Everything about books and writing

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Behind the Dust Jacket

Historically, a publisher has been the gatekeeper of literature, bringing readers and authors together through advertising and a distribution network. The publishers pay authors money to write books in the form of “advances” for the authors to live on while they write. Thereafter, a publisher will pay a writer a “royalty” for every copy of the author’s book they sell. The publisher assumes the risks in the hope that they will be rewarded by fantastic global sales. To manage the risk of a book not being publically well received, publishers assume artistic control of the writing and story development, “guiding” the author through a tried and tested recipe for success. In a declining global economy with disposable income evaporating, publishers tend to stick to what they know will sell – genres and themes that are currently trending – to ensure sales.

Consequently there is a limited amount of diversity and new ideas in an industry geared towards creating and supplying a mass market. That is where self-publishing is starting to disrupt the industry. There is more variety on offer than ever before, but the general public, as yet, are not aware of it, as change comes slowly to readers. Many cling puritanically to the idea of hard copy whilst the, shall we say more heretical, younger readers have embraced the concept of kindles and ebooks. It is those brave new worlders that self-publishing authors are hoping to convert and attract away from the conventional and traditional publishers who “know what’s best” for the reading public.

For now, publishers continue to be powerhouses from which we get the likes of Harry Potter and The Girl with the Dragoon Tatoo, and they are still especially powerful in the arena of educational and academic textbooks which carry hefty price tags. Here is a list of the top ten publishers by revenue. See if you recognize any of them.

Penguin Random House.
Annual Revenue: $3.3 billion. Germany.
Penguin Random House publishes 15,000 titles annually under its 250 divisions.

Hachette Livre.
Annual Revenue: $2.7 billion. France.
Founded in 1826,it now includes Hachette Australia, Hachette UK, and Hachette Book Group USA.

Springer Nature. 
 Annual Revenue: $1.9 billion. English-German.
 Its subsidiaries include Springer Gabler, Springer Healthcare, BioMed Central, Scientific America, Macmillan Education, and Nature Research.

 Wiley (John Wiley & Sons).                 
 Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA.
 Founded in 1807, Wiley focuses on academic publishing and instructional materials for educational purposes.    

McGraw-Hill Education.                       
Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA.
McGraw Hill supplies their traditional educational materials, digital products and services to over 11 million users.             

Scholastic Corporation.                        
Annual Revenue: $1.7 billion. USA. 
Founded in 1920, Scholastic has three divisions including children’s book publishing and distribution, education, and international.          

Cengage Learning.
Annual Revenue: $1.5 billion. USA. 
Cengage’s reference library arm specialises in e-research and educational publishing.  They also develop and maintain databases published online, in print, as e-books, or in microform.                 

HarperCollins. 
Annual Revenue: $1.5 billion. USA. 
This household name is also represented in Australia, Canada, China, India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Macmillan Publishers.
Annual Revenue: $1.4 billion. Britain.
Founded in 1843, Macmillan is regarded as one of the “Big Five” publishers.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
Annual Revenue: $1.4 billion. USA.
HMH publishes textbooks, non-fiction and fiction, assessments, instructional technology manuals and materials and reference works. They are venturing into TV through Netflix.

Last Book Stand

It is sad to think that these and other institutions may not be around much longer as they are swept away by the digital revolution. Certain names have already disappeared through mergers and acquisitions as publishing houses have circled the wagons in a bid to survive.

Everything You Need To Know About Audio Books As A Self-Published Author

Publishing a written book is a heady experience, however, there are also other ways to bring your story to the masses. Audiobooks are a great way to help people who may be visually impaired get their daily dose of the written word. Audiobooks are also ideal for those who like to zone out and tune in during their daily commute or while they are doing anything else that may keep their hands engaged. Self-publishing your audiobook is a bit different than self-publishing, but we have put together an easy-to-understand guide that will tell you everything you need to know about audiobooks.

How Popular are Audiobooks?

Audiobooks are currently rising in popularity, however, only 10% of books actually have an audio version available. In the past, many publishers assumed that only older people or those who had trouble reading would be interested in audio versions of most books. This way of thinking not only made those interested in audiobooks embarrassed about their desires, but it also didn’t encourage authors to pay attention to the audio medium. These days, modern technology and easy access to self-publishing tools have helped the niche grow by leaps and bounds.

The Cost of Audiobooks

Thanks to the increased usage and the wide availability of audiobooks and audio programs across devices, the sale of audiobooks has grown exponentially. This fast growth has also brought down the overall cost so much that millions of titles are available for download for no more than a few dollars a month via subscription services. With the cost so low that it is affordable for just about anyone who is interesting in hearing their favorite books in audio form, the niche is becoming even more popular with authors from all walks of life.

Popular Audiobook Content Genres

Although audiobooks, in general, are increasing in popularity, there are some genres that perform better than others. The most popular books downloaded in the audio form are suspense, thrillers, and mystery novels. Sci-fi & fantasy are also widely popular and tend to get more engagement and active reviews than any other type. If you are a writer who favors any of the categories, converting your manuscript to audio form is an easy way to increase your fan base without releasing new titles.

Does Book Length Affect Popularity?

Most readers will happily dive into a long book even if it takes them several weeks or even months to finish. The experience that comes from reading a physical book is much different than having a story read to you while you are engaged in other activities. Shorter novels tend to do much better as audio titles with just under half of the purchases being books that are three hours long or less. That is not to say longer books won’t sell, only that they have a much smaller market reach than books that can be completed in a few days at the most.

The Cost of Creating a Self-published Audiobook

Like with traditional self-publishing, there are costs involved with making an audiobook on your own. You can edit, narrate, and publish your manuscript on your own with just some audio equipment and a solid editing program. This will cost anywhere from $200 to $600 depending on the quality of equipment you purchase. Hiring someone to narrate on your behalf will increase the cost by $1,000 to $2,000 while hiring a production company will raise it even further to as much as $5000. Marketing cost and advertising are separate which will vary depending on your needs. Regardless of the cost or publishing options you choose, transforming your manuscript into an audio title is a great way to grow your audience organically.

How to Work From Home When You Have Kids

Since the COVID 19 pandemic, many people have been working from home. For some, it’s a joy to be home and around the kids all day. But getting work done with the kids around can also be challenging. As a freelancer with children, this way of life is not new to me. Here are tips for working home effectively when you have kids. 

1. Create a routine.

Having a routine is very important in that it helps you organize your day in advance. Plan out your day the night before so that you have a priority for the work you need to complete. Throughout the day, keep an eye on your task list to keep yourself on track. Having a routine will also mentally prepare you for accomplishing tasks around your kids’ schedules, such as nap time or snack time. Kids work well with schedules, so creating a combined home and work schedule can be beneficial.

2. Wake up early.

This is especially important if you have kids who need lots of attention. Waking before they wake gives you kids’-free quiet time to get through work. Then, you can then spend the rest of the day with them without worrying. Use any chance they sleep, including naps, to work and handle phone calls.

3. Keep kids entertained.

As any parent knows, entertainment is a very effective way of distracting a child. As much as we don’t want to rely on TV, there will come a time when it’s necessary. If you have an important meeting and cannot be interrupted, try putting on their favorite shows. Choosing one of the best children’s books can go a long way too.

4. Give them tasks to handle too.

When you are busy, make sure the kids are active. Set up a small space for your kids to “work” too. It can be art projects, reading, homework, or anything they can do quietly while close to you. They will try so hard to emulate what you are doing since you are both in the office. This will automatically create a conducive work environment, and you will both enjoy working as a team. It’s never too early to learn to talk to kids about money.

5. Make them understand that you have to work.

Due to frustrations and rushing deadlines, most parents may lose their temper and become angry at their kids for distracting them while working. Instead of getting mad at the kids for being a distraction, find a way of making them understand that you have to work. For instance, if they have always wanted a specific toy, you can tell them that you can only get that toy for them if you work hard. Since they need this toy, the kids will ensure that you have a very conducive environment for working. They will try so hard not to interfere with you in any way when you are working. 

6. Set clear boundaries.

Setting clear boundaries effectively communicates to your kids that you need time and space to work. This works effectively for work-from-home parents who have older kids who can read and write. For example, when you are busy in the office and have things done on time, you can have a “Do Not Disturb” or “At Work” sign on your door. When they approach the door, they will see this sign and understand that you need space to work and respect it. This allows you to work and complete your tasks on time. 

7. Set up a food station in the house.    

This is another fun way of keeping your kids distracted while you are working. Although the house may be messy at the end of the day, you will have completed all the tasks that you need to. In addition to that, you can engage them when you are clearing the mess they created to feel the need to help you. Not only is this cleaning time, but it is also time that you can use to bond with your kids after working for several hours. 

8. Be gentle with the kids.

Kids pick up the vibrations around them. If you are mad or angry at them, they will feel it. Your job definitely means so much to you, but so do your kids. You need to make them a priority in everything you do to feel that parental love. Instead of being mad at them or shutting them out when working, you should be gentle with them. Talk to them calmly and make them understand why you need to complete your work first. Once this conversation is successful, you will have ample time to work. 

9. Get help from other family members. 

At times dealing with the kids alone can be a challenge to so many parents. You get overwhelmed with work and taking care of your kids to a point, you can lose your mind. However, if any of your family members are around, you can talk them into helping you look after the kids. 

Consequently, if you have a nanny around who your kids are familiar with and relate with perfectly. You can ask her to help you out with the kids for a few hours before bonding with them. If you have friends working from home, consider setting up a childcare swap, giving them some alone time for work while you care for yours and their children, and then swapping for the second half of the day.

Working from home is a challenge for many parents, especially with the kids around the house. However, with all of the above tips, you can effectively work from home, even with the kids around.

Rose Rosie is a writer for the personal finance website, Joy Wallet, which provides readers with useful information, resources, and tools to help maximize their financial fitness.

How to Become a Professional Proofreader

You have a knack for the written word – specifically grammar, spelling, and formatting – and you’ve decided that you want to offer your services as a proofreader. Good for you! Proofreading is a growing industry and one that will always be needed. From authors to website owners to blog posts and journal articles; there is so much content out there that needs to be proofread. You can also make a pretty decent living for yourself if you have great skills, offer high-quality results, and land some great clients on a regular basis. 

With all of that said, however, if you’re new to the proofreading industry, you’re probably wondering where to get started. How do you go about offering your services as a proofreader and finding clients? Read on for some handy tips that you can use to start your own proofreading business. 

What is a proofreader? 

First, let’s clarify what a proofreader is. A lot of people confuse editing and proofreading, and it’s important to understand that while they’re both equally important, they’re very different parts of the writing process. Editing occurs prior to proofreading and entails the stuff that makes up the bigger picture, such as restructuring, erasing big parts of text that aren’t needed, and just making sure that the content flows and reads well for the audience that it’s intended for. 

Proofreading, however, is the last stage of the writing process. It’s involves meticulously reviewing the content with a fine-tooth comb to check for things like spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. This part of the writing process helps to ensure that a final draft is polished and ready to be published. 

What skills do professional proofreaders need? 

In order to become a professional proofreader, you need to have a firm grasp on the written language. You have to have a firm understanding of grammar, syntax, punctuation, and formatting. Depending on who you work for, you may need to have a degree, such as a BA or an MS in English; however, that isn’t always the case. There’s no doubt, however, that you’ll be asked to share samples of your proofreading skills with prospective clients. They may even ask you to do a sample proof of a piece of content that they provide. It’s important to note that if you’re asked to proof a sample, make sure that you are paid for your services; it may be a lower rate than what you would be paid if you were hired, but you shouldn’t offer your proofreading services for free – even if it’s for a sample. 

Determine your proofreading niche

There are so many different types of writing, so you want to make sure that you figure out what niche you are most adept to correct the writing for. Examples of different niches that you can proofread for include: 

  • Books and manuscripts
  • Website content
  • Blog posts
  • Journal and magazine articles
  • Legal documents 
  • Emails 
  • Transcripts
  • Court reports
  • Essays 
  • College papers

Do note that each of these niches will have their own unique requirements in regard to language and formatting, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re well-versed in the specific niche that you intend on proofreading for. 

Look for proofreading jobs

Once you’ve determined what niche you’d like to proof for and you have your samples and credentials in order, it’s time to start looking for work in this sector. A great way for beginners to land work is by using job boards that post content writing and proofreading jobs, like Indeed.com. You can also try to advertise your services on online forums, as well as on job websites, or even in the newspaper or on your social media profiles. 

How to self-publish a book

Not everyone can approach a publisher and for every new project. It’s understandable why authors want to self-publish. Many books get rejected on the grounds that the author isn’t writing about a life they’ve lived. For some, it might also be a financial issue to go for a publisher. And last but not the least, getting approval from a publisher takes time – especially if you’re a new writer.

In this piece, we’re going to discuss the procedure that any author should follow while self-publishing their book.

Writing, editing, formatting, and covers

First things first.

  • Writing: Preparing the manuscript and the first draft are obvious prerequisites to self-publishing.
  • Editing: Get your work edited or proofread by someone qualified for this role. It will help. It also helps to get a second opinion or multiple perspectives on the first draft. You might figure out loopholes or awkward mistakes to iron out.
  • Formatting: Whichever software you’re writing in – make sure your formatting is top-notch. Getting a copy of the first draft printed as a book would help.
  • Covers: Front cover, back cover, and spine need to be designed. You can hire a designer for this or you can do it yourself using graphic design software and freely available assets and photographs.

Print-on-demand for books and Kindle for ebooks

Find a print-on-demand (POD) service in your area or the area you wish to serve. POD services work in a straightforward way:

  1. You make an account,
  2. Send your final book in PDF format,
  3. Publish it.

You’ll get a link that people can use to directly purchase the book. There are POD services that allow purchases and then there are some which only allow printing. In the case of the latter, you need to build another system on another platform for online purchases and hook that up with the POD service.

Another great platform is Amazon.

You can use Amazon’s KDP Print service as a POD service or as an ebook publishing service, allowing you to be listed on the Kindle Store. The setup process is very simple and entails details such as your full legal name, tax information, and payment method apart from the book itself (cover image files, book in .epub format for Kindle, and so on).

Amazon self-publishing has helped plenty of authors. Though it’s more or less a rudimentary science in many ways. The priorities of big retailers like Amazon change regularly. Generally, it’s a better idea to not put all your eggs in the same basket – diversify and make use of multiple channels to increase your coverage.

What other POD services are out there?

  • IngramSpark ($49 setup fee)
  • BookBaby ($399 setup fee)
  • D2D Print
  • Blurb

Depending on your region you might find better sources by doing a simple Google search. 

Marketing

Utilize marketing channels. Your book is only as good as the number of eyeballs it gets. If you don’t have a following (such as social media fans) and you cannot hire an influencer for marketing, then here are a few things to do:

  • Spending on online ads and social media ads
  • Mailing lists
  • Cross-promoting with other authors
  • Organic advertising on blogs and social media
  • Being a part of podcasts
  • Tying up with local bookstores
  • Book donations

Wrapping up

And that’s it! Formulate the perfect launch plan after you’ve built up some hype to get a better start.

Self-publishing is truly an effective tool.

No waiting times, creative freedom, no rejections, better royalties, and 100% ownership rights to your material are all great perks of self-publishing. Even remarkable authors are increasingly flocking to the self-publishing world. An indie author is more likely to build an audience with self-publishing vs. going for a publishing house.

The trend of self-publishing has been gaining more and more momentum. Is it the right time to get in? Yes!

Common Mistakes You Can (and Should!) Avoid in Your Creative Writing

Some texts suck us in so completely that we just can’t stop reading — though our eyes may have trouble keeping up, every word is so perfectly placed, and so easy to understand, that our minds are flying. Other pieces of writing are, well, a little trickier. These might require you to read the same paragraph over and over again, leave you wondering what just happened, or tempt you to abandon them altogether as you discover yet another page devoid of substance. Even worse, there might be careless typos, word choices that completely miss the mark, or aimless rambling. 

You, of course, want your creative writing to be the kind people simply can’t put down. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes creative writers make, you get a whole lot closer to that aim. What should you look out for in your own writing?

Your introduction is boring

What’s true for people is also true for creative writing — you can only make a first impression once. If people don’t like what they see, and aren’t curious what’s going to happen next, you are at risk of losing them. Just like it takes writers a while to get into the swing of a creative writing project, readers also need to be seduced. To make sure your readers stay with you until the end, hook them with a riveting beginning. 

Your pages are filled with purposeless details

Creative writers are continuously told to “show, don’t tell”, but if you take this advice to the extreme, you could easily fall into the trap of filling your pages with vivid and beautiful, but ultimately excessive, details that simply don’t advance the story or message in any way. Good questions to ask yourself when you decide what to cut are if the details show emotion, set the stage, or tell the reader more about your characters. If it’s not relevant, and especially if it’s also distracting, it’s got to go. 

The characters in your creative fiction don’t have any flaws

Creative writers who are attempting to write a short story or novel will want their readers to care about their protagonist. That becomes much easier if they create a three-dimensional, human character that people can root for and sympathize with. Flaws, hardships, and pain are essential parts of the human experience, so without them, you risk crafting robots. 

Your progression is too predictable

While you definitely want a coherent whole, don’t forget to add some turns and twists to the story to keep your audience on its toes! Nobody wants to see the end coming from miles away.

You’re trying to be someone else

As a creative writer, you are going to have role models — but to be the best writer you can be, you have to find your own voice. Try not to compare your work to the style of other writers whose work you admire, but instead ask yourself if your writing feels authentic. 

You don’t edit properly

This is the big one, because there’s so much ground to cover. Beginning creative writers often fall into these traps when they try to edit their work:

  • If you try to proofread your work soon after you have written it, your brain is at risk of reading what you intended to write — rather than what you actually wrote. 
  • You may get so attached to a word or sentence that you find it hard to let go, even though you know that it doesn’t belong in your text. 
  • You constantly second-guess yourself, and end up deleting passages that were perfect just the way they were. 
  • You think your writing isn’t sufficiently literary and you go overboard with the thesaurus. 

It’s nearly impossible to be objective about your own work, and very few creative writers are able to effectively self-edit. That is why it’s so important to bring a fresh pair of eyes in. You won’t hire a professional editor for every piece of creative writing you craft, but you can at least ask for feedback on a writers’ forum or get a friend to take a look.

Creative writing might be exciting, but it’s also hard work. The good news is that you get better with practice — so keep writing!

Why Poetry is Important In Today’s Society

Poetry is a genre within literature that is characterized by its beautiful words and lyrical style. Many poetic devices and styles of poetry have been preserved for many centuries from rhyme schemes to types of poems (like the haiku or limerick or the tanka). On one hand, poetry is an ancient form of literature and storytelling that dates back to Homer and the ancient storytellers. On the other, poetry is a very new format that blends many modern perspectives and tastes into its words.

The blend between the olden days and modern era is actually extremely powerful and also elegant. Great poets write are able to take advantage of the structures that were presented by old styles of poetry to tell new stories and share new ideas that are important in today’s society. For example, rhyme schemes, pacing, and poetic devices have worked and still continue to work. Poetic structures also drive emphasis to certain words and certain areas. Think about something like an iambic pentameter. As a reader, you know where the down beats are and thus what words people will naturally focus on.

Or perhaps the formatting of poems. The way poems are laid out can call special attention to things in the poems. There are many tried and true ways that have worked for centuries to place emphasis and lead the reader’s eyes along poems. 

The central themes of the poems have changed over time and actually reflect what the times cared about. In ancient times, poetry often recounted the feats and feats of warriors in combat, while in the Middle Ages, romantic poetry gained importance. Today, poems focus on social issues, equality, peace, and emotions. Poetry has always been an important form of expression and thus reflects the changing times and beliefs. Poetry has become a tool over time to convey new ideas and share what people care about. At one point, it was military victories. Today, it’s the environment. Or human rights. Or equality. Check out places like Button Poetry or Youth Speaks for prime examples of this.

In today’s world, poetry is a beautiful and artistic way to express oneself and be heard in the sea of noise. While everybody in politics argues and fights. There’s fake news and contentious debates. Poetry shines through as a simple and elegant way to fight for what the people believe in. A way that is both engraved in our path, and tied to our future.

Rupi Kaur is one example of such a poet that has done well in this new age. Not only is she extremely famous for her writing, she has also positively impacted many and influenced many with her words. Poetry sites like Instagram, Commaful, and AllPoetry have given rise to new breeds of poets.

She’s certainly a controversial figure. Many have said that her poems aren’t actual poems. Others have challenged that her poems are extremely superficial and have no depth. One thing is certain, however, her poetry has touched many people and influenced many lives.

There are a number of modern self-published poetry authors as well, focusing on reaching the masses with short bite-sized poems. These poets leverage online platforms to reach poetry lovers and sell poetry books. Another controversial style and move.

Poetry is special in that way. It means something different to everybody. To some, it might be junk. To others its art. But what’s important, is that the words are touching somebody. Impacting lives. Leading to new and interesting discussions and ideas.

Because that has been poetry’s impact on history. And poetry’s impact on society today.

How to Write a Novel: The Hows and Whys of Story Outlines for Fiction

Writing a novel can seem intimidating to a lot of authors, but it doesn’t have to be. If you think of a novel as a collection of thousands of words (sometimes upwards of 150, 000), it seems like a mountain where you can’t even see the top – but if you learn how to approach your novel with a story outline before you’ve written a single word, it becomes a much easier process instead.

Here’s how to approach your novel or story with an outline – and why you should.

Every Story or Book Has a File

Get into the habit of giving every story or book that you start its own file or folder. This can be handwritten or it can be electronic – that’s up to you. Your file is used for recording any changes, any important plot points, any character traits and anything else you think of that builds your story.

Why do this? It’s a quick-reference guide while you’re writing your book – and it can help you have something to go back to when you aren’t sure about something. (How do you think JK Rowling kept track of the spells throughout the entire series without a single mistake?)

How to Start an Outline

Start an outline anywhere and any way you like. Some writers start out with keywords that outline important plot points or characters, other writers will write down sentence snippets or paragraphs that they would like to include in their book later.

Your outline needs to answer basic questions: What happens in this story? When does it happen? How does it happen? Why does it happen? How you get to answering these questions is up to you.

Why Outlines Are Important

Outlines are vital for fiction. Sure, there are a precious few writers who can spot an entire book’s worth of plotting without having to write anything down – but it’s likely that neither of us count as one of those.

Outlines help. They can help you to see where the plot of your book is going: This is the trick to inserting clever plot twists and coming up with a great ending.

When you see your story at a glance as an outline, it’s easier to shift things around, make major changes, insert great plot twists and come up with an ending that fits with the beginning of your story..

If you aren’t outlining your fiction, you’re tumbling around in the dark and you, the writer, has no idea where your story is really going. This can lead to the insertion of a lot of loose plot points and inconclusive side-plots.

See why you should always outline?

Notes, Notes and Notes

Other than an official outline for where you’re going to take your book when it comes to the characters and plot, it can help writers a lot to also keep a separate file or book for notes. These are notes that you write down whenever you think of something could that could work for your story.

When writers sit down to think of ideas, this in itself sometimes creates a form of writer’s block where they can’t think of a single thing. Keeping a notebook on you at all times helps to avoid this problem: Whenever an idea pops up, write it down. After a few months worth of writing down your ideas, you’ll have a notebook with plenty of ideas to refer to when you’re feeling blocked.

Always keep your notes. These can be useful years down the line, and can ensure that you literally never run out of ideas and concepts to fire up your fiction.

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