In fact, it's not technically designed for authors but for readers who want to populate shortcuts to their favorite storefronts where they can buy e-books. Authors use it, however, to make it easier for readers to purchase their books from whichever retailer they prefer. It certainly makes it easier to manage your links if you use it.

Distribution Note: If you decide to use both Smashwords and Draft2Digital, make sure you check only the boxes that you want each distributor to ship to. In other words, if you want Draft2Digital to be your e-book distributor to Barnes & Noble, then do not tick the Barnes & Noble box at Smashwords. Only one distributor should ship to a particular storefront at a time.

Formatting Tip: E-books are called "websites in a box." You can technically format an .epub3 file using HTML if you really want tight control of your book's presentation. Here's an article that shows you how to do that. You don't have to do it this way, though. Amazon, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital all allow you to upload simpler documents straight out of Microsoft Word if you want. That's how I create all of my e-books. But, of the three, Smashwords is the only one that makes people angry. (It's easy to use once you know what you're doing though.)

Important Note: Amazon KDP has a service called KDP Select. DO NOT enroll your e-book in that program if you plan to go wide (as in selling it on Barnes & Noble, Apple, Hamster Republic, etc.). It requires a 90-day worldwide exclusivity on your selected e-book title, and obligates you to the platform until the term expires (assuming you back out before it enrolls you in a new term). Its page-reads system works similar to Wattpad but, unlike Wattpad, pays you according to page reads and sales. And, while I believe the payment on actual sales is the same as it is on regular KDP, I've heard that it pays authors by the page a little worse each year. Payment comes out of a shared annual fund, so if J.K. Rowling ever decides to write a new Harry Potter book and makes it exclusive on KDP Select, everyone else is screwed. That said, it's fine if you plan to keep the e-book on Amazon only (and no one pirates it and posts it elsewhere). Really, though, it's better not to enroll any of your books in KDP Select, not anymore. Too much can and has gone wrong for authors, and some authors have even discovered that Amazon can become a bit like Henry VIII if they don't play exactly by their draconian rules when enrolling in the program. Fortunately, if you do enroll, KDP Select doesn't affect your paperbacks or hardcovers. Only your e-books, and only the ones that you specifically enroll. But given how Amazon changes its rules and algorithms constantly, I can't say for sure that this will always be true. Just do your research before making a firm decision to enroll or not to enroll.

-Paperback Distribution-

The online guides will reiterate this, but you'll want to use KDP for paperbacks sold at Amazon, and IngramSpark for paperbacks sold everywhere else. Amazon has great pricing on its own site and terrible pricing for its extended distribution. IngramSpark has better pricing systems for non-Amazon book sellers and is the standard for outside-Amazon distribution. It also costs money to use, including charging fees for uploading fixes, so you'll want to make sure your book is set in stone the first time you upload. NaNoWriMo participants get some of those fees waived if they take advantage of the discount by March, however.

You should know that IngramSpark is your only option for getting paperbacks into brick and mortar stores. But that's its own can of worms, too complicated to talk about here.

-Prep-

Books, websites, and YouTube AuthorTube channels all agree that you should never put a book on the market until your manuscript is solid (complete with beta reads, editor fixes, and proofreader fixes), has a genre-appropriate, eye-catching cover (front, back, and spine if you plan to do a paperback or hardcover), strong copy, and a tribe of followers wanting to read it.

You'll want to hire professional editors and cover designers (and maybe interior designers if you don't have the time to learn it yourself) who know what they're doing if you want the book to get into stellar shape. Neither is cheap, but both should at least be cost-effective. Good editing will likely cost between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on the size of your book (60,000 words will probably land you around $1,500). But you can drive that cost down if you give the editor a manuscript that's already in great shape. Good genre-appropriate cover design will likely cost no less than $300. Anything less and you may want to see samples or a portfolio to be sure you're not getting scammed.

There are a number of sites you could check out for these professionals, but Reedsy has some of the best for the price. Nevertheless, I'd do extensive research on any designer or editor you're considering before pressing the big green button on them. They say the biggest editing and design costs are the ones where the editor or designer gets it wrong.

Regarding the true cost of self-publishing, I like this video's breakdown of the numbers the most.

Regarding store page setup and discoverability, if you want a good Amazon keyword checker for marketing purposes, or for deciding how to categorize your book, I'd recommend checking out Kindlepreneur and its flagship software, Publisher Rocket. The software helps with determining which of your book's keywords are the most-searched and comes with the lowest competition. It also tells you how much each of your competitors' books makes a month. The website has some great resource articles, too.

-Craft Support-

I could post a lengthy thread on crafting tips, but for the sake of brevity, I'll say this. Writers Helping Writers has a wealth of helpful articles, thesauri, and resources worth looking into, including its flagship service, One Stop for Writers, which really should be explored if you have some time.

You may also want to look into self-editing resource, ProWritingAid, and crafting aid, Master Writer, if your budget isn't too tight.

At some point, I'd like to write up a separate post about the topic of writing craft and development and list my favorite resources on the topic. Craft is the one thing above all else that really needs the most attention. But, this post is already too long to start listing my favorites here. Stay tuned.

-Online Courses, Marketing, Self-Editing, etc.-

I've spent a good chunk of 2016 and 2017 attending free webinars and receiving email blasts about "premium courses" for marketing and craft, usually priced at $#97. I actually bought two of these courses for $497 and $197 respectively a few years ago (on monthly payment plans which actually cost me closer to $800 ultimately) and thought they were fine. However, just about everything I learned in these premium courses can also be learned in a book called Sell Your Book Like Wildfire, and that's true of nearly any premium course you might get solicited if you go down the rabbit hole. In short, unless you're getting advice from a titan in the industry (like James Patterson, Lee Child, or George R.R. Martin), you won't need to spend more than $75 on any one course (or $90 if you're a user of Master Class). Anything more and you're probably throwing your money away.

Possible Exception: Sometimes Writer's Digest may offer a decent course taught by a reputable author/instructor for the price and format of a college class. I haven't taken any of these classes, so I can't vouch for their quality, but I know of at least one Writer's Digest author whose book is very good who also teaches for Writer's Digest University. The same author who wrote Sell Your Book Like Wildfire. Might be worth it if you have the money to spare. Let me know if you check any of them out.

Marketing is its own beast, and it really deserves some time to research, but the common response to effective marketing is to build trust, create high-quality material, and play the long game (meaning, write more books). I particularly like this book on that topic. I actually like the author of the book quite a bit, too. Here's her website. Side Note: I watched one of her on-demand crafting courses over the Christmas break and learned stuff I hadn't learned anywhere else. I don't typically advise paying for information you can likely find on YouTube, but I do recommend checking out her classes (if her other courses are anything like the one I watched). Her style is casual but thorough and includes props. Take lots of notes.

Regarding self-editing, I like The Story Grid a lot. The book is a brick, but it gets you thinking about things you probably didn't know you needed to consider. It's another one for the bookshelf.

Solicitations:

If anyone calls you about representing your manuscript, hang up and run away. It's probably a scam. Writer Beware is a watchdog service that reports publishing scams, and you should really consult them before agreeing to anything you didn't seek out yourself. I've had one of these scam publishers contact me about Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two a couple of years ago, telling me they wanted to represent it in their catalogue (for a small fee). I kept asking them why they wanted that one and not Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One instead. They never gave me an answer. They just really wanted the second book (for a small fee). Anyway, they made Writer Beware's list a few months later, and I haven't heard from them since (though the woman who called me, under one name, called me again a few months later, with a different name and for a new company). Just hang up if they call. And, no, I don't know how they got my house phone number.

Finally:

I could keep going, but the most essential thing here is to make sure you have a product that readers want to buy (and read). So, if you're lacking in any crafting considerations (structure, genre expectations, narrative weight, proper scene development, etc.) or presentation (appropriate cover and title design, copy, author bio and photo, etc.), then I would keep working at it until the whole package is sufficient. I spent the better part of a year self-publishing old stories as new e-books in 2015 and 2016 (after some general edits) and had a shockingly lackluster reader response to them. In short, I've made about $10 across all of my titles. You'll really want to take the time to get it right before you publish any of your books. It's a pain to go back and fix things after they've gone public, including your author brand. My goal for the next couple of years is to reset and launch my books properly. You should do the same before you find yourself having to reset.

Let me know if you have any questions.
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Liquid Metal King Slime
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 PostSat Feb 01, 2020 1:45 pm
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Thank you Pepsi Ranger! That is a great overview packed with useful references.

I very much appreciate the benefit of your experience on this topic.

EDIT:

I think I will focus on the low-cost and free options right now. The only stuff I am inclined to splurge on will probably be an editor and the cover art commission, but we shall see.

My priorities in order are:

* Have a story that I am very happy with
* Have a paperback of it, even if it's just for me
* Make it available for people to buy if they are interesting

I am interested in the whole "marketing" side of things, but I am making a conscious decision in advance that I don't want marketing to be stressful, and I'll only be engaging in marketing activities that I consider to be "fun". I know that will limit the effectiveness, but I am okay with that.
Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostSat Feb 01, 2020 7:28 pm
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No problem.

Whatever decisions you make, be sure to have a plan and stick to it the best you can. Be realistic about the outcome. Do all of the research that you can before release.

Also, I've updated the previous post to include a link to IngramSpark (I was trying to link to all of the mentioned resources that I could, but for some reason I missed that one). I've also fixed and added to some information in the "E-book Formatting and Distribution" section. Reread it again when you get a moment to see what's new.

Regarding marketing, the most important thing is to get the word out and keep your audience engaged. I'm attempting to develop a following on YouTube as a means to increase my platform. It's slow-going, and I'm not very consistent, but it's a platform that everyone uses and is ripe for creativity, so something might catch on eventually. Something to consider while you're pulling everything together.
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 PostSun Feb 02, 2020 7:58 pm
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Kylekrack, I e-mailed you a PDF for "beta-reading"

If anybody else wants to beta-read, just ask. As a beta reader, don't even think about editing or proofreading, just read, and share your feelings afterwards.

I am currently using the working title "Thief, Acolyte, Consort"
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 PostSun Feb 09, 2020 10:53 pm
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yes please i'd like to read it!

great resources ranger! you are a gift from god
Liquid Metal King Slime
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 PostSun Feb 16, 2020 8:38 pm
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This weekend I posted a "Job" for a cover art commission on deviantart, and was pleased by how many serious and profession artists responded. I dug through all the sample galleries, and narrowed them down to a "Top 5" and then e-mailed my favorite with a description of what I was looking for.

My wife helped me brainstorm what I really wanted in a cover art, and even made me a quick mock-up which was extremely helpful in clarifying my own wants (Not so much sky! More colors! Contrast of light and dark!)

I also read a bunch of resources about copy-editing and proofreading (Thank you again, Pepsi Ranger!)
It was nice to have a clear understanding of what level of editing I am, and am not, looking for.

I also compared some prices for paperback print-on-demand (Currently leaning towards Lulu.com, which is familiar since I used it once before, and because it seems to tick all the boxes that I want, at least for this first stage) I plan to do the paperback first, and the e-book second.

I was also delighted to discover that as a Canadian Resident, I can get ISBN numbers assigned for free. Bowkers charges for them in the US, but in Canada, they are managed by the Library and Archives of Canada, and residents don't have to pay for them, but they are still perfectly valid word-wide (Yay!)

I have also totally started writing another book. This self-publishing process requires a lot of waiting, and it was simply driving me crazy not having anything to do on my phone at bedtime other than social media, so I started writing again (well, sometimes I play OHR games on my phone at bedtime, but that isn't every day)

How about everybody else? How's your writing life going?
Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostMon Feb 17, 2020 11:30 pm
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Quote:
This weekend I posted a "Job" for a cover art commission on deviantart, and was pleased by how many serious and profession artists responded. I dug through all the sample galleries, and narrowed them down to a "Top 5" and then e-mailed my favorite with a description of what I was looking for.

My wife helped me brainstorm what I really wanted in a cover art, and even made me a quick mock-up which was extremely helpful in clarifying my own wants (Not so much sky! More colors! Contrast of light and dark!)


This reminds me that there's a site called PickFu that you could use for quick polling feedback if you're ever torn between two or three great ideas. It's great if you want to know what 50 complete strangers think of your concept.

Note: Here's a short review of the service if you want to see how it works.

Quote:
I also read a bunch of resources about copy-editing and proofreading (Thank you again, Pepsi Ranger!)
It was nice to have a clear understanding of what level of editing I am, and am not, looking for.


Sure thing.

Quote:
I also compared some prices for paperback print-on-demand (Currently leaning towards Lulu.com, which is familiar since I used it once before, and because it seems to tick all the boxes that I want, at least for this first stage) I plan to do the paperback first, and the e-book second.


It's been a while since I had a good look at them. Looks like they're Shopify-friendly. That's cool.

Quote:
I was also delighted to discover that as a Canadian Resident, I can get ISBN numbers assigned for free. Bowkers charges for them in the US, but in Canada, they are managed by the Library and Archives of Canada, and residents don't have to pay for them, but they are still perfectly valid word-wide (Yay!)


Yes, I'd forgotten about that. I think it's Bowker's way of compensating Canadians for having to live with polar bears.

Quote:
I have also totally started writing another book. This self-publishing process requires a lot of waiting, and it was simply driving me crazy not having anything to do on my phone at bedtime other than social media, so I started writing again (well, sometimes I play OHR games on my phone at bedtime, but that isn't every day)


Yep, that's how long-tail marketing works. Write more books!

Quote:
How about everybody else? How's your writing life going?


I am juggling at least a dozen projects at once. I think. I don't actually want to count how many are in development for fear of entering into a state of deep depression and/or anxiety.
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 PostSun Apr 05, 2020 3:27 pm
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I have been working on my cover text formatting, the artist who I commissioned for the cover has been doing a great job. I'll post a picture of it when it is final.

I was able to get my ISBN number (Yay free Canadian ISBNs!) and correctly format it as a barcode.

I was reading about that second little barcode that encodes the suggested retail price. The best clearest documentation I could find about it was here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EAN-5

But When I pulled a bunch of random books off my shleves and looked at them, I was curious to find that quote a few of them don't conform to the pattern described there.

I know 50699 means retail price $6.99 (USD)
and 61495 means retail price $14.95 (CAD)

But I found a bunch that don't match any of the price formats.

Room 13 by Henry Garfied (ISBN 0-689-84153-1) has the price code 84153
Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (ISBN 0-14-028009-X) has the price code 28009

Actually, checking even more right now... and more than half of the books on our shelves have tiny barcodes that don't conform to the pattern of being an EAN-5 price. As far as I can tell, older books with 10 digit ISBNs have tiny barcodes that don't match the EAN-5. Even the ones that start with a "5" don't look like plausible prices.

Animal Farm by George Orwell (ISBN 0-451-52634-1) has the price code 52634 which is obviously not $26.34 ... oh, dang. I just realized it is just a repeat of a subsection of the ISBN number!

I guess the tiny barcode didn't mean the same thing in the days of the 10-digit ISBN as it does not in the days of the 13-digit ISBN.

I guess I learned a thing?
Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostSun Apr 05, 2020 9:18 pm
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Sure looks like you learned a thing.

According to the "Barcodes" chapter in Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright, and LCCNs, the current way to handle the 5-digit code is to use it for price point. So your older books clearly come from an older standard.

It's important to also remember that barcodes are necessary only if you plan to sell your book in stores. It's definitely a good idea to have them, just in case you decide to take a box to your local retailer and they decide they want it, but generally barcodes with the exact price aren't necessary if you're just going to keep a box of books in your garage to give as gifts to friends or family during certain holiday seasons.

Other Notes:

The book also suggests you don't get your barcodes from MyIdentifiers.com (Bowker) because they're overpriced. It suggests getting them from AaronGraphics or Barcode Graphics instead. A quick look at both sites convinces me that they are definitely the better option.

The book also notes that if you print your price in the barcode and you decide to change the price later, you'll need to print barcode stickers to replace the old price. Keep that in mind if you ever change your mind about the price.

Also keep in mind who your printer is when positioning the barcode. If you use KDP Print, you'll have to set it in the lower right corner of the book. IngramSpark is more flexible. Not sure what Lulu requires, if you're still planning to use them.

Glad it's all coming along nicely, though. Looking forward to seeing the cover art.
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 PostMon Apr 06, 2020 12:45 am
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I used to eat barcodes for breakfast, so I was planning on making my own barcodes, but then I remembered I don't have access to the nice software I used to be able to use at my old employer in California.

I need up using this tool, which I was quite impressed with.
https://the-burtons.xyz/barcode-generator/ it is free but I donated them a few pounds anyway.

I assume the need to use stickers to replace the price is just if you want to change the default price. Doesn't seem like it should matter for being temporarily "on sale"

Lulu has a couple different cover options, but the one I am using is the "Advanced wraparound" cover, so I have full control over barcode placement (still sticking it in the correct corner of course, but nice to be able to know exactly whick little bit of the art will get hidden)
Liquid Metal Slime
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 PostFri Apr 10, 2020 8:02 pm
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I've had this one sitting on my hard drive for half a month. Finally finished editing it yesterday.

For anyone looking for writing resources, here's one you might want to consider putting in your toolbox (if you can afford it). It's called ProWritingAid, and it searches documents for areas to improve in 20+ categories.



If you view the video on YouTube, you can also check out the link to my companion article that covers my workflow tips.

Note: The video is about 34 minutes long and goes through the trouble of demonstrating the software in action, but there are shorter ones online if you just want a review.
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 PostSun Apr 19, 2020 1:31 am
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TAC Ebook Cover Image - 600x800 - 2020-04-16.png
I am nearly done with my book, and I am targeting the first weekend in May for releasing, both as an e-book and as print on demand.

Here is the blurb I wrote for store listings:

blurb wrote:

A new city and a fresh start was what former thief Catt Zago was looking for, but what she found instead was Great Bakak, a city-state ruled ancient tradition and full of everyday magic. A place full of many gods and many people where the King rules supreme, but the royal executioners seem to be calling the shots.

What Catt didn't expect was to meet a fascinating woman, a professor of magic at the local wizard university, doomed by a strange bit of luck to become the next King.

Catt wasn't planning on committing any crimes, this was supposed to be a safe place to start over, but now, could she really be contemplating stealing a King?



And here is what the cover will look like
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 PostSun Apr 19, 2020 5:12 am
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WOW that cover is amazing, and shockingly close to the image I had in my mind of the castle/town square. Your imagery was quite effective, apparently.

The blurb does a pretty good job of giving enough information to draw interest, but not enough to reveal anything about what's truly going on. Some of the sentences might be a bit run-on, if not grammatically then thematically. "A place full of many gods" feels to me like a different topic than the King and executioners. Definitely just nitpicking on that, though.
Ps. I love my wife
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