Audio Book

One thing that I heard a lot after publishing On Swift Wings was… when will it be available as an Audio Book? My honest answer was that I hadn’t really thought about it. This entire journey has been an organic one. It started with me jotting down some thoughts in response to Gulliver’s Travels, evolved into me writing a bit of a mission statement which became the foreword, ultimately into completing a full-length (maybe more than normal length) action-adventure satirical fantasy novel with publishing, marketing, editing, cover design, and a million other lessons along the way.

Once the book was finished and published, it became clear that many people prefer to consume stories in media other than print. Reading a book requires singular attention and devotion. Many people feel pressure to do more than one thing at a time, and books are something they listen to on their commute, in the car, while exercising, or as a side-activity. It takes a kind of focus to sit down and read a long novel, so many of my friends said that they’d wait until the (unplanned) audio book. Maybe they were playing with me, but my goal is to have as many people read my book as possible, so I did a little exploration down this alley.

I barely knew where to start. Actually, this could be the title of my autobiography. I knew that Amazon had some Audio Book functions, and some of the writing groups that I follow talk about them a bit. I took to Google and found a ACX, Audible’s exchange program for audio books. Basically, you choose one of three options:

  1. You offer narrators a chance to try out for a fixed rate.
  2. You offer narrators a chance to try out for a portion of the royalties.
  3. A combination of 1 and 2.

I thought this sounded like a pretty good deal, but I did some more research and found that in general the experience on ACX wasn’t that good. Authors felt cheated, narrators felt cheated, no matter how well the book does, somebody feels they didn’t get what they deserve. I don’t like making people feel bad, so I shelved the idea for a while. The idea was still on my mind though, and it kept coming up. Early this year, as Covid forced people inside, I had two choices for what I could do with my writing. I could work on my second book, or I could go deeper into the Audio Book. I started writing the second book, but I haven’t found a voice that I like for it yet. Then I stumbled across a “how-to” series for creating audio books. They gave me a few really good tips, and I got interested in recording my own book.

The face I make when I hear my own voice - Kermit Driving | Meme Generator

Everybody hates their own voice, but this series said something that eased my fears a lot. They noted that the voice you hear recorded isn’t what other people hear, it is your brain’s reconstruction comparing your actual voice and the voice you hear ricocheting through your brain. You actually hear twice the difference in a recording because of this effect. Made sense to me, and with the support of a number of friends who assured me that I had a very good voice for narration, I decided to take up the challenge.

I also wanted to record my own voice reading my own book for my kids. My Grampa narrated Winnie the Pooh for us when we were young and it is a treasured possession to always be able to hear his voice when he was younger. I want my children, and hopefully their children to be able to hear my voice as it is now. This was the biggest driver for me to get this done. I hope that my kids are proud of the book that I’ve written, and no matter what happens in the future, they’ll always be able to hear their dad whenever they want.

XLR Condenser Microphone, TONOR Professional Cardioid Studio Mic Kit with T20 Boom Arm, Shock Mount, Pop Filter for Record...

So, I had decided that I wanted to do and narrate an audio book, but I didn’t know anything about narrating an audio book. I didn’t think my crummy headset would do a good job so I researched microphones and was directed towards a cardioid microphone. I bought everything I needed to make my office into a studio. I put up towels and sheets to reduce echo, attached screens to the phone, sealed the room to keep the noise floor down, used a tablet computer that is very quiet, and learned some tricks about narration.

One of the things I was worried about was, how was I going to read 120,000+ words without stumbling a few times. I read half-an-hour or more to my kids every day, children’s books, many that I’ve memorized now, and I still stumble occasionally. Obviously this is where editing comes in, but even then, I figured I had to at least be able to read a full page without faults. Again, a little education came in handy. First, everybody makes mistakes while reading, and it doesn’t have to be misreading a word. Mistakes include breathing errors (like running out of breath halfway through a sentence) or not maintaining a consistent cadence or energy level, tongue clicks or lip smacks, ambient noise like a cell-phone buzzing or the furnace turning on, and of course the obvious mispronunciation of a word, name, or sentence.

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If you’ve read my book, you’ll understand my trepidation. If not, know that I employ a varied and flowery vocabulary, and when narrating, I realized that I didn’t actually know how to pronounce some of the names properly. I also struggled with French words, not because I can’t pronounce them, but because I naturally pronounce them in French, which sounds a little funny in the middle of an English text.

One of the more interesting and useful tips that I learned about narrating: When (not if) you make mistakes, immediately follow them up with a loud “Beep” sound. (Not an expletive, just a loud “beep.”) This way, when you look at the wave-forms during editing, it will be very easy to identify a mistake and really quite easy to edit it out. Another trick that I employed, regarding breathing, was to take a long pause after every sentence to breathe. I would start each sentence with my lungs full of air and ready. It meant that I was full-chested and able to enunciate as well as possible, but I was certainly sore by the end of the narration.

Speaking of sore, reading 120k+ words took around 13 hours of reading at my natural cadence, after editing, this shortened to 10.5 hours. I knew to be aware of the editing process, but even with warning, I didn’t realize how long it would take to edit the work to my desired quality. I estimate that it took roughly 3 hours for each hour of recorded content, so a total of about 30 hours listening to my own voice.

Editing consisted of making pauses between sentences consistent, reducing and removing any background noises, breathing sounds, clicks and smacks, cleaning up subtle mispronunciations, and clipping out incorrect words. Once I was happy with a chapter, having gone through it thoroughly, I exported the file to a high quality MP3. The software I used was Audacity, which was quite powerful, intuitive, and free. There isn’t a single second of the book that I didn’t listen to, review, consider, and optimize. Every pause between sentences was measured and planned to match the tone of the story. When I wrote the story, I accentuated action and tension with shorter words and sentences, the Audio Book features the same attention to detail. When action is happening, pauses are shorter and the book moves more quickly, when in a descriptive period, it slows down with longer pauses and greater verbosity.

Finally, I had to decide how to publish. I had already encountered ACX, but as is typical of Amazon, they encourage exclusivity clauses and generally pay the lowest royalties available. Hearkening to my mission, I wanted the most people possible to read the book, so I wanted to “go wide” as I had with the book itself. After a bunch more researching, I found Findaway Voices. Findaway takes your book and pushes it out, on your behalf, to 43 different retailers including Amazon, Nook, Apple, Google, Chirp, Kobo, Scribd… They take a percentage of my royalties, but again, money isn’t the goal, I want people to read the book and be inspired or consider new ideas. I uploaded all the audio to Findaway, 10.5 hours worth of highly edited narration of On Swift Wings.

It takes time for the audio to be approved and made available on different platforms. The fastest is Author’s Direct, which is hardly surprising, as it is basically my own personal storefront on Findaway. The slowest (and still not available after three weeks) is Audible, though I’m confident that it will eventually be available there if that is your preferred platform.

Humor | Carrie D. Miller

The book is available. Early feedback has been the the quality is good and my voice is clear. I would love to hear more. I would really love to get more formal reviews, especially on Amazon or GoodReads. I don’t know if I can emphasize how important positive reviews are to an author like me. I know you get asked all the time to review products, and it is because it is really important. The only way that I can get word out about my book is if people see at a glance the formal social proof needed to ease their minds.

Please review my book! Please?

On Swift Wings – Audio Book Now Available

It actually happened a lot quicker than promised, but the Audio Book version of On Swift Wings is now available at an ever-increasing number of retailers. The quickest off the mark was Authors Direct. The early listeners there have reported that the audio quality is good, so I’m thrilled to spread the word that it is available!

Furthermore, as with the book itself, 10% of author royalties will be donated to the Children’s Hospital.

Currently, the Audio Book is available from these fine stores:

Click on any one of them to listen to a sample of the audio. I’m very excited to hear what people think! (both of the story and the audio book!) – Reviews are greatly appreciated!

As with the relaunch, I’m going to write a few articles about the process of creating an audio book over the coming weeks. I didn’t expect it to be an easy effort to narrate and edit a full-length novel, but I also didn’t anticipate how much time and energy it would take. I think that you’ll find my experience informative and interesting.

A reminder as well, in case you weren’t aware (and judging by the view count, you probably weren’t), I’m uploading a chapter of the book to YouTube weekly. You can listen to the On Swift Wings playlist there for free! Don’t forget to Subscribe to get future updates.

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Hardcover/Paperback/eBook

Thanks everybody for supporting this indie author!
May your world always grow!

Brett M. Wiens

Exciting Announcement – On Swift Wings – Audio book Version – Coming soon

On Swift Wings – Audio Book Edition – Coming Soon

Announcements and news has been sparse from BW Literature over the past few weeks. This is the result of work on a major project that I’m excited to announce is about to bear fruit! I’ve been hanging out in my studio recording audio, carefully poring over the resultant files to remove clicks, breathing, etc. and finally, On Swift Wings will be available as an Audio Book distributed widely very soon!

Work has been completed on the Audio Book version of On Swift Wings. The final audio book is available NOW on Author Direct – https://shop.authors-direct.com/collections/brett-m-wiens-bw-literature and within a couple weeks after that at this long list of retailers:

Authors Direct Audiobooks

24symbols / Anyplay / Apple / Audible, Amazon / Audiobooks.com / AudiobooksNow / AudiobooksNZ / Authors Direct / BajaLibros / Beek / BingeBooks / Bokus Play / BookBeat / Bookmate / Chirp / Downpour / eStories / Fuuze / Google Play / hibooks / Hummingbird / Instaread / Kobo, Walmart / Leamos / Libro.FM / Nextory / NOOK Audiobooks / Papaya / Scribd / Storytel / Ubook / 3Leaf Group / Axiell / Baker & Taylor / Bibliotheca / Bidi / EBSCO / Follett / hoopla / MLOL / Odilo / Overdrive / Perma-Bound / Wheelers

The slowest to approve is Audible (Amazon), but they are also the least generous with royalty payments. As the others become available I’ll be adding links here. Findaway voices is the most generous, and coincidentally, the book should be available from there first. Sign up to my mailing list for an update when it is available there.

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Findaway – Stark Reflections

The Audio Book clocks in at ten hours and thirty minutes of carefully edited narrated content. This has been approved for distribution after QC by my distributor, FindawayVoices. I found an excellent, up-and-coming narrator to do the Audio Book, and I think that you’ll be pleased with the performance and quality of the recording.

I also want to reward those who have generously reviewed the book. If you have provided a written review of the book, and you are interested, I’d like to enter your name into a draw for one of ten free copies of the audio book. Send me a message on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BW.Literature/. If you’ve read the book and haven’t yet had a chance to upload a review, there is still a week before it releases. Depending on response, I’ll hold the draw on the ominous Friday, November 13th. Get those reviews up soon and send me a message when it is public. (Note: A positive review is not necessary for entry, just a public review available on Amazon (ca/com), GoodReads

, or any public-facing website.

YouTube Serialization

Youtube Logo transparent PNG - StickPNG

Secondarily, I’m going to serialize the audio book on YouTube, releasing one chapter per week on my new YouTube channel. The goal is to enable as many people as possible to read/listen to the book. I am passionate about the book and what I wrote therein. Help me spread the word!

This opens another avenue for your support. I could really use likes, comments, and subscribers. This feeds into YouTube’s algorithms and helps get it seen by other people. If I get 100 subscribers, I’m actually able to have a custom named channel.

A preview of the first three chapters coming to YouTube starting on Friday!

Readers’ Favorite Book Award Winner

https://storage.googleapis.com/readersfavorite-public/images/finalist-shiny-web.png

A little bonus announcement today as I’m in the middle of editing another project right now. On Swift Wings was announced a finalist in the largest ever Readers’ Favorite Book Award contest. This amounts to a fifth-place finish in the very competitive Literary Fiction category!

Readers’ Favorite 2020 Award Contest Winner – On Swift Wings

I’ve got a couple extra ribbons to add to the cover now, with the 4/4 from OnlineBookClub and this one ready to be appended. Thanks again to everybody for supporting my book. The average review on Amazon.ca is 4.6/5.0 with 11 reviews posted. I really appreciate the support and feedback thus far. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, it isn’t too late! While I’m busy working on a related project, the book can still be ordered in hardcover, paperback, or kindle/ebook versions.

If you’re still on the fence, try giving the preview I’ve posted here a shot. You can read the first five chapters absolutely free!

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BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 9: Contests and Awards

PART 9 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Contests and Awards

Apologies for the delay in publishing this blog entry. I have been at the beach for a couple weeks flexing some 3D artistic muscles while planning the next literary endeavour.

Fun in the sand aside, I had intended to write one last entry in this launch series about contests and awards. I’ve talked at length about how first-time authors need something to separate themselves from the pack. It is still crucial to get good reviews on all the major sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and some paid promotion is pretty important as well, but I’ve also put On Swift Wings into a number of contests.

Why Contests?

Contests are another way to identify and guarantee the legitimacy of your book. If you can get a reputable organization to award it some note of merit, your book immediately edges up a few notches in the to-read list of not-yet fans. I’ve come across a number of these, and I evaluated them based on what I could find online. Ultimately I entered a few of them and I’ve received some pretty good feedback (and a couple wins.)

Wins and Placements

The biggest win for On Swift Wings came in the ReaderViews Literary Awards. On Swift Wings won the best Western Canadian Fiction category as well as second place in the Humour/Satire category. That was a pretty cool win. It also reached the finals in the IndieReader discovery awards. In a couple weeks, I have one more contest drawing to a conclusion on September 1, but it would be pretty cool to pull another credit down to stick on the cover.

To that end, you’ll note that the updated cover has the awards and some 5-star seals affixed now. This is to help it be recognized and to stand out once more. I’m quite pleased with the new cover, as an aside, it is more representative of the book in general. And it is really cool to put a few commendations and awards on the cover to show off a bit.

Thick Skin

Not all contests will be winners. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you write, not everybody is going to love it. In my case, not everybody can even understand it. On Swift Wings was written in the unique style of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Swift is a very talented and well-known satirist, essayist, and novelist. I got feedback from the judge of one contest who absolutely hated the book. They didn’t understand the genre (essay), they didn’t understand the words, they hated the style, and they weren’t even familiar with Jonathan Swift or Gulliver’s Travels. That’s totally ok, if you’re putting anything artistic out there, it can be assured that not everybody will be your fan. It takes a thick skin to read some of the negative feedback to be sure, and contests are no different.

I’m really proud of the good words I’ve read about the book. Most of the negative stuff has either been things that I intentionally put into the book knowing that they wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, or the feedback has been unhelpful trolling, which doesn’t bother me except for the diminished average rating.

Launch Summary

I feel like every day I learn something new about the entire process. It has been, and continues to be a pretty incredible ride. I hope that the blog posts I’ve written will prove valuable to you, whether as an author or as a reader interested in knowing more about the adventure.

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If you haven’t yet, please give On Swift Wings a try. I’m very proud of it on a number of levels, and would love to hear what more people think. I’m working on a couple projects related to the book right now. I’ve still got “The Immortals” on the go, but it has taken a backseat while I’ve been working on a (not-so) secret project that I hope to be able to unveil and release in a few weeks. More to do, more to learn, more fun.

Thank you for reading my launch learnings, may your world always grow!

BW

BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 8: Reviews

PART 8 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Reviews

While the last blog I posted about marketing might have been the most informative and useful. This post is about something that is probably the most important for a first-time unknown author. Reviews. This post will be split between some thoughts bout reviews and a bit about the reviews that have so far been received about On Swift Wings.

I’ve talked about my naivete when it comes to launching my first book. I didn’t really take into account the importance of reviews until far into the process. I’ve said that I figured people would read the book, tell friends, and it would just take off on its own. Once I launched, I realized that people need to be encouraged to write reviews, even their friends. There are rules about close family posting reviews on sites like Amazon, so I didn’t want to risk their accounts and review abilities, but anybody else is free to post honest reviews. Also, though it is very tempting, I’m not going to risk everything to buy fake reviews. I’m not even sure where to go to get them, and I’m not looking.

On Swift Wings is still starving for reviews, any reviews. I have received a couple dozen in various places, several on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, a few here and there on Goodreads, and a number of professional/semi-professional reviews from several legitimate sources. (I really need reviews! If you’ve read the book, please help me by posting a review to Amazon and/or GoodReads. The more people who comment (especially with 5-stars) the more people are likely to give it a try. A friend once told me that she wouldn’t buy a book without 100 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4-stars. I have 10, with an average of 4.6. So… just 90 more of you and I’m there! – this is an exceptionally high bar to achieve on Amazon. First-time authors almost never legitimately achieve that kind of review number, so she can only read mainstream published books.

Friends/Family/Advanced Reader Group

The first place to go for reviews should be your advance reader group. The only ARCs (advance reader copies) that I sent out were to my immediate family, who are ineligible to post reviews on Amazon… oops. Relax, sacrifice a little control, and give out copies to friends that can provide feedback and early reviews. It would also help to get involved in shared-interest groups. Find people with similar interests and connect with them. These are also more likely to provide reviews. These early reviews are crucial to achieving early traction.

Giveaways

Another way I tried to drum up reviews was through giveaways. I gave away 100 copies of On Swift Wings through a goodreads giveaway. I was hoping to get at least 10 reviews that way, I got 1 review and 2 ratings. There is a side-benefit of the goodreads giveaway, everybody who applies automatically has the book added to their ‘to-read’, so there are 303 people out there who have the book in their ‘to-read’ folder on goodreads. My guess is that a lot of people enter these giveaways pretty blindly and amass large quantities of free books they’ll never read. I’ll talk a little about giveaways and contests in my final blog post of this series.

Paid Reviews *** NOT PAID FOR RATING ***

The next place that I went for reviews was a number of paid reviewers. Note: These are paid for the time, placement and quality of the review, not for a positive review. You can pay hundreds of dollars for a professional reviewer to read your book and say its horrible. Fortunately, all my reviews came back with 75% or better stars. I approached a few organizations to find me some reviewers, either professional, or just people looking for new books:

OnlineBookClub.org – Arite Seki – 4/4 Stars
OnlineBookClub.org – Snowflake – 3/4 Stars

Reader Views – Paige Lovitt – 5/5 Stars

Readers’ Favorite – Romuald Dzemo – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Liz Konkel – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – K.C. Finn – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Ruffina Oserio – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Lesley Jones – 5/5 Stars
Readers’ Favorite – Rabia Tanveer – 4/5 Stars

There are a number of other options that I haven’t explored deeply including Author to Author, where you review a book from a pool of curated works and authors from that pool review yours. It is all blind, so you aren’t reviewing the person who reviewed you, but it is a way to gather more reviews.

Something I hadn’t thought about, but will also do in the future, is to include a note at the end of the book asking for a review. It felt tacky the first time I heard about it, but now I recognize that many people don’t do things like review a book without being asked. Whether they don’t think about it, or they forget. You get a lot more of what you want in life by asking for it, so next time, I’ll ask for it. Also…

Please review On Swift Wings!

(You might notice that the more stars you give, the prettier your review. 😉 )

Coles North Hill – Sadly Closed
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Anyway, thank you for reading my blog. I hope that some of the things I have written will be of some value to you. If you feel inclined, I would be thrilled if you gave On Swift Wings a try. It is available all over the place, if you are a fan of your local bookstore, they are able to order it from IngramSpark, it is stocked at a few Coles/Chapters locations, although sadly my local outlet has closed permanently due to the pandemic. Of course the book can be ordered from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and many other sources. A kindle and eBook version are also available.

As always, I’d love to hear back from you. Tell me what you think.

BOOK LAUNCH LEARNINGS 5 – Publishing

PART 5 – LEARNINGS ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING A BOOK SERIES – Publishing

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I’ve been dreading writing this one, and it is likely going to take a few days to write, but I think there is a lot that can be learned here. I hope that I do it justice.

Any questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear more from you all. I’ve been energized by a great 4/4 review from OnlineBookClub this week!

Big Five – Traditional publishers

As I’ve repeated frequently, I really knew very little about the book business when I started. My picture of publishing was pretty skewed and very limited. I pictured a number of large publishers (the big five) and a number of small or independent presses. Beyond that, I really knew nothing.

Once I got to the point that I felt On Swift Wings was going to be something worth sharing with the world, I immediately shifted from just writing to myself to assuming that I would send an email to the big publishers, they would love it and publish it, then it would sell a billion copies, be a best seller, and be everywhere. Sometimes I temper my expectations, or pretend to, but inside, I’m always thinking of the best case scenario.

Anyway, I started researching publishers around the halfway mark, and quickly became discouraged by what I was learning. Basically, classic publishers aren’t going to talk to you unless you get an agent. Only a small number of agents are even accepting clients, and it really depends on your genre and style. Even then, an author might send out a hundred query letters to agents before one picks them up, if at all.

The next thing I learned about the big publishers is the creative control that a first-time author (particularly) cedes to them. First time authors are a dime-a-million it seems, so one can hardly walk into a big publisher and claim leverage. In the end, this discouraged me from even trying to go that route. For those of you who have read my book, there is a lot of political, economic, and social commentary in the book, and that was very important to me. Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels to “vex the world.”

Boutique/Vanity Publishers

While I had been looking up traditional publishers, I had stumbled across a type of publisher that I didn’t previously know about. If you Google “Book Publishers” they show up right at the top of your list. This is a sort of all-inclusive publishing. The benefits of these are that they provide all the services needed to push a book to market. They have editors, cover designers, formatting, as well as all sorts of advice about marketing and other aspects. This could have been an option, but somewhere along the line I read a bunch of stuff about how these are ‘vanity’ or ’boutique’ publishers, and once you sign up with them, the book becomes part of their property and you really can’t get much from it. You have to pay them to print it and distribute it yourself, not to mention taking all the financial risk. It sounded like a part of the business with which I wasn’t interested in getting mixed up.

I’m not sure that this is a fair analysis. I didn’t follow through with them, but I was getting a bad feeling. I did talk to one, and the man with whom I spoke was professional, helpful, but definitely sales-y.

Print on demand – POD

While I read more webpages than you can shake a stick at, I started seeing more and more about on demand. Amazon has an on-demand printing service called KDP, which absolutely dominates the market (like 90%) and you can have paperbacks or kindle versions available on Amazon very easily. That certainly sounded great, but I also really wanted to be able to get my books in bookstores, and bookstores see Amazon as a competitor. The alternative PoD (print on demand) service that I found is the biggest global distributor, IngramSpark. Incidentally, while I was researching, it became clear that it wasn’t necessarily an either-or proposition. As long as you own your own ISBN – which is free in Canada, expensive in the US – you can do both. I didn’t really catch the drawbacks to this, but more on that later.

As with all, there are pros and cons about PoD. First, the pros: You retain complete control. You can publish any d*mn thing that you want. It can be total crap or an absolute masterpiece. You can set the prices, you can determine the trim, the cover, the formatting, everything is in your hands. Also, you don’t have to pay costs up-front. Somebody orders your book and you get the difference between the cost they pay and printing+publisher royalty. You can publish eBook, paperback, hardcover, whatever you like. Definitely has some attractive.

The cons: You have to learn how to do everything. You need to commission the editor, book cover, formatting, marketing (AH!), descriptions, advertising… everything. It is an enormous learning curve. Hopefully some of this blog can help you. I don’t pretend to know everything, but this is my experience. There is a much bigger world here than I ever imagined, just in book publishing.

IngramSpark

IngramSpark POD royalties are now compatible with PD Abacus!

I wanted to be able to get my book on actual bookstore and library shelves. To do this, it has to be available to retailers at a discount (55% – not kidding.) IngramSpark is the avenue for this. Amazon and KDP are considered competition, and don’t offer the necessary discount for brick-and-mortar bookstores, so they aren’t going to order from them. IngramSpark prints around the world, on demand, and ships wherever. It costs a little up-front to get the book into IngramSpark though – $50 for eBook, paperback and hardcover. Actually, Amazon uses IngramSpark when the dollars or demand necessitates it. You have probably received IngramSpark books without even realizing it.

KDP

Kindle Direct Publishing is the second option. Actually, in a lot of ways it is the first option. Amazon is the dominant market force in bookselling. Something like 80% of books are sold through Amazon, so obviously you want your book listed on Amazon. KDP offers the most attractive author royalties, costs nothing up-front, and has enormous lists of tools available to authors. Advertising, Kindle Select, Dashboards and a huge user community make KDP very attractive.

Both

Here comes the trick. To get hardcover and bookstore available, you need IngramSpark, to get on Kindles, you need KDP. You can do both, but it comes at a cost, one that I didn’t think significant at first. Amazon has a moat called Kindle Select. If you make your digital version exclusive to KDP you can enroll in the Kindle Select Program which lets readers read it for free if they pay their monthly Kindle Unlimited subscription fee. You get a commensurate proportion of the total to the amount of pages that people read your book as compared to the total pages read everywhere. My book was not eligible because I “went wide” with Ingram. This has probably had a very negative impact on my total sales unfortunately, but I didn’t know any better and regaining exclusivity has proven difficult. Once the book is out there, it is difficult to make it unavailable.

Summary

Take this as on summary. I’m sure that there are people happy with all of the above options. It really depends on your aims and abilities. I’ve learned so much, and I’m really glad that I’ve been able to learn all about this stuff. I’ve joked (in all seriousness) that part of my brand of crazy is a desire to know everything. Obviously it is impossible, but the more data available to me the better.

Any thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments or get in touch with me. If you want to see the results of my research and learning, check out the book!

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Book Launch Learnings 3 – Editing

Part 3 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Editing

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Editing is where I really started learning about producing a quality and professional book. When I was writing the book, when I was finishing the book, I thought that I would read it over a dozen times myself, make corrections and carefully edit the book. I had no intention of spending any money. I would write the book and do a careful job myself and that would be that.

Basic Editing

The first edit was just a couple rounds of spelling and grammar. I used Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check to weed out some of the most obvious and egregious errors.

Next, I installed grammarly and ran it though once. Grammarly has an interesting bonus-feature in that it counts how many words you’ve written in a particular week. The week I installed it I had over 120,000 words written, which put me in the very highest writing group. Obviously I had written those words over years but they were new to Grammarly, so I enjoyed that.

Self-Editing

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I had a plan for self-editing and I executed it. First, upon finishing the book, I was going to read the book for obvious errors. I read it out loud for the first time to my daughter (who was too small to understand) and by virtue of reading it out loud, I was able to flag a number of areas where the book simply didn’t make any sense or was impossible to read through. Reading out loud is a great way to catch a lot of mistakes.

The next level was when I noted that I was saying the same thing too much. I started a lot of sentences with words like, “However, so, thus…” and I hated how it sounded so I read the entire book again focusing just on the start of each sentence.

Each time I read the book I tried to be conscious of my own stylistic issues and clean them up. I also noted sections that I didn’t enjoy reading. Some felt clumsy, some just didn’t have the right feeling, and others needed an injection of description. I also had my wife read it and she told me when she couldn’t picture what I was describing. One example was when I described the seat-cushion boat at the start of the book, I didn’t describe it effectively and had to re-write it a couple times to get it right.

Eventually, I got the book to a place where I thought it was about as polished as I could get it.

Hiring an Editor

I did a lot of research online about self-publishing and it became clear that a professional editor was worth the money. I decided to put out some feelers to see if anybody in my network knew someone who might be interested, and I did some research online and found a few potential editors.

I wanted to find somebody local, and I found a few that felt like good fits. I got a few from www.editors.ca who were interested in my genre. It is important that your editor be somebody who actually is interested in your genre and style. I sent out some queries to the top three and got back a surprising diversity of responses. I truly appreciated what they said.

The first one said that the style in which I had written the book would not jive with her own. Readers will recognize that I use a distinctive voice similar to Jonathan Swift, this is not a typical style or voice for today’s writings and she didn’t feel she would be the best editor.

The other two provided quotes and sample of editing and the one I chose, Bobbi Beatty, responded with just excellent comments. I signed up with her and let her read my book, the first person not in my family to read it through.

It took about a month, but it came back with thousands of edits. I highlight this not to make myself look bad, but just to emphasize the value of a good editor. Some edits are more important and others were stylistic notes. I think that I accepted all but about three changes or notes. She also did a final reading to make sure that nothing got missed the first time.

A note on how important hiring an editor is. If you go to OnlineBookClub.org and look at recent reviews you’ll see that the reviews usually penalize errors quite harshly. You can lose a star just by having ten mistakes. That is ten spelling/grammar mistakes out of perhaps 100,000 words, an error rate of 0.01% is unacceptably high and can cost you a full 1/4 stars.

Hiring attitude

I loved communicating with Bobbi. She was friendly and helpful and provided great notes for me. I told her up-front that I wasn’t working towards a deadline and didn’t need her to rush… I actually told this to each contractor I hired along the way. Nevertheless, she came in on budget and before the deadline she set for herself.

If you hire an editor, and I strongly recommend it. Hire somebody who ticks these boxes:

  • Is interested in your genre
  • Is responsive to your messages
  • Provides a sample edit of your work that aligns with your expectations
  • Gets good reviews
  • Is a professional
  • Actually wants to work with you

Don’t just jump for the cheapest edit. You are going to get what you pay for, and if you want your book to be something of which you can be proud, and that gets quality reviews, spending the money up-front is worth it.

Recommendations

You need to hire an editor. Every minute of time you spend editing, and ever dollar you spend on a professional editor will save you a great deal down the line. It isn’t even a question for me now, while I thought I would just do it myself at first, On Swift Wings wouldn’t be anything like it is now without my editor. I appreciate Bobbi’s work so much. (Thanks Bobbi)

Tomorrow: Cover Design

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Book Launch Learnings 2 – Writing

Part 2 – Learnings about writing and publishing a book Series – Writing

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Yesterday I wrote about my planning process, today I write about… writing.

Before you begin writing a book, make sure you enjoy writing. Unless you’re planning on writing a ton of books, or you are certain to catch lightning in a bottle, writing is tough and not frequently rewarding unless the act of writing itself is of interest to you.

Time

The first question is time. You really need to find a way to make time for writing or you’ll get nowhere. I started by writing in the margins of my time. There is a reason it took almost three years to write On Swift Wings. I bought a fold-away keyboard for my phone and I actually wrote about half of the book the same way I did my planning, on the train, at lunch, whenever I had five minutes of time. Sometimes that meant that I didn’t write anything for a few days or weeks at a time.

One thing I did to buy myself time, no laughing, was to delete all my stupid games off my phone. I wanted to write a book, and it occurred to me that all the time I was spending tapping on games that are surprisingly addictive, and yet really boring and unimportant, was consuming those little blocks of time that could be used productively.

A second thought was to avoid social media. I didn’t delete them, but I made a conscious effort to not spend idle time scrolling through it. You’d be surprised how much you don’t miss out on things when you don’t read thoughtless nonsense all day.

As I got deeper in, I set aside blocks of an hour in the evenings to work, and that helped get the book done much more quickly. I set some goals for myself and posted them so that everybody could see what I was doing. It is a way of holding myself accountable. I don’t like letting people down, even if they don’t really care if I do.

Read and progress

A mistake that I made, writing over a long period was that I often forgot what I had written before. When I got to the editing phase this required me to go back and correct double-writings several times. I usually remembered what I wanted to write, I rarely stopped thinking about the book, but I definitely forgot whether I had already put it down a page or two back.

It is certainly easier if you re-read what you’ve already written to ensure that the contents and style flow the first time. If not, you’re in for an editing adventure. If you can write it all in one go… you might be a magical wizard. Most people can’t pump out a quality novel of 100,000+ words in one sitting. Take your time to cover your flow.

Be flexible

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I’ve stated in my planning blog that I wrote out the exact flow and structure I intended to follow including a very specific ending. As I wrote the story, I didn’t like the ending that I had originally envisioned. It didn’t fit with the tone and content of the story, and would have felt extremely out-of-place at the end of it. I believe that the readers would have felt cheated and confused. If I had rigidly held to the original plan, it would have made the story worse.

Similarly, at several other parts of the story, I realized while providing details and descriptions that the original plan left me with too little breadth to paint the necessary picture. I really wanted to avoid any deus ex machina fallacies, where suddenly a most fortuitous event magically gets the character out of a sticky situation. I wanted the story to provide reasonable solutions to problems if the main character could find it. At one point my editor, Bobbi, wrote a comment that read something like, “Isn’t that lucky?” She flagged something really important there that I had done inadvertently, and fortunately it gave me time to carefully fix it.

Re-write

The first time I write something, I usually get the gist of what I want and a readable story, but if I go back and read it, I usually criticize the crap out of it and re-write it several times. Each time I re-write, it keeps the plot, but I tend to add more literary devices, more vivid description, and better satirical elements. I know it makes the process much more time-intense, but taking the time to re-write is a really important part of my process.

A word of warning though. If I let myself re-write something too often, it becomes an overly-cerebral pile of nonsense that nobody wants to wade through. You have to trace through Beautiful Mind-style cobwebs of interconnected thoughts, often with key links deleted during the re-write.

Trust that you’ll cover any glaring issues during editing, but make it good enough first. Editing isn’t cheap or quick.

Check Requirements

Here is something I didn’t know when I started. Different genres expect different word counts. I was aiming to have a good book, I didn’t really care how long it turned out, but I wanted it to probably be >100,000 words. Depending on your genre, 100,000 words might be way too many or too few. Look up what you’re writing and find out. In my case, my editor suggested that literary fiction could be a little longer, so I got a bit lucky that way. Another consideration is that when printing your book; number of pages directly affects cost. I wouldn’t trade quality for a few pennies per book, but if you write a Tolstoy-like epic with a million words, it’ll eat your profits, and probably reduce your sales enormously.

I’m certain there is more that I’m forgetting, but my window of time for the day is closing.

Tomorrow: editing.

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I hope that this section on writing is of some value to you. If it is, comment here or get a hold of me through my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!

1st Anniversary – new look Relaunch

In a few weeks (July 1) On Swift Wings will have its first anniversary and to celebrate I’ve commissioned a new cover and a new look for the novel!

I’d like to do this for a few reasons.

  • The novel has been out for a full year, and I have learned so much about book publishing in this time, I want to celebrate by treating myself to a fresh design.
  • It makes the existing cover unique, and a sort of first-edition for the book. After the new cover is completed it will not be available anymore, so you’ll have something of a collector’s item when Brett M. Wiens becomes a household name… even more of a household name.
  • I believe that the current cover doesn’t tell the reader very much about the story. It doesn’t tell me that it is an fantasy/adventure/satire at a glance.
  • My click conversion rate on Amazon is obscenely low. I have the reviews now, and readers have been enthusiastic about the book, but everybody does judge a book by its cover, and I want the cover to encourage people to give the book a try.

I have a few options (plus unlimited revisions) for the new cover and I’d love to get your thoughts, votes, and feedback. A fun little distraction from the strange world in which we find ourselves these days.

Option 1 – Yellow Font, Green Water, Drowning Cygnus
Option 2 – White font, Dark Blue Water, Plane Crash Cygnus
Option 3 – Castle on cliffs, Calm water, Sun shining on Cygnus

You can also comment on this post directly, or reach me at my Facebook page.

You can also preview the book by clicking below, or preview the first five chapters by clicking here. If you haven’t had a chance yet, give the preview a try, I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the story.

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Also, please, please, please review the book! Somebody I know once said that they wouldn’t read a book that didn’t have a 4-star average with over a hundred reviews… I’m only 91 reviews away!

Thank you, and may your world always grow!

BW