Writing can be lonely work unless you count your characters as company. Even if you’re writing non-fiction and interviewing people, the relationship is different than if you’re talking with friends.

That’s why I enjoy being part of a writer’s group. I’ve been a member of a half dozen or so over the years and have enjoyed them all. It’s nice to get together with other writers occasionally and talk about projects you’re working on, the craft or even something unrelated to writing.

Sure, a lot of writer’s groups are about reading pieces and getting feedback, but the value I get from them is simply being able to talk to someone else who understands the frustration of writer’s block, the joy from having a book published or the sadness at having one rejected.

That said, here are the top five benefits of joining a writer’s group as I see them. Let me know if you have anything different to add.

  1. Leads for new work. I actually got a new job writing a weekly column because a member of my writer’s group told me that the editors had changed at a local newspaper.
  2. Sympathetic ears. As I said, it’s nice to talk to someone who understands the writing life.
  3. Discussions about how to improve your technique. Lots of writers pay hundreds of dollars to hear other writers talk about creating fuller characters, writing vibrant dialogue and other things. In a writer’s group, you get it for free.
  4. Camaraderie. It’s nice to have friends with shared interests.
  5. Feedback on writing. What are you doing wrong? What are you doing right? Find out before you make a fool out of yourself by sending your manuscript to an agent.

writers-critique-group

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Publication1

Last week, I wrote about the advantages of using multiple publishing platforms for e-books and how to use them. This week, I want to look at how and why you should use multiple publishing platforms for physical books.

Years ago, I printed my books with a book printer. The per unit price was better than I could get with print-on-demand, but to get that better unit price, I had to make a large upfront investment. I didn’t mind that so much for a first printing, but on subsequent printings, I had to decide how fast I sell a new printing and whether it would be worth the upfront costs.

Around the time, I was struggling with paying for a second printing, print-on-demand quality had improved enough it was cost effective to use print-on-demand services. I ran the numbers to see how much I would make printing and selling paperbacks versus having Amazon send me a purchase order and fulfilling it.

KDP (incorporating CreateSpace)

CreateSpace is now part of Kindle Direct Publishing, which means I can print my paperback and Kindle books from the same platform.

Tip: While the site offers to convert your paperback to a Kindle file, don’t use it. For one thing, I always upload my paperback files as .pdfs and .doc files work best for Kindle. This is because .pdf locks in the fonts, point size, and placement on the page. Kindle needs to be flexible, which a .doc file allows.

In pricing print-on-demand, Amazon offers the best price as far as I can see. Plus, once you enter they also create all the information for your book project. It takes about a week to get books you order (depending on the season), and this is quicker than I can get books from a traditional printer.

I really enjoy making more money for doing less. With my books on KPD, Amazon takes care of everything once an order is placed. I only know of the sale when it shows up on my dashboard. Previously, Amazon would send me purchase orders, I would have to process them, package the books, and pay for the postage.

The few times I have had trouble with my order, it has been quickly resolved.

IngramSpark

As much as I like KDP paperbacks, I have three problems with the platform. Let’s look at each of them and how I have solved them.

  1. Some stores won’t stock books published by Amazon. This is only a problem if the wholesaler shows Amazon or an Amazon imprint as the publisher. The solution to this is to purchase your own customer ISBN from Bowkers.com.  Then you or your company show as the publisher. You can purchase a single custom ISBN from Amazon, but it is expensive. Once you register with Bowkers, 10 ISBNs cost about $225.
  2. Amazon doesn’t print hardbacks. I switched to IngramSpark, the print-on-demand arm of the distributor Ingram, for hardback editions. It’s not cheap, but on the titles where I think it’s worthwhile (4 titles out of 25), this option is available. Because of the expense to print, I also make a little less on my hardbacks than I do on my paperbacks. This is because I needed to keep the retail price market competitive.
  3. Bookstores don’t get their typical retailer discount. Bookstores are used to getting 40 percent off retail prices of books, which they can then sell at the retail price. A couple bookstore owners have told me that my paperbacks only came with a 25 percent discount. As an indie publisher, I don’t want my books to stand out from other books in a negative way. So, I took my paperbacks off of expanded distribution with KDP and uploaded them with IngramSpark. When a bookstore now orders one of my books, IngramSpark prints it. If the book is ordered on Amazon, Amazon prints it. I make less per copy from IngramSpark, but I believe the trade-off is worth it.

That’s my plan for using multiple platforms and the one I use. 

 

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I taught a workshop this past weekend at a writer’s conference and I got more than a few questions about publishing on multiple platforms, which wasn’t even the topic of the workshop. It shows me that there is still a lot of curiosity out there about whether an author needs to publish on multiple platforms.

In discussing this, most authors are referring to e-publishing. However, there is a case to be made with publishing physical books with multiple printers.

I’ll tackle this in two different posts.

E-books are published in different formats sort of the difference between a .jpg image and a .tiff image. What type of e-book you need as a reader depends on the type of e-reader you use.

Amazon-Kindle-3-567x588KDP Select

As an author, you might publish your e-book only on Amazon’s Kindle platform. In fact, Kindle encourages you to solely use Kindle by offering special marketing tools that you can only use as a member of KDP Select.

By clicking the box for KDP Select, you agree that your book will only be available on Kindle for three months. The membership continues to renew every three months unless you uncheck the box.

The incentive to enroll is that Amazon increases the foreign markets where your e-book will be available. You can also use countdown deals and free book days, which are only available if you are part of KDP Select.

The biggest advantage I have found is that your book becomes part of the Kindle Unlimited program. This allows readers who enroll in this program to read select e-books without purchasing them. You, as the author, get paid per page read of your book.

swlogoGoing Wide

If you choose not to be a member of Kindle Select and instead want your e-book to appear at other retailers, such as Kobo and iBooks, then you need to go wide. This involves publishing your book in different formats and making it available on those retail platforms.

You can go crazy trying to prepare manuscripts for each retailer. It might be worth it if you realize that your books do particularly well with a retailer. Depending on the retailer, it might also offer special tools for authors who work directly with them.

For most authors, using an aggregator site is the easiest way to go. I use Smashwords. Another popular site is Draft2Digital. These sites allow you to upload your manuscript and have it converted to various formats. The book is then made available on dozens of e-book retailers.

My Experience

When I published e-books, I went with Smashwords. It’s a great platform and easy-to-use. It also offers a .mobi format, which Kindle e-readers can read. I figured I didn’t need to use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) for a Kindle version. However, after months of having my e-book available, I was disappointed with sales, particularly my Kindle sales.

So, I signed up for KDP and put my book up in its Kindle version. My sales immediately jumped. I realized that it had other advantages besides the ones I mentioned. For one, it was easier to connect the e-book to my paperback version. Also, having my book available as a .mobi book did not mean that it was available on Amazon, which is the largest book retailer in the world.

I now sell about five times more e-books on KDP than I do on all of the other platforms combined.

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pirateI read Shadow Divers years ago and was caught up in the journey of discovery and adventure it told. So when I discovered Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by the same author (Robert Kurson) and the same diver (John Chatterton), I was hooked. Who doesn’t love a good pirate story?

The story is about salvage divers John Chatterton’s and John Mattera’s hunt for the Golden Fleece, the pirate ship of Joseph Bannister. If found, it would represent only the second confirmed pirate ship ever discovered.

Not having heard about Joseph Bannister, I enjoyed learning more about him and pirates in general as the divers researched the man whose ship they were hunting. Given Bannister’s daring and exploits, it is surprising that he isn’t as famous as Blackbeard.

I liked hearing more about what had happened to Chatterton since the adventures of Shadow Divers and learning more about Mattera.

Not only are Chatterton and Mattera hunting the ship, but they must also place their livelihoods on the line. They give up salvaging a near-sure find to hunt for the Golden Fleece. Because governments are changing the rules of salvage at the same time, they will have only a chance to find one ship – a galleon with treasure or a legendary pirate ship.

They must deal with setbacks and modern pirates in their hunt for the legend. It has remained hidden for centuries and while modern technology can help narrow the search, the divers must first narrow that search to the point where it becomes feasible to use modern technology. That is the hard part because pirates didn’t keep records or file sailing routes.

The story is more than just a diving adventure. It’s the story of a hunt for the ship and the research that goes into finding such a historical treasure.

The ending was a bit of a letdown. I think I expected there to be more recognition of the find. However, it is nice to know that with the uniqueness of the find, Bannister might finally get his place in history.

Although Kurson was working with good material, he still does a great job of rolling out the information for the reader to create an air of mystery and tension. It makes the Pirate Hunters easy to read and one you want to read because you want to see what happens next.

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20170624_092912It’s mid-March and my busy season has kicked off. For me, that means from now until right before Christmas, I’ll be selling books or presenting workshops three to four weekends a month. Plus, throw in a few presentations and classes during the week. This is on top of the normal writing, marketing, and research I do during the week.

I’ll be busy for the next nine months, but I enjoy it mostly (not counting all the rainy festivals I worked in 2018). It’s nice to get out and meet my readers and hear what they liked and didn’t like about stories. When the weather is nice, it’s wonderful to be outside. I also dictate a lot of notes and scenes between customers.

Getting ready for a festival is like trying to figure out a Chinese puzzle box in reverse. First, I have to decide how many copies of each title to take. As my son says, “You want to come home with one copy of every book.” That way, you know you didn’t miss any sales, but you don’t have to bring home excess inventory.

Then I have to make sure I have everything I’ll need for the event, such as a tent, tables, money to make change, signs, etc. I have forgotten things occasionally, and it can ruin an event. For instance, forgetting to take a tent when it is calling for rain. I did that once, and had to drive an hour and a half back home, load my tent, turn around and drive and an hour and a half back to my hotel.

Once I have gathered everything, I have to pack my Prius. Believe it or not, you can get a lot in that small car. It takes a lot of finagling to make it fit, but after years of doing this, it is second nature as to what goes where.

The loading and unloading of my car and set up is my workout for the day. Lifting and walking with boxes of boxes will definitely help you get stronger!

I have managed to carve out a summer vacation in the middle of all this activity. I’d much rather get away in the winter, but when you have a child in school, your window of opportunity is limited.

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UntitledDid you know that the Gettysburg Battlefield played a role in three major wars and not just the Civil War?

Dinosaurs once walked the battlefield and you can still see the signs they left behind? Do you know where to find them?

Do you know that when the Confederates retreated from the battlefield, they took civilians prisoners and held them for the rest of the war?

These are just a few of the stories you can find in Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History From the Civil War Battlefield.

This is the fourth book in my Secrets series (along with Secrets of Garrett County, Secrets of Catoctin Mountain, and Secrets of the C&O Canal). Like the other books in my Secrets series, it’s a collection of true stories that highlight an area’s forgotten stories, and, in my opinion, sometimes, they are the most interesting stories about the area. The purpose of the series is to bring those stories to readers.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. The July 1-3, 1863, battle saw the greatest number of casualties during the war. Beyond the fighting, the battlefield is the site of many other true stories of war, legends, reconciliation, and fantasy. These are the types of stories you won’t read about in history textbooks. Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield is a collection of 32 stories and 60 photographs that includes new and previously published stories from newspapers and magazines.

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I have finished the draft of my second Hackers novel, Search Parameters. I have to admit this was a hard one to write. Certain scenes were easy to write, but connecting those scenes over a broader story was difficult for some reason.

The draft is done, though, and I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve sent it off to beta readers. It is always interesting to get that initial feedback. I will also get a few months away from a story that has frustrated me for months.

I now have to shift my mindset. Search Parameters is a middle reader novel. The new novel I’m starting to outline is Strike the Fuse, a historical novel. I have to stop thinking like a middle schooler and start looking at scenes from the viewpoint of a miner. I’m rereading the first book in the trilogy, Smoldering Betrayal, and burying myself in research.

I figure by the time that I finish the draft, I’ll be ready to get back to Search Parameters and make the final edits.

I’m just hoping that Strike the Fuse isn’t going to be as pick a struggle. I don’t think it will, but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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I knew that revamping my website would take time. Not only was I going to change the layout, but I had to move it over to WordPress. It was definitely outside of my technology wheelhouse.

The first thing I did was to get help. Caro Begin with GoCreate.me was a great help. She is a writer who has a couple of website themes designed for writers. I purchased the premium theme which she set up for me on WordPress.

From there, I added my books to the site and started tweaking  it to accomplish what I want. Adding all of my book information and the retailer links took the longest time. I’m still tweaking things. The great thing I found with Caro is that she responded to the questions I had after the installation in less than a day. She also recorded her answer as videos so I could see what she was doing on the website and mimic it. That was a big help. She also has a page full of instructional videos on her website that I can watch depending on what I might want to do.

I’ve still got a few things I want to do with jamesrada.com. It may take me time to figure out how to do it, or failing that, figure out how to work around it to accomplish the same thing.

Look at jamesrada.com, though and let me know what you think, and if you have any suggestions.

SGBWhen Kindle absorbed Createspace last year, I didn’t have a problem with the process. Kindle seamlessly transferred my existing paperback books over to their system. The ordering process was a bit different. When I order copies, the system transfers me over to Amazon where I complete the order. This works well for me because I get a discount when I use my Amazon credit card. I only wish I could use my Amazon Prime free two-day shipping.

That said, I’ve run into my first problems with uploading a paperback to the new system. Yesterday, I finally completed the process for uploading Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield. It was a small nightmare. Not the whole process, mind you, but just with cover.

My issue is that it shouldn’t have been a problem. Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield is my fourth Secrets book. The covers all have the same basic design so all of the fonts, placements, and sizes are set. My cover designer has already done the first three covers, and we had no issues after the first cover uploading covers.

Since those same covers transferred with no problems, we didn’t expect an issue with the Kindle upload.

WRONG!

When it was uploaded, some elements were too close to the cut line. We used the Kindle template and still got the same results. We tried a couple different times and got the same results.

Finally, the designer had to move individual elements that shouldn’t have needed to be moved.

Another difference we discovered is that with Createspace, the printer puts the ISBN barcode in the box you provide. With Kindle, the system kept putting the ISBN barcode in its own box in a set location whether or not it matches the box you leave on the back cover for it. Once we figured that out, we removed our box. It was a simple fix that no one explained beforehand.

So, after a few headaches, the book looks good and will go live today or tomorrow.

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UntitledIntroducing the cover of my next book, Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History From the Civil War Battlefield. It may still get a few tweaks, but I would say this is 95 percent there. The book will be available near the end of this month, but I was excited to show you the cover.

Like the other books in my Secrets series, it’s a collection of true stories that highlight an area’s forgotten stories, and, in my opinion, sometimes, they are the most interesting stories. The purpose of the series is to bring stories to readers.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. The July 1-3, 1863, battle saw the greatest number of casualties during the war. Beyond the fighting, the battlefield is the site of many other true stories of war, legends, reconciliation, and fantasy.

  • Discover the first great battle that took place at Gettysburg.
  • Learn about the prisoners of war who were kept on the battlefield.
  • Read about the out-of-this-world visitors to the battlefield.
  • Learn about how fairy tale creatures came to life on the battlefield.
  • Discover Gettysburg’s connection to not only the Civil War but World War I and II.

Secrets of the Gettysburg Battlefield: Little-Known Stories & Hidden History From the Civil War Battlefield tells stories of dinosaurs, warriors, interesting people, and unusual incidents. These are the types of stories you won’t read about in history textbooks. Collected from the writings of award-winning author James Rada, Jr., these fascinating stories and dozens of photographs tell some of the hidden history of the Gettysburg Battlefield.

This book is the fourth in my Secrets series, joining Secrets of Garrett County, Secrets of Catoctin Mountain, and Secrets of the C&O Canal.

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