Publishing and Unpublishing

It’s been a while since my last update. Writing has been slow and difficult, but with some recent submissions made, hopefully I’ll have some publication news for you soon.

My first bit of news is that I’ve temporarily withdrawn Scar On The Sky from publication. This novella is particularly close to my heart, but it’s clear the book needs reworking. Gerwyn will undergo a name change, and the story will be developed further and lengthened. There are two more novellas planned in the series, so I intend to re-release when the next book is close to being ready. At this stage the Rockington series will be ready to grace your shelves sometime in 2019.

As some of you may have heard, Amazon is merging CreateSpace into KDP. Until now, I have been producing my paperbacks through CreateSpace, but this decision will mean any future titles I publish will have paperbacks printed by another company. The problem is that KDP will not provide Australian authors with proof copies, nor with author copies. Amazon (the parent company) is refusing to sell anything to Australians unless it’s through their Australian retail site. This means to obtain a copy of my own book, I would have to make it readily available for sale and then buy it through a retail channel. Not only is this significantly more expensive, but it also means the book would be available for purchase before I got to check the appearance and quality. On screen proofing is not perfect. At the very least, cover images can appear quite different when printed compared to how they look on a screen. The existing paperbacks will remain printed through an Amazon company for now, but other factors might see me move them elsewhere in the future.

I had hoped to bring you a 2018 new release by now. Rest assured I do have a number of projects in development, including plans for a short story collection. If you’ve read and enjoyed any of my titles, please leave a review somewhere. It will help motivate me to keep writing. Even a single sentence is enough!


Twitter tips for writers

Twitter is one of those websites you’re likely to investigate if you’re a writer. Some people love it, some hate it, but a presence these days is expected.

I’ve been on there a while, now. Long enough to see writers making some common mistakes that are likely to turn people away from their accounts. Long enough to see writers who do it right. I won’t put my own account forward as an example, rather I’ll share with you what makes an account followers enjoy, or abandon.

The first mistake is to exclusively tweet about the books you have out. Some self-promotion is okay, expected even, but if that’s all you tweet, people will get bored quickly. The frequency of self-promotion is also important. If a follower sees the same content day after day, shared frequently, they will unfollow you.

The next mistake I see most often is accounts filled with retweets. This is almost the polar opposite to exclusive self-promotion, but it’s also a quick way to lose genuine followers. It can be easy to get carried away sharing all the neat posts you encounter on Twitter, but be mindful of how many consecutive posts are retweets. By all means, share the love, but add your own comments to as many as possible, keeping in mind people are following YOU. Keep retweets without added comments to a minimum, and avoid retweeting the same information multiple times. I’ve unfollowed several accounts because they retweeted the same circle of posts. Every. Single. Day.

So how do you promote yourself as a writer without being annoying? The best way to learn is to follow other writers. You will soon notice the annoying accounts, making mistakes such as those I’ve mentioned. You will also soon notice the accounts you enjoy following. Learn from your experiences as a follower to enhance your own account. Have news of your latest release, or upcoming release, in your pinned tweet. If readers are interested in your work, it’s one of the first things they’ll see when they check out your account –  the information is there and easy to find, without you needing to do more than tweet it once and then pin it. Have a link to your website in your bio. Feature book covers in your cover image. Twitter isn’t the marketing gold mine some people will try to tell you it is, but readers do track down authors on there, so making it easy for them to find out more about your titles makes good marketing sense.

Another mistake some users make, that often results in rapid unfollowing, is to send new followers a DM (direct message). Especially if it is marketing oriented, and especially if it is an automatic message. By and large, Twitter users do not like this, and many will unfollow an account if this happens. It is much better to engage with your followers through your content. Occasionally I come across an account that will ask new followers to click a link to confirm they are a real person. There are a lot of bots on Twitter, so I understand it’s to avoid getting those as followers, but I don’t appreciate having to click a link (which could lead anywhere) to prove I’m real. Those accounts lose me as a follower.

One last tip – only follow accounts that interest you. This will make your experience on Twitter far more enjoyable. Plenty of people will encourage you to follow as many people as possible to grow your number of followers, but that’s meaningless. Numbers on Twitter mean nothing if they’re a result of people following each other just to get follow-backs. Look at bios, look at the what the accounts tweet. Don’t automatically follow anyone back, and definitely never buy followers.

Twitter has numerous accounts that share content designed to help and encourage writers. There are regular weekly hashtags you can use to participate in sharing a few lines from your work. It is a potential gold mine for networking and discovering publishers, agents, competitions, and other publishing opportunities. Use it sensibly and it will enhance your writing life, as well as giving your readers an easy point of contact.

CreateSpace vs Lulu

Recently I had some enquiries as to whether a book I had released was available in a hardcover edition. It wasn’t something I had considered until then but interest was sufficient that I decided to produce one. The self-publishing company I had been using for print books until that point, CreateSpace, didn’t have hardcover as an option, so I needed to use somewhere else. The company I chose was Lulu. I found it interesting to see how a different publisher functioned. This article will discuss some similarities and differences between the two companies, to help you decide where to self-publish your next project.


Interior Templates

Both CreateSpace and Lulu have downloadable interior templates for each folio size of book they produce. When I looked at the Lulu version it was a blank page. I’m assuming it has the correct margins embedded into the document, but decided to continue using the CreateSpace template for the size of book I wanted to produce, as both companies offered that folio size. If I plan to publish a book with Lulu, in the future, in a different folio size to one offered by CreateSpace, I will have to use the Lulu version.

CreateSpace offers a choice of basic or fully formatted interior templates. I use the fully formatted version and wouldn’t have been able to produce professional looking print books without them. Some knowledge of formatting is still needed, as copied and pasted text tends to not adopt the template formatting (in Word, at least), but the whole book is laid out for you – including margins, headers and footers, contents table – and you can adjust any part that you wish to. If you stick to their suggested formatting, your book will look nice, clean, and professional. I adjust some components, such as chapter heading fonts, to give my books a more individual feel, but the framework provided is more than adequate.


Cover Templates

Both companies have cover creators, and both have templates available within them, as well as the option to use your own wraparound cover. They function in a similar manner, and if you’ve used one, the other is easy to adjust to. Of the two, my favourite is Lulu. The cover creator is slow to load, but you can adjust or work on any part of the cover from a single view. Both allow a choice of background colours, but Lulu has an eyedropper function that makes it easy to match background colours to any part of the cover image. Lulu also allows you to change the font size of writing on the spine. CreateSpace limits you to JPEG files, but Lulu also allows PNG images. Both warn you if your image resolution is too low for print, but it’s more obvious in Lulu. Both generate a preview of the full cover.



Both companies offer free ISBNs for your books. This records the company you use as the publisher, and can’t be used elsewhere. Both also accept an ISBN that you own, which records you (or a press you run) as the publisher.

Lulu gives the option of not assigning an ISBN to your book.


Proof Copies

A proof copy is a print copy of your book that you purchase and review before authorising publication. Ordering a proof copy of your print book is a good idea because cover images often look a little different printed than they do on a screen. The colours can appear different, and resolution problems aren’t always obvious when reviewing your book online. Looking at your book in a different format can also make it easier to spot errors that have previously escaped your notice.

CreateSpace recommends you order a proof copy before publishing, but does allow you to review an online version instead. Lulu insists you order a print copy and will not allow the book to be published until you do.


Online Reviewing

Both companies recommend viewing your uploaded files as part of the publishing process. Both seem to prefer PDF files to be uploaded, but both will convert several other document types to PDF if you upload them.

In CreateSpace, the resulting file is presented on the screen as it would appear in a book – the title page, and then the paired pages that follow. You click through as though leafing through an actual book. This gives you a good feel for how the book will appear in print. Lulu, on the other hand, shows you a PDF file, which displays as a single page at a time, making it harder to determine if the final appearance is what you want.


Ordering Author Copies

Both companies allow authors to purchase copies of their books cheaper than the list price. CreateSpace limits the number of proof copies to five. I don’t know if Lulu has a limit. The cheaper price applies after publication as well, however. Postage per book tends to decrease with the number of books ordered.



Both companies determine a minimum cost for your book based on its production cost.

CreateSpace is an Amazon company, and if you opt to publish on Amazon exclusively, the minimum cost is lower than if you select expanded distribution to other retailers. If you do choose to go with expanded distribution, your royalties from Amazon sales increase with the associated price increase.

With Lulu, the option of distribution beyond Lulu itself is also offered, and also means an increase in price to generate royalties from sales from the other retailers. Lulu, however, allows you to offer a discount (up to a massive 40%) on sales of your books if they are bought directly from Lulu. This allows you to keep costs down for your readers, while still having the benefit of exposure over a wider market.



One advantage of Lulu over CreateSpace is that they have frequent discount coupons on their site. These discounts apply to author copies as well as retail sales. Some discounts are short-lived, others are regularly available for orders over a certain number of books. These discounts not only make purchasing copies of your own books less expensive, but are also a handy marketing tool to encourage your readers to buy direct from the publisher (where your royalties are higher per sale). What I haven’t compared (yet) is the cost of producing the same book through each company, so whether Lulu is cheaper overall or not I can’t tell you.



I have experienced and/or been aware of problems with both companies in recent times.

Lulu has been experiencing problems with (some of) their servers. I have been preparing a number of titles for publication in hardcover and frequently couldn’t advance beyond the file upload stage. I would have to return to the project after a break, sometimes needing to generate the print-ready files a second time before progressing. The site has also been logging me out at random, even in the middle of preparing a title. Last I saw, Lulu was still working on rectifying the problem.

CreateSpace sometimes has a problem when the interior of a book is altered. If you change the interior file in any way, it should prompt you to go through the cover creation stage again, even if the book length is the same. Sometimes it doesn’t progress through this stage and can result in a corrupted cover image. If you are not prompted to go through the cover stage, log out and go back later, and it will then ask you to do it.

Another recent problem I had with a CreateSpace published book was likely an Amazon issue, but I was never given an explanation of what happened, so I can’t be sure. The book disappeared from all Amazon websites, including my Author Central account. I sent CreateSpace a message about it. Their response was that they would have to consult another department as to what the problem was. The book reappeared as mysteriously as it had vanished after a five-day break.



I have only recently started using Lulu, so I can’t say whether one is definitely better than the other. In the end, the choice is probably going to be due to the type of book, and size, that you want to produce. There are some folio sizes that both providers make, but both have a number of options not offered by the other. As mentioned before, Lulu has a hardcover option that is not available in CreateSpace. Lulu also has calendar options, which could be useful in marketing books or simply as an extra income stream.