Tag Archives: self-publishing

THWARTED QUEEN has won a B.R.A.G. Medallion!

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

I’m having a good weekend! Did you know that THWARTED QUEEN has won a B.R.A.G. Medallion?

B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group, a collection of readers, both individuals and from book clubs, located in the United States, Canada and the European Union. Their mission is to recognize quality on the part of those authors who self-publish both print and digital books, because these books rarely get reviews in the New York Times Book Review or other leading sources. I am delighted that they chose THWARTED QUEEN to be honored in this way. To find out more about B.R.A.G. and the work they do, please click here.

Have a fabulous Sunday!

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DON’T leave your MSS moldering in a drawer…

Recently, I attended the Fall meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Book Publisher’s Association (MBPA), a regional affiliate of the Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA). The whole day was devoted to discussing e-books.

The industry continues to change at breakneck speed. When I mentioned at the beginning of this year that I was still seeking representation, an online acquaintance dismissed that with the comment that is was “so 2010”. On the other side, I once heard a well-known New York agent say, when asked about self-publishing, that she wasn’t interested in stuff that had already been published. That was in December 2010. Now, it is November 2011, and my colleagues at the MBPA were sharing stories of how agents are actively pursuing some of us who have self-published. Why? Because if we can demonstrate that we can sell our books, they become very interested.

Similar changes are taking place at Publisher’s Weekly, which is now giving self-published authors an opportunity to present their titles to the publishing trade, in recognition of the fact that  valuable works are being published outside traditional publishing. PW has launched a new program called PW Select, a quarterly supplement that presents self-published books to PW’s trade audience. Authors are required to pay a processing fee of $149. The carrot is that if PW really likes your work, they’ll do a full review of it in this supplement. A lucky few from among the listed titles will be selected for an interview and given an opportunity to pitch their book.

To read more, click here.

The moral of this story? Don’t leave your MSS moldering in a drawer. With determination, persistence and a great deal of work, self-publishing can be a venue to a publishing career.

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Filed under Agents, Conferences, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes

Another Announcement!


Excuse me for not writing a proper post today. I’m busily putting my novels, THE BRIDE PRICE, ONE SEED SOWN, THE GILDED CAGE and TWO MURDERS REAPED on CreateSpace. I hope to have the paperbacks out sometime next week.

Meanwhile, here is a screenshot of the cover for THE BRIDE PRICE to whet your appetite.

Have a great weekend!

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I discovered THE INDIE AUTHOR GUIDE: SELF-PUBLISHING STRATEGIES ANYONE CAN USE by April L. Hamilton, because it was used as the textbook for a course I took at Writer’s Digest University on self-publishing.


Although this book is not as comprehensive as THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE that I reviewed last week, its great strength lies in two qualities.


First, it is organized so that it takes you through the whole process of self-publishing. Chapter One is an introduction to the world of indie authorship. Chapter Two is about getting organized. Chapter Three is about marketing. Chapter Four discusses publishing options, taking the reader through self-publishing, vanity publishing, print on demand and all of the various other options one has to consider nowadays. Chapter Five is about how to format your manuscript. Chapter Six is about editing and revising. Chapter Seven is about designing your own book cover. Chapter Eight is about printing through a POD (print-on-demand) service provider. Chapter Nine is about publishing in E-book formats. Chapter Ten is about author platform. Chapter Eleven is about promotion. Chapter Twelve is about making the transition from Indie to Mainstream.


Second, it forces you to ask yourself questions about your goals, and to devise a strategy that meshes with your goals.


This book is perfect for those of you who are considering indie authorship, but just want to dip your toe into it to get a sense of what is involved, before you plunge into a book that is as detailed as THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE. It is also great for those of you who need some help in formulating goals for self-publishing. This book will give you a good framework for your self-publishing journey, and I recommend it in addition to a more detailed book. Four stars.

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How I created 5 book covers using iPhoto and Photoshop Elements 9

I’ve finally managed to do it. After correcting the edits made on the manuscript of THWARTED QUEEN, I spent 5 days systematically going through PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS 9 ALL-IN-ONE GUIDE FOR DUMMIES, and 2 days creating 5 covers for my forthcoming novel.


Why 5 covers for 1 novel?


Because I’m going to give my readers the option of either reading the whole 500-page chunkster, or reading it in smaller doses book by book. Let me
explain. When I wrote THWARTED QUEEN, it naturally fell into 4 books. Book One (THE BRIDE PRICE) is about Cecylee’s girlhood, Book Two (ONE SEED SOWN) is about her affair of the heart. Book Three (THE GILDED CAGE) is about her husband’s political career, which she participated in. Book Four (TWO MURDERS REAPED) is about her last years. Knowing that some people are really put off by long historical novels, I decided it might be helpful to offer both the long version, and four shorter versions. Hence the five covers.


After struggling with Photoshop on my iMac (not a happy combination), I was finally able to create 5 easy covers that combine both a photo and text that anyone could do. So here are some tips that I thought I’d pass along for how I created these covers using Photoshop.


  1. I used iPhoto for the preliminary work on the photos, both because I find it so much easier to actually locate these photos, and because iPhoto does a perfectly good job of cropping and straightening the photos. So that is the first thing I do. I crop to get the general shape correct, then I re-crop to make sure that it fits into an image that is 6 inches wide by 9 inches tall, the size of the softcover version of the novel.
  2. I export this image from iPhoto onto my desktop, open Photoshop, go to File>Open and open it in the Editor in Full Mode. (As you can see from the comments above, I don’t use the Organizer). The first thing I do once I have the image opened in Photoshop is to check its size. What I’m hoping for is that the image is a lot larger than 6 by 9 inches. If it is smaller, I ditch it and find another, because any attempt to make it larger will only degrade the quality of the image.
  3. I then resize it in Photoshop so that it is as close to 6 by 9 as I can get. If I have to choose, I get it close to 9 inches long, and don’t fuss about the horizontal dimension. I  work around this by having the photo opened with the grids and rulers on, and stick to 6 inches wide. If I have to crop it again (because it’s 7 inches wide), and import it into iPhoto and do it that way. I have no idea why Photoshop is so balky in this regard about sizing the image, but there you are.
  4. Go to Windows>Layers to make sure that you have the Layers panel open. The photo you’re using should be the locked background layer. If you are just going to enter text, go to the panel on the left hand side, click on the text icon (the large T), position your cursor and start typing. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Unfortunately, you’re going to have to go through several tries at this point, because Photoshop doesn’t help you with accurate positioning of your cursor. However, if it isn’t to your liking, you can easily delete your layer, once you have hit the commit button (the green tick). Just go to Layer>delete, make sure that the layer you want to delete is live, and voila!
  5. Photoshop automatically treats each line of text as a layer, so you don’t really have to do anything else. The only thing you have to watch is to be sure to SAVE each effort, in case the software decides to hang up on you (shown by the colored spinning ball that won’t stop). When you’re in text mode, you use the panel at the top to change font size, font type and color. You can actually type in the font size box, to get all those in-between sizes that you might need. I used this function a lot to be sure I had the largest letters that would fit into my 6 by 9 panel. After all, I want my readers to be able to see the title and my name. I discovered that on most backgrounds, white lettering is easiest to see. The only exception is if you have a light-colored background. In that case, you might want to use either black or dark colored type.
  6. If you want to add any effects, such as Cecylee’s signature, you have to
    1. add a layer by going to Layer>Open.
    2. open the new image,
    3. select it using the Polygonal lasso tool (the only one I could get to work reliably),
    4. click on the move tool and move the image from the original window into the one that you’re working on. With the new layer open, Photoshop will pop this image into the new layer.
    5. Lastly, you can adjust the image by using the right hand panel. I chose darken for the blend mode to make everything go away except the text. I also slid the opacity button up and down to make the image less dominant.
  7. And that’s it.  If you are a newbie to Photoshop Elements 9, I highly recommend a close reading of the Dummies guide.


I hope you enjoy the book covers I created. If you have any feedback about them, I would really love to know. Please drop your comments in the comments box, and have a great week!


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Filed under About Cynthia, How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

The Pitfalls of POD for self-publishers


I meant to post this yesterday, but I had to spend most of the day traveling back from the wedding I attended last week. So here is a piece about the importance of crunching your numbers BEFORE signing up for POD outfits like iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Outskirts Press or CreateSpace. Best, Cynthia

I went to Google to research the top three POD companies in self-publishing, and they were iUniverse, Author House and Outskirts Press. I added CreateSpace because of its link to Amazon. I’ll summarize what I learned in the table below:

Provider Name: iUniverse Author House Outskirt Press CreateSpace
Provider URL www.iuniverse.com www.authorhouse.com www.outskirtspress.com www.createspace.com
Project Setup $599/select $599/found’n $699/ruby (OR $199/emerald OR $35/consultation) $299/Author Express OR $499/Author Advantage
ISBN Yes Yes Yes No
EAN ? ? ? No
Barcode ? ? Yes No
Editing No No Yes No
Interior Layout No Yes Yes Yes
Cover Design Yes Yes Yes Yes
Amazon US Distribution Yes Yes Yes Yes
Amazon UK/Canada Distriubtion ? ? ? ?
Barnes & Noble Distribution Yes Yes Yes No
Expanded US Distribution Not libraries Not libraries Yes No
Expanded Foreign Distribution Not libraries No Yes No
E-book release To avoid THEIR formatting, send your files as PDFs Electronic Proof? No No
Royalty Rate 20% Depends on # of books 100% – author sets price 80%/estore or 60%/Amazon
Turnaround time ? ? ? ?
TOTALS $599.00 $599.00 $699.00 $499.00

I was disappointed with iUniverse and AuthorHouse.  Generally speaking, they weren’t that clear on the services they provided. In both cases, I went for the cheapest option, but it still cost $599, which is not nothing. But I couldn’t tell if they provided me with EANs or a barcode, or whether they distributed on Amazon.uk or Amazon.ca, although it did seem clear that neither of them supported distribution to libraries. The worst thing about iUniverse was that it automatically turned your files into an ebook format whether you wanted it or not. The only way to prevent them doing that was to send them pdf files. I was disappointed to discover that my royalty rate was only 20%. At least Author House didn’t automatically turn your files into ebooks. But they were cagey on the royalty rate, saying that it depended on the number of books sold. I have to say I felt turned off by both of these companies.

CreateSpace was complicated to work with, because they have many different choices both for the setup fee, as well as all kinds of details about publishing specs, for which they have a “Standard” and “Pro” program. The “Standard” program costs nothing in fees, but really makes a dent in your royalties. The “Pro” program does a better job with royalties, but costs $39/title for a one-time fee, plus $5/year/title thereafter.

Unlike all the other self-publishing presses I examined, CreateSpace did provide some specs on book costs in line with the table that April Hamilton gives on page 35. If you plug the numbers into the converter that CreateSpace gives you, it becomes apparent that going for the Pro choice is probably the better option:

Production Costs Table

COSTS (fiction book between 400-800 pages) CreateSpace “Standard” CreateSpace “Pro”
Setup fee 0 $39/title one-time;

$5/tittle/year thereafter

Per copy fee $1.50 $0.85
Per page fee $0.02 $0.012
Shipping ? ?
Production cost per book (line 2 + (# of pages * line 3) $1.50 + (460 * $0.02) = $1.50 + $9.20 = $10.70 $0.85 + (460 * 0.012) =

$0.85 + $5.52 = $6.37

Cost per author copy $4.50 $2.85



Frankly, I was disappointed with the amount of royalty that was being offered. The website claims that it DEDUCTS a certain percentage depending on the “sales channel” you use. If you use the CreateSpace e-store on your website, it deducts 20% in royalties. If you sell on Amazon, it deducts 40% in royalties. If you use the Expanded option, it deducts 60% in royalties. But if you ignore the last option, it seems like you either earn 80% in royalties selling it yourself, or 60% if Amazon sells it for you. These are numbers I thought I could live with. Until I crunched the numbers myself.

Royalties Table for 460-page book, costing $15.99 using CreateSpace’s Royalty Calculator

  E-Store Amazon Expanded (Pro required)
Your Royalty Standard: $2.09 (13% of list price)

Pro: $6.42

(40% of list price)

Standard: -$1.11

(You LOSE $1.11 for every book sold)

Pro: $3.22

(20% of list price)


(Less than 1% of list price)

Their Cut Standard: $13.90 (87% of list price)

Pro: $9.57

(60% of list price)

Standard: $17.10

(BUT you priced the book at $15.99)

Pro: $12.77

(80% of list price)


(More than 99% of list price)

Given these numbers, I can’t see why anyone would sign up for the “Expanded” option.  And this is on a book that costs $15.99. I think that is too much to ask for a newbie author. But the royalty rates get worse for lesser-priced books.

Frankly, I was turned off by CreateSpace. I didn’t go into Indie Publishing to hand over at least 80% of my royalties. The only way to avoid doing that is to sell it yourself from your own website. But that raises a whole host of headaches that I’m not yet prepared to take on.

This leaves Outskirts Press. This was the only outfit of the four I examined that I actually liked, partly because they provide so many different pricing plans for their books, and they are very clear about what these plans actually cover.

However, there is one area where they fall down. They claim on their home page that you retain not only 100% of control and 100% of your rights but ALSO 100% of your royalties. AND you get to set the price. Does this sound too good to be true? It was. When I plugged in my numbers into their pricing calculator, I immediately found a few problems.

Choosing “Price Plan 40” the compromise plan between pricing and availability, I chose a 6 x 9 paperback white, thinking that was a standard format, and told the calculator that the book was 460 pages long. The LOWEST price I could get for this book was $17.95. To get that price, I would have to sign up for an expensive plan (Diamond, which costs $999), and my per book royalty would be only 45 cents or 2 1/2 per cent. Even if I decided to accept that terrible royalty rate (worse than legacy publishers), I honestly don’t see how I can sell a book for $17.95.

I went into this planning to self-publish my book using both the Kindle format and the softcover format, because the best-selling historical novels on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon sold in those two formats.

But I’m going to ditch my plan of self-publishing POD. Instead I’m going to put some time and effort into investigating Indie Presses both here and in the UK to see if they would do a softcover edition for my book, for both a reasonable price for the buyer and reasonable royalties for me.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.


Filed under About Cynthia, How to Publish Your Novel

Let’s talk money: Author royalties, or how much do you think you should be paid?

As I said last week, things have gotten increasingly difficult for new writers. No longer do editors and agents proffer a helping hand to those of us who have a fabulous manuscript that needs some help. Instead, writers are not only expected to write a brilliant book, and do impeccable research that underpins their flights of fancy (especially true for historical novelists) but they are also expected to sell their books.

The shocking thing is that this is not just true for those of us who choose to self-publish, it’s also true for those who choose to go the traditional publishing route.

The dirty little secret is that publishers will not help their mid-list authors. And these authors typically don’t find this out until it’s too late, when the 3-4 month window of opportunity for selling their book has passed.

But that’s not the worst of it. The worst part about it is the low royalties that authors are expected to accept. Typically, authors are paid 6% to 10% on the NET price of the book. Net price means the price listed on the cover that’s been discounted by anywhere from 40% to 66%.

Let’s do the math. Supposing the price listed on the cover of your book is $15.95. The net price of your book will be around $8, if 50% is knocked off. What’s 10% of $8? It’s 80 cents. What’s 6%? It’s 48 cents.

Think about that. Think about all the hard work you’ve done to write your novel, and you get paid less than a dollar per book. It’s insulting.

When I think about my novels, I think about how I poured myself into them. I think about how emotional they made me. I think about the considerable amount of thought I had to put into each one, in order for it to be interesting (and easy) to read.  And I think about the fact that writing a novel is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including writing a PhD dissertation.

This is not just about money. It’s about self-respect and respect from others. Do you like being used? Do you like having that feeling of being screwed over when you’ve poured yourself into your novel? Of course you don’t.

What can you do about it? How about self-publishing? Let’s do some more math. If you sell your novel for $2.99 on Amazon, you pocket 70% of the proceeds. How much is 70% of $2.99?


What does that mean? By publishing it yourself, you make anywhere from TWO AND A HALF TO FOUR TIMES what you would make with a traditional publisher. And considering that a traditional publisher isn’t even going to bother to market your book (unless you happen to be that lucky author with a blockbuster on your hands), you might as well publish it yourself and pocket the proceeds.

OK, so what’s the catch?

The catch is that you’re going to have to spend an enormous amount of time marketing your work so that it actually moves. I have seen e-books sitting on Amazon, dead in the water, because no-one knows they are there. Yes, you have to sacrifice the time you would spend writing your next novel to market this one. And that is a big decision to make.

Image: 80 cents from raisetheroop.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under How to Publish Your Novel


I was going to write about something else today, but I’ve just finished reading Dan Poynter’s THE SELF-PUBLISHING MANUAL, and I think this is such an important book for an aspiring writer, that I’ve decided to share my observations.

The history of publishing in the last 100 years, has been one of increasing difficulty for writers. (And I’m not even talking about the insultingly low royalties that writers are expected to put up with! ) Up to the 1980s, it was not unreasonable to hope that an editor might take you on, even though you were an aspiring writer with a flawed first manuscript. Then editors got too busy to do that, so agents took over that role, and found publishing houses whose job it was to sell your books.

As many of you know, the new reality of publishing is that traditional publishers no longer see it as their job to sell your book, unless they think it is going to be a blockbuster. Too many authors have assumed that publishers will market their books, only to find out too late that very little effort was expended in that direction.

This is why Dan Poynter’s book is so valuable, both for those who choose to publish with a traditional publisher and those who choose to self publish. Why? Because I have never met an author who was so thorough and conscientious at explaining all the ins and outs of something.

You want a marketing plan for selling your novel? Buy this book, and flip through it. The chapter outlines will tell you exactly what to do. If you’re still unsure, Appendix 1 gives you a calendar of what to do, while Appendix 2 gives an exhaustive list of resources. Need more help? Go to his website, www.parapublishing.com, and you will find more articles, some free, some for a modest price.

If you do nothing else, buy this book. No-one else is going to care as much about selling your novel as you are.

I know. You would much rather be writing than selling, and thinking about selling gives you indigestion. But if you want people to read your books, you are going to have to do something to make them more visible.

Best of luck, and feel free to share your experiences by commenting below.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear. HE MUST BE SOMEONE is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Book Review, How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

I go to AWP

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) holds a conference every year. I had never been before, and I went to see the Book Fair, meet some friends, and sit in on some of the sessions.

The most impressive thing about this conference is the Book Fair, which is huge. I’ve never seen so many representatives of indie presses all together in one room. I had a wonderful time walking up and down each row as I looked for presses that might be interested in publishing my novels. (This is my Plan B. Plan A, is still to get representation. Plan C is to self-publish).

I also had time to sit in on the sessions, and it was an interesting experience. I should say, first of all, that in my professional life I am a medical writer with a science background. I’m used to people who deal in facts, and always support what they say either by producing relevant data, or by making an argument.

So I was bemused to find myself in a session listening to five people talking around the issue of whether workshops actually work.

This is an important question because workshops are the backbone of MFAs and many writing conferences, so it is important to know if they don’t work and why. I sat in the audience for 75 minutes, without hearing one person explain exactly what the problems with workshops were. I heard two people say that they were problematic, two people say they were not problematic, and one person give a lit-critty deconstructional analysis.

I was puzzled. After all, if you don’t state what the problems are, how can you possibly find a remedy?

Next: I join a book club.

Image: mymcpl.org

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for HE MUST BE SOMEONE,  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Filed under About Cynthia, Conferences, How to Publish Your Novel, News & Notes, Promoting Yourself

Websites for Self-Publishing.

Tired of getting an agent’s attention? Dispirited with the lack of interest in you as a writer? How about self-publishing your novel?

I took (yet another) Writer’s Digest webinar, this time titled Instant Publishing Models. The leader had a very realistic take on the whole issue: There is NO-ONE out there to help you with promotion. You have to do it all yourself.

So, before you splurge on CreateSpace (yes, you have to pay too), you should seriously think about what you want to get out of this experience. If you want to make money off of it, then you’re going to have a ‘platform’, i.e. people who follow you on Twitter, or Facebook, or breathlessly read your blog or newsletter. If  you don’t have a platform, it is unlikely you will sell many books.

With that in mind, there are several sites you should check out:

  1. Amazon’s Digital Text Platform
  2. Smashwords
  3. Scribd
  4. CreateSpace
  5. Lulu
  6. Lightning Source

Good luck with your writing!

Image: thefutureofpublishing.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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