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Self-Publishing and Writing Resources: An Annotated Bibliography

11 Dec

© Joanna Conrad 2015

Introduction

I work in a public library with a thriving writing segment among the patron community. The library caters to these writers, not only by providing books on the subject of writing and publishing, but by offering recurring programs, including a yearly author fair, a writing critique group that meets twice a month, and providing a space for patrons to work on their novels during National Novel Writing Month. Books on writing circulate very well. And with this bibliography, I hope to provide additional resources, beyond what’s available in the collection, to support writers in their endeavors. Ideally, this resource is best suited to amateur writers wishing to make their first steps toward publishing and becoming professional authors.

As such, I have tried to focus on resources that provide the most practical advice on self-publishing, specifically, and to a lesser extent on writing and publishing in general, in a wide variety of formats. Though most are online resources, different types are included, from self-contained writing and publishing guides, to the websites of relevant professional organizations, a selection of publishing technical platforms, writing communities, podcasts, and writing software and apps. For the purposes of this bibliography, terms are defined as in the glossary.

The resources included were found mainly via Google search for relevant terms. I began simply with “self-publishing.” This returned a great number of general articles, not ideally suited to my purpose. However, many of them included internal links to resources I’ve included, and gave me insight to additional search terms. The first professional organization I happened across was so ideally suitable, it led me to consider searching for other professional associations. Likewise, mention of a writer’s message-board prompted me to search for others. Evaluating resources proved somewhat difficult in some cases. For example, balancing the commercial interests of a resource with the information provided was sometimes difficult to do. Additionally, I’ve not read any of the books included, and needed to rely on subject matter and third-party reviews to determine relevance.

Glossary of Terms

♣ –  Exceptional Sources
Associations – Professional organizations for writers and/or publishers.
Guides – Websites and blogs that attempt to address all aspects of their given topics.
Platforms – Infrastructure required for creating, publishing, distributing, and marketing works. Often tailored to specific devices or formats.
Podcasts – Audio productions relating to writing and/or publishing.
Writing Communities – Forums and message boards for writers and publishers to share information and network.

Annotated Bibliography

Articles

HPMG News. (2015). Self publishing. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/self-publishing/

This subcategory page of the Books section of the Huffington Post online news journal lists and provides links to all the site’s articles tagged as relating to self-publishing. Although it includes reviews of self-published books and interviews that focus more on content than process, the majority of articles provide insight and advice on how and how not to publish your work. The sheer number of authors, publishers, and journalists represented — the list of tagged articles goes on for at least twenty pages — guarantees there will be articles of questionable quality and authority included. However, each article-writer’s profile is linked to the byline, making it easy to evaluate authority. This source is best suited to those seeking general reading on the subject of self-publishing offered from a wide variety of perspectives.

Rooney, M. (Ed.). (2014). The Independent Publishing Magazine. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.theindependentpublishingmagazine.com

This online periodical offers news, advice, and community forums to authors and independent publishers. Articles are divided into categories of self-publishing, traditional publishing, marketing, and author resources. These author resources include subcategories for those “new to publishing,” and “helpful websites.” A publishing service is also available. Created by a writer with 30 years’ experience and ten books published, the periodical has been serving writers for seven years, and was also named one of the 101 best resources for writers by Writer’s Digest.

Associations

Backspace. (2012). Backspace. Retrieved October 28, 2015 from http://bksp.org/

This website is the online presence of the writer’s professional organization known as Backspace. In addition to providing supportive information to writers, the organization hosts a writing conference, runs an online forum, and archives recorded presentations from past conferences. Most of these resources require membership to access, however, the sole free content being a selection of articles. As for authority, the organization claims many famous authors as members, including “several dozen New York Times bestselling authors,” and implies that they participate in educating fellow writers. It is impossible to verify the accuracy of this implication without first purchasing a membership. If true, the forum would be a valuable resource for any aspiring author. Although focused more on traditional publishing than self-publishing, direct access to professionals in the forum would provide significant first-hand experience.

♣Editorial Freelancer’s Association (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015 from http://www.the-efa.org/

This website is the online presence of the Editorial Freelancer’s Association. It offers resources for not only editors, proofreaders, and desktop publishers, but for those who would employ them. Included is a chart of common rates for editing, layout, fact-checking, proof-reading, researching, web-design, ghost-writing and more, along with sample contracts for hiring freelancers. Professionals can be found by browsing the member directory, or posting a request to the job board. Viewing the job board requires a membership. The organization offers professional publications for sale on the technical details of formatting and publishing books, or starting a freelance business. The EFA is non-profit, with only one paid employee. Members and contributors are all working professionals, making this resource highly authoritative. The EFA should be at the top of the self-publisher’s resource list, as it provides direct access to the services recommended by many of the other references in this bibliography.

Independent Book Publishers Association (2015). Retrieved October 9, 2015 from http://www.ibpa-online.org/

The website belonging to the non-profit publishing trade organization, the Independent Book Publishers Association, provides support, guidance, and education to members and to a lesser degree, to non-members. The site includes many instructional articles, back-issues of the organization’s newsletter, and full-text of 90% of the articles published in its trade publication. For members, there is an OpenLearning online education environment, containing webinars and tutorials on publishing. As a trade organization, the information provided can be trusted to address the needs of professional writers. Because the organization relies on membership for funding, the content remains unencumbered by the need to attract advertisers. However, this reliance on memberships limits the amount of information that is available to non-members without a fee. This resource focuses heavily on educating writers on the technical aspects of publishing beyond simply creating the book, through online courses and real-time conferences. The website also connects writers with providers of additional services related to publishing, such as distributors, wholesalers, marketers, and designers.

The Mystery Writers of America (2015) Retrieved October 28, 2015 from http://mysterywriters.org/

This website is the online presence of the Mystery Writers of America. While the “MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing,” it also seeks to “make writers and readers aware of matters which may affect crime writing through legislation, publishing industry practices, judicial decisions, or in other ways.” For non-members, the association offers an approved publishers list, a scholarship, and a “first crime novel” contest, open only to non-published writers. Membership grants participation in several email lists, access to databases of libraries and bookstores interested in hosting speakers, invitation to the annual Agents and Editors party, discounts on professional publications, a day-long mystery writer’s workshop, a national mentor program, and a manuscript critique program. However, membership is further broken down between authors who have and have not been professionally published, with published authors being granted further benefits not available to unpublished authors, despite having paid the same fee. As a professional association, this resource is highly authoritative, if somewhat biased toward professional publication. It is included here because of the quality resources it provides relating not only to the writing of mystery and crime novels, but also to the business end of writing and publishing.

Publisher’s Marketplace (2015) Retrieved October 28, 2015 from http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/

This website describes itself as the “biggest and best dedicated marketplace for publishing professionals to find critical information and unique databases, find each other, and to do business better electronically.” It is a companion organization to the “Publisher’s Lunch,” a professional publication for the publishing industry. Non-members have access to the “Bookateria,” containing announcements of award winning books, “best-of” lists, bookseller picks, and latest releases; the “Buzz Books” publication containing excerpts of about 30 new releases produced twice a year; a publishing industry job board; and the ability to browse member lists, rights postings, and deal announcements. Members get access to databases containing contact information for “thousands of agents, editors, and more,” as well as those professionals’ deal histories, representation records, and sales results. Members also receive their own professional profile webpage within the site. As a professional organization, this source is highly authoritative, especially in light of the extensive statistical information compiled from many different member organizations. It is included here for the insider’s view to the industry it can provide to writers seeking publication.

Romance Writers of America (2015) Retrieved October 28, 2015 from https://www.rwa.org/

This website is the online presence of the professional association for writers of the romance genre, the Romance Writers of America. It offers members advocacy, education and professional publications. As members must prove they are “actively” pursuing a romance-writing career, it can be presumed the resource is authoritative. However, there is very little available for non-members, and is included here only for its genre-specific focus.

♣Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (2015) Retrieved October 28, 2015 from http://www.sfwa.org/

This website is the online presence of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a professional association offering its members advocacy and education. Some its resources for members include book promotion, a Kindle contract committee to help members resolve contract disputes, and an emergency medical fund. However, it also provides writers several benefits that do not require membership. First is its “Information Center” which provides hundreds of categorized articles on subjects ranging from Writing Tips to Copyright Education, from Manuscript Preparation to Networking and Self-Promotion. The next most valuable resource offered to non-members is the Amazon Kindle Contract Review and Annotation. This is an annotation of the Kindle contract and a discussion by the SFWA Contract Committee of the issues raised by the contract. Highly authoritative, the Kindle Contract Review and Annotation alone makes this resource extremely valuable to authors just beginning to self-publish.

Books

Brewer, R. (Ed.). (2014). 2014 writer’s market. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://evergreen.lib.in.us/eg/opac/record/20094628?query=writer’s digest;qtype=keyword;contains=contains;bool=and;locg=83;_adv=1

This book lists contact information for literary agents, publishers, magazines, contests, and awards. Submission guidelines are provided for each contact as well. This book is an industry authority and a vital resource for any author seeking publication.

Sambuchino, C. (2009). Formatting & submitting your manuscript. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://evergreen.lib.in.us/eg/opac/record/19995563?query=formatting and submitting ;qtype=keyword;locg=83;_adv=1;page=0

This book provides formatting guidelines for various writing markets. Sample query letters and tips on formatting electronic submissions are included. The author is a writer and editor for Writer’s Digest Books. Therefore, this book is a highly authoritative and useful addition to the toolkit of any aspiring author.
Guides

Appelbaum, J. (2012). Sensible solutions: Book marketing for happily published authors & publishers. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.happilypublished.com/

Judith Appelbaum is the author of the book, “How to Get Happily Published,” and this is the website she based that book on. Each of six pages focuses on a specific topic related to getting published and several offer a sidebar of related resources. Though Ms. Appelbaum has published on the subject, she has also started a book marketing firm. As such, the website is as much a promotional tool for her business as it is a resource for writers. That’s not to say there aren’t good resources here. But they may be offered with some bias. Regardless, there are several that may be of use to self-publishing authors.

♣Frazier, C. (2015). Better novel project. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.betternovelproject.com/blog/

This website authored by Christine Frazier was named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest in 2015. The Better Novel Project helps writers improve their craft by teaching them how to deconstruct successful novels, examine their techniques, and then apply those techniques to their own novels. She advocates using a master outline, and an online interactive outlining tool is in development. With a creative writing degree from John Hopkins, Christine’s advice is authoritative. And her website is included here as a valuable tool for writers who want to improve.

Novel publicity guides to writing & marketing Fiction. (2011). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.novelpublicity.com/

Although this website does offer three blogs with advice on writing, publishing, and marketing, it is primarily a commercial venture. Services are offered to writers including editing, coaching, design, marketing, and blog tours. Professionals in their field, the bloggers know their subjects. But this site is useful mainly for those looking for professional services to help with the marketing aspects of self-publishing.

♣Self published author. (2015). Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.selfpublishedauthor.com/home

This advisory website was created by Bowker, the agency in the US that provides ISBN numbers to publishers. As such, the publishers can be trusted to provide accurate information regarding the requirements for obtaining and using ISBNs, bar codes, metadata, rights, and format conversion, all services the company provides. Although the site supports a commercial enterprise, and at its core exists to promote services, the useful information provided extends beyond these technical details. This resource does an excellent job of separating out the business aspect of self-publishing from the creative side, and even encourages such business activities as creating a business plan for a book’s publication.

♣Strauss, V. (2015). Writer beware. Retrieved October 9, 2015 from http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/

This website exists as a sub-site of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the organization which supports it, along with the Mystery Writers of America, the Horror Writer’s Association, and the Society of Journalists and Authors. The site exists to alert writers to predatory and fraudulent activities within the publishing industry. The contributors are professional authors who volunteer their time to compile information from industry publications and keep in “regular touch with reputable agents and editors” to “better contrast their business practices to the nonstandard practices….” In addition to articles of advice, the site maintains a database of disreputable publishing companies and service providers, provides free research for writers with questions about their service providers, and assists law enforcement with investigations of fraudulent activities. This resource is useful to writers in that it educates those who would publish on what they should be aware of to avoid.

Underdown, H. (2015, October 25). Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children’s Books: The Purple Crayon. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.underdown.org/

This website was created and is maintained by the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Children’s Books.” It contains articles covering every aspect of the process, written not only by Underdown himself but also by other children’s authors. Other resources include writing guides, lists of award-winning books, a list of agents for children’s authors, and a page reporting on staff changes at children’s book publishers. This authoritative site provides a great deal of useful information for those interested in publishing children’s books.

Platforms

Amazon.com : Sell on Amazon. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-summary-page.html?ie=UTF8&ld=AZFooterSelfPublish&topic=200260520

This is the landing page for all three of Amazon’s publishing platforms, Kindle Direct (eBook), CreateSpace (print), and ACX (audio). A very brief overview of each service is provided, with further details given after clicking through the “get-started” link. As one of the world’s largest booksellers has moved into the self-publishing arena, it has become the go-to resource for authors hoping to profit from their works. Though the pros and cons of Amazon’s services could be debated, this list would not be complete if they were not included here.

Kobo writing life – Self-publish eBooks with Kobo. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from https://www.kobo.com/writinglife

This website provides an eBook self-publishing service on an open platform, meaning authors can publish for a number of electronic formats, without restriction. The site is well-designed for clarity. An overview of the publishing process, an explanation of the interface, a visual example of the statistics dashboard, and a FAQ are all included right on the landing page, giving the impression this platform is best suited to the true do-it-yourself-er. Having published more than 4 million books around the world, Kobo is an authority in the field. It is an invaluable resource for those seeking an eBook publishing alternative to Amazon.

Lulu – Online self publishing book & eBook company. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from https://www.lulu.com/

This is the website for another online, self-publishing platform. However, Lulu also offers publishing, marketing, and distribution services for those who don’t feel up to doing it all themselves. A free creator guide and formatting tips are provided, along with tutorial videos, and a user forum. Though it’s the most social of any of the platforms included here, Lulu still seems to come closest to Amazon in terms of commercial tone, heavily promoting its own services along with its self-publishing tools. And while it is a sound choice for those looking to self-publish, it might better serve those who would rather not self-publish, if they can help it.

♣Smashwords – Ebooks from independent authors and publishers. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from https://www.smashwords.com/

This website for the Smashwords publishing platform appears to be the most professional of any of the platforms included in this list. Smashwords bills itself as an “eBook distributor,” and makes this fact apparent in that all of its tools are presented for writers and readers, while the company manages the process unobtrusively in the background. The FAQ is extensive, including online video workshops and topics not seen elsewhere, such as offering coupons or handling preorders and box sets. Smashwords partners with the National Novel Writing Month organization, and seems to be very aware that many of its clients are new to the publishing industry.

Podcasts

Self-publishing podcast archives – Sterling & Stone. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from https://sterlingandstone.net/smarter-artist/publishing-2/spp/

This website hosts the self-publishing category archives of the Sterling & Stone podcast studio. Sterling & Stone records podcasts on a variety of creative subjects, and their self-publishing series covers topics ranging from writing apps to Kickstarter funding to audience targeting on Amazon. Because the studio’s podcasts focus on creativity in general, rather than just publishing or even writing alone, this source might be less authoritative than one that’s more focused. Regardless, podcasts seem a rather novel format for writing and publishing advice, and offers an alternative to written sources.

Whistler, S. (2015). Rocking self publishing – Weekly interviews with self-published authors. Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://rockingselfpublishing.com/

This website is the online home of the “Rocking Self-Publishing” podcast. Focused on self-publishing, the podcast offers hour-long interviews with self-published authors. The “Start Here” page provides a numbered list of the episodes to listen to when starting your publishing journey. Each episode’s archive page includes links to the resources mentioned in the episode, and notes on the topics covered. In addition, a few paid services are offered, for one, an author’s website building course, and for another, a subscription-based writer’s community that is described as “not useful for new self-publishers,” but rather for those “already enjoying success.” This takes away from the site’s credibility somewhat, as one wonders why someone already enjoying success would feel the need to pay and apply to join. However, the podcast itself and the wide variety of authors participating in interviews, along with the links to other resources, make this podcast worthy of inclusion here.

Writing Communities

Figment. (2015). Retrieved October 28, 2015, from http://figment.com/

This is a website forum and writing community for teens. Authors can write their stories in the online interface, share them, and receive commentary and critiques. A newsletter is offered, as well as subject-specific writer’s groups that teens can create and/or join. Writers can enter contests and win prizes. Possibly the most useful resource is the chat feature, which allows teen writers to ask questions of and interact directly with writing industry professionals. Though it isn’t very clear who or what entity is behind the Figment community and responsible for running it, the participation of the fore-mentioned writing professionals lends some credibility. As there are not many writing resources speaking to teen-aged aspiring authors, this one suitably fills a void.

Protagonize: Collaborative creative writing community. (2015). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://www.protagonize.com/

This website is an online writing community similar to Figment above, but tailored to a more adult audience. Writers work on their stories in the online tool and receive feedback from other community members. There does not seem to be any interaction with professionals here, and any advice appears to come from other amateurs. Despite the lack of professional guidance, there is something that can be said for shared experience, and this website at least provides camaraderie. That said, this resource is not very authoritative, and might be included here only to round out the list.

Scribophile. (2015). Retrieved November 14, 2015, from http://www.scribophile.com/

This website hosts the Scribophile writing community, one which describes itself as “a writer’s workshop,” as well as a writing community. Writing and publishing tips are offered, as well as a writer’s academy. The site promises that “quality feedback” is guaranteed, and cash prizes are awarded to the winners of writing contests. Basic memberships requiring no fee allow only two stories to be posted at a time. Subscribers can post unlimited works, get advanced formatting, reader stats, and have opportunities to encourage more and better critiques. With the writer’s academy and the benefits awarded to paid subscribers, this community might appeal more to professional writers whose opinions might carry more weight. Of the writer’s communities included here, this one might be of the most use.

Writing Tools

♣Long, A., & Long, B. (2013). Hemingway Editor. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.hemingwayapp.com/

The Hemingway Editor desktop app is an online editing tool that teaches you to improve your writing. Copy and paste your work or type directly in the editor and a column on the right explains any flaws and gives a readability score. As you correct errors, the right column updates. The column can be toggled on and off, so as not to distract while writing. Several stats are provided, from a simple word count to an estimated read time. The reasoning behind the writing advice can be found on the help page. This is a simple tool that would be extremely useful to writers without access to a proofreader or editor. Simple and uncomplicated, it might be one of the best writing tools on this list.

Marked 2. Smarter tools for smarter writers. (2015). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://marked2app.com/

This website promotes a writing tool that allows authors to write plain text in any text editor and have it rendered in markdown language for online publication. The tool continually updates your online document as you make changes in your text file. This allows you to easily publish and make changes without having to know HTML. Despite the promised simplicity, the description of the tool and the promotional website are not very clear, casting doubt on the likelihood that the promise of simplicity will be delivered on purchase. This tool is not free, and is included here mainly for its focus on website publishing.

Scrivener for Microsoft Windows. (2005). Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

This is the website promoting probably the most well-known tool for writers since Microsoft Word. Scrivener is described as a “complete writing studio,” and a “powerful content-generation tool” that allows writers to compose and structure long and difficult documents. Though the interface looks complicated, video tutorials and a free 30-day trial are available before purchase. In addition to the software, the website provides an extensive list of additional writing resources, including competing software and resources for self-publishing. This promotion of competing products increases Scrivener’s credibility as a tool focused on the needs of writers.

Tessman, K. (2015). Fade In Professional Screenwriting Software. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from http://www.fadeinpro.com/index.html

This website promotes the screenwriting software tool called “Fade In.” This software allows screenwriters to format, edit, organize, and revise scripts. As screenplays require special formatting, this tool makes that formatting easy. A features comparison demonstrates the credibility of the site’s claims, and the cost to purchase is much less than comparable software. Though it might only be of particular use to screenwriters, this tool is included to round out the list.

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Posted by on December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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