Tag Archives: self-publishing

Tips & Tricks for CreateSpace

The following tips can all be found on Twitter, but I thought people might want to see them all in one place. A few are for Aussie authors only and are shown in green.

PRINTING Tips 4 Absolute Beginners

  1. Print-On-Demand is new tech that allows books to be printed one at a time instead of in hundreds.
  2. Print-On-Demand means authors don’t have to buy 100’s of their own print books.
  3. 3 biggest Print-On-Demand printers are CreateSpace [Amazon], Lulu and IngramSpark.
  4. Print-On-Demand works with standard trim sizes only. For table of trim sizes see : https://www.createspace.com/Special/Pop/book_trimsizes-pagecount.html
  5. Trim size = physical size of book after pages glued inside cover & trimmed.
  6. Page size templates for all trim sizes can be found on CreateSpace forums: https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-1323
  7. Convert Word A4 pages to trim size pages via the Word Page Setup dialog box.
  8. ISBN = 13 digit no. that identifies your book worldwide.
  9. Buy your own ISBN or accept the free one offered by CreateSpace.
  10. In Oz you can buy ISBN from Thorpe-Bowker or accept free one from CreateSpace.
  11. As a rule of thumb, print, ebook & audiobooks all need their own ISBN unless you publish via Amazon.
  12. Books printed via CreateSpace are listed on Amazon automatically.
  13. To publish Kindle ebooks go to: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/
  14. Amazon supplies ebooks with ASIN identifiers so ISBN not strictly necessary.
  15. If you want to ‘go wide’ & sell with other retailers as well as Amazon, your own ISBN is a must.
  16. CreateSpace will not accept Word documents. It accepts only PDF files.
  17. File/Export completed Word doc. to PDF. Then upload that PDF to CreateSpace. 
  18. With CreateSpace, royalty = List Price – Print costs.
  19. With CreateSpace, Print costs= Sales Channel % + Fixed Charges + Per Page Charge.
  20. With CreateSpace, Standard sales channel % = 40% of List Price, Expanded sales channel % = 60%. 
  21. Spine of cover = trim size & no. of pages. See: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do 
  22. Total page no. of book = pages AFTER conversion to chosen trim size [not A4 Word pages].
  23. Amazon deducts 30% withholding tax from each sale. Aussies can claim exemption to reduce tax to 5%.
  24. Withholding tax exemption: US TIN = Australian Tax File No.
  25. Aussie authors must deposit 1 copy of each published book with the National Library of Australia: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit
  26. Aussie authors must also deposit 1 copy of each published book with their state library: https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit/australia-wide
  27. For Legal Deposit FAQ see:https://www.nla.gov.au/legal-deposit-faq

I hope these tips provide some quick help if you’re stuck, or still trying to make sense of all the information out there on printing with CreateSpace.

And now for the obligatory book promotion:

If you want to print a ‘simple’ novel and need step-by-step help, you can buy my book – ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace’ – on Amazon. The book comes in an expensive, full-colour paperback OR in a very inexpensive, full-colour ebook:

Clicking the image will take you to my Amazon Author Central page as the Look Inside feature isn’t working.

The only Another problem with the ebook version is that it will only work on the Kindle Fire tablets or via the Kindle app [on other tablets and pcs].

After all the feedback I received on the colour screenshots vs the grayscale screenshots, I made the decision to stick with colour. But only the Fires have colour so…Sorry. 😦

Okay, the ‘How to…Novel’ contains literally everything you need to know about:

  • Preparing your novel in Word
  • Converting it to a PDF
  • Uploading that PDF to CreateSpace

That said, I’ve cut all extraneous options out to avoid confusing first-time Indies, but I did include some appendices at the back specifically for Australian authors. This one really is for absolute beginners.

But not everyone wants to print/publish a novel. Some people might want to publish a memoir full of family photos, or maybe a cookbook full of their favourite recipes. Unfortunately, non-fiction is a trickier beast than the ‘simple’ novel.

For non-fiction you will need:

  • A Table of Contents,
  • Captions for the photos/pictures
  • A Table of Figures for the captions,
  • An Index to make finding information easier
  • And possibly Headers for the main sections, to make ‘browsing’ easier.

All these high end functions can to be done in Microsoft Word [if you are using Word] but they’re not exactly easy as I discovered when I first began working on these ‘How-to’s’. So the second book – ‘How to Print Non-Fiction with CreateSpace’ – is full of screenshots and examples [over 150] that walk not-so-expert Word users through all the trickier stuff:

Again, the Look Inside isn’t working so I’ve directed the image to take you to my Author page on Amazon.

As with many things though, just knowing what to do is rarely enough. The step-by-step method used in both ‘How-to’s’ lays out the exact sequence in which tasks are to be done in order to avoid some of pitfalls that can crop up in Word. For example, did you know that the Word Index function automatically inserts a Continuous Section Break at the start of the Index [table]? Well, it does, and this Continuous section break can play merry hell with any manual section breaks you may have applied.

So ‘How to Print Non-Fiction with CreateSpace’ is not for the faint-hearted, however it, too, is available in both print and ebook format on Amazon. The same caveat re the Kindle Fire applies to the ebook version of ‘How to…Non-Fiction’ as well.

Thanks for bearing with me. Normal transmission now resumes with a picture of the forest of tomato plants growing on my deck:

I’m preparing for an orgy of Passata making!





Self-Publishing with IngramSpark…or not

IngramSpark, probably the biggest print-on-demand publisher, has a facility right here in Melbourne [Australia].

“Yay! I can get copies of my books printed locally to save a huge amount on postage!”

That was me yesterday. Today I have steam coming out of my ears because the only way I can use IngramSpark is as a Sole Trader – and that involves getting an ABN. Apparently, IngramSpark does not deal with lowly self-publishers who can’t pretend to be a business.

For those not familiar with the term, ABN stands for Australian Business Number. I used to have one, about 15 years ago when I ran a micro business teaching computer skills one-on-one. In fact, apparently I still have one lurking somewhere, inactive and unusable, but still in the ‘system’. Somewhere.

I could hunt down my old ABN, but I don’t even know where to start and, bureaucracy being what it is, the process could take hours or days out of my life. That’s a lot of effort to go to just for the privilege of printing a few copies of my book here in Australia, especially when the only benefit to me is a saving on postage [Ingram’s printing costs are a lot higher than CreateSpace but postage from the US is the real killer].

Oh, and did I mention that you have to pay IngramSpark $53 AUD for the privilege of using their distribution services, even if you don’t actually intend to use them to distribute your books? Yup, that’s part of the setup process.

So if you’re an Aussie self-publisher, my advice is to give IngramSpark a miss. Unless you already have an active ABN…

-sound of teeth grinding-

Does anyone out there know of a reasonable PoD company here in Melbourne? Maybe a home-grown one that doesn’t charge the earth?


Printing Resources for Melbourne Indie Authors

My thanks to Michelle Lovi, David Prosser, and Suzanne Newnham for all the wonderful information they shared with me. Armed with this information, I went researching and found some resources that may be of use to others as well.

The following are by no means all the POD printers there are in Melbourne, but they are the ones that seemed to provide the best match to my needs.

In order of discovery:



This printer is based in Melbourne and requires a minimum 10 books.

Print on Demand


This printer is based in South Melbourne. No info. on costs or shipping.

Blurb Australia?


This company rang a bell, but when I investigated further, I discovered that you have to use their own proprietary software and fonts. And they only seem to offer one trim size : 6 x 9

Shipping – Express only. Cost in AUD 14.99 [that was for shipping only; no idea what the print costs would be on top of that].

The shipping cost is pretty much the same as for CreateSpace so I was disappointed. 😦



IngramSpark have an Australian print facility but they do not have an Australian website [yet]. This was very confusing and I spent about half an hour following links all over the place, trying to find the Aussie site.

In the end, I rang the Lightning Source phone number and the very nice voice at the other end explained that:

  • Lightning Source is for big print jobs
  • IngramSpark is for small to tiny print jobs
  • One account to bind them all
  • Printing processed according to actual, physical location – i.e. in Australia for Australian Indies.

So, to have your book printed in Australia [with IngramSpark], you have to setup an account via the international website [shown above]. Processing the print order is the same for everyone, everywhere, but if you’re in Australia, the printing and shipping will be done from /here/.

To check the shipping costs, click on the IngramSpark website, then click on Resources followed by Tools.

You will now see a whole range of tools available for selfpublishers – including templates and the shipping calculator. I had a little bit of trouble with the shipping calculator because it didn’t seem to like the page count of 370. -shrug- When I entered 380 instead, everything was fine. This is the info I entered for the calculator [the book is Nabatea]:

I have to say, the results made me very happy. 🙂

The shipping costs for 1 book gave this result:

The per book cost is almost double what the CreateSpace eStore would charge [buying at cost], however the shipping and handling work out to be more than 2/3 less. Thus, printing here works out to be quite a bit cheaper than shipping in 1 book from the US.

When I looked at 10 books, the savings were even greater:

The per book cost remains the same but so does the shipping! This means that each book costs only 44c to ship. Colour me laughing all the way to the bank. 😀

And finally, just out of curiosity, I looked up the cost of 100 books:

Clearly, the economies of scale just don’t stack up with POD as the reduction in per book cost was tiny. Nevertheless, it was heartening to see that the shipping costs worked out to be 25c per book.

So there you have it. The local copies of the Innerscape saga will be printed here in Australia, by IngramSpark. This will mean another learning curve for me, but even that has an upside as I’ll be able to publish a second how-to book titled “How to print your book [using Word and IngramSpark]”. lol

I may even offer workshops as well… Guess who’s going to be a very busy girl? -dance-

Hope this is of use to others out there.




Self-publishing via Word and Createspace – page setup

This is the second post in this series and this time, I’ll be showing you how to setup your Word document to match the Createspace template for your chosen trim size. If you’ve forgotten about templates and trim sizes, you can find the post explaining what they are, why you need them and where to find them…here.

Right. So in this post I will assume that:

  1. you have typed up your manuscript in Word or in a Word compatible format – e.g. Rich Text Format or .rtf for short.
  2. you want to change that manuscript to make it compatible with Createspace so the printing process goes smoothly
  3. you have decided on a trim size
  4. you have downloaded the appropriate template [from Createspace] specifically for that trim size
  5. you have looked at the template but did not change any of the settings

If any of these assumptions are incorrect, please go back to the overview article linked above and make sure you have everything that you need.

How to easily change the font and font size to match the Createspace template [of your choice]

The first step is to open Word. Then, open both your manuscript and the template document. The template document will look something like this:

I chose a trim size of 5.5 x 8.5 so this is the template for that trim size. Garamond is a common font, and 12 is an average font size. Your template may be different. One thing, however, is most most certain to be true – the font in the template will not match the font you used in your manuscript. Assuming you want to change the font in your manuscript, the following is the simplest, easiest way to do it. But…be warned before you begin – this method will change your title and chapter headings as well.

First, we have to select the entire document. There are two ways of doing this.

The first way is to hit the Ctrl key and the ‘a‘ key at the same time. Ctrl-a is a keyboard shortcut and will ‘select all’ on most apps.

The second way is to use the ribbon:

Microsoft Word 10 uses tabs so the ‘Select’ options are on the Home tab, at the top right of the ribbon as shown. Click ‘Select’ and then click ‘Select All’ from the dropdown options.

Your manuscript should now look like this:

WARNING: hitting the ‘Delete’ key or the spacebar when everything is selected can lead to the loss of your entire document. If you make a mistake and everything disappears, DO NOT PANIC. Simply click the ‘Undo’ button to cancel whatever you last did. The ‘Undo’ button can be found here:

You can also undo your last action by hitting Ctrl Z [Ctrl and ‘z’] on your keyboard.

Moving on. With the entire document highlighted as above, click the small arrow next to the font box as shown:

Select the appropriate font for your template. For mine it was ‘Garamond’.

With the document still highlighted in blue [i.e. selected] click the small arrow next to the font size box as shown:

Click on the appropriate font size and then click inside your document to de-select it. The blue highlighting should disappear.

The next change we will make is to adjust the alignment and first-line indent of each paragraph. To do this, click the small button in the Paragraph category on the Home tab of the Ribbon:

You should now be looking at the Paragraph dialog box as shown below. Here, you can specify how all the text in the document is aligned. As most books are justified, that is the option I’ve chosen under ‘General’. I’ve also chosen a first-line indent of 1 cm so that everyone can easily see where a new paragraph begins. This is important, imho, as I’ve also chosen ‘Single’ line spacing.

Finally, I’ve clicked on the option ‘Set as Default’ down at the bottom. Word then wants to know what I mean by default. Choosing ‘All documents…’ would change the Normal style for every Word document I create from here on in. I don’t want to do that so I selected ‘This document only’.


Click on ‘OK’ and you will notice that…nothing has changed!

Don’t panic. In reality, the Normal style has changed, we simply have to tell Word to reflect those changes in the document. To do this, Select All again, and when the whole document is highlighted in blue, click the Normal style as shown:

Ta dah…the first big change is complete. The headings still need to be fixed up but that can wait. The next thing we need to do is change the size of the ‘paper’ so that we can start to see roughly how many pages this document really contains.

Changing the paper size to reflect the trim size of our ‘book’

To find out what is the correct paper size for our book, open the template document. Then open the ‘Page Layout’ tab of the Ribbon. With the Page Layout tab open, click the small button under the Page Setup group of functions:

You should now be looking at the Page Setup dialog box for your template. Under ‘Paper size’ you should have a number in cm for width and height. Write those 2 numbers down. Then click on the Margins tab. Again, you should write the margin numbers down and note whether ‘Mirror margins’ are specified. The following screenshots are from my template:

Now, go back to your own document, open the Page Layout tab and click on the small button to open the Page Setup dialog box. You should be looking at the tab for Paper. Click inside the ‘Paper size’ boxes and type in the dimensions that were shown in the template document. Mine looks like this:

Next, click the Margins tab and again, type in the numbers you found in your template. Mine looks like this:

Congratulations! You’ve changed some of the most important aspects of your manuscript to reflect the Createspace template.

But there is still a great deal to do. The Title and Headings will have to be fixed and to do that we will change the default styles to make the changes quick and easy. The book will also need page numbering, but some parts should not have page numbers – e.g. the Title page – so first we will have to insert section breaks. As well as making sure the page numbering is correct, section breaks are necessary to ensure that the first page of every new chapter always starts on an odd page. Nothing shrieks ‘amateur’ in a print book like wonky formatting.

And finally, there’s the cover. Front page + back page + THE SPINE! Plus ISBNs, pricing, royalty calculations….

I hope you guys are in for the long haul as this could take a while. 🙂




Spotlight on #Indie, Chris James

Six months ago I published Repulse: Europe at War 2062-2064, and those of you who know me well, also know what I saw when I looked at that word “Repulse” on the cover, and therefore why its modest success is just a mite ironic. Altogether, this little book has managed to get itself over 3,000 […]

via Repulse: Six months of #Gratitude — Chris James’s blog

Chris James is an Indies Unlimited buddy from way back, and he’s also a very good sci-fi writer, but that isn’t the reason I reblogged his post today. I did it to give the rest of us a good news story with a dash of hope.

Self-publishing can lead to success, Chris is proof of that, but it rarely happens ‘overnight’. Behind every ‘Repulse’, you will find years of patient effort during which the only thing that keeps you going is pig-headed obstinacy.

The moral of ‘Repulse’ is that success is possible, if you have the intestinable fortitude to keep slogging away at it. Please read Chris’ post and take heart.

much love,


#Amazon, US #Tax and #Australian Citizens

meeka thumbs upAnything sold on Amazon – including self-published books – is subject to a 33% withholding tax.

This is a tax that Amazon must take out of the sale before you get your share.

This tax is applicable across the board and non-US citizens are not exempt.



  • their country of origin has a trade treaty with the US
  • and they apply for an exemption under that trade treaty

As an Australian citizen, I am lucky enough to meet the ‘trade treaty’ criterion but until today, I did not apply for the exemption because:

  • I was not making enough money for it to matter, and
  • the process was just TOO HARD

I’m not sure what changed, or when exactly, but suddenly the process of applying for an exemption is so easy I’m still pinching myself in case I’m dreaming.

So what’s needed?

  1. Your country of origin must have a trade treaty with the US
  2. You must have an account with Kindle Direct Publishing [nah..really? lol]
  3. You must have a tax file number [or equivalent] from your country of origin

Seriously, that’s it. With those three things you can log into Kindle Direct Publishing and fill in a very VERY easy online form and you’re done.

  1. Log in to your KDP account
  2. Select My Account
  3. Select the option for Tax Interview
  4. Have your tax file number handy
  5. And start filling in the questions.
  6. When you get to the page that asks if you want to do an electronic signature* – select YES
  7. The electronic signature is nothing more than your typed name, email address [same as for logging into KDP] and ‘Submit’.
  8. Be sure to print off a copy at the end and you’re done.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sit there scratching your head and wondering how you can send an electronic signature. Is there a special program you have to invest in to create such a signature? Or do you have to print the page off, sign it manually and then post it off? Hah!

The answer to all those questions is a big, fat NO. There appears to be no valid reason for doing things the hard way, so don’t.

Having procrastinated for years, literally, I am so relieved to finally have this Sword of Damocles removed from my halo. Thank you IRS and thank you Amazon! Now if only I could be paid via PayPal or EFT I’d be delirious with happiness…

-smack- Don’t be greedy, girl!

Much happy dancing,


Endings and epiphanies

I write The Book every day so I guess a bit of tunnel-vision is to be expected but even so, suddenly realising that the first draft of book 2 was almost done took me by surprise. That was yesterday and by day’s end it was done. I am now officially miserable, which may explain why I had my earth shattering epiphany today.

Before I explain about the epiphany I should say a few words about The End. For me, the process of  writing a novel is made up of many layers : there’s all the research [fun], then there are all the false starts [not so fun but necessary] and then there is the utter joy of beginning to see the story unfold.

I don’t outline per se. The false starts I mentioned are the closest I get to outlining. They are like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle set out on the dining room table without a reference picture to tell you what it is that you’re trying to achieve. And then, one day I start to see patterns emerging from those pieces. When enough of those patterns fall into place the journey of discovery begins. This is when I start to tell myself the story. No, this is when I start to live the story. The people and places in the story become so real to me that, while it lasts, I really don’t want to be anywhere else… especially not in the kitchen cooking dinner, or driving down to the bank. As an aside I had to physically go to the bank a few days ago. It’s only 5 minutes from home and I could drive there with my eyes closed yet I was so caught up in my own head space that I went right past the bank… twice. Talk about being on autopilot.

So you see for me the storytelling phase is a great deal like being in love – it consumes me. And then it ends. The characters are still there, the world is still there but I’m no longer a part of either. They now have a life of their own and I go back to being just me. They will still need me for the heavy lifting and cleaning, I may even have to sterilize my scalpel and do some judicious surgery but all of that is just ‘work’. Playtime is over. Hence the misery.

Adding to my woes is the knowledge that once the grunt work is finished I will have to start doing something that truly terrifies me – I will have to publish.

Now I know that for many writers publishing is the end game, it is the holy grail, it is the whole point of writing.  And I do share the desire to be read, really I do. But. The closest I’ve ever come to personally getting something published was a few years ago when I finished a step-by-step ‘How to use internet banking’ guide for customers of bank XX. The bank did not commission this guide. It was something I decided to do after helping many of my clients learn how to use their net banking facility. These clients were baby boomers who were just starting to realise that they were missing out on the whole personal computing revolution. And I have to say that back then most banks had atrocious user interfaces. Anyway…. I sent copies of my guide out to every publisher I could find in Australia. Three showed some interest. One actually looked into the viability of such a guide and all turned me down [partly because the banks showed no interest]. So I know how hard it is to get publishers to bite. And going through all that heartache again scares me. In some ways I think I would rather have a root canal done without anaesthetic.

And then at the start of this year [2012] I discovered that self-publishing was no longer just vanity publishing. Could this be my way out? I began to research and learned that self-publishing is no easier than traditional publishing because it requires the author to become a publicist, marketing guru and saleswoman all in one. Nonetheless, as I stumbled on more and more truly great indie authors who could not get published the traditional way, the idea began to take root.

Today my friends that idea blossomed. I was in the bathroom, a place where I do some of my best thinking, when I started thinking about what I would put on the back of my book – the blurb if you will.  These are the key words that popped into my head : aliens, psychopaths, hermaphrodites, murder, castration and rape as mating.

Gott in himmel! What publisher in his or her right mind would publish something like that? Just last week I was reading about an author who was knocked back for having a dwarf and the mere mention of porn in his novel. I’ve gone gender bender with a vengeance and I expect to be greeted with open arms? In a science fiction market that is already as dead as the dodo…

I tried to tell myself that I had only been true to the biology and that these were aliens after all – weren’t aliens meant to be different? I knew though. I had fallen off my donkey and seen the burning bush and there was no going back. If Vokhtah was ever to see the light of day then there was only one path I could take – Indie or bust.

Oddly enough this epiphany, as painful as it was, has made me feel better. At least now I know where I’m going. How long it takes me to get there is another story entirely but I’m in no rush. I still have a lot of work to do and who knows, maybe by the time I’m ready to step off that cliff the world of publishing will have changed for the better.

And maybe, just maybe the world of readers will be ready to look through the eyes of an alien. I live in hope.


Meeks [aka acflory]



May I introduce… Stephanie Allen Crist

Over the course of the last four months Stephanie and I have been having some amazing email conversations about being writers – what’s involved, what’s needed to succeed, what does it all mean? These conversations taught me a great deal as Stephanie has a background in marketing however it was her vision of what writing truly is that has stayed with me. I was so impressed I asked her if she would do a guest blog on the subject. She said yes 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Stephanie Allen Crist on The Art, Craft, and Business of Self-Publishing.

Self-publishing is easy: You write it, you publish it, and then the readers come.  Or they don’t.  You won’t know which until you try.  The outcome is out of your control.

True, perhaps, but not quite so true so as you might think.  Self-publishing amplifies the dubious nature of the writing life.  You have all the uncertainty of the writing processing, whether you pursue traditional publication or self-publication.  Self-publication also turns you into a business person in a way that traditional publishing does not.  Both are uncertain prospects, but the ways of coping with those sets of uncertainty differ.

You start by writing a novel.  Is the story right?  Are the characters right?  Did you choose the right words?  Did you use enough words?  Did you use too few?  Did you get the pacing right?  Is your theme clear?  Will readers be able to envision your setting?  Are all the scenes necessary and effective?  Did you miss an important scene?  Do your chapter-breaks work?  Does your sub-plot work?  Do you end your story in a satisfying manner?  How is your character arc?  Does your character even have an arc?

Then, you publish your novel.  Now, you’re putting yourself forward: showing what you think, what you feel, what you imagine, what moves you, what ignites your passions.  You reveal something of yourself that, once you share it, you can never quite hide again.  And you don’t know how others are going to take that.  Will they understand you?  Will they care?  Will they be moved and ignited?  Or will it fade into the abyss of “nobody cares?”

Readers come or they don’t.  You make your work available.  You promote it.  Will it sell?  Will readers generate word of mouth?  Will they enjoy it?  Will they want more?

Now, perhaps you’re one of the writers who will see the problem with this scenario.  Perhaps you noticed that, for this undisclosed “you,” the questions got fewer and less intense as the scenario progressed.  Many writers, especially soon-to-be-published writers, focus so much on producing their novel that they don’t really know what to do with it once they’re done.  They turn to self-publishing, because there are no gatekeepers, because there is more potential for profit, because it’s less intimidating, because they have more control, because it’s faster, or because they don’t really understand their options.

There are a lot of good reasons to pursue self-publishing.  Chances are that anyone starting their writing career now—anyone who is in it for the long-haul—will self-publish at some point in their career.  But self-publishing isn’t a default, it’s a decision.  The criterion for this decision has little to do with art or craft.  It’s a business decision.

Writing is an art form.  Writing is a creative way to communicate that goes beyond the individual words in the same way that a painting goes beyond the individual brush strokes.  If you want to succeed, you need to communicate something your readers will enjoy and appreciate.  You can’t just slap something together and expect it to sell.  If you want to build a career, you need to communicate something of value.  Your story has to matter to you, so that it can matter to your readers.

Writing is a craft.  Writing is a set of skills you build and master over time in the same way that photography is a set of skills you build and master over time.  If you want to succeed, quality counts.  Spelling and grammar count.  A suitable, attractive cover counts.  An easy-to-read layout counts.  A story that is structurally sound counts.  Characters that evoke empathy count.  An intriguing plot that entertains the reader counts.  You can’t just rush off a first draft and expect it to sell.  If you want to build a career, you need to produce a novel that doesn’t detract from the story.  You have to invest your time and resources to produce a high-quality product, so that your readers can find your story, purchase it, and then read your story without distractions.

Writing is a business.  Writing is a business that requires an investment and a strategy to earn a return on that investment in the same way that a mom-and-pop shop requires an investment and a strategy to earn a return on that investment.  If you want to succeed, you need a product that people actually want.  You need to be willing to invest your time and your money in producing the best product you can, which will require building your skills and buying the services of those who have the skills you don’t.  It also means that you will need to invest your time and your money in getting the word out to potential readers.  You need to find the right readers and you need to learn how to reach those readers in a way they can appreciate.

Together, the art, craft, and business of writing mean that sometimes you have to make hard choices for the future of your career.  For example, you may have to choose to put that story you really want to write on the backburner, because you know you lack the skills to pull it off.  You may have to choose to write a less ambitious story you know you can pull off, because it will help you build the skills necessary to tell the story that burns inside of you.  Or, instead of investing in yet another writing conference that will fulfill your need to socialize with other writers, you may have to choose to invest in a copyeditor who can help you clean up your manuscript.  There are a lot of choices out there, and the decisions you make now will influence how successful you are in the future.

Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity for writers, but it’s only as much of an opportunity as you make it.  Be the artist, the craftsperson, and the businessperson your writing deserves.  Your future readers will thank you.

Lord Daud has entered the building!

Lord David Prosser, affectionately known as Lord Daud, is the author of three superb and deliciously funny books set in Barsetshire and I discovered that he is as witty in person as he is in the books.

Wanting to get to know the man behind the books I asked him a number of -cough- insightful -cough- questions. I can’t honestly remember what the first one was but it must have included the term ‘rofl’ because this is what he said :

Lord Daud: “Yes, I’ve met ROFL and a few of it’s cousins, though
it took me a long time to twig that LOL wasn’t Lots of Love.”

ACF: You’ve just answered a question I hadn’t even thought to ask! Clearly your computer knowledge extends well beyond spam but how did you learn gaming terms??

Lord Daud: “I think these terms have gone well beyond gaming now and entered every day life. During a conversation with a Facebook friend he introduced me to the first few of these including ROFL and one or two others. As I asked about the first one he’d come up with another and suggest I tried to translate it. FOCROFLMAO was a late attempt of his and I decided to stop after I’d guessed Fell Off Chair..”

ACF: lol – I had to look that one up myself! While we’re on the subject of computers I’d love to know where the inspiration for the spam responses came from? They made me laugh almost as much as Oscar!

Lord Daud: “I was getting almost daily emails from a psychic telling me she had my lucky numbers and special dates ready as soon as I’d paid my fee. I suggested if she was so confident of her abilities that maybe she could trust me with them up front and I’d forward the fee out of my winnings. For some reason the messages stopped soon after. Like most people I seem to get a lot of unwanted spam and decided humour was the best way to deal with it since frustration got me nowhere.”

ACF: From inspiration to craftsmanship. You seem to write as effortlessly as someone who has been writing all his life. How did you learn your craft and what advice would you give to those of us still asking, ‘are we there yet?’

Lord Daud: “Well, apart from the first four or five formative years I have been writing all my life. Starting quite early with’ Please excuse me for forgetting to include £5.00 in this letter for you but I’d already sealed the envelope before I remembered’.”

“In all honesty I probably went through the same stages as everyone else. Hideous poems when a lovesick youth, to writing references for people I hardly knew, for jobs they couldn’t possibly do, without offending them.”

“I loved my English lessons at school as the teacher (Chalky White) could be relied upon to tell ghost stories if we could get him in the right mood.”

“When I retired I had a bit of fun when someone asked me about my day and I responded as a diary entry. The rest is History…well English really. I doubt you can say I learned writing as a craft but I’ve always been a keen observer of people.”

“The best advice I can give anyone is to persevere. I honestly do think we all have a story though some are better able to tell it than others. Speak to someone you trust about the idea you have, if they agree it would make a good story set yourself the task of writing one chapter. Know in advance where the chapter is going and then just make the journey getting there as pleasant as possible for a reader.”

ACF: I’ve read two of your books – My Barsetshire Diary and The Queen’s Envoy – and they were more than pleasant but I believe you have a third book as well? Can you tell me a little about it?

Lord Daud: “More Barsetshire Diary is an attempt to fool the reading public into believing I know what I’m doing. The first book left me hanging in the air with a promise made by Lady J that I would assist the Dreaded Edna with her campaign to become a Local Councillor. I decided readers of Book 1 might like to know what steps we took in trying to achieve that and whether Edna could be made ‘marketable’. Also thanks to Lady J’s generosity I am stuck with fundraising to save the childhood home of another formidable woman, Diana The Dowager Duchess of Cheam.”

“I was lucky enough to enlist the services of a fine young illustrator to create cartoons for this book to try and make it easy to envision some of the situations that occur in the various chapters. Since the illustrations include some of me, I advise those readers with a delicate disposition to look away now.”

ACF: -grins- Ahem. Getting back to the nitty gritty of writing for a moment, I’d like to ask a rather serious question. You seemed to shrug off the craft as ‘just English’ but I think we both know that there is a lot of poor English out there, both spoken and written. Where do you stand on the ‘creative writing class’ vs ‘just read, read, read’ debate?

Lord Daud: “And I thought we were friends! You are of course right. There is a lot of poor English out there since educational standards are dropping in my eyes. ( Not that I have educational standards in my eyes…). Gone are the days when Grammar Schools brought out the best in those pupils more inclined towards schoolwork while secondary schools perhaps helped those who were more gifted in crafts (woodwork. metalwork etc. not basketweaving).”

“I think since pupils were lumped together it’s brought the standard of education down a notch and the three R’s just aren’t given the same emphasis anymore. It’s almost Dickensian that a child can leave school unable to read properly and unable to do all but the simplest mental arithmetic.”

“So, dragging myself back to your point. I think read, read, read is probably the best way forward in not only leaving school with a glimmer of education but also with an active imagination. I can’t talk of the benefits of a Creative Writing Class as I’ve never attended one. No doubt it would help teach someone the craft of putting a story in order but I don’t think it would help generate the ideas that reading does. These days youngsters rely on someone else’s imagination by playing games on the computer. We’ll probably find that most of the writers out there probably spent more time using their own imagination as a child and were avid readers themselves.”

ACF: I’m in the read, read, read camp as well and have glasses to prove it. I can’t move on without asking what books /you/ like to read.

Lord Daud: “Books I like include Sci fantasy like Anne McCaffery, I read anything by Dick Francis, John Grissham, (Sir)Terry Pratchett, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton and lately George R.R.Martin.”

ACF: You’ve just listed some of my favourite authors! As a kindred spirit [and a veteran of three indie books] I’d like to pick your brains on the question of publishing. Many writers, myself included, face a dilemma when it comes to publishing because we would like to have the imprint of a traditional publisher but recognize that it makes more sense to self-publish. I know you chose to take the indie path. Would you mind telling me what influenced your decision?

Lord Daud: “Like you I think most of us would like a traditional publisher however I had no luck with agents in the 6 weeks I gave myself and decided to go Indie because I’m impatient.”

ACF: What about the marketing aspect?

Lord Daud: “These days few publishing houses do the promotion they once did and so it’s left up to you to do as much as possible on the net, personal appearances and signings and through press interviews. If you’re happy to do that then maybe Indie is the way to go and save the money.”

ACF: Once you did decide to go indie, how did you find the self-publishing process itself?

Lord Daud: “I started off with Createspace but didn’t like the fact they paid royalties by cheque and it cost me for the bank to convert it. I went to Lulu for the other two books because they pay into a paypal account making life easy. I also found that Lulu.com are good for printing as they do print in various Countries while Createspace (the Amazon arm) only print in the US and postage for you and your customers can be steep. You’ll also need to check if Australia has a tax agreement with the US and apply for exemption if so or you’ll pay US tax on all royalties. The tax exempt forms can be downloaded online from the US Tax office and I’m pretty sure there’s a list there that informs which countries have an agreement with the US for exempt status.I still haven’t sorted my tax exempt status as I refuse to send my passport in the post.”

ACF: Hmmm…definitely food for thought there; taxation is not something that’s ever come up in any of the forums I visit so it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about until now… and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Thank you. Information like this is invaluable to all of us.

And now to the future. Will you be taking us back to Barsetshire with a fourth book? I hope the answer is yes because The Barsetshire Collection has a nice ring to it. And then there’s Oscar…;) He’s become something of a pin-up in this house!

Lord Daud: “Before my wife became ill I had just started the fourth book which is a continuation of my adventures as the Queen’s Envoy, the Official Secrets Act having now released some more information I could share. Unfortunately that’s now been put on hold as the need to write has disappeared. Perhaps I’ll get back to it some day since Julia is certainly prompting me to do so and Oscar wants to return from his enforced holiday and get back to .”

ACF: I’ve only ever been on a horse once in my life and Jim [the horse] spent the whole time standing in one place, cropping the grass, so the only trait I share with Lady J is a love of coffee and lots of it. Nonetheless I feel a kinship with her and hope that you will continue her story one day soon.

Speaking of stories, how is your ah…diet coming along?

Lord Daud: “The diet is fine thanks. I have just had some fat free pork pies with a touch of magic in that they never seem to touch the sides on the way down. My sylph like figure is probably maintained because of the sacrifice I make in drinking only Diet-Pepsi.”

ACF: I wish you hadn’t mentioned pork pies… Before I race off to raid the fridge can I ask one last, all important question? What are your thoughts on the meaning of life?

Lord Daud: “The meaning of life is to find those things you love to eat and then avoid anyone or out debate anyone who tells you they’re bad for you.”

And on that note I bid Lord Daud, and all of you, farewell!

Lord Daud’s website
Lord Daud’s author page
Oscar’s blog

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