Back in 2011, Robin published their first book. They set up Shilka Publishing as a sole trader to handle payments, tax, etc. When they set up Author Help in 2018, they were still a sole trader.
In 2020 Robin’s wife Jen joined Author Help, and we decided to incorporate the business and create a limited company. We’ve now done this, and the new business is Shilka Ltd. Author Help is a trading name of Shilka Ltd.
You may notice a footnote about it on all the paperwork and repeat customers should watch out for new bank details as we move everything over. None of this changes the services we provide, the prices we charge or the customer focus we pride ourselves on.
If you have a virtual assistant (VA) or someone else helping you with your books, they will need to access your account to upload new files, change prices, etc. One way to do that is to give them your password, but that’s far from ideal. Draft2Digital‘s account sharing feature allows you to give them limited access to your account.
Our clients use this feature to allow us to upload new books for them or to make other changes. It’s easier and more secure than sharing passwords, and the client can revoke our access easily at any time.
How to set up account sharing
Account sharing is switched off by default. To enable it, log in to your Draft2Digital account, then go to Account -> Advanced User Options. Tick the Enable Account Sharing tick box under Site Settings, then click the Save button at the bottom of the page.
Once it is enabled, you will find an Account Sharing option is available on your Account page. To share your account, go to Account -> Account Sharing. The person you wish to share your account with will need a Draft2Digital account.
On the account sharing page, enter the email address of the person you wish to share your account with. A message will show whether the email belongs to a Draft2Digital user. If it doesn’t, check with the other person that you are using the correct email.
Once you have the correct email entered, choose which permissions to grant. If you share access to your reports, they will be able to see how many books you have sold, where they have sold, etc. If you share book management, they will be able to change your existing books’ files, metadata, pricing, etc, and add new books. Currently, it is not possible to grant access to payment information, but that may become available in the future.
Only grant the permissions that the other person will need. For example, if they are updating your covers, they’ll need the book management permission, but there’s no need to give them access to your reports. You can change this at a later date if need be.
Finally, tick the box to acknowledge that you accept the responsibility for sharing your account, and click the Share My Account button. Draft2Digital will email them to let them know that you have given them access to your account.
When they log on to Draft2Digital, they will have a drop-down at the top right of the page that allows them to switch between their own books and yours.
Changing and removing access
Once your account has been shared, the people that have access will be listed on the Account Sharing page. This also shows what permissions you have granted. Simply click the relevant icon to grant or revoke a permission.
If the person you granted access to does not need it any more, click the Revoke Permissions icon to remove their access to your account entirely.
This is a guest post written by Paul Martin, an editor that we’ve worked with several times.
“I searched for copy-editors online and found Paul… It turned out that it was a very good choice.
Paul edited the text thoroughly and made suggestions that were very pertinent and helpful. On top of that, he offered further suggestions how to improve the manuscript. I valued his comments and revised the text. The manuscript became considerably better.
After a while he contacted me and put me in touch with a very good publisher. I sent a few chapters, they accepted the manuscript, I signed the contract and the process of having my memoir in print has now started. Paul did for me much more than just copy-editing work.”
Every project is different, every writer has their own style and reasons for publishing, and there are as many ways of editing a text as there are writing one. The terms we use for the different services can also vary and can be confusing to the uninitiated. The story above is a rare but satisfying one, the perfect conclusion to an editor-author relationship that shows the impact a good editor can have. Not only do we know the industry and the market, and our trade, we also have our own contacts and networks that can benefit our clients. Especially if you have decided to self-publish, there is much to be gained from employing a professional editor.
A professionally published book goes through round upon round of editorial processes: from the drafting, beta reading, revision and submission of the author themselves through agency edits, copy-edits and proofreads. Everything designed to make your work the best it can be. However, if you are self-publishing, this work will not necessarily happen unless you arrange it yourself. If you want your product to be the very best it can be, not just free of typographical errors but coherent, engaging and enticing for readers and industry alike, then you should consider hiring an editor. For those looking to go through the traditional publishing route, it is still a valuable option – as a well-edited script can help encourage agency or publisher take-up.
Agents often have a variety of alarm-words and stylistic preferences that a good editor will know to look out for. Have you used ‘said’ when not necessary or instead of more illustrative alternatives, for example ‘whispered’, ‘sneered’? Do you overuse ‘filler’ words such as ‘had’, ‘that’? Do you show the reader through your words, or simply tell them? Have you ensured that the subject you are discussing is clear rather than overusing pronouns such as ‘she’ and ‘he’? These kinds of fixes, as well as a check for actual errors, can make a huge difference to the reception of your work. No matter how good the writer, there is always room for improvement – and there is always something you will miss. As the author, you are most intimately familiar with your work – and it is difficult to detach yourself enough to be thorough. What makes sense to you, knowing what you know, may be less clear to a new reader – a fresh pair of eyes is therefore vital.
So, what services can an editor offer? The development or story edit focuses on the structure and plot of your story, do your characters have a consistent voice, does the story read well and make sense, is it engaging or confusing? The copy-edit focuses much more on the nitty-gritty of the language choices, punctuation, spelling and grammar. A consistency check can be carried out at either stage, ensuring what was a sword in one chapter has not become a dagger or a club in another. As you receive feedback, revise and tinker, it is easy for such slips to creep into your work – and a good editor will be keeping notes to ensure consistency. If appropriate, a fact check can also be incorporated to make sure any factual material is correct – for it is very easy to type 1066 instead of 1966 and not to spot the error.
If you build up a good working relationship with an editor, you will be able to bounce ideas off of them, to develop a more fluid and varied writing style and to build your script into something even greater than it already is. They will provide you with style notes to help with future revisions and improve your future writing, to help you answer exactly what your style preferences are (do you prefer the Oxford comma?). Consistency and accuracy are key to a pleasant reading experience, errors are the jolt from being absorbed in a work.
It can take quite a long time to thoroughly read something as lengthy as a novel, especially when constructing style or consistency notes and adding commentary and critique. A good editor is not cheap, therefore – a novel of around 80,000 words can take up to a week’s work to get through, depending on the level of intervention required. However, it WILL be an investment worth making if you want to produce the best version of your work that you can. The editor will make tracked changes and comments for you to review and consider, but the final say will of course be yours.
If you are considering hiring an editor, then the best place to start is the CIEP directory: the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading is the publishing industry’s go-to standard, a non-profit body and community dedicated to promoting editorial excellence. The directory lists over 700 CIEP members, their details, services and expertise – as well as recommended rates and other useful information.
Paul Martin is an Advanced Professional member of the CIEP, a freelance editor, author and consultant. He learned his trade in education publishing, before going freelance in 2017, and has since diversified into academic and trade publishing, and supporting independent authors of fiction and non-fiction. He has supported a number of Author Help clients, as well as other independent authors, and his partner is due to have her first novel published in April.
DriveThruFiction is a small site, and most indie authors don’t bother with it. But it has some very useful features, and if you’re willing to put in a little time and effort, you have the opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond. For Robin, DriveThruFiction and their sister sites are bigger than Kobo, Apple, Nook, or Google Play.
DriveThruFiction is just one of several sites under the OneBookShelf banner. Robin has been publishing and selling on OneBookShelf since 2011, primarily on Wargame Vault. When uploading, it’s just a few tick boxes to publish to any others that are relevant, so most of Robin’s books are also on DriveThruRPG and DriveThruFiction.
DriveThruFiction grew out of DriveThruRPG, which started before ebooks and ereaders were popular, and they originally focused on PDFs. Nowadays, they support mobi and ePub as well as PDF and a variety of other formats, including MP3, so you can even sell audio books there.
To get started, set up a publisher account. Once set up, you can add your books. Drive ThruFiction offer print on demand (hardback and paperback) as well as electronic formats. The print on demand option uses Lightning Source, Ingram Spark’s sister company, to handle the actual printing, but unlike Ingram Spark, there’s no setup fee.
Print & ebook bundling
If a book is available in print and ebook, you can set an add-on cost which is the amount charged for the ebook when bought with the print book. This can be zero, so that a customer that buys the print book gets the ebook for free. Or it can be a discounted price for the ebook.
DriveThruFiction offers an affiliate scheme, with links that are simple to set up. If someone buys within fifteen days of following your affiliate link you get up to 5% of the purchase price. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add your affiliate code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
You can split the royalties of individual titles, so that a fixed percentage goes to someone else. This was originally intended to allow automatic compensation of illustrators, but Robin has used it to split the royalties on a co-authored book.
Pay what you want
DriveThruFiction offers a “pay what you want” pricing option. This allows customers to get the title for free (or at cost for print on demand titles), or to pay whatever they wish. This can be a useful alternative to permafree.
Tracking where sales come from
DriveThruFiction uses “source codes” to track where sales come from. By adding a parameter to the end of a link, eg “?src=website” you can monitor how many sales came from that link. Our Local Links WordPress plugin can automatically add a source code to DriveThruFiction links on your website.
Let’s be honest, many authors dislike the idea of marketing, but without marketing, books don’t sell. Fortunately, DriveThruFiction have a range of tools that will help. Most of them require expenditure of “Publisher Promotion Points” (PPP). It is possible to buy PPP, but they’re deliberately expensive to discourage buying. Every publisher is given ten PPP every month, plus an extra one for every $10 of sales they made the previous month.
The cost of promotions are variable, depending on how many publishers are already using the option. The more publishers that are using a given feature, the higher the cost in PPP to use it. If you can’t afford a particular promotion, it’s worth checking again the next day as the cost might have gone down.
There is built-in support for bundling several titles. Just create a bundle and add titles. Set a bundle price for each title, and the bundle price will be the total of them. Alternatively, you can set a price for the bundle, and each book’s bundle price will be set accordingly.
It’s equally simple to set up a multi-author bundle. Just set a password for the bundle, then give that password to the other authors. They will then be able to add their books to the bundle. When the bundle sells, each book’s author gets their royalty based on the book’s bundle price.
Email your readers
You can’t get the email addresses of your readers, but you can email them via the website. These emails may not contain links to outside sites, but they can contain links to your other books on DriveThruFiction. Readers can opt out of receiving these emails, and you can see a report showing how many emails will be sent before sending it.
DriveThruFiction has a simple interface to create discount links. The discount can be any amount, including 100%. You can limit the discounts to a certain number of downloads, or give them an expiration date.
DriveThruFiction runs site-wide promotions periodically. You may opt in to all of these sales, or only those that offer a discount of 40% or less. In addition, you can optionally specify that only titles over a certain age are included, so that new releases aren’t discounted this way.
DriveThruFiction offers two types of advertising. Banner ads are the type of short, wide advert that were a common sight on websites some years ago. Featured messages are a small thumbnail of the book’s cover, with text to the left.
Both types can be displayed on the home page or the book’s category page. Not surprisingly, the PPP cost of home page placement is usually much higher.
Deal of the day
Every day, one title is the deal of the day, and you can submit your titles for inclusion. Titles are chosen at random, but those that aren’t chosen are kept in the list, so you’ll get chosen sooner or later.
Robin has found this to be the most effective use of their PPP, especially when combined with discount links and emailing readers. When they get a Deal of the Day, they use the “Email your readers” functionality to email everyone that has bought their other books but not this one. They include a link to the book’s page and tell them the discounted price.
A week or two after the deal, Robin emails everyone that has bought the deal book, with links to related books, sometimes including a discount link.
We are very happy to announce that we now offer two levels of formatting for both print and ebooks.
Our standard formatting looks good, is properly laid out, and follows standard industry conventions. We offer several different styles so that you can choose the one that is right for your book.
But up until now, our interiors were somewhat limited. They’re stylish, classic, and are easy to read, but some of our clients wanted more than that. We’re pleased to announce that we have now partnered with a company that specialises in interior formatting to provide a premium interior formatting service. We still offer the standard interiors, but if you choose to use the new premium option, you will get a completely bespoke interior, beautifully laid out, and you have complete control.
So, if you want your book to look amazing inside and out, contact us for a quote.
Every author should have a website. Some think that a Facebook page or an Amazon page is a viable alternative. Both are certainly useful and worth having, but they should complement an author website, not replace it.
The reason can be expressed in a single word: Control. You have no control over your Facebook page or Amazon page. Facebook and Amazon control how they look and can advertise competing books on your page. They can even remove your access or take the page down at any time, with no right to appeal.
A website, by contrast, is owned and controlled by you. If you decide that you don’t like the hosting company, you can move it elsewhere. No-one else can advertise their books on your site. You can choose the domain that you want to use. You can choose how it looks. If you use WordPress (which we use and recommend) you can easily change how it looks whenever you wish. Most WordPress themes are responsive, which means that they adapt well to different screen sizes. A lot of web browsing is done on mobile devices these days, so this is an important consideration.
Get a domain that is tied to your name if you can. Your name with a .com at the end is ideal if you can get it. If you can’t get your name, try adding something like “author” or “books” to the end. For authors based in the UK, a .co.uk or .uk is a good alternative. Robin’s pen name is Russell Phillips, and his website is at RussellPhillips.uk.
A web address like that is professional and gives a good first impression. You can set up an email address for the domain. This keeps your book-related emails separate and gives a better impression than a GMail or Yahoo address. If you prefer, have emails forwarded to your webmail. Always set your mailing list’s “From” address to be your domain address, not GMail, Yahoo, or whatever. Doing this will help your emails to avoid the spam folder.
Flexibility and selling direct
Having your own website gives you a great deal of flexibility. It should always have all the details of your books, with buy links. Beyond that though, you can include whatever features you wish. Some people blog, some have a podcast. We strongly recommend including a mailing list sign-up form, and some people use pop-ups too.
Websites can also host content that will be of interest to your readers. Including information for book clubs might help it get chosen by a club. If you are willing to do author talks, make sure that is clear on your site, along with information about how to book you.
You can sell books and/or ebooks directly, giving you another revenue stream. Many readers prefer to buy all their books from a single store such as Amazon or Kobo, but some will value the opportunity to buy direct from the author. You can set everything up yourself using a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce, or use a company like Payhip which simplifies matters. Either way, the money from any sales will be paid to you immediately, not sixty or ninety days later as is typical with other vendors. You can create discount vouchers to help promote direct sales, or sell a new release from your website before releasing it on the other vendors.
I own a copy of a rather unusual book, Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Just the Words. It includes volumes one and two in a single flip book. Volume one starts at the front, but to read volume two, you flip the book over and start from the back. The two meet in the middle.
I started wondering recently if I could create a flip book and get it printed and on sale. This article will explain how I made such a book and put it on sale via Ingram Spark. KDP Print doesn’t support this type of book.
For my book, I used the Project Gutenberg text of Little Wars and Floor Games, both by H.G. Wells. I chose these because they are in the public domain, they fit together, and they’re books that I’m happy to have on my shelves but didn’t already own.
Create the Interior PDFs
First, I created the interior files. I used Vellum to create two interior PDFs, one per book. In my book, Little Wars starts at the front, and Floor Games starts at the back. I had to rotate the Floor Games PDF, so it was upside down, and the pages had to be reversed.
To do that, I used a program named pdftk. I used the command-line version, although I believe a version with a graphical interface is also available. The command I used was:
The resulting PDF looked normal for the first half, but the second half was upside down and the page numbers went down instead of up.
Since this was an experiment, I created a simple cover on Canva. Again, the back cover had to be upside down. Because the book is very short, it didn’t have a distinct spine for me to worry about. I allowed Ingram Spark to add the barcode, and they added it to the default location. Normally, this would be on the bottom right of the design, but when the book is turned over to read the second book, the barcode appears in the top left, and upside down. A professional cover designer could have moved the barcode to a better location, although the barcode would still be upside down in relation to the back cover design.
I uploaded the cover and interior files in the normal way. Ingram Spark approved it for printing, but KDP Print would not. I have approved it for distribution, so if you would like to see the finished product, you can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (ISBN 978-1-912680-29-0). I have set the price deliberately low, since it’s on sale mostly so that people can see the results for themselves.
This was an unusual project that I undertook mostly as an experiment, but I’m pleased with the results. If you have a project that would suit the flip book treatment, we’d be happy to help. Email us for more information and to get started.
It’s that time of year when many of us are figuring out our New Year’s Resolution. How best can we improve ourselves, get healthier, or earn more? For many amateur writers it can be an opportunity to dust off that old manuscript. This could be the year that you get published.
There are more routes to getting your book published than ever before. In some ways, that’s fantastic because there will be an option to suit everyone. In other ways, it can make for a bewildering labyrinth of unknown avenues. So how do you go about figuring out which path is right for you? Well, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is what is your purpose in publishing?
What is your purpose in publishing?
If it’s about money, then I’m sorry to say there isn’t a single route guaranteed to lead to prosperity. For every big name millionaire author, there are thousands of talented writers who just didn’t make it. But there are also quite a few making a reasonable living. Regardless of their publishing route, these authors consistently put in hours of work marketing their books and making sales.
If you want to see your book on the shelves of your local bookshop, then again I have bad news. Traditionally published books usually only live there for a few weeks before they disappear into obscurity. Self-published books often don’t get there at all. However, with so much business moving online, a lot of bookshops now have websites. They list many more books than they can possibly fit on their physical shelves. Print-on-demand services like Ingram Spark are available to both traditional publishers and self-published authors. The benefit is that instead of keeping copies in stock, shops can just order in when a customer asks.
Sometimes people just want to see their name on the front of a book to share with friends and family. There is certainly something quite special about holding a properly printed and bound edition in your hands. Beware what are known as vanity presses. Some companies prey on the author’s dream of being picked up by a traditional publisher. They charge through the nose for poor service and take a slice of any royalties. Self publishing means you definitely get to see your book in print, and it can be done very cheaply.
If you have a clear vision of the finished book you want to produce, self publishing is the only viable route. It means that all rights are yours entirely and you get the final say on everything. Traditional publishers often make decisions according to their perceptions of what the book needs. This may not match an author’s vision. Some authors find letting someone else think about it comforting, but others find it creatively smothering. And of course, self publishing means you also keep hold of all future royalties, as well as your rights.
If you want to get into the ever-growing ebook market, platforms like Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital make it possible. Anyone can upload their work and start to sell. You do need it in a good format to upload, but there are software tools and experts for hire to help you with that.
If you decide to go for a traditional publishing contract, the first hurdle is getting noticed. Often it depends on the whims of the publishers. Many great authors are passed over multiple times before being offered a contract. Next, you need to negotiate a contract, which can be fraught with problematic clauses. You can get an agent to help with this for a cut of the royalties. Be aware that ultimately they need the publisher more than they need you, which may affect the service they provide. Once you’re signed up, the publisher takes over the process.
If you decide to self publish, you can learn how to do formatting, cover design, etc. But you don’t have to. There are lots of companies, like ours, who can do the leg work of self publishing for you. Often the charges are much lower than a vanity press and you keep all your royalties. Many are small companies run by people passionate about what they do. It’s worth taking a look at the Self Publishing Advice Centre’s list of services and ratings. The information will help you decide who you want to work with (we’re rated Excellent!).
It’s fair to say that this year has been unlike any other any of us have experienced before. One of the many impacts is that nobody can have an office Christmas party like we’re used to. Well, unless your office consists of two people who happen to be married to each other.
We decided to do you all proud with some of the best-loved (and most hated) aspects of a work do, complete with blurred photos taken from shonky angles!
We hope you had fun looking through these – we certainly had fun taking them.
All the best from Author Help and best wishes for 2021!
Firstly, congratulations! You have done amazingly well to reach your writing goal.
You now have a large number of words of varying quality. They may or may not tell a complete, consistent story. But that’s just fine. NaNoWriMo is about getting the words on the page, and you’ve done that. The next step is editing.
Why do I need to edit?
Editing is a vital step in creating a fully fledged book. As you read through your words, you will find some sections that are, frankly, poor. But you’ll also find areas of pure brilliance and lots of work that just needs a bit of polish for it to shine. That’s the whole purpose of editing: to find the gems, fix the weaker parts, and end up with something you’re really proud of. And you deserve to be proud of it, given the time and love you’ve already given it.
I don’t know where to start!
It may be that you need to take some time away from your November writing and come back to it fresh in the new year. Alternatively, you may be feeling inspired and want to crack on straight away – do whichever works for you.
In the same way that the structure of NaNoWriMo helped you do the writing, structure can help you edit. Editing can be a long, laborious task. The key to accomplishing it is to break it down and have small, clear goals. In November, you may have written 1,667 words every day, or you may have focused your writing on three days a week. The same principle that worked for your writing will work again for your editing. You could set yourself the task of editing 1,667 of your words each day, especially if you find short deadlines push you into action. Or you may want to set a less pressured pace of 5,000 words a week, or two hours every Sunday.
The point is to have a pattern and pace that works for you. It needs to keep you moving towards that glorious finished manuscript.
Once you’re done editing you will have something you’re proud of and you may want to share it. But it’s up to you how you choose to do that. If you want to just email the document to a few close friends, that’s absolutely fine; it’s your work and your choice. You may decide to submit it to traditional publishers, in which case good luck. If you want to investigate self publishing, we can help.
Any other tips?
Remember to celebrate the small wins. Edited a whole chapter? Well done! Turned an OK paragraph into something lovely? Brilliant! Every time you edit even a few sentences, the whole work is improved.