Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice podcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it's our monthly beginners' self-publishing salon with advice, tips, and tools for indie authors just starting out.
Topics discussed this week include:
- How do I get other well-known authors to endorse my books?
- How do I build relationships with other authors?
- Is there a standard form and/or process for setting an embargo date when sending out ARCs for reviews?
- I'd like to translate my book. How would I go about that
- Crowdfunding my book: should I do it?
- What tools can I use to format my book for ebook and paperback formats?
- If I copy-edit my book, do I need a proofreader as well? What about apps like Grammarly for proofreading?
- Do middle-grade readers prefer to read ebooks or paperbacks?
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.
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About the Hosts
Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series.
Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia, where he helps writers and artists share their stories and grow their audience. He is the author of the book “Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience.”
Read the Transcripts
Michael La Ronn: Hello and welcome to the Ask Alli Member Q+A podcast where we answer your most burning self-publishing questions. I’m your host Michael La Ronn and I’m joined by Dan Blank from We grow media. How are you Dan?
Dan Blank: Very good! Good day. MICHAEL: Yes indeed, and we are in the dog days of summer, and, at least here in the states and it’s like dripping hot outside one minute and then like flooding biblical rains here in Iowa the next. You know, it’s kind of different.
DAN: I’ll say it’s the same in New Jersey so.
MICHAEL: Good stuff! Yeah, my wife and I, we were at the, we were at a local farmers market here in town and we’re just walking along and, all of a sudden like it’s just crazy torrential downpour.
DAN: I love it
MICHAEL: So, wherever you are in the world we hope you are nice and cool and not having to deal too much with the dog days of summer. So, we are coming on the last half of the year already hard to believe but, we’ve got some really questions for you guys this week but first, why don’t we give an update on what we’re doing. What are you currently working on Dan?
DAN: I’m focused very much on the fall. So, for me, you know I work with a lot of small groups with writers so I’m trying to brainstorm new ways of thinking about, you know if this is the goal? Is this what people need? How can I do that? So, I’m really spending a lot of time in 1-on-1 conversations with authors just asking them what they need and listening to what they need. And then, of course, I’m writing. I am kind of tearing apart the most current version of my next book and rebuilding it, which is like the tenth time I’ve done it but, every time I do it feels clearer and I feel more embarrassed as if I’d gone out with the earlier version and I guess that is the creative process.
MICHAEL: Yes, incremental progress. One draft at a time, right?
DAN: Yes, what are you working on?
MICHAEL: I’m working on a lot actually, I’ve got a lot…
DAN: That actually does not surprise me.
MICHAEL: Just, you know, saving the world, you know and trying to wear a cape at night and all that sort of things. But uh, no actually, I’m working on my first informational product for my YouTube channel so, that’s kind of exciting. I’m not too ready to talk about it yet but, basically, it’s going to be for fiction writers and its going to help them every step in the process when they’re writing their book. So, whether you are a new author, or you’ve done these forty times like me, I think this will help plug in some gaps and help you write better and faster. And still plugging along on my YouTube channel, I’m about to hit 5,000 subscribers, which is really cool. I’m super excited about that. And for those of you, I don’t know whose listening in the states, or who’s going to be stateside in November, I will be speaking at the 20 Books to 50k Conference in Las Vegas on November 6th – 8th. That’s being hosted by Craig Martell and MichaelAnderly. So, if there’re any listeners on the show who want to see me in person and you’re going to be at the conference, be sure to stop by and say, hi. So, those are just a couple of the things that I’ve got going on.
DAN: I love it!
MICHAEL: Alright! So, our topic for this month is, we picked a good one, so one of the questions that came in was, how do I get a well-known author to read and endorse my books? Is there a process or a step-by-step process to going about that? And Dan and I love this question and we were talking a little bit before the show and we thought that it would be go to talk about that, we’ll answer that question. But its part of a broader question that we’ve been getting these last couple of months and that is: How do I build relationships with other authors? And so, we thought that we dedicate and entire episode to talking about that and then answering a few other questions rapid fire. So, what are your initial thoughts on this Dan, getting a well-known author to read and endorse your books?
DAN: Yeah, there’s two questions here. For the initial question of how do you get a well know author to read you book. What I find always interesting is a lot of these well-known authors, and I think the person who had asked this question said this, it seems like all of these well-known authors blurb each other’s book; almost like there’s a little club. They didn’t use the word club but, and I think that, for these people, what they’ve been doing is they’ve been developing relationships for years. And its very often you’ll see a panel at a conference you’ll hear, and they know each other because they know each other from 10 years ago, 14 years ago, 18 years ago when they were, and Ill use this word with a big grain of salt, when they were nobodies. When they weren’t scanning the room looking for a transactional relationship. They were just getting to know any other writer that they could. They were staying in contact with other writers. They were, they were not losing contact. How many people have you met a conference, a writer conference and you had a great time, you had their card, maybe you sent an email. Then, a year later, two years later this is gone. I think that a lot of these people they stayed in contact. I’ll say that’s my first reaction to it. I can go much further but, I don’t know if you want to give an initial reaction first.
MICHAEL: Yeah, no, I love that there was a word that you said in there, that I loved that you said, and that’s: don’t make this transactional. I think that’s the number one piece of advice I would give you. I mean, Dan’s exactly right. These authors have probably known each other for a long time and have taken the time to see each other every year and conferences or, to join a mastermind group. And so, when those authors need help, they rely on their network and they use their resources and so, that’s kind of what you have to do and if you don’t have those resources I think that’s what we want to talk about in this episode… is how do you build that.
DAN: So, I’ll send you the links, so you can put them in the show notes but, a few years back I was working with a literary fiction writer, Miranda Beverly Whitmore. And, we were doing a blog about the book launch. There’s a whole separate blog, like 188 posts we did about this. But, she did a series of like 5 or 8 posts about how she asked for blurbs. And she approached it from I think the perspective that the questioner is asking, which is, I don’t know anyone. I’ve got nothing. And it was interesting cause she really created a process. She said, you know, she identified people that she thought might be accessible, that her readership might like. So, already she had to do a lot of analysis as to think where do I think my book is going to fit in the market? Who would my ideal reader already know? What names would they know? And then she had to think about, well, who could I even reach? I’ve got to physically email or mail this to someone. So, there’s a lot of pre-work, and what I often find in the pre-work is it asks, it forces you to ask yourself a lot of challenging questions. Cause a lot of people just know, I want a famous name! I don’t know who my readership is. I don’t know who buys books. You know, like they don’t do the work of saying, lets look at the market place. Let’s look at the readership and see what authors would really matter to your reader instead of just any famous name.
MICHAEL: Yeah, and it’s not so much about the famous names. I mean, I think that’s the first inclination is to go after the big fish. But I think you almost have to think about it as what author could I put on my book that I know, that I have a relationship with. That’s not going to fell icky asking. That your readers are going to respond to. So, if you’re in a mastermind group and all the other authors are romance authors and you’re a thriller author, it’s not going to make sense to have a best-selling romance author on the front of your cover. But, if you’re in a thriller mastermind group, you’ve got other author friends that are going after the same readers, then I think that makes a great deal of sense to get one of those authors on your cover, if you’ve built that relationship.
DAN: Definitely. When Miranda was going through that process, she picked people she didn’t, she would try to pick people she had some kind of third degree connection with, as well as people she had no connection with. And the third-degree thing would be really racking her brain to say, oh yeah, 15 years ago I was an assistant in a class this author came in as a guess speaker. They really try to rack their brain for that. But her process was interesting because it wasn’t just sending an email. She would read, if she created a list of 10 people, for each person she would read their latest book. So that takes, you know, hours and hours of someone’s time. I’m going to read their book, I’m going to invest myself in what they’re writing to make sure it’s a fit. And then in the email or letter that she sent; and I think there’s examples, she would reference it. She would say why she thinks, you know, this author would be a really good fit; why the readers would like it; why they think that you would, you know, that author would like your book. And I think that an author notices when you don’t’ just mention their book. You mention the characters, you mention plot points, you should that you’re actually a fan of their work and that you’ve put in the time. Because think about what you’re asking when you’re asking someone to blurb about your book. And the reality of this is often different than the perception. But you’re asking someone who might not know you, might not know your book to spend time reading it and I imagine you’re a fast reader because you’re sort of like a Superman at everything thing. But, for a lot of people that’s spending five hours…6, 7 hours reading a book. Then it’s asking them to somehow sum that book up in one paragraph. And also, in that paragraph make sure that at least one line is like this awesome bitesize thing that can go on a cover. And then put your reputation behind it by having your name on it, and doing all that work, for someone you’ve never met, for no compensation other than goodwill. So, it’s a huge ask. It’s an enormous ask.
MICHAEL: It is. And so, let’s, lets…just thinking of people listening to this and probably thinking, Oh, that’s great but, I’m not even there yet. I don’t even know anyone. I don’t even know how I can even go about this. Let’s go, lets go back to step zero here. So, if you were a new author today, Dan, and you didn’t have a book…or let’s say you do have a book. Let’s say you’re a first-time author, you’ve got your first book and you have zero contacts, zero relationships. It’s probably not an option for you at this point but knowing that if you want to start building your network of authors for maybe your second or your third book, what steps would you take today to start building those relationships?
DAN: Well, we’re talking about two different things here. Cause I think that even if your first book you have no connections you absolutely can reach out to these big-name authors. And I think that’s one thing for us to explore. And then the second thing is developing the network. Which should I delve into first?
MICHAEL: Let’s talk about the network first because I think that the network, I think the network has to come first. I think it’s really easy to go after the big stuff first, and I think a lot of people are going to be inclined to do that but, that’s going to scare the bebeerus out of a lot of people that are listening to this. So, I think let’s talk about the network first and then we can circle back to the blurbs.
DAN: So, the way that I often work with this for myself or with authors that I work with is, I start in the marketplace. So, if I have a sense of, well, I’m writing a thriller but it’s this, but it’s this, but it’s this, like you know, I’m the special snowflake. You’ve got to figure out well, what books, let me look at the thriller category. Let me look at books that I think are like mine. Let me go down to Barnes and Noble, let me go down to Indie book store, let me go down to the library, and say, hey, I’m an author. I’m writing a book and you know, have your one or two-line thing and say I’m looking for other books like this. Put all your cards on the table because these people, not only experts in books, they love meeting authors and the love being wise. They love directing you to books, especially if you’re someone that’s invested in creating books. So, I would spend a ton of time in Amazon going through the different categories. I’ll type in thriller, Ill type in this one big name I know and then I’ll use all the Amazon tools of customers also bought. I’d go on Good Reads, they have lists there. So, spend a lot of time seeing, oh goodness, Amazon doesn’t have a category for thriller but this, but this, but this, but this, but that. They segment this by these five things and I’ve got to pick one and let me then look at the reader reviews. From that, and from recommendations from the librarians and book sellers, I would start getting a list of authors who have published in the last three years and have had some amount of success. I would judge that from 20 reviews to 300 reviews, that kind of midlist, current author in the genre that you are writing. And from there, I would take to social media and follow these people. And I would view social media not as an output but, and input, which is: what can you learn from these people? And even last night there was an author I follow, and she did an Instagram story, a five-part story, saying, I’m having this challenge. I’m moving to this next level in my career, and need to find this type of thing but, I went here they didn’t have it, I went here… So, I messaged…I did a private message and we had this, boom, we had this whole chat back and forth. And I was like, You want to hop on the phone and chat about this? So, I used Instagram, not to retweet her, not to get her to care about my stuff but, to have a conversation. So that’s my initial answer to that question of: How do you start developing those relationships when you have absolutely none?
MICHAEL: Perfect! That’s what I was looking for too, right? Cause I think that if you’re starting off, or if you’re an introvert like me…I’m the kind where I need steps. You know, so I have to break everything down into steps. So, step one: figure out where your book is in the market, right? So, reiterating what you’re saying. Step two: do some market research. Figure out what other books out there are like yours. Step three: swallow the nervousness a little bit and reach out to the authors that may be at the step or a couple of steps ahead of you. And I love that you said that. And I think step four, for me, would be to, in addition to doing that, join some writers’ conferences. So, if you’ve never been to a writers’ conference sometimes, you know, can be tough because of money and travel but, there’s probably some that are local in your area or at least regionally. Try to go to those. That’s a great to build relationships and network. And if you can’t do that, try a Facebook group or a forum or something where you can comment and get to know people on a different level. And a mastermind is never a bad way to go. When I first started off, I had a group of authors who were kind of in the same, in the same boat as me. And we were, you know, all of us had zero books or one or two books. And so, we kind of had the same problems but, we all had the same goal, which was ultimately to publish and be successful as authors. And so, we met once a month on a Google Hangout call. And we just, you know, Michael, would be in the hot seat one time, and then my other friend would be in the hot seat the next time. So, we just talked about what we were struggling with and we’d just do whatever we could to help each other. You build really really deep relationships really fast if you start your own masterminds.
DAN: Yeah, I mean it’s funny with the work I do, I used to teach courses and now the only thing I really offer is a mastermind because of that depth of connection. And I would just, even for what you said about the Facebook groups, I think one thing that’s important is to really…don’t try…I think it’s really hard for an introvert, which is most people and most writers, to go into a Facebook group where it’s so complex. Look for one or two people that you resonate with and start commenting more on their thing, or message them privately if that’s appropriate for the forum. Don’t try to succeed in the whole group. Look for individuals that resonate and try to strengthen some of those connections.
MICHAEL: Yeah, that’s a good tip. Facebook groups can be, can be overwhelming, right? And it’s really nothing to start your own group. Just make sure that if you have the right…make sure you have the right people. You know, and I think that most authors, that have a hard time going out and approaching other authors. But, I think I think it’s really easy for most authors to start a mastermind. So, if you wanted to start a mastermind of 3-5 people, I think most people listening to this probably know 3-5 people that are in their same situation, that they can use to, you know, build relationships that way. And just help each other. You know, I think that’s the important thing. Just don’t think about the help that you’re going to get, just do what you can to offer help and advice to the other authors in that group. You know, like the person that asked the question, I see many Sunday Times Best Selling Authors supporting each other. Well, at this point you guys are along for the ride. You know, and your quote, to use Dan’s words very softly, nobodies. You know, if you’re a nobody at this point, just enjoy it, right? And support each other, help each other and watch that relationship grow. And it’s just amazing. It’s amazing to look at the mastermind that I started off with, where everyone is at this point.
DAN: I think a really good caveat here is this idea…because I hear this a lot from different writers, is well they want to join a group, but they want to make sure that a lot of people in the group are a couple steps ahead of them. And they want to know that they’re really going to get something out of this group. And so, what they do is, they might already have, they might have a lot of connections – maybe they’re loose, to people in the same boat they are. We’re all kind of struggling. We’re all trying to figure it out. No one’s crack the code yet. And what I find is that a lot of people ignore those people. And they say, No, no, no, no I don’t have patience for them. Why am I going to be with a nobody who doesn’t know anything? That’s what I am! And they keep passing up opportunity to build relationship, cause they’re waiting for, again, that transactional relationship. I want to join a group where everyone is two steps ahead. They’re telling me the real secrets. And these people are successful. And I know I’m going to get ROI. Most of the stuff you have no idea if you’ll ever get ROI, and you’re investing in the process. Me reaching out to that woman last night and responding…I’ve done that…I don’t know how often. I’ve had this company for 8 years and all I do is talk to writers and artists! So, I’ve probably done it thousands upon thousands of times. It is a process. And me reaching out was truly: I’m so curious of what you’re saying. That is literally it. There’s no transaction going on there. And I think that you have to have the confidence to pursue that type of connection.
MICHAEL: Yeah, you couldn’t have said it better…I mean, I couldn’t have said it better than you. That’s exactly it. Again, it just boils down to: don’t be transactional. Just build those relationships and you’ll find that…just keep people in mind when you go through and you’ve got things going on. So, like in my…in my mastermind group, we’ve all stayed friends and we’ve all stayed in contact. There’ve been several marketing opportunities where I’ve been invited to box sets and, you know, the organizer will ask me, Hey! You know, do you know anybody else that writes thrillers or that writes science fiction?
Well, actually, yeah I’ve got a friend in a mastermind. I’ll tap him to be involved in it. And, just things like that. Just do whatever it is you can to help people. And you’ll find that people will help you as well. you know, and like I said, just don’t, don’t give with any expectation of return. You know, that’s the important piece of it. Just be authentic and have fun. You know, and I have found personally, in my own personal strategy that that’s…I think that’s what has led to more opportunities and more networking than anything else. But, you’ve got to put the effort in to actually get to know people, right? You can’t just sit in your ivory tower and write books all the time. You really got to get out and make your mark in the community.
DAN: Yep! Can we talk about the other side of this?
MICHAEL: Yes, lets talk about the other side I know no one and I still want to reach out to people, which I’m a big believer in.
DAN: So this is something I see a lot…something I encourage, which is all these big-name authors are sitting at home, and they are very busy, they’re very stressed but, they all love hearing from people who like their work. So, I don’t think it’s bad if you are emailing them but, I think you need to have process. You need to be mindful of it and respectful. I don’t want to spend too much time because I know we’ll talk for a while but, like I said, if you’re going to reach out to someone, really have invested in their writing. Read their book. Craft a personal email. Be super clear about what you are asking them. Make that email or letter short. I would like to ask if you would blurb my book blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… You know, something complimentary about their work, you know, give the line about your work, that sort of thing. But, I get a lot of emails as you do, as anyone does. Don’t give the life story. Here’s three paragraphs of my book where I kind of tell you it’s a special snowflake. Here’s my journey that feels great to finally tell someone. Here’s forty things I know about you. And, somewhere in line 48 out of 100, is the ask buried. Be really quick. Be really clear. Say as little as possible. Give the real direction. Like even when I interview people for the, I have a podcast as well…the first line: Can I interview you for my podcast? We can talk about this or that. It’d be a one-hour commitment blah, blah, blah… really clear. Then I’m back into who I am, why I’m asking them. If you’re making people guess, you are wasting their time.
I would say also, and this is stilling dealing to the Miranda stuff but, she just wrote them thank you letters. And she talked a lot about the process of sending a thank you letter, how do you send a note, and I think it was great. What I often find with this is that, will you get plenty of people that won’t respond? Sure. Cause maybe you’ve got to go through a publicist. Maybe they’re a big-name author. But this is what I like about following authors online…I’ve probably mentioned her before but, Emily Giffin is one I follow on Instagram. She’s hugely hugely popular and it’s interesting. Because if you follow her Instagram stories, because her most recent book just came out, she reshares and replies to message after message, screen shots, text messages, photos of letters, emails, retweeting people on the beach with her book. Does she do it with everyone? No, she probably does with half of 1%. So, maybe she’ll never see you but, maybe she will. And I think that she is an extreme example. She shares it all publicly. But I think that’s any author.
MICHAEL: Yeah. No, and that’s all good stuff. I mean, you said a lot of really good things. But if I can pick, yeah don’t think about this as, just be clear, I am not able to talk this morning. So, just be clear and remember what’s in it for them, right? Don’t…there’s two parts here…don’t underestimate people’s egos, right? So, I love getting emails from people that say that they love my podcast, or they love my book, or they… I mean that’s just, that’s just awesome because it just validates everything that I’m doing, right? But, at the same time, remember to be specific and clear about exactly what it is you are wanting to get from that author, and…you know…
DAN: That’s such a big point I wanted to add on that’s so awesome. A lot of times if you’re writing out to a famous author you’re going back to like: I love that big famous book you wrote 20 years ago that everyone knows you for. Don’t do that! Talk about…you know, they’ve since written 20 books since then and they released a book six months ago. Talk about the book that you know that they are so proud of. The one that they just came out with. Or, if you’ve done research, find out what their big hobby is that you know they’ll talk about boating, or fishing, or the Mets endlessly. You know, find that way into what you know will excite the because if you’re the billionth person saying, I love that super famous work that was made into a big Brad Pitt movie; it’s not that it doesn’t matter to them, it’s just that it’s not what lights them up. They’ve heard that a billion times already. Talk about that thing that you know they’re going to be like looking for more, you know, conversation around.
MICHAEL: Exactly! So, why don’t we wrap that up and we’ll jump in to our Rapid Fire. So, thank you for that question. That was a good question that got us talking for a while here.
DAN: Alright, next question is: I’d like to translate my book. How would I go about doing that?
MICHAEL: Alright, that is a big question and I will do my best to answer it very succinctly here. This came up in our Facebook group. So, translating your book is something that’s been kind of hot lately. It’s been hot in the last couple of years. You don’t hear as much about it anymore because I think a lot of people have jumped into it and it wasn’t as successful as they thought it would be. So, it’s a pretty big endeavor to translate your book. Personally, I would only recommend it if your book is doing well sales-wise, and if you can afford to pay out of pocket for a quality translator who can help you create a good manuscript in whatever language you’re targeting and a narrator that can help you with the marketing. Because I think that that’s where people stumble, right? So, you can get a really good translation but, if you don’t have someone that’s able to help you market it and doesn’t know the market of the countries that you’re going after, then you’re going to have some problems. So, it’s not a cheap endeavor either to get your book translated. So, I think if you’re going to do it, certainly keep the option on the table but, just make sure you understand that it’s a really really big endeavor. It’s bigger probably that you think it is and it’s going to be pretty expensive. There are tools out there or services out there like Babbel [inaudible] that make this a lot more accessible and Babbel [inaudible] is great and if offers a good service but, again, it just boils down to find the good narrator who can help you with the marketing. I don’t know anyone who is really knocking out of the park with translation right now, whether they use Babbel or they do it on their own. Unless they were already best sellers in their current genre, you know, there was already a demand market-wise for the book in that country.
DAN: Alright, next question is: Crowd funding my book…should I do it?
MICHAEL: Yes! Ok, the answer is not, yes, I was just confirming the question. So, crowd funding is an interesting thing, right? So, I think we’ve all seen examples of kick starters, Indiegogo’s. Maybe people promoting their book on Patreon or using Patreon as a way to fund their books. And I think crowd funding is awesome. I think that it has a tremendous benefit, and I think it really does tie into a lot of things that Orna Ross, our fearless leader, is talking about with Self-Publishing 3.0, and talking about different ways of funding and driving income steams for authors. I think all of that is fair game. I think the only that’s not fair game and that I would steer you away from is crowd funding things that you probably should be paying for anyway. So, I wouldn’t … I don’t know that I would go, and crowd fund the editing of your book. I don’t know that I would go, and crowd fund the cover design of your book. I don’t know that I would go, and crowd fund the formatting of your book, right? Because I think readers are going to already expect you to do that, and when you do that, it just doesn’t feel good when I see something like that. As a reader, I wouldn’t necessarily want to pay an author to go and edit their books.
Now, if the author’s going through hard times….different story. Right? I think that’s a different story. GoFundMe and campaigns like that are usually really good. But, in general, I would not recommend that you crowd fund something that you probably should already be doing. Caveat to that would be say like a graphic novel. I see a lot of people do crowd funding for their graphic novels. Maybe to get their book into a special hard cover, that sort of thing for the fans. I think that’s cool. No worries there. But, just be a little careful of that. But, I think graphic novels, alternatives things that the fans would enjoy and love, I think are really smart ways to do it. But, it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes a skillset that, you know, not everyone has. So, if you’re going to do this and you have you done it, just make sure you read up and really understand what’s involved.
DAN: Alright, next question is: What tools can I use to format my book for eBook and paperback formats?
MICHAEL: Yeah, so this question came up in the Facebook group as well. And there are a lot of great tools out there to help format your book. So, I’ll just name a few of them and these are across all different budget ranges. So, we’ll start with the free tools. Calibre is a tool that you can use. It’s available for Windows and Mac that will help you format your books into eBook format. So, it’s super easy to use. It’s free. There’s plenty of YouTube tutorials on it out there. So, Calibre is free. Sigil, I think, is another one that people talk about. I think at one point it was out of development. I think it may be back. That’s another free tool that people like to use. So, those are the free tools that I would absolutely, whole-heartedly recommend. I’ve used Calibre many many times to make tweaks to my book and things like that. If you’re looking for like the next level of eBook formatting that will give you a little more flexibility, I would whole-heartedly recommend Scrivener. Scrivener is fantastic. It’s compile feature. It’s just awesome! It’s just awesome! I mean, it takes…there’s a little bit of a learning curve to it but, you can learn that pretty easily. It’ll produce books that look really good for you…eBooks, not so much paperbacks. But, Scrivener’s really good. Ulysses, is a competitor to Scrivener, also offers easier ways to format your books. And Ulysses books usually look really good. Again, that’s eBooks and not necessarily paperbacks. There’s a service out there, I think it’s fairly new, it’s called [Shakespeare]. I just found out about it about a week ago. Apparently, it allows you to write in the cloud. It’s all browser based, I believe but, also allows you the ability to export eBooks that apparently look really good. So, that’s another service that’s fairly inexpensive that authors can look in to. But, I think if you’re looking for the Cadillac….if you’re looking for the shining star, of eBook formatting software, book and print formatting software, you have to do Vellum. Vellum is the best, hands down. It has won this game. I mean, it’s like Google with search. You know, nobody can beat it. It’s just won the game hands down. Vellum will produce the best-looking eBooks and the best-looking paperbacks with just a click of a button. So, those are just a few formatting software apps that you can use.
DAN: Love it! Alright, next question is: If I copyedit my book, do I need a proofreader, as well? What about apps like Grammarly for proofreading?
MICHAEL: So, two answers to this question. If you can afford it, I think the answer is yes. When you edit your book and you’re going back and forth with your editor inevitably things slip through the cracks, right? So, you’re fixing one thing and maybe you accidentally, you know, break something else in one of your sentences that surrounds one of your edits. And so, I think it’s always best practices and a good idea if your editor won’t do a second pass of it just to kind of go through and catch any errors that they caught, it’s never ever a bad thing to have a second set of eyes on your manuscript. Proofreading is usually cheaper than copyediting per word. So, like I said, if you can afford it, I think it’s a fantastic investment that will pay dividends for you and your career. And just…it’ll help you with your professionalism and all of that. But, the second part of this is apps lie Grammarly and ProWritingAid, so these are proofreading apps that you can use, really as a last line of defense to help you catch errors that maybe your editor might have missed, or maybe things that you missed when you were doing your final pass of your book. I think…and I’ve actually got some reviews coming up on Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I think they’re both fantastic apps. But, I think they really only do one thing. They’re not going to help you edit your book. So, let’s just remember that. They’re not going to help you edit your book but, they are really good as a final line of defense. They’re way better than Word, right? So, we all know how effective Microsoft Word is with helping you catch errors, which is not that effective. But, Grammarly and ProWritingAid really can catch some things that Word can’t. And I think if you supplement what you’re already doing with and editor with those apps, I think they can be tremendously effective.
DAN: Alright, so our final question is from Linda is: Do middle grade readers prefer to read eBooks or paperbacks?
MICHAEL: Alright Linda, so I did some field work for you on this question. So, I actually know a couple of middle grade authors so, I just posed this question to them. I thought I knew the answer but, they kind of gave me a little bit different perspective. So, middle grade readers, it’s like grade school readers, right? So, the question is do they prefer eBooks or paperback, and I think the answer is right now, today they’re primarily going to be reading paperbacks. Their parents are going to be dictating, for the most part, what they’re going to be reading. They’re going to be probably familiar to what they are reading in school, for the most part, which is predominantly, at least here in the states, paperback. That’s not to underestimate that this is a digital generation now. Alright so, kids in…I mean my daughter knows how to use my smartphone better than I do. You know, so they understand devices and I think that as they get older, they’re probably going to be digital natives. Kind of like the millennials and then the generation that came after that. But, I think if I were going to go after middle grade readers right now I would have offerings in both but, I would probably concentrate my efforts into paperback. So, that’s a great question.
DAN: Love it! Well alright, that was all for the questions, I believe.
MICHAEL: Yes, and we have just one quick public service announcement really quick. So, if any of you are going to be stateside in Nashville, Tennessee on the dates of October 2nd– 4th, Alli is going to be appearing at Digital Book World. So, Alli is partnering with Digital Book World. We’re going to have a really big pavilion. We’ve offered a scholarship to someone who is going to be attending. We’re also going to be coinciding our self-publishing conference… our next self-publishing conference with Digital Book World. We’re offering a bunch of deals and significant discounts for friends of Alli. So, if you are interested in attending a book conference or writers conference where you can learn and do many of the things that we talked about on this episode actually, and network with people, and get to know people in the industry, and meet movers and shakers check out Digital Book World. We’ll drop a link to that. But, this is a big event for us. You know, once a quarter, or so, we have fairly large conferences online and in person. Alli has a presence there so, like I said, this a great opportunity and you be sure to check us out at Digital Book World. And if you’re going to be there, I know that Orna will be there. She will probably love to hear from all of you listening if you’re going to be there. So, stop by and say, Hi!, and yeah, check it out.
DAN: Love it!
MICHAEL: Alright so that brings us to another….brings us to the end of another episode of the Ask Alli Member Q+A Podcast. Want to than you guys for listening we love doing this show every week, or every month. Month in month out. So, we love to have your questions. Don’t forget that if you’re an Alli member you can submit your questions to us either in our Facebook group or on your Alli dashboard so, be sure to do that. We look forward to hearing your questions. So, we’ll wrap it up and we look forward to talking to you guys next month.