This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money — Getting Started: Software

As was in my “Future Plans” post, I’m currently working on three writing projects simultaneously:  The third Law of Swords book, the Fennec Fox Press House Style Guide (which is typically added to only as issues come up) and — in those times when I NORMALLY work on this blog — a book entitled “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.”

Work on “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” won’t prevent this blog from being written, however.  Instead, it is intended as its own blog series, allowing me to go through the process of self-publishing a book in a tutorial form, or (since I intend to actually publish the end-product of this series) maybe more like a “lets play” (to borrow from the Gamer vernacular) of self-publishing a book for my blog readers.  This is my second try at this kind of project; the first time it got bogged down and eventually swallowed by the need to deal with other things, but this time I have a more developed plan for how to handle this.

So let’s begin.

Once you’ve completed your first draft, I recommend setting a budget based on your projected worst-case-scenario projection for sales. I should add the caveat that I mean REALISTIC (not optimistic, not pessimistic) worst-case scenario.  If you mishandle things, yes, it is possible to never sell a single copy of a book, but that’s a pessimistic projection.  From past performance, I would project the worst case scenario for any of my sci-fi\fantasy genre novels as two hundred fifty ebook sales.  At $4 profit per sale (when I set the eBook price at $5.99), that means I could set a budget of $1000 and realistically expect to break even in a worst-case scenario.

But this isn’t one of my genre novels; this is a collection of material that I’ve read, or for which I’ve been told, or which I’ve even decided for myself “Cannot Possibly Make Any Money.”  With that as the premise for this project, I (at least for purposes of this blog series) project earning… no money from this book.  So my total budget is zero dollars, of which I can spend zero dollars on software, zero dollars on the cover, zero dollars on the editing, zero dollars on the book design, and zero dollars on marketing.  Okay, that was easy!

The rest of this blog series is going to be on overcoming the obstacle of having zero budget when self-publishing; how, with no budget, I can acquire the necessary software, create an original cover, get the book edited, and (easiest of all, though you might not believe it) market that book without spending one penny.

I have, or can and have borrowed from my mother:

1.  Microsoft Office Suite 2007 (IIRC, it was bought at an extreme discount through a program my workplace at the time was offering)

2.  Adobe InDesign v.6 (received as a gift; the last non-cloud version of InDesign.  I recommend sinking the costs of any software you buy in a purchase rather than creating a recurring cost by leasing it over the cloud)

3.  Scrivener, purchased during one of their half-price sales.  (I think that, with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, that’s about to come up)

4.  Photoshop Elements v. 10 or v.15 (I may be purchasing Photoshop Elements 2018 soon; v.10 came packaged for free with other software, and v.15 is borrowed from my mother)

5.  Corel Draw (whatever the latest version is; it’s on my mothers computer)

…and probably a few other pieces of software I’ve bought for my writing business (or my mother has bought for her quilting business) that I’m not thinking of right now.

But, since we’re maintaining the rule that I have zero budget for this project, I’m going to pretend I haven’t bought ANY of this, yet, and find substitutes.

I do have to make certain concessions for the series as a whole before we begin:  I have a blog, access to the internet, etc.  My blog is on a paid-for site, but its using a resource that is free and can provide a free host if necessary (WordPress).  These things I could manage to access from my local library, but the library usually won’t allow you to install software on their computers.  They might, if they’re equipped well enough, have some similar software installed on their computers you can borrow, but you can’t count on that.

So, it is a bit of an assumption that — even with zero budget to produce your book — you own or have access to a computer on which you can access the internet and are permitted to install software.  If you don’t, well, I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to suggest.

So, with the limitations of zero budget (minus that concession), what options in the software department are there?

In place of Microsoft Office:  Anything that I would normally do with Microsoft Office, I will instead — for this project only — do with the LibreOffice suite.  Now, both Microsoft Office and LibreOffice are suites of tools, but to replace the ones I actually use for my publishing work, I only need LibreOffice Writer (for word processing, replacing Microsoft Word) and LibreOffice Base (simple database software replacing Microsoft Access.  I use Access to maintain some of my notes, such as character records, which need to be kept across books of a series; due to the nature of “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” however, I won’t be using it for this book).  LibreOffice is available for free (it better be, or I’m already breaking the rules), and will work with Windows, Macintosh, or even Linux.  (You do need to download the correct version for your operating system, of course).

An alternative to LibreOffice is Apache OpenOffice.  LibreOffice was, in fact, originally OpenOffice, but (skipping one long, complex, boring story to explain why) they split up into two organizations developing similar suites of software from a common ancestor.  LibreOffice is generally considered to be the better option, containing much of the original design team, but some people still prefer OpenOffice

To replace InDesign I’ll choose Scribus.  Scribus is also free, open-source software designed specifically to do, well, the same things InDesign does.  It’s been going strong for many years, now, and most of the bugs are already worked out!  (A word of warning:  They recommend that you install ‘Ghostscript‘ first.  I made the mistake of not doing this the first time I installed Scribus, and it caused several problems with my initial set-up.

Outside of Scribus, the only other free software I can think of that works as a replacement for InDesign is… InDesign.  A couple years back, Adobe offered a free download of a no-longer-supported earlier version of InDesign (in fact, a whole suite of programs InDesign was part of a package of), version 2.0.  It’s a bit hard to track down, and requires a software key (they provided one for the public domain at the time) which may no longer be listed anywhere, but if you can find it you can get the entire Adobe CS software suite for free.  Because of its obscurity, however, I’ll stick with Scribus.  (Scribus has a few more modern features, anyway).  If you do have the budget to BUY this sort of software, however, I wouldn’t recommend the current, cloud-only version of InDesign; instead, I would go with QuarkXPress.  A bit expensive, but it has a lifetime license (and thus is a sunken cost).

Scrivener is an odd one.  It’s a word processor designed specifically for creating books, but the Windows version (which is the only one I have) is missing several key features available on the Mac version.  Scrivener has promised a new, updated version soon (Scrivener 3.0) which should EVENTUALLY bring them up to near identical versions, but even with that the Mac version will be the first release.

The long and the short of it is that I only use Scrivener for eBook building, after the book has been edited.  Since that’s all I use it for, I will compare it not with other word processors but rather with other eBook-making utilities.  I’m at least somewhat familiar with Sigil, so that’s what I’ll be using, but I understand Calibre is popularly thought to be more intuitive and will likely have more tutorials for its use.  Nevertheless, I’ll be using Sigil to produce an ePub, which I will then convert to .mobi for uploading to Amazon.  (Calibre can do the conversion itself; Since Sigil can’t — at least not as of the latest version I’ve downloaded — I’ll instead be using a simple tool called ePub to Mobi).

The graphics suites are all that we still need to worry about.  As a substitute for Photoshop I’ll be using the popular (though a bit tricky-to-use) GIMP.  As a substitute for Corel Draw, I’ll try Inkscape (an open-source vector-based graphics utility I first saw in a package of “best open-sourced software” back in 2009.  I’ve often installed it but never used it, so this will be a bit of an adventure).  Not sure if I’ll need both of these programs, but at least I’m set up if I do.

Okay, software is taken care of.  Next time on “This Book Cannot Possibly Make Any Money,” I’ll start using these bits of software to ‘create’ the book’s content (which is already written… or is it?).  See you then.

The Print Edition is OUT!

I had a blog all written out for this weekend (the first post in the revamped “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” series), but I’m bumping that to next weekend. Why?

The print edition for The Merrimack Event is FINALLY out!

This closes the books on the most difficult book release of my career (so far, but hopefully that record will last for a long, long time). It’s been a rewarding one, but I am so relieved that its finally complete that I don’t know what to do.

Well, not complete. Amazon still hasn’t associated the print edition with the eBook edition. This SHOULDN’T be a difficult issue to resolve — Amazon needed a push to do that with two of my three previous books, too, and it was a simple (though hardly “quick”) fix — but with all the issues The Merrimack Event has had in its release, I’m crossing my fingers while knocking on wood that nothing happens to complicate the process.

In other news, I’ve finally resumed work on the third book in the Law of Swords series. Well, I’ve tried to — between various “real life” events (nothing serious; as an example, I had to make an unexpected trip out to get a watch battery replaced. No big deal, but it means a special trip out and time taken out of my work day) I’ve found myself working on this blog (well, what will turn out to be next week’s post) more than I have on the book.

Hopefully that’s not a sign of things to come.  At any rate, that’s it for this week.

Edit:  Contents closed to reduce spam attempts.

A Quick Blog on… Uh…

Okay, so I don’t really have a topic for this week’s blog. I have a few things to cover, but nothing really to focus it around, so I guess it’s a status report, sort of?

  1. The Merrimack Event, Print Edition:  Still in progress.  I just had to order my (personal record-breaking) fourth print proof, though I would have approved the version I got from the third if Createspace had let me (long story as to why they won’t, but it’s boring and will provide no real insights into the printing process, so why bother?)
  2. My great-uncle passed away last week.  I didn’t know him well (I’d seen him a few times, but it was hard to visit him), but he and my mother were very close.  He was the last of my grandmother’s eleven brothers and sisters (they had a big family in those years) and the family patriarch.  We weren’t able to attend the funeral because we couldn’t make travel arrangements in time.
  3. KDP Print service is improving.  While they still don’t have expanded distribution (they note that this should be available at some point), they are now offering print proof and author copies.  That actually makes them a viable POD printer IF you don’t care for expanded distribution.  Maybe I’ll finally put together “This Book Cannot POSSIBLY Make Any Money” and test it out through them.  (I’m pretty busy with things, but again — putting that book together shouldn’t take any time away from writing my other books.  It might take time away from writing this blog, however. *sigh*
  4. It’s sounding more and more as if I’ll need both a new editor and a new cover artist for the Law of Swords series.  I hope to find an artist who can match Alex Kolesar‘s art style for the cover, but I’ll also need to focus on getting my House Style Guide ready to send to whoever the new editor turns out to be.  Again, I’m hoping to complete this without taking time away from my novel writing, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.
  5. By the way, speaking of Law of Swords, I’m FINALLY able to start working on the next book in that series again.  I had to set the book aside half-finished to work on A Gun for Shalla (my contribution to the Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders anthology).  Right after that, I got tied up working on The Merrimack Event.  In Division Imperiled (working title) is half-finished; maybe I’ll be able to at least get it out to the editor (whoever it is) by the end of the year?
  6. By the way, my aStore replacement was a bit buggy when I mentioned it during my last blog post (it was timed to go live at the same moment as the blog post did; unfortunately, the actual site didn’t look anything like the preview did, and some of the items couldn’t be clicked on or ordered).  The bugs have been largely ironed out, and a few more books were added in since then.  I’ll note it, here, whenever I add new books.  (it seems the new page is already more successful than the aStore was; not a huge feat, as I only ever sold two things through the old aStore and it was horribly out-of-date, but notable).
  7. I recently received an interesting book-related offer in my e-mail.  Nothing as exciting as a TV\Movie deal offer (I wish!), but intriguing nonetheless.  I’m currently running a few background checks to ensure the outfit contacting me is legitimate and not a scam, but I certainly need to consider it if they pass.  I’m being vague because I haven’t agreed to anything, yet, but I’ll probably talk about it more, whatever decision I make.

And that seems to be it (or at least all of the things I can think of before this blog goes live).  Until next time….

Edit:  Comments are closed early, because my comments sections have been attacked by spammers lately.  (You won’t see them because I have to approve your first post (once approved, you can post as much as you want), and most spammers aren’t very convincing as human beings)

Books and Sundry

First, some updates. The second print proof of The Merrimack Event finally arrived and… well, they did a better job with the cover, but the more I look at it the more problems I have with it — I plan to call the printer on Monday and see if I can somehow get things straightened out.  I think the cover should fit as planned according to their documentation, and they keep saying the dimensions are wrong and changing them on me in ways that sends everything wonky.  I also still need to go through the inside text, again, and make sure that none of the changes I made last time have messed anything up.

Incidentally, I uploaded some corrections to the eBook based on my first run-through of the print proof (I did this a couple weeks ago, but never said anything); if you’re still seeing missing words and typos, try updating your copy. I need to figure out how to prevent these errors from going out the first time, but I think I caught them all. If you find anything else after updating, PLEASE let me know — don’t just leave a comment on Amazon about typos or dropped words; I can’t fix these errors unless I know where they are.

Despite all the complaints about the typos that I can’t find, the book is doing well.  Final numbers for the month of September were 51 reviews, 1,400 books sold, even (er… with five returns, making the real number 1,395) and 1,730,229 KENP-sized Page Reads.  (The book was 737 KENP pages — very different from what the print book will be — which means I had at least 2,348 people read the book at least part-way through using the Kindle Unlimited program).  I think that qualifies as a successful first month of publication.

Oh, and it’s raised the sale totals of In Treachery Forged and In Forgery Divided significantly… and if you go back to those three days in August that it was released, it seems to have inspired To the Rink of War‘s sales to DOUBLE its lifetime totals!  (This is not really that great of a feat.  To the Rink of War was an unmitigated disaster on first release, and has yet to receive its first review more than three years after publication)

But that’s not what this blog is, uh, SUPPOSED to be about.  I learned, recently. that Amazon is discontinuing the aStore program.  I do have an aStore (I won’t bother linking to it, because I think Amazon will be closing them before most of my blog readers trickle in), but it’s been neglected for a long time (precisely for the reasons Amazon is saying they’re discontinuing it — it’s nearly impossible for affiliates to push people through to the aStore sales with the way it’s set up).  So, I set about replacing my aStore with a very similar (but hopefully better trafficked and more frequently updated) page on the Fennec Fox Press site, which you can find here.  I’ve still got a few things to add to it, but there you go.  Edit:  And there appears to be a bug in the website clipping several of the link graphics.  I’ll be calling tech support tomorrow to try and get it fixed.  *sigh*  (Stupid website software that DOESN’T show the website correctly in the preview; I don’t even know how to fix it at this point)

…yeah, I don’t think this blog post is about what I intended it to be about at all.

Oh, and if you’ve been following my cell phone misadventures on Facebook and other social media hangouts, I do seem to have the problem fixed, so (assuming you have the number) you can start phoning my cell phone again.

Until next time, where maybe I’ll actually talk about what I intended to talk about instead of overshadowing it all with a status update.

Edit:  Comments shut down due to MASSIVE spam attempts.  (Seriously, spammers, you’re setting a blog record on this one!)