Tag Archives: indie

Sharing the Smashwords Love: My Story On Why & How I Came to Self-Publish

It began with a vampire. No, not the shiny ones or lovers and fighters on the big screen, but a virtually unknown Russian named Vlody who first appeared in my consciousness eleven years ago.

I’d been traditionally published in a few different genres a few times and though this wasn’t my main literary focus, it was a fun, dark fantasy-filled tale I wished to share with the world. Since I had positive communication with one of my publishers, I submitted “Katrdeshtr’s Redemption,” The Night Cat, Book 1, which they said was well-written but didn’t work for them, as they accepted fantasy but didn’t wish to go into this type of sub-genre. Entirely their choice, of course, but instead of queuing back in line and laboring through the submit, decline and resubmit process, since my schedule was quite busy at the time, I decided to self-publish.

I first went to Amazon as I’d heard of their self-publishing application. I searched other websites and companies also, but as I didn’t have extra cash I wished to front for publishing my work, especially considering some of the fees being charged, I kept looking. I came across Smashwords through a simple surf on the web, by entering the question, “Best place to self-publish.”

After reading the Smashwords Style Guide, and all the little steps and tics to formatting a manuscript, at first I was overwhelmed and didn’t think I could do it. But I told myself, “Hey, you wrote the book in the first place, why shouldn’t you be able to take it a step further?” With Katrdeshtr’s beautiful, immortal voice also demanding to be heard, I did exactly as the guide suggested, I set aside several hours to devote solely to editing my story, formatting and rechecking my work. Using the guide, step by step, I found it wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined it to be, it just took time and dedication: just like writing a book in the first place.

Wishing to have my story in the Premium Catalog, I made yet another nervous yet thrilling leap, as I downloaded the free graphic art application Paint.net and created the cover image layering a photo I’d taken plus free images on the web. And so my character, Katrdeshtr the Night Cat (as he renamed himself after a few hundred years finding his original, Vlody, too boring) was given the face I’d imagined and his supernatural story was presented to the world with the help of Smashwords.

Soon after that I published three more titles at Smashwords, but for a particular work of mine since it was a lighter type of fantasy set in a contemporary setting, I regressed a little, I’d call it, I was interacting with that same publisher again and though they said again it was beautifully written, they didn’t think their readers would like it and that it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read and they only published what they liked to read.

…didn’t think their readers would like it….?

….it wasn’t personally something they’d like to read…?

….they only published what they liked to read….?

 

That didn’t sit well with me at all. I believe it is the reader’s choice what they want to read, and they should be given every opportunity to find something special for them. So with pleasure and new determination, I returned to Smashwords, self-publishing the title, “The Angel of Berlin”, and though my other works have received good reviews, it has been my most successful venture to date.

My Next Steps

I asked some of my friends who are also writers, but hadn’t decided whether to publish their work or who’d admitted not wishing to go through the extremely subjective process of acceptance by traditional publishing, I told them without hesitation and with great confidence, go to Smashwords! Do it your way!

Because too many indie and self-published books are still getting shunted to the side and dismissed by review groups, on 31 October 2010, I opened my review/interview site “Flying With Red Haircrow” utilizing the knowledge and methods I’d gained as a reviewer and intake coordinator for online literary magazines.  And a few months ago, though I’d self-published my own works, I opened the indie publishing side of my brand, opening it to other authors who may need help along the independent path. I’ve been fortunate to find a partner as enthusiastic about a few projects I had in mind. At both sides, authors are welcome to submit their press releases, promos and updates to have them post, shared around and auto-fed to other sites like Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, that I am a part of.

Our slogan and mission at  “Flying With Red Haircrow”:

“Enjoying the freedom of creativity…”

  • To provide unique perspectives.
  • To provide readers with more variety.

Our quote:

“Dance above the surface of the world. Let your thoughts lift you into creativity that is not hampered by opinion.”

— Red Haircrow

 My Testimony

With the advertising, marketing and online interaction I take part in every day, besides the many review requests received regularly, I get a lot of email, but one of the messages I always read first whenever it appears is the newsletter from Mark Coker’s Smashwords Blog.

Helpful, honest, willing to ask and answer the hard questions about publishing and the writing industry and market in general, it always provides a level of encouragement I find absolutely indispensable. On those days I feel like everything is going wrong with my writing or have those moments of doubt on whether this was the best choice, I reread articles on that blog. It never fails to provide me with the courage and motivation I need to continue.

What are some of the tips I have for writers on self-publishing and Smashwords?

  • First of all, believe you can do it, because you can!
  • Secondly, conceive, write, edit and revise to the very best of your abilities, get help if you need it and accept constructive criticism from those who have your best interests at heart and understand you and your work. That way you can be 100% confident in whatever you produce, and when/if you do receive a review where someone didn’t like it, you still know your work and you are worthy. It just might not have suited their personal tastes.
  • Follow the Smashwords Style Guide closely. They have carefully provided a manual for your work to look as best as possible.  Presentation and quality are two of the keys to your success.
  • The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide can save you a lot of time and angst, don’t be too proud to rethink things when you need to. Remain true to your purpose, but also be willing to adapt as the ebook publishing industry is continuing to evolve.
  • Even on those days when you feel sales aren’t meeting your expectations, or you’d think about what more you could do to make your books a success, take time out to read other writer’s heartfelt expressions of how Smashwords helped them achieve their goal of being published. Sharing the proverbial love is a great way to receive positive feedback and support. Help other and help yourself. Visit the Smashwords page on Facebook. Reach out to others, as there are plenty of indie enthusiasts out there.

And just a few tips for writers from the standpoint of a reviewer:

  • No matter what the reviewer says, remember you took the steps to write, publish and share you work, and for that alone you might be congratulated.
  • For reviews where constructive criticism is offered in an objective way, take it for what it is. No writer is infallible, and we can see that when even well-known and widely successful writers are critiqued heavily. Take it as encouragement to improve your craft, something we can all try to do, whatever level we’re on.
  • Reviews are inherently subjective. Even though it’s hard to receive a chancy or poor review, remember that one person may not care for your work, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t either. On the other hand, if you find a number of people saying the same thing, this should give you an indication of what might need attention.

What Smashwords can do for you and what I love most about them!

Smashwords is an excellent website and great opportunity both for authors and publishers to get their work out there were readers can read it!

After writing your blurb and description, deciding on the genre and tags for your work, and creating or commissioning a cover image (if you would like to be included in the premium catalog), you can take your well-edited manuscript saved as a Microsoft Word file and upload it with just a few clicks then their specialty application converts it into several different formats of your choice.

After passing a necessary inspection and being checked for errors in formatting, your work will be available on the site. If your file meets further simple requirements regarding presentation, cover and quality, your ebook will be included in the Premium Catalog which ships out to online distributors like Sony, Apple, Kobo and more if you wish. You can opt in or opt out of any of these choices.

Easy to read graphs and reports can show you how your ebook is selling across the web, and you can receive notification at your personal email address whenever you have a sale on-site. If you have any questions, Smashwords has a great staff who’ll answer as soon as possible. Create your profile, add your website and feeds from other sites like Twitter and WordPress, and Smashwords can be your central location for telling readers more about yourself and your work.

The thing I love most about Smashwords is the upfront and no non-sense, yet professional and friendly approach they have. If they’ve made an oversight or error, they tell us. They regularly post site updates so you can know what’s going and to help you get as much exposure for your work as possible. It is an interaction process that I greatly appreciate because I feel they honestly and personally have my best interests as a writer at heart.

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Shadowing: A Henchman’s Tale, Book 1 of Moonblind by Kat Zantow

Review: “Shadowing: A Henchman’s Tale” is the type of fantasy story where you can literally feel the author’s enthusiasm for the genre and their story in every word. Yet like the dedication to all the fantasy books they’d read, there was a little of everything in this tale, and sometimes it’s seemed a little too much all at once. The writing style was somewhat problematic for me also, as there’s lots of telling going on when I’d have preferred to be shown itself. More transitional phrases could have helped in this area, improving pacing and flow, which often seemed stuttered and abrupt. The first person point of view also didn’t help in this regard.

I thought “Shadowing” was a good idea for a story, one that could evolve and continue in installments, and would be interested in reading the next book but I tired of the main character as he was presented in book one of the Moonblind series. There was plenty of action throughout, yet the stilted nature of the narrative I felt held the henchman’s tale back from being as good as it could have.

Description: The moon has not changed in the fifty years of the dark lord Magna’s rule—but everything else has.

All too often, the servants of Dark Overlords are dispatched with a lazy flick of the hero’s sword. But in Shadowing, the job benefits of fire, mayhem, and flight almost make up for it. In between burning down villages, the minion’s primary directive is taking out heroes. When a man in golden armor and his faithful companions sneak across the border on a quest to assassinate the Dark Lord Magna, long live the Magna, it’s up to the Shadows to cut his quest short. As always, things do not go quite according to plan, and one henchman ends up lone-wolfing it across the permafrost lands, following the stench of valor.

A story of sword and sorcery, tooth and claw, and wyvern wing.

Kindle Edition
Published June 2nd 2011 by Fictician Press
ASIN: B00545W2IY
Source: Author
Samples are available on Smashwords.

Author Bio:

Kat Zantow is a writer who likes painting, kayaking, mixing drinks, hiking, shark-punching, 24-hour coffee, and hand-feeding squirrels.

She maintains an author blog with fun facts about Kat and ridiculous drawings as well as a more reasonable blog for everything eBooks.

A twentysomething alumna of Jon Stewart’s alma mater, she is recovering from an overdose of postmodern literature by writing solidly fun fiction. She is currently in love with the spatial efficiency of eBooks.

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Filed under Fantasy, Reviews

Dangerous Times by Phillip Frey

Review: The descriptions of the character’s driving, streets, turns and buildings, or the settings in which he finds himself helps set the tone and mood of the story. Frank Moore is direct and brutal, yet I found him believable and even sympathetic to a degree because he does some of the acts that might cross our minds to do: kill the unrepentant druggie and rid the world of one more useless drain on society. Sometimes the detachment left me drifting, or the seeming randomness of thought, but it was all of a piece. It was as if the story itself was a character with clear personality, a certain style of movement and purpose. Frank Moore, his wife, the other players were puppets on a stage.

I found “Dangerous Times” to be both intriguing, for it’s straightforward and direct style of narration that fit the story to a tee; and terrific in it’s intangible build of suspense. I confess I was dismayed a bit by the length, which was 350 pages in .pdf format, but this was accounted for by the 1.5 spacing and Courier font. Not an easy one for eyes, but again, it did seem to fit the “Dangerous Times,” making for outstanding perspective.

For lovers of crime thrillers and suspense novels written in a solid, purposeful voice, “Dangerous Times” is a winner. It’s dark and gritty, yet still touched by flashes of brillance told in a unique voice. Once it grabs you, it doesn’t let you go. As it’s short description states: “this book is not for the squeamish. It begins as a creepy slow burner that leads to sex, violence, murder, and betrayal.”

Description: Frank Moore is a misanthrope with a hellish plan, a malevolent antagonist so compelling that the reader will want Frank to succeed, until the unexpected occurs. After a frustrating search he has found his look-alike, a close-enough double: John Kirk. Auto mechanic John Kirk leads a troublesome life in San Pedro, common troubles that escalate to the dreadful when Frank Moore comes to town.

Published: September 28, 2010

Published by: Phillip Frey

ISBN13: 294001111792

Source: Author

Buy Link: Smashwords

Author Bio:

Phillip Frey grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he performed as a child actor at The Cleveland Playhouse. The day after he graduated high school he moved to Los Angeles and attended Los Angeles City College. Enrolled in their Theatre Arts Department, Phillip performed in many of their plays while also performing in local theater. He then moved to New York, where he performed with The New York Shakespeare Festival, followed by The Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center. With a change of interest Phillip wrote, directed, and edited 3 short films, all of which had international showings, including The New York Film Festival. With yet another change of interest he returned to Los Angeles to become a produced screenwriter. “Dangerous Times” is Phillip Frey’s first novel.

Website: http://phillipkafka.blogspot.com/

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Filed under Reviews, Suspense/Mystery

A Disruptive Invention by Peter W. Shackle

Review: “A Disruptive Invention” is what might be called “serious” science fiction as obviously the author is well knowledgeable about his topic and this is evidenced throughout by lengthy passages of technical details or one character imparting paragraphs of information. I did find the many secondary characters introduced with extended background information rather distracting, especially in that I had a greater interest in the settings themselves.

I looked forward to the views of Redstone Arsenal for example, as I used to live and work there with a certain level of security clearance. Some statistics seemed a little off regarding Alabama and its population (but only someone who’s lived there might know), but there were other items I knew well, such as the munition testing that sounds periodically and the Biergarten café. I personally know the family that owned and managed, for they are long-time friends of mine.

“A Disruptive Invention” had a great story premise and I found it intriguing from the very first and the author imparted great enthusiasm in his work, but the descriptive attempts at interpersonal behaviors, skills and/or relationships between characters were sometimes a little too stereotypically “geeky” or genderized for me. For example, the woman on the John’s team, Judy seemed to be thinking about men all the time and/or how she looked or having a relationship. When this occurred in the narrative or dialogue, it “stuttered” the story for me, but never stopped my forward motion because of the strength of the central plot.

Those looking for a strong sci-fi story with lots of detail and historical background included would find “A Disruptive Invention” of interest. It really makes you think about what would happen to the world if such technology became widely available.

Description: John Sykes, an inventive young engineer, accidentally discovers the long predicted “Fifth Force” of physics, which allows levitation against gravity. Follow his encounters with the world of venture capital, the patent office, foreign spies and the air force as he forms a company to make a UFO like vehicle that could reshape the global balance of power. John’s adventures take him from his home in Long Beach CA, to the security of the Redstone Arsenal in AL and then on to the ultra secret Area 51. Experience the mystery when the first mission shows that they are not alone in space!

Publication Date:  17 January 2011

Publisher: Peter W. Shackle via Smashwords

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Ebook and Kindle

Purchase Link/Excerpt

Source: Author

Author Bio:

Peter W. Shackle is a professional engineer and inventor living in Palos Verdes California. He has a Ph.D. in physics from Trinity College, Cambridge in the UK. A life senior member of the IEEE, he has authored 53 United States patents.

Website: http://adisruptiveinvention.com

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Filed under Reviews, Science Fiction