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I was originally going to post about this first, but then it occurred to me that how long you need is likely to depend on what the subject matter is. Investigating all the myriad subgenres of speculative fiction is likely to take longer than if you're only interested in Steampunk.

There are three way you could go about picking a deadline.
1. Decide how long you want to spend on it, and pick your books and areas of study to fit the time available. It's all too easy to look at a genre from outside, or even one you're familiar with, and see so much to learn that it leads to being overwhelmed and choice paralysis. It's also easy to decide to do All The Things, make a reading list and to do pile that will take the rest of your life, and then make yourself miserable failing to do it. Setting yourself a deadline should help with this.
2. Decide on what you want to get done and set a timescale based on it. This is the NaNoWriMo approach - "I will write 50k in 30 days!" If you know you want to write a 70k novel and read X number of books, you can plan around how many words you can write and books you can read to figure out how long it should take.
3. Decide on what you want to do, but leave it open-ended. This is actually not an approach I'd recommend. Time is finite but procrastination is infinite. Picking an end date means that choices have to be made about where this thing is going, rather than just planning it forever and never actually starting. Or finishing.

The important thing is to work with the free time you have - a writer with a full time job and three kids is likely to have less free time than one with no kids and/or no full time job. Some days it's just not possible to write, because of work, family, or general life commitments. That's fine. Goals need to be realistic, and if it's not realistic for you to write every day, then don't. What's important is to make the space for writing every day, so if you can't write do something else - read, listen to a podcast, whatever. Just make it related to your goal.

There are several well-known events in the writing calendar that can fit in with your timeline. The obvious one is NaNoWriMo in November, but there's also Camp NaNoWriMo, a "virtual writer's retreat" that runs in April and July. Also running in April and November is the Poem a Day Challenge where a poetry prompt is posted every day for a month. There's also Story a Day in May, which does the same thing with short story prompts (although to be honest some of them seem more like exercises).

I've been posting these every two weeks, but it's actually Christmas Day two weeks today so I'm going to leave it three weeks until the next one of these.
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Once you've chosen your subject matter, it's time to decide on some course content. On a taught MA this would involve a lot of reading, but there are other resources too.

This will broadly fall into three categories - books about writing what you want to write, books about the subject you want to write, and books of the type you want to write.

When picking the former it's important to choose books by authors with a track record of publication in that genre, in the same way you'd look for this in an MA tutor. Respected editors in the field can also be a good source of advice. This is also true of books in connected subjects, for example books about police procedure written by former policemen.

For the latter, I'd suggest choosing a mix of authors whose work you like, and those whose work if popular but you just can't work out why. For the former, read with an eye to why it works for you; for the latter, with an eye to why it doesn't work for you, but why it might for everyone else.

Do Some Outside Study
There are several websites offering free university-taught courses on creative writing. I particularly like Coursera, although it's difficult not to fall down the rabbit hole as there's a huge variety of courses. Some of the writing courses are more general (plot, character), and some are subject-specific (Writing for Young Readers). All are free if you select the option to audit (so you don't get marked or a certificate of completion). Another good site is FutureLearn, which is also a good source of courses on peripheral subjects (they ran a few on forensics last year).

Most of these courses take several weeks and run at set times, although some can be done at your own pace if you sign up before enrollment closes. There are a few that are self-guided so you can do them when you like.

Invite Guest Speakers
An MA course would likely have guest lecturers and there's no reason this can't be replicated at home. There's a wealth of writing-related podcasts about writing, that can fit in around pretty much anything. For example, commuting to work and doing chores are both activities where it's not possible to read or write (unless you like to dictate). There are also YouTube videos and TED talks that can fit into short lengths of time. There are also audiobooks, if you want to get some of your reading done this way (just be aware that some books are abridged).

Next time, deciding when to do it all.
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Just as you'd do preparation and research for a real MA, some preparation is needed to build your own. Otherwise you'll just end up with a mess of books and good intentions, with no real idea of what to do with them (yes, I am speaking from experience here).

So, thinking out loud again, here's how I'd start planning my course.

Decide on the Subject
The first step is to decide what to study - creative writing is a big field, after all. You might want to write children's novels, crime thrillers, or how-to books, or get started in poetry or article writing. Picking a subject at this point will help you to keep focussed on what it is you want to achieve.

Let's say you want to write crime fiction - do you want to write cosy mysteries or Tartan Noir? Are you interested in the history of the genre, or historical crime fiction? Picking out areas of interest will help later when it comes to choosing specific texts to study. Write a list, do a mind map, or whatever helps you get the ideas down.

Choose Modules
Taught courses tend to be divided into modules, which is a good way of breaking it down into manageable chunks. Sticking with crime fiction for a moment, if you've read it but never written it, you might decide to spend some time reading books about how to write crime and thrillers. You could include a module on the type of crime fiction you've decided to write, and other writers in that area. For example, if sticking to the grittier end of things, you could include some Tartan Noir, Scandinavian crime novels, or dark crime fiction written by women. If writing for children, you could look at books for that age group, and the particular genre you want to write in.

You can also include modules that fit around the subject - for example for crime fiction there's forensics, psychology, weapons. There are plenty of books out there of the "guns for writers" variety, which could be a useful resource. It depends on where you want to build up your knowledge.

Pick a Final Project
Most MAs have a final project as the end goal, for example a novel or a poetry collection. What do you want to have achieved at the end?

Next time, we'll fill those modules with content.
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During a Facebook conversation in one of my writing groups. A friend asked "Should I do an MA to get anywhere in this business?" The response was a far from enthusuastic "maybe".

The problem with doing an MA is, of course, that it's time-consuming and expensive - and you may not end up getting what you want. The field is still overwhelmingly aimed at the literary, although this is changing. Some universities, such as Edinburgh Napier University offer courses with modules in genre writing, children's writing, etc, although a single module may not be enough if a particular genre is your passion. It's also worth noting that when several of them mention genre what they mean is poetry versus prose versus non-fiction, so if you do go down this route it's worth clarifying exactly what they mean. (I think of these as forms, with genre being used to refer to the subject matter, eg fantasy, science fiction, crime fiction, and this is what I mean when I refer to genre.)

A common complaint I've heard from friends with MAs is that they didn't focus enough (if at all) on the business side of writing. Mostly this is something that's picked up later, by doing. This may not matter to writers with a grounding in the industry, but for others they could pay a whole lot of money for how to write and end up with no idea of what to do with it after.

In the end, the advice given to my friend was "it depends what you want to get out of it". If committing time and money to something, the first step is to research exactly what you're getting. There are enough resources out there for a writer to put together their own "MA" programme, tailored to individual interests, which could be done for free or nearly free. There's no qualification at the end, but the qualification isn't guaranteed to get you anywhere in this industry. So you don't get a shiny certificate to hang on your wall, but you do get the benefit of the study.

Since this is already getting a bit long, I'm going to follow up with other posts - my thoughts on how to build your own course of MA study. At this point I'm mostly thinking out loud, so I'll include links to other entries as I post them.
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In the end I decided on a name for my main character, and mostly cranked out my story in the evenings while listening to the same two Muse tracks on repeat. The story did end up being corny as hell, which I expected, but I had fun writing it. Mostly I was testing out some ideas to see if they had potential for longer works, and I'm getting some positive feedback that suggest yes.

Writing in the evenings seems to be the best time for me, so now I need to decide what to do in the weeks when I don't have evenings. Submissions in the morning is fine, as long as I already have an idea where the stories are going (otherwise it's time to go to work by the time I've decided). I'll probably try to write at lunch and read in the evenings those weeks.

That's pretty much it for the moment. At some point I need to sit down and work out a plan - what do I want to achieve and what do I need to do to get there? - but that requires a bit more time and brain space than I have. Work is busy, and we seem to be battling with failing system after failing system at the moment, which is making everybody very stressed.

One thing I have worked out is I need more play - more time spent doing things for fun, just because. To that end I've finally got around to hooking up the PS2 to the TV for some retro gaming. All my Final Fantasy games run on that console, and I never did finish FF12. You'd think it would be bad for writing, but I worked out recently I actually wrote more back when I spent more time on video games and less on Netflix. I blogged a lot more too. I suspect it's because watching TV shows and movies is a passive activity, whereas reading and playing games require a lot more interaction which keeps the brain active. Anyway, I figure it's worth a try.
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I seem to have forgotten to mention that the Flash Fiction Online Anthology 2015 came out in January, and contains my story "Your Past Life Interferes with My Very Important Studies". This story is one of my favourites, and came from the combination of random prompts at Codex Writers' Group - the title "Your Past Life Interferes with My Very Important Hobbies", having to use one of Shakespeare's characters or plots as inspiration - and the first line "Your past life drank all the milk again" landing in my head. At first I tried to resist writing the story. I thought it would be too silly, which just goes to show you should write the story that wants to be written instead of what you think you should be writing.

I've just started another story and I'm having the same problem. At this early stage I'm not sure the whole idea isn't going to come across terribly corny and contrived. Unfortunately, being a discovery writer, I won't find out until I write it. Another problem was I couldn't start until I had the main character's name. Placeholder names don't work for me, I can't change the name later as the character grows into it. One day it might be fun to start with a silly character name and see where it takes me. For now I've got this story to keep me going.

I'm trying to decide about doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'd like to, in that it's done wonders for my productivity in the past, although I'm not sure I have the mental energy to sustain it this year. Probably it's the idea of doing it I'm finding attractive, since I remember how much I enjoyed previous years. Perhaps I'll sign up to a shorter project instead, a half NaNo or a story a week. I certainly need to get some momentum back up again.
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I was chatting with some writer buddies the other day, and realised that I'm really bad at motivating myself to write longer works. I can manage flash (although even that's touch and go these days) but anything longer and I really struggle.

A large part of this is that I write best if I can get my first draft down in one or two sittings, while the idea is fresh in my mind. However writing around work often means dragging things out for days, even weeks for longer stories, snatching ten minutes on the bus or an hour at lunch. I can't sustain that for anything longer than a few thousand words before I lose momentum.

The longer projects I have managed - "The Reflection of Memory", and two completed runs at NaNoWriMo - were written under very different circumstances to normal. "The Reflection of Memory" was written in an online writing group, where some friends and I got together with the goal of submitting to that quarter of Writers of the Future. There were deadlines and a supportive atmosphere. My first run at NaNoWriMo was completed on excitement and pure adrenaline, and continued with a similar online group which formed to finish novels. Unfortunately the group breaking up, and the realisation I had no idea what was behind my plot, stalled that project. My second run at NaNoWriMo ended on 30th November and 53,000 words. That one was also run on adrenaline, and also silliness as I'd promised myself a terrible fantasy trope every 1000 words.

Unfortunately the dedication required for NaNoWriMo (1667 words a day, or some seriously long weekends) just isn't sustainable in the long term, at least for me.

My work schedule gives me some long mornings, and some long afternoons (with the other end of the day being correspondingly short). I might try spending my long afternoons writing, so I can give it a couple of hours, and then use the long mornings for revising or sending submissions out. I need to try something to fit with the work hours.

I'm considering doing research in October, and then NaNoWriMo in November, although I suspect that way madness lies.
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Nothing on the new project this week, but I have written a couple of other short pieces, drafted a new poem, and got my submissions up to date. Short things, flash and poetry, seem to be all I can manage at the moment. Anything longer requires a sustained level of brain power I just can't manage after a day at work, certainly on the days I finish late. Being on a rota sucks.

The competition special issue of Writing Magazine is out this week, so I updated my deadline calendar for the rest of the year. As always there seems to be an increase in competitions for very specialised age groups - women over 40 or 60, or under 25, for example. It's a bit of a wasteland if you're anywhere in between. I wonder why organisers don't seem to consider that the rest of us might need support or encouragement. Maybe they think we're all too busy off having babies or something.

There's an increase in contests requiring ridiculous levels of fees, too - upwards of £12 in some cases. While I understand the need for contests to charge a fee so they can pay the judges and the winners, some of them seem to be plainly taking advantage. I'm a firm believer in Yog's Law - money flows towards the writer - and if it's flowing in the other direction there had better be a good reason. That's why I won't submit to regular markets with submission or reading fees, and if I'm entering a contest I set the fee I'm willing to pay at 2% of the prize unless winning is particularly prestigious in itself.

My writing books have all turned up now.

Although, to be fair, The Observation Deck was ordered before Swanwick and turned up without the deck (which is presumably why it was so cheap, although it wasn't mentioned in the product description). I'm working my way through them, and it's nice to have a collection to dip in and out of when I want to get my head into writing. It's also nice to know I can buy them without worrying about having to move house with them - and that any I decide not to keep will easily find a new home at Swanwick next year.
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I've been quite productive since coming back from Swanwick, at least I have this week. I've written over 2000 words on a new project, mostly in the evenings but a little during my lunch breaks. It's not the project I'm supposed to be working on, the one with the deadline, but words are words.

Back in January I posted about using stamps and stickers for motivation. I'm still doing it, although I've refined the requirements a little. Anything that actively moves a project forward gets a stamp now, rather than just words, so outlining and research also count. Lots of words gets a sticker, not just finishing a project, and epic days - such as the timeI managed 650 words on a work day - get a flying unicorn sticker.

For all that I had a rough week at Swanwick, it did its job in making me feel enthusiastic about writing again. It's amazing what you pick up even when you're not aware of it. I bought a book from the second-hand table, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner, which is a sort of chatty memoir advice for writers sort of thing. That prompted me to buy a bunch of other writing books, most of which have been sitting an an Amazon wishlist for months, and some of which were recommended by other Swanwickers (or were in the pile of books they picked up). I may have overdone it a little, as I now have a stack of seven or eight of them to read. But it's nice to have someting to read in the bus, since I don't particularly like writing there, which at least keeps me thinking about writing.
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Day Seven is not really a day, as all we do before we leave is have breakfast and say goodbye. Then it's on the coach for those of us heading to the station. Once we're unloaded there's already a sense of separation, of normal life creeping back in, as everyone scatters to their individual platforms. I miss the days when those of us who had a longer wait for the train would gather in a coffee shop, chat (those of us not horribly hungover from the previous night's disco, anyway), and extend the week those few minutes more.

I had mixed feelings about leaving this year, part sadness it was over for another year and part relief that I got to go home. The last twelve months have been frantic - I've changed job, moved manager three times and team twice, had health problems that are likely to have a long-term impact, plus bought and moved into a house. During all of this I've barely had the time, let alone the energy, to write. While I spent most of the year longing for Swanwick week, when I got there I found I didn't have the ability to deal with homework, large groups of enthusiastic writer folks, or watching everyone eat cheesecake or fish and chips that I couldn't have. As a result I was tired, cranky, and snappish, and I apologise to anyone who found themselves on the receiving end.

The trip home was longer than usual due to the route but after a nap, ten hours sleep, and another nap the following afternoon, I felt a lot more refreshed. And it turns out my week wasn't wasted after all. Despite not writing, and not feeling like writing, I've still got the post-Swanwick motivational kick. I've got ideas for two projects and the desire to do my homework. This weekend, I'll dig out the notes from the Manifesting Your Goals course I took in 2014 and create a timeline. It appears some of that Swanwick magic rubbed off after all.
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
As always, I approached Thursday in a state of semi-exhaustion. It doesn't seem to matter how much sleep I get - or don't get - I'm always tired by the end of Swanwick week.

In the final poetry class a handful of people read out their homework, and then we shared our devices for creating original poems. Mine was to cut up several poems you like, put the pieces in a jar, and pick out a few random pieces to use as a springboard. Obviously this is for inspiration and the lines themselves shouldn't appear in the poem.

The short courses on offer were about comedy sketches, family history, finding inspiration from song lyrics, and "How To Eat an Elephant" which was about breaking writing projects down into manageable chunks. I took the latter, since the thought of starting something new on top of everything else I've done this year is a little overwhelming.

Instead of a workshop session, Thursday sees the AGM. It was short but sweet this year, since we had exactly the same number of people running for the committee as there were positions and no two people running for the same one.

On the programme, the spot after the AGM is labelled "time for you" and I always use it for packing as it frees up the rest of the evening. As I headed back into the main building several people were setting up the dregs party - an opportunity to get rid of leftover food and drink delegates don't want to take home - on the lawn. It was a bit damp and chilly for me so I went to the bar.

There's no after dinner speaker in Thursday, instead there's a pantomime. This year it was "The Battle of Writer's Block" featuring BBC journalist Simon Hall as Trevor, a joke writer trying to write a novel and win Success while being plagued by the villain Doubt. There were the songs "500 Words" and last year's "Is This the Way to Summer School?" which were catchy enough to sing along to.

After the pantomime was the traditional farewell, and then it was off to the bar to wait for the disco to start.
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Wednesday saw us back on the courses, with poetry tutor Alison Chisholm dividing the room into groups based on poetry forms we'd never tackled before. I ended up in the terza rima group, which is a poem divided into three-line stanzas with an interlocking rhyme scheme. Our task was to discuss what theme might suit the form, and how we could adapt or develop it to make it our own - and then to write one for our homework. Unfortunately by Wednesday I'm usually running more on caffeine and sugar than actual brain power, so this seemed like a mammoth task and I opted to spend my time sleeping and socialising instead.

The short courses on offer were: endings and agents, plotting and strategem; cover design; and even more poetry. I'd decided early that this year was poetry year, but the session turned out to be a workshop and it was a bit late in the week for me to cope with on-the-spot writing (see above). I made a few notes and wrote down the exercises to add to my "do at home" pile with the homework from earlier in the week. In hindsight, I wish I'd taken the first part of Erin Kelly's course (on how to write endings) and the second ("strategem") part of Michael Jecks' course in which, among other things, he discussed ways of tackling writers' block.

The workshops were on writing about an unforgettable episode in your life, and also on hybrid authors. I took myself for a walk around the lake and then went to sit in the vinery for a bit.

The evening speaker was Irish storyteller and one-time Swanwicker Brendan Nolan. He spoke a little about how attending Swanwick - and one of first night speaker John Lamont's courses - changed his life, as it gave him the motivation to write his first book. He also told us stories, one about a traveller and a bar of gold, and another from Irish mythology about Aengus and Caer. I've never seen the hall so quiet!

After the speaker, it was time for the Page to Stage Performances prepared earlier in the week. In previous years this has run concurrently with other entertainments, however from last year it was changed to be the sole offering, so no one taking part felt like they were missing out.
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
Traditionally Tuesday is the "day off", but this only means that there are no classes. Most don't rest however, as the morning is usually taken up with a speaker and a panel on a particular area of writing, and the afternoon with rehearsals for those taking part in Page to Stage. Alongside both runs the Procrastination Free Day, one session for those with laptops and one for those without, during which people are shut in a room to write to their own goals - only being let out when it's time for food. It feels all too much like a workshop to me, despite the shiny stickers being offered as bribes, so I steer clear. Maybe I'll give it a try when I have a project that coincides with the school.

This year's theme for the morning was crime, and was hosted by retired policeman (and then Swanwick Chairman) Michael O'Byrne, forensics expert Kate Bendelow, and journalist and crime writer Simon Hall. Each gave a short talk on a different aspect of crime fiction, including common mistakes made by writers, and why you needn't bother dusting a steering wheel for fingerprints. Michael gave a visual demonstration with replica weapons as to why you should think hard before having your killer shoot a rifle from a moving vehicle, and also why it's important to know where your shell casings are. The second session was a Q&A where the three were joint by Ian Martin, also a retired policeman, to answer any questions the audience could throw at them.

As I wasn't taking part in Page to Stage, I spent playing card games with a friend and relaxing.  I also went on the mini-excursion to the other side of the site to see the beginning of the escape tunnel.

If you read this blog in 2013 you might remember me posting these pictures:

The Hayes was once used as a prisoner of war camp, and there is a case of memorabilia in the bar area, including photographs of how the site looked then, and also the spoons used at the time - some of which were used to dig the tunnel. This year there was a short talk about the history, and then a trip to look at the tunnel itself. The camera on my phone doesn't really do justice to how steeply the tunnel descends, or how tight a squeeze it is.

It was back on the usual programme at 8:20pm, where the speaker was Michael Jecks, author of over 30 historical crime novels and also a tutor for the following day. There was also a general knowledge quiz, and the buskers night.Save
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Day Three saw us discussing the mathematics of poetry in part two of the poetry specialist course - how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to improve a poem. Our homework was to do just that, or do write a poem about one thing in the jargon of another.

The short courses were on song writing, non fiction, fantasy fiction, and "the trickier side of fiction" - viewpoint, flashbacks, and dialogue, among other things. I took the latter, and while I didn't learn anything new from the course it was a useful refresher. In fact, the course was so popular we realised partway through the second session that some latecomers had crept in and sat on the floor!

The workshops were an ideas generator session and one on flash fiction. Personally I don't get on very well with workshops - something about being told to sit and write for an hour rubs me up the wrong way, so once again I gave these a miss and spent some time relaxing instead.

The evening speaker was Kathryn Aalto, leader of the creative non-fiction specialist course, who was followed by the first of the week's discos and a retrospective of the first 25 years of Swanwick - the latter of which inspired a mini-excursion the following day.
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Day Two sees the start of the specialist courses that run all week. This year's subjects were creative non-fiction, journalism, short stories, character psychology, and poetry. I toyed with the idea of creative non-fiction, but opted for poetry as I've been doing more of that lately while creative non-fiction is completely new to me.

In the session we discussed ways of working on poems that aren't working (edit them shorter, and then longer again), and the tutor Alison Chisholm requested that for the last session we think of ways to come up with original poems. She also gave us homework - poems from the past, and five ways to look at them to start something new.

The short courses on offer were self publishing, a grammar refresher, picture books, and connecting with an audience. I took the latter, even though I was in two minds about signing up for the poetry open mic that evening. Tutor Joy France was a little frazzled, having arrived from a festival minutes before, but was an engaging and lively tutor. She discussed audience reaction, memorising works, and how you won't always know something works for performance until you try it. It made my mind up about the open mic, but when I went to sign up all the slots were taken. Maybe next year.

The workshops were on flash fiction or a briefing for Page to Stage, a theatrical event that takes place later in the week. Since I was planning on taking a specialist and short course every day I'd planned to take the workshop time to rest and/or nap since it's a busy week.

The evening speaker was James Runcie, author of the Grantchester Mysteries. He told anecdotes from his varied career, and gave writing advice, including: "Don't be cautious: write what you want." I should really listen to that.
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Last year I blogged the week as I went along; this year I'm back to posting the week after. I just couldn't find the spoons to fit it in during the week this year.

Day One is really only half a day, since the earliest we can arrive is 3:30pm. For most of us it feels full, since we've either been travelling or have been on site early to set up. This year the travelling took up more time than usual - for me because the route I'd been booked on was longer and with more changes, presumably to avoid the trouble spots where there are strikes and cancelled services. Others had to travel through the trouble spots, and a lot of travel updates were passed back and forth on Facebook.

For those of us who arrive in time, Swanwick starts with a cup of tea and meeting up with old friends. I usually take this time to unwind and unpack. Then it's off to the chairman's welcome, to find out such important housekeeping elements as the code to get in the accommodation block.

The evening speaker for Saturday was Swanwick regular John Lamont. He taught last year's specialist course on "Succeeding on Purpose", which I regret missing (and have asked on my feedback form to be run again!). John spoke about the adaptability of the human brain, and about visualisation and retraining the subconscious - both of which are important in learning good writing habits, or unlearning bad ones.

After the speaker the traditional Saturday evening entertainments are "What Are You Writing Now?" and an alternative fairy tales icebreaker. I spent a short time in the bar catching up with friends, and had an early night to sleep off the travel.
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When it comes to distributing your book, Lulu and CreateSpace do things a little differently.

Lulu offers you the option to set up your book with private access (only you can find it when logged in), direct access (only people with the link can find it), or general access (anyone can find it). This is useful if, for example, you only want to print copies for family members and can set it to private or direct. It also lets you select their globalReach distribution option which offers the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Ingram as long as it meets their requirements with regards to formatting and having an ISBN. This appears to be an all or nothing deal, as it's either on or off. There doesn't seem to be any way to opt out of individual channels. I have the distribution options switched off, as it's redundant for Lulu to sell my book on Amazon when I can do so myself - especially when, as previously noted, I'll get a lot less in royalties.

CreateSpace offers different levels of distribution, and all are opt in. Standard distribution offers, Amazon Europe, and the CreateSpace eStore, which can be individually selected. Expanded distribution offers the options of Booksters and Online Retailers, Libraries and Academic Institutions, and Createspace Direct. These can also be individually selected, but that's as far as you can drill down.

I will say at this point that I haven't sold any copies through Lulu, but that's hardly surprising since I don't have any distribution channels switched on. I mostly use it for proofs and copies for hand selling. I sell a small trickle through CreateSpace, and these all seem to come from the various iterations of Amazon. I'm not making enough to give up my day job, or even pay any bills, but it's always a nice boost when you find out someone's bought your book.

Once you've picked your channels it's just a matter of clicking through the rest of the process, as the two sites do things in a different order. The final option will be to approve a proof, which you can either do digitally by downloading the file, or by ordering a proof copy. After you say that you're happy to proceed the site will also proof your book to make sure it meets their requirements. They'll email once this is complete and your book is ready. And that's it: you've self-published a book.
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
Once your book is finished, it's time to upload your file.

Both CreateSpace and Lulu start will start you off with entering the details for your project (title, author) and selecting things like trim size. Once this is set up there are a couple of options to upload your file.

You can upload regular Word documents (doc, docx, rtf) and also PDFs. (Image files are also an option, but I'm assuming text here.) PDFs are generally more useful if your book contains a lot of images, tables, or special fonts, because they can be embedded and their location in the document is fixed and less likely to be messed up in a conversion. I have to admit, I've never done this so have no idea of the process. If your book is solely text, a Word document should work fine.

When you upload a Word document the site converts it into a PDF "print ready file". Be aware that if you didn't set your trim size when formatting your document, the site will resize it to fit what you chose when setting up the project. This will mess up your page count and table of contents, as well as the pages new chapters or stories start on. You can download and review the file, which I really recommend as it will allow you to pick up any errors that have crept through either when making the document or during  the conversion. If you're not happy, tweak the original document and upload again. Once you're happy you can proceed to publication.

Both sites will walk you through the process:the details; pricing; uploading the cover or using the on-site designer; uploading your file. It's easy enough if you follow the steps.

One of the steps is choosing your distribution channels, which I'll look at next time.
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
If you're planning to sell your book, you'll need to choose a price to sell it at. This applies whether or not you intend to sell online or in person. The printer you choose will have a base cost at which they sell copies to you - this takes into account their printing costs and profits. It's also the amount of the total cost of the book they'll keep for each copy sold online.

For argument's sake, let's say your printer of choice sells you copies at $5.00. You can order as many books as you like for that cost (and you may get discounts for buying in bulk). You can take these books to a convention, or whatever, and hand sell them for whatever you like, and keep all the profit.

Let's say you decide to sell your book online for $10.00. Your printer will keep $5.00 of that and pay you the rest when you meet their payment threshold. This will vary by site, so it's worth checking out as if they have a high threshold it may be a while before you seen the money - if at all. However, if you take advantage of their distribution channels you may see even less of that $10 - because each of the distributors will want their own cut. For each copy of Conversations with Dragons I sell through Lulu I make $4.99. If I choose to use them to sell it through other retailers this drops to $0.40. This includes Amazon, so if you want to sell through Amazon I'd honestly recommend going through Createspace.

I use both Lulu and Createspace. The reason for this is it costs me a lot less in time and money to get copies from Lulu if I want to buy a proof, or copies to hand sell. However I've never sold a copy to a third party online through Lulu, and I have through Createspace/Amazon, so it's worth it for me to take the effort to do both. If you only plan to hand sell, or sell online, you might find it works better for you to just pick one.

Next time, uploading your file.
clhollandwriter: (marchin)
The first question to answer regarding an ISBN is whether or not your book needs one. If you're publishing for friends and family, and don't intend to sell your book, then you almost certainly don't. If you're planning on buying and hand-selling copies, rather than making it available online, then you can also do without one - although this will make the book look less professional so it's worth considering.

If you intend to sell online via your printer, or use their retails channels, you will almost certainly need one. I can't remember if it's true of Createspace, but Lulu requires any book available for sale to have an ISBN. This leaves you with the choice of paying for your own, or using the free one the printer provides.

ISBNs can be expensive, depending on where you're based. At time of posting, a single ISBN costs around $125 in the US, although apparently Canadians can get them for free. The only advantage I can see you getting your own ISBN is it allows you to be listed as the publisher in the ISBN database (otherwise it's listed as Createspace, Lulu, etc). If you're not publishing your books as a small press this may not matter to you.

Each new edition of your book will need its own ISBN. This is the case whether you're updating the content, or publishing it on more than one POD site. If you plan on tweaking your content to keep up with a topic, it could get expensive if you're buying your own.

Once you have your ISBN it needs to go on the copyright page in your front matter.

Next: choosing your price.

September 2017

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