Review: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard

Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan HowardTitle: Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (Second Edition)
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard – Twitter | Blog
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
How To Purchase: Links on Catherine’s blog

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The only self-publishing guide with a No Saying “Gatekeepers” rule, now fully revised and expanded

Do you think that no one has the right to stand between you and your published writer dreams? That the publishing industry is going down in flames and self-publishers are going to rise like a 99c phoenix from the ashes? That all literary agents are interested in doing is blogging sarcastically about the rhetorical question at the start of your query letter, that editors will just use your submitted manuscript for kindling and that you’ll be senile before you hear back from either of them? That once you’ve uploaded the book you finished yesterday afternoon to Amazon, it’ll be mere minutes before the money starts rolling in and you can quit your day job? Do you say things like “gatekeepers”, “The Big Six”, “E.L. James”, “legacy publishing” and “indie author” a lot? Are you self-publishing to “show them all”?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions then I do apologise, but this isn’t the book for you.

This book is for writers who consider self-publishing to be a good Plan B, or even a sideline to traditional publication. Who want to do it the cheapest and easiest way possible while still producing a quality product. Who understand that much like Starbucks outlets and Nespresso coffee machines, traditional and self-publishing can peacefully co-exist. Writers who know that they don’t have to sell a million copies of their book to start earning a living from their writing, but that they do have to work hard and treat it like a business. Who are blessed with common sense and live in the real world at least most of the time. Who find my jokes funny, at least occasionally.

If this sounds like you, then Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing may be just the “How To…” guide you were looking for.

It will tell you everything you need to know in order to publish a Print On Demand paperback and e-book, and (crucially) sell them, without sounding like anti-Big Publishing propaganda produced by the Ministry of Truth.

Be warned: you are now entering a No Saying “Gatekeepers” Zone…

Remember what I’ve said about how I give out stars? I haven’t actually blogged about it, but it’s on my Review Policy. 5 stars means that something changed my life and gave me a different perspective. I reserve the elusive 5 stars for books like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I read when I was young and impressionable, or We Need to Talk About Kevin, which made me bawl when I wasn’t pregnant. I gave this book 5 stars. That means that if you want to self-publish, you have to read this book. I might make it required reading for everyone who submits to me. (No, I won’t, but I might start lecturing people with page numbers from this book.)

To be quite honest, I knew most of what was in this book already. This is the book I wish I’d read several months ago, rather than having to scrape together bits and pieces of information from a variety of sources and many, many blog posts. However, as this book so asserts, there’s a lot of bad information out there. Because I am terribly untrusting, six-months-ago-me wouldn’t have read the book because I didn’t want to waste money on something that may just be another “How I Won the Lotto of Publishing/Self-Publishing!” clone.

But believe me when I say this is the book that you need to read if you want some no-nonsense, hilariously delivered, intensely sane advice.

I have two dissenting opinions from Ms. Howard, which I will dispense in a moment, but I want to underline the fact that I agree with 98% of this book. To me, a lot of it is common sense, but as she notes, common sense doesn’t seem so common. (Was that her or Mark Twain? Or both? I don’t care, we’re all correct.)

First dissenting opinion: Get Your Own ISBN’s

Now, I will say that my opinion is different than hers because I get ISBN’s for free. I’ve explained this to people before, and they seem confused. By free, I mean, without cost. I mean, I could get one hundred ISBN’s, and they would cost me zero dollars. That is because I’m in Canada and I’m self-publishing as a Canadian “publisher.” (They see self-publishers/self-employed writers and publishing companies as the same thing.) If you’re in Canada and you want to get your free ISBN’s, signing up is a simple process. Just go here: The Canadian ISBN Service System.

That being said, I feel like having your own ISBN makes you seem more professional. Of course, I can afford to be professional since I get ISBN’s free. But this is one place I think a self-publisher should be consider carefully. Just as any entrepreneur or self-employed business person, we have to think like the patrons of the big companies and give ourselves maximum discovery potential. I think ISBN’s help accomplish that. My final caveat, in a section slathered in caveats, is that I haven’t researched this very much because of the whole free thing. So I suggest you do the same and create your own opinion.

Second dissenting opinion: Don’t use her chapter to format your eBook

I respect Ms. Howard, but her chapters on formatting your eBook made me cringe. It’s not difficult or frustrating. Not even a little bit. But I will forgive her because she hasn’t seen The Best Guide Ever Created:

Take Pride in your eBook Formatting by Guide Henkel (To which I also give 5 stars, for anyone interested.)

If you got at least a B- in Computer Science in high school, you should be able to figure it out. If you’re not technically saavy, well, go ahead and hire him. He knows what he’s talking about. But it’s not hard. It took me a few hours on a Saturday to figure out how to do it. And now I’m sure it will take a lot less time now that I’ve been through it once. (As in, half an hour to an hour … if that.)

In conclusion: Read this book

You will laugh. You will learn stuff. You will feel not so alone in this whole self-publishing journey. You’ll go forth into the world, confident and professional and convinced of the importance of a matching blog color scheme.

Have you added my forthcoming release, Guarding Angel, to your Goodreads to-be-read list? You can also find me on Twitter and Pinterest.

Guest Post: Mike Hartner on Speculative Writing

Today is another very special day!

I am honored to host Mike Hartner on my blog. On Monday, I will post my impressions of his latest release, I, Walter. Meet Mike:

Mike HartnerAnd now, Mike’s thoughts on why he loves speculative fiction:

One day, oh so many years ago… when I was young and dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, I read this story.

It could have been Heinlein or Bradbury. The more I think about it, even with the many years of fog that has clouded the story and the author, I’m more certain it was Bradbury than Heinlein. But, I could be wrong. After all, I was a semi-typical kid, and I went through my sci-fi/speculative period in my late pre-teens/early teen life.

In this story, the main character is a child. On a distant planet. In our solar system. He lives in metal tubes. Imaginary homes, that I used to liken to very large sewer pipes, or space-station modules. And one or two of them would resemble telescopes. They were windows, trying to find the sun. And they would eventually find the sun, maybe one or two days a year.

This story was depressing as all H!. But it left an impression on a child growing up in the Prairies, a place where sundogs were regular sightings in the winter time, and clear skies weren’t. Even today, as I live through the wet and cloudy winters of the Pacific Northwest, there are days when I can relate to that character.

Whether I’ll ever find that story or its book again is immaterial. What will always be important is the impression.

About Mike

Mike Hartner was born in Miami in 1965. He’s traveled much of the continental United States. He has several years post secondary education, and experience teaching and tutoring young adults. Hartner has owned and run a computer firm for more than twenty-five years. He now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with his wife and child. They share the neighborhood and their son with his maternal grandparents.

If you’d like a sneak peak at his book before my review goes up on Monday, you can find I, Walter on Amazon. You can also check out more of his writing on his website.

Guest Review: Ciara Ballintyne on The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

Did you know that today is a very special day? It is!

Today marks my first guest review, written by the talented Ciara Ballintyne, author of Confronting the Demon. Stay tuned on Monday for my own review of her book, the reading of which prompted me to contact her to do this guest post. Meet Ciara:

JM0130BCiara has chosen to review a book that influenced her own writing, The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett. OK, OK, I’ve talked enough, let’s get to what Ciara has to say:
185px-The-last-heroTitle: The Last Hero, Book #27 of Discworld
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre(s): Adult Humorous Science Fiction

Cohen the Barbarian. He’s been a legend in his own lifetime.
He can remember the good old days of high adventure, when being a Hero meant one didn’t have to worry about aching backs and lawyers and civilization. But these days, he can’t always remember just where he put his teeth…So now, with his ancient (yet still trusty) sword and new walking stick in hand, Cohen gathers a group of his old — very old — friends to embark on one final quest. He’s going to climb the highest mountain of Discworld and meet the gods. It’s time the Last Hero in the world returns what the first hero stole. Trouble is, that’ll mean the end of the world, if no one stops him in time.

A long time ago, the first hero stole the secret of fire from the gods. Now, the last hero, Cohen the Barbarian, together with his Silver Horde, is returning it. With a vengeance.

I said SILVER HORDE. Silver, you know? SILVER? Your hair! Oh, never mind…

It’s not silver for all the loot they stole, see?

Cohen is the disc’s answer to Conan – eighty years old in the shade, with dentures made from troll teeth (diamonds) and tough as old boot leather (possibly tougher, and certainly stringier). The Silver Horde may not always be able to hear what’s going on (one of them even uses an ear horn) but they can always beat it into submission (even from the seat of a wheelchair).

‘And they’re heroes,’ said Mr Betteridge of the Guild of Historians.

‘And that means, exactly?’ said the Patrician, sighing.

‘They’re good at doing what they want to do.’

‘But they are also, as I understand it, very old men.’

‘Very old heroes,’ the historian corrected him. ‘That just means they’ve had a lot of experience in doing what they want to do.’

Lord Vetinari sighed again. He did not like to live in a world of heroes. You had civilisation, such as it was, and you had heroes.

The problem is, this spells disastrous consequences for the entire disc… The end of the world, in fact. Again. Unless someone stops him.

So who is really the last hero?

Enter Rincewind, once again swindled into certain danger and almost certain death.

Of all the Discworld books, the ones with Rincewind are by far my favourites. I think they are the funniest, because how can you compete with a cowardly wizard who can’t do magic, who has no interest in saving the world, or the danger that goes with it, and yet somehow always manages to find himself at the centre of these things – and pulls it off? And surely no one had disappointed Death as many times as Rincewind.

In fact, The Last Hero features nearly all my favourite characters – Death, the Librarian, Vetinari, Captain Carrot, and Leonard of Quirm, who all come together in a desperate mission to save the disc. Which is to say, of course, that Lord Vetinari decrees it shall be done and has Leonard design an insane plan. Carrot volunteers because he’s like that, and Rincewind volunteers out of a belief in sheer inevitability – he knows he’s going to wind up on this mission whether he likes it or not, because that’s what always happens to him, so why fight it?  Death, naturally, is quite invested in the outcome.

‘What is that on your badge, Captain Carrot?’

‘Mission motto, sir,’ said Carrot cheerfully. ‘Morituri Nolumnus Mori. Rincewind suggested it.’

‘I imagine he did,’ said Lord Vetinari, observing the wizard coldly. ‘And would you care to give us a colloquial translation, Mr Rincewind?’

‘Er…’ Rincewind hesitated, but there was really no escape. ‘Er… roughly speaking, it means, “We who are about to die don’t want to,” sir.’

Like all Discworld books, The Last Hero is a rollicking good laugh, combining some of the best elements of the Discworld series in one volume. It comes in an illustrated format, with some fantastic pictures. Highly recommended!

The Last Hero has a particular place in my heart because a line from the book served as the inspiration for my novella, Confronting the Demon. It was the writing prompt for my writer’s group one month several years ago. The story went through many iterations before it settled into the form in which it now exists, but throughout all its incarnations, the concept that originally sprang from the prompt remained true. It came from this paragraph:

‘That meal,’ said Cohen, ‘was heroic. No other word for it.’

‘That’s right, Mrs. McGarry,’ said Evil Harry. ‘Even rat doesn’t taste this much like chicken.’

‘Yes, the tentacles hardly spoiled it at all!’ said Caleb enthusiastically.

[Samantha’s note: Aha! Tentacles …]

So do yourself a favour, and go buy The Last Hero. Paperback, not ebook, because some of the best jokes are in the footnotes and you miss out on them in ebook. If you have the option, get the illustrated version. Love the artwork. It won’t fit nicely on your shelf, but it’s worth it.

Interested in more words by Ciara? Find her:

Or if you want to check out Confronting the Demon, you can find it here:

A big thank you to Ciara for her post today!

Discussion: Glimpses of the Devil by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Title: Glimpses of the Devil
Author: M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Genre(s): Paranormal Non-Fiction

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

[Truncated] The legendary bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, whose books have sold over 14 million copies, reveals the amazing true story of his work as an exorcist — kept secret for more than twenty-five years — in two profoundly human stories of satanic possession.

For the first time, Dr. Peck discusses his experience in conducting exorcisms, sharing the spellbinding details of his two major cases: one a moving testament to his healing abilities, and the other a perilous and ultimately unsuccessful struggle against darkness and evil. Twenty-seven-year-old Jersey was of average intelligence; a caring and devoted wife and mother to her husband and two young daughters, she had no history of mental illness. Beccah, in her mid-forties and with a superior intellect, had suffered from profound depression throughout her life, choosing to remain in an abusive relationship with her husband, one dominated by distrust and greed.

I’m deviating from my usual format for a book that is not speculative fiction and for a discussion of what is contained within rather than a review. Glimpses of the Devil is from my non-fiction exorcism research list for my paranormal/horror The Exorcist’s Assistant (working title).

Though some might feel that a book recounting exorcisms is written on shaky foundation, I believe in the supernatural and, more specifically, the existence of evil spirits we call “demons.” I am not, however, a Christian, so I bring my own opinions to the reading of these stories, which is the impetus for this blog entry. I believe that every spiritual explanation–from major religions to individual experiences–is like a blind man trying to describe an elephant. The observation touches on something true about the whole, but the interpretation misses the entire picture.

In Glimpses of the Devil, Dr. Peck, who is a psychiatrist and converted Christian, recounts two experiences where he acted as an exorcist. He holds these two cases up as proof of demonic possession. Enough evidence exists in what he presented that, if he has presented everything factually, I believe these are cases of true demon possession.

However, I disagree with his interpretation of events in two specific areas.

The first rule of exorcisms…

Glimpses of the Devil is described as a factual representation of events; however, it ends up as an autobiographical account of a man who decides, without religious or demonological training, to exorcise two patients. This becomes clear throughout the book as Dr. Peck wrestles with his decision. One of my chief concerns regarding all this is that he never asks, “Should I do further research into exorcisms beyond reading Malachi Martin‘s books?”

Mr. Martin is widely criticized in the exorcist community as writing sensational books full of half-truths and for decidedly un-Christian-like conduct, such as several affairs. Dr. Peck goes so far as to claim that no other handbook for exorcisms exists beyond Mr. Martin’s, which is patently untrue. (See again my reading list, which is far from a compendium on all exorcist non-fiction.) Dr. Peck’s ignorance of the best practices in dealing with demons is evident from the beginning.

The first case is Jersey, a girl who has been possessed since she was twelve. Dr. Peck and his team exorcise her, which goes well. He then spends three weeks with her in psychoanalytic therapy, preparing her for re-entering the world.

After the exorcism, Dr. Peck is in contact with her over the years. During one visit, she explains to him that the demons still talk to her, but she is able to ignore them. In one instance, she told them to “shut the fuck up,” and they did. However, out of curiosity, Dr. Peck asks to hypnotize her, as he did in the past, and to speak to the demons through her. She agrees and the resulting conversation is confusing. Nothing particularly demonic happens; instead, the entity speaking through Jersey identifies itself as a clerk living in Anaheim. He ends the hypnotic session and sees her rarely after that, though she, at press time, is happy, healthy, and no longer possessed.

I am appalled. Shame on you, Dr. Peck, for opening the door to allow a demon to speak through Jersey. I won’t be surprised if the ending to the story is that she ends up possessed again.

Look, I’m no expert, but I have read a few things and I have some common sense. One of the preeminent exorcists of our times, Father Gabriele Amorth, has given extensive precautionary information in An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories. These two books are not pea-soup-spitting horrors but are thoughtfully written tradesman’s books–discussions of the nuts and bolts and challenges facing exorcists. They could be about plumbing or IT development but are instead about exorcisms. At the time that Dr. Peck conducted his exorcisms, the books had not yet been written; however, I would expect a non-fiction published in 2005 to at least acknowledge the existence of Father Amorth’s books.

In his books, Father Amorth advises, quite sensibly, against engaging a demon in conversation. Assuming you believe demons are creatures of inherent evil and you aren’t interested in unleashing evil into the world, you can agree that you shouldn’t talk to them. Why? Because they lie. Even if they’re not lying about whatever you ask, how do you know that? You’re begging to be manipulated. What is there to learn, other than that they’re evil, which you already know?

It’s an exciting, gripping, fascinating world to step into. The lure of talking to something not human is immense. It’s no wonder the Catholic Church refuses to promote its work in the realm of exorcisms.

This deviation from “get the hell out of that woman” to “hey, guy, whatcha doin’ in there?” becomes prominent in the second patient’s exorcism. Dr. Peck is fascinated with the idea that Beccah is possessed by Satan, an evil creature millions of years old. He senses a giant, immoveable snake, as old as the world itself, coiled supernaturally around or inside of his patient. He wonders why it has possessed her. He asks it questions. He hypothesizes why it won’t leave her. He does everything except exorcise it.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know. Maybe it went differently, and his ruminations are for the book only. But the exorcism of Beccah took a subtle shift from the exorcism of Jersey. With Jersey, he very strongly orders the demons to leave for three days straight. With Beccah, he ends up falling to the floor weeping at one point and another team member must step in and complete the exorcism. Is it no wonder that it turned out the way it did?

The moment of possession

I’m also uncomfortable with the conclusions that Dr. Peck has drawn, aided by Malachi Martin, about the reasons behind demonic possession. Both men claim that every possessed person is complicit in their possession, that to become possessed, one must open the door for that possession, even if only a crack.

When the first patient Jersey was twelve, her father molested her. She allowed him to do it because he claimed to be a medical doctor and was “examining” her after her appendix was removed. He held a PhD and was a practicing psychologist but was not a medical doctor.

Dr. Peck claims that at twelve years old, Jersey knew the difference between a psychologist and a medical doctor. Though he doesn’t outright blame her, he explains that in not protesting what her father did to her, she created a kind of cognitive dissonance that allowed the demons to gain a foothold. She willfully believed a lie, and therefore, she opened the door to being possessed.

Are you kidding me, Dr. Peck?

I have no idea why that poor girl was possessed, but the only proof the author had that her demonic interference started at twelve was her word while she was possessed. It could have been one of the demons speaking through her to hide the real timing and cause of the possession. Her bad behavior only starts manifesting in her twenties. Why did the demons wait so long?

And I just don’t agree with the idea of Jersey bringing this on herself because she was molested. “Oh,” Dr. Peck says, “you didn’t bring the molestation on yourself; however, you did bring the possession on yourself.”

In healing psychological trauma, it’s important to identify and acknowledge all feelings. Thus in a rape, a victim might say, “I feel that I brought this on myself.” While this may be a turning point for the victim, the turning point is because he or she is releasing that negative thought. A follow-up might be an acknowledgement that she didn’t bring it on herself or perhaps that she could have taken a different route home but had no way of knowing what would happen. It is not suddenly a fact that the victim brought the horrific tragedy on herself just because she thinks she did. It’s psychologically freeing–which we see in the case of Jersey–but that doesn’t make it true.

This preoccupation becomes even more apparent in Beccah’s case, and Dr. Peck’s search for the moment of her possession may have distracted him from being useful to her. Beccah was found wandering six streets away from her home when she was eighteen months old. Though little is known of her mother beyond that she was seen by Beccah as evil, this is exceedingly atypical behavior by a child in that age range, as asserted by Dr. Peck himself. Non-traumatized children nine months to several years old are afraid of strangers and cling desperately to their mothers. That Beccah ran away from home before she could talk says that she was already maladjusted, due to her circumstances, well before she had a choice in the matter.

While it is important to note that everyone has a choice and that choice is important in defeating a demon, we are all victims of our circumstances. A woman may end up being narcissistic because she was genetically predisposed and her mother modeled that behavior; she may free herself from it by taking responsibility for her actions. Going in is not a choice, but coming out is.

The very definition of a demon is a creature that preys on human victims. Have we forgotten what victims are? They’re victims. And it’s not a far stretch to believe that supernatural creatures intent on anguish and destruction choose innocents. It’s comforting to tell ourselves that we won’t ever be targets because we don’t do anything to invite evil into our lives, but that smacks of untruth.

I admire Dr. Peck’s open discussions, including failings that he freely admits. The books was fascinating, but I’m cautious about naming the elephant. Whenever we delve too far into specifics when it comes to religion, we become distracted and unable to see the entire picture. Though it’s obvious that “invoking “he name of Jesus Christ” holds sway over demons, that doesn’t prove that every piece of Christian dogma is correct. Exorcisms have been performed successfully for thousands of years across all cultures and religions, despite what the Catholic church might want people to believe.

I’m convinced that there’s evil in the world. And sometimes, we can do nothing to stop being swept away by it. Educating ourselves on all aspects of evil and opening ourselves to understanding beyond our own narrow worldview will aid in defeating it in our own lives and as collective humanity.

Find me on Twitter and Pinterest.