5 APPS YOU NEED TO BE A BETTER FREELANCE WRITER

To be a successful freelance writer, discipline is required. Lots of it. You must steer clear of everyday distractions and work as efficiently as possible. Thankfully, there are ‘squillions’ of apps available for freelancers. I highlight five of the best of them in this post.

1. Toggl

‘Time is money,’ as they say. So, manage it wisely. Toggl makes time management easy and it is suitable for most devices. Just type the name of your task into the ‘What are you working on’ box and press ‘Go’ to start timing. Once you’ve finished, you can assign it to a project. For time tracking only, Toggl is free. However, for more advanced features, like setting your hourly rate and creating reports, prices range from US$9 to US$49 per month.

2. Evernote

Evernote enables you to download files, take photos and record audio. It is cloud-based, so you can collaborate with colleagues from anywhere you like. For example, if inspiration strikes while you’re travelling on the bus, use your smartphone to write notes. Then, at the office, use your laptop to continue what you started. Evernote is free.

3. MP3 Skype Recorder

Thanks to apps like Skype, you can meet clients without actually meeting them. It is ideal for interviews and because you can see a person’s body language, better than a phone. I used to record interviews on my smartphone. However, MP3 Skype Recorder enables you to interview and record all on the same device.  It is free to use but only suitable for Windows operating systems.

4. Dropbox

Dropbox is perfect for collaboration. At The Copy Collective, we use it to share files between freelancers all over the world. Dropbox is cloud-based and will sync to all your devices, which means you can access files anywhere, anytime. And if your laptop is stolen or breaks down, you won’t lose important information — it’s all up in the cloud. The basic version of Dropbox provides 2 GB of space and is free. You can get more space and features by paying up to US$15 per month.

5. Hootsuite

For many, myself included, social media is useful for self-marketing. However, if you’re not careful, it can gobble up time like there’s no tomorrow. Hootsuite enables you to manage social media activity more efficiently. It offers a multitude of functions, however the number available depends on whether you are using a free or paid version. These include posting across several social media sites simultaneously, scheduling posts, creating reports and tracking topics of interest.

Work smart

Freelancing is ideal if you can’t or don’t want to work standard hours or like variety in your work. The trade-off is you have only yourself to rely on. You must work smarter, not harder. Thankfully, the apps featured in this post and many others, will help you do just that.

 

You’re almost there! You’ve written the work, laid it out and now you need to get it out. But how? Maureen Shelley shares her research on publishing platforms in part 8 of Blog series “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author.”

Print, digital or POD?
Once, it used to be easy. You could print or you could go digital. Now, you can print, go digital, go a bit each way with short print runs and print on demand (POD). Do it yourself, contract it all out, contract out a bit or contract a lot. It is up to you. Never have so many people been publishing books and never have there been more choices available to the would-be author to get their manuscript before a reading public.

Printing in Australia

We use and recommend Griffin Press in South Australia. They are a traditional printer with some extras for small publishers (like us), self-publishers and big publishers. People always want to know what it will cost to print their book and the answer is “it depends”. It depends on book length, size, paper chosen, cover stock chosen – even the size of your margins can make a difference (larger margins equals more pages).

A screen capture of the "Request a Quote" page at griffinpress.com.au
Self-print options available at Griffin Press. Source: www.griffinpress.com.au

So let’s say you have

  1. 316 pages
  2. in a Trade B format paperback
  3. with gloss cover (matte is more fashionable but it scratches more easily)
  4. with book cream pages

For 1000 books that will cost you around $5 a book.

Now, you can get a quote out of China for about $2 a book for the same format manuscript, however it will cost you $3 a book to ship it to Australia. That will still cost you around $5 a book.
It will cost you more if you want proofs rather than just checking a PDF file and it will cost you more if you ship stock to more than one “drop” (address).
You then have to store your books where they won’t absorb damp, smells (cigarettes, open fires, factories etc), or be attacked by insects or rodents (so maybe not the attic, basement or garage – unless they are clean, dry, airy vermin-proof areas).
If you must store your books in the garage, put your cartons on a plastic pallet – they at least won’t absorb damp from the ground. You can buy plastic pallets from eBay or Gumtree.
Our recommendation is to print in Australia if you have a ready-made audience. If you are well known – even if it’s in your own niche – you have an audience already. If you then market to that audience, you should get sales and hopefully can move 1000 books inside of a year.
The books that sell the most in Australia are children’s books (however, they tend to have a lower cover price so the authors may earn less than writers for the general market with a higher price) and tie-ins to movies and TV programs (good luck with that).
Female authors tend to do better with cookbooks and diet books, unless you are Mem Fox or writing romance novels. Andy Griffiths probably sells more books in Australia than any other Australian author but they’re cheaper so Andy may not earn quite as much as Matthew Reilly (I don’t actually know, this is a guesstimate based on reported sales).
If you write a book that can be used in schools, you will have a much better chance at success. Around half of Australia’s reported $2 billion+ publishing industry is for publications in the education sector.
You can view monthly top seller lists at Nielsen BookScan to get an idea of what is selling locally, who is writing them, and the retail price at local book shops.

A screen capture of the "Hot 10" page at nielsenbookscan.com.au
Top 10 selling books in Australia, retrieved 1 August 2014. Source: www.nielsenbookscan.com.au/

So, if Andy, Mem and Matthew are selling (say) 40,000 books each, you can expect to sell 400. If you have an audience or have created an audience, you may sell a print run of 1000. A best seller in Australia is 3000 sales or better.
Let’s say your book will cost between $5000 and $10,000 to produce 1000 copies:

  • $5 to print the book
  • plus up to another $5 per book in editing, proofing, design, typesetting, and other expenses

Of those 1000 copies you may sell 400 for $19.95. So your $5,000 to $10,000 investment will net you $7,980.

However, you could be the author that sells 990 of your 1,000 print run (10 copies for deposit at the National Library of Australia, some sold through marketing, and the copies your mum buys for Christmas presents) and you’ve made between $9750 and $14,750 profit. Start to do that twice a year and you have the beginnings of a new career.

In addition to sales, your book may also be purchased by public libraries and the Public Lending Rights (PLR) scheme may apply. If you strike gold and your education-related book is picked up and used as part of the National Curriculum, then the Education Lending Rights (ELR) may also kick in. These schemes are administered by the Ministry for the Arts, a part of the Australian Attorney General’s Department. Guidelines can be found at the Ministry for the Arts webpage.
Your decision to print should be carefully weighed. On the one hand, you are taking a risk. However, you will control your sales and distribution and, if you are a self-published author all of the money from sales (less your costs) is yours to keep. If you do want to print in Australia, then Griffin Digital can do short runs if you don’t want to commit to more than 500 books.

Digital

Using a digital format to produce your books is a no-brainer. There really isn’t a good reason to not produce a digital version of your book. The difficult part is to decide what formats to publish in and whether you will do it yourself or contract out part or all of the effort. I discussed preparing your digital file in Part 7 of this series.

PDF

A PDF is the easiest, simplest and cheapest form of digital publishing available to you. You can write the book yourself, use an online program to undertake editing or proofing (some are even free to use) and you can then convert your manuscript by printing to PDF in your word processing program.
You then have an ebook that you can give away, send to people who subscribe to your blog or sign up on your website (assuming you are marketing some other product), or upload to a platform such as Scribd. If you give away your book, you can upload to Scribd immediately. If you want to sell it, you will need to go through one of their digital publishing partners:
SmashWordsINscribe DigitalBookBabyDraft2Digial
If you have ecommerce on your website, you can take payment for your book and provide the PDF as a down-loadable file once payment is made.
You can also sell your PDF ebook through platforms such as those used by Scribd or through Vook or IngramSpark.
Conversion and distribution platforms
If you don’t want to convert your Word doc to an ebook version yourself, there are platforms that will do it for you. This is a small selection but they offer some of the largest distribution networks with up to 39,000 outlets around the world.

Popular conversion/distribution platforms

Platform Your share Fees
BookBaby 60% of list = 85% net royalties $0 to $249+, cover design $149 – $279
Booktango 100% of net royalties Free basic package, premium packages from $49 to $349. Booktango is part of AuthorServices, which is a division of Penguin Books.
Draft2Digital 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees but retain 30% for US tax if not from US unless a signed W8-BEN form is lodged (Australia & NZ have tax agreement with US), free ISBN
INscribe Digital ?? “flat fees per title distributed & a small revenue share per title sold”
IngramSpark 40% of list/agency price $25-$49 per eBook plus $12 per title per year – dearest but also can be paired with POD (print on demand); it also distributes to the most outlets
Smashwords 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees, free ISBN
Vook 60% of list = 85% net royalties No fees

Free conversion tools
There are tools that allow you to convert your word processing file to the popular formats for free. They tend to be a bit fiddly but if you have the time and are prepared to be patient, then you can convert your files yourself and upload to the popular stores yourself:

  • Amazon, for Kindle – still the category killer
  • iTunes – Apple’s iBooks are getting more popular
  • Google Play – PDF, ePub or .ASCM (Adobe’s format with DRM)

You will want – as a minimum – a version for Kindle AZW, iTunes (ePub) and Google Play. You may also want versions for Sony LRF, eBook FB2, Microsoft LIT, and TCR (Symbian platforms).

The Calibre open source program can be used for DRM-free (digital rights management-free) books and you can use the free converter at Online Convert to produce most popular formats. Both these sites request donations. Online Convert has a paid premium service as well. Zamzar also converts one ebook format to most others and is a free service.

 

Direct digital services

Amazon – Kindle Direct Services
Amazon really created the ebook market. The Kindle (love it or hate it) is still the best-selling e-reader and some authors make a living through just listing with Amazon. If you choose to publish exclusively with Amazon you will earn higher royalties (70% net instead of 60% or less). Publishing in the Kindle format is complicated (I’ve done it) but Amazon have excellent resources for self publishers.
Apple – iBook Author
If you just want to publish in iTunes and your books need colour images, then I would recommend using iBook Author. It is free but you will need a Macintosh computer. Apple provides excellent resources for the self-publishing author but if you publish directly with Apple you can’t sell your book anywhere else. You can give it away, though. Authoring with the iBook Author is a “drag and drop” experience, particularly if you have multimedia that you want to include.
Apple – Book Creator (for iPad) ($6.49)
If you don’t have a Macintosh computer but still want to publish directly to iTunes, you can use an app on an iPad called Book Creator. It will produce a reasonable book that can be published to the iTunes store and will be available for sale or distribution. It is better for short books such as picture books for children or self-help books (not so much for 52,000 word novels) and you can incorporate both video and audio into your book. More than 5 million books have been published with Book Creator, so it is well worth trying.
Google Play
To publish directly with Google Play you need to create a Google Partner Account. Google accepts PDF and ePub formats and provides a step-by-step process for authors and self-publishers. After establishing your account and sorting how you’d like to be paid and where you’d like to sell your book, you can list your book in Google’s book catalogue, set your price and distribution and then upload the book.

Print On Demand (POD)

Print on demand services enable your books to be listed as “in stock” or “available now” in online stores. There are a lot of POD services out there. I’d recommend you look at three: Lulu, Blurb and IngramSpark.
Lulu
Lulu has been in operation since 2002, which is a long time in the POD space. Lulu lets you set up your account for free. It has a slightly different take on fees. Lulu takes a “base price” deduction from your RRP (the cost of producing the book), as well as a “share”. However, it claims that authors receive more net than if they print with Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Ingram. These three publishers all charge less to produce the book but they have higher distribution fees. While the POD prices for Lulu are reasonable (about $10 a book), in the past shipping was a killer and often left a book costing as much or more than it would cost to print in Australia. However, Lulu now have print facilities in Australia and this is less of a problem.
Blurb
While the Blurb POD book costs more (about $11 to $12 for a 200-page book printing 1000) it allows for much more flexibility than the usual self-publishing service. You create one file and Blurb converts it to PDF, fixed format ebook and POD book. You can sell through Blurb, your own site or Amazon. This is a great platform for photo books, coffee table books, art books or similar. If you want a straight black print on book cream paper, there are cheaper options but perhaps not those that are as easy to use or as flexible.
IngramSpark
While IngramSpark is probably one of the most expensive options it also has the greatest reach. You can produce an ebook and a POD book through Ingram. If you produce your eBook and POD book at the same time, the set up fee is $49, however, if you order 50 books for your first print run the $49 fee is refunded. If you print 50 books of the one title and ship to a single address, the $49 is recredited to your credit card. If you choose IngramSpark, your book (eBook and POD) will be available in 39,000 outlets. That is as good as it gets. What you need to decide is whether you are prepared to put all the “publishing” in the hands of one partner and collect a lower net revenue or whether you want to do more of the leg work and receive a bigger share of your list price.

Personally, I think that it is better to put more of your time into marketing your book than distributing it so my recommendation is to go with IngramSpark.
If you work with a company such as ours, we would put it through the publishers’ equivalent Lightning Source (also owned by Ingram, which is a big US publisher).


Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

“10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author” continues with the importance of the author’s photograph, by Maureen Shelley.
The author photo is the most important piece of your marketing material. We recommend that you use a professional photographer. A professional portrait will range from $150 to $400, depending on the photographer.

What you’ll need:

  • You should ask your photographer to take portrait and landscape photos with a headshot, mid shot and full length.
  • You need to have these with a formal and informal look.  In one, wear a suit jacket and, if appropriate, a tie. The other can be more informal but should still be professional.
  • If you are writing a specialty book such as a cookbook, family memoir, children’s book then you may need different photo choices. You should discuss this with your editor, graphic designer or writing mentor or group.

Can’t afford a professional?

If you haven’t budgeted for a photographer, you can use a digital camera or phone camera to take the shot. Ask someone to take the photo for you or use a tripod. You can improvise a tripod using a flat surface.

Don’t take a selfie but you can use the controls on your headphones to give you a ‘remote’. Remember, to leave about 1.5m to 2m between you and the wall behind you, so that you control the shadows.

Also, if you can use multiple lights (standard lamp, desk lamp on the floor behind you – but out of shot), then do so. The more professional you can make the photo look the better.

Planning is essential

Multiple photo choices gives you more options for your book cover, marketing materials and digital assets such as website and social media pages.

Planning your shoot and thinking about your photograph options can ensure that your book looks like a professional production.

If you’re looking for professional help. In Sydney, we use Toby Zerna Photography, Asterisk Photography or UberPhotography. Any of these studios will produce a great shot at a reasonable price. Mention Red Raven Books and they will look after you.

June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Maureen Shelley continues with Part 3 of “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author” series, on crafting a cover as good as your content.

Although we say “don’t judge a book by its cover” everyone does. That makes the selection of the design for the cover of your book the most important decision you will make – apart from choosing the title.

Front cover design

Graphic Designer: You should definitely budget for a graphic artist to specifically design the cover for your book. Although it will cost you between $250 and $500 it will be the best single investment you make in the creation of your work. Your designer should be able to offer you three choices of design. You will need to tell them what the book is about, who is the audience and what target market you are seeking. Your designer will know what are the current and upcoming trends in book design (yes, book covers have fads and fashions) and the colours that will appeal to your market segment.

Marketplace designs: If you really can’t afford a graphic designer, then consider running a competition on www.99designs.com.au and set a budget for what you can afford. Please don’t be too mean and please provide a reasonable budget for the competition. After all, if you are joining the creative community you need to respect your fellow creatives and provide fair compensation for their efforts.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY): If you really, really can’t afford a designer then you could publish your book through a self-publishing website that offers standard book templates for your cover. This is the least desirable option but still at least gives your book a professional look. Try www.lulu.com or www.blurb.com.au for examples of book packages that can deliver a good quality result and a range of publishing options.

Back cover elements

Testimonials or endorsements: Once you’ve got the front cover design sorted, the back cover is the next important project. It is important to have organised your endorsements from people who have read your manuscript.

The blurb: You also need a good blurb of about 150 words that really encapsulates your book and its aim. Take time and care when writing this and ask someone else to read it for you before submitting it to your designer.

ISBN and barcode: If you are going to print your book, you will need an ISBN and a barcode. In Australia, the site to go to is Thorpe and Bowker at www.thorpe.com.au and they can supply both ISBNs and bar codes. However, if you use a site like Lulu or Blurb your package may include a barcode and ISBN.

The spine

Some people will first see your book as the spine on a bookshelf, so it has to work for you too. Before commissioning your design, study the shelves of your local bookshop and library. See what appeals to you. Look at other books in the same genre as yours – what elements do they include? You will most likely only have room for the title, your name and your publishing imprint logo.
This is where the title of your book has to do the most work, so ensure that your title sums up your book or is engaging or intriguing or all three. The width of your spine will depend on how many pages are in the book. If yours is light on, consider asking your typesetter to increase the spacing or the type size or the margins. A book that might be 60 pages of A4 text can turn to 300 pages in a Trade B paperback if the correct font, spacing and margins are used.
The wider the spine, the brighter the cover colours, the greater the contrast of type to cover, the more eye-catching your book’s spine will be.
June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

The Copy Collective’s resident wordsmith Maureen Shelley begins her new blog series: “10 Simple Steps to becoming a successful published author.

Today she unpacks the curious concept of proof reading.

What is proof reading anyway?
Proof reading is when a manuscript or other written work is submitted for checking of semantics, grammar and typographical errors.

This can be done by a proofreader or editor or, if you can’t afford a human, you can use online programs such as Grammarly. We use Grammarly to check for originality to ensure that work submitted for proofing or editing by us isn’t plagiarised by the writer.

So what are you trying to say? 
What programs such as Grammarly can’t do for you is actually understand what you are trying to say when your subject and object aren’t clear and then to suggest appropriate edits.

If as a writer you can’t even afford Grammarly, then you should at least use the spell checker in your word processing program.

Tips for top-class grammar when using Word:

  • Set the language to your choice first – Australian English, UK English or US English – they will all give slightly different suggestions for spelling of words. Then do a “select all (Control A in Word on a PC) and then F7 for a spell check. Do this repeatedly – you will be amazed at how many errors you find.
  • Turn on recommendations for grammar as well as spelling. It will come up with a few suggestions that you will need to ignore but should find most glaring errors.

June is Author’s Month to celebrate the launch of Red Raven Books. Red Raven Books is the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective. Find out how we can help you today.

Guest Blogger Graeme Innes gives a bird’s eye view from yesterday’s book launch of “Hope in 60 Seconds”, Red Raven Book’s first title in print.

Crows Nest is a great place from which to launch a new bird.  So Northside Community Church in Crows Nest, NSW provided an excellent launch-pad for Pastor Graham Agnew’s first book, Hope In 60 Seconds.
photo-21 photo-5 photo-3
It was fitting that the driving force behind the launch, boosting the book into the stratosphere of sales, was new publishing house Red Raven Books, the imprint arm of The Copy Collective.

When I endorsed Graham Agnew’s (or GA to his friends) book I said:“A super-charged buzz is on every page of Graham Agnew’s Hope is 60 Seconds. The messages throughout this book will renew your hope. I’ve been riveted by his sermons, loved his radio messages, and his book will make a permanent appearance in my daily reading.”

In launching the book, world-renowned author and speaker Michael McQueencommented the book contains 100 stories each with that vital ingredient of hope. He smilingly encouraged those at the launch to buy and read the book, as one of the stories could be about them.

I met a man walking away from the launch with five copies of the book in his hands.  In response to my question about his bulk purchase, he said “I’ve bought five of these books to give to five kids.  If one kid reads one story in the book, and it changes their life, it will be $100 well spent.”

Hope in 60 Seconds can be obtained in print through Graham Agnew’s website: grahamagnew.com. It will also be available as an E-book in July 2014.

June is authors month at The Copy Collective. We will profile new titles published by Red Raven Books; the publishing and imprint arm of The Copy Collective.

 

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