Indie Publishing: My Journey

By Gail Johnson

If you google indie publishing, you’ll find umpteen dozen sites offering advice on how to publish your book. There, you’ll also find an opinion on why, where, and when to do it. Believe me!

Warning: You can spend years obtaining endless trails of information, or you can write a book and publish that puppy. One thing is certain, you’ll have to make your own decision on what is the best technique for you.

TreasuresofHopeFrontFinalIn 2017, I published my memoir, Treasures of Hope: Discovering the Beautiful Truth Beneath My Painful Past. In this article I will share a little of the process and some surprises I encountered through that experience. Note: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert, so I’ve added links for you to discover your own path. Let’s get started.

Write

The first step is obvious. Write your story.

Editing

The second step should be obvious. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. The more eyes you have on your story the better to catch those mistakes. Hire an editor. Apply those edits. I hired a developmental editor and a copy editor. It was one of the best decisions I made during my journey.

Formatting

Some writers hire formatters while others do their own formatting. I did a little of both. For the print book, I used a template by Book Design Templates. For my e-book, I hired a formatter. The reason for that was I ran into problems on the e-book that neither the template techs nor Amazon techs could figure out. As weeks turned into months, I chose to hire someone to do the e-book. (I would like to add, a friend used Book Design Templates for her historical novel and had no problems.) I still recommend the templates.

Covers

You can order e-book covers any time during the writing process. But a print book cover must have several elements in place before ordering. Formatting your book will give you the needed page number to determine the width of your spine. No guessing. The page number must be exact.

By now, you should have the title and an idea what you’d like the front of your book to look like. To choose your photo you can visit the following sites. You can either choose a free photo or you can buy one. The main thing is to make sure you get the rights to the photograph. The following sites were suggested to me.

Bigstockphoto.com
Depositphotos.com
Unsplash.com
Shutterstock.com
Fotolia.com
Istockphoto.com
Dreamstime.com
Peopleimages.com

Another thing you will need for your cover is a blurb. A blurb is a description of your story printed on the back of your book. Psst. I had someone to help me write mine. You will also need an author picture and bio.

The last thing to think about for your print cover is the ISBN number. Some authors buy their own while others use a free CreateSpace ISBN. Read more here.

Now you are ready to order your cover or make your own if you so choose. I’m not that creative. I hired a cover designer.

Categories and Keywords

While you wait on the cover, think about your categories and keywords you’ll use once you’ve uploaded your manuscript. Categories describe the genre while keywords are the words you think people will use when searching for your book.

For instance, my book is a memoir, but it can be, and has been, used as a devotional and a study guide. So, three out of the seven keywords were memoir, devotional, and study guide.

Publishing

This part of the journey was a surprise to me. When my covers arrived in my inbox, the e-book was a jpeg, and the print copy was a pdf. Who knew? Next, I visited my friendly neighborhood publisher, such as KDP, CreateSpace, BN, IngramSpark. Again everyone has their opinions.

As with every new project, we may feel apprehension in the doing. I did! So, let me encourage you. It isn’t as hard as you think. Once you create your account, you’ll be taken to a dashboard that will lead you through the entire process. Just follow the direction and you’ll do fine. And if you run into any problems, contact the publisher. I had no problems getting my questions answered.

After uploading a pdf of your cover and manuscript to CreateSpace, they will review, print, and snail mail you a copy of your book. You will need to proof it. If you find a problem, correct it, and reorder. They will send you another proof. When you are satisfied with the result, you are ready to share your story with the world.

So there you have some of the interesting things I learned while publishing my book. If you’re an indie, what things would you add? If you published your book, what were the surprises in your journey to publication?

Click to Tweet: “So there you have some of the interesting things I learned on my publishing journey.” @GailJohnson87 for @InspiredPrompt #indie #author

Writing Prompt: Today, make a plan and add a date to publish your book.

The Inspiration of Story

During this month, we are sharing how an author has inspired us. But instead of writing about how one has inspired me as a writer, I thought I would write about how they have inspired me as a reader.

The Exercise of Our Faith

I would like to begin with a quote from Eugene Peterson.

 

Parables aren't illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imagination, which if we aren't careful, becomes the exercise of our faith

 

Peterson begins, “Jesus was a master at subversion…. Parables sound absolutely ordinary: casual stories about soil and seed, meals and coins and sheep, bandits and victims, farmer and merchants. And they’re wholly secular: of his forty or so parables recorded in the Gospels, only one has its setting in church, and only a couple mention the name of God. As people heard Jesus tell these stories, they saw at once that they weren’t about God, so there was nothing in them threatening their own sovereignty. They relaxed their defenses. They walked away perplexed, wondering what they meant, the stories lodged in their imagination. And then, like a time bomb, they would explode in their unprotected hearts. An abyss opened up at their very feet. He was talking about God; they had been invaded.

“Jesus continually threw odd stories down alongside ordinary lives and walked away without explanation or altar call. …But the parable didn’t do the work—it put the listener’s imagination to work. Parables aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imagination, which if we aren’t careful, becomes the exercise of our faith.”

Story is a Powerful Thing

And there you have an outline for the perfect story. Fiction stories are parables. Stories ask the reader a “what if.” As a reader, we get caught up in a world not our own. We relax while experiencing this new private world. Unconsciously, we begin living the story and suddenly realize a hidden truth about ourselves we would have never recognized otherwise.

 

Story is a powerful thing.In the midst of recounting our stories, the veil of obscurity falls away, and we see clearly what we've hidden from ourselves.(1)

 

Inspiring Through Story

For example, Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love opened my heart to the realization that I was lovable even though I felt the exact opposite. Through that word of truth, I began to thirst for a much-needed restorative healing balm to my shattered heart. That hunger led me to open up to the only One who could supply it.

The O’Malley Series by Dee Henderson taught me that life doesn’t always go as planned and my prayers are not always answered the way I think they should be answered because only God knows what is best for His children. My job is to trust and obey Him. His plans are higher than mine.

Jill Austen, author of Master Potter and Master Potter and the Mountain of Fire inspired me to research pottery. When Austen’s character Beloved meets Master Potter, she accepts His invitation to the Potter’s house. Austen explains the process of making clay vessels while sharing spiritual truths.

 

 

I don’t remember everything about these authors’ books. But the one thing I do recall is the characters and the character arcs in the story. Because I became that character. Each one of these authors inspired me to seek for that which my heart longed for: make a difference in this life through my relationship with Christ. Isn’t that the reason we write? To make a difference? To inspire change?


Writing Prompt: Do you recall an author that has made a difference in your life? What changes did you make after reading their book? Take a moment to reflect on that change. Now make a list of how you can inspire those around you.

Click to Tweet: How an Author Inspired Me. “Parables aren’t illustrations that make things easier; they make things harder by requiring the exercise of our imagination, which if we aren’t careful, becomes the exercise of our faith.”

 

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google

Go, Dawgs!

by Gail Johnson

We are talking football this month! Favorite teams, colors, and tailgating recipes. Woo hoo! Are you a fan?

Sanford Stadium Wikicommons author Pruddle

Sanford Stadium, Wikicommons, photo: Pruddle

No one would call me a diehard fan. That would be my son, the one with all the red, white, and black memorabilia. But I do enjoy getting together with family and watching a college game now and then. For my family, that includes the Georgia Bulldogs. Here are a few stats for those unfamiliar with Georgia.

Sinkwich_bulldogs Wikicommons

Frank Sinkwich, Wikicommons

Inaugural season – 1892
UGA Fight Songs – Hail to Georgia, Glory, Alma Mater, Going Back, and Bulldog Marching Song
National Championships – 1927, 1942, 1946, 1968, 1980
Heisman Trophy Winners – Frank Sinkwich, Herschel Walker

And who can forget Coach Vince Dooley and announcer Larry Munson?

Tailgating Recipe

No matter the team playing or the fan watching, food is a must. Who can say no to a bowl of hot chili?

1 pound ground beef (85-15)
1/2 roll Jimmy Dean roll sausage
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 jar Paul Newman’s Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic sauce (Trust me. It’s just tomato sauce)
Salt and Pepper
1 packet Chilo seasoning (Or use your own)
½ – ¾ cup water
1 bag nacho cheese Doritos
1 carton sour cream
1 jar deli-sliced Tamed jalapenos

Herschel_Walker

Herschel Walker, Wikicommons

Directions
Place beef, tomatoes, Rotel, beans sauce, salt and pepper, chili seasoning, and water into a pot and cook until beef is done. Let simmer until ready to serve. Can be cooked in a crockpot. Serve in individual bowls over crushed Dorito with a dollop of sour cream and jalapenos. Enjoy.

Let the games begin! Go, Dawgs!

 

Click to Tweet: “If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” Herschel Walker #GoDawgs

Writing Prompt:
Unbelievable! Everyone in the stadium stood to their feet and waited for the referee…

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Trekking the Indie Route

By Gail Johnson

Are you thinking about becoming an indie author?

For those new to the term, indie is short for independent. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. In fact, I suggest you don’t.

forking-road-839830_1280

 

Choosing the indie route can be scary when faced with all the decisions that must be made between the initial idea of the book and the final product. But there are a few things you can do to make the journey a lot easier.

 

Writing Groups

I suggest joining a writer’s organization. If you’re a Christian fiction writer, that would be the ACFW. For a small yearly fee, American Christian Fiction offers classes, conferences, and critique groups. A critique group will provide invaluable feedback during the writing process.

Friends

Writing is a lonely profession. We need friends, offline and online, to keep us balanced. Friends help make the journey an exciting adventure. They are irreplaceable treasures and wells of encouragement.

Editors

correcting-1870721_1280Love’em or dislike’em, editors have a purpose. A good editor can make a book better. You will not catch all your mistakes, but another pair of eyes will uncover the elusive typo. Guaranteed!

Ask for references. Talk to your friends or other authors. Working with someone can be a dream or a nightmare. Success depends on a good working relationship.

Media

Social media is a slippery slope. Too much of that and you lose writing time. Not enough and there’s no point. The point of media is interaction with others. Doing for others as you would have them do for you is good advice when thinking of media.

I want to share a few pointers I’ve learned in seven years of social media.  Don’t follow someone to get them to follow you, and then unfollow them. Not cool! And if you ask a question and someone answers it, respond. If you don’t, they won’t stay a follower.

Share their successes. There’s no reason to be jealous of another if their book comes out before yours. There are enough readers to go around. Be generous to promote them, and when your time comes, someone will do the same for you.

If you’re overwhelmed by your Twitter feed, may I suggest lists? Lists help separate your followers and those you like to interact with every day.

Readers

You gain readers by writing a good book. Hence all the above suggestions. Readers, like friends, are treasures. Treat them as such. You won’t regret it.

Blogging

Some people don’t like blogging. I do! My website gives me a chance to connect with friends and meet new ones every week. Blogging also helps with weekly word count. Whether you blog once a week or five times a week, make a schedule and stick with it.

My Journey

book-2224934_1280So, you see indie doesn’t necessarily mean independent. 🙂 It takes a tribe. I knew I couldn’t do everything. In the end, I hired editors, a back cover copywriter, and a cover designer. I did the formatting myself using a template which I purchased from a template designer. My book will be coming out later this year. Woohoo!

So, if you’ve been thinking about trekking the indie path but you’re afraid you can’t do it, take heart. There is a steep learning curve, but you CAN succeed as an indie author when you have friends to help you along the way.

Indie authors, what are your suggestions for newbies?

Click to Tweet: You can succeed as an #indie author when you have friends to help you along the way.

Writing Prompt

You have your manuscript, back cover copy, and your cover. Make a list of the things you need to do to make your book a success.