community, self-publishing, writing

So, You Want to Be an Indie Author…


You do? Huh, what’s wrong with you? Completely kidding. Total snark. Yes, come back here! Considering that I’ve successfully made it through my first year as a self-published author, I think a post with some advice for those hoping to enter this field is appropriate. And, really, you can approach me on Twitter or something, too, I swear I don’t bite. (Seriously, not ever, because I don’t like close physical contact with people I don’t know, and I am terrified of the zombie virus.)

First — welcome! Go, you! You’ll find we’re generally a very friendly community, and we support each other. Through Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, you should be able to pretty quickly find some other authors who write/publish in your genre, and are more than willing to connect. (In fact, most of us don’t bite.) The readers’ base for indie works is growing, too, so reaching out to people who you hope to interest in reading (yes, even purchasing) your work one day is also important to networking and making new acquaintances.


Next, here are my major tips for new self-publishers:

1. Do your research.

Not for social media connections or marketing platforms. Yes, do that, too. But in this instance, I’m talking specifically about your book. Is it fiction, or nonfiction? Which age group are you aiming it at (little kids, elementary school, teens, or adults)? What’s your setting (century, real or invented)? Whether you’re writing about real people or characters you made up yourself, you need to have the details of their lives right. Take into consideration slang of the era, the technology, religion, education level, industries, hobbies, cooking, fashion — all of it (even in a fantasy or sci-fi setting!) makes a BIG difference in whether your book really comes alive to readers.

2. Do the other kind of research.

For the marketing stuff. What’s your genre? Check out what other indies in that same genre have recently released. And do not compare yourselves to them. Do not even go there. Be looking for what readers said they liked — for example, do praise for worldbuilding and character growth seem to be major factors in garnering high-star reviews? Listen to them. Use this to your advantage. If an indie author has a big following (say, 5,000 people subscribe to their newsletter), check their site for anything they may have posted about how they developed their winning formula/strategy.

3. Don’t quit your day job.

Sorry, guys, but selling (realistically) a few dozen to a few hundred copies of your work a year won’t pay all the bills. A lot of self-published authors are also teachers, professors, librarians, college students, graphic designers, etc. (And if any of these occupations seem a bit cliche, hey, it happens to be the truth — most writers are people who have a good grasp of language, the entertainment culture, and creative endeavors.)


4. Be informed of what trends, topics, and genres are currently hot in traditional publishing.

Not just so that you know what to avoid. Being informed is important so that you can decide what you want your own work to reflect. Are there particular tropes in your genre that you really want to turn inside out? Certain authors of the past (or present) that you’d like to pay homage to? Is there a movement or cultural discussion going on right now that you actually want to be part of? For example, as an autistic adult, I belong to a Twitter movement called #ActuallyAutistic, since too many of the books being published with “autism rep” are in fact authored by non-autism-affected individuals.

5. Time is not your friend.

It will not just hand over an extra 4 hours each day to you and you alone. Real life does not stop just because you are writing a book. Beating time into submission and making it your slave is vital. Carve out space in your schedule for writing, research, editing, proofreading, and marketing. Take plenty of breaks. On a daily basis, eat, sleep, exercise, be face-to-face with your family. An awesome perk of being an indie author is the ability to set your own deadlines.

6. Learn about creative writing.

There are many ways to do this. Read books by editors or successful writers (in this case, yes, I do mean lots of sales), watch podcasts, join a group at your local library or on Goodreads. This covers everything from flushing out characters to make them feel more real or writing dialogue that doesn’t read like a 1950s laundry detergent commercial, to tips on hosting giveaways of your new release and not spamming your Twitter feed with “buy my book or my dog will eat your comfy slippers.”


7. Interact with your readers. 

After all, without them, whether you’re just posting on Wattpad or Tumblr, or you’re actually printing or releasing digital copies and hoping to get paid, you don’t have much going. Writing is meant to be read. So reply to their comments, thank them for their support, respond to their questions about your future plans for the series/next title.

8. Choose your platforms. 

This should probably come earlier in this list, actually. If social media seems terrifying, DON’T DO IT. Yes, it’s a big part of marketing, but you are not required to have an account on every single site under the sun. I limit myself to Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I find Goodreads to be especially kind to indies, as they give your books all the stuff trad authors have — the ability for readers to star rate, review, interact with you, share with each other. And it’s free to join.

9. Carefully select your printer/distribution center. 

I tried to work with Amazon, and just creating an account for self-publishing made my head want to explode. I did not find their system helpful or not confusing. Plus I heard they weren’t paying indies as much as they really should be. So, to start with, I found a local printing press that does individually copyrighted books, and for a reasonable cost, they formatted, proofed, put together the cover design, and printed 100 copies of the first edition of Masters and Beginners. It got my baby out into the world, and I was very happy.

The reason I decided to switch to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press was because the price of shipping all my orders myself became a bit rough on the wallet, and on the socially anxious part of me. (I was becoming slightly paranoid that the post office clerks rolled their eyes every time they saw me walk in the lobby.)

Barnes & Noble has been awesome in helping me through formatting or account concerns, I find their uploading/proofing software very simple to use, and they do the shipping for me.

10. Have fun. 

Writing is also meant to be fun for the writer. Yes, publishing is work. But if it ever becomes a hassle or feels like a struggle, take a step back and remember why you’re trying to craft those words. Recently, I read in a review of Rulers and Mages that the ending was “slightly evil and hurt my heart (in the best way)”. That’s why I do this, folks.


community, writing

To NaNo or Not to NaNo?: That is the Question

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Yes, it really is. Because although, yes, NaNoWriMo did finish in November, Camp NaNo starts in April, and let’s face it, that is a mere 75 days away! Now, before you all want to hit me for reminding you of how fleeting time is (and how fragile that makes you feel as a human being, and a bookdragon), I would like to point out that I am not the one who came up with the idea of writing the entire first draft of a novel within a month.

In 2016, I participated in the contest that runs from November 1st to November 30th for the first time, and I reached the goal of 50,000 words on November 28th. (In fact, it was 51,000 words and some change.) I was feeling pretty darn proud of myself, when I clicked on the “winner’s circle” link on the website to see what I’d won. Since I knew NaNoWriMo is supported by donations, and there’s no fee for writers to enter, I wasn’t expecting much — maybe a few sacks of free pens and notebooks and paperback editions of the latest Nora Roberts or something. However, it really brought me down to discover that NaNo winners have to pay for everything offered in the package — editing and writing software, subscription boxes, even the t-shirt that says “I won NaNo.”

Yup, you read that right. Pay for what you “won.” Not full price, though — you get, like, a 40% discount. That’s apparently how they justify making you bust your behind for 30 days and feeling like hell at the end of it for nothing except street cred and bragging rights.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but this system seems tremendously unfair. After all, when I am told there are “prizes,” I hear that as “free after completing said criteria.” For example, when you enter a giveaway on a blog, and the requirement is: a) put a comment on this post, b) tweet about this post, and c) if you win, you get a free copy of the new Maggie Stiefvater. Just what it says on the tin.

So, given that I had just put myself through a month of blood, sweat and tears (in some cases very literally), evidently for nothing other than the chance to plaster it all over Twitter, it made me rather discouraged.

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It also made me seriously reconsider the idea of signing up for Camp NaNo, or regular NaNo, in 2017. Although I did participate in Camp NaNo in April, I was not at all satisfied with the end result, and ended up making a lot of major changes to what was supposed to be a final draft. What was my downfall? I truly believe the strict time factor. Having only 30 days to attempt a full-length piece of fiction is just not realistic, relieving, or creatively-inspiring.

We’ve all heard there are writers who “work best under pressure.” I don’t buy this for a second. Consider, instead, the very wise words of Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines — I love the sound they make as they go whooshing past.” As with any creative occupation, writing is an individual process, the completion of which pertains to the particular requirements of that specific work. Yes, there are benefits to setting a time frame and sticking to it. But too many times (especially for indie authors, or indie photographers, artists, unpaid bloggers and reviewers), this just is not how life will go.

In the past two years, I’ve seen many people start NaNo, finish it, not finish it, decide to quit, feel pressured to quit, feel pressured to finish. When we have to pay for the t-shirt, for the love of pete, is all of this anxiety and stress really necessary?

Yes, a lot of former NaNo winners have gone to receive publishing contracts, or become indie authors. But NaNo is not our only route to this end. Plenty of literary agencies accept submissions from people who’ve never even heard of the contest. When you open a self-publishing account on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, there isn’t a question, “Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?”

So, although I have plenty of time to reconsider, here’s why I’m actively talking myself out of getting involved in NaNo in any capacity in 2018:

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It is very time consuming. I can’t stress this point enough. November is a busy month, as it includes the start of holiday shopping, Thanksgiving, and usually a lot of school stuff, like mid-term progress reports and special ed meetings. Attempting to write 1700 words a day on top of just living becomes way too hard. (Again, for what reason?)

Quality over quantity. Yes, a first draft completed in a month is going to be chock full of typos, plot holes (big enough to drive a Mack truck through), misspelled characters’ names, and whole sentences that don’t really make any sense. But for those of us — like me — who prefer to write slower to begin with, so that there are less mistakes to fix later, the pressure to get those numbers up becomes a chore. Aren’t we supposed to be creating a labor of love here, not just a labor?

There are other things to life than writing. Yes, this is true, I swear it. Those of us who write as more than a hobby feel the very real pressure of making time for perfecting our craft around family commitments, other jobs or pursuits, and the occasional emergency or unforeseen occurrence. And, I promise, the world will not end if you can’t get that WIP done the same week as grocery shopping/the family portrait for the Christmas card/the cat’s trip to the vet. No one will think any less of you for saying you can’t do NaNo because, reasons. (And if they do, that’s their problem, not yours at all.)

Are there good things about NaNo? Yeah. It encourages self-discipline, and the freedom of not being a perfectionist, and achieving the hard first step of getting that new WIP underway.

But taking into account that the rewards are not quite worth the cost (at least in my view), I think I’m going to opt out from now on.

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blogging, community

The Sunshine Blogger Award!

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Good morning! Happy last post of the year before we finish the holiday week! What better way to focus on the bright spots than to indulge in the Sunshine Blogger Award, courtesy of The Orangutan Librarian!


There will be no “one” answers in this post. It is not fair to make me choose.

Definitely my sons. And the cat. (Yes, he’s a person, shush.)


Definitely happy, but there can be sad moments and I won’t get upset. I do not do the silliness of “everybody dies and everything is terrible, the end.” Nu-uh, sir.


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Asian in general, but especially sushi and noodle soup!


Definitely the wonderful people who regularly swing by to show their support and share their thoughts with such kindness!


Hmmm…probably that rare, mythical day when I don’t have any responsibilities or children to take care of, and I get to just go to the mall by myself and sip chai latte and wander around, oogling over products I can’t afford.


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Hmmm…this is a tall order for a Vulcan… I don’t give up easily. I keep pushing through, even when things get a bit bleak. I hate to be defeated.


Certainly the way you all rally around each other, and are there when things get tough!


Again, there is no such thing as “one.” Warriors, basically all of The Prophecies Begin, because of Yellowfang’s saltiness and her big heart, and book 2 in The New Prophecy had so many uplifting moments that just put a big grin on my face. More recently, Finding Audrey and Girl Online gave me lots of laughs. And in Kyle Robert Shultz’s Beaumont and Beasley series, whenever Malcolm Blackfire shows up, I will simply sit there with a massive stupid grin through that scene.

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When the sun hits at a certain angle (usually mid-afternoon), and it falls just right through the trees, and in late spring through early fall it has that real golden sheen… Yeah, when that’s on my writing desk, I am very content.


Pink, purple, blue, yellow, and silver. (See? Just one is impossible.)


What did I just say… The film version of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline (even with its creepy moments), Doctor Who (even with all the tears), and Lord of the Rings (yes, even with all the crying!). And there are scenes in Blade Runner and The Last Unicorn that are just absolutely beautiful storytelling.

All right, I’ll break with the tradition of not nominating anyone! Kyle Robert Shultz, Paper Fury, SM Metzler, Deborah O’Carroll, and Jameson @ Lovely Whatsoevers, you’re up! (And whoever else would like to do this!)

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community, reading

The Woes of the Self-Published Moth…

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Okay, so I bring you further updated announcements on more news of stuff. My copy of Rulers and Mages arrived the other day, and as I was glancing through it, I saw a fair number of minor typos. (I completely blame my family for not leaving me alone to work enough in October and November.) Most of them are easily overlooked, but one or two were, I felt, not acceptable. This bothers me. At first, it was just a little. But by this morning, it had become a lot.

So, I’ve gone through my proofs and made certain corrections that I feel were quite necessary. This action means that I’ve had to temporarily take the book off sale while the corrections are processed. It should be back on sale by the 14th.

If you’ve already ordered a copy, thank you so much for your patronage. If the typos bother you, please let me know, I’m more than happy to arrange for a new paperback to be sent your way (at no additional charge to yourself). If you notice the typos and don’t care, thank you so much for your understanding.

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This also means a couple of other changes: I was planning on making the next book club meeting be for Rulers and Mages, but now that readers won’t be able to obtain it sooner, I’ll push that back to February, and January’s book club will be for Dreamings and Muses.

And I now have 3 copies of Volume 2 with mistakes in. Big sigh. If anybody who’s already read Masters and Beginners wants a review copy (hey, look at me finding the positive spin in all this), let me know! (First come, first served, by the way, everybody.)

I am still giving away one e-copy of Volume 2 (with typos fixed), to one lucky winner. Time for that is running out fast (I’ll announce it by the middle of this week), so throw your name in the hat now if you’re interested!

Again, I’m sorry for the delays in ordering this might cause for some of you, and thank you all so much for your continued support.

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Autism, community

The Time To Stay Silent Has Passed

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Okay, it may make me physically sick to have to write this post, but I do have to.

Yesterday it came to my attention that there’s a non-fiction book, being peddled as an “autism mom memoir” entitled “To Siri With Love,” by a barely human person called Judith Newman. She has an autistic son, and relates throughout the entire book how she sees him as inferior, not a whole being, and actually blatantly says she believes so strongly he shouldn’t have children of his own that she plans to have him forcibly sterilized when he’s 18.

Bucket, anyone, bucket? Yeah, I should’ve offered to hand them out before you started reading.

So, after getting this initial shock to the system, I went on Goodreads, and found that plenty of people (most of them autistic or with ASD relatives) are up in arms (thank God) about this farce of a publication, and are actively boycotting it.

Sadly — horribly — unimaginably — there are also plenty of 4-star reviews, and this book is on the bestseller lists in some countries.

That’s right — in this supposed “advanced” era of “humanity,” we actually live in a world where people support the view that someone with a neurological condition that makes him or her “different” or “limited” does not deserve control over their own lives, reproductive rights, and major personal decisions.

Second round of passing out buckets going on now…

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…And I’ll hand out ear plugs before I begin my absolutely justified rant.



If you need any further proof that this point of view is utterly evil: The Nazis ran programs in the concentration camps to forcibly sterilize those with physical and mental disabilities.

Okay. *clears throat and dries eyes* Time to get our warrior outfits on.

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Don’t stay silent. Stand up for your autistic family, friends, and online contacts. Even if you don’t know anyone on the spectrum, stand up for the justice of letting us live our lives.

For those of you on Twitter, the hashtag is #BoycottToSiri. Otherwise, talk up this subject on Facebook, Goodreads, WordPress and Blogspot. Don’t let people think this title is acceptable to purchase. Write the publisher and holler. Write to Congress and yell.

I have also joined the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic, which encourages autistic writers to share their voices — whether their work features ASD or not, and whatever genre, style, or age group we write for — and you can spread the word that way, too.

The autistic community — MY community — needs your support. We ARE your classmates, neighbors, cousins, co-workers, online contacts.

We can’t combat fear and hate all by ourselves. We don’t want to feel alone anymore.

We DESERVE better.

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blogging, community

Please Pardon Me If I Don’t Follow You Back

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This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

There’s this thing called “community.” It used to mean your neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers. Now it includes your contacts on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress.

As we venture forth online and build virtual communities — which then turn into very real communities — there are guidelines that develop regarding stuff like manners. One of these ideas is that when someone is nice enough to follow your site/handle/content, you should do the same for them, or at least pay their pages a few visits.

Now, in a lot of ways, I am one hundred percent behind this. I’ve met some wonderful people by doing so. However, lately, I kind of suck at visiting other people’s sites.

It isn’t intentionally mean-spirited. I’m not jealous if somebody else has 787,923 more subscribers than me. It’s not that I don’t support others’ endeavors.

No, there are very good reasons for me sliding into the woodwork of social media.

Number one: I AM BUSY. Yes, we’re all busy — we all have families/jobs/holidays coming up. But I am extra busy writing and publishing my own novels, doing all the marketing for these titles myself, and making sure my cat doesn’t destroy the world if his food dish is empty.

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Number two: I have autism, and this means that time management and I have an ongoing rivalry. (Spoiler: Time usually wins.) I swear, I sit down at 8 a.m. to craft a blog post, and within 16 seconds, it’s noon, and the universe has had a good laugh at my expense. And there are still two loads of laundry to fold and put away, children to feed, library materials to return, and — worst of all — my tea has gone cold in the intervening period.

This definitely leaves a lot less wiggle room for reading 10 new blogs and scrolling through 35 follow suggestions on Twitter.

Number three: I am TIRED. All of this makes for a potentially hectic schedule as it is, and I am only human (sorry, no, it’s true) and I simply don’t have the capability to stay awake for 18 hours straight. Not even to check out somebody’s truly awesome reviews on Rick Riordan’s new series, or photos of their trip to Ireland.

I need to SLEEP. I need to RELAX. So that I can keep being amazing myself, and continue writing what will undoubtedly be the biggest bestselling fantasy YA series of the 21st century.

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Number four: Now that I have added so much more to my life via self-publishing, something else has to go.

If you used to see me on your blog a lot, and suddenly realize it’s been a while, this is most likely why.

There are still many websites I have bookmarked or return to visit now and then — except my presence may remain anonymous, due to the fact I often have about 12 nanoseconds to do this, and then get back to editing/marketing/updating my own stuff.

If you do visit my sites (and please do, because I live to bring enlightening and enjoyable posts to your inbox/feed) and interact (leave a comment, retweet, etc.), I will make the effort to respond in some fashion.

I completely appreciate what the online world has done for bolstering my sales, my little fan base, and my confidence. So I won’t be one of those totally silent bloggers.

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Number five: I’ve had to make some decisions about what I’ll be focusing on.

This means that my once-ideas of expanding my content to Tumblr or Blogspot, Instagram or Pinterest, are now moot. Dust in the wind. Kaput. They needed to be. If I spread myself too thin, I will quickly transform into a puddle of molten tears and burning hopes. Trust me, it ain’t worth it.

I cannot be everywhere at once, and I am okay with that.

It means I’ll put more effort into maintaining and growing my current platform.

And if our online paths don’t actually cross, though they may come very close, I want you to know that I wholeheartedly support your blogging/writing/taking photos/filming videos. You’re creative, you’re cool, you’re making a difference in somebody’s life.

Keep it up.

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books, community, writing

The Invisible Moth Self-Publishes: The Hows and The Whys

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Hello all! So, I’ve had a request to create a post on why I use the publisher/distributor I do. (And really, it’s part of a much bigger, more involved discussion, that I’ve been wanting to go into at some point, anyway.)

Also, I promised myself recently that I’d use more Supernatural gifs in my postings. (You’re welcome.)

So, when I first started on this journey… It was December 2016, I’d just won NaNo, and I wanted to take that leap and self-publish. Hopefully get some sales. After I finished dying from nerves, I began investigating the possible routes for doing this.

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I looked into, and got CONFUSED. There was too much fine print, too much I didn’t understand about the software CreateSpace uses, too much regarding the process of editing and formatting that made my head become way too ouchy.

So, shedding a fair amount of tears, I began Googling alternatives. Turns out a lot of small companies (at least in America) that print your wedding invitations/vacation scrapbook pages/independent business cards are also getting into self-publishing. (Especially for people who aren’t sure about entering the sellers’ market, and may only want to print 50 copies of their passion project for family and friends.)

Anyway, I found a local printer that has connected with Amazon and offers you the chance to buy an ISBN, and will provide copies of your book to Amazon for sale on the website, if you wish. Or they’ll just print however many copies you want to pay for, and then you can do what you want with them.

Given the intimidating process (to me) of working with Amazon directly, this sounded freaking amazing.

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As of spring 2017, I was finished with the proofreading, and deemed my document ready to print. (There were a few minor things I really wanted to make 110% perfect, but honestly, it wasn’t worth getting all wigged out about.)

At the time, I didn’t have the money to obtain an ISBN. (It’s why the first edition of Masters and Beginners — with the Toby cover — doesn’t have one.) But this little local storefront was SO helpful in terms of formatting, being patient as I proofed, designing the cover, answering my many questions, and not getting ticked off that it took me a couple of months to feel satisfied. They were awesome for a first-time indie author on a steep learning curve, and I am immensely grateful for that.

Now, the only downside of choosing this method was that I had to pay upfront for printing. And then if I sold books to, say, readers of my blog who live far, far away from me, I had to pay for shipping myself.

While, of course, I LOVE my readers, and was happy to make sure they received their orders, it made my initial earnings quickly dwindle.

So, as I was drafting Volume 2, and losing my mind a bit over the idea of further expenses, I wanted to find a more affordable way.

But I did NOT want to go through Amazon.

As I’ve come to meet other indie authors and hopefuls, I’ve been part of a lot of talk about the pros and cons of doing this yourself. One of the major cons seems to be (interestingly) The consensus is apparently: When Amazon works well, it’s great. But if it messes up, wow, is it a mess.

Every time I Googled “self-publishing,” Amazon immediately came up. Gah.

Then, one day, when I was placing a pre-order for White Fang on Barnes & Noble, I saw an advertisement for Nook Press print services.

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I thought Nook Press was only e-books. Personally, I don’t have anything against e-books, but I prefer to have the hardcopy option (as I am a traditionalist in this regard, and nothing beats a physical novel in your hand, turning the pages, sniffing the ink….).

I digress. At some point, Nook expanded and now includes hardcopy as well as digital.

*happy dance moment*

Barnes & Noble has a reputation for good customer service, encouraging indie authors, and will provide you with an ISBN free of additional charge.

My experience with Nook Press has been thus:

Their formatting software is very straightforward, with plenty of tutorials and tips. If you get stuck on something, contact the support department, and they’ll get back to you within 48 hours.

They charge a commission upfront for printing and shipping, so your royalties are based on what’s left after that. You get to decide how much to sell your book for. After submitting your final proofs and cover, your finished product should be ready to go within 4 days.

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In the interest of keeping costs down, I choose paperback, but through Nook Press you can have your title created in hard cover if you so desire.

Your publication will have its own spot on the Barnes & Noble website, and online customers can purchase it just like anything else the store offers. (You don’t need an account to order; guest checkout works well, too.)

Your friends and readers can post reviews on B&, singing the praises of your work. (I believe there is a word limit, so just keep that in mind.)

Compare this to the most recent grouch I saw about Amazon — that if you’re friends with an indie author on Amazon, they may take down your review “because it is more likely to be biased.”

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Yes, this came from an actual Tweet I saw yesterday. The Tweeter in question prompted me to make this post.

This is one of many reasons I decided not to use Amazon.

I am very happy with the choice I made to self-publish through Barnes & Noble.

I greatly support brick-and-mortar bookstores in an era when so much is digital or available with the click of a mouse. Although my titles are only obtained through a website purchase, I totally love that Barnes & Noble has real, tangible buildings that writers and readers can walk into, pick up a paperback or hard cover, turn the pages and sniff the ink.

I encourage others who are considering getting into indie publishing to select Nook Press.

(If you do use Amazon and are content with that, rock on.)

These are just my (requested) reflections.

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