Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

New digital self-publishing explodes options for all writers

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The new digital self-publishing world we’re moving into explodes the options available for all writers. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, short stories, short articles, or gigantic novels — the possibilities are growing for you to self-publish successfully. We owe these tantalizing writing and publishing options first of all to the lowly “PDF” ebook file of yesteryear, and most recently to Amazon.com’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

My friends will tell you that I am frequently wandering somewhere on the Information Super Highway’s obscure on- and off-ramps, having a tendency to not pick up quickly enough on changes in our high-tech age. By the time I bought my first good desktop computer, most writers were already moving to laptops. When I finally got a good laptop, the savvy word scribes had already moved to netbooks. Last year’s netbook, which I still love and use frequently, has given way for those who are on the cutting edge of technology to iPads and smartphones.

Ah, well. My trusty letters-wearing-off-of-the-keys Toshiba laptop and my faithful but slow Lenovo netbook are still plenty fine. (Dean Koontz, according to a recent interview piece I saw on “CBS Sunday Morning,” still uses a desktop with the gigantic old-fashioned monitor. He appeared to be writing his gillions of annual words in WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS — any of you remember that oldie but goodie??) But what I’m learning these days about the actual format and venues of ebook publishing have changed my thinking about ebooks themselves: The old reliable PDF files seem to be heading off into the sunset, giving way to a new day of digital self-publishing technology with names like “Kindle,” “Nook,” “mobi,” “ePub,” and other newcomers.

That’s a good thing, because these new formats have made a wide open market for any writer with some good content and a little time to learn the ropes — and most of that digital publishing can be done almost for free.

My last article posted here spoke about some free ebook resources for writers, one of which was a Kindle ebook with lots of information and how-to guidelines for writers who want to self-publish through a site called “Smashwords.” I hope you downloaded that ebook (assuming you have access to a Kindle or Amazon.com’s free Kindle reader software for computers) and found the information useful. You will find it especially useful if you’re interested in digital self-publishing, and particularly if you go to Smashwords and look over the possibilities they have to offer.

Smashwords is a no-brainer as far as I can see. I haven’t fully looked the site over yet and I have not yet signed up for my own account, but I have been looking through their “How-to” and “About” pages. If you’ve got a book ready, or you are in the process of writing a book, unless you already have a serious nibble or a book contract offer with a traditional publisher — why wouldn’t you self-publish on Smashwords? And if you’ve looked the site over and still don’t feel comfortable with the self-publishing idea, you can download samples of authors who have published their books at Smashwords and made them available for sale there.

In keeping with my new enthusiasm — and I hope your growing enthusiasm — for self-publishing, I want to alert you to another excellent resource for writers who are interested in everything related to self-publishing, traditional as well as digital. That would be “Dan Poynter’s ParaPublishing” website. I first found out about Dan Poynter way back in the Dark Ages, I suppose somewhere around 1976-80. (Yes, for those of you out there who are not among the Raging Aging Crowd, self-publishing book publishing really has been around that long. Actually much longer.) Poynter was one of the first seriously successful self-published book writers in the “modern era.” He may have been the first to succeed in a big way while alerting us all to the difference between legitimate self-publishing and the less useful “subsidy” or “vanity” publishing. Go to his website linked above, or if you wish you can quickly subscribe to his free email newsletter here. (Yes I know I said disparaging things about PDF files, but his monthly newsletter comes in that format. It’s still well worth getting and reading “cover to cover.”)

I hope you’ll give a careful look at these digital self-publishing options if you’re a writer and you have content completed that you’re trying to get published. My biggest problem, personally, is that I have to spend more time writing publishable content and less time working on blogs and other websites if I am to take advantage of these terrific options.

Which brings me to the subject of my next article: The “big guns” in digital self-publishing. If you own a Kindle or Nook, you already know who I’m talking about. But stay tuned for more. I’ll try to have my article about all that written in a day or two. Come back and see.

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