Sunday, 14 December 2014

Those Who Cannot Love Us

It’s Christmas time. Wherever you are in the world — from the snowcapped mountains of Alaska to the sweaty heat of Cape Town — the major religious festivals remind us of those we love and who love us in return.

Raised a Christian, my frame of reference is the Christian religious ceremonies.  Of all those annual festivals, Christmas is the festival that most brings to mind family, and family love.

How blessed I am to have a family that has embraced me with love from the moment my eyes opened and blinked around at this cruel world. So many of that family – my special loved ones — are no longer with us in body, only in spirit. My Dad, my Ouma and Oupa, beloved aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. 

People who loved me so much I took it for granted until I met people who could not love me.

Surrounded by love, I was shocked to realise that my husband’s family could not love me. Don’t get me wrong: like us, they are decent, good people, ordinary people living ordinary lives, and doing what they can to get through life’s challenges as best they can.

I was too different from them. For whatever reason, I was not the woman they wanted their son and brother to marry. Always, relentlessly, I was the scapegoat they blamed for all that went wrong in their relationship with him. Always, relentlessly, their secret opinion of me as “beneath them” lurked within their actions, from those subtle exclusions of me from serious family discussions to telling my husband family secrets he was told not to share with me, his wife. What an impossible situation he was placed in.

For decades, I lived in the shadow of their disapproval for his sake. Because family is important to me, I so wanted my husband, for us, as a couple, to have a relationship - perhaps not perfect, but a relationship - with his family.

As a bridge to peace, I willingly accepted the role of scapegoat in the hopes that they would learn to know me and come to love the “real” me.  I apologised over and over again - verbally and in writing for the mistakes I had made. I secretly dreamed that one day they would turn to me and finally say that I was the best thing that had ever happened to my husband, and that they would stop seeing the day we married as the day they lost a son and brother, but rather see it as the day they gained a daughter and sister.  

Over the years, I sold my soul to become what I thought they wanted me to be to keep the relationship with them working. 

The devil, of course, never plays fair. In selling my soul, like Faust, I became something I’m not, giving my beloved husband’s family – including his large extended family, with some notable exceptions (I love you, too, you know who you are!) — a whip for my back. Who can respect a doormat? Certainly not me. When you try too hard to be what you think others want you to be, the only result is confusion and misunderstandings. For everyone!

The sacrifice of my essential soul for a dream of having a relationship with my husband's family became a wasted effort. Eventually, in 2013, it became a price I could no longer pay for acceptance.

Our second attempt at reconciliation collapsed with a simple act of such disdain, such disrespect, towards me I reached breaking point. Oh, the token "apology" arrived: more a justification of how good they'd been to me, while I (ungrateful wretch that I am) was totally to blame for all that had gone wrong. Too little, too late, too full of still blaming me and so I could no longer fool myself as to the truth of our relationship. 

Tolerance and a superficial acceptance because "you are my brother's wife" is not enough for my soul.  I should be loved in all my large, loud and glorious human frailty.  I should be loved for being me.

When I finally accepted the truth that I would never be loved as I was, I walked away. It hurt. Oh, it hurt so much to face that truth and walk away, but for all our sakes, I cut through years of wearing false masks and brought the truth out into the open. My husband could have a relationship with his family, if he wanted one. I would no longer sell my soul to people who could not love the person I truly am.
How sad to realise that the need to be loved isn’t worth the sacrifice of who you are. Over time, such a relationship becomes toxic, and that poison seeps into everything.  From being a confident, sunny, optimistic and enthusiastic person, I changed.  I suffered more and more from depression. I developed an eating disorder and a "dangerously critical" deficiency in Vitamin D (the “sunshine” vitamin!). I despaired at the “inner knowing” - that sense which is not of the mind but of the heart - that they could not love me. Eventually, I became what they believed me to be: something less than my best.

I lost sight of all the lessons in love I’d learnt growing up in a crazy, mad family like mine. I forgot that passion and inner fire can light up the world and achieve miracles. I forgot that it’s not what we have materially that makes us special, but what we carry inside. I forgot my capacity to dream because, in the shadowed nuances of their belief that my husband could do better than me for a wife, I came to believe only their mendacious image of me and I lived a small, scared life where hope and dreams and miracles weren’t allowed to breathe.

But it’s Christmas time again. A time for family. A time to rejoice! A time of miracles and of the birth of the Christ-consciousness of Love.

I’ve found those parts of me that were lost. My soul is filled with light and laughter and hope. I am reborn in love.

2014 has been a year in which love has once again embraced me: my beloved husband, such an inspiring example of a decent human being; my brave, shining Mom, and her doppelganger, my elder sister, both such powerful, extraordinary women; my sister’s incredible husband and their most marvellous children, my nieces and nephew, and their amazing partners. And Shadow. Let’s not forget the luck and love my precious black cat has brought into my life.

What a wonderful way to end an old year and face a new one.

Yet … I have one corner of darkness in my happiness. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how hard they tried (and they did, I know they tried, for my husband could not be the person he is if his family were not good, decent people too!) my husband’s family cannot —will not — ever love me for who I am.

That wound inside me will never completely heal. How can it? After my husband and my root family, and of all the 7 billion people on this earth, those whom I most wanted to be loved, liked and respected by — my husband’s  family — cannot love me for who and what I am.

Life goes on. The blank canvas of 2015 awaits and, for the first time in two decades, I face the new year with a sense of excitement. So much to do! So little time! Such exciting new paths and adventures to look forward to for both my husband and I!

After all these years, I’ve finally accepted I’ll not be gifted with the miracle of love from my husband’s family. That makes me sad, until I remember that I can’t fly to the sun and back carrying old baggage on my wings. Some miracles just don’t happen, no matter how much we want them to. There are those people in life who, with the best intentions, just cannot love me and so I must finally let them go.

As I move into my future without you, I must bid you farewell - may the peace and blessings of Christmas always be upon you. May you know only peace and joy your whole life through. I have so much love in my life, I wish you the same love as I am blessed with. We will never meet again in this lifetime, but I wish you such love and happiness that your lives and your futures overflow with it.  

Be happy, dear ones, for you are loved … even though you cannot love me.

Om shanti. Om shanti. Om shanti. So much love. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Words in the Hands of Love : 2014 Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace)

“We have to add love to our words or none of it means a thing,” says Mimi Lenox, founder of the popular BlogBlast4Peace movement.  “We have to add love to our walk or we all stumble in darkness. Do you know how to create peace in your everyday world?”
For last year’s peace blogging, I wrote about how we need to look inwards for peace;  how peace cannot come from outside oneself.   

If we want to add love to our walk, we must find inner peace, and lasting inner peace can only come from a place of soul-deep integrity.

Living in soul integrity is when you can look at, or think of, those people who’ve hurt you deeply and, in those secret chambers of your heart, truly wish them well. 

Standing in your soul’s integrity isn’t an act of peace that pays lip-service to the current buzzword “forgiveness.”  This kind of peace is not a peace where your lips say you’re at peace, while your mind still stumbles in the darkness of remembered pain and hurt, holding onto vengeful fantasies of your enemies kneeling before you filled with a sorrow so painful it soothes your wounds, the very wounds they inflicted on you.
No, lasting forgiveness, lasting peace, is an attitude so much part of your everyday world you don’t even realise you’ve shifted from anger and negativity into the zone of inner peace.

There, where all is calm and still, when you think of those who hurt you, you feel neither an intense longing for their love and acceptance, nor a burning anger because they haven’t shown remorse for their hurtful actions. 

At that point of calm and inner stillness, you’ve reached the end of your journey to inner peace.  What, then, is left?
The journey towards peace in your everyday  world, of course. That journey has just begun and, once you’ve found your own inner peace, you then become a spiritual warrior: an ordinary person who does not merely hope to be a part of the world’s peace process, but one who actually has the courage to create peace in the situations that arise in your circle of family, friends and acquaintances.

One simple way to start transferring the peace within you out into your world is by remembering the power of words. Forget about teaching your kids that, while sticks and stones may break their bones, words can never harm them!
Words can be the mightiest, and cruellest, sword of all. Used without thought or compassion, the sword of the tongue can cut very deeply indeed. Careless, callous words have the power to tear down a person’s soul and crush their spirit. But words in the hands of love can lift people up; they can build strong, good spirits that go out into the world and create a loving, peaceful environment.

In today’s technological environment, your words can ripple across the waters of our globe, spreading love or hatred, war or peace. When next you use words –to gossip with your family about another family member not there to tell their side of the story, to order your food in a busy restaurant, or to dash off an angry email – remember it’s not only what you say, but how you say it, that reveals your soul’s integrity.

You can speak strong words, words reflecting the truth of your soul. Just speak them with an empathy and an understanding that those you address are fighting their own battles. Your words have the power to bring the light of peace to a moment in time. Or they can widen the abyss that separates us all from that which we most yearn for: peace in our hearts and peace in our everyday world.

The next time someone hurts you, can you make a difference by adding peace to the words you use? Try it ... And discover for yourself the power of words in the hands of love.

Dona Nobis Pacem  - Grant us Peace
Nkosi, yizwa imithandazo yethu
Nkosi, sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo
(isiZulu, from the South African national anthem, 
 “Lord, hear our prayers / Lord, bless us, your children.”)


Friday, 10 October 2014

Trimming the Flab by Judy Croome

‘Another diet article?’ you groan.  ‘What good will that do?’

I guarantee you this one is worth it: it’ll turn you into a lean, mean writing machine!

Why is lean and mean better than flabby writing? Because the more words your reader has to wade through to get to the point, the greater the chance she’ll put the book down. And that’s not a good thing!

Is there a painless way to trim the flab? The bad news is: no, there isn’t. The good news is: once you’ve learnt how to identify overinflated writing, you’ll find that your future writing is automatically leaner. You’ll still have to check and double-check for those pesky crutch words and clichéd phrases that sneak in and pad the pages but, on the whole, you’ll find the more you trim them, the less you’ll find them.

Let’s re-read that last sentence, because one of my favourite crutch words, a cliché, an unnecessary word and a poor word choice have crept in.

You’ll still have to check and double-check for those pesky crutch words and clichéd phrases that sneak in and pad the pages but, on the whole, you’ll find the more you trim them, the less you’ll find them.

There! I trimmed nine words without losing the effect of the sentence.  See how slim and trim the sentence is now and with no loss of meaning:

You’ll have to check and double-check for those pesky crutch words and clichéd phrases that pad the pages, but you’ll find the more you trim, the less you’ll find.

When writing your first draft,  forget about trimming.  Let the words flow freely, otherwise you’ll be so busy watching for overwriting, you’ll paralyse your muse. The time to ruthlessly trim excess words is during the revision stages of your novel.

Here are some pointers to help you identify what to trim:

·        Redundant words and phrases:  This is when you say the same thing twice and repeat yourself.  Uh. Let’s try that again. That should be This is when you say the same thing twice OR This is when you repeat yourself.  Not both, because both phrases mean exactly the same. Oops! There I go again! I should have said: Not both, because both the phrases mean exactly the same.

 Note: Unlike redundancy, repetition is an important writing technique. If you repeat yourself, make it a conscious writing strategy and understand why you have done so.

·        Overusing intensifiers:  I find this really very difficult. Do the words “really” and “very” add anything meaningful? Saying I find this difficult expresses the sentiment in a less hysterical, but no less effective, way. Don’t ban the use of common intensifiers such as really, very, severely, extremely; just use them sparingly. That way their effect will be intensified rather than overused.

·        Crutch words: When we speak, we often say ‘um’ as a way to let our thought processes catch up with our mouths. In writing, the same thing happens. We fill the spaces with crutch words that add to the weight, but not the meaning, of our text.  I have three crutch words I liberally sprinkle into my writing: now, still and only.  What favourite crutch words do you use? Identify them, trim them and make sure you don’t replace them with another crutch word.

·        Filler phrases: Also known as expletive constructions, a filler phrase is similar to a crutch word. These are phrases we don’t notice because they silently fill the gaps in our thoughts as we write. Common examples are it is, it was, there are, there is, there were and it seems, often found at the beginning of sentences. Eliminate these and jump straight into the action of the sentence.  It is expensive to paint the house becomes Painting the house is expensive.

·        Non-essential information: Make every word count. Why waste your reader’s time with information that’s irrelevant, implied or obvious? He rode a bicycle that was blue in colour  is not as trim as He rode a blue bicycle. We all know that blue is a colour, so why tell us something so obvious?

·        Clichés and Euphemisms:  This is a sign of both flabby and lazy writing. A cliché may once have been the cat’s meow, but a reader gets as sick as a dog when she reads these tried and true phrases time after time. And, last but not least, be as smart as a whip, take the bull by the horns and respect your reader by keeping your work as fresh as a daisy.  Avoid euphemisms: good writing tells the truth and tells it honestly. Not surgical air strikes, but bombing raids. Not she went to sleep, but she died

·        Use Action Verbs:  Replace any form of the passive verb to be (is, are, were, was, have been, will be) with strong, active verbs. The reason that England went to war with Germany was because Hitler invaded Poland becomes Hitler invaded Poland, and England declared war against Germany.    

As Strunk and White tell us in the classic Elements of Style:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences....this requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. (23)

Flabby writing obscures your meaning and frustrates your reader.  Comb your manuscript for unnecessary words. Trim the flab without loss of meaning. Let your writing be lean, crisp and attractive. And keep your readers reading.

Bibliography


(This article was first published in October 2010 as a guest post on the now defunct ROWSA website)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Which gender has the better writers? : Grammarly the grammar checker took a vote

Every writer's best friend, the grammar checker software programme Grammarly,  recently conducted a study with 3,000+ participants to settle an existential question that has been plaguing mankind for centuries:

“Which gender has the better writers?” 

Grammarly, (also known as your personal grammar coach!) published the results in an infographic that was picked up by TheDaily Beast

You can see that infographic to the left and it makes for some interesting reading! 

And, not only is Grammarly a scarily accurate grammar checker and automated proofreader, but the company is also kindly donating $10 in my name to the international  ProLiteracy  organisation.

"The literacy level of South African Grade 5 pupils is a “national catastrophe” [IOL News, Oct 2013], so I support anything that helps improve world literacy.

And I'm still not saying which gender I think has the better writers ...!!

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Here's what Forbes, the TodayShow, and About.com had to say about Grammarly's grammar checker.


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Comments closed on all posts


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Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Winter Winds are blowing

and I'm going into writing hibernation.
As much as I love social media, I am terrible at multi tasking. 

If I'm active on social media, I can't write. 

If I'm trying to write a first draft, keeping up with my social media is a huge energy drain. Energy that should go into my writing goes into chatting and socialsing on twitter, facebook, pinterest, google+ and blogger.

I'll be switching off comments on my blog and disappearing into my writing cave until spring arrives in September. Hopefully, I'll return with a brand new novel, one that has been bubbling away in my unconscious for too long.

Until it's time to come out into the real world again, you can reach me for GOOD NEWS or emergencies via judy@judycroome.com

See you soon!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

How to Publish an eBook in South Africa - Part Three

In Part 1 and Part 2 we learned how to write our story, establish an author brand and publish our book. 

Now we just need to get the book into the eager hands of our waiting readers!

Choosing an eBook Distributor

You can find eBook distributors in South Africa, such as Little White Bakkie, eReads South Africa and Publisher.co.za, but a wider audience can be reached by using the international sites listed below, which allow you to publish and distribute your eBooks. If you have decided against hiring a professional eBook formatter, remember when choosing an eBook distributor to look at what options they offer to help you professionally format your eBook.

a.     Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing: with all the advantages of a big company, KDP now allows an author to directly convert to MOBI, the Amazon only file format. There are also informative and useful KDP forums and communities, with people willing to help a newbie along at no cost.  Royalties are fair and regularly paid, although only by cheque if you do not have a USA bank account.    

b.     Smashwords: Have their own free formatter, and distribute to those international sites that don’t allow international authors, such as Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple’s iBooks and Kobo. But the Smashwords “meatgrinder” is difficult, although the site does offer the facility to do special promotions and offer free book coupons.

c.      Draft2Digital: Similar to Smashwords, but much easier to use. Also distribute to Nook, Apple and Kobo, and currently seeking distribution agreements with other major on-line eBook retailers.  You can upload an already formatted ePub file, or you can use their free conversion tool for simply formatted books.

d.     XinXii: Calling themselves “Europe's leading indie eBook publishing and distribution platform”, XinXii offers distribution to the usual US websites but also to a large number of European and other on-line bookstores. They also offer coupon codes for free review copies.

e.     PublishGreen: Offering eBook publishing and/or eBook distribution, they convert PDF’s to EPUBs and offer book cover design, editing and marketing packages. If you look in the side bar, they also offer a download called The Basics of eBook Publishing.  There’s upfront costs involved, so review your PublishGreen choices carefully

f.       There’s also Google Books, Scribd, BookBaby and many others available. Choose the eBook publisher that is right for you.

Once you’ve chosen your distributor you’ll have to follow specific steps to load your book into their catalogue. Each publisher/distributor has easy-to-follow guidelines dealing with (order may differ per site):

a.     Creating an author/publisher profile
b.     Adding your book details (such as the book blurb, ISBN and publisher imprint)
c.      Uploading/converting your book content
d.     Uploading your book’s cover
e.     Choosing a category for your book (eg crime fiction)
f.       Previewing the finished product
g.     Setting pricing
h.     Choosing distribution channels
i.        Going “live” on sales channels

Marketing your Book

Industry experts say that being a published author consists of 15% writing and publishing and 85% marketing.  Developing a marketing strategy is vital, even if that strategy consists of keeping marketing to a minimum.  Ultimately, all the marketing in the world won’t sell your book if it’s not something that the readers want to read.  Your number one marketing strategy must be to write your books. After that you can decide which of the many on-line marketing tools to use. Here are a few to get you started:

a.   Book Trailer:

                             i.      Having a book trailer to promote your book is a quick and effective way to raise awareness.  
                           ii.      I make my own book trailers (you can view them here)
                         iii.      You can read how I did it in my article 12 Easy Steps to Making a Book Trailer which was published on The Book Designer.

b.  Social Media: 

                             i.      You must at least have a “home” where readers who google your name can find out where to buy your books, for example, a website, a blog, a facebook author page, a Google+ page and a Who’s Who profile
                           ii.      It’s advisable to use the same author brand (separate accounts for your publishing imprint and author name, if you have both) across all the social media sites, so that readers can find you on their own favourite social media site.
                         iii.      I have an account with as many social media sites as possible but I’m most active on Twitter as that suits my personality.
                        iv.      I visit the other social media sites occasionally, but I do make sure that my author details are always up to date.
                          v.      Here’s a great article on 10 Social Media Marketing Musts

c.On-line Book Clubs:

                             i.      Goodreads, BookLikes, Shelfari and LibraryThing offer two levels of benefits.
                           ii.      Firstly, you can connect with real readers, not just other writers. The caution here is that these are reader social media sites and they quickly take offence at authors who use the sites purely for book promotion. So interact with others as a reader, and be interesting enough that they voluntarily decide to follow you as an author.
                         iii.      Secondly, you can use these sites for book giveaways (to get reviews) and for advertising.
                        iv.      As soon as you publish a new book, remember to go to these reader sites and load your book’s information (also called metadata.)  A reader is giving up enough time to post a review – they may not go to the trouble if they have to spend even more time finding and loading all the metadata of your book.

d.   Book Blog Tours:

                             i.      An efficient way of garnering reviews and getting your book exposed to readers.
                           ii.      Make sure the blog tour you choose has participants who read your type of book.
                         iii.      For a (usually) small fee, book blog tours are offered by FabulousityReads in South Africa and other blog tours overseas

e.   Guest Blog Posts:

                             i.      Find blogs that have good followings, study their topics and write an article.
                           ii.      Pitch it to them in a professional manner. If the post is accepted, it’s great exposure. If not, you still have an article for your own blog/website.
                         iii.      This takes time and effort, but you gain writing experience and brand exposure.
                        iv.      Interact with other bloggers and if asked to do guest posts, carefully consider if the blog is in line with your author brand and target audience before accepting the guest spot. Once accepted, honour that commitment and submit the guest post when promised.

f. Offer Free Samples:

                             i.      There are two types of free samples you can offer to promote your books.
                           ii.      Full copies of your books sent for free to people who undertake to review them. Understand that when they accept the book for review it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will either read it or post a review about it.
                         iii.      Distribution sites usually require that you offer a free sample of your book for potential readers to download before buying the whole book.
                        iv.      When you’re loading your eBook file to the distribution site, you will be able to allocate the amount of pages you offer as a free sample.
                          v.      Some sites may have a minimum % of text that must be offered for free. Remember in Part 1 I spoke of backmatter? To make full use of your chance to bag a reader, make sure your sample only includes the text of the book (e.g for a novel the first chapter or for non-fiction a list of contents and some text.
             vi.      You will also need to decide whether to apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) to your eBooks.

Royalties and Taxes

The royalty % that you earn from the eBook distributor will be based on your price. Each distributor has their own terms so before choosing your distributor, carefully examine the terms and conditions around royalty payments.

If you use an American distributor such as Amazon, Draft2Digital or Smashwords, you’ll have to apply for an ITIN from the Internal Revenue Services. You can read my articles on this topic here to find out more about the process of obtaining an ITIN and submitting a W8-BEN form to avoid paying 30% withholding taxes in the USA.

Are you already registered with SARS (South African Revenue Services) for your day job? If not, once you start earning reasonable royalties, you’ll have to register as a taxpayer with SARS.

Keeping up to Date

The most exciting aspect of being an independent author is the freedom and flexibility this route offers an author.

The most daunting aspect is how quickly everything changes and the overwhelming amount of information and misinformation that’s available to the independent author.

As an independent author, responsible for all aspects of your book, you need to find the balance between these two extremes.

Keep up to date with the independent publishing industry, check your sources to make sure the information is valid and find the point where you can comfortably balance the different elements of successfully publishing an eBook with your everyday life.

Managing your Expectations

Publishing your own book is, as you’ve seen, not for sissies! At every stage of the process – from the writing to the royalties - your dream will, at times, seem impossible. In my Letter to a Young Writer I explain why it’s important to overcome these doubts and write anyway.

The biggest challenge in publishing your own book is keeping your expectations realistic. 

If you begin your journey to becoming a published author with the expectation of a lot of hard work to gain even the smallest victory, then anything extra (like becoming a best-seller) is a cause for celebration.  If you start off with the expectation of retiring off the proceeds of your first book, there’s a greater chance that you’ll be disappointed.

Ultimately, publishing your own eBook is about finding satisfaction in a personal dream fulfilled. Your eBook may be one-in-a-million-eBooks for sale, but you -- as an author who had the courage to follow your dream and publish your own eBook -- you are a one-in-a-million shining star: you are A Published Author. 

***

You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 2 here


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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

How to Publish an eBook in South Africa - Part Two

Right … You've finished your book and you're about to release your masterpiece on an unsuspecting world, a world full of readers who will rush to buy your book.

Wrong! You have a product that’s one of millions of other similar products. In just five years, from 2006 to 2011, the number of self-published books exploded by 287%! By December 2013, Amazon revealed that 25% of its Top 100 eBooks were independently published.

Now, in 2014, when independently publishing your book is even more accepted, your book will be just one of those millions of voices. As hard a fact as that is to swallow when you’re dreaming about writing your first book, it’s a reality about independent publishing you must accept and work with from the very first word you write.

Eish! What to do?  Give up your dream of publishing your book? Never! Nooit! Absolutely not!  What you do is you start to establish an author brand.

Establishing your Author Brand

You’re not selling a book (a single product.) You’re selling yourself as an author (a product brand.) Before you choose that brand name, you need to consider:

·        Will you be publishing in fiction or non-fiction?

·        What genre will you write under, for example, romance, crime, literary? Technical, self-help or religious?

·        What sub-genre will you write under, paranormal romance, sweet romance, erotic romance or medical romance?

If you intend to write in one genre and one sub-genre, you could publish under your author name only.

If you intend to publish across genres, consider establishing a publishing imprint. I write novels, poetry and short stories, and I’ve independently published them under the publishing imprint Aztar Press, which has its own logo and website.  

Choose a brand name that works. If your name is Percival Archibald Wroskovoskovitch, write under Percy Arch or Archie Wros or use your mother or grandmother’s name. You want a name that's different but short, sharp and pronounceable like Dan Brown or Chinua Achebe. Can you imagine have a twitter handle like @PercivalArchibaldWroskovoskovitch? There won’t be any space left to tweet!

Have good author photo taken. You can hire a professional photographer, or you can get a friend with a good camera to spend the afternoon doing a photo shoot. Try to resist making the photo cutesy or fun – browse any well-known author and the main photo they use for publicity is a clear head and shoulders shot. You can add the cutesy photos in the spaces provided by various websites such as Amazon author page, Goodreads author page. There are sections where you can easily upload more images for anyone who wants to look at them.

Before you even start writing set up your social media (more later) with your author brand name. You'll be amazed at how many people have the same name as you no matter how unusual your name (there is a Judy Croome who lives in Canada!) Even if you’re not ready to start your social media marketing just yet, you do want to reserve your author brand name for when you’re ready to start tweeting, googling and facebooking.

So … you’ve written your perfect, professional book. You’ve established an author brand. The next step is dressing your baby up so she’s ready to face the world. This is also called publishing your book.

Publishing your Book

If you’ve decided you’re only going to publish your book as an eBook, you’ve cut your publishing work in half. But you still need to follow certain critical steps to publish your eBook and make it easily available for readers.

a.  Book Blurb

Before they’ll buy, readers have to know what your book is about. You’ll need to write a short description (called a book blurb) of your book. This blurb will be used in loading your e-Book to on-line distribution sites and, if you decide to publish in print at a later stage, this will feature on your back cover.  To get an idea of what a good description does, browse on-line bookstores and read the book descriptions of the top-sellers. Look on this as your sales pitch to potential readers.

b.  Cover Design

Cover design is another critical factor in the process of making your eBook into a professional product. While a professionally edited book brings the reader back to buy your next book, a brilliant cover design captures the reader’s attention from among the thousands of eBooks your book is competing with in on-line stores. You can do the cover design yourself, but then you need to beware of the numerous pitfalls that await. Or you can hire a professional cover designer. 

I designed my own cover for my first-ever book – here’s what a reader had to say. I took his advice, found a professional cover designer and ended up with this cover. Can you see the difference a professional designer makes to the first impression a reader has of your book?

Before you decide which route you want to take, browse through these cover design articles on self-publishing guru Joel Friedlander’s blog The Book Designer.  Also look for recommended cover designer websites or, alternatively, if you like the look of a cover from a particular eBook you read, look on the copyright or acknowledgements page – the author may have a link or mention who the cover designer was. Chances are, if you love the look of a particular eBook cover, the designer will match your expectations. Check costs first though, as some designers can be expensive.

You could also set your own cover design price and run a freelance cover design competition

Make sure that both a high resolution image and a smaller image to use for web thumbnails is included in the price, as well as asking how many alterations are included in the original cost (you can’t expect to make infinite changes – the designer works by the hour, so he’ll have a set number of hours he can work on your cover.)

Check that the font used for the title and your author name is clear and legible in both the large and small image. As you’re not selling a book, but selling yourself as an author brand, your author name must be prominent, but not overwhelming.

c. Formatting

Correctly formatting your eBook is another critical area in publishing your own eBook. Poor formatting and book design are as off-putting to the reader as poor editing. Make sure your eBook format is professional.

There are two main eBook formats, .MOBI (Amazon only format) and EPUB (industry standard). PDF is another popular format, but it’s easy to copy and re-distribute books without the author’s knowledge or consent.

There are software programs that allow you to format your own book into eBook format, and most distributors of eBooks offer a formatting style guide and/or process suitable to their site but, unless you’re an IT whizkid, it’s wiser to stick to professional formatting services and hire a professional eBook formatter who will convert your book into the standard formats for a fee. You will then have a professional eEPUB and MOBI file to upload to your on-line distributors.

d.  Setting your Price

Pricing for independent publishers is a controversial topic. Some experts say, keep the price cheap. Others say, place a fair value on your work. Still others say, play around with the price and find what pricing level readers are willing to pay for your books. Another option is to price your new books higher than the books listed on your title back list.  You’ll earn a % of that price as a royalty. Think carefully about what a realistic price for your book is and be willing to change it up or down if you need to.

e.   Digital Rights Management

Digital Rights Management (DRM) limits sharing of content to protect you against reasonable pirating of your books. When publishing your book to on-line distributors you’ll have to elect whether to activate DRM or not. 

The next step, discussed in Part 3, is finding an eBook distributor who will help us reach those eager readers!

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You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 1 here
You can read How to Publish your eBook in South Africa - Part 3 here


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