Ingram Spark Vs Amazon KDP Createspace

For publishing purposes, mainly I’ve been using Amazon Createspace (print division) and Amazon KDP (e-books) for distribution. These two were merged recently and not much has changed other than the fact you don’t have to fill in tax info and log in twice. Some past receipts have gone missing, but other than that, the transition has been quite flawless. Creating a title for publishing has been great on Amazon. There is no charge for uploading, you keep what you earn minus fees.  If the print book comes damaged, they will offer to re-print another copy.

Some of my indie publishing friends have gone with both Amazon and Ingram Spark because they want the most out of distribution. Amazon distributes to limited venues and although Amazon captures 60% of the market, the other 40% is still land worth venturing into.

The site Ingram Spark has gone through many changes lately since I visited a few years ago out of curiosity. They provide very detailed manuals on how to publish and upload files. They have a live chat and telephone customer support system during office hours.  However, it costs $25-49 to upload a title and for every revision it will cost $25. There used to be an annual fee of $12 per title, but I believe that has been dropped now. Regardless, I had high hopes for Ingram given they are a giant distributor and supposedly more “professional” for publishing than Amazon.

Last night I tried to set up a title for both print and e-book distribution on Ingram Spark to try out their service. The first snag was the software on the website not allowing me to save the book title. The title “Trump Utopia of Dystopia” has no funny characters, so I was surprised at this happening. After the 10th try of pressing enter, something happened and I was allowed to go to the next page. This hope was false because I would hit other errors on the worldwide rights page and ISBN page. No matter what I did, the page would’t move on. I renamed the title to draft and tried again, only to be stuck on the title error once more. After numerous attempts and running into the same errors over and over, I gave up and went to bed because their customer service hotline was closed.

Waking up, I called them first thing and told them what happened. They asked what browser I was using. I said I tried chrome, explorer and safari. The person on the line advised me to download firefox. So I did and behold, firefox didn’t work either! After calling them back, they sent an email saying tech support will get back to me (unknown about timeline). They mentioned that the issue was trying to use the print/e-book uploading option. Apparently if you upload just print or e-book it’s fine. There is a bug in the code to do both print and e-book at the same time and they it’s been happening after their last software update.

In comparison, Amazon’s software has been fairly flawless for me. Their print and e-books are separate processes with the option to link both onto the product page later. The only time I’ve had a mental breakdown with publishing on Amazon is due to formatting but it’s nothing to do with their software not working.

I am on the fence about using Ingram Spark. If their tech people ever contacts me perhaps I will try again. However, my time is worth something and with tons of things to do, the price of putting up with flawed software might not be worth it in the end for me.

 

 

 

 

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Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 2

To reiterate, next week I’m giving a talk to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada) on a panel entitled “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process”. Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Part 1 of post is here.

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book slush pile wasn’t that big, about 100 submissions. However, we still had to sort through all stories to pick ones we thought had potential of being great stories after some polishing. Our pay rates were token rates, which meant the editors would have to spend more time with writers as experienced writers would more likely submit to higher paying publishers.

While thinking about how to present the slushpile, I came across Neil Clark’s slushpile bingo blog post. He presents why Clarkesworld, his sci-fi magazine would reject a story.

Given we are speculative fiction publisher and not solely sci-fi, our version of why we would reject a story is slightly different. However, it gives writers an idea of why a story didn’t make it through the slushpile at Dark Helix Press.

Out of 100 stories here are the stats:

  • 100 submissions received (17 females, 83 males, 6 visible minority)
  • published 32 stories (8 females, 24 males, 4 visible minority)
  • percentage published/submission (47% women, 29% men, 67% visible minorities)

As a female and visible minority, with a mandate to publish as many diverse writers as possible, special attention was paid to stories from females or visible minorities.

However, at the end of the day, publishing good quality stories is the basic principle. If the story is horribly written, it doesn’t matter if you are from a diverse group or not, we just don’t have the time to rewrite entire manuscripts.

To make the odds of publishing diverse writers higher, they also have to send in more submissions. Looking at just our Trump book, by far, the highest number of submissions were from male, white writers.  I’m not sure what the stats are with other book projects, but I’m willing to bet they are similar, unless there were exclusion guidelines in place (eg. female only or LGBT only, etc).

Overall my co-editor Jen Frankel and I have been very happy with the authors selected and feel proud of this book even when people look at us in disgust that the main subject is Trump!

Now I have to go rehearse my talking points! Practice makes perfect!

Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 1

Next week I’m giving a talk at the “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process” panel to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada). Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Here is a link to short quirky interviews with all panelists: Jen Frankel, JF Garrard, Dominik Parisien and Drew Hayden Taylor.

Jen Frankel, my co-editor for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia will be joining me in talking about the process we went through on editing this anthology along with the issue of diversity in speculative fiction. We’ll be touching on:

  • the realities of indie publishing, crowdfunding, editing, and world building (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard);
  • the lessons learned from panels on writing and pop culture about the need for diverse stories in literature, film, and media (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard); and
  • strategies for supporting authors of different backgrounds and identities while keeping their voices intact throughout the editing process (Jen Frankel).

For my portion I’ll be using PowerPoint and thought I would share some of my more interesting talking points.

To kick off the diversity issue, I’m going to present the findings from Lee and Low book’s 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This independent publisher conducted a survey with 40 publishers and review journals. They sent out over 13K surveys with a response rate of 26%, a bit over 3K responses.

The categories they surveyed included executives, sales, marketing, pr and book reviewers. The results found that nearly 80% of those surveyed identified as white.

Source: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing are white. Going forward, if change is to happen, it’s going to take all of us, white and not-white to make the effort to change if diversity is truly an issue we all care about as a society.  However, it has to be done in a way to prevent “diversity branding” which is backlash with the illusion that things are fair and leads to bias against certain groups. Sometimes diversity programs lead to more negativity and it’s something that we all have to be aware of.

Similarly, I’ve been having a debate with another indie publisher about Dark Helix broadening it’s subject matters from only multicultural subjects. At the end of the day I want to be known as a publisher who provides great stories to readers and be inclusive, regardless of race or gender. To brand my company as solely for diverse authors is excluding other populations. This touches on the diversity branding mentioned earlier.

As a business, by being too niche, it’s very difficult to sell to the general population. In being more inclusive about writers and broadening subject matters, I hope to attract new readers to my publishing house who will then take a chance on the multicultural titles I have to offer as well.

But to publish more diverse writers, they also have to send in more submissions. In Part 2 I’ll talk about the slush pile for the Trump book and stats gathered from the making of this book.

Trump book published on Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia anthology is now live and available for sale or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers on Amazon!

I’m not sure if I ever want to publish a book on Christmas again as it is quite stressful. A lot of frantic phone calls, emails and general panic about last minute changes. Although these things are typical of the publishing process with any book, I wasn’t sure if anyone would be working at Amazon on Christmas day to make it happen. It turns out there is a lot of automation I presume and at least one poor person (hopefully making triple salary) processing kindle books out in Amazon land.

Sadly, I’ve discovered that the previewer in Amazon isn’t that great. However, once I download the book or see it in the official previewer software for publishers, the book looks fine. Apparently it’s an ongoing problem that hasn’t been fixed by Amazon yet.

Jen Frankel and I are proud of the Trump book as it is one of the most creative exercises we have ever taken part in! All the writers have been great to work with and I’ve noticed that a few are in other Trump anthologies as well.

Our family also had fun with a Duplo building contest to see which design was deserving of a copy of the Trump book! There were a lot of abstract builds!

IMG_20171225_190116_024

In the new year I need some energy to finish an anthology about Canada and will be working with Sarah Water Raven. She will be the main editor as I will be contributing a story, so I need someone else to tear me to pieces. One becomes blind to their own writing after a while and the only cure are fresh eyes!

If You Care, Delete The Email!

The other day I didn’t sleep and managed to finish the first Dark Helix Press newsletter which contained pictures of the Anime North 2017 conference and some news about book projects.

During the conference I had collected about 100 emails and wanted to start an email list because I will lose momentum (perhaps even misplace the signup sheets) and my book promo dates were running out. Along with con goers, I also looked through my personal email and built a second list of friends and family who I thought would be interested in receiving news about my projects.

Whenever a small business person you know (such as real estate or financial adviser, etc) adds you to their list of newsletters or mass emails, you probably think it’s spam. Why are they sending me stuff? My name isn’t on it!

Well, they are sending you information about their services because they think that you are a kind, wonderful person who will support them in their goals. Running a business is hard work and back breaking. If they thought about you enough to add you to their email list, it means you are important to them. They think that you are a person who will ask them about their business next time you meet them and that you will pass on the information to anyone who is interested.

This is why I was so hurt when I received an email from someone who told me to piss off because I was wasting their time. This person was the most quiet, gentlest, nicest being. I thought for a while about why I was feeling this way. Obviously CBT is working here, normally I would just spiral into depression!

It’s a small thing for someone to ask you to remove them from a mailing list. I thought about it for a long time and concluded that they: 1) do not support what I’m doing and 2) they are very busy and I shouldn’t bother them because I am not worth any of their time.

They could be struggling with something and lashing out, I don’t know. I emailed them a confirmation that they were off the list. I still felt really bad, so I tried calling them to apologize and to see what was going on, but they hung up on my “hello, how are you?” Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow, but perhaps I should focus on my more positive friends with my limited time on Earth. As all business people know, we don’t like burning bridges.

Friends and family knew I had been really hurting last year from my dad’s death and had fallen into a deep, deep depression. The fact that I pulled up the straps of my boots, managed to even attend a conference (it was such a struggle to “turn on” my game face) and make a newsletter meant I was feeling better.

Usually newsletters and mass emails are not personal to makes it easier to pass onto the next person. Also, the small business person does not have time to write messages on thousands of emails. They barely have time to eat dinner…

Newsletters and mass emails are not sent out forever and ever. One day the business or the author will die and no more will be created. Receiving some news is better than silence if you care about the person.  Delete if you don’t want to read but know they are well and alive. You are a good person if you receive any!

I hope I put newsletters and other emails you get from your small business owner friends in a new light!

Trump Kickstarter & 5 Tips on Successful Submissions

Whoopee! The Kickstarter Campaign for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia? Anthology is now live! Press release is also live in which we talk to two writers (Chris McGrane & Mathias Jansson) about why they sent in stories.

The Kickstarter is more for PR than anything else. We really, really, really want to find readers for our books and this is one way of finding them as well as pre-selling some copies. Although the submission deadline is June 4, 2017 we have started signing contracts with some writers and doing editing rounds in preparation to deliver Kickstarter goods.

So far we have signed 7 contracts. Our book aims to publish at least 20 pieces. We actually hope to publish closer to 25-30 if we receive more submissions that are too fantastic to resist.

Editing is super subjective and for this anthology I’m working with another editor, so there are two of us. Sometimes our schedules don’t match, but I think we will be ok as we haven’t gotten into any real fights over editing…yet…

I am dreading the task of sending out rejection letters but it will happen eventually. I’ll have to remind people that sometimes it’s really us and not them because another editor might have snapped their story up immediately. This did happen with one story that was sent in and 3 weeks later we were informed that it had been sold. That’s why we are fine with simultaneous submissions, heck, why delay a person a chance to sell to another publisher?

Today I received a really nice email from a writer who was super hyped that their story was chosen. I totally understood how they felt because I have gotten more rejection letters than acceptance ones myself! Out of so many stories, why did we chose their story?

  1. The writing was tight – this person did a lot of editing and they took out a lot of unnecessary words. Grammar, punctuation, spelling was pretty good – not perfect – but editors need something to clean up!
  2. The story had a limited number of characters – there was only one main character in the story and everything was focused on them. When there are too many characters, things get confusing super fast. Also, the writer can’t concentrate on writing a lot about each person and there is shallow character development.
  3. There was a clear arc (beginning, middle, end) – in the beginning the reader didn’t know what was going on, then things got a bit clearer through flashbacks with the main character describing what happened before the ending hit. In some stories too many things are happening, such as too many flashbacks, which makes timing of sequences confusing. Or the ending is too ambiguous and the editor isn’t sure if the story really ended or is missing a page.
  4. Surprise twists are great – in this case, the editor (me) is also a writer, so I can see a lot of plot devices coming. When something happens that surprises me I get really excited.
  5. They built a credible world – the world built had a set of rules which was explained as the story went on and had enough logic that the reader was able to buy in. The main character explained why things were a certain way in the story. Sometimes in other stories there is a librarian or a mentor figure that can do this as well.

One good reference guide is “The Hero’s Journey” which describes how to write a story describing a hero/main character, their adventures and finally the end. The link is to a condensed version, the book is longer than one webpage!

Style guides are also useful if you are writing a story which cites titles or has irregular dialogue, such as the character listening to the radio. The Canadian government has a free style guide and Writer’s Digest also has free resources. The Chicago Manual is one of the gold standards and a great reference.

We just edited a story in which the style/formatting drove us crazy. But we did it because the story was fantastic. Otherwise, we would have said forget it, since it cost us so many hours to clean us! Bottom line, write a great story and the editors can forgive you for everything else!

 

 

 

 

Entrepreneur Article About Crowdfunding For Books

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Samita Sarkar, on the topic of crowdfunding to self-publish a book. Since she was the one writing the article, I didn’t know what quotes she would use from me versus other people who also had experience in crowdfunding, so it was interesting to see the end result.

In her article, “Crowdfunding Your Self-Published Book? Here Are 3 Things You Need to Know” the latest Kickstarter stats show that over out of 349,504 campaigns, just 123,447 succeeded – a 35% success rate. Some 14% of projects finish without receiving a single pledge.

In the three tips listed, lessons learned includes preparing a lot of videos and illustrations prior to the campaign start, then using social media a lot for the duration of the campaign. I talk about how I’ve mastered more software skills – quite frankly, this is because some people that I’ve hired in the past weren’t that great. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do things yourself!

With Kickstarter campaigns there is always a risk that it will fail. But obviously I believe this is a risk worth taking as I’m slowly becoming a serial Kickstarter campaign runner! At dinner tonight I warned my friends that I will be emailing them once again to ask for support for the Trump anthology. There was a lot of moaning about how they were tired of Trump, but they were intrigued anyways! (or so I think)