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Working with Pictures

  

Black cat in a coal hole taken at midnight

The picture on the left should open in a twinkling while the one on the right might take a some time to appear. (Actually, this will probably only be the case the first time you look.  Thereafter both pictures are likely to be cached in your PC and will appear immediately.)

My fairly ordinary camera takes pictures that are 4000 dots (pixels) wide and 3000 high. That’s 12 million dots altogether making it a 12 Megapixel camera. These dots get saved in a computer file where the colour of every dot is defined by 3 bytes. So, for the full unblemished definition, my pictures needs 36 Megabytes.

That’s the file that gives the right hand picture (it’s in png format). It’s an awfully big file to send to your screen just to provide a small black rectangle! The one on the left comes from a more sensible 1 kilobyte file (in jpg format) but I defy you to see the difference even though the left hand file size is 3600 times smaller.

You’d probably guess that my camera takes bigger pictures than this tiny image, but how big was the original?  The important answer is that it doesn’t a have physical size (or resolution)! It depends on the screen or printer you use to look at it.  If the dots on the device are big, so is the picture, if they’re small, so is the picture.    Older screens have resolutions of around 70-100 pixels per inch so my black cat picture would need a screen about 4 feet wide to show every pixel in the original.

However, I’ve set the width of both the pictures on this page to 3cm.  On an old style screen this would be about 100 dots wide and 75 high – 7500 in total.  Even the best iPad with its amazing 326dpi retina display would only use about 111 thousand  pixels.  So, what happens to rest the of the 36 million that were supplied for the right hand picture?   Some sort of averaging of pixel colours has to be done by your computer and detail will be lost – even though you can’t see it.  If you do this averaging before sending the file there are big gains to be made in speed.

Reducing the number of pixels to match the expected display device is sensible, but there are even more gains to be made by lumping together adjacent pixels of the same colour.  Both Jpeg and png formats do this, but jpgs use a technique that also allows close colours to be merged depending on a quality factor. At 100% the data is compressed as much as possible but nothing is lost.  At values lower than about 80% you can begin to see some deterioration of fine detail.

Neither of my pictures is absolutely black – otherwise both the left hand jpg and the right hand png would have been compressed to give very small files.  Instead there’s a random selection of almost black pixels.  The left hand jpg has been set to 200x150px with a quality of 70% making it a uniform very, very dark grey.  The png (4000X3000px with every pixel defined)  also shows up as a very very dark grey but the work to reduce it and average the colours was done by your computer after it received the file.

Be careful when you are changing the size of pictures. Increasing size will automatically drop the quality because your computer can’t add detail that isn’t there. Reducing the size is less likely to cause problems, but some software may drop the resolution at the same time without you realising. It may also drop the resolution when you export the file unless you have set it correctly.

So what resolution should you use?
Download speed is vital for websites and screen resolution is fairly poor so there is no point in using high definition pictures. 96dpi is usually fine and you should compress jpgs by the maximum amount possible without losing detail on the picture.

Print requires higher resolution so pictures that look fine on screen may appear fuzzy or blocky on paper and the curves may have jagged edges. 300dpi works well for print books, ebooks and covers but double-check your printing company’s requirements before you create your book. Higher resolutions are usually fine, although they may increase the file size of the ebook enough to push up the delivery cost on Amazon for books with a large number of pictures.

However much effort you put into getting the resolution right for your print book, you can still run into problems if your pdf creation software compresses the pictures. It’s sensible to check the settings before you create the file to make sure nothing is compressed lower than 300dpi. 

Colours
There’s another little hassle with files intended for print rather than screen – colour definition. In the camera and on screen, colours are defined in terms of the proportion of red, blue and green light (RGB).  Having all three together at 100% gives white.  But if you print all three colours together you get a muddy grey.  To get white you just need white paper – you don’t have to print anything!

Printing companies use Cyan, Magenta. Yellow and Black ink (CMYK) and yours may insist that pictures are defined in that system.  Don’t panic if your picture is in RGB.  There’s an equivalent CMYK setting for every RGB one so, if you set it correctly,  good pdf software can change the RGB colours to CMYK when it creates your file.

As the technology of inks is not quite the same as the science of colours, there may be some difference between what you see on screen and the printed result.  That’s why the printers ask for the definition in their own terms – it takes away any uncertainty.

How an author collective works

Before looking at the nitty-gritty of how an author collective works, we should firstly ask why this current rise of the author collective is happening. It seems obvious the main reason is a reaction to today’s depressed traditional publishing industry, with many authors turning to self-publishing as an alternative means of publication. As self-publishing blossoms into an economic force, the number of organisations offering writers’ services––both good and bad––is growing at an alarming rate. An author collective can look at what is best for a group, more effectively than an individual; it provides a wall of defence, thus making the group less vulnerable to all those circling sharks.

Triskele Nov 2014 collage 2The Birth of Triskele Books
In December 2011, three writing colleagues found themselves in similar situations: literary agents unable to sell their work to traditional publishing houses. They’d met via an online writing group, and gravitated towards one another on the strength of impressive writing and valuable critiques. Here were opinions they could trust. So they got together and discussed their options: they wanted to have their cake and eat it––to produce well-written, professionally-presented books while maintaining their independence and retaining full creative control. They thus decided to form the Triskele Books author collective––not a small publisher (each author retains her own rights), not a business (each keeps her own profits) but a collaborative platform for a mutually supportive team of writers.

The Nitty-Gritty of the Author Collective Manuscript Editing
A traditional publication deal brings an editor who casts a critical eye over your work with the aim of improving it. Triskele Books consists of five core members (and now several associates), all talented writers and all determined to raise one another’s game. So manuscripts whizz around in cyberspace, edited and critiqued by four pairs of eyes. This could be confusing and counter-productive, but we always keep in mind the writer’s goal and help her/him get there.

Marketing & Networking
Five individuals scattered across Europe, who write historical fiction, crime and literary fiction, have a variety of networks. Local media, Facebook friends, writing workshops, Twitter and Google + followers, bookshops, blog tours, reviewers, Pinterest boards, book clubs and Goodreads groups are all useful in marketing our books.

We scan the latest developments in publishing, pass on tips and share experiences. We promote each other’s books via our own (each carries ads for the others in the back, our bookmarks illustrate the other covers), we support other writers who aren’t part of the collective and reinforce the message that the indie author community is a friendly, helpful place. We are all members of The Alliance of Independent Authors. This organisation provides indie authors with a unified public presence, a respected voice in the media and myriad benefits to its members.

Communication
Since we are, geographically, all over the map––The Lake District, London, Zürich, Buckinghamshire, Lyon and Birmingham––this has proved one of the most difficult areas to manage. Daily business is done via our private Facebook page. We also use email and Skype for sharing documents and having more complex discussions. Collective decision-making is slow, but unanimous approval is non-negotiable.

Financial Aspects
Finances are kept relatively simple. We all keep our royalties from sales of our own books. If we market or advertise Triskele collectively, through posters, bookmarks, etc, we all contribute equal shares. And for joint ventures, like our eBook The Triskele Trail or launch parties, we divide initial outlay and profits go into our Triskele bank account to cover future overheads like webhosting, print materials, advertising etc. Our most financially-savvy member deals with each transaction, keeping us all informed and ensuring we stay liquid.

Copy of Triskele_Logo_Books_POS

Professional Presentation
Not all independent publishers feel the same way, but Triskele authors want their books to stand out for all the right reasons: no typo-riddled manuscripts or poorly Photoshopped covers. This means using a professional cover designer, proofreader and typesetter. Only books that meet these professional standards carry the Triskele brand logo.

Tips on Forming an Author Collective
A collective like Triskele Books is a group of personalities, for better or worse, so it’s impossible for us to offer advice to others on how exactly another collective should work. There’s no one way to do this, but we believe one of the most vital things, when forming a collective, is to ask yourself who is reliable and trustworthy. Are these people you’d be happy to go into business with in the real world? Because even though this isn’t a company set-up in the strict sense of the word, the commitment is identical. There’s a lot of hard work and energy involved in self-publishing, and no ship can afford to carry unseaworthy passengers.

Of course, the Triskele route isn’t the only way, and we’re always curious to know how other collectives operate. Here are our interviews with a few more from around the globe:
Five Directions Press
Notting Hill Press
Indie Visible
Writer’s Choice

Cover of the Triskele TrailIt’s been almost three years now, since the birth of the Triskele Books author collective, and in our updated, new 2014 edition of The Triskele Trail , we have collated what we’ve learned into a road map to self-publishing.

 Members of Triskele Books
Gillian Hamer
Crime writer and columnist for Words with JAM magazine, Gillian is the author of the crime novels: The Charter, Closure, Complicit and Crimson Shore.

JJ Marsh
Based in Switzerland, Jill is the author of the Beatrice Stubbs international crime series, half of the Nuance Words project and a columnist for Words with JAM and The Woolf magazines.

Liza Perrat 
Liza is Australian, but has lived in rural France for twenty years, where she works as a part-time medical translator and a novelist. She is the author of the first two books of the French historical trilogy: Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel, and the short story collection, Friends, Family and Other Strangers from Downunder.

Catriona Troth
Catriona Troth is the author of the novella, Gift of the Raven, and the novel, Ghost Town. A former researcher turned freelance writer, she is a regular contributor to Words with JAM magazine.

JD Smith
JD Smith (Jane) works predominantly on book cover design and typesetting. She is the editor of the writing magazine Words with JAM and Bookmuse, the author of Tristan and Iseult and The Rise of Zenobia, the Overlord series.

by J J Marsh and Liza Perrat

You can find more details on Triskele Books, as well as useful writing and publishing industry information at:
Website: www.triskelebooks.co.uk
Blog: www.triskelebooks.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/triskelebooks
Twitter: @TriskeleBooks
Bookmuse:www.bookmuse.co.uk

Buy “The Triskele Trail” from amazon.co.uk

Buy “The Triskele Trail” from amazon.com

Choosing the best route for publication for your book

In order to decide the best way to publish your book, you need to think about your goals. So let’s look at the most common ones.

I’ve written my family history and want to make it into a book to give to my relatives.
A print edition is a good choice here as it gives you something to actually put in people’s hands. A straightforward print-on-demand system like Createspace or Lulu can give you a paperback with no set up costs – you just buy the copies you need. However, as this is something to cherish, you may want to pay extra for a hardback. Lulu offer this as an option and there are also some companies online that specialise in this market by producing high quality books in small numbers. You may want to do an ebook too, but it’s definitely not essential.

It’s a good idea to get someone else to read your book before you publish it as a fresh eye will pick up mistakes you’ve missed, but it’s not necessary to have a professional editor. As you’re not selling the book, you don’t need an ISBN and you could create the cover yourself, maybe using a family picture.

I give talks on marketing to business professionals and I want to publish a book on my methods that I can sell at these events.
You obviously need a print edition, but print on demand isn’t the best solution if you expect to sell hundreds of copies. It will cost you less per copy if you have a short print run produced by a printer who specialises in books. It’s important that the book is good quality so make sure you have it professionally edited and that the layout and cover design are professional standard. Of course, some people may want to buy the book after the event so you could use Createspace to produce a POD version for sale on Amazon using the same ISBN as the print run. You might also want to produce an ebook version too as the costs of doing that are very low.

My novel has been rejected by every publisher and agent I have sent it to so I want to publish it myself instead of leaving it to moulder in a drawer. However, I’m not expecting to sell many so I don’t want to spend much money.
The cheapest option for you is to take the ebook only route. You can always add a print version later if the book starts selling well. Even though you have low expectations, you’re planning to sell the book so you need to make sure the book is technically competent. That means you need a copy editor or a friend to check the grammar, spelling and punctuation and to pick up other errors you can’t see because you are too close to the book. You won’t need an ISBN for selling on Amazon, but you will need a cover that looks competent.

My book has been traditionally published but it’s gone out of print. The rights have reverted to me so I want to self-publish in order to make it available to readers again.
Your book has already been edited so you just need to recreate it as a new book and create a new cover. If you haven’t got an electronic version of the text, you can either scan in the original book using optical character recognition, type it out again or pay someone to type it for you. Whichever option you choose, a proof read will be vital to pick up any errors that have crept in. OCR often produces some really weird ones – when I tried it, the pony pricked its cars!

An ebook is a good starting point: it lets you test the water at minimum cost, and you don’t need to bother with an ISBN in order to sell on Amazon. You can always add a POD print book if you wish, but you will need a fresh ISBN for that – you can’t reuse the one from the original edition.

I am sure my book is good enough to be traditionally published but I’m going to self-publish instead. I want to give it as good a chance as if I was following the traditional route.
In order to produce a professional quality book, you need to go through the same publishing steps that a traditional publisher would follow – structural edit, copy edit, proof read, professional quality cover and print layout – and you’ll need to pay for help with the steps you can’t manage by yourself. Aim for a print version as well an ebook as print gives you a greater chance of reviews and something to display and sell at events.  As you want to look professional, buy your own ISBNs for use on the print edition and epub versions of the ebook. (You don’t need one for Kindle Direct Publishing.)

I want my book to be stacked in piles in bookshops, sold in airports and advertised in the mainstream media.
You need to go down the traditional route of submitting to publishers and agents because, at the moment, only traditional publishers have the distribution necessary to get your book into bricks and mortar bookshops. But being accepted by a traditional publisher doesn’t guarantee that you’ll meet your goals. Most traditionally published books don’t get the marketing hype that you are hoping for, and some get very little.marketing at all.

Diana Kimpton

 

 

 

E-book creation – The Absolute Basics

Should you publish your e-book yourself or is it so difficult that it would be better to pay someone with the necessary skills to do it for you?  

We think it’s very easy and, of course, when you discover the inevitable typo that you, your editor and your proof reader all missed, being able to put it right yourself is a super bonus.

The best way to decide which route to take is to have a dummy run. You’re not going to put this e-book up for sale so it doesn’t matter if your book isn’t completely ready yet.  In fact, any Word file will do but it’s best to use one with chapters so you can see how the chapter breaks work. If it has tables and pictures too, you’ll be able to see some of the problems they can cause but don’t worry about this if there aren’t any in your book.

Several companies allow you to upload your file and turn it into an e-book free of charge, but for this test, we suggest you use Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. The system is very user-friendly and creates a .mobi file which is the right format to sell on Amazon.

Whether you decide to create the ebook yourself or pay someone else to do it, you’ll need an Amazon KDP account to actually publish the book in Kindle format. (Some people will offer to do that for you for a fee or commission but it’s much better to do it yourself.)  So, if you haven’t go an account yet, go to  https://kdp.amazon.com and sign up.  

Now start your test by clicking ‘Add a new title’.  There are  several sections to fill in that you can  ignore for now.   Sections 1, 2 and 3 provide the basic information about the book (title, author etc.).  Section 4 lets you upload a cover or create one with the KDP software. You may want to experiment with that as well in the future, but leave it for now and go straight to section 5. 

Section 5 starts by asking if you want to apply DRM and our advice (see our DRM article) is to leave it set on  ‘no’.  You can then click the browse button which opens a box where you can select the file you’ve decided to put up. The upload starts as soon as you cilck the file. Don’t panic if you click the wrong one: just wait for the upload to finish and try again. 

Uploading and converting takes a little while but when it’s done you can click “Preview book” to see how your book will look on a basic Kindle.  Wow! You’ve made an ebook. It really is that easy.

Amazon suggests, and we agree, that it’s worth downloading their previewer so that you can see how it looks on different devices because they don’t all interpret the file in the same way.  If you have a Kindle e-reader or app, it’s also worth downloading the preview file and side-loading it there.  That way you’ll get a feel for how it looks for real on at least one device.

As you look through your ebook, you’ll probably find various things that aren’t quite the way you wanted. These are probably caused by you having made made things look right in Word in ways that the conversion process doesn’t understand.  For example, indents tend to go wrong if you’ve used the tab key to create them. It’s much better to use the “indent first line” facitily built into Word. Other common problems are connected with page breaks, chapter headings and extra line spaces inserted in the text to show the passage of time.

All these issues can be fixed relatively easily. The help section of KDP offers good suggestions on sorting out the formatting of your Word file, and a quick Google search will show up plenty of other advice online. 

Hopefully, you’ve now got enough confidence to have a go at creating your own ebook when you’re finally ready to publish. There’s nothing to be lost by having a go. You can always turn to an expert for help later  if you run into problems you can’t fix.

Steve and Diana Kimpton

Writing fiction for newly confident readers

PerfectPlanSomewhere between the ages of 5 and 9, children develop enough confidence and skill to start reading books by themselves. These newly confident readers provide a good market for children’s authors but, if you want to write for them, you need to think carefully about their needs.

At this stage, reading is hard work so children are not going to do it unless it’s worth the effort. That’s why you need to give them strong stories with fast-moving plots that keep them turning the pages. Don’t think you can get away with weak stories because your readers are young. They are a very discerning audience and will give up on anything that’s boring.

Lengths and styles
Books for this age are short by adult standards (usually less than 8000 words), and divided into several chapters. (I find 650-1000 words is a good length.) These short chapters break the story into accessible chunks, help new readers see they are making progress and provide plenty of sensible places to stop. As with all fiction, it’s a good idea to put a strong hook at the end of each chapter to keep children wanting to know what happens next.

Newly confident readers (and others) can feel daunted when faced by pages of closely packed unbroken text. Try to keep paragraphs short and include plenty of dialogue to make pages look more accessible. Illustrations can help to break up the text too – at this stage, they are usually black and white line drawings. If you’re publishing your own books, use an easy-to read font but beware of making the letters too big as that can put off readers by looking too childish. Increasing the space between the lines makes reading easier without making the book look too young.

Readability
It’s important that your writing is simple enough for new readers to tackle. Don’t use a long word when a shorter one would be work just as well, and try to choose names that are spelt phonetically so children can sound them out. But don’t let that put you off long words completely. Sometimes they are just what you need, and tyrannasaurus might cause less problems to young readers than cough.

Readability isn’t just about individual words. It also applies to sentences. At this stage, children are reading one word at a time so they may work their way slowly through a complex sentence without understanding what it means. To stop that happening, keep your sentences short and simple, avoid sub-clauses and use full stops rather than semi-colons or too many commas. Don’t worry if this leaves you starting a sentence with but. That’s perfectly acceptable these days, despite what you may have been told at primary school.

As an example, the relatively simple change from

Throwing off his invisibility cloak, Hector attacked the monster with the magic wand which had belonged to grandfather.

to

Hector threw off his invisibility cloak. Then he attacked the monster with his grandfather’s magic wand.

drops the reading age by 4 years without detracting from the story at all.

You can explore how to improve the readability of your own writing by cutting and pasting a piece of text into readability-score.com and editing it on screen. Be careful though – the results you’ll get are US grade levels, not age, and are only there as a guide. Don’t get so hooked on the numbers that your storytelling suffers.

Avoiding boredom
One of the best bits of advice I have ever been given is that everything we write should add humour, build character or move the story forward. That is especially important when writing for this age group. There’s no room here for lengthy descriptions, waffle or moralising. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any descriptions at all, but keep them short and concentrate on what’s essential to the story.

Building on success
Once children have enjoyed one book, they tend to want another that’s similar which is why series are so successful with this age group. (See our article on Writing a Series). Even if you prefer to write one-off stories, you can brand your books with similar covers to help young fans choose another one by you.

Diana Kimpton

 

 

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What makes stories work?

To succeed as a fiction author you need to write stories that work so well that readers enjoy them and recommend them to friends. But what are the components that make a story work? Let’s take a look at six I find particularly important.

1 At least one main character that readers care about
It’s vital that readers care what happens to the main character in your story as that’s what keeps them turning the pages. That doesn’t mean the character has to be perfect.  In fact, it’s often better if they’re not, because readers like reluctant heroes and characters with flaws. However, you’ll find it hard to make them care about someone who is totally unlikable. 

2 A problem that the main character needs to solve
A character with a problem lies at the core of every good story. It’s important that the problem  is one readers can understand and relate to so you need to choose it carefully to suit your target market. For instance, the problem of something being lost is universal but under 5s will relate to a story about a lost toy, romance readers will be interested in lost love and sci-fi fans may prefer the mystery of a lost spacecraft.

3 Plenty of Jeopardy
The more that’s at stake, the more the reader will care about your character’s attempts to solve the problem. So make sure that failure carries high consequences: death, the triumph of evil, unjust imprisonment, loneliness, separation and loss can all work.

4 Rising tension
The tension in a good story rises steadily from beginning to end with a few slight lulls along the way.  As a result, a graph of the tension in a good story  looks like a  series of peaks and troughs with each peak being higher than the one before as they build towards the final climax. Your character’s unsuccessful attempts to solve the problem can provide some of  these ups and downs and so can the arrival of new complications.

One of the surest ways to make sure those peaks keep getting higher is to set a deadline: your couple have to get together before one of them marries the wrong person, the bomb has to be defused before the timer hits zero or the murderer must be caught before he strikes again. The resulting time pressure guarantees that the tension will rise as the deadline comes closer and closer.

5 A black moment when all seems lost
Your readers want your character to succeed, but they don’t want that to happen too easily. Make the most of that time pressure by giving your character one last failed attempt just before the deadline – a failure that makes it look as if all is lost. Now there are no more options left. As the clock ticks on, the bride is walking down the aisle with the wrong man, the bomb has reached the final countdown or the murderer has already captured his next victim. Your reader is on the edge of their seat, holding their breath as they turn the page to find …

6 A climax where the main character solves the problem
After all those failures, the main character finally achieves success against all the odds, preferably in a way that’s not too predictable. To make your climax work to maximum effect, two things are vital:
a) The main character (or characters) must solve the problem themselves. This is not the moment for the cavalry or anyone else to ride to the rescue unless their arrival is a direct result of your main character’s behaviour earlier. So, if the problem is lack of money, it’s better if your character receives some as a reward for bravery rather than by winning the lottery. 
b) The climax mustn’t depend on your characters using powers the readers didn’t know they had. If your character’s success depends on being able to fly a plane or use karate effectively, you need to have dropped that information into the story earlier, at least once, even if you choose to do it in a very subtle way. Your aim should be for readers to think “of course”, not “what!” or “that’s not fair”.

It’s easy to think that the last component is the most important of the six – if you get the climax wrong. you’ll leave your readers feeling dissatisfied so they are less likely to recommend your book to their friends. But even a perfect ending is no good if readers give up earlier in the story because they don’t care what happens.  To make a story work well, you need to weave all the components together with skill.

Diana Kimpton

 

 

 

 

Rollover Blues

Adding interactivity to websites is fun and makes them interesting to use. However, technology keeps moving on and sometimes things that looked cool a few years ago can now look dated. Even worse, they can fail to work!

Have a look at the demo below. If you’re using a computer with a mouse, hovering over the clouds will show you some words. This is called a rollover but, unfortunately, rollovers don’t work on tablets and phones. If you look at these pictures on one of those, you’ll need to click in the right place to see the words and there’s nothing to show you that clicking is a sensible thing to do.

Hover over the clouds to see the possibilities:
clouds Heavens above
clouds Floating away
clouds Cloud nine!

This causes trouble if you’ve used rollovers to reveal important information on your website. For instance, you may have used pictures or symbols as links and rely on rollovers to reveal the words that show where the links lead. Apart from the issues caused by expecting your visitors to pay guessing games, you now have the added problem that tablet and phone users can’t even see that the pictures are links, let alone where they go.

This doesn’t mean that you have to give up rollovers completely – it just means you have to think carefully about how you use them. In the above example, a bit of redesign does the trick. The picture below allows everyone to see the necessary words. A different rollover effect adds interest for anyone with a mouse, but tablet and phone users don’t miss out on anything important.

To see this working effectively, take a look at the website for childen’s author,  Valerie Wilding.  Mouse users can see the cover picture in the corner switch as they rollover the left-hand links. This doesn’t happen on tablets and phones, but those users can still use the site without any problems.

Steve Kimpton

 

Use our search page to find the right editor, designer or illustrator to help produce your book.

 

Taking the mystery out of metadata

Metadata is one of the buzz words in book marketing, but what does it mean? The answer’s simple – metadata is the information (or data) about your book that you provide when you register its ISBN or publish through Createspace, KDP, Draft2Digital or other similar systems. The amount of information varies a little from one place to another but, amongst other things, it usually includes title, author, publisher, cover picture, description and categories.

Why does metadata matter?
No one in the book trade has the time to read every book published, so bookshops and libraries have always used metadata to help them decide which books to stock. Nowadays metadata is extra important because it’s such a powerful aid to shopping on online bookshops. The description and cover provide potential readers with the information they need about the book, while the categories help your book show up on bookshop searches and specialised bestseller lists. .

Is it worth the effort to get the metadata right?
Definitely. In 2012, research by Nielsen (who handle UK ISBNs) showed that titles with complete metadata had average sales 98% higher than those without, and those with a cover image had average sales 268% higher than those without one. Of course, it’s possible that the improved sales weren’t entirely due to the improved metadata – maybe the books were also better written and had better covers. But, if  you want to give your book the best possible chance, make sure you get your metadata right.

What are categories?
They are a way of telling bookshops what the book is about. There are two main category systems – BIC (the UK system) and BISAC (the US system). Amazon categories are similar to BISAC but not exactly the same. Regardless of which system you are asked to use, try to choose the lowest level category you can. So it’s better to use fiction/romance/historical/Victorian than just fiction or fiction/romance. That way you’ll show up on more searches.

It’s often possible to change your category choices later and, with Amazon in particular, switching from a category with lots of competition to a less popular one can improve your chances of showing up on specialised bestseller and popularity lists.

What sort of description should I write?
The description is going to show up on internet bookshops so target it at potential readers. Aim to give them enough information to tempt them to buy the book or download a sample without telling them so much that you give away all the plot twists. If you’re not sure what to say, have a look at the descriptions for popular books in the same genre.

 What’s enhanced metadata?
When you register an ISBN in the UK, you can include the basic information about the book and the cover picture for free. However, you have to pay an annual fee to add what Nielsen calls enhanced metadata – a short description, a long description, reviews and  information about the author.  If you’re mainly selling through Amazon, this probably isn’t cost effective as you can put your own information on there anyway.

Diana Kimpton

 

 

Understanding publishing jargon

Whether you are self publishing or taking the traditional route, you are likely to come across many words that you haven’t heard before. Here are the meanings of the ones you are most likely to meet.

Advance
A payment made by a publisher to an author before the book is published.  It’s an advance on future earnings (royalties) from the book but, provided you keep to the terms of the contract, it’s usually non-returnable, even if the book turn out to flop.  Once the book is on sale, any royalties will be offset against the advance until the full amount has been recouped by the publisher. When this has happened, the book has ‘earned out’

Advance Review Copy (ARC)
A copy of a book sent to reviewers, reporters and other relevant people before the official publication date. This helps build interest and enables reviews to be available when the book launches. Continue reading

Public Lending Right

When a library buys a print book, it can lend it to as many people it likes. The only restriction is the physical strength of the book – lending ends automatically when the pages fall out. To compensate for any resulting loss in sales, the UK government puts aside a chunk of money each year which is divided up amongst the authors whose print books have been borrowed.

This is called Public Lending Right (PLR) and the  system works like this:

  1. Authors register their books with the Public Lending Right office.
  2. The PLR office collects data on loans from a selection of libraries around the country.
  3. The PLR office extrapolates from that data to work out an estimate of how many times each book has been borrowed in the whole country.
  4. They calculate how much they can afford to pay per loan and pay that to every author in the scheme. To stop the most successful authors taking nearly all the money, no one can be paid more than a set maximum. (£6,600 in 2014). There’s also a minimum threshold of £1.

PLR is a great system for authors. It works extremely well and provides a welcome income boost. It’s also very gratifying to see how many times your books have been borrowed, especially those that are long out of print. So make sure you register each edition of your book that’s available in the UK.

The UK isn’t the only country with a PLR system. The Irish system works in a very similar way and is administered by the UK PLR people so you can opt to join that when you register your books in the UK.  Other countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, pay out their PLR money to UK authors through the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

Diana Kimpton