Monday, September 30, 2013

Crafting fun: toy robots make adorable gifts

A good friend of mine is very pregnant and due at any moment. For her first son, I knit a sweater. It turned out to be a very international sweater as it was knit on a plane en route to Europe, on trains throughout Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France, and I worked on it at my Master's degree convocation (side note, I hate convocations, I've been to 8 of them now). I thought that since I'd already made them a sweater, I'd do something different this time, but I wasn't sure what.

A month or so ago I was at Gather Here for the knitter's brunch and I was nosing through some of the bits and bobs that were out on display when I came across a little booklet with a pattern for a stuffed astronaut, and an accompanying robot. I thought it was kind of cute, and suitable, and as I poked around for potential fabric I discovered they sold bags of leftovers, in which there was plenty to cut out pieces for the toys.

On Labour Day the hubby and I stayed home, so I spent the time cutting out the pattern pieces, fabric, and then sewing the toys. For the most part, I think they both turned out rather well. Since the toys are for a newborn I opted to paint on the face and other decorations, which was probably the most fun bit of the whole thing.

If I make any more I'll change my procedure to match more closely to what the directions recommended (go figure that they would work better...). And I'm considering it. More than once I've been asked why I don't have an Etsy shop, and this might be something I could do. They're easy to do, don't take too much time, and I could easily change the colours to make them look different, or customize them for potential customers. For now it's just a fleeting idea. I'll continue to ponder it, do a little market research, and see where things go.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: obtaining an ISBN

When I first decided to release The Cure, I hadn't considered the possibility of obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). It's not required by most online retailers (some provide an in-house ISBN or other identification number) and I'd thought it was one of those things that would be too difficult for a self-publisher to get. Not so! It's especially easy if you're Canadian, but first, what is an ISBN and why get it?

As per the Wikipedia page on ISBNs:

 "The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the booksellers and stationers W. H. Smith and others in 1965.
 The 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and was published in 1970 as international standard ISO 2108.
 Since 1 January 2007, ISBNs have contained 13 digits, a format that is compatible with "Bookland" EAN-13s."

My understanding is that ISBNs are mostly important for brick and mortar bookstores so they can keep an accurate account of their stock (i.e. taking orders, making sales, etc). This is probably why ISBNs aren't required for digital books. There isn't really a stock, or at least, there's no physical product changing hands. Why it can be useful for independent publishers is that it can help boost visibility in the vast market of online books. You can also search a book by it's ISBN (although who's going to search for an ISBN over a title or author I don't know).

So, if you're a Canadian resident, ISBNs are free of charge, which is awesome, since if you're an American resident you have to pay for it.

Canadian residents go to Collections Canada, which is a part of Library and Archives of Canada. Once there, you click on the 'Join CISS' link on the left hand side. Next, click on the 'Acceptance of Terms', link and then you're taken to the electronic form you're required to fill out to obtain an account. It's a pretty straightforward form, requesting standard information. The one funny thing is, if you're planning to publish a digital book like I am, you select the Electronic Book Text option under 'Type of Product' (It sounds like a very archaic way of describing a digital book).

I waited around 10 days (I can't remember exactly what day I hit submit on) before I received an email to state my application had been accepted. From here, you have to go back to the CISS website, log in, and go to the 'Request an ISBN' link. At this point you just need to fill out one more form (again, very basic) and click submit. You'll have your ISBN almost immediately.

The ISBN for The Cure is: 978-0-9921294-0-8. It should be on sale very soon.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: picking retailers

I had hoped to have The Cure out for sale by now, but things will be postponed for a couple more days at least. I'm taking an online course on self-publishing offered by Author E.M.S., which runs from September 8th to October 4th. I'd been wondering before I started the course as to whether or not I should delay publishing until after I'd completed the session (I have so much to learn!). After the first day of reading, I was feeling overwhelmed with all there was to cover and was pretty sure that I ought to read through at least a few lessons before I plunged in.

**The moderator of the online course I'm taking just popped up on the discussion board to make an important distinction between publisher v. retailer. Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Nobles, etc., are all retailers. They aren't publishers, they just distribute my work. That's the thing about self-publishing, YOU'RE THE PUBLISHER! I have to promote and protect my own novel.**

Part of my concern was what to do in regards to tax claims on Amazon. The way I understand it is, that although I don't have to pay American taxes, I need an International Taxpayer's Identification Number (ITIN) in order to get paid. Additionally, I'm subject to a withholding tax on any royalties I make, unless I show that I'm from a country that has a tax treaty with the US. I'm actually lucky here, since I'm currently residing in the US and have a visa, my route to an ITIN may be easier than if I was living in Canada. I'm still being paid by a Canadian company, by the way, which is why I currently don't have any other reasons to interact with the IRS.

If you're looking for information on how to get an ITIN, you can check out this blog post by Joan Leacott.

So, that was one of my big concerns about rushing ahead into publishing on Amazon. The other was, how on earth to price my novel, but that's more easily overcome with a little market research.

Something that came to my attention during my first course reading was, why hadn't I thought of publishing on Kobo Writing Life, a Canadian company? I'd been focused on Amazon's Kindle Direct, assuming that since Amazon was so huge, it was the best way to go, but considering the difficulties surrounding the payment and tax issues, why not go with Kobo, at least to start?

To be clear, I don't want to publish with only one company, and there's no need for me to publish with only one (although depending on which program I sign up with on Amazon, I may have to agree to an exclusivity period). In order to gain exposure and make sales, I need to get on as many different platforms as possible. My current intention is to get onto Kobo as soon as I get my ISBN (maybe I'll post about that another day...), meanwhile I'll begin the steps towards obtaining my ITIN. Once that comes through, I'll publish on Amazon. After that, we'll see. There are lots of other companies to self-publish on. It's just a matter of how diverse do I want to get/have the time for.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Our continuing exploits in New England: apples and candy (but not candy apples)

I had to move away from the series title of 'Early Experiences...' because we've now been here for two months. YIKES.

On Saturday we went for a half-day trip out of town. This hadn't originally been the plan. We were going to go to the knitters brunch at Gather Here, which would have been great, except it turned out that the knitter's brunch is next weekend. I was feeling a little dejected when we got home, and oddly bewildered with what to do with an entirely free day when I'd been expecting a couple of hours in the afternoon to write at best. So, we decided to do what we'd planned for next weekend, this weekend (got that?). (We have a party to go to next weekend anyway).

We visited Big Apple Farm and Mount St. Mary's Abbey near Wrentham, which was about an hour's drive outside of Boston.

First, the Abbey. Andrew had somehow or other heard about Mount St. Mary's and that it was well known for its candy. Since it was in the same area as the farm, we thought we might as well check it out. It was very lovely, far more modern looking than I would have expected for an abbey, although now that I've looked at the website, I see the community wasn't founded until 1949. We sat in the church for a few minutes before going into the gift shop were we picked up some of their popular Butter Nut Munch. Yum!

After the Abbey we carried on to the Big Apple Farm, which was just down the road. It was packed (mostly with families with children) not that this was terribly surprising given it was a lovely day. We decided we want to pick our own apples, something that neither of us had done before (and I consider myself a country kid!). The trees were absolutely laden with fruit and I think we filled our 1/2 bushel in about twenty minutes. After that we went down to their main store area and looked around a bit, although we didn't buy anything else.

After that, we headed home. A short, but pleasant outing.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: the editing

Although I felt that The Cure was fairly well edited, I wanted to get someone with a more professional eye (than my friends and husband) to look over my novel before I put it up for sale on Amazon. As always, I was concerned about the grammar aspect, but I wanted to make sure the story and characters made sense as well. I figured, even through I couldn't get a proper publisher to release it, I still wanted it to be as polished as possible.

So, I hired an editor. I was given a name or someone, whom I contacted, was given a quote, and a time frame. Unfortunately that experience didn't work out as well as I had hoped. I had to nag to get chapters back and although the responses were generally quick (after I nagged), the excuses almost became comical after a while. The comments in the manuscript felt sarcastic at times (it's not cool to use ALL CAPS, or smiley faces like you're joking) and almost like the editor was lecturing me for having not corrected errors from the last time I made them (never mind that I sent my manuscript to them all at once). Eventually, I ended up in tears one night somewhere in the middle of chapter 12 and decided that enough was enough.

I either had to battle massive self-doubt for the remaining chapters as I worked through edits, or I had to find someone else to look through the end of the manuscript.

Then it occurred to me that my sister-in-law might be able to help. I recalled that she'd done some freelance editing, and that she'd trying to organize a story-share one time which I participated. So, I sent an email, explained my situations, and thankfully, she agreed. I'll do another post of about her editing later. It's a part of our deal. She provided me with an important service and I'm going to write her a testimonial on my blog.

For now, I'll just say that I'm extremely grateful. I'm back up to where I left off with the other editor (yeah, she went through the whole manuscript from the start for me) and I hope to have it wrapped up by the end of the week. Yeah. I hope to have the whole thing wrapped up in just a few days. It seems a little crazy now that I'm writing this. Wrapped up, and out there for people to buy. I just hope a few people buy it, and at least some of them enjoy it and look forward to seeing the second story.

For now, I need to get on with the editing, so I can indeed have it on the cyber shelves within a week or two.